Ramos in the time of Duterte

Fidel Ramos and Rodrigo Duterte
Standard

FORMER President Fidel V. Ramos has been credited with — or blamed for — convincing Rodrigo Duterte to run for the Presidency and supporting his candidacy. Duterte has so acknowledged Ramos’ role in making the former city mayor president — the first politician in history to hold that post without any previous experience in a national office. (Duterte has been mayor of Davao for two decades and in between terms represented Davao ‘s first district as a member of the House of Representatives.)

In apparent recognition of his responsibility in inflicting the Duterte administration on the country, Ramos has made it his business to call it to task for what he sees as its many failings. But it’s not so much what he has so far been critical of but what he has so far failed to call attention to that provokes questions on what Ramos’ agenda could be.

Continue reading

Villain in hero’s guise

Ferdinand Marcos
Standard

THE Libingan ng mga Bayani is not, as it name suggests, literally a heroes’ cemetery. Soldiers, policemen, and former Philippine presidents can be buried there, apparently on the tenuous presumption that by having worn a police or military uniform, or being elected to the Philippine presidency, an individual becomes a hero — meaning an exemplar of humanity, and worthy of emulation for, presumably, having risen above the limits of personal, familial and class interests in behalf of country and people.

Most dictionaries define heroes and heroism in less socially redeeming terms. A hero, says the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities,” or “a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability.”

Continue reading

Trump’s counterrevolution

Donald Trump
Standard

Supposedly founded, in 1776, on the proposition that all men are created equal, it took the United States nearly a hundred years to formally abolish slavery in 1863, and another century to integrate the races. That only in 2016 did a major political party nominate a woman for US president seems somehow apt: the right of American women to vote was recognized only in 1920 through the 19th amendment to the US Constitution, nearly a century and a half after 1776. (Filipino women won the vote in 1937 before the US recognized Philippine independence.)

The myth is that the United States is a beacon for the world and the benchmark against which the health of democracy, liberty, equal opportunity and social, political and economic equality should be measured. But these ideals have proven to be difficult to fully realize in the US despite legal guarantees. African Americans and other people of color still complain of racism in the work place and even in their neighborhoods, where being shot to death or surviving a confrontation with militarized, heavily armed police forces can depend on the color of one’s skin. The glass ceiling still limits the number of women in decision-making positions in government including Congress and the corporations, with the US, this late in the day, still to elect its first woman President.

Continue reading

Between “a kook and a crook”

Standard

ON NOVEMBER 8, or barely two weeks from today, US voters — or at least those who will bother to vote, most Americans being too cynical of the process to go to the polls, let alone be politically engaged enough to care about how they’re governed — will choose their next president. In one of those rare moments when he’s right, the Republican Party candidate for president, billionaire Donald Trump, has described the elections as “historic.” But it’s not because he could be Barack Obama’s successor, but because the Democratic Party nominee, Hillary Clinton, seems likely to be the United States’ first woman president.

As of this writing the opinion polls are saying that Clinton — the wife of 42nd US president William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton and therefore a former US first lady — is 50 percent ahead in voter preference compared to Trump’s 38 percent.

Continue reading

Dismantling the culture of impunity

Impunity
Standard

IN 2015 THE PHILIPPINES was number four in the Committee to Protect Journalists’(CPJ) Impunity Index, after Somalia, Iraq and Syria. The Index lists those countries where the killers of journalists are seldom, if ever, punished, with many literally getting away with murder. The first three countries are failed states, which raises the question of why the Philippines should be in their company, but the numbers speak for themselves. Only in 11cases out of 152 journalists’ murders since 1986 have the killers of journalists and media workers been prosecuted, and very rarely have masterminds been tried.

Continue reading

The monitored as monitor

Martin Andanar
Standard

APPARENTLY UNIQUE in the Philippine press freedom regime, the practice of appointed and elected officials’ serving as newspaper columnists, or as television or radio commentators, blurs the necessary distinction between the government as object of public scrutiny, and the free press’ critical function of monitoring government. It creates a conflict of interest between the government’s and its officials’ interest in getting favorable publicity, and the citizenry’s need for impartial reports and evaluations of events and issues of concern including government doings and policies.

Continue reading

That Hitler remark

President Duterte's Hitler remark upon arrival from official visit to Vietnam
Standard

WITH HIS — so far — 91 percent approval rating, President Rodrigo Duterte has the political capital and unprecedented opportunity to raise the knowledge and awareness of large numbers of Filipinos on those issues that for 70 years and through 11 administrations since the restoration of Philippine independence in 1946 have bedeviled this country. They include such fundamental questions as the roots of Philippine poverty and underdevelopment, and the causes of the rebellions and uprisings that have haunted and still trouble these islands.

Duterte’s golden opportunity to present a coherent analysis of these related issues was during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 25, during which the former candidate and elected president, whose campaign mantra was “Change is Coming,” could have attempted an answer to why the majority of Filipinos have remained poor despite economic growth, and how the armed social and political movements that have persisted in this country for over a hundred years are the result rather than the cause of underdevelopment. That analysis could then have proceeded to explain just how the new administration intends to address poverty as the core issue behind the support that carried Duterte to the presidency.

Continue reading