Tuesday, June 28, 2005

It ain't over till the short lady leaves?

It was an apology that fell short of being a mea culpa. Understandably, many people are unsatisfied with President Arroyo's address to the nation yesterday. She didn't name Garcillano; she didn't say what she was specifically sorry for; she didn't even appear sincere reading her apology, the grave face she tried to effect notwithstanding.

What will happen next? The ball is back in the opposition's court. The (allegedly defective) impeachment complaint against the President which was filed by Atty. Lozano has now been endorsed. It will be interesting to see, given the tight control of the House of Representatives by Arroyo sympathizers, how the opposition will muster the required number of congressmen (1/3 of the total number) to send the impeachment rolling into the Senate. If the opposition succeeds-against great odds-to transmit to the Senate a resolution for impeachment, then who knows? Perhaps by February of next year, we'll have Vice President Noli De Castro as our new president.

The buying of America

Paul Krugman has an interesting thing to say about China's recent buying of chunks of corporate America, in light of the brazen Chinese all-cash bid to take over the American company UNOCAL. He thinks that while Japan's buying spree of American companies in the 1980's proved ultimately harmless to America's larger geopolitical interests, China's bid for UNOCAL highlights an important qualitative difference between the Japanese investment in America fifteen years ago and the Chinese investment now. According to Krugman, China, unlike Japan, really does seem to be emerging as America's strategic rival and a competitor for scarce resources. And China is pursuing the less costly option of taking over an oil company rather than invading one whole Middle East country. Hmm, kung-fu masters are probably not quite up to the task yet.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Updates on the Philippine Nonprofit Sector

The Center for Leadership, Citizenship and Democracy
The Philippine Association for Volunteer Effort

invite you to

Citizen Action and Good Governance:Updates on the Philippine Nonprofit Sector
June 30, 2005 (thursday), 3:00-5:30pm
Assembly Hall (second floor, library)
National College of Public Administration and Governance
Univ. of the Philippines, Diliman, QC

For more info, please contact:Kristine Follosco, 0917.2770553/ 981.8500 loc 4159.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Currently reading:

Winners in Peace: MacArthur, Yoshida, and Postwar Japan

Children and parents

I heard it said before that the hardest thing about being a parent is letting your children make their own mistakes so they can learn from them. Corollarily, the hardest thing about being a child is watching your parents commit the same mistake over and over again as if they have learned nothing from their youth.

Friday, June 24, 2005

The brutal truth, and nothing but?

Everybody seems to have a newly-discovered affection for the truth. Ping Lacson enjoined the people to be not afraid of the truth for, according to him, it will set us free. Samuel Ong says his interest is only in wanting the truth come out. So does Rep Clavel Martinez.

I have no doubt of the sundry liberating effects of the truth. Honesty, Benjamin Franklin is right, is indeed the best policy. However, I have serious doubts on our capacity now as a people to handle truth lock, stock and barrel. To be brutally honest about it, if truth, by some work of divine intercession, were to be released in full force, with all the floodgates opened, we would be finally free, yes, but also inundated. This probably explains why the so-called United Opposition is selectively presenting the truth to the public. When Sandra Cam was asked why Mikey Arroyo seemed to have trusted her so much when she handed over money to him, she said she didn't know. Oh yes, she does. It's because she has been involved in this ugly business all her life she's virtually a fixture in the industry.

Garcillano may indeed have cheated for President Arroyo. That's partial truth. The unadulterated complete truth is that it may also be equally true that he did the same for the opposition that claims to be so innocent and clean and so alternative now. That's why Jarius Bondoc is asking for the other half of the wiretap.

Truth hurts, Marichu Villanueva writes today for the Philippine Star, what the country needs now is more than the truth. The truth may set us free, alright, but with liberators like Ping Lacson, who needs freedom? Give me liberty, or give me, er, death ?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Web prowl

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars presents a collection of essays on George Bush and East Asia: A First Term Assessement (pdf). The World Bank has created a new Energy and Mining Website for East Asia and Pacific. TIME draws up its list of 50 coolest websites on the web. If you want to feel a little bit lighter and get away from the tediousness of our local politics, check Overheard in New York, a blog for conversation vignettes overheard in New York. And surprise--Karl Marx seems certain to be voted the world's greatest philosopher in a BBC poll that closes two weeks from now.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Going gently into the good night

Cardinal Sin is dead. (Read the obituaries from the Inquirer, the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, the BBC.) Just when the opposition is calling for another People Power to topple yet another president, Cardinal Sin, a pivotal figure in the two previous mass demonstrations, has chosen to leave us. Does the death of the cardinal foretell that this time those who clamor for People Power will fail?

The Church is hesitant to call for the ouster of President Arroyo and has been at pains to point out in the media that it is not. Even Archbishop Oscar Cruz, the Manila Times reported a couple of days ago, is having second thoughts about unveiling his witness who will further incriminate the First Gentleman. Archbishop Cruz is rightly considering the possibility that he is becoming an unwitting tool for the destabilizers greedy to grab power for themselves. For it could very well be that apres Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, le deluge.

Currently listening to:

The Eight Dimensions by Zhou Jie Lun

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

How a president who cheated, and whose fraud is subsequently uncovered, can nevertheless preserve her principality and govern

A candidate cheated, some people sardonically aver, doesn't deserve to hold public office in the first place--for how can he be expected to safeguard the public interest when he was incompetent in guarding even his own interest at the polls? Reasonable enough, I think, but nonetheless does not make the cheater any more legitimate. And there lies the president's predicament.

But fortunately for the president, the present crisis is merely a predicament, not the kind of stuff that can unmake her. It is a predicament though of the highest degree, one that I imagine would require the sagacity of Machiavelli to successfully traverse (and Manolo Quezon has some relevant excerpts from Machiavelli for President Arroyo ).

President Arroyo is presently doing well managing this most significant challenge to her presidency. Her deafening silence, which most commentators criticize, is in fact the most astute thing she can possibly do right now. Like any guilty client advised by a competent lawyer, President Arroyo has wisely taken a vow of silence. She can only damage herself further by opening her mouth. Omerta is also highly advisable for the rest of the cabinet, save a few inane meaningless statements from her spokesperson just to keep journalists from rumbling.

What can Arroyo do to preserve her presidency?

1) Being a political leader means her vow of silence is unsustainable in the long run. She would have to speak sooner or later (although preferably later). But before she do so, it is wise to survey first the extent of dirt the opposition has on her, on her husband, on Iggy Arroyo and on her son. It is essential that her comments on the matter be the final say, that there would be no further reveation, no further transcripts and audio mp3s to be downloaded in the PCIJ blog. The public, once fatigued by all these revelations, would all be too glad to forget about the matter.

2) The picture that appeared on the Inquirer--President Arroyo flanked by politicians bearing the letters PEACE and UNITY on their shirts--while cute and heartwarming for the president is nonetheless in the grand scheme of public relations quite useless. Estrada had the same protestations of undying fealty from the governors and look where he is now--stinking and getting fat in Tanay. The picture that President Arroyo needs now is one with lots of white robes in the background; robes accented by red belts preferred but not required. The President may have a problem asking bishops to meet her and have a photo taken of them now, but she can still try. She can also pay the ailing Cardinal Sin a visit. A picture at Cardinal Sin's bedside would be fine. Or confess her sins to Archbishop Rosales and get the latter's support in exchange (remember Michael Corleone and his successful corporate takeover after his confession?) .

3) To fire or not to fire Mikey, that's the question. It is easier to see your husband executed than your son pilloried. Queen Elizabeth I was infinitely wise to boycott the delivery room. If Mikey Arroyo is to resign, President Arroyo will appear weak. Garcillano is now out, but Garcillano, no matter how influential a powerbroker during the elections, is merely a government bureaucrat. Mikey Arroyo is different. If he resigns, the opposition would only be emboldened to demand the head that they really want: President Arroyo's.

In the game of chess, in order to trap the Queen, her enemies need to first engage her in combat. How? By first removing the pawns and lower personalities that cover her. Put yourself in the place of the opposition for a while. With damning tapes that detail how the president cheated in the elections, why would there still be a need for you to air out revelations about jueteng which at best only obliquely point to the president? To take out the men that prop the Queen. With the Arroyo men immobilized by the jueteng allegations, the tapes and the transcript should take care of President Arroyo. That's the master plan.

It was wise for Mikey Arroyo to take a leave. Iggy Arroyo should also do the same. Take a leave, but not resign. To not resign is crucial in order for President Arroyo to maintain an image of strength for the presidency.

4) Now with regard to rumored coups: The reason why there are always these rumors is because the Philippine government has historically dealt with coup plotters too kindly. The proper thing to do with any soldier who has been involved in a coup is to throw him out of the military/police permanently, banished from public life forever, BUT not jailed, because that would be an injustice and Heaven may hear the soldier's cry. General Douglas MacArthur knew the importance of handling miscreant soldiers. In postwar Japan, the Japanese military that prosecuted the world war was heavily purged, almost decimated after MacArthur done all his firing of its personnel. Trying those soldiers as war criminals would have been divisive; simply defrocking them as soldiers neutralized them. (Akio Morita, the man who transformed Sony into a global company, was one of those soldiers jobless after the war, fired by the "heavy-handed" MacArthur.)

In the Philippines, soldiers who plot coups are reinstated and are allowed to get even higher positions. Look at Admiral Tirso Danga, the man suspected of wiretapping President Arroyo. Had Corazon Aquino dealt with him properly in 1989, he would not be here in 2005 using his public power as ISAFP chief satiating his voyeuristic inclinations with the phone.

4) President Arroyo can also deal the Luli trump card to remind the civil society, which may grow restive, how infinitetely more desirable her administration is compared to the pretenders to her throne. The soft-spoken, decent Luli Arroyo can do a lot of damage control, cleaning the mess left by her inept brother. More importantly, with Luli on her side, President Arroyo can spin the machismo culture in Filipino society on its head. For this is a crucial and politically useful prejudice in Philippine society: While we all too readily believe the evil ways of our men, we at the same vehemently preserve the myth of the virtue of our women.

Had President Arroyo only governed well, scandals like these she could have brushed aside easily. But her popularity was at its all-time low even before these scandals were injected. There was no stock popularity to draw from. Thaksin Shinawatra survived corruption scandals some years ago because the Supreme Court simply was not prepared to pit itself against the immense popularity of the prime minister for fear it may disintegrate in the clash. A calculating populist politician, loved by the masses, can deflect all kinds of criticism with the same ease a Jedi deflects gun blasts with his lightsaber (e.g. Erdogan of Turkey who made a stunning political comeback after being constitutionally banned to ever hold public office again).

Now that she has been shown to be a fraud, nothing more than a conspiring queen who usurped the power of an elected King, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo must look for another base on which to found the legitimacy of her reign: good governance. In the confused world of Third World democratic politics, it is not only election results that bestow legitimacy. Performance too; just ask General Pervez Musharaf of Pakistan.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Volunteer work for CINEMANILA

If you want to meet interesting people, see award-winning foreign films and get your adrenaline pumping from working at a crazy festival pace, volunteer for the 7th Cinemanila International Film Festival, to be held this year from August 4-16. We are looking for bright and mature individuals who don't require a lot of hand-holding to join this year's team.

Interns are responsible for a wide range of clerical/administrative assisting duties, in addition to a bit of fact checking, online research, and occasional writing. Because we are a relatively small organization, interns have the opportunity to get to know all of our staff, and to really see how a film festival is put together. You will also get the chance to meet filmmakers from all over Asia and Europe and see Cinemanila movies for free. We can offer students at any stage of their college experience academic credit for their internship. We also accept recent graduates.

Qualifications: Writing, editing, research, interviewing and phone skills relevant. Basic computer proficiency important. Internships are available in the following departments: Marketing, Film Traffic, Guest Services, Theater Coordination, Promotions and Publicity, Editorial, Creative, Photography and Administration.

Requirements: To apply, please send your resume with a cover letter specifying which department you are interested in working as an intern/volunteer. PLEASE SEND ALL RESUMES DIRECTLY to miff@cinemanila.com.ph or cinemanila@hotmail.com.

NOTES: This internship may qualify for academic credit. Please check with your school. This is a non-paying internship. Small stipends are available under certain circumstances and for published work. Inquire for details (through email only, no phone calls please).

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Invitation to a Book Discussion

Things Fall Apart
by Chinua Achebe
June 11, 3 PM
Datelines Bookshop
Marikina Shoe Expo Complex
Cubao, Quezon City

Discussion Questions:
Exactly what are the things that fell apart? How, when and why did those things fall part?

What caused Okonkwos downfall? In what ways did his downfall mirror that of the demise of his village? In hindsight was the fall of Mbanta and Umuofia inevitable? Could Okonkwos fall have been averted?

As the major identity conflict develops between the British/Christians versus the 'Traditional' Ibo, how does each side view the other? How do these views contribute to how each side treats the other? With which side do you sympathize ?

The last paragraph related how the District Commissioner was going to title his work The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Niger ? What is the significance of this ending?

Things Fall Apart, a novel about how one man confronted the English colonial powers and was ignominiously defeated, was nevertheless written by Achebe in English. Is this appropriate?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Currently reading:

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Monday, June 06, 2005

Web prowl

Find out what songs were inspired by literary works here. For people in love with lists, here's another: Time Magazine's 100 best films. If you want a Star Wars wallpaper for your desktop, some fine ones can be found here. Join Cuke Skywalker, Obi Wan Cannoli, Princess Lettuce, and other lovable (and hilarious) organic characters in their epic supermarket battle against Lord Tader and his pesticide-covered, genetically modified cohorts in the Store Wars. The Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh relates how he fell in love with books and world literature in The Testimony of my Grandfather's Bookcase.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

From Medea by Euripides:

When love descends on man in brash excess
Hot past all limits
Nothing of glory nor good will come of it
Though if love's queen in gentleness approach,
Moderate, restrained,
No goddess is so full of starry charm.