Thursday, February 28, 2013

DepEd: "Developing God-Loving Filipinos"

I thought I would check in on the Department of Education to see how things are going. Education comes up on so many troublesome issues as an important solution. How is DepEd doing with technology in the classroom? What is the curriculum looking like? How are they dealing with the demands of K-12 expansion?

 My first stop with a government agency is always the official web site, because it says so much. Here is how my scan went, roughly:

  • Cool look. There's a note that says the site is in beta so have patience. No problem. It has a slide show at the top and rolling news headlines. Clean. Good-looking.

  • There are several tabs or major sections at the top: Home, About DepEd, Programs, Issuances, Resources, News, Procurement, Support. That is straightforward.  There are three major topics at the bottom: Transparency, Bureaus and Offices, and Related Agencies (links to DOST, CHED and TESDA).

  • The "Transparency" page is blank, a work in progress.

  • In looking for a plan, I found "10-Point Education Agenda" under the "Programs" tab. Here are the major headings for the 10 points, along with some reactions:

  1. A 12-year basic education cycle. Programs are (a) curriculum development, (b) legislative liaison, (c ) research studies, (d) advocacy and (e) transition management. Interesting that there are the two political aspects of (b) and (d).  And (e) is a big deal, but there is no link to relevant information. What are the issues and successes I wonder?

  1. Universal Pre-schooling for all. Universal kindergarten with a budget allocation of P2.3 billion teaching (a) values, (b) PE, (c ) social and emotional development, (d) cognitive development, (e) creative arts, (f) readiness for reading & writing, and (g) literacy/communication. Cripes. All I remember from Kindergarten was playing on the slide and taking a nap. The Philippines offers a demanding program. I wonder if the kids will learn to love learning or hate it?

  1. Establish the Madaris Education as a sub-system in the current education system. Education for Muslims. Separate blog topic.
  2. Re-introduce technical and vocational education in public high schools. Techvoc curricula for Grades 11 & 12 are being developed as part of the K to 12 Program. Fantastic. Opportunities in arts, trade, agriculture and fishery for those not going to college. There are 282 techvoc high schools nationwide.

  1. Every child a reader by Grade 1. Ongoing implementation. I disagree with this goal. Reading is important, but if the child is simply not ready yet, we are forcing him to be a "failure". Too much demand for achievement can teach the wrong lessons if the kid is simply not yet ready to read. I understand it is President Aquino's mandate and I know the intentions are good, but a better goal would be to teach youngsters to love learning. Then they will learn to read as soon as their developing young minds can grasp words. And they will be successes, not failures.
  2. Improve science and mathematics. Certain schools focus on science and math: 198 high schools and 100 elementary. Ongoing training of teachers is a part of this. So what if I have a gifted child in science but he is not near one of these schools. How does he get educated? Or what if there is such a school in my neighborhood; can my kid get in if he wants in? If there is screening, what are the standards?. I need to give this more study.

  1. Expand government assistance to private education. "Improving access to quality secondary education through government extension of financial assistance to deserving elementary school graduates who wish to pursue their secondary education in private schools. It is geared towards reducing class size to manageable levels in public high schools."   757,000 beneficiaries in 2012. Payment outside Manila is P5,500. Seems like a win-win-win program to me.
  2. Use of mother-language instruction. Instructional materials in major languages (Tagalog, Ilokano, Pangasinense, Bikolano, Kapampangan, Hiligaynon, Bisaya & Waray) have been developed. Separate blog topic. Interesting. No mention of English fluency here or anywhere. If it's low priority, that's a big mistake. It must be expensive to do lessons in so many languages.

  1. Better textbooks. "DepEd is continuing efforts to improve the screening and selection process of textbook evaluators.  Orientation seminars conducted for authors, publishers, editors, illustrators, book designers and other stakeholders developing textbooks and teacher’s manuals for public school use. Ongoing participation of more than 40 civil society organizations, local government units, Parent-Teacher Associations, other civic and church organizations, institutions, and foundation in the National Textbook Delivery Program." What a lot of work. I have only one question. Have you  heard of the internet?
  2. Build more schools in cooperation with LGUs. Local governments participate in building schools, receiving reimbursement from National. A total of 17 LGUs have signed up. Sounds like a good program, a way to get out from the crushing need to provide classrooms.

I'm disappointed technology is not included anywhere in this plan. Is this 2013 or 1950? The demand on classrooms, the effort on textbooks, the limited number of high-skill teachers. There seems to be no strategy to use the internet to reduce these burdens.

Most of my professional career in business was engaged in doing planning work. To do a proper plan, you have to be brutally honest. You can't play politics or paste over deficiencies. You need to put them on the table and work on them.

That's what I'm missing from the DepEd web site. Call it honesty; the candor, the transparency, if you will, of acknowledging these burdens. The web site is too much a self-promotional puff piece.

Where is the metric, for instance, of "average number of children per classroom"? Where is the rating of "overall teacher quality"? Without clear, frank goals, how do you develop programs that address deficiencies?

What about the demands of moving to K-12? How is it going? What are the problems and how are they being handled?

The web site highlights transparency. What does this mean to DepEd? That you hide the negatives and puff up the positives?

Then I got stopped dead in my tracks. I went to the "Vision & Mission" sub-heading under "About DepEd".

Here's what I read. I'm afraid it turned me completely negative.

  • The DepEd Vision. By 2030, DepEd is globally recognized for good governance and for developing functionally-literate and God-loving Filipinos.

"God-loving"? Are you kidding me? Of all the priorities we envision for nurturing young minds, this is what we want? What about science and technology? What about probem-solving and innovation? What about healthy esteem and confidence and teaching the mind to soar?

I have an idea! Here's a quick solution to the classroom problem. Throw out the kids of parents who are not sufficiently God loving. Haven't been to church for at least three Sundays this month? Expel the heathen brat.That's the way you do it. Certainly don't bother with those riff-raff atheists and their wild-ass idea that rational thought is a virtue.

This DepEd is the governmental unit that teaches Filipino values, eh?

How about teaching the value of "freedom of religion" in its big, wholesome, inclusive sense. How about teaching big ideas instead of small ideas. How about grasping that opening kids up to the big world, in all its colors and complexities and deficiencies, is better than channeling them into narrow authoritarian like-think that says "this is what you are supposed to be".  How about teaching kids to explore the whole world and find the path that is right for them.

How about teaching innovation instead of obedience.

People wonder why the Philippines does not have many entrepreneurs, many inventors, many problem solvers. I'll tell you why. Because the schools teach innocent and unshaped Filipino kids to be God-loving little robots who spew back what the teacher demands they say.


Obedient. Subservient. Limited.

  • The DepEd Mission. To provide quality basic education that is equitably accessible to all and lay the foundation for life-long learning and service for the common good.

Yada yada yada. Show me the plan.

The rest of the Web site has little useful information.

Here are some disciplines I recommend DepEd develop:

An appreciation of candor that acknowledges both strengths and weaknesses. DeEd is not running a political campaign requiring an image puff piece. This is serious business, the education of Filipino children. If we can't trust you to tell it to us straight, how can we trust you in anything? What does "transparency" mean to DepEd? These are the people who are managing TEACHERS fer cryin' out loud.

The method of metrics. You select critical metrics and work on them. Here are some ideas:

  • Average number of children per classroom
  • Average student achievement test scores (6th, 9th, and 11th years; also useful as information for colleges, employers, or TESDA)
  • Average quality of instructor (separate blog topic)
  • Average annual expense per student (excluding building construction costs)

In other words, identify the metrics that can be used to improve the learning environment, improve student achievement, improve quality of teaching, and reduce expense per child (the efficiency of teaching). If you sit down to figure out how to DO these things, all kinds of new ideas will arise. 

Trust me, if you got any group of 10th graders together to solve the problem, they'd quickly say "we need to get our instruction onto the internet".

How come DepEd can't figure this out? These are old people, right? That's my guess. Entrusted with creating a vibrant education for young people. Encrusted with intellectual arthritis.

They CAN'T DO IT. Education is as screwed up as the judiciary.

But I'm confident they are all God-loving.

Okay. Okay. Back off, Joe. Crank down the cynicism a few notches. You are way down the overbearing path here.

I'm sure a lot of good work is being done in the schools and at DepEd. I respect teachers. Most have the well-being of children in their hearts. They work hard. They are overwhelmed with too many kids in a classroom. And I'm sure the people planning school construction have a challenge. And those responsible for all the text books.

But if the very simple value-things are beyond the grasp of educators, how can they deal with the details responsibly? If educators can't grasp principles of innovation and release of the mind, how can they teach anything but how to be narrow and uninspired?

I'm afraid I don't know how to find "first class" within the Department of Education. Maybe it is a cross cultural blindness I possess. Perhaps Filipinos with more experience or knowledge can help me out. Where is the "first class" representation of Philippine education around here?

Do you think DepEd should teach Filipino children to be "God loving"? How about obedient? How about subservient? How about innovative. Mathematics? English? Computers (spreadsheets, word processing and internet)? Climate change and ecology? Civic responsibilities?

Rank the importance, one to nine, one being the most important, nine the least.

My number one would be "innovative". And "God-loving" would be off the list entirely.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Five Reasons Why Catholic Vote Philippines Should Be Ignored

Guest Article
By Andrew Lim

Last December 2012, several groups of Catholic laity banded together to form Catholic Vote Philippines, aiming “to advocate that Catholics vote as Catholics.” Alarmed by the passage of the RH law, and presuming that more legislation it deems inimical will be put on the agenda, they will work for the election of legislators and leaders it finds acceptable based on its own standards and criteria. But what is the group all about exactly? How will it operate?
Joe Tale, a lawyer affiliated with the movement, says, “ The Catholic Vote is not a political party. It will scan the horizon among all the parties and support candidates who carry Catholic values in their word and action, in their public as well as private life, regardless of political party, and yes, if called for, regardless of religion.”

Bishop Gabriel Reyes clarifies: “Catholics should not be single -issue voters and should consider a candidate's competence and incorruptibility.” He adds: “One could be anti-RH but he could also be a thief. It will be up to the voters to weigh a candidate's track record and decide.”

Recently, the Bacolod diocese came out with tarpaulins advocating specific names to vote, as well as who not to vote.

While there is nothing illegal with the foregoing, this author believes this will work negatively against the cause of Philippine democracy, will be problematic for most voters to apply, and do more harm than good.

Let's set aside the debate on whether the Catholic vote exists in the first place or not. Dicky Boncan, the spokesperson of the group readily admits it does not exist at the national level, but argues that “the Church can make or break an election at the local level. “ Proceeding from that presumption, I submit five reasons why Catholic Vote Phils will be problematic and ultimately harmful to democracy:

A. Catholic Vote Phils cannot be operationalized without becoming a single-issue voter.

Despite the nuanced pronouncements of its leaders, it will be impossible to “vote as a Catholic” without endorsing a specific candidate, or supporting/not supporting a candidate based solely on his vote on the RH bill, to the exclusion of other important issues like mining, taxes, gun control, etc.

Compounding this problem is the fact that Philippine politics is not really issue-based, but personality-based. Most candidates resort to platitudes.

Joe Tale again: “In the recent US elections, there was an organized Catholic Vote that came out with their own political ads and endorsed the Romney-Ryan tandem for President and Vice-President. The Romney-Ryan team lost, but at least in the US, the Catholics have served notice that they will be active participants in the electoral process.”

Does Mr Tale indicate that had Filipino Catholics been allowed to vote in the last US presidential elections, they should have chosen the Republican ticket? Then that means they would have also endorsed the entire Republican platform, which has been criticized for its inconsistency with the pro-life ideals by being pro-automatic assault rifles ownership, its regressive tax policies, its indifference to minorities, women and the gay communities.

B. Complicated decision making cannot be appreciated by the average voter.

The Catholic faith is notorious for its love of elaborate hierarchies, and this is no exception. In my research for this piece, I encountered the notion of “a hierarchy of truths”. Mentioned in the Unitatis Redintegratio of the Second Vatican Council, it says that “ when comparing doctrines with one another, they should remember that in Catholic doctrine there exists a “hierarchy" of truths, since they vary in their relation to the fundamental Christian faith. “

Ratzinger, still a Cardinal then, further enumerates the three levels of truths: 1. those that are divinely revealed; 2. those which are definitively proposed and 3. those which belong to the authentic ordinary Magisterium.

Supposedly, this is to be used in analyzing the candidates' stand on various issues and help the voter decide: will I vote for a candidate who voted no to rh bill but supports the death penalty (Zubiri and Maceda of UNA) or for foreign drug traffickers (like Rufus Rodriguez)? Should I shun a candidate who voted yes to RH bill but is very aggressive in job creation and anti-corruption legislation? How about a candidate who voted no to RH but has logging and mining interests and oppose environmental conservation efforts? Which issue now has more weight? RH? Mining? Tax policies? Job-creation? Gun control?

Is a candidate's vote on the RH bill the primary and only criteria for electing someone, to the exclusion of every issue?

Now tell me- except for Catholic apologists like Dicky Boncan or members of Defensores Fidei, how can you expect this to be understood by the average Catholic voter? Will they hand out laminated guides with decision flowcharts?

C. Catholic Vote Phils will discriminate against non-Catholic candidates.

Even without meaning to do so, following Catholic Vote Phils will inevitably result in discrimination against non-Catholic candidates. Why? Because invariably, Catholic voters will not understand or consider other religious viewpoints. The rationale of Catholic Vote Phils originates from tenets of Roman Catholicism, and it is natural that there will be divergence in beliefs with other faiths. A difference in beliefs will lead to differences in political agendas.

If Catholic Vote Phils existed years ago and managed to gain popular support, then we would not have seen the likes of FVR, Leticia Shahani, Mike Tamano, Santanina Rasul, Juan Flavier, etc in government.

D. Catholic Vote Phils will put its voters in the awkward position of supporting candidates with unsavory political histories, just because they voted no to RH and appear to support their agenda.

E. Catholic Vote Phils may create a moral hazard, by appearing to wash away the past misdeeds of its supported candidates.

Its seal of approval will look like an endorsement of such past reprehensive behavior, and encourage future candidates to engage in further chronic corruption or recklessness, since all they need is to take a stand that the Catholic Vote Phils supports.

Nothing demonstrates this better than the CBCP's praise heaped upon the 104 congressmen who voted no to the RH bill on second reading last December 2012. Included among the 104 are the following political personalities who have been associated with the most corrupt and repressive past regimes:

a. Imelda Marcos Leyte
b. Mikee Arroyo - party list
c. JV Ejercito- San Juan
d. Dato Arroyo- Camarines Sur

When the number of anti-RH congressmen dwindled to 79 for the third reading, the list was passed around social media amongst would-be Catholic voters for their reference in the 2013 elections.

Based on the above, it is argued that it is best for the Filipino voter to disregard Catholic Vote Philippines.


  1. “The Catholic Vote”, Joe Tale, Catholic Vote Phils. Website. Originally published in Phil Star Opinion section.
  2. “Bishop Warns Roxas Church will make him pay in 2016” Phil Daily Inquirer, Dec 19, 2012.
  3. “RH and Elections: Pols knew there's no Catholic vote”, online conversation by author with Dicky Boncan in comments section, Rappler, Dec 29, 2012.
  4. “Catholic Voting and the Order of Truths”, Joe Heschmeyer, Shameless Popery blog on Catholic defense Sept 27, 2012
  5. “Theologian says one-issue voting is foreign to Catholic tradition”, by Catholic News Service, Oct 25, 2004.
  6. “How Our Congressmen and Senators Voted for the RH bill” Catholic Vote Phils website.
  7. “Solon bares small wrinkle on prolife stand” Inquirer Online News Nov 7, 2012.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Unit 61398: Is the Philippines "In Play"?

Building Housing Military Unit 61398
Unit 61398 is a Chinese military operation. It has been pinpointed as occupying an office building in China from which hacking of American newspapers and government agencies has originated.

These are official government acts. They are not anonymous hackers with bizarre ideals. It appears that China has officially authorized aggressive Chinese spying, theft and harassment of other states via the internet.

All loudly denied of course.

One is inclined to wonder if the U.S. has similar activities going on. Is that why the response from America is rather tepid? As if something must be done to pacify the newspapers that were hacked, not as if officials were horridly offended and considered this tantamount to spying or cyber-war.

I think cyber security (defense) and cyber warfare (offense) are top priority for the United States. I'm guessing the U.S. military and spy agencies practice their techniques on real-life targets of opportunity.

Iran has been subject to significant hacking. I'm sure most have a short list of the "usual suspects": Israel or the U.S.

So with an open internet, we have the platform for open roaming and spying and hijinks. That is, theft, harassment, and even destructive acts. China's work so far appears to be dedicated to acquiring information, not destructive acts.

If you think this is happening only "out there" and it is not relevant to the Philippines, think again. You are likely to meet this offensive behavior some point soon. 

Close Up
Maybe even now, if you read Rappler or The Inquirer or other discussion threads and find the pro-China pablum popping up, or denigration of the Philippines. Are missionaries from China out to sow divisive propaganda within Philippine social media?

I would rather ask the question, WHY NOT? Why would China not seek to sow discord between the Philippines and America? Or between the Philippine people and the Philippine government?

Wouldn't you, if you had an aggressive agenda of divide and conquer?

I am amused that so many activities within the Philippines fall into line with Chinese aims:

  • Senators Legarda and Santiago taking the U.S. to task publicly over Tubbataha.

  • Leftist political organizations trying to throw the U.S. out of the Philippines for good.

  • Get Real blogger benigno relentlessly seeking to undermine legitimate Philippine agencies.

It's as if they do not grasp what is happening.

Now let me be perfectly clear. I think none of these cases has any direct tie to China at all. My point is that Filipinos need to be very clear on what is going on here so that they are working in the best interest of the Philippines and not inadvertently aiding and abetting the enemy. We are likely not to know when China is making incursions into social media or performing active hacking. 

China is the enemy, right?

This Call Center is Not Customer Friendly
Is that too hard a word for you?

What description would you put on China to describe her relationship to the Philippines?

Petulant friend? Greedy friend? Bossy friend?

In my mind China is not a friend because the Chinese are not interested in Philippine well-being. Even if diplomats of both the Philippines and China plaster over their acts with words of friendship.

China is not camped on Philippine rocks because she has the best interest of the Philippines in mind. Or really cares that much about Chinese/Philippine commercial linkages and trade.

Unit 61398 is not interested in Philippine well-being. Unit 61398 is interested in theft and information useful to the waging of influence. Influence is one step short of war. This is a totally different kind of conflict. No battleships or artillery or missiles or drones. Not rules of fair warfare. Just spying and destabilization aimed at target nations.

Divide and conquer.

For myself, I read the discussion thread in this recent article in Rappler ("China rejects PH arbitration move") or look at the intense and rising volume of attack-spam that infests my blog site daily, and I am suddenly faced with a stark understanding.

This is real.

Unit 31398 is real.

Perhaps it has begun. Not war, yet. Influence. Perhaps the Philippines is "in play".

Certainly it is prudent to expect that the more assertive the Philippines is in pursuing it's claim to lands within the 200 nm exclusive economic zone, the more aggressive China is likely to become at exerting influence internally within the Philippines.

My advice, to myself as much as anyone:

Be cool. Expect anything. Don't take all words as forthright truth. Expect manipulations.

And be wary of people promoting thinking that is consistent with China's strategic aim, to divide and conquer. That includes congressmen and left-wingers and bloggers. And those who comment on blogs.

Do what can be done to promote unity rather than division.

Friday, February 22, 2013

This Top Secret Report Just In

Unknown to readers and even Angry Maude, JoeAm three months ago hired a black ops organization to do some undercover work. A "black ops organization"  is a secret agency so secret that its existence must be denied by every alphabet known to the entire spy world, including the FBI, CIA, NBI, NBA, KGB, NRA, IRA, USDA and Greenpeace.

This organization is darker than the cave of the underground river on a moonless light, with that cheap Chinese flashlight the boatmen carry emptied of batteries. You couldn't find this organization with radar or SONAR or GPS or a ten foot pole. It is invisible, a chameleonic shape-shifter able to go places ordinary men and women only dream of. It can hack and crack computers impervious to that world-famous hacking organization Anonymous and its cadre of technically ingenius evil-eyed gameboys.

Are you getting the picture? This organization can go anywhere at anytime and never be seen. It has ears the size of Dumbo and a nose the size of Dumbo and muscles the size of Rambo. It can go up, under, around and through any obstacle, even virus software, sandbagged bunkers, military riot squadrons and Philippine mall police. These guys are professionals, although they may look like Sonny Angara or Piolo Pascual or Charice. Absolutely normal. They go with the flow, bend in the wind, fly in the sky and dig in the dirt. Agile and strong. Smarter than a brass tack.

So Joe hired them at no small expense and gave them their charter:

  • Find out who reads JoeAm's Society of Honor blog, and who does not.

Here's what they discovered:


Group One-A:  The Society of Honor. These men and women are a special bunch of intellectually, multi-dimensionally, cross-culturally gifted Filipinos and non-Filipinos  having connections with the Philippines. They are the people who comment. They've been around. They think for themselves. They are mature and civil. They can take a joke and dish one out. They are well-read and know what is going on. They can parse complex problems and articulate solutions. They see the Philippines clearly. They bring a wide set of experiences to bear on topics presented here. They are worth reading, for sure.

They are the makers of ideas.

Group One-B: These are the quiet men and women who read the blog regularly but don't type much. Possibly because they are shy, or perhaps not confident of their English expression or arguments, or perhaps because they don't type much. But they read and think and share ideas with their friends. They are the strong silent types.

They are the bakers of ideas.

Group Two:  Opinion makers and politicians who, by the importance of their station, are required to refrain from commenting. But they read, and think, and incorporate the ideas they like within their own thinking. Journalists are in this bunch, and certain legislative staffers, and even people on President Aquino's cabinet or staff. They may just peek in, or even read regularly. For sure, they are there because some have introduced themselves to JoeAm in the background.

They are the takers and shakers of ideas.

Group Three:  The curious and the spot-checkers. People pass through, maybe from a link plopped on Rappler or other blogs. A few enjoy what they read and stop in once in a while. A great many don't connect with the writing style or the idea the blog is written by an American or the irreverent style or other reasons. They move on down the road.

They are the forsakers of ideas.


Group One: The anti's and the envious. The complainers don't read this blog. They are offended by JoeAm's relentless positive view of President Aquino and the Philippines. It infuriates and depresses them to even think that their complaints, whines and gripes are so much spit into the wind. Also in this group are other bloggers who somehow think they are competing with JoeAm even though he only competes with himself. These are people who are happy when others fail.

Group Two: The great unread. Face it, the big words, complex concepts, and satirical style zoom right past most Filipinos. There are like 92 million of them in the Philippines. They include the unaware, the unread, the technologically unplugged, and kids.


In addition to the quantitative look at who reads, our black operators also explored what readers think about the blog. Here are their findings in short bullet-point capsules:

  • The pictures are cool. They are funny and lots of times have hidden meanings.

  • Joe is nuts, a bit of a friendly blowhard with lots of opinions that sometimes get tiresome, but it is worth it for the refreshing ideas or good jokes that float through now and then.

  • People don't understand 34.8% of what Joe is writing about, especially when he gets into literature that people haven't read, or goes back so far with his stories that he appears as a figment of ancient history.

  • Readership increases when Angry Maude rages or Joe disses Get Real Post. Readers may be smart, but they like a little good dirt now and then like anybody else.

  • They'd like to read more from guest writers, especially Filipino writers. Readers are proud of their own and like the change in pace from Joe's daily grindings.

  • They don't like it when Joe imposes a superiority complex on things Filipino. Fortunately, the Society readers are candid enough to take Joe to task when he is going arrogant.

  • Readers appreciate the contribution Joe is making to the Philippine dialogue.

JoeAm has released the black ops unit from any further inquiry. He gave them a generous bonus for the depth of their findings. It is rumored they are now training up on underwater sabotage and speaking Chinese. They were last seen waterproofing a bunch of maps of the Spratleys.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Philippines Should Turn Predator, Like China

Here is what we are coming to understand. 
Chinese Attitudes Toward Japan

China is engaged in a coordinated national effort aimed at acquiring additional resources as cheaply as possible. Stealing of other nation's lands is among the tactics included in the thrust. China's initiatives are as follows:

  • Develop Chinese mining and resource production.

  • Hoard the world's rare earth minerals critical in the manufacture of electronic goods. China can cut the world off from rare earth minerals at any time for any reason.

  • Invest in mining around the world with major efforts in South America and Australia. Ecology is not a primary concern. Acquisition of cheap minerals in bulk is the driving force.

  • Smuggle ores from lands such as the Philippines where corruption allows this. "If we can get it, it is honest, because we need it."

  • Claim the entire West Philippine Sea, even if it is within other nations' exclusive economic zones. That is, even if it belongs rightfully to others.

  • Step up vocal and military might to intimidate smaller nations. Use a divide and conquer strategy to keep other nations from gaining power. Military officials are permitted to use aggressive and threatening language.

  • Embark on aggressive military-based cyber-spying and harassment to enter private and public computers around the world to gain information or create havoc. For example, U.S. newspapers have been attacked as have government computers.

Many of us are perplexed with China's incivility and obstinacy. It is rather frustrating to have China sitting on rocks so close to the Philippine coast. Most Filipinos I am sure wish China would simply get off the rocks and go away.

She won't.

Even if the Philippines wins its UN arbitration, there is no enforcement mechanism, and China can explain away everything with sharp, challenging words condeming anyone who is not on the China path

I don't see a Philippines that has its act wholly together to deal with that. Most people just watch Secretary Del Rosario push back. One man with a tough job. Some seem to help China, whether inadvertently or purposefully, I can't tell.

The U.S. defense agreement is crucial to Philippine well-being. But even knowledgeable people like Senators Legarda and Santiago are busy driving wedges between the US and Philippines over something as trivial as a boat stuck on a reef (not trivial in terms of the value of reefs; trivial in terms of the shake-out in world order that is occurring).

I've argued that the Philippines should stand up for its own interests and use the might of the U.S. as a defensive backstop in case China's greed goes beyond intimidation and "occupancy around the edges", as is now occurring. It need not bow to the U.S. because its interests are perfectly aligned with those of America. The two nations should be doing more to put this alliance together properly. As I've written:

  • People like Senator Santiago should sit down and shut up about the VFA. If there is a need to renegotiate it, do so out of the hearing of the sensationalist press.

  • People like Senator Legarda should think about the bigger and more important national strategy of building a strong defensive alliance rather than engage in public acts (possibly so that she, personally, can gain votes) that disparage that alliance, as she proposes to do with hearings about the Tubbataha incident.

  • The awkward coordination that is occurring regarding Tubbataha between the U.S. and Philippines is a horrible representation of a strong alliance. The U.S. is secretive. The Philippines is trying to project that it is in charge of things, the top dog in the matter. No, no, people. Everything you do should be structured to prove that this is an effective TEAM. That both nations are on the same TEAM.

But those issues can be set aside for now.

I would like to suggest an initiative that can be driven entirely by the Philippines that will counter China's ridiculously offensive aggression.

  • The Philippines should slip into the economic hole that is being created between China and Japan. Find every instance where Japan is manufacturing in China now and try to get that company to move to the Philippines.

Concurrently, get the Philippine industrial welcome in order. Designate where the firms can relocate to on an expedited basis (Subic, or near Clark where Yokohama already has a plant, in Cavite where Japanese companies are looking to set up shop, and elsewhere within the Philippines). Make sure those locations are set to accelerate and assist relocations, not throw up short-sighted roadblocks seeking near-term fees from companies coming in. Indeed, GIVE value rather than try to squeeze the Japanese companies. Offer tax incentives to ease the cost of relocating. MARKET the Philippines.

As for the 40% ownership requirement, establish a national trust to own the Philippine 60% of each company, funded in partly by the Japanese companies themselves and partly by the Philippine government with the trust run like an investment bank. That is, the trust would not be engaged in the running of the business proper, but would be engaged in monitoring the company's finances and operations so that investor money (Philippine taxpayer money) would be properly cared for.

If Philippine investment bankers and attorneys can't figure out how to structure such an animal, call in American investment banking expertise. They can paper over anything, even Constitutions.

Japanese manufacturing companies may not be the only targets for such a strategic initiative. South Korea may also prefer to establish manufacturing plants in a nation backstopped by American reasonableness, over Chinese self-serving craziness. Or American companies whose executives recognize that things in China are going south.

And service companies will also come over behind the manufacturing companies (banks, insurers, etc., Philippine laws permitting).

If China wants to destabilize relations with other nations, the Philippines should go after the available jewels the way China goes after Philippine resources.

Purposefully. Without hesitation or regret.

China need not be the only nation with a predatory strategy.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Huge Philippine Weakness: Acting Transactionally Rather Than Strategically

I have written about this subject before, but want to take a different swing at it. You know, three swings before getting called out.

Several incidents have occurred recently that illustrate the point I want to make. The point is this:

The Philippines is a transactional nation, responding to events rather than planning how to deal with them ahead of time. Many Filipinos themselves operate on a transactional framework. I am of the opinion that there is a better way, and will address that after itemizing the incidents:

The Case of the Irritating Articles

I've noted that many blog readers are loyal for a time, then come across a particular blog article or discussion that really irritates them, and so they stop reading that blog. Whether they seek to avoid being irritated again or want to "punish" the blog editor by removing their contribution is pretty much irrelevant. What is relevant is they leave.

Both Johnny Lin and baycas have recently gotten irritated at an article or discussion at Riassa Robles' Top Blog, and I know I have lost at least one reader who got irritated by a particular article here at The Society of Honor. Others have simply disappeared and I can expect that some of them also got irked by an article.

The reasons are specific. Alan Robles and Johnny got into a debate that edged personal. Baycas thought an article was unduly provocative. Chohili on my site got irritated because I listed valuable contributors to the blog by screen name and did not include her.

Those are what I would call transactional reactions.

All are legitimate reasons for grievance.

What perplexes me is that the transactions - each individual article or disagreement - seem to be driving subsequent acts. The act is to go away, and perhaps to diss the offending blog elsewhere. There seems to be no bigger, stronger "strategic commitment" to build blogging in the Philippines that would hold valuable contributors in place PAST a hard-to-digest blog.

All three cases weaken the blog to which they contributed. Because their contributions were valuable.

If a commenter makes a strategic commitment to building blogging in the Philippines, he or she is more likely to take an irritating blog and set it aside, but return on another article to resume the strategic effort of building blogging in the Philippines as a powerful Fifth Estate.

When few make that strategic commitment, blogging in the Philippines gets weakened with each exercise in free speech that offends someone. So I look around the Philippines, and I see transactions, transactions everywhere, lots of ego and need to win, and weak commitment to the rough road of dedicating oneself to the bigger, broader strategy to better the Philippines. Everyone wants to take the easy path that is convenient for them. And often it has to be THEIR path, and no one else's.

I merely suggest that a making a determined commitment to STRATEGY will build a better Philippines. The willingness to make personal sacrifice for the good of community will build a better Philippines.

The Case of the Boat on a Reef

Maude did a fine job last week of laying out the illogic of Senator Legarda's intention to hold Senate hearings on the American minesweeper that ran around in Tubbataha Park. For the sake of exorcising her anger about environmental damage, Senator Legarda overlooks the importance of the "strategic commitment" that the Philippines and US ought to be making to each other to establish a strong alliance as a block to China's aggressive resource-driven expansionism.

When incidents like the shipwrecked boat occur, they need not be ignored. They can be addressed. But they ought to be addressed quietly, between partners, and not negotiated in a public forum, with one partner condemning the other. The sensationalist Philippine media like nothing better than splashing mud about. And their job is not to care about sovereignty, it is to get ratings or circulation up.

Senator Legarda may be rounding up some votes, but at what price?

She has taken a transactional approach on "sovereignty" that weakens the strategic defensive alliance that is important for protecting Philippine sovereignty.

Again, narrow personal benefit, and a righteous transactional argument, undercuts the strategy of building an alliance to stand strong against China.

The Case of the Transactional Blog

The Raissa Robles blog that irritated baycas (and me, to tell the truth) was headlined as follows:

The blog focused generally on a worst case scenario reading of amendments to the law protecting original materials (intellectual property). What happens at the airport when an OFW brings in a large number of personal CD's or a computer loaded with songs and videos that he has no record of buying? Is he guilty of a crime?

Well, it is an important argument to make TRANSACTIONALLY. And Raissa makes some important points in the blog. For instance, no one representing OFW's was engaged in the crafting of the law.

But what was missing from the discussion was the strategic umbrella: the aim of the Philippines to get out from a U.S. blacklist designation for weak protection of intellectual materials.

Without acknowledging the importance of the strategic aim, the transactional execution indeed looks knee jerk and stupid, and legislators who signed it appear incompetent.

No, no. Wrong. It is not. They are not. The strategic aim is fine and honorable and in the right direction. Just poorly communicated, perhaps, or poorly structured. The problem with Raissa's blog is that the transactionally upset people don't have the same strategic perspective or ambition that the legislators have.

Neither group is wrong for their perspectives. The bloggers are just transactionally limited on theirs.

Given the importance of achieving international integrity, the Philippines could and should work to get out from under the smear of failing to abide by laws that most nations agree to.  The Philippines punishes itself if it cannot demonstrate to honest businessmen that it believes in honesty itself. It is too easy to say that the Philippines is a nation that is soft on piracy.

And no major publisher or movie producer will ever set up shop in the Philippines.

There is nothing wrong with the transactional argument. But, lacking strategic context, it works against the best interest of the Philippines by improperly condemning Philippine lawmakers and by failing to recognize the importance of getting international endorsement for Philippine initiatives to protect original materials. That is, staying off the U.S. blacklist.


Now the Philippines has two choices. (1) "It's okay, Joe. It's the way we do it." Or, (2) we need to do a better job of developing the disciplines and skill of articulating strategic frameworks for our transactions, and work harder and more diligently on the strategic execution. Making sure citizens are informed of the big picture, not just the smaller incidents, is an important part of this execution.

My personal view: Going from transaction to transaction is chaotic and weak. It is better to set a goal, outline a strategy, and  make sure everyone knows the importance of pursuing the strategy together. That is not always the easiest way. But it is the best.

The goal is a "better Philippines". The beneficial strategies in our examples are:
  • Building a lasting, substantial blogging voice within the Philippines: the Fifth Estate.
  • Presenting a strong, unified opposition to Chinese encroachments.
  • Getting off the intellectual properties "bad nation" lists.
I would think we all would want to do all in our power to make these things happen. And to do that, we might want to refrain from undermining efforts that are underway by being too narrow in our perspective on things.

Keeping our eye on the big picture can help.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Do Filipinos Think They Are Third World?

I was rather surprised last week as I engaged with the CPMers at Raissa Robles' Top blog. The subject was a new law passed by the Congress and sent to President Aquino for signature. The new law amends  RA 8293 which deals with protection of copyrights and importation of pirated goods and similar matters.

The amendment and the law confuse me, frankly. It seems like a matter of whom to believe, Raissa Robles or the Intellectual Properties Office (IPO). The IPO claims the amendments actually liberalize what can be brought into country. But Raissa is not buying it, and has issued a series of blogs on the matter.

The readers were freaking out when the first blog dropped, figuring they would have their computers and cell phones torn apart upon entering the Philippines from abroad, or CD's ripped from their luggage by rabid, red-eyed Customs extortionists.

Well, I confess, the subject doesn't fire me up because I don't have that much music. My Bob Seger, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Bonnie Raitt songs will ride with me to the grave. Oh, my wife is into the newer stuff, that blond weirdo with the sex fetish and a lot of Filipino music that seems to me to be a lot of pining for guys lost or gained, or girls. I like my thump, frankly.  I find that the quality of an album diminishes after the best three songs and after that you might as well be listening to the Holy Roller Choir singing "Rock of Ages" over and over again. So I don't buy albums, just spot grab a new i-tune every once in a while.

But I digress mightily.

The Raissa Robles Top Blog readership was in a panic, inspired by Raissa's fine panicky headline: "Congress erased every Filipino’s right to bring home music, movies and books from abroad ".  Blog readers were moaning and groaning and condemning the legislators and ready to vote for a whole new pack of Senate Candidates.

Normally, I see this kind of out-of-control passion when America is in the headlines because one of her boats has run into a reef or a private has been unkind to a Filipina.

I popped into the discussion and got into a brief impolite exchange with one guy who termed the Philippines "Third World". He was serious. I responded that I had written several blogs about the "First Class" Philippines.

So here I am, the American who rants and raves, along with a volcanic cousin, about this or that. And I am not as down on the Philippines as the CPMers seem to be. I see more uplift in the sails than they do.

What's with this?

Is this a transactional nation or what, with one's judgment swinging this way or that depending on the latest incident?

Indeed, the CPMers seem to be drifting into the anti mode that frustrated people like BongV at Anti-Pinoy or beningo at Get Real migrate to. A relentless condemning of the structures and people of the democratic Philippines. They couldn't find joy if angels descended from heaven to sing hallelujiahs in their ears. 

My observation is that Philippine senators are actually rational and bright people if compared to the idiots who inhabit the US Senate and House of Representatives. There you have truly malicious, dark-scheming people who would throw the nation under the economic bus or good people under a tank for some minor political advantage. Or, even worse, half the Congress wants to destroy the President of their nation. Now THAT is a dysfunctional government.

Compared to that, the Philippines is earnest and sincere and dedicated to improving the nation. And the President's cabinet stacks up well to any American cabinet. Secretary Del Rosario and Hillary Clinton interacted as true peers. The greater part of the rest of President Aquino's cabinet is also, from what I observe, dedicated to achieving specific things and building a better nation.

Do the top Philippine government officials have personality? Of course they do. What, everyone is supposed to be a Piolo Pascual, cut to perfection? Can you imagine how boring it would be if that were the case? Hey, one thing I DO admire Senator Santiago for is her character, her high falutin' legal linguistics delivered as hot lava from the mouth of Pinatubo. She is unpredictable and worth listening to. I aspire to those ends myself.

So I think this blog explosion at Raissa's house is reflective of two qualities of Filipino culture that deserve being noted.

  • One, as I have already said, is the transactional character of emotion and act that goes up or down, left or right, incident to incident.

  • The other is what seems to be a weak ability of so many even intelligent people to strike compromise. To bend, to give, or to lose once in a while for the good of a group.

So we all get yanked by titillating headlines from incident to incident where people are busy insulting each other because that is one way they at least APPEAR to win.

And, as it seems from reading CPM arguments on this particular incident, if laws are not tailored to the BIG ME, my personal interests, the laws  are obviously wrong.

Mmmm, I don't think so.

That's the deal about democracy. It welcomes different ideas and sometimes solves problems the way OTHERS want them solved. And if the OTHERS are insurance companies or media giants with a direct role to play in who gets elected, they might have a little more clout that a group of rabble-rousing bloggers at figuring out how problems get "solved".

That is the system. It is a good system. And the trick is not to whine and spit and cry, and rag on your nation. It is to band together, to organize, to get loud and effective at promoting your own agenda . . . and remain proud of your nation and its leaders.

Without question, the Philippines has a weak infrastructure of voices for citizens. No Civil Liberties Union or Consumers Union. No attorneys dealing up class action lawsuits. The outspoken voices that do exist tend to collect around specific bills or issues, have their say, and die. On the other hand, it does seem like these voices are getting louder and starting to have impact. The Cybercrime Law may be a dead duck.

Raissa's blog is one of the important voices, and kudos to her for riling the roost of the Intellectual Properties Office. But one needs to keep things in some kind of positive perspective.

And I suppose that overall the national debate, if I think about it, is mostly constructive.  It is not riots in the street or duels at sunset. So consider my complaint one of "take care" rather than "you idiots!".

I personally think President Aquino has calmed the Philippines is ways we don't totally comprehend.

And for sure, I don't believe the Philippines is Third World. I don't care what economists think, or even world poverty experts. I no longer even think it is "under-developed". I prefer to think it is "young". And First Class in many respects. The gap between rich and poor is huge, no doubt. It is that gap that gives the Philippines the commercially competitive momentum it now enjoys, the ability to do things at low cost. Like call centers and tourism and, soon, casinos. Another competitive advantage is the OFW remittances. Perhaps it is a sweet and sour advantage, but it is an advantage.

The modern Philippines was born in 1987. This "Fifth Republic" has suffered through a series of unfortunate presidencies. Now it has a superb President.  From 1987 to 2010, the Philippines was like a drunk in the alley, not quite sure which is the way home.

President Aquino is sober and the walk is as if through a park, refreshing. With muggers here and there to be taken into account, for sure. But refreshing.

Central Park in New York and The Mall in Washington D.C. are little different.

So what is my takeaway from these observations:
  1. Philippine culture is transactional. (I'll write more about this in tomorrow's blog.)
  2. Philippine culture is rigid. Right and wrong are held fixed and unbendable by individuals with little interest in finding compromise or demonstrating consideration of others.
  3. Consumer voices are still being formed and are transactional themselves, not adhering to any longer term vision or mission or staying power.
  4. The Philippine democratic government is very young. It  is not underdeveloped; it has character. There is no dysfunctional ideological conflict as there is in the U.S.
The Philippines is an exciting and rich place to live and there is a lot of work to be done.

What? You want some boring, mundane place of no notable character? 

Move to Iowa.