Just sharing another thing which I think has not been given much attention over the past few weeks. And also something with which we still have to know President Aquino’s views and policy.
President Benigno Simeon Aquino III delivered his first State of the Nation Address on July 26, 2010. In his speech, he spoke of what little money the country has left; the irregularities in the previous administration; the need for more classrooms, cash transfers, ad social services; and the poor investments his predecessor made in several sectors which were actually not returning any profit. He also called upon Congress to support him in passing measures on fiscal rationalization; land use; witness protection; break-up of monopolies; and the often talked about, but also often forgotten, armed forces modernization. But there was no VFA.
The VFA or Visiting Forces Agreement, a remnant of the Estrada administration’s national security policy and the license given by the Arroyo administration for the, albeit prolonged, visit of US forces in the country remains a burning issue of national sovereignty for most of the country’s nationalists.
Just seven years after the Magnificent 12 of the Philippine Senate voted to reject a news treaty which would allow American forces to stay in the country, the GI Joes were once again, allowed to return to the country for military exercises. The first of these exercises were held in June of 2001. But 9/11 attacks changed the character of the exercises, the troops participating in them, and also the duration of the stay of American forces in the country.
By January of 2002, elements of the Joint Task Force 510 of Special Operations Command, Pacific (SOCPAC) headed by Lt. Gen. Donald Wurster arrived in the country and were deployed to Western Mindanao. Later, JTF 510 would be de-activated after the formation of Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines or JSOTF-P. With this, the country became another front in the Bush’s administration’s Global War on Terror. In fact, the presence of the US troops in the country and their activities are collectively part of Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines.
But the VFA would be put to test when Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith was accused by a Filipino woman under the name Nicole, of rape. The incident, later to be called the Subic Rape Case, served as a litmus paper for the provisions of the agreement which has always been believed by many to serve only the interest of the American government. While the lower court convicted Smith on the charges, the Court of Appeals reversed the decision and set him free. The case though, has become another rallying cry for review of the VFA, so much so thatSenator Miriam Defensor-Santiago has waged a personal battle for a review of the agreement.
While protests and criticism of the VFA have become staple activities of progressive groups in the capital, locals in Zamboanga City, Basilan, and Sulu are ambivalent.
In a 2006 report made by David Santos of ABS-CBN Zamboanga on the anniversary of 9/11 a local was asked on what he feels with the presence of American troops, he answered that he felt safe and that the end is near for the Abu Sayyaf. It would be important to point out that the report was made at the height of Oplan Ultimatum or the intensive military operations of the armed forces against the Abu Sayyaf that resulted to the deaths of several of its leaders.
The interviewee’s thoughts are not isolated. There are some in Mindanao who actually think that the presence of American troops is actually needed. The reasons for this feeling vary. Some adhere to this because they lack faith in the integrity of the AFP in the fight against the Abu Sayyaf, especially after the controversial Lamitan siege; others think that the American forces are more sufficiently equipped to conduct more demanding operations against the bandits; and then there are also those who think that the US presence guarantees the creation of a Bangsa Moro state a.k.a. the BJE or the Bangsa Moro Juridical Entity. Of course, the last one is the result of centuries of enmity between Muslims and Christians in this country which can best be understood by reading Samuel K. Tan’s A Critical Decade.
At its 12th year, the Visiting Forces Agreement remains a heated issue of sovereignty, national security, and justice from the halls of power in Metro Manila to the barangays of Basilan and Sulu. It is still one of the rallying cries of the progressive groups whenever they hold protests whether infront of US Embassy, the Congress, or President Aquino’s house on Times Street. Yet the agreement has largely remained in effect and unquestioned. Since it was declared constitutional early this year, not much has been heard from political scientists, the academe, and the policy-makers. And it was not even mentioned in the recent State of the Nation Address.
Aquino should make a definite stand on the VFA. And he should call for its review. Whether it has achieved or failed its purpose, it should be abrogated. If it has not, then it should be revised and formalized as a treaty with the concurrence of the Senate and the House of representatives. Otherwise, if it remains as an agreement, it will always be a bone of contention against the policy of the United States in the Philippines.
Maybe the VFA is a dead issue for some. Specially since it was declared legal and the Subic Rape Case issue has been settled. Then again, must we wait for another incident between an American and a Filipino to happen before we review this “agreement”?
Adjusted for inflation, the war in Afghanistan has so far cost more than the American Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, and the Spanish-American war COMBINED.
The entire squad was forced onto a stage at the People’s Palace of Culture and subjected to criticism from Pak Myong-chol, the sports minister, as 400 government officials, students and journalists watched.
The players were subjected to a “grand debate” on July 2 because they failed in their “ideological struggle” to succeed in South Africa, Radio Free Asia and South Korean media reported.
The team’s coach, Kim Jong-hun, was reportedly forced to become a builder and has been expelled from the Workers’ Party of Korea.
Jizas, can’t you give ‘em a hug and a pat on the back or some shit?
The Dear Leader must be really pissed with these guys. I wonder if the rumored plan to punish them with hard labor is still in his mind.
iwriteasiwrite said: Ahhh sir, I would have loved to have seen your and the farmers journey documented. That sounds like it truly would given an intriguing inside perspective on the journey. Hopefully, complete with interviews with each step!
We actually have some of the videos posted on Youtube. But those are edited videos which we try to post from time to time as updates on the progress of the March.
When the March started, Peterson Bergado a.k.a. Paping and I only thought of documenting it. But being both former employees of ABS-CBN, we know that media mileage for the campaign was important. But we knew that the media would not always be there to document the progress of the March. So we thought of coming up with snippets from the day’s videos, edited and mixed with music and posted online.
Our former colleagues from ABS-CBN were very supportive of the March though. The Cagayan de Oro news teams were with the farmers since day one. And when they were blocked by Arroyo’s convoy in Butuan, the news crew led by Trini Ladringan, negotiated with the police to allow them to get through the barricade near Bangcasi. In Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte, then reporter Adrian Ayalin and then producer now reporter Chiara Zambrano; and their Correspondents crews joined us. Apparently they also wanted to make a story about the farmers since it was the 10th year anniversary of the hunger strike of the Sumilao farmers in 1997. Regional Network Group News Director Stanley Palisada was also very helpful. We would usually send him a message whenever we were in a place with an ABS-CBN RNG station, and he obliges by sending a news crew. The mileage on the farmers would not have been that much were it not for the people in the Manila, Legazpi, Tacloban, and Cagayan de Oro newsrooms.
At Irosin, Sorsogon, Ditsi Carolino and her interns joined us. They made a documentary on the farmers which was later part of the Lupang Hinirang, Lupang Hinarang campaign. When the farmers finally arrived in Manila, the national media was there to meet them and flood them with questions about the long walk.
Paping still has the more than 80 Mini DV tapes we used during the March. Those 80 plus tapes are filled with memories of the hopes, fears, laughter, tears, sun, rain, dust and mud of the March. We’ re old school and that’s why we have more faith in tapes than hard drives. We do convert them afterwards for editing. We still have not come up yet with an idea as to the kind of documentary we will be making out of those. I guess it’s because the struggle of the Sumilao farmers is still not over.
Below is one of the videos we posted on the first few days of the March in October 2007.
juanrepublic said: So you were with them? Great Sir! I had my chance naman with the Farmers of Calatagan back in December 2008. A ‘little walk’ plus a celebration of the Holy Eucharist at the San Sebastian Cathedral in Lipa. ;)
Really sir? Nice! I had friends who were with the Calatagan farmers when they had their walk in December 2008. At that time, I was already saddled with a regular job here in Quezon City. I did see the farmers from time to time at the Department of Agrarian Reform Central Office since a lot of my friends, my girlfriend included, are into agrarian reform.
As a footnote, few know that the Calatagan farmers actually joined the Sumilao farmers in December 2007 to show their sympathy. They caught up with us at San Pedro, Laguna a day before we entered Metro Manila. They were with the Sumilao farmers until a couple of days before the fine heroes from Bukidnon went back to Mindanao for the Christmas holidays.
Sir, can we (non Ateneans) use the AMDG? I feel like using it, not for the reason that I want a sure pass exam, but to remind me not to cheat since I'm doing it for the Glory of God, by the way sir I'm a Christian :-)
Of course ma’am! While for us it was taught as part of the educational institution we were in, and it was the motto of the religious order which oversees our education, it is actually a principle which every Christian should constantly be reminded of.
I do hear of some Christian groups using another derivation of it though. I think it is To God be the Glory.
If it would serve as a reminder for you to dedicate your works for His greater glory, then by all means. Just forget about the malicious ones :)
i knew its malicious cebuano equivalent but there’s also another one which isn’t mentioned here, a response to “ang mangopya dakog grado” which is “ang masakpan disgrasya gayud”.
Haha! Yes I have heard of that too! And in one of my classes, I think one of your batchmates, I am not anymore sure if it was Mr. Gellor or Mr. Paalam, uttered those lines after I warned the class about cheating during exams.
As an alumna of the Ateneo, you really do know your traditions, even the malicious ones :) Thanks for the reminder @superboink!
For non-Cebuano speakers Ang Maskapan Disgrasya Gayud means whoever is caught will surely be sorry.
marionatrandom replied to your post:AMDG
There’s also Ang Matulog ‘Di Gragraduate. (So Taglish, noh?) @:=
This I didn’t know. Thanks @marionatrandom! And yes, it so Taglish ha :)
Kahit ilang “amdg” ilagay nyo dyan sa papel ninyo, pag bagsak, BAGSAK.
This got me laughing! I didn’t know there are also AMDG fanatics on this side of the country!
For those who do not know, AMDG (whoever wrote that on the Tumblog should have capitalized the letters) means Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, Latin for For the Greater Glory of God. It is the motto of the Society of Jesus, the order which was entrusted with the Escuela Municipal de Manila by the Spanish government, later renamed the Ateneo de Municipal by the order. The Jesuits later established similar Ateneos all over the Philippines.
Coming from one of the Ateneos in Mindanao, I grew up to the AMDG and several other Jesuit principles such as Magis, eloquentia, sapientia, humanitas, and of course being men for others (it was exclusive for boys back then). But unlike the Latin principles, the motto was everywhere. Yes, everywhere! And the students themselves write it on the exams papers, projects, and even those quiz papers on intermediate pads and yellow papers. I had a classmate who never failed to write it on the top of quiz papers from our elementary years up to the last days in high school. And he even wrote it with a cross in the middle, like this: AM+DG.
The belief was that whenever you write it on your works, you were dedicating that piece of work to God and you were glorifying Him through it. Some guys though had the distorted belief that if you dedicate it to Him, you’ll have good if not high marks for your works.
In the Cebuano speaking Ateneos though it acquired a new meaning. AMDG later became Ang Mangopya Dako’g Grado or he who copies (from his classmates) will have a high mark. I guess that is something which cannot be translated into Tagalog and still fit into the letters AMDG.
When I went back to my high school in 2006 to teach, I still saw AMDGs on top of the papers of my students. I guess it has become a tradition (even with the presence of female students). But unlike our generation of Ateneans, they only knew the Latin motto and not its more malicious Cebuano equivalent.
And yes, several times in my classes, I also said those words I quoted above to my students.
Ed Stafford, 34, from Leicestershire, central England, has been walking the length Amazon River since April 2, 2008, to raise awareness of the region. He began his trek at the source of the river in Peru, encountering pit vipers, electric eels, anaconda, mosquitoes and scorpions. He was joined in July 2008 by Gadiel “Cho” Sanchez Rivera. The pair are due to reach the shores of the Atlantic on August 9. During his trek Ed has blogged using a laptop and a satellite internet link. You can follow his journey on the Walking the Amazon website. Here, he describes a typical day.
I wake up with the light, just before 6 a.m., and reach for my vitamin pills hanging above my hammock. I get out of bed and peer through the gloom to see if Cho is up yet and has started the fire. If so, I will probably go to the river and check the fishing net to see if we have a catch.
The water is cold at this time of the morning and a river more than waist deep is a rude awakening to the day.
We cook our staple of farinha (made from cassava root) in a little oil and garlic and wash the dry substance down with sweet coffee. Then we decamp, pack our bags and are on the trail by about 7.30 a.m. — except there are no trails, of course.
Cho and I take turns up front with the machete. We walk 50 minutes of every hour and rest 10 minutes, so we do 25-minute shifts. It’s enough when you have to carry a 35 to 45 kg pack (the weight depends on the quantity of food and duration of the leg.)
When we break for a rest and slump onto our packs we stare at the floor and try and regain the composure to speak to each other. Sometimes this never comes and we don’t speak all day. Nothing sinister - it’s just complete exhaustion. We don’t lunch; we just keep grazing on farinha and salt.
At 3 p.m. we look for a stream or river that might yield fish. A nice deep slow-moving pool is what we are after. Oxbow lakes are great too, packed with piranhas that have loads of succulent white flesh on them.
Occasionally we don’t arrive at a river: It’s exploratory trekking after all and we don’t know what’s ahead. The maps we had were useless — they’re intended for plane navigation - so we now use Google Earth printouts instead.
If we have no water we can’t wash, rehydrate or cook properly. It’s a grimy night of broken sleep in your hammock. Not pleasant. If we have water, no matter how small the puddle might be, we can make a reservoir from our rucksack liners and bail water into them using our Tupperware boxes.
We wash whenever we can - every night if possible - including all the clothes we wore during the day too. If we didn’t, we would degrade very quickly. Bacteria are rife and humidity doesn’t let cuts heal very quickly. Hygiene is vital.
Their trek kinda reminds me of what Peterson Bergado a.k.a. Paping and I went through during the Sumilao Farmers’ March in 2007. The differences though were: we accompanied and documented the walk of the farmers from Bukidnon to Manila, while Stafford and Rivera are by themselves only; we passed through cities on several occasions, enabling us to post blogs and videos of the March on the net; and we were not navigating along a river or body of water, but on muddied roads and national highways.
I must say though that it is not easy to walk continuously and take videos, while you are laden with a heavy bag. And what makes the experience more challenging is doing that under the glaring sun with the dust of gravel roads or the mud that it becomes when the heavy rains fall.
Got this story of Emily Price on PC World from some of my Twitter contacts…
One hundred million Facebook user profiles containing personal information such as e-mail addresses and phone numbers, are now available as a 2.8GB torrent download. Ron Bowes of Skull Security created the torrent using a Web crawler program, harvesting data from public profiles of users who have chosen not to change their privacy settings.
The file contains information for 1 in every 5 Facebook users, all those who are currently listed in the Facebook open access directory. Nothing is illegal about the torrent, because it simply uses data that is available to the public. Even those who have secured their own Facebook page may not be completely out of the clear. In a statement on his website Bowes said:
"…this is a scary privacy issue. I can find the name of pretty much every person on Facebook…Once I have the name and URL of a user, I can view, by default, their picture, friends, information about them, and some other details. If the user has set their privacy higher, at the very least I can view their name and picture. So, if any searchable user has friends that are non-searchable, those friends just opted into being searched, like it or not! "
It’s that time of the year when presidents face the people to give their take on the nation’s state. The people’s eyes will be opened to realities around them, through a speech that enables the incumbent president to paint a picture of the country’s current social, economic and political life. Every Philippine president had delivered a SONA in the last 74 years.
During the SONA a president gives performance benchmarks and makes public, his strategies to achieve his envisioned goals. It is a very critical point of any chief executive’s career. He makes a promise – which, if unfulfilled – will scar his reputation forever.
Year 2010 marks the 74th anniversary of the State of the Nation Address as we know it. The very first SONA was delivered by Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon in 1936, although as early 1897, the country’s leaders delivered their versions of SONA.
Andres Bonifacio was the first to deliver a formal speech on the nation’s state in the context of the revolution. Aptly called “State of the Katipunan Address” (SOKA), Bonifacio spoke about the advances of the revolution before the Tejeros Convention on March 22, 1897.
About a year later, President Emilio Aguinaldo delivered his own “State of the Revolutionary Nation Address” (SORNA) before the Malolos Congress.
During the American occupation, there was the “State of the Philippine Islands Address” (SOPIA) delivered by William Howard Taft before the Philippine Assembly. Taft spoke in behalf of President Theodore Roosevelt.
Today, brand new President Benigno Aquino is addressing the nation for the first time. He is expected to rave about his weeks-old achievements such as the battle versus “wang wang” and counter flowing – the visible symbols of abuse of power. Maybe he would talk about work in progress, such as cabinet selection, among other things.
His spokespeople also hinted more corrupt practices in the government which were recently uncovered and scheduled to be exposed. These SONA bomb shells will carry the theme – corruption, anent to the president’s campaign pitch which is fighting poverty by easing corruption. I hope this time (with campaign over) the new administration will have an unambiguous, more sensible strategy to win over corruption, woven into a well-written SONA.
Be that as it may, I reserve judgment in six years.
To read the whole column, click the link! And yes, I do agree with him to withold judgment on the new administration until it has had enough time to supposedly make significant and meaningful changes for the country.
Yesterday’s State of the Nation Address was the first by done by a person other than Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo after almost a decade. And while some were already cynical as to what President Benigno Simeon Aquino III had to say, most were actually anxious to hear him. Some of those willing to listen wanted to know what situation the country was really in. The others wanted to know what he plans to pursue for the first year into his presidency.
I must admit, I did not like the first few lines of Aquino’s SONA, it sounded like his election campaign advertisement. Especially that part on the two roads with one representing good, and the other bad. While I know it was for emphasis, I think they should have left that out. It was already cliché .
But I did like the fact that he brought the real state of the nation to the people. This, especially after years of fairy tales in the Arroyo administration which most of our more comfortable countrymen have grown to believe. Among the fiscal things he tackled was the budget deficit.
Sa unang anim na buwan ng taon, mas malaki ang ginastos ng gobyerno kaysa sa pumasok na kita. Lalong lumaki ang deficit natin, na umakyat na sa 196.7 billion pesos. Sa target na kuleksyon, kinapos tayo ng 23.8 billion pesos; ang tinataya namang gastos, nalagpasan natin ng 45.1 billion pesos.
Ang budget po sa 2010 ay 1.54 trillion pesos.
Nasa isandaang bilyong piso o anim at kalahating porsyento na lang ng kabuuan ang malaya nating magagamit para sa nalalabing anim na buwan ng taong ito.
Halos isang porsyento na lang po ng kabuuang budget ang natitira para sa bawat buwan.
Saan naman po dinala ang pera?
There is a saying among government employees: hindi ako nabubuhay sa suweldo, nabubuhay ako sa utang. This saying now also applies to the whole country. We will live on the next few months on loans, foreign loans at that, because the previous administration has been spending on so many things which no one actually knows about.
Another cause of concern which Aquino highlighted yesterday was where the Calamity Fund was spent.
Naglaan ng dalawang bilyong piso na Calamity Fund bilang paghahanda para sa mga kalamidad na hindi pa nangyayari. Napakaliit na nga po ng pondong ito, ngunit kapapasok pa lang natin sa panahon ng baha at bagyo, 1.4 billion pesos o sitenta porsyento na ang nagastos.
Sa kabuuan ng 108 million pesos para sa lalawigan ng Pampanga, 105 million pesos nito ay napunta sa iisang distrito lamang.
Samantala, ang lalawigan ng Pangasinan na sinalanta ng Pepeng ay nakatanggap ng limang milyong piso lamang para sa pinsalang idinulot ng bagyong Cosme, na nangyari noong 2008 pa.
The previous administration had no qualms in spending Calamity Fund money for their home province of Pampanga. And while this would have been acceptable in other circumstances, the problem was that they neglected the provinces which were led by political adversaries like the De Venecias of Pangasinan. Pangasinan was devastated last year by Typhoon Pepeng.
In a country which is hit by an average of 20 Typhoons, the Calamity Fund is very much essential to the government’s ability to effect relief and rehabilitation in the areas and lives devastated by these forces of nature. To spend most of money in one district alone while the other areas are crying for help is a manifestation of shameless regionalism and partisan politics.
And on the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, Aquino exposed these:
Noong 2009, ang buong payroll ng MWSS ay 51.4 million pesos. Pero hindi lang naman po ito ang sahod nila; may mga additional allowances at benefits pa sila na aabot sa 160.1 million pesos. Sa madaling sabi, nakatanggap sila ng 211.5 million pesos noong nakaraang taon. Beinte-kuwatro porsyento lang nito ang normal na sahod, at sitenta’y sais porsyento ang dagdag.
Umupo ka lang sa Board of Trustees at Board Committee meeting, katorse mil na. Aabot ng nobenta’y otso mil ito kada buwan. May grocery incentive pa sila na otsenta mil kada taon.
Hindi lang iyon: may mid-year bonus, productivity bonus, anniversary bonus, year-end bonus, at Financial Assistance. May Christmas bonus na, may Additional Christmas Package pa. Kada isa sa mga ito, nobenta’y otso mil.
Sa suma total po, aabot ang lahat ng dalawa’t kalahating milyong piso kada taon sa bawat miyembro ng Board maliban sa pakotse, technical assistance, at pautang. Uulitin ko po. Lahat ng ito ay ibinibigay nila sa kanilang mga sarili habang hindi pa nababayaran ang mga pensyon ng kanilang mga retirees.
P 2.5 Million every year for every board of trustees member? P 211.5 million over all pay and benefits for employees? P 51.4 million payroll? And allowances amounting to P 160.1 million?
Like what I said yesterday in Twitter discussions: shame on you MWSS! You are to the Philippines, what the Wall Street executives are to the US!
And on infrastructure, Aquino said that 5 days before the end of the previous administration, the Arroyo government authorized the release of P 3.5 billion for the rehabilitation of areas hit by Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng last year. The 85 projects where the money would be spent did not go through the regulation bidding process. 19 of these, which amount to about P 981 million almost were given funds after signed contracts were presented. Were it not for the vigilance of Secretary Singson, these dubious arrangements would have succeeded.
On the National Food Authority. Aquino said that the NFA had:
Noong 2004: 117,000 metric tons ang pagkukulang ng supply ng Pilipinas. Ang binili nila, 900,000 metric tons. Kahit ulitin mo pa ng mahigit pitong beses ang pagkukulang, sobra pa rin ang binili nila.
Noong 2007: 589,000 metric tons ang pagkukulang ng supply sa Pilipinas. Ang binili nila, 1.827 million metric tons. Kahit ulitin mo pa ng mahigit tatlong beses ang pagkukulang, sobra na naman ang binili nila.
Ang masakit nito, dahil sobra-sobra ang binibili nila taun-taon, nabubulok lang pala sa mga kamalig ang bigas, kagaya ng nangyari noong 2008.
What the NFA has become is the result of the rice importation policy which was intensively implemented in the Arroyo administration. Instead of strengthening the agricultural sector, the previous administration focused on buying rice from Vietnam and Thailand (ironic considering that the rice experts from these countries in one time or another studied at the International Rice Research Institute in Los Baños). I guess food security, much more food sovereignty is not a concern for them.
Among the pieces of legislation Aquino would like to have from the Congress were the following:
Fiscal Responsibility Bill -to curb unnecessary government spending
Anti-Trust Bill -to break up monopolies
National Land Use Bill -to outline the policies on land use
Amend the National Defense Act - to replace the 1935 law
Whistle blower’s Bill -to protect witnesses of shady government deals
This is the first time I actually heard a president mention an Anti-Trust Bill. I have always wanted to see such a law passed here in the Philippines since it would break up the huge conglomerates which have exercised almost full control of public services, utilities, and commercial interests. If passed, the bill will hit hard corporations like San Miguel (owned by Aquino’s uncle).
I do agree that we need to amend the National Defense Act of 1935. In the old law, the government was to create a nucleus of 10,000 officers and enlisted men who will train up to 400,000 reserves who will defend the country, in the event of a war, with 36 torpedo boats and 100 tactical bombers. This structure of course had in mind the presence of the US forces in the military bases all over the country. But that has changed slightly now (the American forces are in Mindanao). Seriously though, how can an army of at least 150,000 defend a population of 90 million with antiquated weapons and ancient equipment?
On the communist insurgency though, much still remains to be seen. Aquino challenged the communists to submit their peace proposal and commit to an all-out cease-fire.
handa na ba kayong maglaan ng kongkretong mungkahi, sa halip na pawang batikos lamang?
Kung kapayapaan din ang hangad ninyo, handa po kami sa malawakang tigil-putukan. Mag-usap tayo.
I do know that the CPP-NPA-NDF and the GRP signed an agreement in 1998, the CAHRIHL, but since then the peace talks between the government and the communists have gone downhill. I used to be part of the network which was supposed to monitor the observance of the provisions of the peace agreement.
Aquino also called for journalists to police their ranks against envelopmental journalism, sensationalism, irresponsible journalism. I guess he gives this as a call for journalists to heed instead of the Congress passing the Right to Reply Bill. He also called for journalists to elevate the level of public discussion of issues confronting the country.
And for the average Filipino, this is what he had to say:
Tungkulin po ng bawat Pilipino na tutukan ang mga pinunong tayo rin naman ang nagluklok sa puwesto. Humakbang mula sa pakikialam tungo sa pakikilahok. Dahil ang nakikialam, walang-hanggan ang reklamo. Ang nakikilahok, nakikibahagi sa solusyon.
It is the duty of every Filipino to be vigilant and make sure that the chosen leaders are fulfilling their tasks. And while criticisms are an expression of being concerned for what is happening in society, it was important to go beyond criticism and take part in finding solutions the problems confronting us.
All in all, I would say that it was a good SONA, especially since it was Aquino’s first. Unlike Arroyo’s SONAs, it had no pauses for applause; no fairy tales; and no statistical presentations which do not translate into the actual experience of the average Filipino.
But I was troubled that he left some things which I think are important to address in a year’s time:
Lastly, I was surprised that Aquino did not mention the Freedom of Information Act among the priority bills he needs from the Congress yesterday. Riding on a campaign against corruption, I thought that he would be a strong proponent of the bill. The FOIA gives the ordinary Filipino the power to exact accountability and transparency from the government. Without the FOIA, questionable government transactions made my local and national officials can still be hidden from vigilant citizens and journalists, perpetrating the climate of corruption Aquino vowed to rid the country of.
I hope that the things unmentioned were not necessarily left out or forgotten, rather they were just not included for purposes of brevity. Still, for a government which is supposed to fight corruption, exorcise the demons of the Hacienda Luisita Massacre, and prepare the country for the years ahead, the three things forgotten are, to my mind, essential.
“What’s the most resilient parasite? An Idea. A single idea from the human mind can build cities. An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules. Which is why I have to steal it.”—Dominic Cobb, Inception
Excerpts from a good article written by Professors Alastair Smith and Alejandro Quiroz Flores of NYU:
Governments cannot prevent earthquakes and other natural disasters, but they can prepare for them and ameliorate their effects. Measures to do so are well known. That so many countries in earthquake-prone regions of the world fail to adequately regulate construction, for example, seems to defy logic.
In 2003, an earthquake in Bam, Iran, killed at least 30,000. China is plagued by such disasters, which can leave hundreds of thousands dead. Similar earthquakes in Chile, Japan, and the United States have killed far fewer. The difference is in the preparation: Chile, Japan, and the United States have implemented policies that keep acts of nature from becoming massive human tragedies; Iran and China have not.
It is tempting to suggest that a country’s ability to prepare is a matter of money. After all, the United States and Japan are extremely wealthy. However, although wealth certainly matters, politics are more important. Four decades ago, a 7.9-magnitude quake struck Peru, killing about 66,000 people. In 2001, an even stronger earthquake hit but killed less than 150 people. Admittedly, the population density in the area of the first earthquake was about twice that in the second. But that alone does not account for the huge disparity in casualties. Neither does income. Peru’s per capita income was virtually identical in real terms at both points. The big difference was political. In 2001, Peru was a democracy, whereas in 1970 it was not. The 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, one of the worst in U.S. history, killed more than three thousand people. The United States’ GDP per capita at the time was comparable to nondemocratic Mexico’s in 1985 - the year a similarly sized earthquake struck Mexico City, killing three times as many. And whereas a 2001 earthquake in democratic India killed more than 20,000 people, a slightly smaller 2005 earthquake in nondemocratic (and then slightly wealthier) Pakistan killed more than 80,000.
In a democracy, leaders must maintain the confidence of large portions of the population in order to stay in power. To do so, they need to protect the people from natural disasters by enforcing building codes and ensuring that bureaucracies are run by competent administrators. When politicians fail to deliver - by, for example, letting too many die in disasters - they lose their jobs.
Indeed, a lack of political will to confront disasters plagues nondemocratic regimes, which, unlike democratic governments, do not rely on popular support. As in democracies, the rate of anti-government protests almost doubles after major earthquakes, but the rate at which the governments are deposed does not increase by nearly as much - from 22 percent over any two-year period to 24 percent following a major earthquake. Democratically elected leaders are highly sensitive to casualties from natural disasters, but nondemocratic leaders are not. And, indeed, the latter do a poor job of protecting their citizens from Mother Nature.
Political survival lies at the heart of disaster politics. Unless politicians are beholden to the people, they have little motivation to spend resources to protect their citizens from Mother Nature, especially when these resources could otherwise be earmarked for themselves and their small cadre of supporters. What is worse, the casualty count after a disaster is a major determinant of the amount of international assistance a country receives. Relief funds can even enhance a nondemocrat’s hold on power if they are used to buy off supporting elites. Given such incentives, autocrats’ indifference to disaster-related deaths will continue.
This article just shows that this country of mine, though supposed to be a democracy, has never been such for the past nine years under the Moled One. The challenge now is on the new administration to prove that our government is a democracy, and it is a democracy that works.