Velcro President

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The US media called him “the Teflon President” because nothing ever stuck to Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the United States.

The former actor died in 2004, felled by Alzheimer’s disease. Marked by various scandals, among them the Iran-Contra mess, his two terms were disastrous to poor families, the number of whom increased by a third, and even, some analysts say, to the US’ multicultural character, which he never quite understood.

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What, me worry?

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Among the reactions to the guilty verdict on former president Joseph Estrada are those that ecstatically hail it as an indication that the justice system works. “Justice in this country is truly blind,” says this chorus. The justice system doesn’t fear power, and in fact ignored it by finding Estrada guilty of plunder and sentencing him to life.

Others take a more, shall we say regional, view. The verdict should make Filipinos hold their heads high, especially before the Japanese and the Koreans. That verdict proves that as in Japan and Korea, there is honor in public service because the justice system doesn’t net only the small fry, it also hooks the big fish. Why Japan and Korea? Because it’s those countries where public officials not only admit wrong doing, they also resign in shame and even kill themselves for failures and offenses that in Filipino eyes seem like trifles.

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Being Estrada’d

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THE CONVICTION and sentencing–to a maximum of 40 years in prison–of Joseph Estrada would have been the historic milestone it’s been endlessly said to be were it not for the context in which it has happened.

Estrada was the first former president of this land of woe to have been accused of what was, in 2001, a capital offense. He is now the first to have occupied that high office to have been convicted of anything. The same people who gave us such linguistic atrocities as “senatoriable” can henceforth use “estrada” as a verb. “Being estrada’d” can now mean being convicted of plunder. Continue reading

Blaming the media

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THE occasion was the Forum on Media and the Elections last September 4, to which the Catholic Church-based Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) invited representatives from the media and the Comelec (Commission on Elections) as well as its partners in monitoring the conduct of last May’s 2007 mid-term elections. These partners included, in addition to such obvious ones as academics from Catholic schools, the Philippine military, which was represented at the forum by General Benjamin Dolorfino, chief of the National Capital Region Command.

The name should be familiar to many Filipinos, and it’s not just because Dolorfino commands the troops deployed in selected areas of metro Manila. His was also the brilliant idea of using the military to conduct voter education courses in the run-up to the May elections.

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Barbarians

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(Note: This piece was first published a few years ago in the e-zine Archipelago.)

It’s not one of the earth-shaking puzzlers of Philippine life in this century, but a question outsiders looking in still ask whenever someone dies in either a UP fraternity hazing or inter-fraternity war: why should a young man with his entire life before him, especially a scholar, risk serious injury or even death for the supposed privilege of fraternity membership?

UP, for those who don’t know much about the Philippines, is the University of the Philippines. It’s a state university acknowledged to be the best in the country, to which vast numbers of ambitious young men and women apply every year-among whom, however, only a few are eventually admitted. Continue reading