Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Foreign Meddling: The Most Neglected Issue in the Recent Electoral Discussions

The social networking sites are now cluttered with different opposing partisan political propaganda,- black, white and gray, which are intended to boost the bid of their respective presidential bets this coming Philippine elections in May. The netizens, filled with emotions and armed with over-eagerness to defend or promote their candidates, allowed themselves to act like talkative puppets in the hands of a political ventriloquist. The heated online debates are now at their best. The discussions, fair or foul, are polluting the social media. Irritating memes and links that are scraped from propaganda sites of political parties and politicians sadly invade even our deepest apolitical moment in cyberspace.

These kinds of people allowed themselves to be hallucinated by emotions brought about by the campaign delirium. They are drowned by the illusion that the result of the elections, especially in the presidential and vice presidential races, solely lie in the hands of the voters, in the voting power of the people and the efficiency of the electoral laws and systems. As if American meddling in Philippine politics is just in our dream. As if the American transnational corporations, its main intelligence agency and diplomatic channels are just passively watching over us during voting time. As if the US-influenced media and the survey firms do not manipulate the people and the electoral events to ensure US economic and political control in this part of the globe. As if China has no plan to follow suit. Yes, both Washington and Beijing would surely influence our domestic politics in 2016 and beyond. These two countries’ unseen but critical hand in the Philippine presidential race is very much neglected by the on-line, almost cultic pinduteros in our midst.

Foreign meddling in our political life or internal affairs is an objective reality, as attested by our political history. With Beijing’s assertion of its control over the West Philippine Sea and the Philippine court’s approval of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with US, the coming election is destined to be included in the war strategy of the two superpowers. The US, our distant friend and China, a bullying neighbor, are here to influence the results of the elections. Those avid supporters of certain candidates trolling over the social networking sites are aimed at risking their reputation, sanity and all for their candidates. At the macro level, moneyed American and Chinese corporations would surely bankroll certain presidential candidate and employ every tactic in the book, overt or clandestine, to make certain candidate win and therefore to affect the campaign and its result. Secret compromises between the candidates and power brokers of these two influential countries have already been made, no doubt. The presidential candidates we see in the debates and the political TV ads nowadays endeavor to obtain their support. This would dilute the sanctity of our electoral system. In the process, it would diminish the independence of intelligence thus weaken the action of every avid supporter of certain candidates for the two highest positions in the land. Be it off-line or on-line.

In pages 32-33 of her book “Issues without Tears: Volume I” which was published in 1984, historian Letizia R. Constantino wrote that Manuel Roxas’ presidential bid in 1945 was supported by Gen. Douglas MacArthur and US High Commissioner Paul V. MacNutt despite of Roxas’ previous collaboration with the Japanese. President Manuel Roxas is the grandfather of now administration candidate Manuel “Mar” Roxas III. Let us hear from Constantino: “During the campaign, men who had been in MacArthur’s staff – Andres Soriano, Enrique Zobel, Charles Parsons and Joseph McMicking were big contributors to Roxas’ campaign fund.” Roxas, as expected, won the election. He conformed to the ideals of the Americans and since then, Uncle Sam was able to advance his economic interests in the Philippines through the Bell Trade Act and exploited of our natural resources. Under the said Act, American citizens and corporations were given equal or same trade rights as Filipinos.

The elder Roxas too, ensured the presence of the US Military Bases in the Philippines just like how his grandson supports the EDCA now. Constantino further wrote, “Roxas gave the Americans the privileges they wanted and suppressed the only groups that opposed American demands.”  The Aquino Administration or his Tuwid na Daan is very welcoming to US. The Roxas presidency would bring back the heydays of the American military presence in the country.

Thus, geopolitics is the most neglected aspect in every debate and exchanges among supporters of each presidentiable over every social networking site today. They are mostly confined to the sensationalized trivialities evolving around 2016 elections. Matters that entertain us away from the long lingering monster left unseen behind a tree.

Philippine elections are fragments of America’s colonial legacy. Jejomar Binay already declared his openness to talk with Beijing on the disputed territory or the heightening of economic ties with China the moment he is elected to office. He said to local media some months back, “We have to accept the fact that China has all the capital and we have the property over there, so why don’t we try to develop that property as a joint venture?” Last February, Rody Duterte hummed the same tune saying that he is open to joint exploration with China on the West Philippine Sea. The Economist reported that, “Chinese diplomats have given almost open support to his [Aquino’s] vice-president, Jejomar Binay, who was elected separately and will be the main opposition candidate in the May presidential election.” On the other hand, Grace Poe, formerly held both Filipino and American citizenship is married to an American citizen. Therefore, we do not expect an outright anti-American foreign policy under her watch.

As long as there is election, we open our doors to foreign meddling and our fundamental right as citizens to be sovereign in our country would forever be a dream. The right to self- determination is the ever elusive dream of every patriotic Filipino, then and now. 

The question of foreign intervention in our elections is so essential that the die-hard supporters and/or bashers of Mar Roxas, Digong Duterte, Grace Poe and Jojo Binay intellectually downplayed in this critical junction of our nation’s history…

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Bracing for an All-Female Government in the Future

Here’s a weird extension to what Senator Sergio “Serge” Osmeña III had in mind when he said that Philippines might be the first country in the world to have two female leaders. Yes, he is pertaining to Grace Poe as president and Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo as her VP. Currently, there are only six women out of 24 members in the Senate which is equivalent to 25% of the members in the Upper House. Having such gender imbalance in the Senate, one might think of voting all the women candidates for senators, regardless of their political party, affiliation, advocacies, ideological leaning or favourite television show. Anyway, except for the TV show, those I have mentioned are now of lesser importance in each election.

Women make up half or more of the population and yet they occupy only 1/5th of elective positions in the government. This imbalance seemingly resulted to the neglect of issues and concerns relating to women. It is now the right time to give the women full and complete responsibility of handling the nation’s political balls. With this, the gap is fixed. Our Constitution should now limit the right to be voted upon to women. The paternalistic and male-dominated governments flawed since election was introduced in the land in 1907. It was the year when the first fully national election for a fully elected legislative body was held both for the Philippine Assembly and the bicameral Philippine Legislature. That was during the American Colonial Period.

In the meantime, why not vote ALL the women contesting for the senatorial race this May? My All-Woman-Ticket is composed of Leila de Lima (#12), Nariman Ambolodto (#2), Risa Hontiveros (#19), Alma Moreno (#24), Princess Jacel Kiram (#23), Lorna Kapunan (#22), and Susan 'Toots' Ople (#25). Imagine what will happen if they join the ranks of the remaining incumbent senators Loren Legarda, Nancy Binay, Cynthia Villar and Pia Cayetano. I cannot image what will happen when women clash with each other in the male-dominated Halls of the Senate.

As I have proposed, let us give the women all the political seats and bestow them, including the women in each barangay, towns and provinces, a chance to lead by banning the males from filing his candidacy and be stripped off of their right to be involved in the electoral arena.  

Both men and women can be a ruthless punisher like Digong Duterte with all his cuss words. In Madagascar of old, there’s a queen named Ranavalona I (1828-1861), a lady punisher. She was a tyrant who hungered for killing. She introduced of a harsh judicial system which claimed the lives of her own people were her ways of indulging in her perverse obsessions. One of her specialties was the traditional practice of trial by the ordeal of tangena (Take note of this word Digong and you too, Mar Roxas). In this trial, the accused was fed three pieces of chicken skin along with poison extracted from the tangena nut and if all three pieces were thrown up, they were declared innocent. However, if they did not manage to vomit up all three pieces or died during the process, they were declared guilty. If that is the case, you cannot even shout or utter “tang ina!” after the verdict! Hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives to this tangena thing!

Bongbong Marcos’ father’s dreaded Military Court under Martial Law was nothing compared to that tangena trial! Now, who says that brutality and arrogance are exclusive and confined only to men?

Before April 30, 1937, and that was 79 years ago, only Filipino men have the right to vote. Article V of the 1935 Constitution limited the right to vote to men but set a condition that suffrage may also be extended to Filipino women if 300,000 will vote in favour of the motion in a special plebiscite to be held within two years after the adoption of the Constitution. The yes votes exceeded the mark at 447,725 votes, and the rest is history or herstory,- ah,… whatever!

Since we, the gallivanting males are mesmerized by all-female bands, why not an all-female led government? …

Monday, March 14, 2016

Occidental Mindoro and Ferdinand Marcos’ Martial Law

The people of Occidental Mindoro contributed not so many stories as possible references on Marcos’ despotic military rule. But in faraway town of Palimbang in Sultan Kudarat where some 1,500 Bangsamoros were slaughtered when soldiers attacked the coastal town in early 70s, merely mentioning the words “Mindoro Occidental”, make them shivers, especially the women,- in horror and lamentation.

Ferdinand Marcos’ Martial Law which he later called New Society has this essential characteristic in the context of Occidental Mindoro: it was submissive to foreign interests, specifically the United States, and that of his relatives and cronies. It facilitated the rape of our sovereignty and economy. In page 272 of the report of the National Committee for the Restoration of Civil Liberties in the Philippine titled Marcos and Martial Law in the Philippines published in 1979, the former strongman was quoted saying, “This American government is the leading power in the world. Of necessity, it has very strong influence in resources of help and is itself a source of aid. Again I say it is our hope…”  In 1975, the whole island of Mindoro was considered laboratory of a project called Mindoro Integrated Rural Development Program or MIRDP. Despite of the socio-political horrors brought about by the dreaded Martial Law then, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (WB-IMF) granted Marcos’ authoritarian government a 50 million dollar worth of financial aid mainly for agricultural and infrastructure projects under MIRDP in two Mindoro provinces.  On its part, the Marcos government initiated the Mindoro Agro-Industrial Rural Community Development (MAIRCOD) to implement animal dispersal projects as component of the Kilusang Kabuhayan at Kaunlaran or KKK which is under First Lady Imelda Marcos’ Ministry of Human Settlement. This was called “Mindoro Strategy”, a supposedly model program for the whole Philippines but not fully implemented due to corruption and bad management, among others, according to Volker Schult, author of “Mindoro: A Social History of a Philippine Island in the 20th Century: A Case Study of A Delayed Developmental Process” in 1991. The contractors and politicians close to Malacañang are the ones fully gained from it.

Aside from foreign companies, Ferdinand Marcos cronies profited most from the supposedly development program. They, the cronies or the ruling elite supplied raw materials to foreign companies who have close connection and relationships to said firms. Roberto Benedicto, once owner of the Sugar Central in San Jose and Eduardo Cojuangco, uncle of BS Aquino III are FMs most prominent cronies. Alfredo “Bajo” Romualdez, a brother of Imelda, owned a chain of gigantic businesses from a shipping company to being a franchise holder of Jai Alai. Dr. Pacifico Marcos is the top honcho of many real estate corporations and hotels that time. Pacifico is the younger brother of Ferdinand.  

The late former senator Jovito Salonga once observed: “The New Society offers a tax privileges to foreign and local investments. The New Society cannot seem to stop devising ways and means whereby the big shots could add to their profits.  After reading the tax exemptions of these investments, one wonders if they pay taxes at all. In any case, the New Society is proud to say that the Philippine tax incentives are among Asia’s best.” To add from other source on public interest versus private interest, economic historian Jan Luiten van Zanden wrote about world dictators, “With the passage of time, the balance shifts from the country’s interests to private interests and that is disastrous for the economy. The quality of governance declines, the clique surrounding the Great Leader is corrupt and loots the treasury.” This observation rings true even today in our midst, in the context of Occidental Mindoro. Some quarters, specifically the relatives of the sitting local politicians during Marcos time, considered that Martial Law or the New Society such development in such a good light but poverty in the countryside continued to linger. This is mainly due to indebtedness of the farmers to loan sharks and the high price of farm commodities and inputs and the continuous relegation of the Mangyans. Things we are still experiencing today.

Abunawas Kali along with thousands of other Moro residents were detained by soldiers in Tacbil mosque and killed each night by tens according to a news report. Women were brought to a Philippine Navy boat where they were assaulted and raped. Those who resisted committed suicide by jumping into the ocean, or were shot dead by soldiers. Bainkung Buwisan, one of the hundred victims, was then 14 when raped by soldiers. Buwisan, now one of the claimants under the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act, still clearly recalled the name of the Navy boat: “Mindoro Occidental”. 

BRP Occidental Mindoro was landing ship tank commissioned on July 15, 1972 and probably, according to Philippine Navy records, - after being decommissioned, the boat was sold as scrap in early 1990s....


(Photo: filipiknow.net)

Monday, March 7, 2016

Paper Candidates: You Know Who They Are

The grandest symptom of desperation or bankruptcy of any political group is when it pitches a bunch of so-called paper candidates specifically to key higher positions. Paper candidates, in my one definition, are those who are out of the blue just came out for electoral positions in a certain province or locality. Second, they are the candidates, though they belong to a political team, usually unknown hence having low level of support or its political clout already diminished. Well, although they have a little chance of winning, the main purpose is to make an effort to ensure that there are no cracks in their political register if not to perpetuate their existence in the local political scene and/or power in strategic areas. This is also just to keep a political group to the main track and make itself visibly relevant in one given local election by just keeping all the “blanks” filled up. Third, a paper candidate is also someone, who is not capable- physically, financially and mentally, to launch and much more appear in the fatiguing campaign sorties. Many of these candidates of sort know that their chances are nil and not that serious to win, but who are we to judge one’s intention? They are, perhaps, just helping out their party or cannot turn down their patron or any other personal reasons by allowing themselves to be candidates, thus, even to the extent of putting their names in the walk of shame later!

It is difficult to name names or accuse someone a paper candidate for nobody would admit that they belong to such category even if they are squeezed to death. But it cannot be denied that there are indeed such a candidate of sort and I am certain that their names are now included in the ballots with their respective parties. We, the voters, by the way, have no slightest idea how the candidates in general are groomed or selected.

To be positive about it, local political groupings are essential in a democracy. Democracy is unimaginable without the healthy rivalry of political groups especially during elections. Political parties in general, from the national down to the local, must have, among others, the following major functions: to formulate policies and agenda, platform of government hinged on the party’s ideology, educate public opinion geared towards the growth of the level of political consciousness of common citizens. But first and foremost, any political group has this noble task to recruit men and women of integrity to its fold as members and not those “repeaters” or those with checkered past and of doubtful repute just to “fill the gaps” in the line-up on certain election year.

There are also those opportunists joining and staying with the group for convenience and other considerations, riding on with the popularity and resources of their patrons and party heads. Sometimes they are the party vagabonds doing things in contrast to party lines. They swim against the tide or put themselves in safe position when controversial issue arises. Since they are popular among the masses, even a political nincompoop, he is still considered (and spoiled) by the team/group. The political groups that I know cannot police their ranks and those who are “policed” just move out and quickly jump to the other fence. Over and above, since party principles are is nonexistence, the most problematic area with local political groups is that they are normally tied to a particular political leader/s not to party ideals, given that such animals exist in the team.

With this emptiness in party membership and the disordered situation with regards to party loyalty in the Philippines brought about by personal agenda of certain politicians - the flip-flappers or the butterflies - I sometimes think of all out scrapping of the political parties or groups. I am so disgusted to the point I lost my trust in the mainstream political parties where party ideals and principles are deemed unimportant, if not considered pieces of garbage.

This trouble with our political party culture for me is beyond repair. Party labels, viewing from my almost displaced retina and judging from my sometimes cynical perception, especially in my province, the vicious division hatched by the two dominant political groups, have practically broken us up - as families and as communities- into political scraps.

I do not have to name them. You know very well who they are….

(Photo: Slideshare)