Monday, October 31, 2005

ABSCBN Anchor Tags Defensor's Man In Terror Suspect's Bail Release

RELATED POSTS:

The Julius Babao Affair and the Missing Terrorist

Philippine Government Captured the Wrong One-Armed Bandit Terrorist?

ABSCBN Strikes A Blow for Press Freedom?

Will Bloggers Get Clobbered in the Philippines?

Or go to the latest Philippine Commentary

John Nery at the Newsstand points to this article in PDI Sunday in which
"President Macapagal-Arroyo has named ABS-CBN broadcaster Julius Babao as the one who provided bail for a leader of the group of Islamic converts allegedly allied with the regional terrorist network Jemaah Islamiyah."
ABS-CBN, the Philippines largest tv and radio network, reacted swiftly to the published accusation, posting this strongly worded article on its website at 5:57 pm Sunday,
ABS-CBN on Sunday denied a newspaper report naming TV Patrol World newscaster Julius Babao as the one who allegedly provided bail for terror suspect Dawud Santos.

Santos was tagged as the leader of Rajah Solaiman Movement (RSM), which has alleged ties to terror group Jema'ah Islamiyah.

ABS-CBN said its "code of ethics prohibits it from intervening in legal processes."

The network said after Babao's scoop was aired, TV Patrol World reported an exclusive interview with the military intelligence agent who investigated Dawud and lamented the lack of an anti-terrorism law in the country, which would have made the charge of terrorism a non-bailable offense.

"ABS-CBN condemns in the strongest terms this insidious move on the part of the government and its agents to point the finger at media to cover up for its own indecision and inaction," the network said in a statement.


What is more, as the Newsstand post points out, ABS-CBN's early morning show anchor, broadcaster Julius Babao, claims it was Environment Secretary Michael Defensor's asset, Jonathan Tiongco who posted bail for the suspected leader of the "Rajah Solaiman Movement" when he was arrested last March in connection with the Valentine's Day terrorist bomb attack in Manila. That man is the same person arrested the other day, and is claimed to have been with the nice gentleman whose face you see nearby...Meet DULMATIN aka AMAR USMAN who has a $10 million price tag on his capture--DEAD or ALIVE--an amount right up there with the rewards on offer for Osama bin Laden and Muhammad al-Zarqawi (both at $25 million dollars). Wanted in connection with the Second Bali Bombing a month ago, Dulmatin is described at the Rewards for Justice Center of the United States as:
an electronics specialist with training in al-Qa'ida camps in Afghanistan, is a senior figure in the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist organization.He is believed to have been one of the masterminds behind the 2002 bombings in Bali, Indonesia, which killed 202 people, including seven U.S. citizens. Dulmatin is a mid to late 30's, Javanese Arabic man, 172 cm tall, weighing 70 kgs, with a brown complexion.
The BBC calls him the "genius of the Jemaah Islamiyah".

So who let the dogs out? Woof! Woof! Well, as the Newsstand and PDI articles point out, the lawyer who handled Santos' case in March, the well known Atty. Homobono Adaza, confirmed that the bail money was paid by Sec. Defensor's man, Jonathan Tiongco, who has played also no small role in the coverup activities in Gloriagate. John Nery says,
Babao has not only denied ever paying for Santos' bail; he pinpoints exactly who paid for it: Jonathan Tiongco, the controversial political operator whom Sec. Mike Defensor once used as an audio expert to debunk the Hello Garci tapes. Homobono "Asterisk" Adaza, who represented Santos upon Tiongco's request, confirmed in two interviews with the Inquirer that it was in fact Tiongco who arranged for the bail.
Dulmatin has been much in the news lately because there has been a furious manhunt for him and other Jemaah Islamiyah malevolents in Mindanao. Philippine troops assisted by Australian and American forces have so far only captured the younger brother--Duwad Santos--of the founder of the Rajah Solaiman MOvement--Ahmed Santos--who is still at large. The military has made as much as possible from the capture of Duwad, his wife and young son as "key militants" who were with Dulmatin recently.

Now, is John Nery right about this being another "trial balloon" to test the perimeters of press freedom? Of course, we don't really know what the Palace is thinking as the original PDI article said Pres. Arroyo accused Babao to Ramon Tulfo--who is a main fixture in the demagagosphere to be sure, and capable of anything when it comes to "information". But I understand the fear. Many parts of the main and blog stream media are openly sympathetic to various left wing causes and oppose American and Philippine government policies in the War on Terror.

HAVE A HAPPY HALLOWEEN, A Girl-on-the-Right has invited you to a Halloween Party...Go to the Cotillon for a wicked time...




...YOU CAN EMAIL THIS POST TO ALL YOUR FRIENDS BY CLICKING THE LIL ENVELOPE BELOW...What better Halloween Trick or Treat than a chance to earn a TEN MILLION DOLLAR REWARD?

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the Veto Holders

I know, I know, the title sounds a lot like "Gary Lewis and the Playboys," whom I saw Friday night at the Araneta Coliseum, upon the gentle insistence of Mrs. Philippine Commentary!. Well, the son of Jerry Lewis apparently still has many fans in the Philippine Archipelago, judging by the full house of geriatric rock-n-rollers present who knew by heart the complex lyrics of "This Diamond Ring" and can still dance the bye-bye--fast!.

Anyway, this is really a continuation of my last post Game Theory and Gloriagate. It is my "game-theoretic model" of the relationship between President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the three main forces that saved her from certain doom last July and therefore hold VETOES on her continued stay in power: (1) the US Government, which has stayed perfectly, and properly, neutral on Gloriagate, at least on the surface; (2) the Catholic Church hierarchy, which has defined perfectly and properly the moral perimeters and points of intersection with Gospel teachings of Gloriagate while taking no action; and (3) what I call the Military-Political Complex, headed, but not necessarily dominated by former President Fidel Ramos and House Speaker Jose de Venecia.

I think it is a very useful thing to consider these three forces, together with President Arroyo, as being involved in what the game theorists who won this year's Nobel Prize in Economics, might have designated as an Assymetric Multiplayer Prisoners Dilemma.

The "Prisoners Dilemma" as a tool of game theory for modelling cooperation and strategies in conflict situations was first described in the 1950s by researchers at the Rand Corporation. Here is a modern explanation of the Prisoners Dilemma from Principia Cybernetica. In fact you can play the game interactively yourself at this website!

The useful insight gained by studying the Prisoners Dilemma is into the possible choices that rational players in such a real-life game might make under various circumstances.

In the particular case of Gloriagate, I guess I am saying that all three veto holders, the US, FVR and the Church, "know" that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo rigged the 2004 vote ("the crime") but performed an act of "jury nullification" by "vetoing" her downfall. They prevented it both by sending the appropriate signals to all other stakeholders, as in the case of the US and the Church; and by taking direct salvific actions as in the case of FVR-JDV's pre-emptive strike on the pro-impeachment forces in Congress.

Thus in the game terminology of the Prisoners Dilemma, all the players are "cooperating" and none are "defecting" and so all are benefiting from a seeming hiatus in the furious strife that has otherwise characterized Gloriagate.

But the situation may only be at a point of unstable equilibrium--much like a marble on top of a bowling ball. Virtually any disturbance in the delicate balance of forces that the Palace has so carefully managed to establish could send it rolling down into the valley of political destruction.

Now strangely enough, the most likely source of instability in such an arrangement is a "defection" or "act of noncooperation" by the party with the greatest to lose in the long run, in this case the President herself. She may already be changing her mind about indulging the parliamentary fantasies of one, Jose de Venecia, who has been busy describing all sorts of time lines for Charter Change ever since his return from the parliamentary capitals of the world. Among them is one that would see a plebiscite on a new Charter as early as June next year and a peremptory end to the presidency of GMA. Using the ConCom of Jose Abueva, the Palace has been reining in the ebullient Speaker's expectations and acting as if she doesn't need Chacha to keep the people's mind of Garci.

This has angered FVR, who may be the true sponsor and eventual beneficiary of chacha. A week ago he openly called on the President to accept that she must cut her term short in favor of a new parliamentary system of government. This week rumors have been flying around that FVR was involved in plotting a coup against President Arroyo even before Gloriagate.

I think these rumors were probably started by FVR himself! To remind the Palace that he IS a veto holder. I caught him on television returning from a trip abroad Saturday evening. "Tabako" was self-assured in blithely but opaquely denying he had ordered Jose Almonte to plan or mount a coup against the President.

Meanwhile, the US Embassy's "No Comment" on reports that US intelligence had picked up on the alleged coup d'Ramos, way back in February, was prim yet pregnant, since all indications are that the Americans are fed up with Arroyo's fickle ways and sudden turn to China, and only wish the Filipinos would clean up their own internal cesspools. They for one, I am sure, are not paralyzed by the Palace's claim that there is no one that could replace Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. I could name a number of people (mostly men but at least one woman) that could take over the Presidency tomorrow and we'd all be better off for it. As long as the Americans "stay neutral" on this one though, I think that the gathering coalition of forces against an illegitimate President can take care of the situation peacefully and effectively. All in good time...

But perhaps the most unstable leg in the President's tightrope act of survival is the Roman Catholic Church. Its leaders and spokesmen steadfastly deny ANY division among its bishops over Gloriagate, yet the gulf in positions between say Archbishop Fernando Capalla (outgoing head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines) and the anti-jueteng crusader Bishop Oscar V. Cruz of Lingayen (who has a blog) is so wide you could lose Virgilio Garcillano AND JocJoc Bolante in it. Now I do not really castigate the Church for such a denial that disunity exists. This is after all a MORAL DILEMMA primarily for church men, and such men do not want to admit that they would ever be on the wrong side of a moral dilemma. After all they ARE prisoners of conscience!

What we are witnessing today is a huge internal struggle within the Catholic Church, an examination of its institutional conscience so to speak, for being a veto-holder that has not cast its veto. Judging from the discussion on Crossroads with Ricky Carandang and four bishops and priests on ANC TV last Friday night, the anti-Arroyo camp within the Church is fast gaining rhetorical ground, rising to the heights of Biblical passion for the truth and outrage at public immorality. Whoever that Father Felix was, a Spirit of righteous anger has gotten a hold of him and many others in the Church that has got to be keeping the Palace spooks up late at night praying futile Rosaries.

Next week, the Catholic Bishops Conference will announce the compostion of the new Permanent Council of the CBCP, including a new leader, Archbishop of Jaro, Angel Lagdameo. Two weeks ago, after a violent dispersal of a prayer march and rally in Manila, Archbishop Lagdameo published the following written statement about that incident:
ON THE PRAYER ASSEMBLY AND PROCESSION OF OCTOBER 14, 2005


The prayer assembly and rosary procession that was held in Manila was part of a crusade by civil society for truth, honesty, credibility and integrity in government. It was a crusade for good governance which is sadly lacking and very much needed for economic progress. If the people do not believe in their leaders, how much can they govern and bring about genuine progress in economy?

The presence of three bishops, of some sisters and priests there was for the prayer assembly and for peaceful procession to San SebastianChurch. It was a patriotic manifestation of concern for our country. Because it was a prayer assembly and peaceful procession, the violent dispersal of the participants was uncalled for and objectionable. The legality of the Calibrated Preemptive Response must be questioned before the appropriate court.

Most Rev. Angel N. Lagdameo, D.D.
Archbishop of Jaro
October 15, 2005


The marble is slipping, sliding...

UPDATE: FVR CRIES OUT TO JOHN NEGROPONTE:
This is the part I missed during the TV coverage of former President Fidel Ramos' arrival presscon Saturday night. A "visibly irked" Ramos is quoted as saying,
If the US Embassy here in Manila refuses to make any clarification of that nasty report, nasty to me personally but even nastier to the people of the Philippines, I challenge the person in charge of intelligence in Washington DC, and that is former Ambassador to the Philippines John Negroponte to override all of these subordinates of his in the US Embassy to come out with the truth of the matter”


Talk about Sabong! Here's what those "electrifying" newspaper stories got FVR to do:
He challenged embassy officials, led by Charge d’Affaires Paul Jones, as well as the US government itself, to explain the alleged embassy report for the sake of the strong alliance of the Philippines and the United States.

“Since even the US Embassy refuses to clarify anything about that report, which I have not seen at all except in your newspapers, I now challenge the US Embassy, beginning with the acting ambassador, to come out with his embassy’s explanation.”

Ramos added: “It is only fair to the Philippine government and to our people that a good ally, such as the US, should not put at risk our good, our solid bilateral relations.”


Well that's what Philippine Daily Inquirer has always done best, shake the tree, get someone's goat, mak'em show you their sweat! Sa Pula! Sa Puti! For a while I thought the paper had totally lost its way. So keep proving me wrong y'all!

Now the Players are really in a tizzy. Each is asking who's gonna blink first and side with the Right in what is such a Black and White Case of a failed leader that's just gotta go, or everyone will suffer in the Game of Politics and Nations.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Game Theory and Gloriagate

The EconBlogger at Go Figure had a recent post on the Nobel Prize for Economics this year:
STOCKHOLM, Sweden - A pair of game theorists who defined chess-like strategies in politics and business that can be applied to arms races, price wars and actual warfare won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences on Monday. Israeli-American Robert J. Aumann and U.S. citizen Thomas C. Schelling won the award for research on game theory, a branch of applied mathematics that uses models to study interactions between countries, businesses or people.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is of course a Doctor in Economics who is currently embroiled in our biggest spectator sport: the Game of Politics.

So I found it rather interesting to apply the scientific work of this year's Economics Laureates to the ongoing conflict that is called Gloriagate (for which the root-and-branch of the most honest telling of sources, facts and opinions, can be found here in case you are unfamiliar with the whole sordid mess.)

Here is the BBC's summary of the Nobel citation for Prof. Schelling:
Professor Schelling was among the first to apply the insights of game theory to international relations, looking at the nuclear arms race in his classic book The Strategy of Conflict. Professor Schelling used game theory to explain nuclear war He argued that the capability to retaliate was more useful than the ability to resist an attack, and that uncertain retaliation was more credible than certain retaliation.

For a while it certainly looked as if the Palace had lost the ability to resist wave upon wave of attacks in the form of explosive controversies over wiretapped conversations, anti-jueteng crusades, investigations, insincere speeches (MP3), disappearing commissioners. And a failed impeachment attempt.

But if one reviews the events of the last six months of Gloriagate, it was truly the Presidency's awesome power to retaliate or to reward both allies and opponents, at every step of the escalating crisis, that has won a reprieve for the beleaguered President.

That power to retaliate or reward rests in the insane proportion of control over the financial resources of the government that is vested in the chief executive, a power run rampant when the House of Representathieves hast lost all moral stamina to discharge its duty of oversight, and is largely complicit with the Palace in its fiscal profligacy and chaotic economic thinking.

In the case of the failed 2005 impeachment bid, the Palace always had the means to make either VERY GOOD things or VERY BAD things happen to the district of any particular Congressman, or to his or her political friend or foe. This ability to inflict pain or grant pleasure at the most microscopic political level was the hidden hand of coercion that produced that marathon session of Congress that quashed the impeachment process, produced a declamation contest among some of our most macho men in public life and turned turned them into under-the-saya sycophants by the magic of the Palace's arsenal of delicious carrots and deadly sticks.

Thus, even though the administration was black and blue all over from the machine-gun series of controversies and attacks that led up to the impeachment battle, in the end, it was, as Schelling has noted, what really mattered was the ability to retaliate against any particular Congressman who might be inclined to indulge the impeachment move. Cooperation was enforced not only by such blandishments of the purse as the Palace wields, but also the ability to convince such vacillators of the uncertainty of the opposition's cause, and the variety of the retaliation for defectors.

But there are a number of silver linings in the cloud of intellectual dishonesty that has descended as a result of people having to acquiesce to a railroaded result. A number of people have proven to their admirers that they have not lost themselves or their principles, such as Rep. Roilo Golez (Representative of Paranaque, formerly the National Security Adviser of GMA, graduate of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) and the US Naval Academy at Annapolis); while others have found themselves, such as Alan Peter Cayetano and Edmundo Reyes, who are new and refereshing voices in Philippine politics, and with moral fervour burning, if you know what I mean. Hopefully too, the Young Turks have learned a lesson in merciless parliamentary tactics.

You could call the Game the Palace played with Congress during the impeachment battle MAD or MAR for "Malacanang Assured Destruction" or "Malacanang Assured Reward".

There is another name for it::: blackmail.

Friday, October 28, 2005

America's Interests and the Fate of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

Last July, as the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo teetered on the brink of collapse when former President Corazon Aquino, Senate President Franklin M. Drilon and ten of her most trusted Cabinet Secretaries called upon her to resign, a Senior Fellow of the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, Dana R. Dillon mused upon the Crisis in the Philippines and What It Means for the U.S.:
Caught on tape discussing her reelection with an election official, and with her husband allegedly involved in a gambling scam, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is in political hot water and may not finish her term. Ten members of Arroyo’s Cabinet, including key members of her economic team, recently resigned from their posts, urging that Arroyo follow their lead and put an end to the economic and political turmoil plaguing the country. The opposition in the Philippine Congress has already filed a motion to impeach Arroyo, which will be debated when Congress reassembles at the end of July.

Of course we know what happened to that lil exercise in impeaching a President this time around, but I appreciate Mr. Dillon's accurate and factual narration of the situation as it stood then. Now, I think that Mr. Dillon's enumeration of the American interests in the fate of Mrs. Arroyo, are worth looking at again in the light of the events that have transpired since those fateful days in July both in the Gloriagate crisis and the war on terror and broader allied interests.

Mr. Dillon lists three key points:
1. The war on terrorism will continue to take a back seat to the political mess in Manila. The southern Philippines is a hotbed of Islamic terrorism where two Muslim insurgencies, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), are based. Philippine military operations in the southern Philippines have been dwindling, despite persistent claims that the ASG, MILF, and Jemaah Islamiyah—all with al Qaeda connections—are training and operating there. President Arroyo’s commitment to the war on terrorism came into question when she withdrew a 60-man military medical team from Iraq after a Philippine citizen was kidnapped. Since 9/11, Arroyo’s support for the war on terror has waned, and there has been little substance to her rhetoric. Now faced with probably the gravest peril of her political life, it is unlikely that the war on terrorism will be given a renewed priority in her agenda.

2. Economic development and reform and trade expansion will be delayed as politicians focus on Manila politics. Under President Arroyo, inflation has risen, corruption is unchecked, and government spending has increased, which, combined with low tax revenues, has led to massive budget deficits. Foreign direct investment in 2004 leveled off at $680 million, well below the $3 to 4 billion average of other ASEAN countries. Amid accusations of electoral fraud, Arroyo took preliminary steps to ease the corporate tax burden and root out corruption, hoping to attract overseas investors. Nevertheless, the Philippines’ credit rating was recently downgraded from “stable” to “negative” by two major ratings agencies due to political uncertainty. Arroyo’s efforts have fallen short of expectations, and economic concerns will continue to be unaddressed due to the current political turmoil.

3. Chinese influence will continue to expand while Arroyo fights for her political life. China has developed and refined a policy of helping regimes in trouble by offering considerable political and economic support. This will become true for the Philippines, as China moves away from threatening rhetoric on territorial disputes in the South China Sea and employs a new approach. Beijing offered Manila $3 million for the establishment of a Chinese language-training program for the Philippine military, donated engineering equipment, and invited the Philippines to participate in naval exercises. Moreover, in the midst of stern U.S. criticism of the withdrawal of the Philippine medical team from Iraq, President Arroyo signed a confidential protocol with China on the exploitation of South China Sea resources. With her presidency in dire straits, Arroyo will gladly accept more largesse from Beijing.


Since last July when Dillon wrote the above, President Arroyo has succeeded in alienating, nay infuriating, a large and growing segment of the country's social, political, religious, military, business and intellectual leadership. She has, in the characterization of Manuel L. Quezon III exercised "a scorched earth policy" against her opposition.

In so doing, she is devastating key democratic institutions like Congress and laying waste every moral tradition that is the heart and soul of any democracy. The Philippine government is undergoing a process of multiple organ failure or at least nervous exhaustion, as resources of time and manpower have been dedicated mainly to preventing the impeachment and ouster of the President by daily stamping out of fires, stemming leaks from becoming open tell-alls. Exec. Order 464 has been called a gag order by constitutional expert Joaquin Bernas, though it needs no expertise to adjudge it as such.

The government can still look good on the front pages of the captive trimedia, but it is deeply dysfunctional. It is dangerous for anyone who might rely on its ability to discharge its duties, to safeguard the public, and to fulfill its commitments to the nation's allies.

President Arroyo has failed to get anti-terror legislation through Congress because she has never made the case with the Filipino people that she can lead them in a war on terror, when she has vacillated and been inconsistent in her dealings with the terrorists herself. Instead she has focussed on a so-called peace treaty with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that is now turning out to be another of her transactional deals involving ancestral land domain deals with such as Eid Kabalu and that set of "liberators" of the Bangsa Moro People. All this peace treaty signing is going on while a furious and little reported hunt for the Bali-2 bombers is going on in Mindanao.

Despite the insistence of the Left upon it, most Filipinos don't look at America through the resentful eyes of nationalism. America is where four million Filipinos live, work and send money from to keep this blasted archipelago afloat and lots of families from starving!

Consider this. Every child born to any union involving even one of those four million Filipino-Americans produces a natural born citizen of both countries. This is because the United States Constitution uses the principle of place of birth, jus soli in qualifying its natural born citizens; while the Philippine Constitution grants citizenship to anyone at least one of whose parents is a Filipino citizen.

I don't believe for one minute the claims of some that the Philippines has once more fallen off of Washington's list of critical concerns. Or else why would the United States Embassy in Manila and the Philippine government announce the installation of a nuclear material detection system for the Port of Manila?

I don't think there is any loss of understanding that what threatens Basilan threatens Manila threatens San Francisco threatens Washington. Now where did Joseph Musomelli think the weakest link was?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Power Laws of Blogosphere Popularity

If you are reading this blog, you are most likely an English speaker (with Tagalog, Bisayan, Northern Californian or "Austryan" accent), but the subject matter today applies to most languages, and to much else besides...

Consider the English language. It is made up of words such as the ones that make up this sentence. But a very few words, like "the" or "and" or "of" or "or" -- are used in spoken and written English much more frequently than say "zugzwang" or "pleonasm", which are used very rarely indeed.

By compiling the statistics on a one-million word sample called the Brown University Corpus of Standard American English, linguists have discovered that the word the occurs about 7% of the time; the word of about 3% of the time. But a huge number of English words were called hapax legomena--they occurred only once in the one million word sample, that is, they are very rarely used in written English. (My use of zugzwang has probably given that poor word a tremendous boost.)

The main scientific result of such research was Zipf's Law: the frequency of usage of any word is inversely proportional to its rank in the frequency table. If you list all the words by RANK starting with the most frequently used to the least frequently used, and plot how frequently they are used, you get a hyperbola.

So what, you say. Well it turns out that so called power-law distributions are ubiquitous in all sorts of collections, for example, in the size of human settlements, in the magnitude of earthquakes, and, in the distribution of wealth.

THE GAP BETWEEN THE RICH AND THE POOR: In the case of the rich and the poor, it's actually worse than one might think. The New Scientist reports that
THE rich are getting richer while the poor remain poor. If you doubt it, ponder these numbers from the US, a country widely considered meritocratic, where talent and hard work are thought to be enough to propel anyone through the ranks of the rich. In 1979, the top 1 per cent of the US population earned, on average, 33.1 times as much as the lowest 20 per cent. In 2000, this multiplier had grown to 88.5. If inequality is growing in the US, what does this mean for other countries?


And it turns out that BLOGOSPHERE POPULARITY is also governed by a measureable POWER LAW DISTRIBUTION:

Above plot comes from Clay Shirky's Power Laws, Weblogs and Inequality. His post was quite famous in 2003 when it first came out and revealed an important aspect of blogosphere dynamics. The so-called A-List or top bloggers get a lion-share of the trillion or so clicks or eyeballs that are the currency and lifeblood of the World Wide Web. A click is a neuronal signal in the pathways of the global mind. Here are the tycoons of that world, the main synapses of the blogosphere.

So let me pose this question to Philippine Commentary readers: What do Instapundit and Andrew Sullivan or Michelle Malkin have in common with the simple, ubiquitous word "the" and the connective preposition "of" that they should all be at the top of their respective power law distributions?

What makes them such powerful memes?

A Rotten Deal in the Fertilizer Scam?
--Senator Ramon Magsaysay, Jr.

UPDATED (August 8, 2006)

LAW PROFESSOR HARRY ROQUE of the University of the Philippines Law School has just returned from a trip to the United States in the hunt and chase for one, JOC JOC BOLANTE, a FUGITIVE from Justice with a warrant for his arrest by no less than the Philippine Senate, who is slyly trying to manipulate the US Justice system in order to escape prosecution and almost sure conviction in the Philippines for the PLUNDER of some 728 million pesos in Agriculture Dept. fertilizer funds. He brings the BAD NEWS that Joc Joc Bolante's plea for a change of venue to Chicago, Illinois, from San Pedro, California, has been granted. But the GOOD NEWS is apparently the UP Law School Team has made contact with the US Attorney's offices in both states to assist them in the adversarial process that will, I believe, exclude Joc Joc Bolante from US territory for return here. Or, as I actually HOPE has happened, the Joc Joc has in fact broken some serious US Law for which he has been detained and will be convicted. Many fear that he won't be returned to the Philippines. I fear that he will be, and like Virgilio Garcillano WORM his way out of our porous Justice System.


UPDATE: (July 14, 2006) Former Undersecretary Jocelyn "JocJoc" Bolante (a Filipino male) has been detained by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service and is being held at the San Pedro, California Special Processing Center, following cancellation of his visa by US authorities. He is wanted by the Philippine Senate, which issued a Warrant for his Arrest last year, following spectacular Senate hearings into the P728 million Fertilizer fund scam. The money appears to have been used in the 2004 election campaign. Senator Magsaysay asked US Authorities to ensure the personal safety of JocJoc. Really. But bring the sorry sucked back here to face justice and divulge what he knows!


SENATORS are popping up all over the place this morning. I just heard Senator Ramon A. Magsaysay, Jr. talking to Carmina Constantino on ANC say he "would pursue to the very end" the trail of the controversial fertilizer fund scam, in which not one but two Department of Agriculture officials have done a Garcillano and are now DESAPARECIDO--Undersecretary "JocJoc" Bolante and her boss Secretary Cito Lorenzo. The Senate, Magsaysay said, would consider issuing subpoenae and even arrest warrants to compel the two former top officials to testify at Senate hearings on the alleged illegal use of over P700 million for 2004 election campaign purposes of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Anyway, just one candidate for President at a time please...Here is my take on the speech of Mar Roxas at the Ateneo a few weeks ago.

MAR IS NO MESSIAH
A declination to pick up the baton of leadership just yet is the overall impression that I get from Mar Roxas in the first part of this speech. He rightly castigates the Pinoys for wanting a powerful Messiah of a leader that will magically solve all their problems by the sheer power of charisma. So it was a bit disappointing to then have him cop out on the rhetorical challenge of his assigned topic--leadership--by giving the standard line about finding leadership within ourselves. I don't disagree with that, but if Mar is no Messiah, he is no John F. Kennedy either:
MAR ROXAS:"Perhaps we have been asking the wrong question. Perhaps we should revisit our notions of leadership, stop scanning the horizon for a knight on a white horse or a redeemer bearing a cross to save us, and reject that leadership is found outside of us. The leader and leadership are within us. Leadership is all about taking personal responsibility for what happens and until we step up to this, the leader or leadership that we await will elude us or, at best, be a matter of luck. "

CITIZENSHIP IS AN INVESTMENT in Mar Roxas' view which is of course no surprise considering that in real life he was an investment banker (before he became President Arroyo's Trade and Industry minister and Mr. Palengke):
One of the most remarkable things I recall about my time in the US was how my friends and I could get together and plan our lives—a job, a down payment on a home, a 30-year-mortgage, and at the end of our labors, we were going to own all of these and have a stake. There was a very clear connection between what you invested in your future and what you could expect from it. But here, instead of rewarding creativity, initiative and outstanding performance, our system has come to value conformity and mediocrity.

Well you said it, Senator: "conformity and mediocrity"
HIS GENTLE REBUKES of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo are in regards to her moral bankruptcy when he makes an offhand reference to her recent argument that one cannot be a politician in the Philippines and not cheat:
It is all too easy to conclude that the system has failed us. Indeed, as we have recently been reminded, our political system may be like an infected pool that taints all those who step into it. But I don’t subscribe to the notion that the failures and weaknesses of our system have produced—or can absolve—the failures and weaknesses of our leadership.


EDUCATION BUDGET? OR WELFARE?Mar Roxas notes the insane situation with the single biggest piece of the our budget expenditures:
Note that the P126B budget for the DepEd for next year, the largest in the bureaucracy, apart from excluding the abovementioned amounts, is misleading. Of this amount, P105B is for personal services while the P20B balance is presented as operating expense. Most of this is for the general maintenance overhead of the department, and not for the everyday needs of the students.
I just wish someone other than me would go ballistic about the DepED budget. It's the equivalent of running FEDEX with but no trucks, no planes, no computers, no phones, just 400,000 truck drivers on lifetime CESO contracts. I vehemently disagree with him that we should throw more good money after bad into DepEd unless it IS for computers, books, and feeding programs, not more indentured servants for Comelec. Yeah, yeah, yeah education. But it is time to re-examine one of our most lethal and fallacious idealisms: FREE PUBLIC education. Ain't no such a thing!

But I don't disagree with ALL his idealisms:
I firmly believe that many other young Filipinos—many other leaders—have not given up on their future, have not surrendered their dreams. And I will be here—my nose to the grindstone—to support them.

A Fresh Start on the Filipino Dream
by Sen. Manuel A. Roxas

MAR ROXAS, the topnotcher in the 2004 Senatorial race, has a blog.

(Its existence was revealed to me today by MLQ3, who has been wryly noting the events that have transpired in and out of the swampland while he was away. Bien Venida!, primo!)

Last October 12, unbeknownst to most, Senator Roxas was the guest speaker at the Fourth Jaime V. Ongpin Annual Memorial Lecture On Public Service in Business and Government at the Ateneo de Manila University. He delivered a speech entitled A Fresh Start on the Filipino Dream.

I am reprinting his speech in its entirety here at Philippine Commentary for no other reason than that the commenting subsystem is back up and I need to test it out. Besides, many people are wondering why he has been so quiet, throughout Gloriagate. (hardly a peep, not even in the demagagosphere.)

A Fresh Start on the Filipino Dream
By Sen. Manuel A. Roxas

Fourth Jaime V. Ongpin Annual Memorial Lecture
On Public Service in Business and Government
Ateneo de Manila University, October 12, 2005

I have been asked to speak specifically on “Leadership in Public Service”—a subject that, many of us will agree, is today’s most important imperative. To verbalize the question that has occupied the minds of most Filipinos these past four months on countless TV talk shows, in columns, editorials and other commentaries: “Who and where is the leader who will deliver us out of this quagmire, this continuing crisis, into our Promised Land?”

It will not be the first time that we have asked this question. Our propagandists and revolutionaries asked it in the 1890s. We have asked it in every presidential election since 1946. In 1972, in 1986, and again in 2001, we thought we had the answer—or at least some people did.

To put it bluntly, we were wrong. Everyone was wrong. Some Filipinos, answering the call of their time, gave it their best shot and did what they could—only to realize that it takes more than one man or one woman not just to move a country, but also to move it forward.

The Filipino Dream
Today, the Filipino Dream seems farther than ever from realization. That Filipino Dream is a simple one, and it revolves around the Filipino family and its well-being, not around material goods. We want to be able to provide for the needs of every member of our family and to leave something behind for our children and grandchildren to build on. That means a good education, a good job, a roof over our heads, and peace and security in our homes and neighborhoods. We want to start our children off at a level better than what we ourselves began with.

It’s not a lot to ask for. Time and again, our people have proven their willingness to make tremendous sacrifices to achieve that dream—working abroad for many lonely years, even under the most difficult conditions.

But today—nearly 60 years after Independence, nearly 20 years after EDSA 1, and five years after EDSA 2—that dream remains even more remote, a cruelly elusive phantom for many Filipinos. Our people feel dispirited, their labors and sacrifices subverted by endemic corruption, political squabbling, crime and violence, and by the absence of a clear, believable vision of the Filipino future and of the way to get there.

Perhaps we have been asking the wrong question. Perhaps we should revisit our notions of leadership, stop scanning the horizon for a knight on a white horse or a redeemer bearing a cross to save us, and reject that leadership is found outside of us.

The leader and leadership are within us. Leadership is all about taking personal responsibility for what happens and until we step up to this, the leader or leadership that we await will elude us or, at best, be a matter of luck.

Ordinary men
This idea occurred to me as I pondered the topic of this lecture and as I remembered the examples of several people I knew from my own life to be, unquestionably, leaders.

In my previous life as an investment banker, I had the opportunity to meet some remarkable men.

One of them, John Hendricks, was the visionary founder of The Discovery Channel. He had this idea that all of these products that were made by art students and film students all across the United States could be gathered and presented to the public. It was a venture start-up and I, as an investment banker, had the opportunity of being there to fund his project. And now, we have and enjoy the Discovery Channel, not just as a business venture, but also as a molder of how we look upon ourselves and the world we live in.

Tony Tan Caktiong, the man behind the phenomenal success of Jollibee, is another such man. He began with an ice cream scooping station in Cubao and now, 500 stores later, 20,000 employees later, annually sales of P20B later, but more importantly, P16B of domestic purchasing in the supply chain later, he has built up an enterprise that provides jobs, incomes and opportunities for countless of our people.

I thought, too, of the man whose memory we are honoring today—Jimmy Ongpin, who was both a friend and mentor to me. We shared similar backgrounds—we both went to business school in the United States and became investment bankers on Wall Street. Jimmy, of course, went on to head Benguet Corporation, a New York Stock Exchange listed company and one of the largest industrial concerns in our country. If I recall correctly, he was the first Filipino to do so.

Occasionally our paths crossed and we had many fruitful conversations. And I came to learn that at times, the secretaries would refer to me as Jimmy 2. Whether it was t-w-o or t-o-o, I was and am flattered by the reference.

And if you will allow an admiring son, there was, of course, my father. Before Martial Law, he was at the apex of his career. He was senator, leader of the opposition and widely expected to succeed the then incumbent. And then Martial Law came about. He was jobless. The office that he actually went to was padlocked. He lost all pelf, power and position. Friends deserted him. Phone calls went unreturned.

And so he spent many years in the wilderness, alone. But, he made himself useful and productive by continuing his advocacies. All throughout those years until he died, he never gave in. He remained steadfast to his ideals. This notwithstanding the many blandishments made by the then regime.

These led then to the differentiation between the title and the person. In my case, “senator” is what I do, it’s not who I am.

All these men had something in common: they had a vision, they had focus and above all, they worked extraordinarily hard to achieve their goals. But they were otherwise ordinary men aspiring only to put in an honest day’s work, from one day to the next, making judgments and decisions by their best lights, as their education and their values told them.

This is the kind of leadership we need today, the leadership that resides in all of us. It is the leadership that emanates from personal integrity and personal initiative, translated into actions, choices and programs that benefit the community and eventually the nation.

For far too long, we Filipinos have cast our leaders in a certain mold—that of the charismatic savior, the one person chosen by destiny and character to assume the burdens of the nation. Perhaps because of our Catholic faith, we prefer our leaders to be self-sacrificing martyrs—“Christ-like victims,” in the words of Jose Rizal’s biographer Leon Ma. Guerrero — figures who redeemed the nation only through their heroic deaths: Rizal himself, Andres Bonifacio, Ninoy Aquino, to name the most obvious.

I have no quarrel with the heroic qualities of these Filipinos, all of whom I deeply admire. I will even dare say that we seem to be sorely bereft of such figures today—individuals whose towering vision, bravery, integrity and patriotism can galvanize and inspire our countrymen to equally great deeds.

But as ardently as we may hope for another one of them to emerge, I think it better that we actually change the paradigm; that we take personal responsibility and act ourselves on whatever it is we deem proper.

Our general malaise
That our people have resigned the prerogatives and responsibilities of leadership to a fated few —whoever they may be—is merely a reflection of the general despondency—the economic, political, cultural, and spiritual malaise—that has overtaken us.

While we have managed to get by, getting by simply won’t be enough. There’s nothing in this hand-to-mouth dynamic to suggest that next year will be better, let alone that the next generation will be better off than we are now.

What we have is maintenance with guaranteed deterioration. We are on a treadmill, doing a lot of huffing and puffing but not getting anywhere. If we just did exactly the same thing a year from now and year to year, we will still be worse off thereafter, if only because of inflation and developments across the globe.

Today our people are physically, psychologically, and spiritually emaciated. And this emaciation prevents them from being excited by or engaged in an effort to break out of their downward spiral.

In 1986 and again in 2001, there was still sufficient vigor in the body politic, in the idea that we could still do something about our future. Today, not even five years after EDSA 2, the depletion in our psychological capital has been such that the imperative of making a daily living has trumped all other expenditures of time, energy and effort.

I trace this depletion to what might be called the “disconnect” between effort and output. Our social compact is premised on the basic idea is that if people put something into their life, they should get something reasonably gainful out of it. We all “bought” into this bargain and we look to the government as the chief implementer of the same. This is a simple but basic bargain that seems to work in meritocracies like the US and Singapore, but here in the Philippines, the gap between effort and output has steadily widened.

One of the most remarkable things I recall about my time in the US was how my friends and I could get together and plan our lives—a job, a down payment on a home, a 30-year-mortgage, and at the end of our labors, we were going to own all of these and have a stake. There was a very clear connection between what you invested in your future and what you could expect from it.

But here, instead of rewarding creativity, initiative and outstanding performance, our system has come to value conformity and mediocrity.

Instead of the merit system and all that we associate with it—education, competence, industry and observance of the law—a blessed few have gotten ahead on the wings of palakasan and pakikisama, the twin blights of our political culture.

I remember how—when I was a much younger man—politics was imbued with fervor, with a certain grandeur of vision and spirit. Back then, parties were much better defined, and election results were awaited with bated breath, because they could actually mean a real difference in the drift and the manner of governance. Today—and this no great or original discovery of mine—politics has become an arena for brute power and naked opportunism, and operates as the doorway to a roomful of spoils.

It is all too easy to conclude that the system has failed us. Indeed, as we have recently been reminded, our political system may be like an infected pool that taints all those who step into it. But I don’t subscribe to the notion that the failures and weaknesses of our system have produced—or can absolve—the failures and weaknesses of our leadership.

Personal responsibility and moral leadership
In a sense, true leadership must exist before, above and beyond the system, so that when it immerses itself into the system, it exerts a cleansing, rejuvenative power, rather than be merely supinely corrupted by it.

Blaming the system evades personal responsibility. In government, as in business, we bring into our jobs the values that have shaped and prepared us to make decisions for the good of others. Those values and decisions do not necessarily involve multimillion-dollar deals or millions of votes. Every day—not just once but many times—every individual gets an opportunity to exercise leadership, in decisions big and small.

Every day for me is a struggle in exercising leadership. I am constantly asking myself: will what I say or what I do move the country forward, or will I just be indulging myself? Are the people getting value not for their money but for their vote?

Jimmy Ongpin surely faced the same dilemmas in his own sphere. He could have chosen to skirt environmental regulations as chief of Benguet Corporation—but he did not. He felt personally accountable for his corporate decisions. He could have ducked when he saw that government policy was ruinous to the economy and the country—but he did not. He challenged the existing order (including his brother’s ideas and programs) and became a central player in overthrowing the dictatorship. When the call came for him to serve the Aquino government, he brought with him those same values and applied them with the same vigor and consistency. He did not become a leader because he became Secretary of Finance; he became the Secretary of Finance, and head of the economic team, because he had already proven himself a leader.

Moral leadership—or doing the right thing for the good of the many—is not a function of the system but of the individual. If everyone picked up one piece of litter, or stayed in the proper traffic lane, or paid the right taxes, or declined a bribe, or put up shelter for the homeless, it would not matter one whit whether we had a presidential, a parliamentary, a monarchical or a tribal system. What would matter would be that we did the right thing.

If the failure of the system cannot excuse our leaders, then the failure of our leaders cannot excuse us. If we expect much of our leaders, then we must expect as much of ourselves.

Indeed it is only we, the citizens, who can make the system—any system—work. Our destiny is in our hands—hands that work and hands that build, not hands that destroy.

Nothing like hard work
The experience of our neighbors tells us that nothing succeeds better than old-fashioned hard work and determination—in an environment that spurs, nurtures and focuses this national effort.

A few years ago, I was awarded the Lee Kuan Yew fellowship by the Singapore Government and I had the privilege of having lunch with the man himself. At that encounter, the father of modern day Singapore reminded me that while the world often sees his country’s success as a “miracle,” there was nothing miraculous about leaving the Federation of Malaysia (in fact, they were kicked out in 1965 with practically nothing) and forging ahead to become Southeast Asia’s most spectacular success story. For forty years, Singaporeans put their noses to the grindstone—until, today, they can proudly claim to be better off than their former colonial master. They are now ranked 8th in the world index of prosperity, well ahead of their colonial master Great Britain who came in at number 20.

Another prominent Asian thinker, Timothy Ong, has made a point of citing some sobering figures to chronicle the stunning reversals of fortune that have taken place in our part of the world just over the last century.

“In 1954,” Timothy Ong noted, “the World Bank, after exhaustive analysis, declared South Korea and Taiwan as economic basket cases without any hope. In 1993, the same World Bank declared South Korea and Taiwan to be economic superpowers.”

“In 1960, South Korea and Ghana were roughly at par in economic terms. Both were former colonies, both had agrarian societies, and both had per capita income of roughly US$240 per person. At the end of the 20th century only 40 years later, Korea is part of the developed world while Ghana remains mired in poverty.”

Burma at the beginning of the 20th century had the most prosperous and improved economy in Southeast Asia. It was certainly considerably more prosperous than Thailand. By the end of the 20th century, income per capita in Thailand, notwithstanding the financial crisis in 1997, was five times that of Burma.

And this last example is one we are all too familiar with: “In 1952, the Philippines had a per capita income twice that of Thailand. By 1999, a generation later, Thailand had a per capita income twice that of the Philippines.”

This compare–contrast exercise leads to two conclusions:

First, that the progress of societies and nations is not preordained. Societies and nations progress, but they can also stagnate, fall behind and get left behind.

Second, that societies and nations, for better or for worse, indeed for richer or for poorer, shape their respective destinies.

Yes, of course, it made a difference that a country like Singapore was led by an extremely dedicated, strong-willed, honest and visionary man. But behind every such leader is an army of equally focused, hardworking citizens with a personal investment, and thus commitment, in making the nation and its economy, the entire system, work.

The same can be said for the other examples. As for ourselves, we have yet to be galvanized into such an army, perhaps because our marching orders are unclear and because lingering doubts remain about the commitment of our commanders.

Focus, not distraction
But then, we ask: don’t we Filipinos work hard enough? Aren’t we, in fact, the workers and peons of the world?

Of course we do work, and of course we are the peons of the world. But the fruits of that labor are being frittered away, because what resources we have gathered are not being trained on priorities that will make a significant and strategic difference. We remain stuck in a maintenance mode, with expenditures premised more on accommodation than on real need.

Everywhere else in the world today, governments are gearing up to meet the challenges of the 21st century: the challenges of globalization, of integration, of achieving economies of scale. Nations are identifying and building up their comparative advantages—whether these be in agriculture, in manufacturing, or in high technology or science.

But here in the Philippines, we remain hobbled by an incrementalist, piecemeal frame of mind that will have spent more than P4 trillion over the last 5 years and will spend a trillion pesos next year without making any appreciable impact on society. We have amassed more than 4 trillion pesos of public debt for all kinds of programs and projects, and yet we hardly feel like a country striding forward into a bright new future.

Beyond the politics of the moment, we need a common objective that we can all rally behind as a matter of national survival and as our strategy for leaping forward in this century.

We can agree, for example, to give our children the best education they can possibly get by stopping the lip service and truly funding the sector as if our own children’s education and futures were at stake.

If these were so, we can thus close the teacher gap (about 52,000 teachers and P7B per year), the classroom gap (45,000 classrooms at a one-time cost of about P20B) and the textbook gap (46 million books at about P3B) and ensuring the competence of our teachers.

This will also mean implementing programs in support of education, such as a school feeding program that will not only nourish children but will also keep them in school, with the assurance that they will be fed.

Note that the P126B budget for the DepEd for next year, the largest in the bureaucracy, apart from excluding the abovementioned amounts, is misleading. Of this amount, P105B is for personal services while the P20B balance is presented as operating expense. Most of this is for the general maintenance overhead of the department, and not for the everyday needs of the students.

Leadership, taking responsibility for the education of our people (meaning getting really serious about it), will mean overhauling the budget (and the mindset that produced it), reallocating funds, cutting spending elsewhere, closing down unnecessary government programs, and applying sensible ideas wherever they may come from.

Or we can decide to truly make the domestic industry competitive: this will mean overhauling our thinking and premises on our economy. This will also mean adjusting our tariff policy, our energy policy, and our agriculture policy, among others.

Let me give you a for-instance. Chicken in Bangkok is about P70 a kilo. It’s about a P110 here in our country. That means that for the same protein content, the Filipino worker will have to be 50 percent more productive than his counterpart. If that is the case, then the only way this can be justified for productivity purposes is if he is able to produce 50 percent more value than his counterpart, again underscoring the need for education that will give the Filipino worker the value-added that will differentiate his cost from that of his counterpart.

Or, we can accept that our economy is surviving off this huge air bubble of remittance-driven consumption. What has kept us afloat over these last few years, and is thus a central leg of our economy, are our OFWs.

But if we recognize OFWs to be our most valuable national resources, then by all means, let’s support them to the fullest and extend them every form of assistance, from training them properly to educating them about their rights abroad. Let’s turn our embassies from vacation homes to fully functioning service centers for OFWs. Let’s go beyond the lip service of hailing OFWs as our “new heroes” while making them feel like strangers and interlopers in their own embassies and consulates.

The real benefit of this approach is that there will be an organizing focus to all decision-making. Thus government action can be more rational and predictable. And it will be easier for “we the people” to buy into a renewed and achievable Filipino Dream.

In other words, there are creative doables out there — initiatives that will make a concrete difference in the direction and spirit of this country within the next several years. We keep lamenting how Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and even Vietnam have single-mindedly forged ahead of us. I am absolutely convinced that we have what it takes and can do what they have done, and more.

Get real
What cannot work for us is a “business as usual” mentality, because business as usual can only mean certain stagnation and deterioration. Business as usual is what got us to where we are today.

What cannot work for us is more distraction, more illusion—the smoke and mirrors provided, for example, by an ill-timed initiative for Charter change, by creating new rules for governance even if or because we couldn’t enforce the old ones.

Let’s get real, let’s be honest with ourselves. As the ads says: “Magpakatotoo tayo.”

In other words, let government provide the enabling, nurturing, and invigorating environment within which private initiative and industry, meaning people taking responsibility for their lives, can grow and be properly rewarded.

Let government heed and respond to the people’s natural willingness to do the best and the right things for themselves and their children. Instead of telling people what to do and what not to do, the national leadership has to listen—to suffer criticism, if need be—if only to repair the floor upon which we all stand as a nation.

Trust is a two-way thing. The people are not only looking for someone to trust; they are also looking for someone who trusts them, who can bring out the leader in every citizen.

Eyes on the ball
I look forward myself to a deeper engagement in the challenges and the daily grind of nation-building, within the ambit of my work as a senator.

In a sense, my life was simpler in the executive branch, when it was possible to initiate and implement reform within clearly defined zones and schedules. At the DTI, we were able to focus on the essentials, on strengthening the relationship between business and consumers. We closed down unproductive units, focused on deliverables, and developed industry plans for semiconductors and electronics, garments, auto completely built units (CBUs) and parts, ceramics and others, that up to today continue to be useful.

Our work in the Senate is broader in scope, covering every conceivable facet and concern of human life. The laws we craft are meant to last for generations, which is why we cannot take them lightly. We have a responsibility not only to ourselves and to the present moment, but also to the nation and the future at large.

This is why—even and especially in periods of crisis and high drama—we remember the importance of taking the long-term view and of the long-term solution, while continuing to mind the thousand-and-one items of legislative work. In other words, we must keep our eye on the ball—and the ball is not political power, but its application for the public good.

This, too, is a form of leadership: the practice of restraint, of simply saying “No”— no to the temptations of power, no to the excesses of others.

In a more constructive sense, my experience in both the legislative and executive branches of government tells me that the best thing we can often do is to make the system work at our level of competence and administration. Some things at the very top may be beyond our immediate control but we can make our communities, towns, provinces, bureaus, and departments work the way they were meant to. And we must, because to allow them to fail would be to surrender to the even larger demons of cynicism and despair.

The gravest loss we have suffered from the current crisis is our faith in our ability to change things, to make them better. Again, this may be because we still see change in terms of the emergence of a charismatic savior who will wave a wand and set things right. This, to me, is the default option, the path of least resistance. If it happens at all—and I doubt that it will, or even that it should—it will be by sheer luck.

Let me repeat this for emphasis: There are no silver bullets, no bearded messiahs, but keep the faith! Change can come and change will come—we can make a fresh start on the Filipino Dream. And this is our responsibility to ourselves and our children. But we shall need to take personal responsibility for what happens. We need to adopt an alternative world view, rooted in an engagement of ideas and substance—not just of labels and uniforms, of this party or that faction—a dynamic that can look over the horizon of these confused and confusing times. I firmly believe that many other young Filipinos—many other leaders—have not given up on their future, have not surrendered their dreams. And I will be here—my nose to the grindstone—to support them.


WATCH THIS SPACE FOR UPDATES AND COMMENTS.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

19 Clicks Is The Diameter of the Blogosphere

TUSILOG asks "What's with the Diameter?" in reaction to a recent Commentary on Visual Maps of the Filipino Blogosphere. There, mention was made of the DIAMETER of the blogosphere, prompting Tusilog's question.

I didn't mean to be mysterious and the answer is a well-established research result (see the title). I just wasn't sure a deeper discussion would be useful to anyone, but I did say to Tusilog in his Comments section that I would post a full report on this matter today. So maybe this will bring poetry, physics and mathematics all a lil closer together...here goes...

Round or spherical objects like the earth or basketballs have a characteristic size called their RADIUS, which the distance from the center to any point on the surface. Twice this distance is called the DIAMETER. Now if you think about it, you will realize that the diameter is really the MAXIMUM straightline distance between any two randomly selected points on the surface of the sphere or inside of it. So in that sense, the diameter is a measure of how big the thing is.

Now of course the visual representation of the blogosphere or the World Wide Web, which was the point of my original post, bears no resemblance to PHYSICAL balls or spheres since it is composed of billions of webpages interconnected in a highly complex manner, by weblinks. It does look like a web alright, up close, but zoomed out, it is more like a huge ball of yarn with millions of individual strings, knotted and intertwined together.

NO BLOG IS AN ISLAND: By definition, "every thing" is somehow connected to everything else in a network, because otherwise "the thing" is not part of the network. Of course, people travel from one point of the blogosphere (for example this webpage you are reading now) to another point of the blogosphere (another web page) by clicking on a series of hypertext hotspots called links. (which was the quintessential genius of Tim Berners Lee, inventor of WWW, but that's another subject...)

It is therefore a reasonable question to ask, given a randomly selected pair of points "on" or "in" the blogosphere, how many links must one click to traverse the distance between them. In other words, how big is the blogosphere, how far away from each other, using clicks as a measure of distance, can any two web pages be?

This is a very similar question asked about the human social network: If I want to contact a certain person Mr. X, how many degrees of acquaintance do I have to traverse before I find someone who actually knows him? The famous answer of course is SIX DEGREES.

So what is the Diameter of the Blogosphere? In the year 2000, it was "measured" to be around 19 "clickometers" wide! The definitive work on this question was done by a group of mathematical physicists at the University of Notre Dame led by Albert Laszlo Barabasi. They report their findings in the prestigious journal Nature, in a paper entitled, A. Albert, H. Jeong, and A.-L. Barabási, Diameter of the World Wide Web, Nature,401, 130-131 (1999).

It's not for the mathematically faint-of-heart, so I won't go into a discussion of the details of their work. People who are interested in this topic and the related one of POPULARITY on the world wide web should read up on the POWER-LAW DISTRIBUTION of Web audiences (20% of the websites control 80% of the clicks, or even more unequally, why?). Start here with Clay Shirky's classic, Power Laws, Weblogs and Inequality.

But I cannot resist including a beautiful rendition of the subset of the World Wide Web rendered by Barabasi et al as a result of the massive study that derived the 19-click diameter result. Here is what the Global Mind looked like in year 2000:

Each pinpoint is a website, and link density follows a pseudo color mapping where white is really intense.

Perhaps, if there is interest, I shall post some more on the even more important concern of bloggers: why the A-Listers seem to monopolize the trillion or so clicks available daily for ego-ramification.

(UPDATE: If you are really interested in the technical details, email me so I can send you a nice lil powerpoint that I downloaded years ago from Barabasi's website, but which I can't find on the Web any more. You can learn all about Poisson distributions, power laws, scale free network topologies, and lots of other sexy geek stuff...DJB)

(UPDATE 2: Next question is how big is the Filipino Blogosphere? In other words, given any two weblogs, say, whose owners would agree to be characterized as being part of the Filipino blogosphere, how many clickometers are they apart, how many links need to be traversed to get from one webpoint to another in the Filipino blogosphere?)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Civil Rights Pioneer Rosa Parks Dies At 92



Stop-the-ACLU carries the entitled sad news and delivers a tribute that those unfamiliar with the site might find surprising:
A true hero in the civil rights movement. This woman’s courage to face arrest for equality helped to spark a revolution that awakened America from judging someone on the basis of their skin color. She will go down in history as an individual that helped change the world for the better. This woman’s courage changed the course of history. May she rest in peace.
The example of Rosa Parks goes beyond the struggle for racial equality. For pure civil libertarians fighting dictatorships and tyrannical regimes, she proved that "people power" begins with the smallest minority--that of a single brave person. In her simple but defiant stand for what was indubitably right, by the light of her conscience and faith in God, I am reminded of our own sublimely gentle, but righteously defiant Rosa Parks, in Corazon Aquino, whose struggles on behalf of Liberty are far from over.

To Rosa Parks--Our Liberty IS Your Liberty, Sister!

And look what could happen next.


Monday, October 24, 2005

Visual Maps of the Filipino Blogosphere


The TouchGraph GoogleBrowser is one of the coolest tools for exploring various regions of the World Wide Web, including the local Filipino Blogosphere or "blogsphere" which I prefer. If, after reading this post you enthusiastically agree with me, please promise to put a link on your site to Philippine Commentary out of sheer gratitude! TouchGraph is an interactive tool for visualizing the local topology or structure of a network by showing how various websites are interconnected together starting at a URL address that the user selects.
For example, this is the TouchGraph map (click to magnify) that is generated of the Filipino blogosphere "centered" at the blog of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) which played such a pivotal role in the unfolding of the Gloriagate crisis (still ongoing).

You can see at the center of the screenshot is the PCIJ blogsite (yellow) heavily linked to and by red and blue lines with the other major websites that comprise the Filipino blogsphere. You can actually display all such interconnections by double clicking on the "center of the blogosphere" site, in this case PCIJ, to bring up sites that are not as heavily linked to by PCIJ.

All the heavy hitters to and from the PCIJ site are arranged roughly in concentric circles around the central site with radial distance proportional to "click distance. " Even without knowing anything about the Philippines or the Filipino blogosphere, one can tell that closely associated to this site and occupying the first "link orbital" are Manuel L. Quezon III; the Philippine Daily Inquirer and GMA network's toprated website, INQ7; the blogspot of Conrado de Quiros; and a constellation of blogs and mainstream news websites: By Jove!; The Sassy Lawyer; John Nery's Newsstand; John Marzan's Philippine Politics '04; The J-Spot;Yuga; Renaissance Girl; PinoyTopBlogs, etc.

EVERYONE'S here. Go to TouchGraph and see for yourself.

The graph above is actually a highly detailed map whose static and dynamic features are best appreciated live. You can switch center of the universe focus and watch as TouchGraph rearranges everything in a dance of planets kind of ballet as the linked websites fall into graphical orbit. Bloghopping was never like this!

There is of course nothing special about the starting URL in the above image. Any website can be the center of blogosphere display. I just happened to have chosen the PCIJ site as the center of the universe for this run of the TouchGraph rendition of the Filipino blogosphere around their site. You can click on any of the sites in view and Touchgraph will show you the local portion of the World Wide Web that is connected to that site. By doubleclicking on your central site, TouchGraph will dig deeper into the link-manifold that contains it and shows you more and more sites connected, directly or indirectly to it. You don't need to keep re-entering URLs because you can just click on any site visible to move the "center" or focus of the survey of the local blogosphere. You can click and drag on a site to see which other sites are so heavily linked to it that they are "carried along" as you nudge the center site. Amazing what you can learn about who is connecting to whom with this program, how strong the links are between them and much else besides.

Other interesting center point URLs I've explored, which might be of interest to the conspiracy theorists in the crowd, are any of the well-known CPP/NPA/NDF websites, which produces some intriguing linkages.

But my favorite is a map I generated and traversed with the Philippine Daily Inquirer as center of the local blogosphere map. You can see all the Main Stream Media websites together like a tight flotilla of yellow journalism (with a few exceptions) or, if I may coin a Blogosphere Neologism
DEMAGAGOSPHERE n. isang lugar kung saan ginagago ang mga taong bayan.(A place where they try to fool all the people all the time).

This term actually came up in a conversation over at the Newsstand yesterday, where John Nery has observed the need to challenge the AM radio stations, as part of his contribution to the recently held Bloggers-Journalists conference sponsored by PCIJ. Hat tip to Edwin Lacierda of San Juan Gossip Mills for perfecting the term. Please notice it has Greek (demos), Pilipino (gago) and English (sphere) components.

PALACE VENTRILOQUIST'S DUMMIES The radio medium is the quintessential demagagosphere, especially the AM band that is listened too by the C, D, and E socioeconomic classes almost universally--this according to many scientific surveys. AM Radio was indeed a major factor in the Palace's defensive strategy during the last six months of the Gloriagate controversy, and still is. An astute listener can tune in to a number of key AM radio stations, and immediately detect a surprisingly similar (even verbatim) enunciation of the earliest interview that day from Ignacio Bunye, the Palace spokesman. In Metro Manila, I get the impression that between 80-90% of the medium was heavily influenced if not effectively controlled by the Palace media machine. In the provinces, the capture ration was 100%, I would say.

The Palace understood the demagagosphere comprehensively and utilized it to its fullest potential to head off any runaway public outrage that could have lead to another people power revolt at various points during the last six months. This operation has turned the demagagosphere into an efficient and real-life Orwellian thought-control machine, Pinoy-style, that would've made Izvestia or Pravda proud in the old Soviet Union. Here is how you can see this demagagosphere in operation. Just tune into the earliest interview of the day with Palace Media Czar Ignacio Bunye and carefully note his main talking points. Then throughout the day if you tune into various captive stations you will hear a surprisingly uniform (at times, verbatim!) chorus of echoes from the voices in the demagagosphere. There are exceptions as John Nery valiantly points out, but it is a swamp completely dominated by the Attack and Collect, Defend and Collect culture of corruption in the Mainstream Media. The demagagosphere is just another cultural swamp that needs to be drained and repopulated with...audio bloggers!

(Well, linguistics is a pastime of free peoples, so let us make hay while the sun shines. But in a true clampdown, TouchGraph could be a dangerous tool in the hands of the authorities. So it pays to know what they could know about you and your website.)

DIAMETER OF THE BLOGOSPHERE Every physical sphere, like a basketball or the earth, has a diameter, which characterizes "how big" such round objects are. The diameter of a sphere is the largest possible straight line distance between two points on the sphere's surface. For example the North and South Poles are at opposite ends of a line segment going through the center of the earth (neglecting of course a slight flattening of the earth's curvature near the Poles!).

By analogy, does it make any sense at all to ask what the diameter of the blogosphere is, or the World Wide Web as a whole? Well if you model the blogosphere as some collection of websites interconnected by links, the following questions seems to be a reasonable one to ask: "Given any two websites or webpages, what is the maximum number of links that must be traversed by clicking on the appropriate hypertext hotspot, to get from one to the other?"

Sunday, October 23, 2005

American Blogger in Mindanao on Civil Liberties

CIVIL LIBERTARIANS, who like to think of themselves as "humans without borders" may appreciate these sentiments from an American blogger in Mindanao. Bob Martin over at the Mindanao Blog is concerned about the state of civil liberties in the Philippines. In his current post entitled, Will This Blog Put Me in a Philippine Jail? Bob worries:
News this weekend reveals that the Philippine Government has decided that Foreigners in the Philippines (such as myself) can not practice Free Speech. Those who take part in freedom of speech are breaking the law and will be subject to jail. This word came from the Philippine Commission on Human Rights. I suppose that this would mean that foreigners are no longer considered worthy of human rights in the country.

He was apparently alarmed over this PDI story reporting a statement by the Commission on Human Rights declaring foreigners as law breakers when they join protests against the government. Indeed the same article has Justice Sec. Raul Gonzalez ordering the arrest of a Bangladesh national who made anti-Arroyo remarks before an international gathering of peasant leaders and representatives.

Bob also worries about foreigners in the Philippines writing blogs:
Based on the statements issued, it would seem to me that anything written in a blog by a foreigner, if it was deemed to be different than the government position would be considered illegal. Personally, I would not participate in a rally, it just isn’t my style. However, what about commenting with your personal opinion on a blog, would the CHR consider that to be an illegal activity for a non-Filipino? I feel that what I write is not wrong, nor do I really feel that in any way I have ever called for any action against the government. However, I also feel that with the statements issued, the Philippine government could stretch it far enough to consider this blog illegal and put me in jail.


It doesn't seem likely that Bob will be jailed for blogging anytime soon. Not yet anyway. But for peoples of the world who believe that eternal vigilance is the price they pay for their cherished liberties and freedoms, I don't think any threat to civil liberties ought to be taken lightly. Especially when it comes from a regime that has tasted some blood during the quashing of the Arroyo impeachment case, in the exercise of Rule of the Majority as if it were the same as Dictatorship of the Proletariat.

I was surprised to find Bob Martin being so concerned about this matter of Philippine civil liberties since his primary focus lately has been the war on terror and the hunt for the Bali-Dos Bombers in Mindanao. But then, the fact is, his ancestors gave the first push against European-style colonialism by proclaiming a free people's right to withdraw their consent to be governed by tyrants, a long time ago, in 1776. Should we doubt where such a people will stand, if the iron fist falls?

The turn to an undeclared authoritarian rule, is really poisoning the atmosphere and damaging the military and police morale by putting them directly at real and potential loggerheads with protestors, civil libertarians, opposition politicians, militant leftist groups, priests, nuns and ordinary citizens.

Thus, the earnest efforts of the Philippine military and police authorities to search for and interdict not only terrorists, but all sorts of criminals and wrongdoers, are being undermined because many people don't trust them and think they are just tools of the Palace out to suppress legitimate political protest. If the military cannot rely on "grassroots intel" from a population that has confidence and trust in them, we might not see again such successes as the detection and arrest of Ramzi Youssef of Operation Bojinka and the first attack on WTC. But it is the Palace that is alienating the people from the military and police, who must carry out its increasingly repressive policies.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Tribes At War

I picked up the Northern Philippine Times this morning while on an early morning stroll down Session Road in Baguio City. Chances are you don't know it, though they have a website. The blazing headline and news story reads,
KALINGA TRIBES AT WAR OVER GOLD-RICH BORDER
Tabuk, Kalinga--the Balatoc and Guinaang tribes, both of Pasil town in this province are at odds over at their conficting claims on a gold rich area t their border, site of an American mining operation before World War II.
In a bid to resolve the dispute without bloodshed, peacemakers within the two parties are now trying to restore the bodong or the peace pact between the two tribes severed in 1999 due to the dispute. It was the first time the pact was scuttled in 117 years.
For the sceond time since 1999, the two tribes, said to be building their arsenal for a possible showdown, have entered a sipat the first stage of the bodong restoration in August, through intervention of the National...

A wedding brought me up to Baguio this week, with none other than the new Bishop of the Cordilleras, Bishop Carlitos Cenzon of Baguio officiating, who hails from Tabuk. (Yes, Virginia, there is such a place). I got assigned the task of assisting him throughout the long ordeal of sealing the marriage compact, and the wild reception that followed.

Bishop Cenzon was recently elected to the Permanent Council of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), composed of 12 members out of about 180 members. When I asked him about these tribal wars, he seemed to feel the weight of history and his responsibilities upon his shoulders. On top of such weighty matters as Gloriagate, are conflicts like the aforementioned tribal war, which cannot seem to find basis in the greater national context for their resolution. He must deal with both the micropolitical problems as the grand national issues.

The effects of the divisiveness Gloria Macapagal Arroyo predicted would occur if she stayed in office, reaches even the headlines of our small local papers. Though there may not seem to be any direct connection, there is nothing the Presidency does which won't affect the rest of us in a fundamental way. In this case, the recent Mining Act and the prospects for renewed gold-mining in the contested area, are important incentives for a tribal war. (Maybe Mike Arroyo will even put his big fat finger in this Igorot pie, now that he's back, as many comment-posters at PCIJ.org are noting this morning.

The good Bishop is gonna be a blogger and Philippine Commentary will be there when he launches, so watch for it! May his tribe increase.

BOONDOCKS GAMBLING: The other big news being bruited about in the boondocks is that a GAMBLING CASINO may be in the offing for Baguio, but it is being vehemently opposed by the locals as "malas" after what happened to the last casino they built here (the ill-fated Hyatt Terraces which was destroyed in an earthquake over a decade ago.) Unfortunately for these old-fashioned codgers, the idea is being backed by Luis "Chavit" Singson and the aforementioned Mike Arroyo (it'll happen they say when these two decide on the "splits"). I heard about all this much earlier this year, when it seems, the meningococcemia scare which devastated the local economy may have been started by a PR firm in Manila, "to teach these local yokels a lesson about recalcitrance." It seems the wrestling match between Baguio City Council and Mayor has something to do with this issue, but who is whose pocket?

Durn! I thought I was gonna have a peaceful respite from the miasma of Macapagal Manila coming up here. I was wrong. Lucky the World Wide Web is alive and well in Igorotland, where armies of Kakanaey, Ibalois and other highlands kids are getting connected to the global mind, or at least, the global playground. Dozens of Internet Cafes are humming up and down Session Road, at every nook and cranny and baraco coffee suq, and at the SM Mall which dominates the landscape like a huge white salakot of commercialism. I'm blogging this at a P10/hour station.

But I leave you today with the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow as I saunter up the mysterious hills
THIS is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean
Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.
This is the forest primeval; but where are the hearts that beneath it
Leaped like the roe, when he hears in the woodland the voice of the huntsman?
(from Evangeline)

SCIENCE POSTSCRIPT: Can't resist adding this little item. (Nothing to do with politics, everything to do with the exploding possibilities of humanity freed from its tyrannies, to reach for the stars, or the quarks.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Garcillano Hypothesis

Garci
is the grain of sand
encased in a new-made pearl,
the glorious secret hidden in the hard stone ball
that imprisons them
both.



just love Internet Radio. One of my favorite old time Radio sites is the SHERLOCK HOLMES SOCIETY of LONDON's amazing trove of MP3's containing radio dramatizations of such classics as Murder in the Locked Room and The Disappearing Scientists. I decided to revisit that old haunt because there was an interesting conversation around the question "Where Is Garci?" over at Ricky Carandang Reporting last night.

The theory currently in favor and being discussed by several of the comment-posters, is that VIRGILIO GARCILLANO is in South America, in places like Brazil or Argentina. This theory is being stoked, it seems, by curious leaks from the Department of Foreign Affairs, which is controverted by further curious leaks from the same Department, suggesting Garci is in Europe, maybe Poland...maybe Timbuktoo!

Know what I think? I think Garcillano is right here in the Philippines.

He's gotta be. I've come to this HYPOTHESIS by applying Sherlock Holmes' famous dictum to the present mysterious case: Once you have eliminated every other logical explanation or solution to a mystery, the one that remains, no matter how improbable, must be true!

The mystery of course, is:
"Where is Garci?"
.

Well, there are two distinct and mutually exclusive possibilities. One, he is outside the country. Two, he is inside the country.

I think the most logical place to hide Virgilio Garcillano is right here in the Philippines.

Why? One, it’s easier for him to be found in all those foreign places cause he isn’t from there. Which means he could stick out like a sore thumb to some observant local hombre or, as as Fate would probably choose, an OFW working as a nanny, waiter or delivery man.

Two, there would be more positive control of him here, should more drastic measures be necessary to keep his secrets untold.

Those DFA “sources” of "tips" as to the missing Commissioner's whereabouts, might just be conduit for misdirection leaks to far away places like Brazil and Argentina.

But folks, put yourself in GMA's shoes. Wouldn't you want Garci close enough to put a sock in his mouth if he so much as yawns? Would you want him gallivaunting around making cell phone calls to bar girls in Rio de Janeiro or Cancun? Or hiding out at some Monastery or Motel in the wine country of Germany or France? Or Lichtenstein, a favorite retirement ground for Filipino cronies on the lam?

If I were in GMA's shoes, I wouldn’t want to be stuck here fighting for my life at a Palace by the Pasig, fending off mobs, coups d'etat, and nosey critics every day while the guy who holds all my deepest, darkest secrets, Virgilio Garcillano, is living it up in a villa by the Seine or sipping mou-tai in a Shanghai bordello, thinking, “Gee this is nice, who needs Manila. I can sing to TIME Magazine or write a cell-n-tell BLOG! I Get rich and famous by turning GMA in!"

HINDI BA?

The chances are simply much greater that the garrulous mug of the rolly-polly Missing Commissioner of our miseries will be spotted if he is OUTSIDE the Philippines. It would be an unacceptable risk, no matter what venue you chose to hide him in. In whatever country he goes, some OFW working as a maid or waiter or secretary would eventually realize who he is and that would be the end of the hunt for him (such as it is!)

Which is why I am quite convinced that GARCI is here, probably within kilometers of where I sit making this speculation. It would simply be too dangerous, illogical, foolish, and even, suicidal for him to be out in the wide world.

Control freaks want you where they can well, control you. If Garci is in some foreign location outside the Philippines, there would be too many uncontrollable factors that could create big trouble. Unless of course, he's dead...

Now, I don't want to sound macabre about this, but I think it is also a fair question to ask the related question:Is Garci still ALIVE?

This creates the following MATRIX of possible conditions for us to investigate Dr. Watson:
GARCI is ALIVE and INSIDE the Philippines.

GARCI is ALIVE and OUTSIDE the Philippines.

GARCI is DEAD and INSIDE the Philippines.

GARCI is DEAD and OUTSIDE the Philippines.

***
Regarding yesterday's post, (which was my rendition of that modern classic called a BLOG RANT), I must thank MLQ3 for sending me a proper riposte from the Society of Jesus Father Provincial and his confreres, to the poison pen letter of Mr. Morato. But I'm all calmed down now...