Politics

Pacquiao is gray, so is politics

Rep. Manny Pacquiao is gray, not black-and-white. He is against the reproductive health bill, yet he joins the movement’s call for P125 wage increase across-the-board.

I remember one Congresswoman civil enough to keep her anger at the people’s champ at bay by just sort of saying that he’ll lose his battle against the RH bill. Her colleagues in the labor front will surely be in the opposite disposition. They jubilantly claim that the workers’ protracted struggle will finally conclude to their advantage.

Politics has not become less gray. It entails conjunctural acumen, hard work, and civil, much less sincere, (tactical) collaboration with even your enemies. You must also control your emotions that get in the way, even though these days campaigners use people’s emotions to win their hearts and minds.

There’s always bible truth in “getting-to-yes”, principles-based negotiation. Respect is another. Jesus said, “Respect thy enemy.”

The movement I used to belong to once worked with the Church along agrarian reform issues. The synergy begot awesome results, with the passage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER) Law. (How the law is to be implemented is a totally another Herculean battle.) But now, they diverge along reproductive health/pro-life issue.

Campaigners should not struggle to translate gray into black and white, but rather the reverse. With gray, everybody is a winner, partaking in the harvest: You take that, and I take this, for the greater majority or the disadvantaged. For the greater glory of God, if you may.

Those remaining ungrayed, maverick with their black-and-white color, will have their day. Although, no one can tell when that day will be.

Tita Cory: Leader of EDSA revolution, mother of new hopes for real change

Former President Cory Aquino’s (1933-2009) demise did rend my heart. It did because she hung right there in that node in my political development during the latter 80s. I was an “EDSA baby” as my fanboyism with Marcos then ended when my foray into activism began.

I had a neither-hate-nor-like appreciation of Tita Cory (that was our usual term of endearment for her). The right side of my mind says she did great for the nation for leading the way to freedom without bloodshed. But the left side kept haunting saying that she wasted the dearly-earned freedom by letting oppression prevail (my political officer even argued that the EDSA uprising was not the correct path to change). Ah, I do remember what the national-democratic movement impressed on us at that time: That the Aquino government became the precursor and agent of the CIA-sponsored Low Intensity Conflict (LIC) that caused a great number of human rights violations particularly in the countryside. (This was the mantra that continued to play on in my mind even during the days of my campus paper involvement in college.)

There were surely many criticisms at the Aquino regime that practically outshone raves it had enjoyed from all over the world. Because of my deep involvement in student activism then, I was conditioned to think of the Aquino regime as no better compared to its predecessor. My political officer, while leading a basic course in an ED (our term for education activity), told us that dialectical materialism, or the revolution, for that matter, did not allow for centrism to influence our view of the path to change. It was plainly black or white. Or red or yellow. If you’re for real change, go red. If not, you’re yellow. And if you’re yellow, you’re actually an enemy of change.

I really feel sorry that during those days, I lived apathetic to Tita Cory. At best, though, this was a great disposition despite the flurry of critiques hurled at her at her every utterance of ‘propaganda’ statements. Remember that “mura pa din ang galunggong” statement of hers? In no time did we lash back at her as soon as the price of galunggong went up.

I even had the political reason to join the movement against her, along with her family, because of the Hacienda Luisita case, which had lives lost and which remains untouched for land reform. But I remained apathetic. Perhaps, that noble contribution of Tita Cory (of being our leader for the so-called “EDSA revolution”) served to counterveil or offset my supposed hatred of her administration.

It’s really sad that I had to be frank about my view of her in the wake of her passing away. But I have to admit that while I wrote this post, my eyes turned teary, re-realizing (my own concocted word) the great deed she contributed to our nation, which vindicated the great Ninoy Aquino’s death and pleased our God of history and peace.

Indeed, no one can escape from the fact that despite the failings of her administration, Tita Cory wrote a page for world history and sits beside Gandhi and other greats pushing for peaceful revolutions. May she continue to reign in our hearts of hearts and bring forth newfound hopes for Filipinos for real change. Perhaps her demise says it all: Let’s start working together NOW.

2010 elections automation: three takes from civil society

With the Senate and Congress of the same mind for 2010 elections’ automation, with the considerable prodding from the Commission on Elections, it seems there’s no stopping government to finally give flesh to the dream of fully automated elections.

It’s interesting to note that the majority of the Senate has faced an unrelenting opponent in the person of Senator Chiz Escudero. He said no to the proposed supplemental budget as he saw a ghost of the 1.3-billion-peso Mega Pacific scandal in that move.

But what’s much more interesting to note is the fact that three civil society networks have surprisingly taken different positions on the issue of 2010 polls automation.

Kaya Natin! A National Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership is for the automation as the COMELEC has pushed it. Its leaders believe that the planned automation will minimize fraud, cheating, and human error. It will also allow Filipino people to know the election results faster.

The Alternative Budget Initiative (ABI), led by the Social Watch Philippines, is against the automation not for its demerits but for the technicality of and politics behind the move. ABI finds irony in the fact that government is working on the supplemental budget for the automation when the budget for 2009 has yet to be signed by President Arroyo. ABI goes on to say, through the words of Rene Raya of the Action for Economic Reforms (AER): “President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has certified the budget on poll automation as ‘very urgent’, yet the loss of lives, loss of opportunities, more hunger and more poverty caused by the delay in the delivery of social services due to the late implementation of the 2009 budget should be most urgent.”

Transparentelections.org is as critical as ABI but more focused on the technology and software involved. It noted that the Senate approval will not lead to a bicameral process but instead to the Executive level to implement the approved budget. On the technology and software side, Transparentelections.org doubted the openness of the system to be developed (Precinct Count Optical Scan), which will be proprietary, thus, closed-source, much less vendor-driven.

As an alternative, the Open Election System (OES) is being promoted as it is built around open source model, meaning that its source code is open to public scrutiny and that public may have access to election results as it wishes. Moreover, OES is pushed not under a fully automated system, since the  organization sees it as combining manual voting and tallying and automated canvassing.

It is clear that the civil society has not come up with a common stand except perhaps that it is not actually against automation of elections. Unless all three organizations come together and get down to the brass tacks of the issue, at the end of the day, only Kaya Natin! will “win”.

Just my two cents’ worth, I find the stance of Kaya Natin! sounding naive. It’s as if automation under the current system not meeting the prerequisites will be a true success in the end. Moreover, I do empathize with ABI for its pro-poor stance. But I’m more inclined to support Transparentelections.org given my advocacy for free and open source software (FOSS). I’m for social justice and software justice and they are related.

Malacanang, sour-graping on consistently low satisfaction ratings?

When President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2002 got a high approval rating for her government’s fight against corruption, she was ‘very happy’:

“President…today expressed elation over the high sincerity rating given her administration by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) in fighting corruption during its recent survey.”

“I am very happy that it is recognized,” the President said when asked about her reaction to the SWS sincerity rating…”

Former Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao once said that “polling is an important tool for assessing the sentiments and perceptions of our people.”

Barely seven years since that positive rating about Malacanang now comes a news on high dissatisfaction rating on the President.

“Pulse Asia’s February 2009 Ulat ng Bayan Survey found that 46 percent of Filipino adults are dissatisfied with Mrs. Arroyo’s performance, the same rating the President garnered in the last survey conducted in October 2008.”

In connection with Pulse Asia’s survey on the President, Ibon had a survey on whether the President should be removed from office. The survey said: “7 out of 10 Filipinos want GMA removed as President”.

On Ibon, I’m sure that if Tiglao were the same spokesperson today, he would have a rehashed official tirade at Ibon like that in 2002.

For sure, GMA is “not very happy” about the Pulse Asia’s survey despite the efforts that her government has exerted to win back the people’s hearts and minds.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde claimed: “In these times, it is not about being popular but about being right as in the case of the tough fiscal reforms the President had instituted at great personal political cost.”

But Deputy presidential spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo in a separate news maintained that “there is no accurate method of measuring perceptions and as such, the results of the surveys, such as the latest released by Pulse Asia on the performance and trust rating of the President, could not be used as a definitive gauge by the public.”

In a seeming turnaround from high praises of opinion polls to dismissing polls as inaccurate measures of public trust, is Malacanang sour-graping? PR mill must work doubly hard. It’s high time that President Arroyo commissioned studies on her positive side.

Lacson espouses people participation in budget process

GMANews.TV – Lacson bill to let people monitor budget process

Despite my deep frustration at this government (and previous governments), there are occasional good news to be consoled about. Take for example Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s proposed bill recognizing participation of civil society in government’s budget processes. Props to this maverick lawmaker. (Forget about the ghosts of Kuratong Baleleng and Dacer cases that seem to haunt him up to this time.)

I’m sure that the Senator took the cue from the experiences of other countries such as Brazil. Indeed, participatory budgeting is an empowering exercise whereby citizens directly influence the State’s thinking and decision-making as far as fiscal resources are concerned.

Let me just stress that participatory budgeting (as well as other exercises and processes with the modifier ‘participatory’) calls for one thing – enlightening and organizing the real stakeholders, the poor and marginalized. Unless these people are made aware of this, participatory budgeting may just be an exercise between legislators and civil society groups which represent no one but their selves (although they adeptly make legislators believe that they speak on the poor’s and marginalized’s behalf.)

It’s time that social movements took this up.

Books as campaign materials

I couldn’t believe my eyes looking at these books on two US Presidential election candidates. Spend millions of bucks to publish look-good books such as these? Aren’t magazines, newspapers

and broadcast stories enough?

I wonder if the same could be published on Philippines’ own presidential candidates in the runup to  actual elections. Campaigners must sure have toyed with that idea but employing such an intellectual approach would not click with the masses, the very base of votes. The masses can be best reached reached through the broadcast media, also through print.

Samak and Palin: Struggling for Power

Reading Wall Street Journal (Sep 5-7, 2008 issue) on my flight to Bangkok, I came across two articles laid out on a same page about two political leaders of the opposite sex in different countries. Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and Thailand Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej. Both sound like they’re from Mars.

The two have waged the proverbial wars against their respective critics. On the one hand, Palin, 44, the youngest person and first woman to have governed Alaska, at a Republican National Convention, lashed out at those pillorying her as lacking experience to even play second fiddle to a President. She even widened the gap between her and the media when she included it in her speech’s blacklist.

On the other hand, Samak, 73, is playing psycho-war with his nemeses, in government and outside. Amidst a strong movement demanding his ouster and systemic change in Thailand, Samak had the grit to call for a referendum asking the populace whether he should stay or not. Democracy-lovers in the country would not forget his previous red-scare stints where he ordered or worked for the clamp-down on progressives.

Interestingly, Palin is being dismissed as a weakling, while Samak is being painted as too strong to lead a country in search of a real democracy. Two unpopular earthlings faced with the daunting task of surviving scares to their respective political careers. One wants greater power while the other wants to stay in power. Will they eventually survive? It’s definitely worth watching.