Social Movements

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.

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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.

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.

Teethlessly restless

Just learned this lesson on the Day 1 of Mekong ICT Camp. In front of a public, it’s not enough that you’ve got a great presentation and prepared mind; you’ve got to have your dentures on.

The morning session of Track 3:  Computer Networking went fine, almost without any glitch. I think I gave justice to the introduction part. (I was overjoyed because I was able to pick up something from the intro Impress presentation to apply to the hands-on exercise later: I naturally was able to determine with the participants the types [note the ‘s’] of computer network that we were going to set up [scale: LAN; connection method: ethernet; architecture: peer-to-peer; topology: fully-connected; and protocol: TCP/IP].)

But, yesterday, I was taking my lunch together with several participants when something horrible happened. My upper denture cracked into two pieces cross-wise. It would have been OK had the crack been length-wise, meaning that there would have been some teeth remaining in front. But almost the entire frontal teeth got lost. It was the fault of the half-cooked vegetable that I found hard to bite into pieces. Ah, no. It was me. I forgot that my dentures are already weak (after about 10 years of use). I should have been extra careful.

When that happened, my blood pressure shot up. I felt crappy and frenetic. I didn’t know what to do. I went to a CR and wished that I’d stay inside like forever until fairy godmother appeared and granted my wish for a repaired denture. My first recourse was to hunt Klaikong and seek help. I wanted to rush to a clinic, which he was able to grant. Good thing he was able to convince his director to bring me to Phiathai Hospital in another place of Chonburi.

While I was in the hospital’s dental clinic (which lasted over two hours while trying to make out Thai teledrama shown on overhead TV), two things kept on taunting me: The cost of the denture’s repair and the afternoon session which I should have facilitated. I also should have learned from the specific part on thin client setup, which my teammate Somsak handled.

I ask you: Can you stand talking to people without that pearly enamel set in your mouth? Because I’m not sure whether your public would stand looking at you looking like doing a stand-up comedy act.

Thanks to the kindness of  Klaikong’s Director and friend volunteer, I am now back in my dentally-complete self. I’ve been talking to people and facilitating sessions with a teethy smile.

Meeting my Asian tech siblings (Day -1 of Mekong ICT Camp)

It was a great pleasure to meet with tech siblings from various parts of Asia last night. It was already 12:30 am by my machine clock (which remains set to +8 timezone) but I didn’t feel any sign of enervation from my long day (I had waited over an hour at the long queue for the Suvarnabhumi Airport passport control and spent another hour walking here and there at the exit area to look for peeps assigned to fetch me).

Look who these tech siblings I met were: Klaikong, Bobby, Andy, Allen, Sam, and Wai. After taking dinner at 9pm, the gang met at the Santi Room in about half an hour. The only thing (but not necessarily the easy one) discussed was the schedule. Bobby started the ball rolling by proposing that the Mekong ICT Camp be hewed to the Asiasource camp setup: All tracks in the morning, all breakout sessions in the afternoon. (Images of Allen Gunn and Tactical Tech peeps came to mind.)

Colleagues were fastidious; I wasn’t. I’m sure they observed so. Honestly, I came to the camp solely for the Track 3: Computer Networking. I was particularly concerned on how that track (where there will be only 7 participants [out of 60 plus]) would turn out. My silent attitude was: “Just get it over with and let me proceed with developing my module on wired networking.”

Nevertheless, I was still pleased to meet with these techie guys (I feel sad that there were no techie gals) and beating brains out while peeling, biting, chewing and swallowing sweet-smelling Thai oranges.

Support popular protest in Burma!


The writing on the wall says that Burma is on its way to achieving real freedom from military dictatorship. More and more Burmese people have joined over 30,000 monks who are in the forefront of the march since Monday. This has ushered in the groundswell of the movement that opposes the current form of government in Burma, which has not done any to address the country’s chronic problems of poverty, lack of access to basic social services, and the general feeling of insecurity in the society.

As of this writing, there are already over 100,000 protesters. And people remain unfazed despite the draconian curfew rule that the government has just promulgated. (See Yahoo! News slideshow on Myanmar protests.)

The Burmese people need our help. Let’s pray for the success of their cause, that there may be no bloodshed as a result of government’s counter-pressure to stop them. Let’s also sign up to two online petitions that are targetted to gather support from the world and to pressure other governments and the UN Security Council to intervene in the seemingly insurmountable political crisis in Burma:

An appeal to the UN Security Council to protect the people of Burma

Stand with the Burmese Protesters

Let’s prod all our fellow bloggers and online loved ones and friends to do the same: Pray for the safety and success of the Burmese protesters and sign the online petitions.

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