Beyond fraud

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(unpublished column)

Forty percent of Filipinos, says an SWS survey commissioned by the opposition, believe that Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will cheat in behalf of her candidates this May. Twenty percent don’t think so, but another 35 percent aren’t sure–which means that they’re entertaining the possibility that she would. Together with the conviction among some 60 to 70 percent of Filipinos that Mrs. Arroyo should either resign or be ousted from office, these figures look like a record among all the people who have occupied Malacanang since 1946.

The belief that the regime will cheat is rampant among Filipinos. The SWS survey merely confirms the validity of anecdotal evidence culled from conversations with taxi drivers, students, and fishwives. It is based on Mrs. Arroyo’s basement level credibility, which is itself based on what the public knows about the 2004 elections. Continue reading

Power without virtue

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In 1966 the late US Senator J. William Fulbright used the term “the arrogance of power” to explain what he thought was driving the US war in Vietnam, and described it as a tendency “to equate power with virtue.”

In Vietnam then as in Iraq today, the United States was using its vast military power against the guerillas of the National Liberation Front (the Vietcong) in the name of defending freedom and establishing democracy in a country Fulbright said had no traditions in either. Fulbright doubted whether the US would succeed, and he turned out to be correct. The US lost the war in Vietnam in 1975. Continue reading

Besieged

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The latest executive order from the only (putative) president so far who’s succeeded in making Joseph Estrada and even Ferdinand Marcos look good establishes a national security clearance for government personnel with access to classified information. EO 608 was signed last Friday, April 20.

That was the same date on which the OFW group Migrante International released a request from Malacanang’s Office of External Affairs Special Concerns Group for funds to finance a project to cut the votes of anti-regime party list groups, and to boost those of Palace-sponsored ones. Continue reading

Hero

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The darling of the hour is boxer Manny Pacquiao, whose April 15 defeat of Mexico’s Jorge Solis might just reverse the negative reaction his decision to run for Congress had been getting. Pacquiao now claims that those who had earlier frowned on his entering politics have changed their mind; they’d like nothing better than to see him in the House.

And why not ? Pacquiao has been hailed as a hero, a unifying force among Filipinos, and even as a “shining light” whose “spirit is the spirit of the Filipino.” Continue reading

The OK of the FG

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Everyone except his lawyers assumes that presidential spouse Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo is a public figure. There’s an “Office of the First Gentleman,” for one thing, which an effusive Philippine News Agency article insists is “also popularly known as the Opisina ng Kabiyak (OK).”

The same article, written sometime in 2001 and still on the Office of the Press Secretary’s website (www.ops.gov.ph) declares that “since President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo assumed the highest post of the land last Jan. 20 (2001), First Gentleman Atty. Jose Miguel Arroyo has buckled down to work to assist the new administration in the delivery of various services to the people.” Continue reading

Power elite

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In this as in past elections, the candidates have asked for, are seeking, or will seek the endorsement of various religious groups. At the top of their list is the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), followed by, among others, the Jesus is Lord movement, and the (nominally) Catholic charismatic group El Shaddai.

They wouldn’t mind being endorsed by the Catholic Church, some 80 percent of Filipinos being Catholic. That’s not likely during these elections. But it’s not because it hasn’t happened before. Mostly through the late Jaime Cardinal Sin, the Church supported Corazon Aquino in 1986, endorsed Ramon Mitra for the presidency in 1992, and opposed Joseph Estrada’s candidacy in 1998. The Church has also endorsed other candidates before 1972, in some instances because those candidates seemed more devout in their Catholicism than others, and in others because they were encouraged by the Church to run for office to begin with. Continue reading

Grave diggers

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The Arroyo regime response to the national and international outcry against the extra-judicial killings that it at least tolerates and at most orchestrates as a national policy has so far been two-pronged.

It denies that the killings are even occurring (they’re not extra-judicial killings, they’re merely “unexplained”; besides, there have only been about a hundred or so—a mere “blood speck”—and not 830 as human rights groups have documented). Continue reading

Out of control

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The debate on whether Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is in control of the military, or if she’s become a mere figurehead commander-in-chief, began in 2006. That was when she declared a state of emergency at the prodding of the Security Cluster of the Cabinet. The country’s security forces immediately began acting as if the country were under martial rule, raiding a newspaper office, imposing “guidelines” on the media, dispersing demonstrations and arresting their leaders, and imposing a ban on public assemblies.

Mrs. Arroyo lifted Proclamation 1017 a week later, but that lifting has since seemed of no consequence to the police and military. The latter, particularly, has reemerged from its post-1986 dormancy to once more become a key player in Philippine governance and politics. Continue reading