Tuesday, November 25, 2008
The problem with this scheme is that Congress, by nature, is bicameral, meaning that there are two separate legislative bodies. In short, the Senate should vote to push for Charter Change in a separate vote from the House. The House cannot claim that they are Congress alone; to push for Charter Change, the Senate must also agree. And, so far, Senators have crossed party lines to state their collective opposition to Charter Change.
One of the main sticking points for Charter Change to move forward is the suspicion that, once the constitutional assembly is formed, our politicians will move to extend their terms, or, in place of that, revise the Charter to ensure their prolonged stay in power. No amount of talk from pro-Charter Change representatives or Presidential mouthpieces will convince anti-Charter Change otherwise. The suspicion is well-placed, given the fact that the public trust in President Arroyo has been consistently low.
In fact, House Speaker Rep. Prospero Nograles confirmed that, should a Charter Change body be convened, changes such as term extension would be possible.
As long as the current leadership is in place, Charter Change is not possible, as the nation is too polarized on the issue.
The tragedy here is that, admittedly, the Constitution needs to be revised in order for us to progress as a nation, in order for us to be in step with the rest of the world. Due to the vested interests of our political elite and the moral bankruptcy of our leaders, however, it is unlikely that such changes will be implemented.
Side Comment: I find it funny that, in her column last Sunday, Charter Change fanatic Carmen Pedrosa slams those against Charter Change as being elitist, keeping the status quo, and protecting the interests of oligarchs. In her diatribe, she rails against the Senate, the Supreme Court, and the Church. It’s funny because the institutions which she lauds for its attempt to push Charter Change through are everything she attributes to the anti-Charter Change crowd. In fact, the House of Representatives and the administration are even more elitist and more for keeping the status quo and more protective of oligarchic interests. Of course, in Pedrosa’s book, since they’re for Charter Change, they’re the ‘good guys’.
Unfortunately, our political landscape isn’t that black and white, and Pedrosa is either naïve or stupid to believe that the House or the administration will only focus on those parts of the Constitution that need to be changed, and not follow their heart’s desire. If Charter Change is to be achieved, it’s not going to be within this administration’s lifetime.
Side Comment: Philippine Star columnist Alex Magno, in his column today, gives a very concise and detailed explanation of the defects in the 1987 Constitution, and then slams anti-Charter Change critics for fear-mongering. It's been very clear, though, where Magno is coming from, being one of the various mouthpieces of the administration. Given what this administration has done to stifle political growth, critics have every right to be fearful of its motives in pushing for Charter Change. Still, his final words have merit:
"The best way, I suppose, is to arrive at a clear public consensus first on what changes need to be done and then, on the basis of that consensus, have the constituent assembly act on the basis of clearly prescribed goals."
If that can be achieved, and if the constituent assembly can be made to stay on course, then I might be willing to buy into Charter Change, although I would much rather prefer it after this administration is done.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Both the Philippine Star and the Philippine Daily Inquirer headlines announced that Charter Change proponents in the House are once more moving to convene the House as a constituent assembly, and are only 15 or so signatures away from the necessary number. This is, of course, assuming that Congress is one big assembly, and doesn't take into consideration the fact that Congress is bicameral, and, as such, the Senate votes separately from the House.
It's doesn't take much thinking to guess who's behind this new move. Not with Press Secretary Jesus Dureza praying for God's assistance during a Cabinet meeting, to allow President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to continue leading the country beyond 2010. Not with the main signature collector being the President's son Mikey.
And now, with the ouster of erstwhile Senate President Manny Villar, the administration now has a loyal lackey in new Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. While the Senate may be nominally opposition, I wonder how much it'll take for it to fall in line.
While I agree that Charter Change is necessary, I also believe that this administration cannot be trusted with pushing it through. There are just too many indicators that it will once more exploit Charter Change to pursue its own selfish ends.
Side note: In his apology for the pesky prayer, Dureza said that he was trying to put a humorous tone to the opening prayer. I wonder what his definition of prayer is; I certainly don't think that it's proper to crack a joke during prayer. Perhaps the President would be better represented by someone more competent.
Side note: In pushing for the investigation of the C-5 controversy that led to the ouster of Senator Villar as Senate President, Senator Enrile stated that there would be no cover-up during his term as Senate President. Gee, I wonder if that statement means that he'll allow the Senate to investigate the car smuggling in his bailiwick of Cagayan?
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
With the current shake-up in the Senate, where Senator Manny Villar was forced to resign as Senate President, it seems clear that there is a concerted effort by the administration to dominate both chambers of Congress in order to further its plans, and to squash the opposition of our political institutions to President Arroyo’s rule.
Earlier this year, Representative Jose de Venecia was ousted as Speaker of the House, mainly because his son was involved in a case against the government, this being the infamous NBN-ZTE broadband scam. Senator Villar, similarly, is one of the strongest contenders for the Presidency in 2010, so it is clear that administration’s political operators would want him out as Senate President, right?
The answer, ironically, might be “wrong”. The coup against Villar appears to have been orchestrated by his rivals in the opposition, by his fellow contenders, such as Senators Lacson, Legarda and Roxas, who all have moist eyes on the top post. In this case, then, presidential spokespersons may be telling the truth when they say that Malacanang was not involved in Villar’s ouster. Of course, this being the Arroyo administration, who’s to say that somebody in the President’s coterie didn’t grease the wheels a bit?
It’s not coincidental that Villar was ousted just as Pulse Asia came out with its latest presidential survey stating that Villar’s starting to close the gap between himself and top contender (at least, according to Pulse Asia) Vice-President Noli de Castro. It might have actually been the impetus for his rivals to unveil their tactical strike.
With Villar’s ouster, the Senate, with newly installed Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, is likely to cease being a thorn in the administration’s side; at the very least, it’s function as a foil to administration machinations will be severely weakened. This means that pet projects of the administration, notably Charter Change, may finally push through, to the detriment of our country.
It does seem strange, though, that Senators who pushed for the ouster of Villar cited his alleged involvement in the C-5 extension scam as their reason for removing Villar from his lofty post, and yet ignored the fact that the smuggling of second-hand imported cars in Enrile’s bailiwick of Cagayan continues, with the new Senate President’s blessing. No investigation of Enrile has occurred; in fact, Enrile even berated the businessmen who complained about the smuggling.
Keep in mind that Senators such as Lacson and Madrigal are working without any clear evidence on Villar, but the evidence for what’s happening in Cagayan is right there in plain sight. And yet, Enrile is considered to be an “acceptable” choice as Senate President to the majority of Senators. Like Injustice Secretary Raul Gonzales, Senator Enrile must have some sort of mystical charm that has allowed him to survive in the political arena, despite the fact that he was the architect of Martial Law.Enrile as Senate President, Rep. Prospero Nograles as Speaker of the House and Arroyo as President is a triumvirate that bodes ill for our country. While I’ve been advocating waiting for 2010 to change the leaders of our country, it seems that, with the ouster of leaders inimical to the Arroyo administration, the administration may be moving toward making sure that it stays in power after 2010. If this is the case, those of us who love our country may have to take to the streets again to show this government that it can’t get away with it. But, this time, with people reeling from the economic crisis, and without a charismatic leader to rally the people, I doubt that such a move can succeed.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
One has to wonder why Mitra only decided to join the fray at so late a time, considering that the Senate had issued an arrest warrant for Bolante back in 2006; it should be recalled that Bolante somehow made it to the United States, and was only recently deported after being denied political asylum. Why did it take so long for the House to invite Bolante to be investigated?
Considering that a number of congressmen were implicated in the fertilizer fund scam, it also seems strange that Mitra, at least in the newspaper, appears so aggressive and arrogant about claiming the right to question Bolante first. His promise that the “better House” (apparently his words, according to yesterday’s Philippine Star) will conduct a “free, fair and fearless” investigation is a laughable promise, given the number of congressmen involved in the scam. It seems more like a ploy to be able to clear his colleagues.
To be fair, I’m not sure if the Senate should have a claim to Bolante, as the previous Senate agriculture committee head Sen. Jun Magsaysay decided to close the investigation without Bolante’s testimony, and stated in his committee report that Bolante and other individuals involved in the fertilizer fund scam be charged and prosecuted by the Ombudsman. The Senate conducts investigations for the purpose of crafting laws; what laws do the Senators expect to make based on Bolante’s testimony, assuming that the supposedly sickly Undersecretary actually tells the truth?
At the same time, it should be remembered that the Senate is full of individuals with an axe to grind against the administration. When Senator Allan Peter Cayetano says that the Senators will know if Bolante is lying or not, doesn't it mean that the Senators already have taken a stand on the issue, and all Bolante should do is corroborate that stand? As it is, I doubt that the Senate hearing later will be a fair and partial one.
The body that should act is the Ombudsman, in order to file criminal charges against Bolante. But, it should be kept in mind that the credibility and impartiality of the current Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez has been in doubt for some time now. This image has been reinforced by the Ombudsman’s recent junking of one of the cases filed against Bolante. If the graftbuster’s office is suspect, where does one go to uncover the truth behind the corruption? Your guess is as good as mine.
From the looks of it, it’s unlikely that anything fruitful will come out of the current brouhaha anytime soon. And thus, corruption in our government goes unchecked, because those who perpetrate it are free to do as they wish.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
As noted, here's the matchup between Baylon and Fowler. Enjoy!
I didn’t realize that I’d not been involved in judo tournaments for more than a year until I attended last weekend’s Hajime! Tournament, which was hosted by the Ateneo Judo Association (AJA). I also didn’t realize how much I’d missed being part of these events.
The main problem with participating in judo tournaments is that they take up the good part of a weekend, which is normally set aside for family activities. As a result, I’ve had to beg off for most of the past year’s tournaments because there was always some other commitment or priority that was more important. But, somehow, things were relatively free for me to participate in last weekend’s tournament.
The Hajime (Japanese for “Begin”; it’s the command which starts a match) tournament is an AJA tradition, as the organization has been hosting it intermittently for the past two decades. This year, it was divided into three divisions: all-white, colored belts, and open weight.
One of the drawing cards for the tournament was that John Baylon, the Philippines’ premier judoka for the past 25 years, was likely to face off against Mike Fowler, a noted Brazilian jiu jitsu champion, in the -81kg division. There were also prizes for the fastest win, and the fastest submission. For me, personally, several of my former players, now high school and college varsity players, would be competing, and it would be nice to see how far they’ve developed.
My participation in judo tournaments nowadays consists mainly of refereeing matches; my competition days are over, and it’s been a while since I’ve had the passion to coach and prepare players for tournaments. The nice thing about refereeing is that I’m always in the middle of the action. Of course, I have to be always alert, because, by refereeing a good or a bad match, I have some influence in determining the outcome of the match.
It was clear that there was quite a bit of rust that I needed to shake off. For one thing, as I mentioned, I’d been out of the game for more than a year, and not having watched matches during that time creates difficulties in spotting certain techniques. For another, the rules of the judo tournament were recently changed, and, as such, would take some getting used to.
My ring rust showed in one of the first matches I refereed. I myself knew that I was tentative and hesitant about some of the calls, and it showed; the referee commission head gave me and my team a bit of a dressing down, after our turn in the playing area.
Still, it was a good day for judo. The fastest win was timed at 3 seconds, and I missed what technique was used because I turned my head away from the action for a moment to talk to my co-referee. There were several outstanding throws, and some of my students wound up with medals when it was all over.
The second day, Sunday was a whole day event, and everyone was looking forward to the matchup between Baylon and Fowler. Since a lot of the matches involved black and brown belts, there were more technical matches, although there were some matches which went the 5-minute distance without any ippon (full point and automatic win) scored. There were some thrilling last-second wins, wherein a judoka came from behind and scored an ippon with a beautifully-executed throw.
Both Baylon and Fowler, as expected, breezed through the elimination round; I didn’t get to see Fowler’s matches, but I saw Baylon’s, and he was in fine fighting form, which wasn’t bad for someone in his mid-forties. Most of his opponent went flying as he threw his way into the finals. Fowler apparently also did well, disposing of his opponents to make the finals.
When the finals match between Fowler and Baylon was announced, it was the only match running at the time, as everybody wanted to see what happened when Brazilian jiu jitsu met judo.
At the early going, each player tested each other, with Baylon going for his feared uchi mata throw, and Fowler trying to get Baylon onto the ground, most likely in order to use his grappling techniques.
In the end, Baylon managed to force Fowler to submit at the 1:16 mark (or so) with an armlock. I’m posting the video from YouTube for those who want to see the match in its entirety. Unfortunately, the camera was out of position, and the only sign that Fowler submitted is the referee (Philippine Amateur Judo Association (PAJA) President Dave Carter) shooting his arm into the air to signal ippon. It was a great day for judo.
All in all, it was a good tournament, and it was great to get back into the action.
I can’t believe that they have the nerve to suggest such a high speed, considering the rash of bus accidents that have occurred over the past few weeks, resulting in several deaths. I, for one, am hopeful that the LTO can enforce this rule, but, at the same time, I wish that other traffic rules be strictly enforced. As it is, it’s complete anarchy on Metro Manila’s widest road, with buses weaving in and out of traffic as if they were NASCAR stock cars, swerving from the innermost lane to the outermost to pick up passengers (often at an angle taking up two lanes), and ignoring all traffic rules.
Not that there’s any traffic enforcement on Commonwealth Avenue. After Quezon City mayor Sonny Belmonte announced back in April that Commonwealth Ave. would be treated as a traffic discipline zone, there seems to be hardly any indication that such a zone exists up to now. This is why I treat the LTO announcement with a great amount of scepticism; I’ll believe it when I see it.
At the same time, there is much that can be done about the recklessness of PUV drivers. First of all, stricter measures need to be taken in the issuance of professional licenses. I remember when my mom, who never drives, went to the LTO to have her license renewed, and, to her surprise, she was issued a professional license. Imagine how easy it is for anybody to get a professional license.
Before anyone can get a professional license, there probably should be psychological testing on the fitness of the applicant to be a professional driver. Stricter testing on traffic rules, as well as the practical application of these rules is a must for professional drivers. It should be impressed upon these drivers the great responsibility they have, as well as the consequences not only to them, but to their employers should they break the law.
Secondly, there has to be stricter enforcement of traffic rules. Traffic enforcers have to be well-trained and knowledgeable about these rules, so that better discipline on the road can be maintained. They should also be consistent in enforcing these rules, because sometimes, it seems as if they have certain choices about what rules to enforce at a given time.
Of course, for these to happen, there has to be strong political will on the part of our leaders, and, at the moment, it doesn’t look like the state of Metro Manila traffic is a major concern for them; in particular, Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chair Bayani Fernando, whose office is charged with enforcing traffic, seems to be more interested in singing his way to the presidency in 2010, as it’s been a while since he’s commented on the traffic situation in Metro Manila. With leaders like this, we probably won’t see any noticeable change on our roads.
UPDATE: Looks like the LTO still needs to get its act together on the speed limit. This morning, as I was driving along Commonwealth, I’m pretty certain that I was in the 40-50 kph range, and several buses and jeepneys sped past me. Like I said, regarding the LTO stance, I have my doubts.
Friday, November 07, 2008
1. It is possible to have the elections results in less than a day.
It was awesome to see that it took less than a day for the U.S. to declare Senator Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. This is compared to our own electoral process, which takes several weeks, or even months, before the winner is known. To those who point at our antiquated electoral system, it was noted in the papers that India has a similarly outdated electoral system, yet that country's winners are known within a day of voting.
Of course, those of us who have been observing the Philippine elections know why our elections take so long, and why our politicians want it that way. Since it's clear that cheating always occurs during Philippine elections, the long period simply gives the politicians more time with which to doctor the results according to their desires.
2. It is possible to concede gracefully.
McCain's concession speech was a classy and gutsy acceptance of his loss to Obama. In it, he congratulated the man whom he had villified and tried to take down over the course of the presidential campaign. He also called upon the American people to embrace their newly elected president and vowed to support Obama in repairing the nation.
Listening to McCain's speech makes us wonder why elections are so contentious over here, that the losers cannot accept defeat.
Of course, in our politicians' case, they will always claim that they were cheated, especially if the results are very close. With Filipino politicians, defeat is a word that they cannot grasp nor comprehend. To challenge the winner every step of the way seems to be the general tactic of the Filipino politician.
3. It is possible to work with the opposing side.
While the relationship between Democrat and Republican can get acrimonious, more often than not, the two sides are able to get things done because their political beliefs don't get personal in their profession. (Of course, with political bloggers, their political beliefs can get way too personal, but that's another story.)
In the Philippines, due to a weak party system and the lack of clear platforms, the power of personality politics dominate, and political fights can get personal very quickly.
The problem with us is that we take losing all too personally that it makes it impossible to trust the opposing side. There's also the fact that both sides are so polarized that it makes it impossible to work with the other side.
With the way things are shaping up for the 2010 Philippine presidential elections, it's unlikely that these lessons will be learned before then, but, the optimist in me hopes I'm wrong.
1. The economy
Thanks to the sub-prime mortgage collapse, and the resulting impending collapse of the
I’m not too well-versed in economic theories and stuff, so I don’t know whether Obama’s plans will be effective. Whatever he does, I hope he manages to come up with a plan that will give hope to jobless Americans, and make sure that if there is to be an economic recession, his policies will ensure that it will be as short and painless as possible.
2. Wars in
The war on terrorism began by President Bush has yet to abate, with more than a hundred thousand troops in Iraq, and about a third of that number stationed in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, neither front is any closer to resolution, and it looks like the heavy hand of the American military is solidly mired in a conflict as bad as
President Obama has pledged to pull out US troops out of
Thanks to Bush’s heavy-handed policies, the image of the
With Obama in charge, it was interesting to see how other nations and their leaders warmed up, with the hope that, under Obama’s leadership, the
4. Other Challenges
With the first African-American President coming into power, I think the dangers to Obama will increase tenfold, as both nations and individuals will be raring to test the mettle of this newcomer. Bush had September 11, 2001, but Obama is likely to face threats not only to his country but also to his own person. Already, two white supremacists were arrested shortly before the elections for plotting to kill Obama. One can only wonder at how many are going to go out and take a crack at Obama. The Secret Service is likely to have its hands full.
Of course, it’s a lot to expect of President-elect Obama to address all of these in the span of four years, but, then, that’s what is expected of the American President. The whole world will be watching with bated breath how Obama tackles these challenges.
I thought I’d try to summarize the main points, and share my own thoughts about the elections.
Why Obama Won
1. Massive grassroots campaign
Obama has his political roots in being a community organizer, and it was the skills learned in this role that helped him turn out the vote for this elections. This, and the fact that he had quite a campaign war chest that allowed him to fund community volunteers all across the nation. By reaching out to as many voters as possible, he managed to ‘flip’ various states which had been traditionally Republican, and get the majority in these states to switch over to the Democratic side.
The massive funding also allowed him to buy as much advertising space and time as he needed, as evidenced by the 30-minute infomercial released a few days before Election Day.
Obama and his campaign also utilized unconventional means to get their message out. By using social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, and video sites such as YouTube, Obama probably managed to reach majority of Americans and convince them that he was the candidate to vote for.
By disdaining public funding for his campaign, and by using the power of information technology, Barack Obama and his team rewrote the book for presidential campaigns, organizing a massive machine unlike any other, and this more than anything helped him win.
2. Intense dislike of Bush administration policies
In a large way, this particular election was a referendum on the eight-year Bush administration, particularly in the way it handled the economy. People who voted Democratic and for Obama demonstrated that they were tired of the type of government Bush brought to the U.S., and were willing to give the untested newcomer Obama a chance to prove his mettle. That they did so in such large numbers that it created a landslide victory for Obama is an indication of how fed up Americans were with the Republicans and George W. Bush.
The dislike filtered into the Congressional races, as the Democratic Party gained 20 more seats in the House, and about 5 more in the Senate. Although the Democratic Party looks like it isn’t going to get the obstruction-proof 60 seats in the Senate, it still has control of both the White House and Congress, and that will make it easier to push policies through, for better or for worse.
3. Sheer charisma of Obama
Obama’s speaking skills helped electrify crowds and attracted voters to his side. The man projects an image that is likeable, and inspiring, and this helped him. His acceptance speech at Chicago’s Grant Park last Tuesday was a grand appeal to the American people to embrace change and national unity. Hopefully, this will help him push through with the promises he made during the campaign.
Obama's appeal based on the election results transcended race, and attracted a lot of young voters to his side. This year's elections had a record turnout of voters, and a lot of those voters were for Obama.
On the other hand, Senator John McCain made a few missteps that probably cost him the election.
1. Association with Bush
This, of course, cannot be helped, as both men belong to the same political party. However, no matter how hard McCain tried to distance himself from Bush, by naming himself as a ‘maverick’, it didn’t work. The general dislike of the Bush administration filtered into McCain’s campaign, and stuck.
One analyst noted that it might have helped if McCain didn’t embrace the bailout for an ailing Wall Street, as this plan was greatly disliked by a Republican base which eschewed government intervention.
2. Choice of Palin
Any way one looks at it, the choice of Alaska governor Sarah Palin was a costly mistake the McCain campaign couldn’t shake. While it was true that Palin’s selection initially helped energize the Republican base, it was also clear that choosing her was bowing to the wishes of the ultra-conservative wing of the Republican, and this turned off moderate Republicans such as former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who threw his support behind Obama.
It was also clear that after two disastrous interviews, Palin was even less ready for the national stage than Obama was supposed to be. Considering that McCain is 72, the thought of Palin rising to the presidency probably scared off more moderate Republican voters.
The selection of Palin also called into question McCain’s judgment, considering that one of his fighting points against Obama was the latter’s lack of experience. Since Palin was so inexperienced, that fighting point was taken off the table, and probably weakened McCain’s argument against Obama.
Still, what I liked about McCain is that, when it was clear that he had lost the election, he immediately conceded defeat, and, in his closing speech, exhorted his supporters to support the newly elected President. That was such a classy move, considering that our own politicians, when they lose, always raise cries of fraud and cheating. Our politicians have a lot to learn from the actions of Senator John McCain.
And now, President-elect Barack Obama must now buckle down and meet with his transition team, to prepare for the arduous task ahead of them once he officially assumes office next year on January 20, 2009. And the task before him is monumental; I’ll take a look at the main ones in the next post.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
It looks like Obama and the Democratic Party, which is on its way to capturing virtual control of Congress, capitalized on the wide discontent with the policies of the Republican incumbent George W. Bush. And, unfortunately, Arizona Senator John McCain, Obama's opponent in this election, paid dearly for Bush's policies. As of this writing, Obama has garnered a total of 338 electoral college votes to McCain's 139; 270 votes are needed to win the Presidency.
And now, with the elections coming to an end, the actual work begins. Bush will remain as President until January, and I hope that he isn't such a small man that he'll do things to make Obama's work harder as it already is. In the meantime, Obama has probably begun assembling his Cabinet in preparation for his assuming office.
The whole world is likely to be watching this momentous event with bated breath, hoping against hope that Obama's win will help settle a very unsettled world.