Tuesday, June 6, 2006

The Hello Garci Scandal -- A Year Later -- the Mark of the Beast

HISTORY records that a year ago today, on June 6, 2005, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye held a Press Conference at Malacanang Palace which touched off a devastating political crisis whose climax has not been reached: the Hello Garci Scandal (Wikipedia). You can listen to his declaration that these recordings do indeed carry the voice of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, in this MP3 recording in which he is being interviewed on that day by Ms. Twink Macaraeg of the ABSCBN News Channel. The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism still has the controversial recordings that are at the center of the scandal posted on the World Wide Web, here: PCIJ (MP3s of the Garci Recordings). Jonathan Tiongco, an intelligence operative of Secretary Michael Defensor, who is also involved in the Julius Babao Affair and the terrrorist suspect Ahmed Islam Santos of the Rajah Sulaiman Movement, had something deep and mysterious to do with these tapes, but I don't have any idea what, other than he tried to clobber the PCIJ Blog for publishing his criminal records in connection with his participation in the Hello Garci controversy, charging with libel one of the country's top investigative journalism outfits.

IN THE PERFECT 20/20 OF HINDSIGHT, none of the awful things that have happened this past year, would have happened if Bunye had not bungled so terribly. It is sweet schadenfreude (my translation of "buti nga!") that I feel for the fact that it was the Palace itself that "spilled the beans" on what may really have happened, or not happened, during the 2004 national elections.

To this day, the true provenance and origin of the Garci Recordings are UNKNOWN.

Perhaps they were made in a recording studio to put the President in a damaging light. But if they were artificially manufactured, why were they released to the public a whole year after the elections, and after FPJ had already died? It is a well-known fact that as early as late April, early May 2005, Opposition figures like Atty. Alan Paguia and former Senator Francisco Kit Tatad were trying to disseminate copies of the recordings they had received from Joseph Estrada. But who was going to believe them?? Poetic Justice could not therefore have better been served, than by the happenstance that the Palace tried to PRE-EMPT the release of the tapes, and instead ignited the controversy that has led to a year-long political crisis with no end in sight.

Perhaps, as many now believe, they were made by the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (Isafp), which however did not take care of the extensive domestic needs of one, T/Sgt. Vidal Triple (err, Doble)--he with the three wives--who allegedly sold copies of these recorded conversations to Joseph Estrada via the now disappeared Atty. Sammy Ong, former NBI deputy director. Perhaps, the trove of recordings at Isafp is a part of a much larger intel data base related to the global war on terror. Perhaps there is even a connection with the data mining operations of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). The Senate under Sen. Biazon has done the most substantive investigation into this aspect of things.

Perhaps, the President may yet get impeached over this though that prospect is currentlyin serious doubt. But the President has wreaked havoc on Philippine Democracy in the continuing attempt to save herself and a Presidency that is now all smoke and mirrors to hide the ashes of its utter failure at the one thing a President must do: to ACT for the good of the Nation!

666 NUMEROLOGY AND JUETENG I suppose that on such an evil day, I can indulge in a little science to ward off the Evil Spirits. Jueteng, the ever-popular numbers game, is back in the news. Jueteng will allegedly be used to bankroll local administration bets by a selective liberalization of enforcement efforts in pro-Palace bailiwicks. In jueteng, bettors can wager as little as a peso (or even less) that they an pick the two eventual winning numbers drawn out of 37. Now the number of possible two number combinations drawn out of 37 is given by a well-known combinatorial formula once worked out by Blaise Pascal (I think), like this:

C(37,2)=(37!)/(37-2)!2!=(37*36*35*...*1)/(35*...*1)(2)=(37*36)/2=666

Thus the chances of winning a simple bet at JUETENG is one in 666.

POINCARE CONJECTURE PROVED? Jueteng, it is said, was introduced by the Chinese during Spanish times, along with other vices like opium smoking. But two Chinese mathematicians may be in for great fame and fortune if this news article turns out to be true that they've complete a proof of Poincare's Conjecture, an outstanding problem in modern mathematics for whose proof a $1 million reward has been offered by the Clay Institute. Harvard Prof. Shing Tung Yau, winner of the prestigious Fields Prize of the American Math Society, describes Poincare's Conjecture:

"The conjecture is that if in a closed three-dimensional space, any closed curves can shrink to a point continuously, this space can be deformed to a sphere."

The result is important to physicists because of many key theoretical and engineering applications, such as in string theory and cosmology. To me, it's some of the sexiest stuff in Science right now, though the next thing comes close...

One Laptop Per Child dot org provides a detailed technical peek at the "Model A" working model:
The proposed $100 machine will be Linux-based, with a dual-mode display--both a full-color, transmissive DVD mode, and a second display option that is black and white reflective and sunlight-readable at 3X the resolution. The laptop will have a 500 Mhz processor and a128 MB of DRM with 500 MB of Flash memory, it will not have a hard disk, but it will have four USB ports. The laptops will have wireless broadband that, among other things, allows them to work as a mesh network, each laptop will be able to talk to its nearest neighbors, creating an ad hoc, local area network. The laptops will use innovative power (including wind-up) and will be able to do most everything except store huge amounts of data.
Nota bene: Click on the picture at right to magnify it, and tell me those aren't Pinoy kids in the picture that they used for the blazing orange model!

Negroponte and Massachusetts Institute of Technology must be sending us a message. Consider this. Call it 5,000 Pesos per laptop. That's 5 billion Pesos for a million laptop units, or 100 billion pesos to supply a laptop of above quality to each of the 20 million school age kids in the Philippine education system.

Coincidentally, 100 billion pesos is just equal to "Personal Services" portion of the 2006 Deped Budget. (Note that though Deped may only get 112 or 116 billion pesos under the version approved by the Senate, I doubt that the 100 billion pesos in salaries will be reduced!)

If only we didn't live in the Socialist Republic of the Philippines, we could probably decide to just buy each Filipino school age child a laptop in 2006, and even give one to the the 450,000 teachers!

On the technical side, the above configuration will literally become obsolete very quickly, given the pace of innovation that powers the computer revolution. So the real significance of the accomplishment is really this: the OLPC team has undeniably demonstrated that for about $100 in 2006 dollars, at any given time in the foreseeable future, it should be possible to build a leading edge, networkable laptop computer with ever-improving computational, mass storage and communications capabilities. To show that something CAN be done by actually DOING it, is what of course, distinguishes physicists and engineers from philosophers and mathematicians. Still it is a valuable bit of knowledge that roughly 5000 pesos equals a laptop of above quality. In some ways that is incredible because the commercial laptops on the market cost at least ten times that or much more. P100,000 is not an uncommon amount to have to pay for a decent portable. So what OLPC dot org have really done is to show that a suitably organized group of people, (like a nation or a corporation) CAN produce such a thing as a laptop computer of above design for the COST of about 5000 pesos. But I'm sure this does NOT mean that, if we do nothing and just wait around, there will soon be 5,000 pesos laptops with garish colors and designs available at the nearest tianggein Manila. There are after all, perfectly valid economic reasons, not just technical design ones, why commercial laptops are closer to P50,000 than P5,000.

In other words, if we want to benefit from the $100 laptop design, we best plan to manufacture them ourselves locally. It is as if a brilliant invention has not been patented by its inventor but instead donated immediately to the public domain. Yet, concrete, working models of that invention will not materialize out of thin air by themselves, since only the intellectual property, consisting of the detailed engineering design, materials, components and configuration, have actually been donated to the public domain, and will presumably be available for free from the OLPC dot org. Like other inventions that "come off patent," it still remains for people to exploit the free knowledge that is being made available.

BACK TO SCHOOL: The eloquent cut and cutting prose of Manuel L. Quezon III writing in his column for the Philippine Daily Inquirer yesterday, Suffer the Little Children -- will be much imitated during the next few weeks, as the season called "Back to School" unfolds. MLQ3's essay is the standard bearer for what would be called in other climates, "the liberal position." (I shall leave it to Manolo whether or not to further qualify this designation.)

I must say, the vast majority of what Manolo calls the punditocracy agrees with him on this. No one can imagine any other solution to our education mess it seems, other than to spend oodles more money on it.

Here appears to be the root of the public education rhetoric. The very last line of Article XIV of the 1987 Constitution (verbosely titled Education, Science and Technology, Culture, Arts and Sports) is famous for how it is used in current debates about education in the Philippines:
(5) The State shall assign the highest budgetary priority to education and ensure that teaching will attract and retain its rightful share of the best available talents through adequate remuneration and other means of job satisfaction and fulfillment.
The historical fact is that education has NEVER enjoyed "the highest budgetary priority" in the Philippines. Its nadir was surely during the long, deep valley of 350 years of Night under the Taliban, pre-incarnated in the Spanish frailocracy; and its zenith arguably during a second colonial time, as America's First Iraq. Or that zenith is yet to be, if you wish.

But what we have today is an incomprehensible refusal to see that you cannot run Fedex with all truck drivers and no trucks. In fact the problem is bigger than that. It has become an article of political faith that you CAN run Fedex with all truck drivers and no trucks!

A REVEALING DOUBLE STANDARD: One ironic thing to note about most of the less creative and original of MLQ3's imitators: few of them would ever dream of sending their precious babies to the public schools. (Just ask them.)

7 comments:

mlq3 said...

DJB-

Just a clarification though I don't dispute the liberal tag: what I am for is at least spending on students something approximating what our neighbors do, realizing, of course, that the devil is in the details.

The long-term goal is having fewer babies, I guess, but before that, intensifying the training given teachers, and even as you cull the existing teacher base, attracting better ones and keeping them.

Harnessing new technologies too, is essential but frightening to teachers. I am all for the $100 laptop, since it frees students up: no need for expensive books, it could make the taking and grading of papers and exams and quizzes better (I have met Americans who don't take paper quizzes or exams anymore), and even distance education more practical.

While an old-fashioned liberal arts kind of guy, I know, too, science and math must be major priorities, if not the priority in the modern age. Even the teaching of English could be boosted since you could have those Berlitz type DVD's that leapfrog the atrocious English skills of most teachers.

Constitutional admonitions aside, not enough is being spent and lots more needs to be spent -but prudently and wisely. If your only measure is classrooms built (never mind kept in a good state of repair) and teachers hired (never mind their qualifications) then of course you're just constructing a money pit.

Rizalist said...

MLQ3: I'm with Drilon today. He claims he is able to get school houses built at about half the price that DPWH will do it for. But even at DPWH prices, we've actually got plently of money to build all the school rooms we need AND equip them with computers too.

Just get rid of the MAKABAYAN/PELC subject-learning areas in the Curriculum, leaving Math, English, Science and Pilipino and you would have 30 billion pesos to do it with! And you could start hiring all the best teachers again, because, though there would be many fewer of them, they would have the tools to teach more and better.

But why is it a LIBERAL sacred cow that we can't touch the employment rolls?

No matter how much money the people allocate, the plantilla gets filled up way before the libraries and laboratories do.

That's my beef with it MLQ3. We need to live within the budget. that means we spend on ALL the critical components of the enterprise.

Like a moonshot, you can't get there with no fuel and half a rocket.

We can't use Deped as an adjunct of Comelec and DSWD and DOLE.

The Curriculum is VERY IMPT in budgetary matters. congestion in the curriculum, especially with moralistic subjects and requirements, leads to big employee rolls.

That is why the Constitutional critiism is also critical to understanding the budget philosophy i am espousing.

HILLBLOGGER said...

I don't believe the impeachment try will go anywhere Dean.

Not with this current crop of legislators. By the time a new set occupies the legislature, Gloria will have simply happily marched her way to an aircraft leaving for the States to the tune of an ISAFP band playing Aloha.

Jon Mariano said...

Why we can't touch the plantilla? Because if we do, a lot of people will lose their jobs. We solve the education nightmare we introduce unemployment nightmare.

It's the same when we ask "Why do we still have jeepneys?". Because if we ban them, what will happen to the drivers?

Dean, it will take a lot of courage to implement what you want.

Bernardo F. Ronquillo said...

Dean, off-topic. It is easy for this generation to forget our past, the way we were. But for us old foggies our upbringing and old ways were good and better than what we have today. It is so easy for GMA7 to get what we had in the past and to dress it up using their perspective and still say that it is PILIPINO.

Captain Barbell is a Pilipino creation by Mars Ravelo and my generation knows his story by heart. It breaks my heart to see Channel 7, supposedly a KAPUSO, to change the story of Captain Barbell and choose to follow the SUPERMAN story about his origin.
Nakakahiya naman. Mars Ravello's plot is original and Pinoy na Pinoy. They made it Comics and not Komiks, if you get my drift.

Paolo Bediones should not have tried to approximate a Marlon Brando but that is what they tried to do. If they wanted to originate Captain Barbell from the future, they should not have dressed their characters straight out of Hollywood futuristic films and even added characters recognizable from foreign films. Futuristic Pinoys dapat.

Channel 7 changed the whole character of this hero. Mars' concept is of a timid and shy person without super powers turning at the lift of a barbell into a superhero. Ravelo must be turning in his grave.

Amadeo said...

Dean:

“MLQ3's essay is the standard bearer for what would be called in other climates, "the liberal position".”

Reading the piece of MLQIII, I’m not sure why it could be categorized as the liberal position. If we talk in the context of education, being liberal most likely refer to a preference for the studies in liberal arts and the humanities, over those studies in business, engineering, etc.

And if we are refering to political philosophies, while we can de-emphasize somewhat the more traditional view of being liberal, which is to be for progress and reform and for the protection of civil liberties, still the government does have a pivotal role and responsibility in assuring the protection of the rights and liberties of its citizens, most especially those with no political clout to demand and seek redress, like the children and their rights to education.

And to round it out, to be liberal in Economics today can also be startlingly reactionary, because then one would be for laissez-faire and self-regulating markets.

Rizalist said...

Amadeo,
I think MLQ3 understands "Liberal" as used here to mean in the American sense of being for being government spending programs and always complaining that they aren't big enough. In our case, education is really a 150 billion peso subsidy to Comelec and DPWH, which also happens to serve as a giant aging vat.

But I agree: to be liberal in this sense is to be reactionary to the alternatives. For example, it is simply inconceivable to liberals that we would "touch the plantilla" as Jon mentions. But the simple fact is at 90% of the budget for salaries, there really isn't much left over but to keep the lights on. Just like in an aging vat.