Rogue states

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North Korea may or may not have exploded a nuclear bomb early this week. If it did, the explosive power of the bomb may not have been no more than that of 550 tons of TNT. That would make the bomb far less powerful than the atomic bombs the United States dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.

Those bombs were babies compared to the bombs in the arsenals of today’s leading nuclear powers (the United States, Russia and China). But they had the explosive power of 15,000 tons of TNT, and were powerful enough to kill some 300,000 people and to level both Japanese cities. Continue reading

The bottom line

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The labor export policy is based on an argument that to every Philippine administration since Ferdinand Marcos’ has been specially compelling.

By sending off the skilled and semi-skilled to foreign climes, the economy benefits from their remittances—which last year amounted to over US$11 billion, by no means a small amount. What’s more, and what’s even more important, overseas workers and their families may not be enthusiastic supporters of the very status quo that’s been unable to provide them jobs at home in the first place. But it’s safe to say that few end up as rebels or, as the Arroyo regime would put it, “destabilizers.” Continue reading

Decriminalizing libel

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Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye wasn’t quite being candid when he said that Malacanang had “no position” on the decriminalization of the Philippine libel law. Malacanang’s not having a position on the issue is itself a position. It amounts to a position in favor of the status quo.

The status quo as far as the libel law (see Articles 353-359 of the Revised Penal Code) is concerned is that libel is a criminal offense punishable with prison terms that seem to have no limit except the judge’s imagination. The courts have also tended, not only in recent times but in past cases as well, to award crippling claims for damages to complainants in accompanying civil complaints. Continue reading

Perfect storm

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‘Milenyo’ was the worst typhoon to hit the country in years. The focus on the death toll and the property damage in its aftermath is giving the Arroyo regime a break from the political and other storms that have been smashing into it, and to which it has been mostly immune. While some voices have pointed out that the country’s inability to cope with disasters is a government failing, the regime is, as usual, evading responsibility. So far it seems to be succeeding, given the common belief that about natural disasters one can do little.

About the political violence the regime has unleashed in the countryside–and, most likely, in metro Manila as well–it can’t be slippery for long. Not only has that violence caught the attention of international human rights, church, and non-government groups. It’s also feeding the culture of violence that has ruled Philippine society for nearly four centuries. Continue reading