Worse before things get better

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Among men and women of goodwill, the end of the old year and the coming of a new one is an occasion for hope. Hope is the one thing Filipinos claim to have never run out of. They’ve pretty much run out of everything else, whether it’s jobs, stability, pride, or, among 3.3 million families, food.

Since 1946 Filipinos have seen their country steadily sliding from relative prosperity to Bangladesh-level penury. They’ve witnessed how a rapacious political class is savaging the political system and made it into their private profit-making enterprise. Elections have become a painful joke, a mockery of the people’s will, and dependent on money, violence and Commission on Elections innumeracy. Continue reading

Déjà vu with a difference

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Those of us who were already around just before martial law was declared in 1972 have seen this before. I refer to the killings and other forms of violence, apparently politically- motivated, that have taken place in recent weeks.

Before Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972, the warlords of Northern Luzon were constantly at each other’s throats, sometimes literally, over the various posts Philippine elections made available every two years. Continue reading

Hunger

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The incidence of hunger has reached 19 percent of Philippine households, says the Social Weather Stations (SWS) fourth quarter survey. That means that nearly one fifth of the 17 million households in the Philippines, or 3.3 million families, had nothing to eat at one time or another in the last quarter of 2006. At an average Philippine family size of five, 3.3 million translates into 16.5 million or so individuals who have experienced hunger in a population of about 82 million.

The hunger incidence has been steadily rising since SWS began its quarterly surveys on the subject. A September-October 2006 SWS survey showed the hunger incidence in the previous three months at 16.9 percent among Filipino families. It was 15 percent in 2004, fluctuating from quarter to quarter between that figure and 17 percent. But 19 percent is the highest so far recorded. Continue reading

Dangerous doctrines

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At least two Manila columnists have come to the defense of Vic Agustin, suspended columnist of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Carmen Pedrosa of the Philippine Star, who was among those present during the press conference called by House Speaker De Venecia last week to announce the House’s retreat from the con-ass (don’t call it a con by asses), did it by condemning Renato Constantino Jr., as did Amando Doronila of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Agustin was suspended by the Inquirer for throwing a glassful of water on Constantino, an act the Inquirer described as “boorish behavior” worthy of suspension for a day, which it later changed to a month. Continue reading

Smith’s lawyers

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If the Subic rape incident is demonstrating anything, it is how well both Philippine officialdom as well as much of Philippine society have internalized the self-hatred that’s at the core of the country’s experience as a US colony.

It’s more than evident in the spirited defense convicted rapist Daniel Smith of the US Marines is getting from two major departments of the executive branch–the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Justice. Continue reading

Now for the double con

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There’s a cardinal principle in opinion-writing, and it’s not to call people names. You may not call a crook a crook, a murderer a murderer, a rapist a rapist or a thief a thief unless the courts have so declared. Under this principle you may not call an ass an ass or a dolt with the IQ of a doorknob a dolt either.

It’s not just because the libel laws forbid it. It’s also because name-calling is a logical fallacy that by itself proves nothing. It’s also unprofessional, and contrary to journalism ethics. It may also be insulting to door knobs to compare congressmen with them, or to that patient and noble beast, the ass.

Continue reading

Sovereignty

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I understand Lance Corporal Daniel Smith’s burning desire to go back to the US Embassy. It must be tough for someone used to the amenities the US military provides its troops (air-conditioned tents in Iraq, for example) to be in a hot, overcrowded, stinking jail surrounded by the Filipino poor and harassed guards, whose language is as much of a mystery to him as US foreign policy.

Smith has a cell to himself, and probably has his food brought in from outside, courtesy of the US Embassy. But that doesn’t make up for the conditions he has to live with in a Philippine jail, where the sanitary facilities are at best perfunctory and there’s no escaping the tropical heat. But not being among the Makati City Jail multitudes, no one’s going to rape him–such a pretty boy—in the showers (there aren’t any) or in his sleep. Continue reading

Dismantling the culture of impunity

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By Luis V. Teodoro
Professor of Journalism
College of Mass Communication
University of the Philippines

Member, Board of Advisers,
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility

(This is a talk Prof. Teodoro delivered at the Press Freedom and Philippine Law Roundtable discussion sponsored by CMFR on December 5, 2006. The book Limited Protection: Press Freedom and Philippine Law, which Prof. Teodoro edited and in which he has an essay called “Understanding the Culture of Impunity” was launched.)

Dismantling the culture of impunity is not really as Quixotic as it sounds. Many of the steps needed to achieve that goal some media advocacy and journalists’ groups like the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and the National Union of Journalists have already taken, the killing of journalists and consequent problems having validated to some extent these groups’ efforts– among them engaging the law community and addressing the professional and ethical issues that afflict Philippine journalism– in enhancing the responsible exercise of press freedom. Continue reading

State of calamity

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The Arroyo government has declared a state of calamity in the aftermath of typhoon “Reming.” But the real calamity is not only global and continuing; it is also likely to worsen.

Most Filipinos are probably wondering if “Reming” (international code name Durian) was an exception among the typhoons that usually hit the Philippines—or whether the Philippines and its neighboring countries will see more and more super-typhoons in the future. Continue reading

Unknown quantity

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There are any number of people appalled by the prospect of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s being appointed Chief Justice. They don’t think it far-fetched that she could be the country’s first woman to occupy that post. After all, the idea of being the instrument of that “first” would be alluring to the appointing power. But Santiago is also a close political ally of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

But Santiago is no Arroyo automaton. She has resisted the House of Representatives campaign to revise the Constitution via a constituent assembly without the Senate, describing it as “illegitimate.” This despite her Malacanang patron’s commitment to charter change via that route, the “people’s initiative” path having been closed by the October 27 Supreme Court decision. Continue reading