Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Last Three Minutes of the Erap Bio

WARNING: The 3-minute video clip below may threaten the political stability of the State and may undermine faith and confidence in the Government. That, at least, is what has just been declared by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) in banning a DVD™ biography of former President Joseph Estrada. This three minute excerpt is taken from a copy of the DVD, which is 58 minutes, 10 seconds long, and represents the "last three minutes" for which MTRCB has banned its airing and given the entire DVD an X-rating!

The Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) issued the following memorandum banning a DVD biography of former President Joseph Estrada:
After conducting a second review on the material "Ang Mabuhay Para Sa Masa", Board Members Paulino E. Cases, Jr., Fr. Nicasio D. Cruz and Orlando Ross. Olgado found the material to contain scenes which contravene Presidential Decree No. 1986 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations. Accordingly, the objectionable scenes:
1. tend to threaten the political stability of the State;
2. tend to undermine the faith and confidence of the people int he Government;
3. are libelous or defamatory to the good name of persons; and,
4. pertain to matters which are subjudice in nautre.
On his part, Board Member Edmund L. Sicam found the last three (3) minutes of the material as tending to threaten the political stability of the State; and undermining the faith of the people in the Government with the narration that states, "nalalapit na ang bagong umaga dahil sa lakas ng puwersa ng masa at muli ng babangon."

On the other hand, Board Member Mario A. Hernando found no grounds for disapproval and rated the same "G" Suitable for all Ages.

WHEREFORE, by a majority vote of four (4) to one(1), the material "Ang Mabuhay Para Sa Masa" is hereby DISAPPROVED FOR AIRING ON TELEVISION ("X").

SO ORDERED, August 28, 2006
(Signed) Members of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board:
Fr. Nicasio D. Cruz
Orlando Ros S. Olgado
Edmund L. Sicam
Mario A. Hernando
Paulino E. Cases, Jr. (Chairman)

Even if you worked for the ouster of Erap as President, which I did, one cannot now turn a blind eye to the sheer arrogance of the MTRCB, to this grave abuse of discretion that amounts to a repression of the civil and political liberties of us all!

Ironically, watching the last three minutes will reaffirm in many, WHY they are now working for the ouster of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo! I have maintained that they both belong in jail. If the Palace had any hand in this latest shenanigan, her eventual sentence ought to be extended accordingly.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

DVD Biography of Former Pres. Joseph Estrada Rated "X" by MTRCB

[Nota bene: The correspondence that follows is reproduced verbatim from copies of public domain documents provided to Philippine Commentary by Rodriguez, Casila & Associates law firm.]

The Movie & Television Review & Classification Board (MTRCB) sent two letters last week to Mr. Rey A. David regarding his company's video biography of former President Joseph Estrada. I reproduce them verbatim:
August 22, 2006

Publicasia, Inc.

Dear Mr. David:

This refers to your letter-request dated 22 August 2006, for exemption from review of "ANG MABUHAY PARA SA MASA".

Please be advised that the BOARD cannot legally exempt the aforementioned documentary. It is the opinion of the BOARD that the same does not fall under the exemption provided for under Section 7 of the P.D. No. 1986, stating that:
Section 7. Unauthorized Showing or Exhibition. - It shall be unlawful for any person or entity to exhibit or cause to be exhibited in any moviehouse, x x x or by television within the Philippines, any motion picture, television program x x x not duly authorized by the owner or his assignee and passed by the BOARD; x x x EXCEPT motion pictures, television programs or publicity materials imprinted or exhibited by the Philippine Government and/or its departments and agencies, and newsreels."
The BOARD considers "Ang Mabuhay Para Sa Masa" as more of a documentary than a newsreel. Under P.D. No. 1986 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations, and reiterated by the Supreme Court in G.R. No. 155282 (MTRCB v s. ABS-CBN Corporation & Loren Legarda, 2005) newsreel is defined as "straight news reporting as distinguished from news analyses, commentaries and opinions. Clearly, the aforesaid documentary is such kind of program within the MTRCB's review power.

We hope we have made clear our position on the aforesaid matter.

Very truly yours,
Above was followed on the very next day with the following incredible proclamation by MTRCB:

Public Perception Mgmt Asia, Inc.

Dear Mr. David,

This is to inform you that your television material entitled "Ang Mabuhay Para sa Masa" was reviewed by the Board on August 22, 2006 and was found to be unsuitable for exhibition for the following reason:
We have previewed the film material and it is our view that the presentation of the biography of the former President up to his ouster is commendable. The scenes from his ouster in our opinion 'may undermine the faith and confidence of the people in their government and or duly constituted authority' as the law provides, it is our humble recommendation that a second review is highly recommended as soon as possible."

You may appeal for a secvond review within five (5) days from receipt of this notice.

Very truly yours
Representing the producer of the DVD™ Ang Mabuhay Para Sa Masa, (which I just got done watching this afternoon) Atty. Rufus B. Rodriguez wrote back to the MTRCB as follows:
August 24, 2006

Chairman, MTRCB

Subject: Your two letters respectively dated August 22 and 23, 2006

Greetings: 1. Thank you for your subject letters.

2. Firtly, with respect to your letter dated August 22, 2006, the Board's definition of newsreel as "straight news reporting as distinguished from news analyses, commentaries and opinions is not in the law (P.D. 1986). In fact, in the cited case of MTRCB vs. ABS-CBN & Legarda, G.R. No. 155282, Jan. 17, 2005, the Supreme court admitted that the term {newsreels" is not defined by the statute. The Court said, "P.D. No. 1986 does not defined "newsreels".

Consequently, the Court took the ordinary or dictinary eaning of the term. The Court said, "Webster's dictionary defines newsreels as short motion piture films portraying or dealing with current events...Apparently, newsreels are straight presentation of events. They are depiction of "actualities."

It is thus obvious that the Supreme Court's definitioon is BROAD while the Board's administrative definition is NARROW. Whose definition ought to bne followed? Naturally, the Supreme Court's. Under the Constitution, the Supreme Court has the final word on what the law means. Besides, administrative agencies have no authority to expand or narrow down the ordinary meaning of statutory terms. Their quasi legislative authority gives them the duty to fill-in the details in the execution of the law, but not to alter the law.

The material questions are, therefore, as follows:

(a) Is the subject "Ang Mabuhay Para sa Masa" a motion picture film? Answer: Yes. It is "a series of pictures projected in a screen in rapid succession, with objects shown in successive positions slightly changed so as to produces the optical effect of a continuous picture in which the objects move, whether the picture be black or white or colored, silent or with accompanying sound, on whatever medium and with whatever mechanism or equipment they are projectewd, and in whatever material they are preserved or recorded for instant projection, for the purpose of this Act, the material in which the motion picture is contained, preserved, or recorded, forms an integral part of the motion picture subject of this Act" (Section 10 (1), P.D. 1986).

(b) Is it short? Answer: Yes. It's running time is less than one (1) hour. Ordinarily, motion picture films run from one and half to two or more hours.

(c) Does it portray or deal with current events? Answer: Yes. It portrays real events before, during and after President Joseph Estrada's incumbency as President of the Republic of the Philippines in relation to the current political issue of presidential leadership problems.

(d) Is it a straight presentation of events? Answer: Yes, the events presented are historically verifiable. They are not figments of mere imagination. They actually happened.

Hence, the subject "Ang Mabuhay Para sa Masa" is a newsreel under Section 7 of P.D. 1986.

3. Secondly, with respect to your letter dated August 23, 2006, the Board ruled the subject motion picture film "to be unsuitable for exhibition for the following reason:
"We have previewed the film material and it is our view that the presentation of the biography of the former President up to his ouster is commendable. The scenes from his ouster is in our opinion "may undermine the faith and confidence of the people in their government and or duly constituted authority" as the law provides, it is our humble recommendatin that a second review is highly recommended as soon as possible."

We reiterate our legal position to the effect that the subject motion picture film is a newsreel which is excepted by express provision of law from the Board's power of review.

Moreover, the Board's application of the 'dangerous tendency test' to prohibit the exhibition of the subject biographical film is a clear prior restraint against the freedom of speech under the Constitution. The Board's invocation of the test appears to be a n implied admission that the film does not present any clear and present danger against any legitimate State interest.

Finally, it must be conceded that the subject newsreel involves the expression of President Estrada's political belief in favor of the Filipino 'masa'. What principles govern the exercise or such freedom of expression under the Constitution? The Supreme Court teches that: "In the realm of religious faith, AND IN THAT OF POLITICAL BELIEF, sharp differences arise. In both fields, the tenets of one man may seem the rankest error to his neighbor. To persuade others to his own point of view, the pleader, as we know, at times resorts to exaggeration, to villification of men who have been, or are prominent in Church or State or even to false statements. But the people of this nation have ordained in the light of history that inspite of the probability of excesses and abuses, these liberties are, in the long view, ESSENTIAL to enlightened opinion and right conduct on the part of the citizens of democracy."
(Iglesia ni Cristo vs. CA, BRMPT and Mendez, G.R. No. 119673, July 26, 1996, en banc, citing C antwell vs. State of Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296 1940).

Has the Board shown on record
any findings of facts to justify the conclusion that the subject video presentation 'may undermine the faith and confidence of the peop0le in their government and/or duly constituted authority?'

Answer: NO.

WHEREFORE, it is respectfully prayed after due process of law that:

A. The Board officially recognize the subject film "Ang Mabuhay Para sa Masa" as a short motion picture film portraying or dealing with current events per the Supreme Court's definition of "newsreels" under Section 7 of P.D. 1986 (MTRCB vs. ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp and Loren Legarda G.R. No. 155282, Jan. 17, 2005).

B. The prohibition against exhibition of the said motion picture film be set aside.

C. Just incidental reliefs are also prayed for.


Counsel for Mr. Rey A. David
and Publik Perception Mgmt. Asia, Inc.
Just yesterday, the MTRCB rejected this second appeal with the following declaration: DECISION ON SECOND REVIEW
After conducting a second review on the material "Ang Mabuhay Para Sa Masa", Board Members Paulino E. Cases, Jr., Fr. Nicasio D. Cruz and Orlando Ross. Olgado found the material to contain scenes which contravene Presidential Decree No. 1986 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations. Accordingly, the objectionable scenes:
1. tend to threaten the political stability of the State;
2. tend to undermine the faith and confidence of the people int he Government;
3. are libelous or defamatory to the good name of persons; and,
4. pertain to matters which are subjudice in nautre.
On his part, Board Member Edmund L. Sicam found the last three (3) minutes of the material as tending to threaten the political stability of the State; and undermining the faith of the people in the Government with the narration that states, "nalalapit na ang bagong umaga dahil sa lakas ng puwersa ng masa at muli ng babangon."

On the other hand, Board Member Mario A. Hernando found no grounds for disapproval and rated the same "G" Suitable for all Ages.

WHEREFORE, by a majority vote of four (4) to one(1), the material "Ang Mabuhay Para Sa Masa" is hereby DISAPPROVED FOR AIRING ON TELEVISION ("X").

SO ORDERED, August 28, 2006
(Signed) Members of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board:
Fr. Nicasio D. Cruz
Orlando Ros S. Olgado
Edmund L. Sicam
Mario A. Hernando
Paulino E. Cases, Jr. (Chairman)

The MTRCB effectively bans any television airing of the biography, including its originally scheduled broadcast on a little-known UHF channel (UNTV). Of course, we all know what this means. The video will bust the charts in popularity and is already being bootlegged and copied all over the place. Nothing like an X-rating to drive the ever-curious Pinoys ever curiouser and curiouser!

I am certainly curious about a film that has the potential to
"threaten the stability of the state"!

What dynamite there must be in a simple video that the Movie and Television Review folks deem
is capable of undermining the faith and confidence of the people in the government!

It would seem to me that what they have on their hands is actually a matter that should be of intense public and critical interest. (Not some prurient or otherwise objectionable film deserving of an X-Rating.) Instead, it ought to be rated G - Approved for all ages - as expressed by the lone dissenting vote on the the MTRCB, the movie critic, Mario Hernando.

No matter what anyone thinks of Joseph Estrada, he is literally the only democratically elected president who did not actually HAVE to cheat to get to Malacanang. This is not to say that Erap would NOT have cheatead if he had to, only that he didn't have to because he was that popular in the 1998 elections
during which he won by a landslide over Jose de Venecia, Fidel Ramos' horse in that race.

But for the last five years Erap has been under arrest, yet he has not been convicted of any crime. If the moral and constitutional rectitude of Edsa Dos were so obvious, why has it not been given a proper judicial denoument? It is pure non sequitur that the physical conditions of Erap's detention, within his own Tanay, Rizal resthouse, do not approximate those of the Man in the Iron Mask. But despite not one but two Supreme Court Decisions proclaiming his so-called people power ouster in 2001 to be legal and constitutional the former President has not been convicted of any crime. Instead, Erap has refused numerous offers from the Palace for him to go into comfortable exile to any foreign country of his choice, and has insisted on "clearing his name" of plunder charges. That Erap has NEITHER been convicted nor acquitted of those charges is failure of the Justice system under GMA because after five, long and weary years the entire country has suffered a divisive and fractious era that has led to stagnation and strife. GMA's own lethal prediction of being a divisive force in the national life, made on Rizal Day 2003, has come true with a vengeance. Meanwhile real crooks like Chavit Singson and real Derelicts to Duty like Angelo Reyes and Hilario Davide have feasted on the carcass of Erap's Presidency, along with the Palace's current tenant. Erap's biography, even as political speech by his supporters, is certainly within the realm of protected public speech and free expression.

Perhaps the definition of newsreel will be further refined by the Supreme Court, perhaps even to the detriment of Atty. Rodriguez's client! But it is a travesty of civil liberties and and diminution in our freedom of speech and expression to have the MTRCB render such an obviously partisan political decision.

Friday, August 25, 2006

A Gutenberg Movement

CHECHE LAZARO in the ABSCBN News program Media in Focus Thursday night had three interesting guests on: John Nery (The Newstand Blog) an editor with INQ7-Philippine Daily Inquirer, Connie Veneracion (The Sassy Lawyer aka The Pinoy Cook) and Ronald Meinardus (My Liberal Times).

Ronald Meinardus is an interesting addition to the Philippine blogosphere. I first encountered him earlier this year at IBlog2 the Conference. He is evidently a German who has come to the Philippines by way of Thailand, if I heard him right, and is here "promoting liberal politics." Well he has come to the right place, where literally anything goes as far as politics. (But just try to get anyone to listen and take you seriously, mein Herr!)

Atty. Connie Veneracion has built her well-established weblog, as she relates it to Ms. Lazaro, first on daily postings of Filipino recipes to which she added substantial legal essays on current events and politics. She disdains merely linking to stuff and prefers full blown essays on specific topics. Though she claimed on Cheche's show that she does not try to impress, that is hard to believe in a blogger or columnist. But as a blawger ("blogger on the law") she may have found success in that disingenuous regard. Personally, I find most her legal writing dry, or droll (though the recipes are always mouth-watering.) Two of her recent titles are How one misleading headline can ruin a man’s reputation (about how Jim Paredes of Edsa II and Apo Hiking Society fame, has departed for the land of Aus in an alleged abandonment of the Philippines ...) and Mashed potatoes and kalabasa. Yummy. Cheche Lazaro relates how Connie Veneracion has made it into the Main Stream Media by snagging a column at the Manila Standard Today newspaper. Congratulations to Connie. Hope it's a move in the right direction. Other Philippine blawgers of note are Ed Lacierda of the San Juan Gossip Mills and Fred Pamaos, the Atty. at Work.

Although Internet penetration in the Philippines is estimated to be 10% or less of the general population, John Nery of PDI/Inq7 perceives the challenge facing main stream newspapers like his own, which he succinctly describes as sharing the same universe or audience as Internet-connected Filipinos and follows trends in the US with a lagtime of just a few years. In other words, the 6 to 10 percent of the general public that reads newspapers are also "first adopters" of the cheaper, faster, better information source called the World Wide Web--to the extent that they actually quit having to buy newspapers altogether! The online audience also includes many who've probably never read a printed newspaper with any regularity. Indeed, Jojo Robles editor of the Manila Standard Today estimated their online audience to be ten times bigger than their paid subscriber base. The ratio may be even larger for PDI, which gets an overwhelming majority of its online biznes from overseas Pinoys. And of course bloggers. Lucky for PDI it has folks like John Nery who helped the newspaper develop a leading website that is a primary source of news and reliable information for Philippine Commentary and most other weblogs in the country. INQ7 is certainly indispensable to this blogger in several other ways, one being as a WHETSTONE to sharpen his wits against.

Historically speaking, many weblogs in the United States built their audiences in counterpoise to main stream media outlets, first by reporting and commenting on them, but soon enough by exposing inaccuracies and bias, as well as generating and making news themselves.

A Gutenberg Movement? If I could add something to the issues being explored by Cheche Lazaro with her guests tonight, especially about the relationship between the Main Stream and the Blog Stream media, it might be the following points:

The handwriting is on the wall for all traditional media. Better get online or get left behind! Technology, and specifically the free online "publishing houses" like Google's Blogger, Wordpress, TypePad, Friendster, and lately, MySpace and Multiply makes possible an unprecedented increase in original publications, both in quantity and quality.

The market place for ideas has just gotten a lot freer and the arena of contending thoughts has become a more even playing field with the emergence of free weblogs that can be almost instantly set up and published regularly by ordinary citizens--even by adolescents. With transaction costs nearly nil once a person has a reliable Internet connection, perhaps a new "Gutenberg 2" era is upon us...based not on printing ink on paper but publishing for the world wide Mind on ethereal, fully programmable, full-color pages and assembled into books and journals sometimes called BLOGS. Mostly for "free."

This has already transformed the traditional trimedia of print, radio and television, who've all undertaken mass migrations into the global network and melded their media with it, some with greater or less success than others. But it is in my opinion, hitherto unforeseen or unimagined applications in the World Wide Web that represent the next "television" or "radio" or "newspaper". It is impossible to predict exactly what new GENRES of human communication will evolve from the marvelous invention of Sir Tim Berners Lee. All I know is, it won't be the stodgy, old one-way media owned by special interests that we have now.

I can't wait!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Lunch at Cafe Havana

Every other Wednesday at Cafe Havana in Makati, writer Carmen Guerrero Nakpil co-hosts a charming and usually scintillating lil luncheon get-together with her daughter, Gemma Cruz Araneta-- for journalists and foreign correspondents, itinerant senators, roving ambassadors, university professors, assorted philosophers, government officials and military officers, (and assorted riffraff like me.) Mother and daughter--Chitang and Gemma-- are stunning in their own ways, all having to do with a certain conception of literature and life, of body and soul, perhaps having something to do with being members of the Jose Rizal descendants. As accomplished women in their own rights, they always make for convivial company. I've been attending more regularly and this week's episode did not disappoint.

ISAGANI CRUZ reaped a whirlwind of disdain from Prof. Jose David Lapuz of the University of Sto. Tomas for his recent gay-bashing essays. And that was before we could start on the appetizers! But Kit Tatad seemed quietly to back the beleaguered gay basher at the Philippine Daily Inquirer. But he was clearly outnumbered and gamely tried to change the subject. "Isagani Cruz" was a more interesting topic than the international criminal court. I really wanted to hear about his recent trip to Spain and the Pope's recent family values message via the conservative Spanish faithful. But I didn't get a chance to bring it up with Senator Kit because Tita Chitang Nakpil was "tsk tsking" Isagani Cruz for his frankly backward and intolerant views. John Silva's salvoes were mentioned and Manolo Quezon's two excellent ripostes were much discussed and argued. But together or individually, the rhetorical foes of Isagani Cruz are every bit a match for him and it seems to me they have the moral and intellectual ascendancy over his troglodyte views which do not seem to be shared by the majority of Filipinos.

By the time we all got down to Main Courses, the discussion had turned to NUCLEAR WEAPONS and the problem of controlling them, when someone brought up the just-announced defiant stand of Iran's leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad despite a seemingly united stand by the international community--even France and Germany!

I posed the question to the group: Is there a right to possess nuclear weapons? Who owns such a right? I shall leave out the lively repartee that followed so as to elicit the comments of Philippine Commentary regulars on the matter.

SENATOR PIA CAYETANO had it exactly right on ABSCBN ANC News just now in calling for the Philippine Government to act now on the Guimaras Island oil spill involving over 450,000 gallons of bunker fuel in a sunken Sunshine Maritime vessel chartered by Petron Oil Co. Said to be lying in over 1800 feet of water off the southwest coast of the island, the oil leaking from its damaged hold(s) threatens not only Guimaras and Panay Islands, but also the entire fabled Sulu-Sulawesi Sea ecosystem, in the middle of which are, for example, the Tubbataha Reefs and its unparalleled marine biodiversity. Accounts can be settled with Petron sooner or later, but that spil better be dealt with quick. Just at noon, I heard a report of a Press Conference at the Manila Polo Club at which Petron chairman Nicasio Alcantara admitted a second leak may have sprung on the ill-fated m.v. Solar 1 fuel tanker. A SINGLE-HULLED oil tanker plying one of the most precious ocean waters anywhere on the planet. Petron claims it will pay for all costs of the cleanup. You bet your gas you will!

{UPDATE) House Deputy Majority Leader EDCEL LAGMAN played his part in the recently concluded Second Impeachment Hearings with relish, at one point reminding his colleague, ROILO GOLEZ that the latter is NOT a LAWYER and ought not speak as if he were one. This was during Golez's rather telling citations of American jurisprudence on impeachment proceedings and his parliamentary inquiries into the exact nature of impeachment proceedings in the Philippine jurisdiction. But Edcel Lagman had the numbers and dutifully intoned the suppletory nature of such external jurisprudence to the local House Rules. Disingenuity on Rep. Lagman's part only shows when he insists it was the Minority that last year moved to adopt the current impeachment proceeding rules. But I doubt very much that the result would've been any different even if the rules that Edcel Lagman asserts he proposed instead had been adopted. Numbers do matter, and next year, in the 2007 elections, assuming they are held [sic!], the Opposition will get its chance to elect the mere one-third of the House that is required for a third impeachment attempt. The House Plenary today junked the Second complaint by a vote of 173 - 32, a greater margin than last year.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Guimaras Island Oil Spill

The worst oil spill in Philippine history may have just occurred on August 11, off the west coast of Guimaras Island, near Iloilo City in the Central Philippines, when 450,000 gallons (1.8 million liters) of bunker fuel aboard the Solar 1 went down in rough seas of up to 3,000 feet of the Guimaras Strait. (In comparison, the Exxon Valdez oil spill at Prince William Sound, Alaska involved 11 million gallons of oil spilt) A growing oil slick on the surface near Guimaras Island's Nueva Valencia community has befouled portions of the southwest side of Guimaras Island, a tourist destination and the major supplier of the country's high export-quality mangoes. It does not seem to be known at present how big the rupture is in the single hulled vessel, Solar One owned by Sunshine Maritime, Inc. -- or how quickly the oil cargo may be leaking. ABSCBN News reports on the statements of oil company PETRON, which is seeking international assistance with the cleanup. The entire marine and coastline ecosystem of the area is likely to suffer greatly from this disaster. The worst may be yet to come since the depth at which the ship now lies makes an accurate disaster assessment difficult and uncertain. On this morning's Crossroads tv program on ANC, Tony Velasquez asked Petron Public Affairs Manager Virginia Ruivivar about the company's insurance coverage. Ms. Ruivivar stated that persons affected by an oil spill "can make a claim with the insurance carrier." Technical expertise from an international agency is apparently being sought by Petron in order to undertake the inspection of the sunken vessel. Ms. Ruivivar denied allegations the vessel was overloaded and claimed it was certified to be seaworthy by the International Oil Protection Council. The Coast Guard is undertaking an investigation into the incident. The US Coast Guard has some Links on this page that give more information on oil spills and their proper management.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Special Court Could Oversee Anti-Terror Law

nti-terrorism laws unavoidably entail some curtailment of the general public's freedoms. But hardly anyone objects very strenuously even to draconian countermeasures when a credible threat is demonstrated, as in the case of a ban on carrying on-board commercial aircraft, components of liquid improvised explosives in the foiled London airliner bombing conspiracy. But last week, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel and Rep. Nereus Acosta, vice chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee declared their intention to hold up, once more, the passage into Law of the long-debated Anti-Terrorism Bill because they say the authorities may use it against legitimate political and opposition leaders. On ABSCBN/ANC last night, Twink Macaraeg's televised one-on-one debate between National Security Undersecretary Ricardo Blancaflor and the Secretary General of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Renato Reyes, also revolved around the issue of how the defense of human and civil rights ought to be conducted while the international community fights a war on international terrorism. Although Neric Acosta seems comfortable endlessly debating "the definition of terrorism" as an irresolvable or inescapable rut, his, is really a cop-out position. Nene Pimentel touches on more substantive civil libertarian issues by invoking the ghost of martial laws past and the Marcosian legacy of officially denied salvagings, unexplained desaparecidos ... and other human rights atrocities of the recent past. The concerns of both legislators are serious, but can, and have already been amply addressed during the debates over the anti-terror bill. I might only add the following thoughts:

(1) The concern for human and civil rights during the implementation of a new anti-terror law can be addressed in the same way that Sen. Lorenzo M. Tanada, in crafting the 1965 Anti-Wiretapping Law allowed for the legitimate use of electronic eavesdropping on citizens for intelligence and national security purposes, by placing such special operations under the supervision and jurisdiction of the Courts.

(2) In the present environment of an asymmetric war between the international community and international terror groups like Al Qaeda and their allies, perhaps a special Court, like the FISA Court in the United States, has to be instituted especially to handle cases that specifically invoke anti-terrorism legislation. It would operate in much the same way as FISA...the government national security and intelligence agencies would apply for warrants before special anti terror operations are to be undertaken, or, in emergency situations, they may apply for the warrants and inform the Court of their actions even AFTER the operations.

(3) The principle involved in both the Tanada's Anti-Wiretapping Law and the present Anti-Terrorism bill is the same because both laws allows for a curtailment of the people's basic freedoms, but only as needed and reviewed and approved by a competent Court. National Security objectives can be achieved in an effective and timely manner while respecting the human and civil rights of citizens and foreign nationals if the implementation of such laws are conducted with the appropriate judicial review.

The United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (1978)
created the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) and enabled it to oversee requests for surveillance warrants by federal police agencies (primarily the F.B.I.) against suspected foreign intelligence agents inside the U.S. The court is located within Department of Justice. The court is staffed by eleven judges appointed by the Chief Justice of the United States to serve seven year terms.
Legislative oversight into the operations of anti-terror agencies within the Executive Dept. ought to be utilized as well to prevent improper targeting of legitimate political personalities, or any other violations of the anti-Terror Law's letter and spirit.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Justice Committee Dismisses Second Impeachment Complaint Against Pres. Arroyo

oting 56-24 along party lines, the House Justice committee has just dismissed the second impeachment complaint filed against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in one year--for insufficiency of substance. Salacnib Baterina, debating against the impeachment complaint, seemed to put an early nail on the second impeachement's coffin by revealing an apparently true insufficiency of substance in SOME of the causes of action contained in the Complaint, namely the matter of unsolved political killings. He observes that vague generalities do not constitute a substantial connection between the President and any given instance of unsolved murder. House Speaker Jose de Venecia immediately predicted a similar outcome in the House Plenary vote that will be taken as soon as the Committee report is completed. (I know what he actually means, but if you took him literally and assumed a 56:24 proportion in the final plenary tally, that would reverse the justice committee's recommendation under the One Third Rule.) Minority Leader Chiz Escudero was graceful in defeat. Theoretically the Opposition in Congress still has 2007, 2008, and 2009 to impeach her. Indeed, all early indications are that (1) the Senate will become decidedly Opposition in the 2007 national Senatorial elections; and (2) it is not unimaginable that more than 80 House Members will be Opposition by 2007. But it has to be done the old fashioned must be earned in the elections of 2007. Surely, the Opposition can rise to the challenge of voting into office the required number for impeachment in the House of Representatives and virtually certain conviction in the 2007 Senate.

Prejudice and the Pursuit of Happiness

Columnist and former Supreme Court Justice ISAGANI CRUZ writing in Philippine Daily Inquirer last Saturday ("Don We Now Our Gay Apparel") -- produces a snarling, angry hissy-fit "against homosexuals in general." He does exclude some "decorous, discreet, reserved" gay persons -- to whom he abjectly apologizes just before he pees in their soup, hypocritically sighing, "They have my admiration and respect!" Whereupon he heaps openly prejudiced vituperation on the flamboyant tribe of "gays, lesbians and transgender persons."

But if you were to substitute "NIGGER" wherever Isagani Cruz uses "HOMO" or "QUEER" you would get an embarrassingly racist screed worthy of the antebellum Old South in slave-era America, where quiet, submissive niggers were praised for knowing their place and abolitionists were niggah-lovahs. Instead of the purity of the races as racists then decried, Isagani Cruz worries over the loss of gender purity, or at least, the acceptable, social concept of it in his own formative years.
Is our population getting to be predominantly pansy? Must we allow homosexuality to march unobstructed until we are converted into a nation of sexless persons without the virility of males and the grace of females but only an insipid mix of these diluted virtues? Let us be warned against the gay population, which is per se a compromise between the strong and the weak and therefore only somewhat and not the absolute of either of the two qualities. Be alert lest the Philippine flag be made of delicate lace and adorned with embroidered frills.
(Seems to me that the fanciest Philippine Flags I've seen do have beautifully embroidered frills and tassels along their borders. Hmm...) But the same statements could have been made about Negroes in the era of American slavery, or during the period of anti miscegination laws before World War II, when Filipinos were prohibited by law from marrying whites in California, (thus starting the first mad rush to Reno and Las Vegas in Nevada). A direct translation from skinheads might sound curiously similar to the above:
Is our population getting to be an abominable mixture of incompatible races? Must we allow racial integration to march unobstructed until we are converted into a nation of raceless mulattoes without the purity of the white race and the brute strength of the Negroes, but only an insipid mix of these diluted virtues.? Let us be warned against an impure population with inter-racial marriages compromising the strength of one with the weaknesses of the other. Be alert lest the emancipated Negroes demand to put the dirty color BLACK in Old Glory?
Of course in one sense, Isagani Cruz is just being a silly old fuddy-duddy. But in the process he does touch upon a number of substantive issues that deserve commentary.

Is Acceptance of Gay Culture a Sign of Social or Moral Decay? Isagani Cruz thinks so and writes:
It seems that the present society has developed a new sense of values that have rejected our religious people’s traditional ideas of propriety and morality on the pretext of being “modern” and “broad-minded.
You bet Isagani Cruz! And not only that, modern, broad-minded people also respect the rights of the differently abled, the racial, ethnic and religious minorities as well. I think it is based on stuff to be found in the American Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Vast changes in nations and societies have accompanied the history of man since those words were written in 1776. But the concept of unalienable human rights to Life, Liberty and Pursuit to Happiness has inspired revolutions throughout the world to overthrow imperialism and colonialism and to establish democracies where before were nothing but murderous autocracies, monarchies, theocracies, empires or wastelands of Ozymandian pride. By the late 20th century, the democratic revolution had so successfully advanced globally that a majority of nations are now counted as at least being democratic systems, or pledging to be. In my opinion, the way we judge whether a society is a viable democracy is on the quality of the Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness" available to its citizens. That is, whether the scope of personal freedoms and liberties becomes larger and expands along with the prosperity and complexity of the society as a whole. When we look at the past in successful democracies, we indeed see a clear trend towards greater liberty for ever more of its citizens. Once, the blacks were slaves in America. No more. Once women could not vote despite the literal words and meaning of the Declaration of Independence. The suffrage movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries changed all that. Likewise for all sorts of minorities, including the smallest one: the individual citizens.

How About Same Sex Marriage? I'll be the first to admit I've not actually formed a hard and fast opinion about this complicated and novel issue. Isagani Cruz writes:
Gay marriages have been legally recognized in a number of European countries and in some parts of the United States. Queer people -- that’s the sarcastic term for them -- have come out of the closet where before they carefully concealed their condition. The permissive belief now is that homosexuals belong to a separate third sex with equal rights as male and female persons instead of just an illicit in-between gender that is neither here nor there.”
Clearly Isagani Cruz wants homosexuals to stay in the closet and conceal "their condition." Yet, every quirk one might care to notice about SOME queers, can certainly be observed as well in SOME straights, with as much depravity or virtue in the behavior. But I doubt very much that the global acceptance of gays as people in their own right is any sign of moral or social decay. Persons derive their equality of rights and duties before the Law for being members of the species Homo sapiens. Every word or deed by individual human beings ought to be judged on its own merits, not solely on the sexual preferences of the person. In fact here it is from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (International Convention on Civil and Political Rights:
ARTICLE 26: All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Now I would be curious to know from the good Isagani Cruz, precisely what Constitutional or human rights are granted to persons based on whether they are male or female? Is democracy not gender blind as far as civil and political rights are concerned? Can someone give an example of a female human right? How about a male human right?

Nowadays it is easy to ignore the simple fact that black people do marry white people and have done so since the Civil War and Abe Lincoln. But before that seminal event and person, the thought of a black man marrying and having sex with a white woman was not socially acceptable on either side of the racial divide. Even though it happened all the time as proved by virile white males like Tom Jefferson and George Washington.

As much as human beings of all races have fallen in love with and had sex with each other since time immemorial, it is probably a fairly old "tradition" also that men have fallen in love with men and women have fallen in love with women. And yeah, --gasp!-- they've made love to each other too. Now they even want to marry.

Here is a relevant provision again from the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights:

1. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

2. The right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and to found a family shall be recognized.

3. No marriage shall be entered into without the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

4. States Parties to the present Covenant shall take appropriate steps to ensure equality of rights and responsibilities of spouses as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. In the case of dissolution, provision shall be made for the necessary protection of any children.

On the issue of gay marriage, it does seem strange for Isagani Cruz to proclaim a defense of conservatism while he opposes giving gay couples the right to pledge lifetime monogamy and devotion to one another.

Indeed, in a world gone mad with war and blood lust, there is nothing more basic I can think of for humanity to return to but the right to love and cherish one another, the right to defend the homelands of the heart!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Posting's Been Light Due To A Passage

Not mine, though how many times have I lived through my own death anniversary, not knowing which day of the year in WILL be. But for the mother of a friend who also became a friend, for Vicenta Bonoan, 97 years young, fare thee well. I was privileged to have known you, such a fit and successful survivor, one who read the news and watched tv and had all her wits about her until she fell asleep and died. (And who may well have climbed Mount Pulag Peak way back in the 1920s!)

May we all live, and die, so well...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Ricky Carandang Interviews Ompong Plaza, Neric Acosta and Roilo Golez

Dateline Philippines on ABSCBN News at noon had an interesting conversation with three Opposition Congressmen:

Rep. Rodolfo "Ompong" Plaza (Agusan del Norte) has inhibited himself from deliberations of the House Justice Committee on the Second Impeachment process against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Ompong says that during the 2004 election campaign, his district is reported by the Commission on Audit as having received millions in Fertilizer Funds through the fleeing fugitive JocJoc Bolante of the Agriculture Dept. But he didn't know anything about it because the GMA election machine allegedly coursed the money directly to other local government officials. He calls upon all others named in the COA report to inhibit themselves from the proceedings of the Justice Committee.

Roilo Golez (formerly GMA's national security adviser and a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD and the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City) makes the point that the admin stalwart Luis Villafuerte was actually supporting Golez's motion for inhibition of BOTH administration and opposition representatives who were named in the COA report, out of delicadeza. I support his motion. So what if the opposition's numbers will be reduced further, they don't have the numbers anyway, but an important point of principle would be established -- that indeed there is merit, both in form and substance to the impeachment charge involving the Fertilizer Fund Scam that involves the runaway fugitive in Chicago under US custody: JocJoc Bolante. He sinks the majority's argument that inhibition would "leave the congressmen defenseless" by saying that it is precisely to prevent such congressmen from defending their personal interests by using their position on the Justice Committee prejudicially. (It doesn't seem to matter what stones of logic or truth are thrown at the Stone Wall the Palace has put up, but one day it'll all crumble!)

Quotable from Neric Acosta: "The Difficult Right versus the Easy Wrong"

I thought Neric's was the best answer given to Ricky Carandang's persistent putting to the trio of the question on everyone's lips: "Why continue to press for impeachment when the Majority has the solid numbers to railroad it dead no matter what you do?"

Neric's difficult right is not to give up on fighting for what is right, instead giving in to the easy wrong of just giving up, of being fixated on "...but they have the numbers..."

Right your ARE, Neric! But I don't think there is any reason to hang your head low, unless you are doing that on purpose. For it IS all part of the democratic process that it SHOULD be hard to achieve a Regime Change justly and legally before the constitutionally mandated six year presidential term is up. It should NEVER be as "easy" and almost miraculously accomplished as it was in Edsa 2 when Vice Pres. GMA, Chief Justice Hilario Davide, General Angelo Reyes and Gov. Luis Chavit Singson undertook the most successful coup d'etat since Ferdinand Marcos pulled one off in 1972.

This time we have to do it the hard way. The right way. Impeachment by the numbers in the House, trial in the Senate by the numbers, and conviction or acquittal. It's really the only way out of the political crisis, no matter what the Palace wishful thinkers and fairy tale spinners whisper in the President's ear.

But with the 2007 Senate looking more and more like a solidly Oppositionist Senate, the Palace has clearly decided it must sink or swim with the Lower House.

I'm with Neric, Ompong and Roilo! To hell with the Majority of Moral Dwarves!

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Romulo Macalintal Is No Match For Pinky Webb

ABSCBN's divine noontime news anchor, PINKY WEBB, just caught Atty. Romulo Macalintal with his shorts down on the Prime Time News in that inimitably innocent way she has with pitching an intelligent and revealing question.

The smooth Consigliere of Malacanang Palace was just warming up to the task of resurrecting the junked Comelec Automated Counting Machines of 2004 by claiming that the Dept of Science and Technology had certified the counting machines as passing the required tests even if the Supreme Court itself found that the system had been bid out illegally.

"But, isn't it true Attorney Macalintal, " Ms. Webb plaintively inquired (with just the merest arch of an arabesque eyebrow), "that the reason they passed those tests is because the Comelec CHANGED the specification to ninety nine point nine nine five per cent?"

The President's lawyer was dumbstruck as the fastball hit him on the noggin without him knowing what hit him.

Pinky Webb struck out the Attorney-at-Bat!

Out of the mouth of Babes!

Score one for the good guyz!

But Macalintal quickly recovered and stuck to the Palace-provided talking point, which is in itself a chilling revelation about what the Palace intends to do with 1.2 billion pesos worth of OPTICAL MARK READERS hooked up to PCs masquerading as an automation system.

THIS is Malacanang's idea of ELECTORAL REFORM:

1) IGNORE the Supreme Court's increasingly strident demandS that its rulings be heeded on the ill-fated, illegally-bid 2004 Automated Counting System, that perpetrators be prosecuted and financial recovery sought by the government on its own behalf.

2) DEMONSTRATE the technical capabilities of 1950s optical mark reader technology (OMR) in suitable publicity stunts involving making DOST jump through circus hoops.

3) FORGIVE the Comelec Commissioners, led by Benjamin Abalos for its deal with Megapacific Consortium (whoever they really are!) and let bygones be bygones on that 1200 million piles of pesos (1.2 billion pesos) that was involved in a landmark Supreme Court decision.

4) USE the "counting" machines in the 2007 elections and claim that GMA has automated the Philippine elections!

I think it's time for the TECHIES to come out of the woodwork and get rowdy on AUTOMATION.

Fool us once, your fault. Fool us twice, OUR fault!

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, that Joc Joc has in fact broken some serious US Law for which he has been detained and will be convicted. I just hope it's not the Cat N Mouse Game described for TV audiences here by California lawyer Ted Laguatan in a conversation with Strictly Politics' PIA HONTIVEROS and the aforementioned Harry Roque. The representations being made by the UP Law School group, which includes former Dean Raul Pangalangan and Dean Merlin Magallona, are to be presented as an amicus brief demolishing the claim to political asylum that JocJoc has made. In addition to the Senate arrest warrant, the Commission on Audit has laid the basis for a plunder charge against Mr. Bolante. I agree:

CONGRESSMEN who are named in the COA report SHOULD NOT participate in the upcoming hearings on an impeachment complaint some of whose charges are based on the Fertilizer Fund Scam that JocJoc Bolante allegedly ran for Malacanang Palace in 2004. And especially one, Congressman Salacnib Baterina, alleged to be the recipient of some of those Fertilizer Funds.

Brothers In Arms

This is a Commentary by Rodel Rodis in San Francisco about two Filipino-Americans who have died in the line of duty. The writer is President of the San Francisco City School Board and an old friend. He sent me this essay by email.
Telltale Signs Brothers in Arms
Rodel E. Rodis, August 7, 2006

They could have been brothers.

They were Filipino Americans who lived with their parents in the Filipino suburbs of Daly City and South San Francisco, not too far from each other.

They both went to school at the Voice of the Pentecost Academy in the Ingleside District of San Francisco.

They both enlisted in the US military, each ccoming from families with a long tradition of military service.

Both were unmarried and were the only sons; each had two sisters with kids whom they fondly adored.

They were both known for their infectious “colgate” smiles.

And they both died in the line of duty within a month of each other. And both were buried in Colma cemeteries, not too far from each other.

Christopher Rose was killed in the streets of Baghdad on June 29 and Nick-Tomasito Birco was killed in the streets of San Francisco on July 26.

Chris was 21 and serving in the 1st Battalion, 67th Armored Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, when he stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED) while on patrol in Baghdad on June 29. The explosion severely injured him and sent him into shock, dying before a Blackhawk helicopter could take him to a hospital.

Chris had enlisted in the US Army in November of 2004 to serve the country as his father, Rudy, had done in Vietnam and as his grandfather, Benito, had done in WW II and in Korea.

Chris was dispatched to Iraq in November 2005 for a one-year tour of duty, scheduled to return in October of 2006. Within a few months of his arrival in Baghdad, Chris' humvee struck an IED causing an explosion. Chris saw figures running from the scene and radioed his commander for instructions. He was ordered to shoot and he did. When he examined the three bodies, he discovered that he had killed kids.

"It was a justified killing, but he never got over it," Rudy Rose told a San Francisco Chronicle reporter. "It bothered him terribly, because they were just kids. He talked to his superiors, all the way up to his commanding officer, who basically told him, 'That's war.' But after that, whenever I talked to him, he sounded very depressed."

Chris was home on leave in the Bay Area over the Memorial Day weekend in May but he was back in Baghdad in early June. Within days of his return, Chris was wounded in the arm by an IED. "He wasn't fully recovered by the end of the month, but he insisted on going back out on patrol," his sister, Suzette, said.

Rudy Rose told the Chronicle reporter that he was bothered by the fact that his son was allowed back on patrol even though he was still recuperating from his injuries. "He had told me before he went back on patrol that the wound was hurting him a lot, and he was using pain medications,"

."He was going to take criminal justice courses and go into law enforcement," Rudy told friends who gathered at St. Augustine’s Church for his funeral mass. "School was always his goal."

Nick-Tomasito Birco followed that goal. After enlisting in the US Marines and serving there for four years, Nick used the GI Bill to study at San Francisco State where he majored in marketing and business. Five years ago, at the age of 34, Nick joined the San Francisco Police Department.

Nick was stationed at the Bayview Police Station, which covers the area with the highest number of reported homicides in San Francisco. Capt. Al Pardini, his commander at the Bayview station, recalled Nick as a well-liked man with a sense of humor who earned 11 commendations for his work. "Citizens often took time out to write letters about the great service Nick had provided to them," Pardini said.

While responding to a robbery call on July 26, Nick's police cruiser was rammed by a van carrying three robbery suspects who were fleeing other police officers. Nick suffered internal injuries from the force of the collision and was pronounced dead on arrival at the San Francisco General Hospital.

He was fondly known as "St. Nick" for playing Santa Claus at Christmas and for his generosity especially to his nieces, nephews and godchildren on an outing to the zoo.

More than 2,000 people, including law enforcement officers from throughout California and as far away as Las Vegas, paid their final respects to St. Nick at St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco on August 2.

As Nick’s casket was being carried down from the cathedral by Filipino American pallbearers followed by dozens of Nick’s extended family, more than 500 San Francisco police officers, in a sea of blue, saluted their fallen comrade in arms under a gigantic American flag hoisted aloft by the extended ladders of two San Francisco Fire Department trucks .

A Filipino Community Memorial Mass for Nick Tomasito Birco will be held at St. Patrick’s Church in San Francisco (at 756 Mission Street between 3rd and 4th streets) on August 9 at 6PM. A community potluck dinner with family and friends will take place after the mass at the parish hall below the church. Everyone is invited to pay their respects.

I attended the funeral masses for both Chris and Nick and I felt great sadness for the families and friends they left behind and for our Filipino community so badly in need of heroes and role models. Chris and Nick were wonderful human beings who were cut in the prime of their lives, when they had so much more to contribute to making our world a better place to live in.

They have left big holes in our hearts.
Filipinos are part of the great American tapestry. Their blood -- as much as their lives and labors -- waters the great tree of humanity that connects us all.

Monday, August 7, 2006

Is One Voice A Palace Wolf In Sheep's Clothing?

BLAWGER ED LACIERDA, legal counsel of the Black and White Movement opposing President Gloria Macapgal Arroyo answered in the affirmative when ABSCBN's Ricky Carandang asked him this question this morning about the One Voice Movement led by Christian Monsod and apparently supported by several top leaders of the Catholic Bishop's Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), including its President, Archbishop Angelo N. Lagdameo.

Ed is apparently in disagrement with the position taken by One Voice on the 2007 elections as a "referendum" on the President, saying that "local elections" are very different than national elections. He said Black and White were okay "with electoral reform, computerization and all that" but that he could not see how a credible election would be held "with GMA still in power."

From what I could gather, Ed, and by extension the Black and White Movement are firmly for impeachment being the only viable route to settling the President's crisis of legitimacy. This position is bolstered by the recent Pulse Asia Survey result indicating that 56% of the electorate would like to see last year's failed impeachment bid revived.

My own position is as follows:

(1) I strongly support the non partisan movement called One Voice, especially their opposition to the chacha choo choo train of Jose de Venecia and the Sigaw ng Bayan's people's initiative. I think they represent a genuine and substantive dissent from the bums' rush that the President and her men are allowing by indulging the people's initiative, which will require quite a somersault on the part of the Supreme Court to reverse Santiago vs. Comelec, which struck down the first time FVR tried to pull a chacha in 1997.

(2) Regarding their position on the 2007 elections as a referendum, that too in my opinion, is a valid position to take, despite Ed's remark about 2007 being mainly composed of local elections. But he neglected to consider the fact that 2007 is also a senatorial election, which ARE national elections and typically have produced the future presidents of the country. In fact, early indications are that the Senate will become OPPOSITION country after 2007, with such stalwarts as former Senate Majority Leader Loren Legarda (who was FPJ's running mate in 2004 ) already registering strong polling numbers for a comeback to the Senate. The same is true for former Senators Tito Sotto, John Osmena and a number of re-electionists like Jinggoy and Loi Estrada. In fact, the smart money is on this strong possibility of a fully Oppositionist Senate. What that means is that IF 80 congressmen inclined to vote for a prospective THIRD impeachment bid next year (assuming the one this year fails for lack of numbers), GMA's ass is grass.

(3) Though I believe many within One Voice actually are still supporting the President, there is nothing in their steadfastly NON-PARTISAN position on chacha (they want a Constitutional Convention) and the 2007 elections (they want to do a registration drive, especially among the youth) that would preclude the impeachment that Black and White Movement wants. Which I too believe is the best way to resolve the President's crisis of legitimacy. To be impeached and convicted or acquitted. As far as I'm concerned, there are four more chances to do before 2010.

(4) I don't believe support for One Voice is necessarily support for the Palace. I see it mainly as an anti-chacha movement that can potentially help elect the kind of folks that will support democratic processes, not sabotage them as the Palace has done.

(5) But I am against inane charades like last year's People's Tribunal, which was a leftist fantasy kangaroo court whose heavy Stalinist-Maoist overtones turned off a lot of good people and damaged this year's impeachment bid.

Politically Correct Patriotism of Our Failed Elites

NO GREATER INDICTMENT exists of the failure of the Philippine ruling elite than the eight million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), who have indeed voted with their feet and gotten jobs abroad, half of them in Americ a. But they are not allowed to just leave without the media's smug little punditocracy throwing politically correct brickbats at them and blaming THEM for that failure, either as unpatriotic traitors or as part of the "brain drain." At one time it was Conrado de Quiros and the Inquirer's "readers ombudsman" Raul Palabrica who derisively loved to call them "toilet bowl cleaners" of the world. And at left was yesterday's front page of the broadsheet Manila Times, which blames Filipino nurses for taking a "heavy toll on nation's health"(sic!).

PURE UNADULTERATED BULL! With a severe nursing shortage in the United States and starting salaries that are five to ten times the going rate of pay at government and private hospitals in the archipelago, the Filipino overseas nursing force accounts for a substantial portion of the now nearly $1 billion per month being officially repatriated by them to waiting families. But no, by leaving they are accused of not having a sense of nationalistic pride, of taking what meagre education is afforded them and using it for sustaining their children and kinfolk to benefit foreigners. Never mind that those foreigners and those children and kinfolk are al benefitting from the longest commute to and from work in human history. Never mind that they are among the Filipinos who are keeping the country afloat. But one can see the crab mentality even in one so stunningly successful and rich as Korina Sanchez of ABSCBN News when she interviewed a nurse from California. I thought I caught her mentally calculating what a simple R.N. was making per month there, which, including overtime pay and other perks can easily reach $10,000 a month, easily rivalling her own pay as the country's premier anchorperson! In the Manila Times story, note is made of the declining "pass rate" in the Nurses Licensure exam and the growing tide of health care works emigrating, including doctors becoming nurses to join the lucrative service area. Apparently in the 1970s, the passing rates were 80-85% of exam takers. In 1994, the reporter laments that it is "only" 42.42% (note the superfluous precision of the statistic). I ask, 42% of WHAT? Why of ten times the number ever since demand in the US, UK, and Europe has increased. So is there a nursing "shortage" in the Philippines resulting in a "decline" in health care. Of course not! we probably have ten times the number of trained and qualified nurses now as in the past. Not all or even most of them can leave and find work abroad. Hospitals may not be able to afford the best and the brightest of them, but that does not mean those who do stay are unqualified or are in short supply. Many other factors account for the low quality of health care in the Philippines, least of which are "unqualified" nurses. In fact, more and more families are able to afford good health care when they have a relative working abroad sending them money to PAY for such health care and medicines. The Filipino people know what OFWs are doing for them. It is our failed elites in society and especially in media that have got this whole OFW phenomenon all wrong! If anything, we should the press the advantage, train more nurses and health care workers, and take as much of the global market for them as we can. I don't see why we should keep them here to work in grim, desultory government hospitals (where people only go to die!) and pay them wages LESS than our emigrant domestic helpers in Lebanon! Speaking of which the game show Wowwowee scored a major coup last week by awarding P1 million peso prize to domestic helpers recently returned or returning from that war-torn country.

(To Philippine Commentary Regulars: Posting's been light the last few days coz I've been in Baguio City enjoying the resplendent sunshine and refreshing afternoon rains. The public market is bursting with fruits, vegetables and flowers and I have a fresh supply of Mountain Baraco coffee to keep up with y'all. Updates here all day...)

(10:00) Bernas On Lebanon Jesuit priest Fr. Joaquin Bernas is trying to understand the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict in Lebanon. On the one hand he says, "The Israeli strategy calls to mind the atrocities in Bosnia. In Bosnia, the destruction of villages and the mass annihilation of civilian populations were called genocide. We seem to have something similar here, but Israel is calling it nothing more than the creation of a buffer zone for the protection of northern Israel. The rules of war require that disproportionate force must not be used. " Is the use of Israeli force "disproportionate" however, when Fr. Bernas also admits in the same column that, "Israel’s response has been an unrelenting series of bombing raids intended to eliminate Hezbollah’s capacity to fight or to harass Israeli villages. But this is not happening. Hezbollah continues to send rockets flying into Israel." Perhaps, ineffective would be a more apt criticism, Father. As for "genocide" a la Bosnia, seems to me it was the U.S. and the West that saved tens of thousands of Muslims there from the likes of the Christians Slobodan Milosovicz and his ilk. I would suggest that this analogy is not only disproportionate but plain wrong! Proportionalists are really fence-sitters who can't decide which side to back so that the greatest good will come to the greatest number, eventually. They want an eye for eye in the same strict but ultimately absurd manner that Shakespeare once exposed Shylock to be guilty of. One innocent human life is too many, as the Israeli ambassador to the Philippines said of tv here last week, on either side. But in a conflict such as this, where no side can be called pure, I think that the most important objective is to prevent the far greater conflict and loss of life that could result if Hezbollah and its puppet-master Iran are not stopped from executing the real GENOCIDE they have declared undying commitment to. The new U.N. resolution on Lebanon recognizes this this need to disarm Hezbollah and strengthen the Lebanese govt so it can govern Lebanon without private religous terrorist armies threatening her neighbors and putting all of Lebanon's Christians, Muslims and, yes, even Filipinos in harm's way.

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Tony Blair -- Prime Minister for the Whole World

never have much to add whenever the British Prime Minister, TONY BLAIR, says anything. Almost always, I find myself in substantial agreement with his analysis, with his message, and even his emotions, on those issues that bear on the whole world and have such grand consequences for the future of humanity. Besides, he always says things so much more eloquently, cogently and just better than I can ever manage to. So here is a speech, I wish I had written myself, that I want to share with readers of Philippine Commentary. A few hours ago, he addressed the World Affairs Council of Los Angeles and delivered the following speech to which I've merely added a title that wasn't present (via the BBC)

I think that the right honorable Mr. Blair urges us all to think and feel, to reason and to act, as if we were not just English or American, Lebanese or Israeli, Filipino , Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or Jew, but first and foremost, citizens of the world. As there are no simple solutions to the complex problems borne of millennial apartheid, political, religious and cultural, likewise it is impossible to unite the world or bring peace and prosperity to it, without choosing from the mutually exclusive in morals, values, ideals, and finding those that will truly bring the greatest good for the greatest number for the longest time. And struggling to fulfill them at any cost, for the alternative is Oblivion.
by the British Prime Minister Tony Blair

Overnight, the news came through that as well as continuing conflict in the Lebanon, Britain's armed forces suffered losses in Iraq and Afghanistan. It brings home yet again the extraordinary courage and commitment of our armed forces who risk their lives and in some cases tragically lose them, defending our country's security and that of the wider world. These are people of whom we should be very proud.

I know the US has suffered heavy losses too in Iraq and in Afghanistan. We should never forget how much we owe these people, how great their bravery, and their sacrifice.

I planned the basis of this speech several weeks ago. The crisis in the Lebanon has not changed its thesis. It has brought it into sharp relief.

We will not win the battle against this global extremism unless we win it at the level of values as much as force.

Arc of extremism

The purpose of the provocation that began the conflict was clear. It was to create chaos, division and bloodshed, to provoke retaliation by Israel that would lead to Arab and Muslim opinion being inflamed, not against those who started the aggression but against those who responded to it.

It is still possible even now to come out of this crisis with a better long-term prospect for the cause of moderation in the Middle East succeeding. But it would be absurd not to face up to the immediate damage to that cause which has been done.

We will continue to do all we can to halt the hostilities. But once that has happened, we must commit ourselves to a complete renaissance of our strategy to defeat those that threaten us. There is an arc of extremism now stretching across the Middle East and touching, with increasing definition, countries far outside that region. To defeat it will need an alliance of moderation, that paints a different future in which Muslim, Jew and Christian; Arab and Western; wealthy and developing nations can make progress in peace and harmony with each other. My argument to you today is this: we will not win the battle against this global extremism unless we win it at the level of values as much as force, unless we show we are even-handed, fair and just in our application of those values to the world.

Global values

The point is this. This is war, but of a completely unconventional kind.

9/11 in the US, 7/7 in the UK, 11/3 in Madrid, the countless terrorist attacks in countries as disparate as Indonesia or Algeria, what is now happening in Afghanistan and in Indonesia, the continuing conflict in Lebanon and Palestine, it is all part of the same thing. What are the values that govern the future of the world? Are they those of tolerance, freedom, respect for difference and diversity or those of reaction, division and hatred? My point is that this war can't be won in a conventional way. It can only be won by showing that our values are stronger, better and more just, more fair than the alternative. Doing this, however, requires us to change dramatically the focus of our policy.

Unless we re-appraise our strategy, unless we revitalise the broader global agenda on poverty, climate change, trade, and in respect of the Middle East, bend every sinew of our will to making peace between Israel and Palestine, we will not win. And this is a battle we must win.

What is happening today out in the Middle East, in Afghanistan and beyond is an elemental struggle about the values that will shape our future.

It is in part a struggle between what I will call reactionary Islam and moderate, mainstream Islam. But its implications go far wider. We are fighting a war, but not just against terrorism but about how the world should govern itself in the early 21st century, about global values.

Growing movement

The root causes of the current crisis are supremely indicative of this. Ever since September 11, the US has embarked on a policy of intervention in order to protect its and our future security. Hence Afghanistan. Hence Iraq. Hence the broader Middle East initiative in support of moves towards democracy in the Arab world.

The purpose of the terrorism in Iraq is absolutely simple: carnage, causing sectarian hatred, leading to civil war.

The point about these interventions, however, military and otherwise, is that they were not just about changing regimes but changing the values systems governing the nations concerned. The banner was not actually "regime change", it was "values change".

What we have done therefore in intervening in this way, is far more momentous than possibly we appreciated at the time.

Of course the fanatics, attached to a completely wrong and reactionary view of Islam, had been engaging in terrorism for years before September 11. In Chechnya, in India and Pakistan, in Algeria, in many other Muslim countries, atrocities were occurring. But we did not feel the impact directly. So we were not bending our eye or our will to it as we should have. We had barely heard of the Taleban. We rather inclined to the view that where there was terrorism, perhaps it was partly the fault of the governments of the countries concerned.

We were in error. In fact, these acts of terrorism were not isolated incidents. They were part of a growing movement. A movement that believed Muslims had departed from their proper faith, were being taken over by Western culture, were being governed treacherously by Muslims complicit in this takeover, whereas the true way to recover not just the true faith, but Muslim confidence and self esteem, was to take on the West and all its works.

Sometimes political strategy comes deliberatively, sometimes by instinct. For this movement, it was probably by instinct. It has an ideology, a world-view, it has deep convictions and the determination of the fanatic. It resembles in many ways early revolutionary Communism. It doesn't always need structures and command centres or even explicit communication. It knows what it thinks.

Its strategy in the late 1990s became clear. If they were merely fighting with Islam, they ran the risk that fellow Muslims - being as decent and fair-minded as anyone else - would choose to reject their fanaticism. A battle about Islam was just Muslim versus Muslim. They realised they had to create a completely different battle in Muslim minds: Muslim versus Western.

This is what September 11 did. Still now, I am amazed at how many people will say, in effect, there is increased terrorism today because we invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. They seem to forget entirely that September 11 predated either. The West didn't attack this movement. We were attacked. Until then we had largely ignored it.

Existential battles

The reason I say our response was even more momentous than it seemed at the time, is this. We could have chosen security as the battleground. But we didn't. We chose values. We said we didn't want another Taleban or a different Saddam. Rightly, in my view, we realised that you can't defeat a fanatical ideology just by imprisoning or killing its leaders; you have to defeat its ideas.

There is a host of analysis written about mistakes made in Iraq or Afghanistan, much of it with hindsight but some of it with justification. But it all misses one vital point. The moment we decided not to change regime but to change the value system, we made both Iraq and Afghanistan into existential battles for reactionary Islam. We posed a threat not to their activities simply, but to their values, to the roots of their existence.

We committed ourselves to supporting moderate, mainstream Islam. In almost pristine form, the battles in Iraq or Afghanistan became battles between the majority of Muslims in either country who wanted democracy and the minority who realise that this rings the death-knell of their ideology.

What is more, in doing this, we widened the definition of reactionary Islam. It is not just Al-Qaeda who felt threatened by the prospect of two brutal dictatorships - one secular, one religious - becoming tolerant democracies. Any other country who could see that change in those countries might result in change in theirs, immediately also felt under threat. Syria and Iran, for example. No matter that previously, in what was effectively another political age, many of those under threat hated each other. Suddenly new alliances became formed under the impulsion of the common threat.

So in Iraq, Syria allowed Al-Qaeda operatives to cross the border. Iran has supported extremist Shia there. The purpose of the terrorism in Iraq is absolutely simple: carnage, causing sectarian hatred, leading to civil war.

Arc of extremism

However, there was one cause which, the world over, unites Islam, one issue that even the most westernised Muslims find unjust and, perhaps worse, humiliating: Palestine. Here a moderate leadership was squeezed between its own inability to control the radical elements and the political stagnation of the peace process. When Prime Minister Sharon took the brave step of disengagement from Gaza, it could have been and should have been the opportunity to re-start the process. But the squeeze was too great and as ever because these processes never stay still, instead of moving forward, it fell back. Hamas won the election. Even then, had moderate elements in Hamas been able to show progress, the situation might have been saved. But they couldn't.

So the opportunity passed to reactionary Islam and they seized it: first in Gaza, then in Lebanon. They knew what would happen. Their terrorism would provoke massive retaliation by Israel. Within days, the world would forget the original provocation and be shocked by the retaliation. They want to trap the moderates between support for America and an Arab street furious at what they see nightly on their television. This is what has happened.

For them, what is vital is that the struggle is defined in their terms: Islam versus the West; that instead of Muslims seeing this as about democracy versus dictatorship, they see only the bombs and the brutality of war, and sent from Israel.

In this way, they hope that the arc of extremism that now stretches across the region, will sweep away the fledgling but faltering steps modern Islam wants to take into the future.

Religious oligarchy

To turn all of this around requires us first to perceive the nature of the struggle we are fighting and secondly to have a realistic strategy to win it. At present we are challenged on both fronts.

It is about hearts and minds, about inspiring people, persuading them, showing them what our values at their best stand for.

As to the first, it is almost incredible to me that so much of Western opinion appears to buy the idea that the emergence of this global terrorism is somehow our fault. For a start, it is indeed global. No-one who ever half bothers to look at the spread and range of activity related to this terrorism can fail to see its presence in virtually every major nation in the world. It is directed at the United States and its allies, of course. But it is also directed at nations who could not conceivably be said to be allies of the West. It is also rubbish to suggest that it is the product of poverty. It is true it will use the cause of poverty. But its fanatics are hardly the champions of economic development. It is based on religious extremism. That is the fact. And not any religious extremism, but a specifically Muslim version.

What it is doing in Iraq and Afghanistan is not about those countries' liberation from US occupation. It is actually the only reason for the continuing presence of our troops. And it is they not us who are doing the slaughter of the innocent and doing it deliberately.

Its purpose is explicitly to prevent those countries becoming democracies and not "Western style" democracies, any sort of democracy. It is to prevent Palestine living side by side with Israel; not to fight for the coming into being of a Palestinian state, but for the going out of being, of an Israeli state. It is not wanting Muslim countries to modernise but to retreat into governance by a semi-feudal religious oligarchy.

Israeli predicament

Yet despite all of this, which I consider virtually obvious, we look at the bloodshed in Iraq and say that's a reason for leaving, we listen to the propaganda that tells us it's all because of our suppression of Muslims and have parts of our opinion seriously believing that if we only got out of Iraq and Afghanistan, it would all stop.

And most contemporaneously, and in some ways most perniciously, a very large and, I fear, growing part of our opinion looks at Israel, and thinks we pay too great a price for supporting it and sympathises with Muslim opinion that condemns it. Absent from so much of the coverage, is any understanding of the Israeli predicament.

I, and any halfway sentient human being, regards the loss of civilian life in Lebanon as unacceptable, grieves for that nation, is sickened by its plight and wants the war to stop now. But just for a moment, put yourself in Israel's place. It has a crisis in Gaza, sparked by the kidnap of a soldier by Hamas. Suddenly, without warning, Hezbollah who have been continuing to operate in southern Lebanon for two years in defiance of UN Resolution 1559, cross the UN blue line, kill eight Israeli soldiers and kidnap two more. They then fire rockets indiscriminately at the civilian population in northern Israel.

Hezbollah gets their weapons from Iran. Iran are now also financing militant elements in Hamas. Iran's president has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map". And he's trying to acquire a nuclear weapon. Just to complete the picture, Israel's main neighbour along its eastern flank is Syria who support Hezbollah and house the hardline leaders of Hamas.

It's not exactly a situation conducive to a feeling of security, is it?

But the central point is this. In the end, even the issue of Israel is just part of the same, wider struggle for the soul of the region. If we recognised this struggle for what it truly is, we would be at least along the first steps of the path to winning it. But a vast part of the Western opinion is not remotely near this yet.

Self-evident challenges

Whatever the outward manifestation at any one time - in Lebanon, in Gaza, in Iraq and add to that in Afghanistan, in Kashmir, in a host of other nations including now some in Africa - it is a global fight about global values; it is about modernisation, within Islam and outside of it; it is about whether our value system can be shown to be sufficiently robust, true, principled and appealing that it beats theirs. Islamist extremism's whole strategy is based on a presumed sense of grievance that can motivate people to divide against each other. Our answer has to be a set of values strong enough to unite people with each other.

This is not just about security or military tactics. It is about hearts and minds, about inspiring people, persuading them, showing them what our values at their best stand for.

Just to state it in these terms, is to underline how much we have to do. Convincing our own opinion of the nature of the battle is hard enough. But we then have to empower moderate, mainstream Islam to defeat reactionary Islam. And because so much focus is now, world-wide on this issue, it is becoming itself a kind of surrogate for all the other issues the rest of the world has with the West. In other words, fail on this and across the range, everything gets harder.

Why are we not yet succeeding? Because we are not being bold enough, consistent enough, thorough enough, in fighting for the values we believe in.

We start this battle with some self-evident challenges. Iraq's political process has worked in an extraordinary way. But the continued sectarian bloodshed is appalling: and threatens its progress deeply. In Afghanistan, the Taleban are making a determined effort to return and using the drugs trade a front. Years of anti-Israeli and therefore anti-American teaching and propaganda has left the Arab street often wildly divorced from the practical politics of their governments. Iran and, to a lesser extent, Syria are a constant source of de-stabilisation and reaction.

The purpose of terrorism - whether in Iran, Afghanistan, Lebanon or Palestine is never just the terrorist act itself. It is to use the act to trigger a chain reaction, to expunge any willingness to negotiate or compromise. Unfortunately it frequently works, as we know from our own experience in Northern Ireland, though thankfully the huge progress made in the last decade there, shows that it can also be overcome.

So, short-term, we can't say we are winning. But, there are many reasons for long-term optimism. Across the Middle East, there is a process of modernisation as well as reaction. It is unnoticed but it is there: in the UAE, in Bahrain, in Kuwait, in Qatar. In Egypt, there is debate about the speed of change but not about its direction. In Libya and Algeria, there is both greater stability and a gradual but significant opening up.

Most of all, there is one incontrovertible truth that should give us hope. In Iraq, in Afghanistan, and of course in the Lebanon, any time that people are permitted a chance to embrace democracy, they do so. The lie - that democracy, the rule of law, human rights are Western concepts, alien to Islam - has been exposed. In countries as disparate as Turkey and Indonesia, there is an emerging strength in moderate Islam that should greatly encourage us.

Two-state solution

So the struggle is finely poised. The question is: how do we empower the moderates to defeat the extremists?

Our values... represent humanity's progress throughout the ages and at each point we have had to fight for them.

First, naturally, we should support, nurture, build strong alliances with all those in the Middle East who are on the modernising path.

Secondly, we need, as President Bush said on Friday, to re-energise the MEPP between Israel and Palestine, and we need to do it in a dramatic and profound manner.

I want to explain why I think this issue is so utterly fundamental to all we are trying to do. I know it can be very irritating for Israel to be told that this issue is of cardinal importance, as if it is on their shoulders that the weight of the troubles of the region should always fall. I know also their fear that in our anxiety for wider reasons to secure a settlement, we sacrifice the vital interests of Israel.

Let me make it clear. I would never put Israel's security at risk.

Instead I want, what we all now acknowledge we need: a two-state solution. The Palestinian state must be independent, viable but also democratic and not threaten Israel's safety.

This is what the majority of Israelis and Palestinians want.

Its significance for the broader issue of the Middle East and for the battle within Islam, is this. The real impact of a settlement is more than correcting the plight of the Palestinians. It is that such a settlement would be the living, tangible, visible proof that the region and therefore the world can accommodate different faiths and cultures, even those who have been in vehement opposition to each other. It is, in other words, the total and complete rejection of the case of reactionary Islam. It destroys not just their most effective rallying call, it fatally undermines their basic ideology.

And, for sure, it empowers moderate, mainstream Islam enormously. They are able to point to progress as demonstration that their allies, ie us, are even-handed not selective, do care about justice for Muslims as much as Christians or Jews.

But, and it is a big but, this progress will not happen unless we change radically our degree of focus, effort and engagement, especially with the Palestinian side. In this the active leadership of the US is essential but so also is the participation of Europe, of Russia and of the UN. We need relentlessly, vigorously, to put a viable Palestinian government on its feet, to offer a vision of how the Roadmap to final status negotiation can happen and then pursue it, week in, week out, 'til it's done. Nothing else will do. Nothing else is more important to the success of our foreign policy.

Third, we need to see Iraq through its crisis and out to the place its people want: a non-sectarian, democratic state. The Iraqi and Afghan fight for democracy is our fight. Same values. Same enemy. Victory for them is victory for us all.

Fourth, we need to make clear to Syria and Iran that there is a choice: come in to the international community and play by the same rules as the rest of us; or be confronted. Their support of terrorism, their deliberate export of instability, their desire to see wrecked the democratic prospect in Iraq, is utterly unjustifiable, dangerous and wrong. If they keep raising the stakes, they will find they have miscalculated.

'Wider debate'

From the above it is clear that from now on, we need a whole strategy for the Middle East. If we are faced with an arc of extremism, we need a corresponding arc of moderation and reconciliation. Each part is linked. Progress between Israel and Palestine affects Iraq. Progress in Iraq affects democracy in the region. Progress for moderate, mainstream Islam anywhere puts reactionary Islam on the defensive everywhere. But none of it happens unless in each individual part the necessary energy and commitment is displayed not fitfully, but continuously.

I said at the outset that the result of this struggle had effects wider than the region itself. Plainly that applies to our own security. This global Islamist terrorism began in the Middle East. Sort the Middle East and it will inexorably decline. The read-across, for example, from the region to the Muslim communities in Europe is almost instant.

But there is a less obvious sense in which the outcome determines the success of our wider world-view. For me, a victory for the moderates means an Islam that is open: open to globalisation, open to working with others of different faiths, open to alliances with other nations.

In this way, this struggle is in fact part of a far wider debate.

Though left and right still matter in politics, the increasing divide today is between open and closed. Is the answer to globalisation, protectionism or free trade?

Is the answer to the pressure of mass migration, managed immigration or closed borders?

Is the answer to global security threats, isolationism or engagement?

Those are very big questions for US and for Europe.

Modern realpolitik

Without hesitation, I am on the open side of the argument. The way for us to handle the challenge of globalisation is to compete better, more intelligently, more flexibly. We have to give our people confidence we can compete. See competition as a threat and we are already on the way to losing.

Immigration is the toughest issue in Europe right now and you know something of it here in California. People get scared of it for understandable reasons. It needs to be controlled. There have to be rules. Many of the conventions dealing with it post-WWII are out of date. All that is true. But, properly managed, immigrants give a country dynamism, drive, new ideas as well as new blood.

And as for isolationism, that is a perennial risk in the US and EU policy. My point here is very simple: global terrorism means we can't opt-out even if we wanted to. The world is inter-dependent. To be engaged is only modern realpolitik.

But we only win people to these positions if our policy is not just about interests but about values, not just about what is necessary but about what is right.

'Shameful poverty'

Which brings me to my final reflection about US policy. My advice is: always be in the lead, always at the forefront, always engaged in building alliances, in reaching out, in showing that whereas unilateral action can never be ruled out, it is not the preference.

How we get a sensible, balanced but effective framework to tackle climate change after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012 should be an American priority.

America wants a low-carbon economy, it is investing heavily in clean technology, it needs China and India to grow substantially. The world is ready for a new start here. Lead it.

The same is true for the WTO talks, now precariously in the balance, or for Africa, whose poverty is shameful.

If we are championing the cause of development in Africa, it is right in itself but it is also sending the message of moral purpose, that reinforces our value system as credible in all other aspects of policy.

It serves one other objective. There is a risk that the world, after the Cold War, goes back to a global policy based on spheres of influence. Think ahead. Think China, within 20 or 30 years, surely the world's other super-power. Think Russia and its precious energy reserves. Think India. I believe all of these great emerging powers want a benign relationship with the West.

But I also believe that the stronger and more appealing our world-view is, the more it is seen as based not just on power but on justice, the easier it will be for us to shape the future in which Europe and the US will no longer, economically or politically, be transcendent. Long before then, we want moderate, mainstream Islam to triumph over reactionary Islam.

That is why I say this struggle is one about values. Our values are worth struggling for. They represent humanity's progress throughout the ages and at each point we have had to fight for them and defend them. As a new age beckons, it is time to fight for them again.
Hear! Hear!