The land that time forgot

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What’s astounding about Philippine society–that one where a handful lord it over the many–is how steadfastly it has managed to hang on despite the crisis that has afflicted it for decades (some say centuries). That’s equally true of Philippine government as we know it– though not of Philippine administrations, of which we have witnessed rapid changes in recent years. The Philippine crisis is after all also a crisis of leadership and governance as much as it is a social one.

By all standards including the very lowest, both should have long gone the way of the dinosaur. What earthy reason justifies the existence of a society in which the disparities between rich and poor are so vast a few families maintain several homes not only in this country but even abroad, while millions bed down nightly on the pavements of its putrid cities? And what does one make of a society in which the wealthy happily kill themselves daily on prawns, steak and pork while the children of the poor go without a few grains of rice, sometimes for days? And what kind of a society is it, except one begging for extinction, in which the rich send off their children to study in US and European private schools while Philippine classrooms have no desks, blackboards, chalk, and even teachers? Continue reading

Aiming high

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It’s natural, and even expected, that people new in their jobs should aim high. Perhaps it’s to impress their superiors–or because, precisely because they’re new, they don’t have experience enough to appreciate the magnitude of their promises.

Even then, however, the new Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Gen. Efren Abu, was aiming for the stratosphere when he vowed to “finish off” the New People‚Äôs Army by June 2005, when his seven-month term expires. Continue reading

What Christmas?

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President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s declaration that the coming Christmas should be a happy one for Filipinos is likely to be greeted by hoots of derision by people who’ve seen the prices of basic commodities rising in the last few months, and who have had to deal with them by tightening their belts, or by simply doing without. December 25 is likely to be just another date in the calendar for these Filipinos–and their number is legion.

Eight out of ten Philippine households are hungry, the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology survey found last August. Although the FNRI-DOST survey confirmed a suspicion derived from anecdotal evidence that there is indeed hunger in the Philippines as there is in Bangladesh and certain African countries, the discovery that it afflicts as much as 80 percent of Philippine households was shocking to many people, except for the Communist Party, which has always said that there’s more poverty in this country than doctored government statistics reveal. Continue reading

Not a bang, but a whimper

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Speaking for the last time as Armed Forces Chief of Staff last October 29, Narciso Abaya had critical words for the media, the politicians and the civilian government. He was correct on all counts–but incorrect in making the AFP seem like the hapless victim of both in the making of the scandals that have rocked the military establishment.

The media do tend to sensationalize. They do publish unverified information and even to present speculation as fact. And in cases too numerous to mention, they do engage in trial by publicity. Conventional journalism wisdom declares these practices to be unethical and unprofessional. Continue reading