Howard’s end?


Australia’s prime minister John Howard has called for elections on October 9. Howard, already one of the longest-serving of Australia’s prime ministers, will seek a fourth term for his conservative government. The Labor Party, led by political newcomer Mark Latham, has vowed to highlight “the failures of the Howard government, the dishonesty, the attacks on Medicare, the loss of affordable education, the way it has made Australia less safe in the war against terror,” while “putting forward positive solutions for the benefit of the Australian people.”

Although the Australian elections will take place a month before the US elections, they’re not likely to be of concern to many Filipinos, who’re currently less focused on the fiscal crisis that isn’t a fiscal crisis than on where the next meal’s coming from, and how to survive the wet season. They should be concerned, or at least interested. What kind of government Australians elect could be crucial to the rest of Asia including the Philippines. Continue reading

The key is in the exemptions


Only the corrupt officials of which we have a plentiful supply, and our super-secretive police and military who regard an informed public as a threat to national security and public order oppose, if only in secret, the public’s right to access government records. It’s in the Constitution in the first place, and has been upheld by Philippine jurisprudence so often those who object to its exercise would also be going against the law.

In this country of contradictions, this is its blessing and its curse. Like press freedom—to the exercise of which information access is crucial, and which even the clueless support because it’s politically correct—even those who have something to hide will swear commitment to it. Again like press freedom, those actually opposed to it because they fear exposure resort to extra-legal means to frustrate it. Continue reading



Forbes Magazine explains its first-ever ranking of the world’s 100 most powerful women somewhat awkwardly. It describes its choices as women who’re “changing not only the societies where they work, but also the role of women in power,” and then says that it can no longer be said today that “women can gain power only by studiously working behind the scenes to forge consensus.”

Judging from the first ten women in its list, “changing…the societies where they work” doesn’t necessarily mean changing them for the better. Heading its list, after all, is US National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice, who’s not your grandma’s token black, and who has indeed helped change the way her society works—but for the worse, say her critics. Continue reading

To whom it may concern


Although A few years his junior, I met Jose Ma. Sison in the University of the Philippines years ago, in the Philippine Collegian, of which he was research editor during the editorship of Leonardo Quisumbing, then a law student, and who’s currently a Supreme Court justice. A liberal through and through with dreams of a law career, I nevertheless ended up editing Sison’s second book, Struggle for National Democracy (his first book was a book of poems).

The editing task was itself a struggle. Although an English literature major (he was then an MA student and an instructor in the Department of English), Joe, as he was then plainly known among friends, wrote in a prose style we in the esoteric circles of the UP Writers’ Club thought peculiar. Continue reading

Staying the course to war


After more than a year of occupation by US troops, and despite the June 28 “turnover of sovereignty” to the “Iraqi interim government,” Iraq is far from being the stable and democratic country the US had said it would be.

Iraq is more likely to turn into exactly what opponents of the March 2003 attack had warned: a battlefield in a war that could lead to the creation of an Islamic state like that governed by Saddam Hussein’s ayatollah arch-enemies in Iran, and an inspiration, breeding ground and recruitment center for more ferocious terrorist attacks on the United States and its global interests. Continue reading