Lonely at the top

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Last year Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo issued what amounted to an in-your-face, say-what-you-will, I-dare-you-to contradict-me challenge in response to what were then already record lows in her approval ratings. Mrs. Arroyo declared that she would rather be right than popular — as if one were possible only without the other, and which presumes that what’s popular is necessarily wrong.

The occasion was that yearly ritual called the State of the Nation Address. Like Oscar awards night in Hollywood, the SONA has its own red carpet moments, when our presumptive betters alight from their limousines into the glare of TV lights and public attention. In the Batasan hall itself, Mrs. Arroyo usually delivers her SONA in a sea of congressional matrons, cabinet ladies, and congresswomen showing off their latest P200,000 gowns and most recent purchases from the ritzy jewelry shops of Manila, Sydney, New York, London, Rome and Paris.

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The global Filipino

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No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me… I am involved in mankind

-John Donne

The charge is “unlawful carnal intercourse against the order of nature.” That’s legalese in Malaysia for sodomy, a crime in that country.

Arrested last Wednesday on that charge, former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim had been accused of corruption and the same — uh — crime in 1998. In 1999 he was convicted on corruption charges and sentenced to a six-year prison term. The charge of sodomy earned him an additional nine years in prison in 2000. But the Malaysian Supreme Court overturned the conviction in 2004, and Anwar was released.

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Heart of darkness

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The “Palparan solution” to armed rebellion has never been a solution at all. As Philippine experience with the rebellions that have been part of the Philippine landscape before and after 1946 has amply demonstrated, it has always been part of the problem.

To the perennial unrest that’s the consequence of an unjust social order, all Philippine governments without exception have responded with the use of state violence. With predictable inevitability, that approach has included the arrest, torture, forced disappearance and killing not only of those who have taken up arms, but also of sympathizers, reformers, and protesters exercising their right to free expression.

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Murder by ship

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The families and friends of those who died in the sinking of Sulpicio Lines’ Princess of the Stars are understandably outraged at the shipping company. But they should be even more incensed at the corruption, inefficiency, and plain indifference of this country’s officials.

Sulpicio Lines is the same company that brought you the worst maritime peacetime disaster ever in the Philippines and the world, the MV Dona Paz collision, which killed some 4,000 people.

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