Tag Archive | "Politics"

The Isle Of Luzon


From Philippines Congressman Mong Palatino…

There’s a need to highlight the islandness of Luzon. It may be the biggest island in the Philippines but it’s still an island. Its unique ecosystem must be studied in its organic wholeness. Dividing it into five regions and dozens of small provinces had served the parochial objectives of pragmatic politics but it prevented the formation of an island mentality which made it difficult to inspire and mobilize the people to support island-wide initiatives like protecting the environment.

There are no Luzonians or Luzon islanders; only Ilocanos, Kapampangans, Tagalogs, Bicolanos and Indigenous Peoples. (Meanwhile, it’s convenient for Luzon folks and everybody to tag Mindanao as an island and the residents there as Mindanaoans).

There are no Luzon coastal areas, mountain ranges, and watershed zones but there are several beach resorts, provincial pilgrim and trekking sites, and tourist hotspots. The pollution in Manila, the loss of forest cover in Sierra Madre, the destruction of marine habitat in Batangas, the coastal reclamation in Cavite, El Nino in Isabela, red tide in Pangasinan – they are identified as place-specific concerns but they should be regarded as disturbing signs of the deterioration of the quality of life in Luzon.

Luzon’s natural beauty, its precious but finite resources, and even its destructive charms are obscured by the artificial division of the island into several sub-political units. Mayon is part of Albay but its eruption is not the problem of Bicolanos alone. The July 1990 earthquake which hit most parts of Luzon revived the dormant Pinatubo volcano in 1991. The West Valley Fault is not just a threat to Marikina and Quezon City.

How can we push Manilans to act against mining in nearby Bulacan if they fail to see themselves as inhabitants of the same island? How can we clean Manila Bay if our coastal clean-up is limited only in cities and municipalities which have adopted the program? Trees are abundant in NLEX and SLEX but the watersheds are denuded. Our backyard is clean but the surrounding community is filthy. A city, a province, is adjudged clean and green but it means nothing if the island, our Luzon Island, is hurting from our dirty activities.

Understanding Luzon’s geography is essential in formulating policies that would produce a broader impact on the greater population of the island. Sadly, we prefer to plan via micro political units. The potential of localization has been distorted when the traditional bureaucracy dominated it. Grassroots empowerment is impotent if not linked to larger political objectives. There must be a conscious plan to integrate the local with the regional, national, and even global campaigns.

Even the military recognizes the organizational value of establishing its presence in big territories through its several formations in Luzon (North Luzon and South Luzon command, for example). Gloria Arroyo’s super regions identified North Luzon as an agri-business incubator, Mega Manila as the country’s key cyber-corridor, and Bicol as part of the central Philippine tourism hub. But Arroyo’s blueprint, even if it seeks to harness the spatial characteristics of the island, adheres to the neoliberal design of restricting the local economy as mere supplier of raw materials and semi-skilled (but cheap) labor as required and dictated by monopoly capital.

On the other hand, the four-decade old revolutionary movement continues to operate in several fronts in Luzon. It maximizes the terrain of the island to survive the military offensives of its better equipped enemies and to expand its influence in the countryside. But it has yet to prove that it has mastered, at least politically, the changing rural-urban dynamics. In particular, its Red Power which almost dominated old Manila in the past, needs to be recalibrated in the new Mega Manila.

What political education is required to breed a new generation of Luzon islanders who understand the importance of linking the parochial with the bigger territorial issue? We need less island mentality in the Visayas islets but Luzon’s change agents must learn to think and act like an islander. We need to imagine ourselves as tribespeople living and interacting in a big island.

Luzon islanders would oppose the magnetite mining in Ilocos, the construction of a coal-fired power plant in Subic (in a protected area of all places!), the earth-balling (read: cutting) of pine trees in SM Baguio, and the reclamation of Manila Bay (in a bird sanctuary) not simply because they wanted to be eco-warriors (not a bad career choice, though) but as an active affirmation of their commitment to preserve and protect their home. Not all Luzon islanders are dedicated environmentalists but they could easily connect the everyday woes of a distant village to their community issues. Manilans, who would not hesitate to express their disappointment and anger against the continuing pollution in Pasig River, are also expected to support the petition of Nueva Vizcaya to ban all forms of mining in the province because it’s a watershed haven (it supports five mega dams in Luzon).

We need tree-huggers, bird watchers, and nature mystics but no less than the mass mobilization of the greatest number of people is required to save our fragile environment. The popular indignation in the online and also remarkably offline communities against the plan of SM to cut pine trees in the City of Pines is an encouraging sign that we are beginning to understand the interconnectedness of our daily struggles in this part of the archipelago.


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No Country For Young Politicians


From Philippine Congressman Mong Palatino…

There are no young politicians in the Philippines. Politicians are getting younger but their politics remain old. The new faces, the fashionable and adorable ones, come from the same old boring brand. According to the Asian Institute of Management Policy Center, seventy-seven percent (77 percent) of legislators aged 26-40 belong to political dynasties. They are temporary substitutes for parents and relatives who are barred by law from seeking another term for the same position. Worse, there are those who join the family business even if the old timers, the ‘old porkers’, have not yet retired. They flaunt their power and questionable wealth in public while clinging to the conceited belief that only their family members possess the intellectual competence and dedication required for public service. They spend their idle days accumulating more capital for the family hoard while inflating their egos.

Politicians die young. There are rebellious children who are quite ashamed of their family legacy. They are desperate to shed the trapo image. They try to be different by espousing popular advocacies while some are publicly contradicting their relatives. But their idealism is often defeated by the unbearable weight of the old system. How could they fight the trapo old guards in the parliamentary political arena and expect to emerge unscathed? How could they succeed in creating history if they are unable and unwilling to imagine the possibility of political reforms through non-electoral politics? Humbled by their powerlessness and overwhelmed by the sheer complexity of the system, they surrender to the seductive appeal of the status quo. They become reborn reactionaries guided by this mantra: ‘Stop fighting, start compromising. The system is imperfect but we can still make it work. I want to fight but I want to retain my privileges.’ In short, they want their pork and eat it too while the leftover is given to charity. Convinced that fighting the system is a losing battle, they turn their attention to the next elections. And so everyday we see their smiling faces plastered all over the town, we hear and read their awkward one-liners on TV or radio and even on the internet, and we are helpless to their aggressive use of PR magic and media manipulation. Their fulltime day job is to deceive the people through the most sophisticated and even ruthless means. The promising young politician has mutated into a trapo walking dead monster. It’s the worst kind of death.

Youth without youth. The curious case of Juan Ponce Enrile or the rehabilitation of his image from a hated Marcos crony to being the third most important statesman in the country is simply unbelievable. It’s a very disturbing, frightening political phenomenon. His life story teaches the youth that a person can still manage to become respectable in mainstream politics after being loyal to a fascist dictator for many years and despite participating in the bloody mutilation of democratic ideals in society (military dictatorship, human rights violations, coup, dagdag-bawas). It’s scary to see the rise of closet Enrile fans who are impressed with his legal brilliance while seeking to replicate his staying power in politics. Are we then doomed to a future dominated by Enrile zombies? Fortunately, we have the shining example of senior citizen activists as a viable alternative to the figure of Enrile. The 1960s radicals and the First Quarter Storm generation have remained politically relevant despite shunning electoral politics for many decades. Despite their age, they continue to battle the three evils of society (imperialism, bureaucratic capitalism, feudalism). They revived the mass movement and the revolution in their youth and they are still at it. They are the political Harry Potter, the boys and girls who lived (and survived Voldemort/Marcos). They are the political Peter Pan, the boys and girls who refused to grow old. Forget Enrile, who keeps reinventing himself as a fake and pathetic champion of the masses. (Forget Belo too). The secret to eternal youth is to take the road of revolution.


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Top Ten Assassinations of All Time


Benazir Bhutto

Throughout human history, political leaders of all kinds have been killed for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they’re killed because of the threat to authority they represent to those in power, while in other cases they are murdered due to a controversial stance they have taken.  In the most extreme cases, the killer is simply looking for fame or operating under the guise of insanity, with no real reason for his actions. Whatever the case may be, these murders can sometimes have a profound influence on a country, and at times on the world itself.

10. Benazir Bhutto – Former Prime Minister of Pakistan, 2007

While no longer a sitting head of state, Bhuto’s influence on Pakistani politics was considerable. A moderate voice in a country fraught with extremism, her death at the hands of Islamic militants may have single-handedly destroyed any chance the nation might have had for political stability and likely contributed to the general downward spiral the nation has experienced ever since.

9. Reinhard Heydrich – Senior Nazi Official, 1942

Every bit as ruthless and twice as smart as his protégé, Adolf Hitler, the man was being groomed to be the Fuhrer’s successor when he died; had he lived, who knows if he might not of eventually found the kahunas to oust an increasingly frail and delusional Hitler and take the reins of the Third Reich himself—a prospect that could have had profound implications for the allies.

8. Indira Gandhi- Indian Prime Minister, 1984

Indira Gandhi was the voice of modernization whose death resulted in a period of considerable political instability in India for several years afterwards. Though often considered a controversial figure in Indian politics, her influence and desire to bring India into the twentieth century cannot be underestimated, nor the damage done to those plans—at least in the short term—be denied.

7. John F. Kennedy – U.S. President, 1963

While his death had only a minor impact on the political course he had set for the country can never be denied how profoundly his death cast a pall over the American people that has, in some ways, remained to this day. But even more than that, his death resulted in the creation of the entire cottage industry of conspiracy theories, all of which have done much to stoke the fires of paranoia and cynicism that burn so strongly in this country.

6. Mahatma Gandhi – Indian political activist and spiritual leader, 1948

The voice of non-violence in an increasingly violent world, when the emaciated Indian holy man was gunned down on the streets of New Delhi by a university student turned activist, it was a tremendous blow not only to India, but to the entire world. His policies of compassion towards the poor and non-violent resistance served as a blueprint for peaceful change, while his ability to affect both Hindu and Muslim alike made peace—of a kind—possible in his war-torn nation.

5. Julius Caesar – Emperor of Rome, 44BCE

The murder of Rome’s greatest general and first emperor at the hands of his own senators set the Roman Empire on a course that was to set her on the path of centuries of turmoil and treachery. What Rome might have looked like had he stayed in power is unknown, of course, but it’s likely the transition of power in the future would have been a far less messy affair.

4. Martin Luther King, Jr. – Civil Rights Activist, 1968

While it’s impossible to know how things would have gone for the black community in the late sixties and early seventies had King not been silenced by an assassin, the loss of their chief spokesman was unquestionably a huge blow to the entire civil rights movement.

3. Alexander II – Tsar of Russia, 1881

His death at the hands of terrorists in March of 1881 changed the course of Russia for the bad. Something of an enlightened monarch and a reformer, he was on the verge of creating a parliament in Russia at the time of his death, which likely would have led to the countries’ eventual democratization. Instead, his successors decided to take a more heavy handed approach, resulting in thirty more years of oppressive and corrupt leadership and sowing the seeds for the 1917 revolution that would introduce Communism to the world, the effects of which we are still feeling today.

2. Abraham Lincoln – U.S. President, 1865

No assassination has had as great an impact on a country than did that of the sixteenth president of the United States. His death was disastrous to the south as well, who would have fared much better under Lincoln’s conciliatory hand in the aftermath of the Civil War than it did under Andrew Johnson and subsequent administrations. In fact, it could be said that because of Booth’s treachery likely contributed greatly to the oppression of blacks in the south.

1. Archduke Franz Ferdinand – Heir Apparent to Austro-Hungarian Throne, 1914

The death of the Archduke and his wife as they rode in an open car through the streets of Sarajevo had immediate and profound repercussions. The problem was that the assassin was part of a group that had ties to the Serbian military itself; as such, in a world-class case of overreaction, Austro-Hungary held the Serbian government complicit in the murder and set in motion the wheels of war which would, in turn, start a chain of events that would, over the course a just a few weeks, not only bring the two countries to blows, but would drag the entire continent into the fray with it. The result? World War One—arguably one of the bloodiest and most futile conflicts in history. (Final death toll: 15 million.)




Original Posted in Toptenz. 


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The Fiction Of History


From Philippines Congressman Mong Palatino…

Do not underestimate the power of historians (repeat, but this time mimic the voice of Darth Vader). And speaking of influential historians, the first name that comes to my mind is Teodoro Agoncillo. It was his fault why the ‘Cry’ of the Katipunan is called the ‘Cry of Pugadlawin’ and why it is celebrated on August 23. Historians are still debating whether it happened in Pugadlawin, Caloocan, or Balintawak and there is still no consensus on the exact date of the ‘cry’. But Agoncillo used his considerable influence to force the government to proclaim that the historic event took place somewhere in Pugadlawin on August 23. Thanks to Agoncillo’s successful lobbying, what was a vague historical moment instantly became a precise historical fact through an official state decree.

But Agoncillo’s persuasive power did not only apply to government officials. He was popular because he championed the study and writing of history that adopts the Filipino point of view which was considered a radical type of historiography in the 1950s and 1960s. The other main proponent of this school of thought was Renato Constantino. Both of them advocated the recognition of history from ‘below.’ They asserted that the history of the ‘inarticulate’, the story of the masses deserve special attention. That universities continue to require students to read the books of Agoncillo-Constantino is proof of the enduring appeal and relevance of the ideas popularized by these two great Filipino historians of the 20th century.

The works of the two scholars may have also helped in reviving the student and mass movement in the 1960s. The thesis of Agoncillo-Constantino which identified the 1896 revolution as the defining moment in Philippine history complements the Marxist analysis of class struggles in society. Their books inspired a generation of students to link the unfinished revolution of the Katipunan with the declared commitment of youth activists to serve the people and rebel against an unjust social order.

Joma Sison, the country’s most famous communist theoretician, echoed the nationalist viewpoints of Agoncillo-Constantino in his writings. The foreword of his book, Struggle for National Democracy, was written by Agoncillo himself. The first part of Philippine Society and Revolution, regarded as the country’s red book, subscribed to the outline/paradigm proposed by Agoncillo-Constantino in narrating the history of Philippine society.

Reynaldo Ileto, another popular historian, observed that those who read the books of Agoncillo-Constantino became the primemovers of the radical movement in the late 1960s. He wrote that a new historical consciousness was necessary in order to ditch the reformist Rizal and embrace the revolutionary Bonifacio.

Ileto further wrote: “By the 1980s, the Agoncillo/Constantino/Amado Guerrero historical construct had become fully established among a generation of students and intellecutals…sons and daughters of well-off families, having been fed a healthy dose of the Agoncillo/Constantino variant of history, did throw down their books and man the barricades in 1970-1971; quite a number of them even went to the hills after martial law was declared, and some have been killed by the military.”

Agoncillo himself acknowledged the impact of his writings on how rallies are conducted in the country. Asked about his major contribution to Philippine historiography, he mentioned that Bonifacio was only one of the obscure heroes of the Philippine revolution but the Katipunan founder eventually gained the recognition he deserves as a national hero because of Agoncillo’s writings. “Kapag may rally, sa Liwasang Bonifacio pumupunta ang mga tao; hindi sa Rizal Shrine sa Luneta,” Agoncillo casually remarked during an interview.

“Sentimentalists of the status quo”

Nationalist historians are still visible in the academe but their influence has been dwindling over the years and their researches are seldom reviewed in the mainstream press. Government institutions and politicians no longer seek their opinion. Today’s popular historians are gossip mongers, socialite writers, and speechwriters of politicians. They are fanatical defenders of the conservative tradition, obsessive-compulsive record keepers of the activities of their elite ancestors, and hostile critics of forces that seek to create history. In short, they are ‘sentimentalists of the status quo’ (Badiou). What is alarming is that they are able to hide their real political intent by renouncing partisanship to any ideology. They claim to be historians who believe in objectivity but this is far from the truth. Their version of history is dangerous because it overemphasizes the role of superegoistic individuals while ignoring the political activities of the masses and other anonymous collectives.

The rise of conservative popular historians coincided with the intensifying suppression of leftist opposition movements. As the political left gains strength, conservative popular historians become more malicious and wicked in their anti-left rant; and their sophistication in hiding their political bias gives way to an open categorical attack against leftist forces.

We need popular historians who are respectful of the historical struggles of the poor. It is not wrong for popular historians to work in government as salaried underlings but they should at least recognize that the course of history is not only dictated by the actions of their masters but also by the persuasive actions of ordinary people.

Agoncillo and Constantino were popular historians who respected the right of the masses to create history. They were not communists but at least they were intelligent scholars who understood that revolutions and social struggles are serious and legitimate topics that should not be trivialized


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And The Winner Is… Catholicism


From Larry Wohlgemuth…

While the tea party ostensibly labors for the return to constitutional governance (no, that’s not a joke) it’s easy to see other hands at work. Several tea party factions have been co-opted by fundamentalist Christians. It’s written all over their signage.

They long for the “good old days”, like back when white people were white and black people were scared shitless. It was a time when your children could pray openly to Jesus in the classroom, getting their heads right for the Klan rally and cross burning on Saturday night. Makes you long for simpler days, doesn’t it?

Now they howl for a return to principles which, if rightly understood, would be the last thing they would want. Their true desires are to exercise a degree of hegemony over other races and classes of people like they did in the 1950s. They couldn’t be more transparent.

These fundies, having gotten a few of their candidates elected, will be clamoring to post the Ten Commandments and reinstate prayer in schools. They see this as a time when the United States will turn its back on sin and return to its “core principles.” It begs the question, do these people have the slightest clue about anything they say?

Christine O’Donnell, the anti-masturbatory candidate from the Jesus party in Delaware, demanded her opponent explain where the words “separation of church and state” appeared in the First Amendment. Well of course he couldn’t, because those words were spoken by Thomas Jefferson in a letter to the Danbury Baptists to elucidate the Establishment Clause to them.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

Thomas Jefferson ~excerpt from Letter to Danbury Baptists January 1, 1802

As the main framer of the Constitution, Jefferson was an expert on its intent, and clearly it restricted the state from establishing any religion. This followed the government’s claim in article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli in 1797:

Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

Since most of the founders were Deists it seems unlikely that their intent would have been to establish a nation based on the Christian myth. Clearly their writing say as much, but suppose their intent was to create a Christian nation, then whose Christianity would it be? Everybody who wants to see this as a Christian theocracy imagines the dogma would mirror their personal beliefs exactly, but how would that be possible? Since you can’t get any two Christians to even agree on which Bible version to use, how would they ever compromise to create a theocracy?

A cursory review of the data says that Protestant Jesus wins, however closer examination shows a multiplicity of denominations with widely varying and irreconcilable theological disparities. Baptists by far are the largest Protestant denomination, but they make up only 16.5% of the population. They are far outdistanced by the Catholics at 24.5%. For Protestantism to rule would require an unlikely coalition between Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Pentecostals and Presbyterians.

Then you have the minor denominations like the Assemblies of God, Mormon/LDS, Church of Christ and Jehovah’s Witnesses; a more disparate group you could not find. While the Methodists, Lutherans and Presbyterians might be able to work together, they comprise a paltry 14% of the adult population. And the Baptists, well, they vomit in their mouths at the thought of these “lukewarm” denominations. They are certain God will send all mainstream, non-Baptist Protestants to hell.

Since a Protestant coalition acceptable to all is inconceivable, by default we would become a Catholic nation, but hasn’t that been tried before? I seem to recall something in the history books about Inquisitions, Crusades and other generally less than acceptable behaviors on the part of the Catholic Church. Plus we can’t forget how fond they all are of buggering little boys, so I think in the court of public opinion that most would find theocratic Catholicism unacceptable.

So how in the world can we ever get God wedged back into everyone’s lives whether they want it or not? More importantly, how can we do it so that OUR beliefs (which we know are the only TRUE beliefs) are the ones taught in school? How do we make sure that one of the false religions like (insert name of your least favorite Christian denomination here) doesn’t get to impose their will and false doctrine upon us? While I don’t believe Christine O’Donnell could ever think this critically, if you have an IQ above seven and can fog a mirror it’s starting to make sense to you now.

This was exactly the scenario that Jefferson anticipated, and the crux of his explanation to the Danbury Baptists about why they shouldn’t demand a national religion. His argument was, that unless you find yourself in the majority, you might be forced to embrace dogma with which you disagree. Though the Baptists were in a majority in colonial times, today they would find themselves subservient to Catholics. Baptists generally refer to Catholicism as the whore church, so it’s unlikely they would be happy with that circumstance.

While visions of theocratic rule dance in the heads of men like James Dobson and Billy Graham, the fact is they would be serving as butt-boys to Pope Benny the Rat and his cadre of boy-buggering wilde-priests. It would almost be enough to make you laugh except we would all be in the same position, and that’s on our hands and knees.

So as teabaggers display their buffoonery, they can rest secure with the knowledge that the Constitution protects them even though they don’t understand how it works. In this case the worst thing for them would be to get that for which they wish, because the law of unintended consequences would quickly convince them of their error. Unfortunately that’s a deal that once it’s done, too bad, so sad.

It makes you wonder if most of them deserve the protections that the Constitution affords. And Christine, you are correct, the words “separation of church and state” do not appear anywhere in the document although clearly that is the intent, however you have to be able to think more than uni-dimensionally to understand it. That leaves you and most of your teabagger friends out.


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Generation Lost


From Filipino Congressman Mong Palatino…

The Philippine-American War claimed the lives of one million Filipinos and nearly wiped out the country’s carabaos (we had to import water buffaloes from Indonesia after the war). In Balangiga, Samar Province, no adults were allowed to survive. Those who died in the anti-colonial struggle were veterans of the 1896 Revolution. They were young and brave Filipinos who fought and defeated the Spanish colonizers. They belonged to a generation that was ready to fight for the dignity, honor, and independence of the new nation. This lost generation, unfortunately, was replaced by sons and daughters of ilustrados whose preferred political tactic was to peacefully collaborate with the American colonial masters. So instead of building a nation based on the blueprint designed by the revolutionary leaders of Katipunan, the prominent Filipinos leaders in the 1920s and 1930s were scions of landlord politicians whose idea of radical politics was to beg for bureaucratic reforms in the American civil government.

Another war, the Second World War, led to one million deaths in the Philippines. In Bataan peninsula alone, the adult population was almost wiped out during the Japanese invasion. Those who survived the war are known as the country’s war veterans but we should also remember those who perished in the war especially members of the communist-led Huk army. These young idealist Filipinos could have provided an alternative politics after the war – politics that embodies the yearning of Filipinos for genuine emancipation from colonial bondage. But this generation, the generation of Huk fighters, was again replaced by ilustrados who were loyal subjects of the American and even Japanese masters. The revolutionary project was torpedoed once more by pro-US dynasties and oligarchs.

The next flashpoint in Philippine mainstream history was the 20-year Marcos dictatorship. During the Martial Law years, thousands of freedom-loving young Filipinos joined the anti-Marcos struggle. Some of them came from affluent families but have decided to risk everything, even their lives, to fight the fascist dictator. This generation produced the country’s new heroes in the postwar era. The loss is immense; these martyrs could have succeeded in parliamentary politics and could have provided a more patriotic type of leadership after the downfall of Marcos. Sadly, the vacuum was filled by showbiz politicians like Erap, trapos like Arroyo, and returning oligarchs like Noy.

The Marcos years hastened the maturity of young Filipinos in the 1970s. Activist teenagers were forced to act as adults to avoid incarceration or death. For example, the duties and tasks performed by college undergrads for the revolutionary movement were difficult and extensive like building organs of red power in provinces throughout the country. On the other hand, those who were imprisoned and tortured were deprived of the chance to interact with the rest of society. It is interesting to probe if the Martial Law political prisoners became older or younger during those years. Case in point: Satur Ocampo is 71 years old today but he was in prison for 9 years during the Marcos regime. Does this mean he is only 62 years old? But the torture marks on his body have also weakened him. Satur’s mind and willpower may be younger and stronger but his body could be older than 71.

In Japan, the concept of lost generation is related to the economic crisis in the 1990s which produced a generation of young Japanese with no full-time employment. Using the economy as a yardstick, we can describe migrant Filipinos (from OCW to OFW) as belonging to the lost generation. They are talented Filipinos who are forced to wander in other countries to pursue their dreams. Can the dollar remittances compensate for the loss of our skilled human resources?

The labor export policy also created another lost generation – the children of OFWs. They grew up while their parents are far away. Parenting in these modern times is accomplished through letters, telephone conversations, and internet chat. Often, OFW parents shower their children with consumer goods to ease the guilt of leaving their families. What is worse is that children of OFWs will grow old thinking that earning money and fulfilling a dream can only be realized by migrating to distant shores. Isn’t it tragic that a generation of Filipinos is holding on to a believable fiction that life is always better in other countries?

It is not only wars and economic difficulties that destroy the future of a generation. Today there is a real danger of “losing” the attention and support of young Filipino internet users. It is alarming to see young people who are withdrawing from the social because they are too enamored with their virtual lives. It is even more distressing to read and hear impassioned statements that young Filipinos are ready to fight for justice and democracy in the safety of their online communities. They want to change the world by blogging and tweeting about it. They are satisfied with facebook debates. Are we the lost generation of the early 21st century Philippines?


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Animals and Darklords: Election time in the Philippines


From Filipino Congressman Mong Palatino…

Should animal rights activists be concerned with how Filipino politicians describe their enemies as animals?

To bolster his anti-corruption campaign message, senatorial candidate Teofisto Guingona III made a somewhat funny TV ad which showed him punching an animated crocodile. At the end of the video, Guingona shouts that he is angry at crocodiles (‘Galit ako sa buwaya’). Corrupt politicians in the Philippines are often compared to crocodiles.

Critics of vice presidential bet Loren Legarda have lampooned the lady senator as a ‘political butterfly’ in reference to her frequent changing of party affiliations. Members of Congress are called ‘porky’ solons because of their obsession with pork barrel projects. Presidential son Mikey Arroyo was compared to a pig by activists because of his intention to become a partylist representative. Partylist bets are supposed to come from the marginalized sectors of society. The ‘pig’ label is a metaphor for what activists describe as the bastardization of the partylist system. Meanwhile, administration members who are defecting to other parties are called rats who are abandoning a sinking ship.

Political mudslinging by animal-calling is not new. Former presidential daughter Imee Marcos described Malacanang Palace as a snake-pit. President Gloria Arroyo called her critics termites destroying the foundations of the Republic. Senator Miriam Santiago mocked a fellow lady politician by calling her an ‘anonymous little insect.’

If in other countries calling someone chicken is an allusion to the weak character of the person, in the Philippines it means the person is backed by a powerful leader. A candidate who is identified as manok (chicken) of Arroyo means the candidate is a favored candidate of Arroyo. Meanwhile, sisiw (chicks) is a term used by confident candidates to refer to their weak rivals.

Some politicians are proud animal lovers. Ilocos Sur Governor Chavit Singson has opened a mini-zoo in his residential palace. His Siberian and Bengal Tigers are always shown on TV. Mandaluyong City Mayor Benhur Abalos also uses the tiger as symbol of the city. Former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza prefers the eagle as an icon. One of his campaign slogans is ‘Pagbabalik ng Lawin’ (Return of the Hawk). A group of cockfighters wants to enter congress through the partylist system.

Most animals are gentle beasts but they are often misunderstood by humans. The perceived ferociousness of animals is often compared to the wild behavior of politicians. This is unfair to animals. Maybe animal rights groups should warn politicians and writers to stop abusing the good image of animals. They may be animals but they are not as greedy, slothful and vicious as their human counterparts in politics.

Underworld politics

Gambling lords. Warlords. Drug lords. Despotic landlords.

These are the superstars of the Philippine underworld. Their armed goons and almost limitless wealth make them powerful political kingpins and kingmakers. Businessmen go to them for protection, priests request donations from them and politicians want to be cozy with them. Today, many of these ‘dark lords’ are aspiring for public office. Maybe, like Michael Corleone from the film The Godfather they wanted to be legitimate.

Gambling lords are more popularly known as ‘Jueteng’ lords. Jueteng is an illegal numbers game in the provinces. It is similar to a small town lottery but it is outlawed by the state. There are jueteng winners everyday and most of them are farmers and small income earners who hope to receive extra cash from betting on their favorite numbers. But the bigger winners are jueteng lords who operate the game and collect the dividends every evening. To escape arrest, jueteng lords pay protection money to police, local officials and national politicians. Former President Joseph Estrada was impeached in 2000 because of an allegation that he was receiving jueteng protection money.

Some suspected jueteng lords have crossed-over to mainstream politics. Lilia Pineda, wife of an alleged jueteng boss in Central Luzon, was elected board member of Pampanga, the home province of the president. Pineda’s son is even godson of the president. Pineda is now running for governor. Armand Sanchez of Batangas is another suspected jueteng strongman in the Southern Tagalog region. Sanchez was elected governor of Batangas and is hoping to reclaim his seat this year.

Drug lords are in the limelight today because of a recently released US State Department report which warned that drug money would be used to influence the results of this year’s elections. The value of illegal drug trade in the country is estimated at about $8.4 billion. Government officials admit that narco-politics is already entrenched in various parts of the country. A city mayor in Metro Manila was tagged last month by the police as coddler of suspected drug lords.

A warlord is a broad name for politicians or leaders who control a private army. Warlords are feared because they act as little presidents and little generals in their turf. The most notorious warlord today is Maguindanao leader Andal Ampatuan who is accused of masterminding the gruesome election-related massacre of 57 civilians last November. But Ampatuan is just the kingpin of Maguindanao. There are 85 provinces in the Philippines and each province is dominated by one or several warlords. According to the police, there are at least 112 private armies operating in the country.

Despotic landlords are the royal families of feudal Philippines. These landlords continue to own huge tracts of prime agricultural lands despite the implementation of numerous land reform programs in the past decades. In many provinces, despotic landlords are also the reigning political dynasties and warlords. Landlords who own the biggest land in the province can easily win during elections because majority of voters are their tenants. Activists have accused the Cojuangco-Aquino family, the owner of the biggest family-owned plantation in Southeast Asia, of being despotic landlords who ordered the killing of 14 protesting farmers in 2004.

The other prominent ‘dark lords’ of Philippine politics are the smuggling lords, quarrying lords and fake lords who invoke the name of God during elections.

The underworld bosses become more influential during elections because of their money and armed machinery. Instead of herding them to jail, they are glorified as kingmakers and philanthropists. Some suspected shady characters are even running for public office. The influence of ‘dark lords’ in politics is often compared to the sun. On a cloudy day we do not see the sun yet we feel its mighty presence and harmful ultraviolet rays.

‘Dark lords’ are an anathema in a democratic country like the Philippines. Like the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun which destroy life on the planet, ‘dark lords’ and other underworld untouchables weaken the democratic potential of politics.


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The Politics Of A King


jordan-obamameetskingabdullahFrom David Anthony Hohol…

Earlier this month, on the eve of his trip to Washington, Jordan’s King Abdullah II warned if peace in the Middle East cannot be achieved, then Israel’s long-term future is in jeopardy.  

The young Monarch declared, “I think the long-term future of Israel is in jeopardy unless we solve our problems. I think wasting too much time is something that we all have to be very concerned about because there is tremendous tension in the region.”

“Over the Israeli-Lebanese border; if you spoke to some Lebanese today they feel there is going to be a war any second. It looks like there is an attempt by certain groups to promote a third intifada, which would be disastrous. Jerusalem as you are well aware is a tinderbox that could go off at any time, and then there is the overriding concern about military action between Israel and Iran,” King Abdullah said.

“So with all these things in the background, the status quo is not acceptable; what will happen is that we will continue to go around in circles until the conflict erupts, and there will be suffering by peoples because there will be a war.”

King Abdullah also stated that the Arab World cannot always count on the United States to solve thier problems, most notably due to the fact they have many other priorities at the moment, with rebuilding the econony being most important to America at present.

“The economic challenges have also not helped in prioritizing the peace process. Having said that, I know very well that Obama and his administration are extremely committed to the two-state solution and moving the process forward. But they’ve had other things to deal with,” he said.

The King claimed the next few months are to be as important to the peace process as any other time in recent memory. “It is Jordan’s job is to keep common sense and keep hope alive until America can bring its full weight on the Israelis and the Palestinians to get their act together and move the process forward,” he decalred.

He went on to state events over the last two years have made him “extremely skeptical and concerned” about Israeli policy. He also claimed that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “does not mean that this evil will evaporate, but definitely, it will take a big chunk out of the challenges that we have in this region.”

It should be noted that Kind Abdullah is roundly considered to be an incompetent and self-righteous leader by most Jordanians. If a stranger asks them for their thoughts on Abdullah, they will sing his praises however, as there is a zero tolerance policy when it comes to criticizing the King. Jordanian citizens have been jailed, tortured or worse for offering negative commentary on Abdullah’s leadership.

This fear generates the false apotheosis of Abdullah. Pictures and billboards of the King are every in Amman. Shops are named after him and photos of the King adorn the walls of even the smallest businesses. To the outsider, once again it appears that the people love their King, but this is also done out of fear. Further still, all those businesses who name their shops after the King and display his pictures and photos are given a tax break for doing so.

Lastly, throughout the Middle East, King Abdullah’s family are seen as traitors. Jordan is the only Arab country to sign a “peace deal” with Israel – a deal that amounted to little more than Kind Abdullah receiving payments from the Israeli government, so Jordan could be pointed to by the Israelis as an example of a “cooperative” Arab country. This deal was signed by his father King Hussein , while his grandfather, King Abdullah I, was killed by Palestinians for working with Israel to secure Palestine as their own. While Egypt and  Saudi Arabia are considered the other two betrayers by Palestine, for Palestinians, there is no greater traitor than the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.      

The King recently stated that Jordan was better off financially before the peace treaty with Israel, which some have called tough language. In reality, it’s just politcal pandering to the recently tough stance on Israel by Obama’s administration.  Abdullah sat in silence, as did much of the Arab World, during the Bush presidency and most notably didn’t make so much as a sound during the slaughter in Gaza. What made his refusal to engage at that time so remarkable is that two thirds of the Jordanian population is made up of displaced Palestinians. The current falling out between the US and Israel has led to Abdullah jumping on board and this is why so many of his people  despise him – he will go whichever way the wind is blowing, just as long as it is good for him; whether it is good or bad for his people comes second.

Abdullah just returned from a trip to Washington where, for all intents and purposes, he left a good impression of himself.  Despite what anyone might think of him, he is a a strategic thinker,  extremely artculate, and well spoken. He said all the right things in terms of Israel, Iran and Palestine and to his credit, projects an affiable and moderate image of the Arab World to the West. 

With that said,  some of Abdullah’s attrubites make him a typical Arab leader, ruling with an iron fist and not tolerating criticism of any kind from his people. He just does it as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a rather Western concept as most Arab World leaders don’t even bother pretending they’re being fair with their people.  It seems his expensive American education, a Political Science Degree in International Affairs from Georgetown University in none other than Washington DC,  has truly paid off.  Make no mistake, Abdullah is as smart as they come and in the end, he is showing himself to be more an accomplished politician than a King. Think of him what you will, the 48 year-old Monarch is a new breed of Arab World leader and one that will undoubtedly survive for decades to come.


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Stand in the Corner – Congress at Play



Anthony Weiner is a Congressman  in the old fashioned tradition, a leading voice in the fight for reform, and a left wing democrat. He’s been at the forefront of the fight for the Public Option in American Healthcare from the very beginning and hasn’t let up for a minute. It’s RELATIVTY OnLine’s humble opinion that American Congress needs more lawmakers like him.

Watch as Weiner rips the Republican Party a new one, calling them a “wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry.”

After his comments, he is asked to temporarily step down from the podium – the congressional of equivalent of being told to stand in the corner – and his words are ordered withdrawn. Upon his return, he agrees to withdraw his words. When given the chance to continue however,  he throws a hard right hand lead at the Republican Party yet again. Word has it that Weiner is now considering a UFC Heavyweight Title shot.


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Does the fact that Barack Obama is black and the son of an African Muslim contribute to the radical nature of those who oppose his policies?

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