Saturday, March 31, 2012

Awaken Dear Philippines

Sometimes I see hints that the Philippines is changing, that Filipinos are beginning to grasp the idea that they need not be so very subservient to authority figures who, to this point, do not have much to brag about in terms of Philippine competitiveness and reputation in the global community.

This past week a Bloomberg Report summarized the state of the HR Bill and noted that 34 percent of Filipinas between the ages of 15 and 49 now use some form of birth control device (United Nations report). This is the same level as in Iraq and Myanmar. I would have expected the percentage to be much lower. But perhaps the attitude of one woman gives hope that there is a women's awakening. A Catholic mother of 14 children, diagnosed by doctors at "at risk" if she had more kids, was lined up to get free birth control services. You see that, and you see legislators - Philippine authority figures - just sitting on the HR Bill. They are stuck in the past and it will take more pushing to uproot them. Like a thoughtful vote next election that considers how progressive the candidates really are. Those who sound a lot like preachers and priests should be the first ones ejected.

Wake Up Call
That is EJECTED, not elected.

Also this past week, it was reported that a Catholic high school in Cebu tried to ban five girls from graduation ceremonies for posing on Facebook in bikinis; one had a beer bottle and cigarette in hand. The parents of one of the girls would not accept that and took it to court. The court ruled that the school had to let the girls attend graduation. The girls' parents will also take step two, sue the school because of the harsh language the administration used in condemning the girls. Let's hear it for "litigious" as a way to seek a better sense of right and wrong in the Philippines!

This morning, I read that six boys have also been banned from graduation by their Catholic high school because their Facebook pages had photos of them kissing one another. Hey guys! Not exactly my thing, but way to go! Push the old fogies and prudish maids off their conventional asses. I hope one of you has a litigious parent.

In yet another incident, students at several universities shot back at Senator Santiago after she ranted that surveys regarding Chief Corona's trust standing are a "contemptuous act.” The university students survey their own student populations periodically. They effectively told the esteemed Senator to "put a sock in it".  Intelligent, issues-focused, rabble-rousing students is EXACTLY what the Philippines needs.

These events are fascinating hints that the Philippines is entering a period of changing values and soft rebellion.

I've argued that the Philippines is not a well-read society and Filipinos remain trapped in an archaic dominant/submissive pattern of behavior that allows corruption and bullyism to flourish.

But modern media, specifically the cell phone and internet social networking, are changing the ground rules. Now previously submissive INDIVIDUALS can find strength in GROUPS. And do it quickly.

The notion that government is "Big Brother" has been turned upside down by modern media in the hands of citizens. That is the foundation for the Arab Spring uprisings. And perhaps Filipinos are now ready to turn the spotlight onto the fallibility of previously sacrosanct powers. In the above examples that would be the Catholic Church, school administrators, and a Senator. All are being publicly slapped down.

You know, I fully expect the Senate to acquit Chief Justice Corona. It is a political game they are playing, the outcome of favors owed and created, and SYSTEMS of favor being protected. But Senators do this at their own peril in a day when opposing candidates will soon pull out the record of an opponent and lay it out on twitter or Facebook.

  • "This incumbent Senator voted for acquittal of Chief Justice Corona. Do you trust him/her to work forthrightly on your behalf?"

Given that 75 to 80 percent of the population does not trust Mr. Corona, that is a powerful message.

Perhaps the old power structures will begin to crumble . . .

I hope and pray.

Well, more correctly, I hope.

Change shouldn't require God's help.

Filipino initiative can do quite nicely on its own.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The New JoeAm: Fact Based fo Sho . . . on the JBC

I get challenged relentlessly for more facts. I whip out my most profound conceptual arguments or literary gems, and it does not satisfy these people. They want the details. The evidence. The proof.

It is a Philippine condition, this obsession with details over construct, but what's a guy to do? It is exhausting to swim against the tide of Philippine methodology. Never mind that the factologists have all the facts in the world, but no meaning in which to put them. That is why there is trash everywhere and people are mowing down the rainforests and making a deadly Disney log ride out of the Cagayan de Oro River. The concepts of cleanliness, health and management of resources for the well-being of all  is swapped down the river for personal convenience.

But let me get to the facts rather than go on a red-eyed diversionary rant.

The Judicial and Bar Council ("JBC") is the group of legal professionals who select the list of approved candidates from which the Executive Branch of government selects the judge or ombudsman to be given a job.


The JBC panel is a bunch of high falootin' factoids I have not fully researched as to their background, allegiances and objectivity. Some of them I am familiar with and others, not.

Ex Officio Chairman:

  • Hon. Chief Justice RENATO C CORONA

Ex Officio Members:

  • Hon. LEILA M. DE LIMA, Secretary of Justice
  • Hon. NIEL C. TUPAS JR., Congressman

Regular Members

  • Hon. REGINO C. HERMOSISIMA JR., Retired SC Justice Representative
  • Hon. AURORA SANTIAGO LAGMAN, Private Sector Representative
  • Hon. JOSE V. MEJIA, Academe Representative
  • Hon. MARIA MILAGROS N. FERNAN-CAYOSA, Integrated Bar of the Philippines Representative


  • Hon. JOSE MIDAS P. MARQUEZ, Court Administrator

Ex Officio Secretary

  • Hon. ENRIQUETA ESGUERRA VIDAL, Clerk of the Court

Certainly any future meetings will be dynamite, given the participation of both Mr. Corona and Ms. De Lima, who recently referred to the Chief Justice as "a walking constitutional violation". Throw in Mr. Tupas and Mr. Escudero who were engaged in the impeachment drama and the tension would be thicker than a carabao's backside.

But the upshot is, this group should be able to find worthwhile candidates.  These are grown-ups. They represent important disciplines, private sector to education. They are professionals.


The mission statement of the JBC, issued in 2007, reads well:  Link to Mission

There are five points, generally reciting the aims and good intent of the JBC's work, including speeding up the filling of vacancies; the fifth is particularly noteworthy:

  • "To insulate the nomination process from undue influence of any kind."

It must have been written by attorneys who left in the escape hatch of "undue". Any influence considered "due" is fully acceptable. This mission is rather akin to the principles of the Humpty Dumpty New World Dictionary, which allows the writer to define a word precisely any way he wants.

In other words, ANY influence is allowed if it is allowed. Like Ms. Arroyo can push and shove and reject the submitted lists of Chief Justice nominees until it has on it the person she really wants. NOT that she would ever do that, eh? Try to influence the independent judiciary. And President Aquino also seems to miss the point that the judicial process, including that of a Senate trial, ought to be left alone. Left to stand independent.

I tell you, this trade of favors, and all the conniving it promotes, is not good for the nation as a whole. It softens up all the rules of civil behavior and warps them to personal convenience.

But I digress. Back to facts.


In 2002, the JBC recognized the importance of transparency in its actions through published Rule 10, "Rule to Further Promote Public Awareness and Accessibility to the Proceedings of the Judicial Bar and Council". You can link over to if you want to read the whole document: Link to Rule

The rule states the goal is a "delicate task" and itemizes a process for announcing a long list of potential nominees, a complaint-filing period and process, and public interview schedule. After this is done, the JBC meets in private to formulate its short list.


The main principles by which the JBC operates are spelled out in JBC - 009, "Rules of of the Judicial and Bar Council" signed on October 18, 2000, by members of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is the managing body for the entire Judiciary, as well as the interpretive body for the Constitution. Link to Rules

Let me extract some factoids that were meaningful to me. You can read the entire thing if you are interested in the details.

The JBC cites its Constitutional requirement to nominate people "of proven competence, integrity, probity, and independence." I had to look up "probity". It means "adherence to the highest principles and ideals"; synonyms are character, decency, goodness, honesty, integrity, morality, rectitude, righteousness, rightness, uprightness, virtue, virtuousness. The only better character than a judge would be Jesus Himself.

Rules 1 and 2 contain guidelines for number of years a candidate has been a judge or lawyer, and the administrative process and timeframes for filling vacancies.

Rule 3 gets down to business. It deals with competency. The four main criteria are:

  • Education:  Scholastic record, bar exam score, civil service record, awards, and membership in professional societies, etc.

  • Experience: Laundry lists of the types of government service and private service experiences to consider.

  • Performance: The applicant needs to submit his performance ratings and verified statement for the last three years. Established judges need to submit information on landmark decisions penned, caseload, number of cases submitted, number appealed and number of appeals confirmed.

  • Other Accomplishments: Authorship of legal texts, articles, professional organizations and the like.

I was impressed with the "Performance" data requirements and wonder if there are benchmarks anywhere against which to compare. The idea is correct, to get performance down to measurable standards. But what is considered "good performance" versus  "bad performance"? I know workload in the courts is heavy (300,000 backlogged cases), there are many judicial vacancies, but also that processes are burdensome and inefficient (a personal experience of it taking four laborious hearings to get a ruling on one annulment request).  The time in court for some cases is not measured in weeks or months, but years.

Rule 4 deals with integrity and instructs the JBC to "take every possible step" to confirm "irreproachable" conduct. NBI and other government agencies are checked. Background checks may be ordered, testimonies received and complaints considered. There is a list of "disqualifications" including
"pending criminal or regular administrative cases". Note that the applicant does not have to be found guilty; if he has a case pending he is disqualified.

Rule 5 deals with testimony and evidence to confirm probity. Rule 6 requires that the candidate be in good physical and emotional condition. The JBC can order that psychiatric tests be conducted. Rule 7 allows JBC members to interview prospective candidates and submit written reports. Rule 8 requires that candidates for the Supreme Court be given in-depth review, and eliminates from consideration candidates who are really old. Rule 9 cites requirements for applicants to the Appeals Court and Sandiganbayan.

Rule 10 states that a majority of all members shall make the determination as to acceptability of a nominee.


The words are good, the requirements rigorous. The JBC members are diversified and esteemed. One failing, I suppose, in a society that goes by favors, is the tendency to permit outside pressures to have bearing, such as that exerted by Ms. Arroyo to get the candidate she wanted. Furthermore, the simple majority vote decision allows a politically unbalanced panel to approve candidates of a consistent view, conservative or liberal, or in one oligarch's camp or another. This can dramatically affect the tenor of rulings if the court gets pushed toward a clear bias.

I was impressed at the rigor of the statistical requirement for consideration of established judges: caseload, cases submitted, appeals, and appeals confirmed. I wonder, without prejudice, as to the discipline and comprehensiveness of the use of such statistics in daily operation of the courts. Are standards published anywhere? And performance against the standards? Are they actually APPLIED? More research is needed in this area to determine if the statistics are dependable and used rigorously.

Finally, I note that EVEN THE IMPRESSION of possible guilt is enough to remove a candidate from consideration. If a case is pending against him, he is disqualified. The concept of "innocent until found guilty" does not apply to judicial appointments. And for a reason. Probity.

If the standard as to APPEARANCE of propriety is given weight, just as ACTUAL propriety is given weight, then the bar to find an impeached judge "guilty" would be set very low.

It is rather like the advice I give my wife. If the fish smells funny, throw it out.

The JBC rules are very clear. Judges are to be honorable BEYOND QUESTION. The Judiciary remains independent, respected and above reproach only if its judges are of the highest character.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Abe Lincoln Appointed Chief Justice of Philippines!

. . . through a flick in the warp of time, the news headline you may have missed  . . . from the Palace in Manila . . .


Here is a transcript of Mr. Lincoln's acceptance statement:


Mrs. President, Your Excellency, I am greatly pleased by your confidence in my judicial capabilities. Never under the candlelight of my log cabin did I imagine such an honor would be mine to cherish.

I am concerned, of course, that the appointment so late during your term will be seen as politically motivated by many. This may place the integrity of the court in danger and cast doubt on those rulings in which I have a voice. Preservation of the court's standing as an esteemed, impartial panel is one of the most important obligations we have.  So this is of no small concern.

On the other hand, I am a humble servant of the people and believe I can bring stability and professionalism to the courts of this nation. I believe I can provide leadership that will be respected by the courts and the people.

It is therefore with deep humility that I accept your appointment.

However, it is only fair that I inform you that if ever it should occur that my integrity would fall into question, I would be obligated to tender my resignation. It is too important to this nation that its top judicial office be fully dedicated to both the appearance and the reality of impartiality.

Trust is the bedrock of justice, assuring citizens that every decision is fair and based strictly on the law. The term "Your Honor" must mean something.

This principle is much more important than one man's job, or even his reputation.

I look forward to beginning work. You may be assured that I will strive earnestly for the betterment of our great nation.


Thank you Abe. Your humility, selflessness and integrity stand as shining beacons of light for the entire free world.

. . . aaaaaaand through the time warp we return . . .


There's Mr. Corona now, huddled with his dozen attorneys . . .

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Nonoying and Other Good Jokes

Well, I see today that Noynoying has gone viral. The three photos I reproduce here were published at

I think the Aquino Administration threw fire on the fad by hustling up photos of the President hard at work.

I'm amused by the whole thing. The lesson I draw from it is that the Filipino sense of humor often lacks the finery of more broadly read societies. It lacks an appreciation of satire and what is referred to as "self-deprecating" humor where a person makes a joke at his own expense. Jokes hereabouts seem mainly to center on sex and interpersonal fallibility. You know, ridicule.

Self deprecation turns ridicule on its ear, and negates it.

What a different reaction we might have had if Mr. Aquino, instead of getting uptight, had "struck a lazy pose" for the cameras, showing that he "gets it", that he enjoys the fun people are having at his expense.

Like, this is not a coup people are staging. It is hilarious, harmless fun. Rather like all the different takes on "It's more fun in the Philippines". Indeed, it gives Mr. Aquino character. Not a sneaky character, like Ms. Arroyo, but a somewhat affable, lazy character. Likeable, if handled correctly.

I'm wracking my brain trying to remember the name of the famous advertising agency executive in the United States who made the point that even a lot of BAD publicity is good publicity because it gets your name out there broadly and often for free. He died, but his lessons live on.

The Philippines is not a bookworm society, in the main. I think the internet is opening up a whole new range of humor, though. And I suspect an increasing share of the educated population will develop new ways to laugh.

That's good.

That's very good.

Gotta run.

I'm taking up Nonoying to help with my blood pressure problem.

It's medicinal.

Catch you later.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Lazy Brains

Another commenter on a different blog site said I had a "lazy brain", mainly because I did not upchuck back to him all the evidence in the Corona trial to justify my claim that he ought to be found guilty. That is an interesting charge. That I am lazy of mind.

I rather think the "lazy" charge means something like, "because you don't think like me" attached to it. Because I know my brain is not lazy, and comprehends things better than most.  I've got two college degrees, a stint in the army, three marriages, four kids, 30 years in corporate management at a senior level, donated time to charity, read relentlessly, can program computers, have traveled to 21 countries around the world, have more money than 95% of Americans and 99.9% of all Filipinos.

But my brain is lazy?

But, okay, for the fun of it, and to have a topic to write about this morning, I'll accept the charge. Indeed, I am on occasion inclined to go with the easy opinion rather than dredge up facts. But that does not mean my brain is not working. Indeed, it may be working on writing to express a complex concept in terms that others don't find. Or it may mean I am researching the tension between Aquinaldo and Dewey to gain a better understanding of the roots of the Philippine American war rather than researching Gloria Arroyo or her party or the representatives who are aligned with her, or against her, and their pedigree.

So, yes, my brain is "lazy", or not active, in the subject arena where that particular critic excels.

I am lazier than a lot of people hereabouts.

  • I am lazier than benigno, who can pen a sentence more profoundly than anyone I've met in the Philippines. He also operates better than me at pursuing agendas, being arrogant and keeping his motives hidden. So I am lazier in those regards, too.

  • I am lazier than Doy Santos, who understands the Philippine economy way better than I ever will.

  • I am lazier than Mariano who has the eye of a hawk and the satirical humor of Jonathan Swift, using his time in the U.S. to shine a light back on the Philippines with wit and wisdom.

  • I am lazier than Cocoy at having mature, responsible values. I swear like a pig heading to the fiesta, never go to church, and sometimes get really overbearing and obnoxious.

  • I am lazier than manuelbuencamino who has lived a lifetime engaging with and writing about Philippine political and social events, gaining awareness of both history and social structure and how they meld as the Philippine condition.

  • I am lazier than Macapili who knows the Philippine American War as if he had lived it. And he can show you the photos, too.

  • I'm way lazier than parallelaxe, who can parse someone else's writing and write lies about it better than absolutely anyone. I am way lazier at using the insult as a basis for winning arguments. I'm sure in a prior life he was a fighting chicken.

  • I'm lazier than Ilda and proud of it.

  • I'm lazier than Chief Justice Corona. I could never engage with a dozen attorneys and maintain my sanity.

  • I'm lazier than Attila who actively engages with Filipinos whilst I largely hide from them.

 I'm lazier than most, in some way.

But I double dog dare you to work as hard as I do at thinking around corners and getting the ideas into print with a twist or two. You know, fomenting original thought with style instead of regurgitating someone else's ideas in dry, humorless words. Trying to understand things and provoke thinking rather than needing to hammer everyone else into a bucket of wobbly self esteem.

I work damn hard at that.*

  • Humpty Dumpty New World Dictionary. "damn hard" is a an adverbial phrase, a satirical twist on the expression "not very hard", used mainly by retired people who are having fun rummaging about the world protecting their brains from atrophy.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Twofer: Secrecy and Trust

  • Important job qualification standards: capability and performance. Not who you know.

It seems unrelated, but first let's look at secrecy in the Philippines, or the enduring need to hide private acts from government investigators.

The U.S. Department of State has identified 66 nations as major drug laundering countries. The Philippines is one of the countries, which is not of itself particularly noteworthy, as Singapore, Canada, France, Germany and Italy are also on the list. But the report criticizes an inadequate judicial system as a part of the problem and that connects directly to the Corona impeachment.

Here is a part of the State Department's commentary regarding the Philippines:

  • “lack of law enforcement resources, the slow pace of judicial and investigative reforms and lack of law enforcement inter-agency cooperation continue to hamper government efforts to investigate and prosecute higher echelons of drug trafficking organizations operating in the Philippines.”

The report also details how it is difficult to act quickly on information that requires information from Philippine bank accounts, even in the case of terrorism, because the strict bank secrecy laws require stages of court orders to gain access to account information.

I suspect this will become a major point of tension between the U.S. and Philippines as the Philippines seeks U.S. weaponry and military training assistance. The U.S. has been working hard, and successfully, to gain access to Swiss bank accounts where American tax evaders like to stow their money. My guess is that attention will now turn to the Philippines. The U.S. does not give away money or equipment without self-interested strings attached.

The crime-friendly judicial and law-enforcement policies and strict bank secrecy laws in the Philippines protect criminals other than drug launders and tax evaders; they protect crooks who engage in Illegal kickbacks, bribes, extortions, or misuse of government funds.

One giant leap from dot to dot leads us to the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Corona.

The Chief Justice holds miserable trust ratings among Filipinos, ratings in the low teens.

Mr. Corona evidently does not see the connection between his acts and his poor trust ratings. He and his backers instead reach for excuses, such as "trial by media" or political vendetta by President Aquino rather than grasp that trust is not easily won, but is easily lost.

The decisions that Mr. Corona has made undermined trust, and nothing more. His acts are astounding considering that he is an intelligent and educated professional. He should have understood the likely outcomes of his acts:

  • accepting a midnight appointment from a very unpopular president,

  • attacking a popular sitting president in a political letter,

  • failing (so far) to reveal his dollar assets,

  • issuing an SALN that appears erroneous and is certainly not comprehensible, and

  • requiring a battery of a dozen attorneys who relentlessly pick at legalistic points during the trial.

 It looks like he is hiding, and only he is responsible for these decisions. The media are not. President Aquino is not.

These may not be explicit law violations, but they go directly to the heart of Mr. Corona's qualifications to be Chief Justice. He has evidently not considered or been given the advice: be forthright and truthful.

Perhaps it is dangerous for him to be forthright and truthful.

Frankly, it is not easy to trust a man who hides so relentlessly, and, considering the talents of his legal team, so eloquently.

The problem is that trust is critically important if he is to perform the job he is assigned. A lack of trust makes it difficult for a judge to adjudicate cases while holding the respect of counsel for both the plaintiff and defense. Any hint of favoritism will undermine his standing.

Perhaps the defense will find a way to resurrect his trust. My guess is they would have to be clearer about his SALN, reveal his dollar assets, and allow him to testify so the people can hear that he is mature and objective, not emotional and political. If he is the latter, he is toast, trustwise.

Back to the start of this article. If the Philippines wishes to see top-grade investment ratings and generous U.S. aid, it would behoove the nation to look at U.S. State Department report and embark on steps to show that it is as dedicated to law enforcement as it is to protecting individual privacy. The balance today favors the crooks.

Mr. Corona is behaving as a crook would be expected to behave. That is why his trust ratings are low. Whether or not he is guilty of any crimes, he amply broadcasts the APPEARANCE of guilt.

It will be interesting to see if the Senate will allow a Chief Justice with a 14% trust rating to continue to represent the Philippines, for all that this means domestically and internationally. The Senate trial is a political process, not a legal process. The trust rating goes directly to the point of whether or not Mr. Corona has the proper credentials to do a job in which trust is of paramount importance.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Chief Justice: "Fried by Media"

Or "tried", either works, as it is consistent with the pro-Corona complaints of late that the Chief Justice is being tried in the media instead of the courtroom.

Ok, let's dig into this a little.

First of all, if the Chief Justice is being tried in the media, how come I am coming away with the impression that the prosecuting attorneys are a bunch of stumblebums who could not cite or abide by legal guidelines if those guidelines were etch-a-sketched into their crania? Indeed, they may end up being principals to acquittal. And how come I see these Senators like Santiago doing all they can do to taint the prosecution's case?

Now, if the case were held behind closed doors, I would not be receiving these messages. Nor would any of us catch our representatives (like the esteemed Ms. Santiago, again) off on a bizarre rant as if she were the queen of hearts and the rest of us were jacks and Joses beneath her dignity, to be axed at her whim. Nor would we see the wisdom of that icon of Philippine dignity, Senator Enrile, expertly tread the line between the law and the gamesmanship that Senators and attorneys are inclined to like. Nor would we see the defense in the capable hands of the best attorneys money can buy in the Philippines.

What, exactly, are these people complaining about? They are whiners, I would estimate, clearly Filipino, practicing the art of denying responsibility for any untoward event. As if we were supposed to accept without objecttion anything the defense proposed or said.

If there were a Nobel prize for excuse-making, the first awardee, and maybe the first 100, would be Filipino. And these pro-Corona people deserve nomination first.

Oh, I know, they are complaining because the Inquirer is owned by someone in the Aquino family. They are complaining, I guess, that media in the Philippines are not diversified, and there are no countervailing opinions available in the Star, or ABS-CBN, or the Manila Star Gazette Herald Tribune. They are ALL anti-Corona! That whole armload of newspapers the vendors in the median strips of the Manila highways are peddling are anti-Corona, and were from the getgo!

It is just so unfair!

They are complaining because poor old (I don't use the term loosely) Benigno and Ilda can't carry the load all by themselves to report the truth of the matter, that Mr. Corona is being railroaded, and the rest of us are idiots. And they have the double burden of carrying Mrs. Arroyo's baggage, too, as she resides in house arrest, I guess put there by GMA-5 and the state television channel all the other slanted media of the Philippines.

I tell you, this idea of democracy is a bummer. We should let the pro-Corona totalitarians run things. They have better ideas than the rest of us. Are more connected to the truth. There is ABSOLUTELY no reason that Mr. Corona has a trust rating of, what, 11% according to Pulse Asia, while Mr. Aquino's is 64%. Then, the nerve of those rating agencies to screw up and report that Mr. Aquino's ratings are DOWN from last month. The Aquino family must not be paying them enough.

In less sarcastic terms, my impression is that Philippine media are wonderfully diverse. I've thought that since I arrived on scene in 2005. I've been impressed with the variety of print media in particular. I've read articles on about every different point of view on just about any major subject. I've even had a couple of my letters to the editors published when I disagreed with a commentary.

I do agree that Philippine media are much like sharks. They like blood in the water. Or blood on the screen in the form of the latest murder victim or crash victim or drowning victim. Sensationalism may indeed be thrusting Mr. Corona headlong where he does not want to be, on the front page, or lead story. He would prefer to be where his dollar accounts are, hidden from public view and not available for inspection.

 How sweet that would be.

Not exactly the transparency the rest of us would like to see, but sweet for him. Not exactly free press, prized by most of the civilized world. But, what the hey . . .

Say! I have an idea for the complainers.

Do something constructive. Work with your powerful colleagues and get new media regulations passed. Create a communications agency like the FCC in the States and give up on this unregulated model that has the media policing themselves.  Demand that concentrations of media ownership be broken up. Work for diversification of media, as a law, as a principle. Stop this incessant whining , the 115th dialect of the Philippines and soon to supplant Tagalog as the primary language hereabouts.

And while you are working on new media regulations, how about getting the regulator to cut the number of commercials a TV station is allowed to insert in a taped Pacquiao fight. And have them ban the cranking up of volume during commercials. Those things really irritate me.


Appreciate it.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Humanizing Animals, Animalizing Humans

I reported the other day that we got a dog. So for a week now, I and he have been bonding, master to animal. I'm sure he is a Filipino German Sheppard because he is rather stubborn about some things. Like if there is a "slipper" (sandal) in the neighborhood, he will chew it to shreds no matter how many times he has been told "no". And he will eat the crap that comes from the kitchen drainage pipe no matter how often he has been yanked away and scolded.

This morning I observed my wife's brother trekking out for his early morning duty of feeding his fighting chicken. He lives in the house at the other side of our property, along with my wife's mother.

I've never owned a fighting chicken, but I've owned dogs.

Americans tend to ascribe human qualities to their dogs. Most pamper the animals, talking to them, feeding them, keeping them bathed and clean. In the U.S., dogs often have the run of the house. My ex-girlfriend, a veterinarian, would allow her poodle to sleep on the bed with us. She argued that dogs are cleaner than humans, and I believe her. After all, she is now rich, and so is her dog, and here I am, sucking my income off Uncle Sam.

Dogs in the Philippines also have the run of the house, but that is often because there is no door. And fleas are just another bug that poor people have to deal with.

The dogs here are not very well cared for. Well, other than receiving the garbage for food, they are usually not cared for at all.

But the chickens are.

They get vitamins and  a little house and personal attention and are trained for their occupation, to kill other chickens.

That's what I don't comprehend, and maybe a reader can help me out.

I humanize my dogs. Care for them, love them, get loved back. Do Filipino men care for their chickens that way? You know, do they bond at the heart?

If so, how can they send them into the fighting ring knowing there is a 50/50 chance the bird will come out dead?

I'd never send my dog into a fight. Certainly not to one where odds were even I'd have to get out a shovel and bury him. And my hungry neighbors would certainly not be allowed to dine on his carcass.

I deduce that Filipinos simply don't extend their feelings to animals at all. Not to dogs, not to chickens. Hell, based on the rudeness everywhere, I'm not sure they extend their feelings to other people.

Yet that is what distinguishes the higher order of human from the lower order of animal, is it not? The ability to conceptualize and figure things out, to know that kindness is good and courtesy honorable? That's why we are the superior animal, except for cockroaches and ants who will be here long after the nuclear holocaust.

I look at the Republican primary in the United States and I'd say those of us claiming to belong to mankind have not progressed very far on the progressiveness scale. The deceits, outright lies, manipulations and lack of respect shown other supposedly upstanding, honorable men is astounding. It's down and dirty. No holds barred. Cut throat. Rather like fighting chickens in the ring, now that I think about it clearly.

The Corona trial is another cock pit, women welcome.

We are more animal than human, in many respects. Bowing to base motivations like dominance and cunning. A cross I suppose between an elephant and a fox. Dominance and cunning and even nasty, ruthless violence. What animal best represents that? A hyena? The results of our murderous tendencies are broadcast daily. Who can question that somewhere in our genetic code is an easy disposition to kill?

Well, I think we have to simply try a little harder to recognize principles that allow us to claim an honorable place above animals. We have to try a little harder to stick to those principles, even if the weight of other people's opinions and acts goes against us. We have to do better. Better than uttering lies, knowingly. Better than lying to ourselves.

Right now, I think dogs, and possibly even chickens, are more honorable than man.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Responsibility! . . .Huh, wha dat?

Some words are hard to grab onto with the human brain. Like "esoteric". The word is so fuzzy that it is like steam, impossible to hold onto.

I was a mathematics major in college. I went down that track because in high school I was good at  algebra, geometry and trigonometry and, yes, calculus. But about halfway through my junior year at Colorado State University, the math courses went deeply theoretical. Here's my very last mathematics course:

  • "Tensor Analysis with Applications to Mechanics of Continua"


You tell me what it means, because I never learned. I was in a classroom with 8 students from India who coexisted at some raised theoretical plane between here and Jupiter. Tensors have something to do with multi-dimensional vectors. A vector is like an arrow as I understand it. Like, forces on bridge beams follow these little arrows. I have no idea what a sixth dimensional arrow looks like, much less an nth dimensional arrow.  I have a three-dimensional brain.

The professor was high on compassion and gave me a "C" (average grade) for simply having the courage to show up with my blank face every day and stutter unintelligibly when he called on me. I think he knew I was going to teach young kids, not become a math theoretician. I later found out I was wrong, that high schoolers, too, think in strange dimensions. So I joined the army.

But I am off topic already.

One word that seems to be hard to grasp for Filipinos is "responsibility".

Like, it simply is not practiced anywhere here. People never apologize for anything because a screw-up is not their fault. Ever. The blame-mongering and excuse-mongering here is exquisite. Elegant. Refined. Masterful. The victim card is played more often than the Ace of Spades. The 115th dialect of the Philippines is the whine.

The top moral authority in the land, the Catholic Church, claims no responsibility for anything. Not poverty, not corruption, not upside down values. Nothing. Zero. Zip. Nil.

Philippine airlines are not allowed to add flights to the U.S. because of poor maintenance practices nationwide. Please tell me who is responsible.

It seems like no one is ever responsible for anything.

Considering how screwed up most things are, that is an amazing feat.

Everything is screwed up. No one is responsible.

Gadzooks, it is a nation of magicians.

Why, I wonder, you never hear a Filipino say:

  •  "I am responsible for what happens."

  • "The buck stops with me on this one." 

  • "I understand the risks and if it goes south, I'll accept blame."

I presume it has to do with saving or building face. In addition, the swapping of favors tends to bend the rules so that the standards for anything are soft and mushy. We see that in the Corona case. Proving that his SALN was done illegally is like trying to nail a block of Jello to the wall.

So in the Philippines, the individual is skilled at saving face and denying responsibility. And the social framework is soft and mushy, never allowing responsibility to be assigned to any one.

The only problem is that progressive development demands explicit assignment of responsibility and clear accountability for achievement. You assign a salesman a specific dollar sales target. You don't send him out and tell him to do his best.

When will some brave soul in the Philippines, an opinion maker  . . .  leader of the Church, Congressman or Cabinet Head  . . .  summon up the courage to step forward and say, "I am responsible for X"? 

When will citizens of the Philippines be mature enough to allow that person to make a mistake on one thing without declaring him a failure on all things?

When will Filipinos aspire toward, and reach, the dimension of self-confidence that requires no apology, not because they never make mistakes, but because making mistakes is what people who are working hard, on occasion, are expected to do?

It seems to me only "do nothings" are mistake free. Yes, yes. And Filipinos.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Philippines: A Warmonger Nation

Many Filipinos have this idea that America is a warmongering nation, drawing its guns before thinking, going after oil or nation building.  I happen to have a different perspective, that America enters wars to save other nations (Europe and Asia in WW II) and protect itself. It acquires no territory. It does free corrupt countries to trade oil in open markets rather than for the enrichment of abusive dictators.

So I view the "warmonger" tag as a compliment.

The U.S. wages war better than any other nation, and has done so for over 100 years now. It is a combination of superior technology, superior productive might, and superior commitment and sacrifice by its soldiers, who believe so deeply in the American promise: freedom and opportunity.

So I tag the Philippines as a warmongering nation with intent to compliment. It is one of the Aquino Administration's successful and progressive acts. Superb foreign policy. Building up fighting capabilities.

There are those who ridicule the Philippine military because, as we know, ridicule is something Filipinos are skilled at. And even outsiders such as myself levied ridicule before the Philippines started on the path of building its equipment and skills, leaning on the U.S. as a valuable partner rather than ranting and raving about the VFA and bullyism from America.

You see, Mr. Aquino is pragmatic.

He treads a delicate line with China well, standing firm on Philippine rights to territory within U.N. sanctioned Philippine waters. Yet using the leverage that it is both in Chinese and Philippine interests to maintain a growing trade alliance. This alliance means more than spats over land. And the Philippines also plays its "U.S. card" to let China know that military bullyism simply won't work.

It is a masterful approach.

Today, the Associated Press reported that the Philippine air force has started using sophisticated American guided bomb technology to go after the Abu Sayyaf murderous thugs. Recently, U.S. drones were sent out to find a terrorist camp in the jungle and Philippine airplanes dropped four GPS-guided bombs on the camp at night. Deadeye strike. Several top leaders presumed dead. Infrared imaging after the strike confirmed about a dozen bodies hauled out of the camp.

Surgical. No army or air force troops put in harm's way.

Working with this equipment is something the Philippine air force has been practicing, with U.S. mentors, for weeks.

It is an outcome of the pragmatic approach the Aquino administration has taken in working with the U.S. And his position on U.S. bases is clear: no permanent bases, but the U.S. is welcome to bring its ships to port for servicing.

He has asked for American jets and built into the strategic budget room to maintain 24 aircraft. The U.S. will determine if planes will be made available.  They would allow the Philippines to muster a quick response if Chinese boats were again to harass Philippine oil exploration efforts.

It is obvious that the Philippines will attack no one. It is an offensive threat to no one. But it is also evident to terrorists and Chinese bullies that the nation will protect its interests in a forceful way.

Kudos to the Aquino government for its rational foreign policy and for starting a program to build a respectable defense capability.

It is what can be done if monies are no longer siphoned off into corrupt hands.

It could have been done under the Arroyo Administration. But she clearly had other objectives. Like buying loyalty across the nation. Congressmen, judges, generals, governors, businessmen and local politicians such as the Ampatuans, who got their arsenals somehow, some way, from government coffers.

It is refreshing to see clear, forceful Philippine acts.

Welcome to the arena of warmongering excellence. You are just a baby right now. But this is what your military needs to do. It need not sit around planning coups when it can develop a modern fighting capability.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Get Real Post: the Edge of Extremism

I visit the Get Real Post ("GRP") blogsite from time to time, more lately than before. There exists a certain arrogance of bearing there that is bothersome, but a lot of the articles are pertinent to what interests me: the Philippines and the ways of its institutions and citizenry.

The site is fresh and current, publishing an article or more a day. These days the main theme is the Corona trial. Understandable I suppose, though it is tending toward pedantic repetitious observations. The site has a good range of commentary from readers, with the usual bullying from the anti-Aquino gangstas.

Every publisher has his principles, and often the editorial slant that can be some distance from the middle of the road. In the U.S., Fox News is perhaps the best example, claiming to be "fair and balanced" while hosting a cast of conservative commentators. The counterbalance is CNBC, which shades liberal. The Wall Street Journal is clearly pro-business. Consumers Union Report . . . well, it is for consumers all the way. I don't know the biases of the Philippine media, but I understand the Inquirer is within the Aquino family tree somewhere.

The GRP editorial slant is anti-President Aquino. Staunchly, with insults being levied against those who support the President. "Yellow Zombie" is perhaps the favorite tag of the GRP gangstas who comment regularly. GRP is also critical of the generalized Filipino, the common man, who contributes to the enduring problems of the Philippines. Me too, so I can't complain too much about that.

I've argued now and then that being unduly critical of the President makes the Philippines appear as it has appeared to outsiders for years: unstable. The argument back from GRP people is that they are doing their patriotic duty to criticize him, and they indeed are loyal to the Office of the President, but not the "incompetent" who is holding the job now.

Well, we all look at things through the tint of glasses we wear, that tint built up by whatever experiences we have had. If the Hacienda Luista somehow represents a bad symbol to us, then, of course our glasses will stain the President with that interpretation, whether he had anything to do with it or not. He is a part of that family. Or if we saw his mother as an angel for helping to pull the Philippines out of the clutches of a dictator, then our tint might indeed be yellow, her color.

And some tints are shaded by agenda. It is hard to peg exactly what the GRP agenda is, but the hard anti-Aquino slant is so pronounced that there has to be one. I suspect it is fame and if there is any money in it, that, too. Maybe sensationalism to drive audience up. Or else there is a political motive to it. Maybe President Aquino cancelled a project they were involved in, or they are getting even for 2010 (their candidate lost and they must defend their position or lose face; they are, after all, Filipino, with all the sensitivities attached to being face-bound) or they are positioning for 2016 to make sure the continuity of Aquino's party is broken.

Or they just like being a part of a mob. It is a place to belong.

Certainly, the writers do not approach it patriotically, supporting the President on behalf of stability in the Philippines while criticizing his decisions or acts that they consider non-constructive, and presenting alternatives. The site content is decidedly not balanced and  not objective and you get the feeling that if they could yank the President out of his office mid-term, they would. They would view that as constructive for the Philippines.

It is what happens when you commit to a view that is not objective. In defense of that view, you edge evermore to the brink of extremism. GRP is there. Pushed to the edge by the need to defend an indefensible position.  They've been two-years arguing, edging into harder and harder positions, farther and farther from the center.

GRP demonstrates the same impatience as a coup-master. The same failure to understand the individual sacrifice that is built into the democratic model; the need to accept the consequences of someone of a different political persuasion holding office if they win an election. In that regard, they are undisciplined rabble rousers, wild-eyed radicals.

The argument from the site is that EVERYTHING the President does is wrong or bad. Well, that is so bizarre that it takes credibility to zero. Its as if they can't look at the strengthening of the peso or higher investment ratings or inflow of investment money and call it like it is: good for the Philippines. They can't see a need for aggressive action to end corruption; it won't be done on a gauzy wish or heartfelt hope or by tearing down a President and starting from scratch.

To the GRP stalwarts, the Aquino glass is completely empty.

This extremist view forces them into awkward positions. They end up criticizing the impeachment of the Chief Justice even if his SALN contains potential law-breaking omissions worthy of trial. They express no new ideas about how to end corruption. They don't acknowledge that the President is working to fulfill a campaign promise.  And they are forced into what I consider a humiliating predicament, defending former President Arroyo. Maybe the principal writers have some connection to that lady and her husband who seem to represent the worst of the old-school Philippines, rich people who are the architects and beneficiaries of the favor-trading that defines a corrupt republic.  I don't know. To the GRP people, it is the ministers of justice in the Philippines who are wrong. Like the Occupy people in the U.S. somehow twist exorbitant CEO salaries into a reason to attack police.

They criticize the corrupt Philippines, but argue on behalf of corrupt people and against the President who is trying to change things.

It's crazy. It makes no sense. There is no intellectual integrity to all this.

I have a suggestion for the GRP people. Stop acting like old-school Filipinos. Start working on the next election. Work within the framework of the democratic process and organize instead of whine. Work on building the Philippines instead of continuing this incessant tear-down approach that we see in local envy-driven political spats (Ampatuan) to the inter-family rivalries in Manila to the crusty old generals yapping for a coup. This bitter carping is what distinguishes the Philippines as a Banana Republic and represents the GRP rabble raisers as little more than bananas with a keyboard.

It is what traditionally supplants the Delta Drive in the Philippines. Ego over effort. Self interest over national interest. Same o same o: self-dealing oligarchs, common ineffective Filipinos and GRP gangstas.

It is the same recommendation I would give the Occupy anarchists. Get organized, get legal, and put your people into office.

If you fail, work HARDER. Raise more money, get more publicity and get your guy into office. Or little lady, I don't care. Don't participate in the acts that prove this is a Banana Republic without the discipline to deal with democratic choices, without the self-sacrifice and honor (like, sportsmanship) it takes to concede to other political persuasions who WON, fair and square.

Don't spend years throwing toys against the wall because Mommy didn't give you a Twinkie.