Sunday, December 30, 2007


I have seen for myself the evidence, in your own handwriting, that must have convicted you. The original of a letter you wrote in 1893, in your own elegant hand, presented at Trial in 1896, but hidden for nearly a hundred years in a Spanish monastery. Words you wrote from the depths of your heart in dark Dapitan, proclaiming, defending and glorying in the Shipwreck of your Faith! A veritable handwritten confession to Capital Apostasy that merited, in the eyes of the Court, no less than execution and death. But how and why such stunning and definitive evidence came before the honorable Court transcends all other mysteries surrounding the events leading up to December 30. Why that evidence was then hidden away by the Jesuits is for me the most telling sign of a guilty and uneasy conscience on their part. In shame and guilt, they just had to HIDE the murder weapon. It would seem that your "friends" and "mentors" tried to bend you to their will one last time, but in failing to do so, succumbed themselves to the essential vanity and venality of absolute power: the power over the right to life, and not just liberty or the pursuit of happiness. They failed to win your surrender by dangling the possibility of a Catholic marriage to Josephine, insisting you "retract" to win such permission. They did not know about the Miscarriage, it seems... But never, never had these Men in Skirts suffered such a bitter intellectual and moral defeat as at your hands with, "Nego supositum!" Three hundred years of Jesuit pride of place in the Archipelago were not to be upended by one willful and self-aggrandizing indio, who somehow managed to master the Castillian language and refute three centuries of Spanish colonial education policy.

Pablo Pastells convicted you after realizing how you had toyed with him and refuted the dogmatism he thought still prevailed in the world. They had no choice. Here was an utterly religious man of science who denied their version of Catholicism. The Jesuits silently pronounced the first of what has become a famous annual imperative (or expletive): Fuego!

Your family knew the truth, which is why in 1911, when you had become, by American ingenuity and genuine admiration of your fellow countrymen, the National Hero, your sisters refused the Jesuit Order the high honor of officiating at your final funerary rites. The honor was bestowed on the Masonic Temple of Tondo, in honor of many fallen revolutionary heroes, for your transfer from digs at the old Paco Chinese Cemetery to the present lonely Monument by the Sea at the Luneta.

There of course, to this day, you are guarded day and night, lest you get out and cause more trouble.
Martyrdom becomes you.

In some ways, Pepe, you had to die. Just like Jesus Christ before you, and Ninoy Aquino and Benazir Bhutto...

Your literature broke the hypnotic spell of the Spanish Taliban, the stifling hand that for centuries endeavored by official fiat and conscious policy to deprive the indios of the knowledge of the world, of language and tradition, of history and religion. You proved that morality is not the same as religion. You stole the light of language and lit a prairie fire with it that singed the Spanish to their balls and their armpits. As the inventor of Damaso and Ibarra, of Maria Clara, Dona de Espadana, Basilio, Simoun, Padre Florentino, and dozens of other memorable characters with Shakespearean vitality and variety, you have yourself become immortal as part of our imagination and history. Your thoughts and words, your literature, are already there, suffusing our hearts and minds even before we know it.

I think I know why the Americans chose you. They sensed a creative kindred spirit, like Thomas Jefferson or Ben Franklin in you, though I prefer an analogy to Miguel de Cervantes cum Mark Twain. Too bad neither Andres Bonifacio nor Emilio Aguinaldo amounted to George Washington.

But you Sir, belong to the Aristocracy of all humanity. Even America sensed that immediately. You would be right at home in the 21st Century. And of course, here at Philippine Commentary, you most certainly are.

Here, you are loved and cherished, not worshipped.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Benazir Bhutto Killed By Neo-Taliban Al Qaeda

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto has been claimed by Al Qaeda (via The Belmont Club and Bill Roggio in The Long War Journal) -- this after she had taken an an openly pro-Western stand since returning to Pakistan saying she would permit U.S. troops to hunt for Osama bin Laden in Pakistani territory and allow international investigation of nuclear proliferator, A. Q. Khan.

Al Qaeda's central command is taking credit for today's successful assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. A senior al Qaeda military leader in Afghanistan has contacted Syed Saleem Shahzad, a Pakistani journalist for the Asia Times and Adnkronos International with close connections to the Taliban and al Qaeda, and bragged about killing Bhutto.

"We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat [the] mujahadeen," Mustafa Abu al Yazid, al Qaeda's commander in Afghanistan, told Mr. Shazad. The attack was reportedly ordered at the highest levels of al Qaeda.

"It is believed that the decision to kill Bhutto, who is the leader of the opposition Pakistan People's Party (PPP), was made by al-Qaeda No. 2, the Egyptian doctor, Ayman al-Zawahiri in October," Mr. Shazad also reported. "Death squads were allegedly constituted for the mission and ultimately one cell comprising a defunct Lashkar-i-Jhangvi’s Punjabi volunteer succeeded in killing Bhutto."

Andrew MacCarthy minces no words in exposing the face of the real enemy in Pakistan, where the Global Jihad threatens to become a nuclear power, strangely enough, on the strength of what some of our local "jihadists" might praise as "People Power" while managing to denigrate Democracy itself.

At the NRO Symposium on the assassination, Victor Davis Hanson is sobering, as usual:
Pakistan is a nuclear dictatorship, with a thin Westernized elite sitting atop a vast medieval Islamist badlands that it cannot control. Today’s events show that the very notion of a pro-Western politician coming to power legitimately is unlikely for the immediate future.

Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee, among others, have suggested that it’s about time to consider incursions into Pakistan to strike al-Qaeda. That would be like putting a needle into a doughboy: The problem is not a particular region, or a particular Pakistani figure, but Pakistan itself, founded as an Islamic state, and by nature prone to extremism. It is the most anti-American country in the region and we should accept that and move on.

Our relations were always based on the flawed idea its Islamic and autocratic essence made it a good bulwark against communist Russia and socialist India. But the world has changed, and we should too. It is long past time to smile and curtail aid — and quit arming it with weapons that are more likely to be used against our friend India as bin Laden.

I would imagine once most of the “reform” candidates are killed or cowered, the emboldened terrorist animals will turn on their government feeders — even as the Pakistani street somehow blames us.
The assassination is having an immediate effect on US electoral politics going into the crucial primary season.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Ho Ho Ho Merry Christrmas Everybody!

Comes a Merry Christmas once again
To Philippine Commentary.
Because of you, dear Reader.
Even those who disagree,
(From whom we learn the most.)

And so this toast of thanks and hope
For another blessed year in your tender company.

Merry Christmas one and all!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Technology and Innovation, Not the Church of Gore

f all the alternatives to OIL and the burning of fossil fuels as the principal source of the human race's energy, I thought at first that nuclear energy would emerge as the best option. But a Grand Solar Plan in the January 2008 Scientific American could give even Nuclear Fusion advocates a run for their Carbon Tax dollars.
  • A massive switch from coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear power plants to solar power plants could supply 69 percent of the U.S.’s electricity and 35 percent of its total energy by 2050.
  • A vast area of photovoltaic cells would have to be erected in the Southwest. Excess daytime energy would be stored as compressed air in underground caverns to be tapped during nighttime hours.
  • Large solar concentrator power plants would be built as well.
  • A new direct-current power transmission backbone would deliver solar electricity across the country.
  • But $420 billion in subsidies from 2011 to 2050 would be required to fund the infrastructure and make it cost-competitive.
As the article makes clear, this concrete and eminently doable plan (at least on paper) would supply the energy for about 344 million rechargeable electric powered vehicles, using about 30,000 square miles of sunlit land area, which is comparable to that taken up by coal-fired power plants and the coal mines that service them.

I'm sure that America will do something big like this, since it is not really much more ambitious than the Interstate Highway system built after World War II, or the telecommunications infrastructure rolled out over the last 30 years.

Once a clear, "can-do" proposal like this is seen by the American people, it is the sort of thing that will galvanize them into action much more than Al Gore's millenarianian church with carbon-tax collection plates. It is the kind of vastly ambitious but practical and no-nonsense project that the people and government of the United States have proven in the past that they are capable and eager for.

We shall see who actually solves the world's energy and environmental problems--the prophets of doom or the engines of technology and innovation that represent the leading edge of human adaptation. Survival of the smartest. Ideological resentment and Gore's America-bashing will look mighty foolish the day they turn on that new solar-powered DC-Electrical Backbone and people "plug in" instead of "fill up" while the rest of the world's environmental Cassandras attend conferences and issue manifestos.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What Makes a Survey Scientific?

There are two kinds of public opinion poll or survey: the statistically SCIENTIFIC poll and the statistically ENTERTAINING poll. To explain the difference requires a number of preliminary considerations...

First the following important distinction. Public opinion surveys can be divided quite neatly into two kinds--(1) those surveys that make definite predictions about how some FUTURE event will turn out, and (2) those that don't. In both types of survey, typically 1200 randomly selected respondents are asked to fill in a multiple choice questionnaire, but as the following representative examples will show, only the first type of surveys lead to testable predictions of the survey results and pollsters interpretation of them. The second type of survey does not make testable predictions about future events but only produces "snapshots" of how the respondents answer some arbitrary survey question. These questions are often commissioned by clients of the survey outfits and scientifically polled and analysed by them, but which are never tested by some independent objective EVENT that will either verify or confirm the scientific validity of the survey, its relevance, materiality or utility.

An example of the first kind of public opinion survey are the periodic voter preference surveys conducted by both survey outfits in the run-up to national elections. Based upon the series of random samples that the pollsters ask to see how the candidates are doing with the voters before the elections, trends may be discerned and pollsters can predict how the elections will actually turn out. Thus the scientific integrity of the survey is tested on all critical technical aspects by the actual results of the elections such as (1) the question design; (2) the random sample data acquisition procedure; (3) the data analysis, interpretation and prediction of likely winners and losers. Generally speaking, the work of SWS and Pulse Asia on this type of survey has been outstanding and world class. In almost all cases their predictions of how elections eventually turn out have been within the bounds of expected statistical variation based on their typical respondent sample sizes and resulting margin of error. In my judgment the voter preference surveys trending upcoming elections in the Philippines conducted by SWS and Pulse are statistically SCIENTIFIC.

Another very good example of statistically SCIENTIFIC polls are consumer product preference surveys conducted by marketing research outfits on behalf of clients who are launching new products or new packaging of old products and who are testing various alternatives and options. These surveys are also validated by how well they do against actual results after product launch.

What about the second type of public opinion polls that don't make testable predictions and are only statistically ENTERTAINING? Which surveys of SWS and Pulse Asia involve questions to respondents that don't lead to trends and predictions and therefore are never tested by some independent, objective and decisive event?

In the case of SWS the most famous of these are the SELF-RATED POVERTY and HUNGER surveys, which make for great big banner headlines about every three months screaming that hunger is at "peak record levels" and poverty incidence is causing little girls to commit suicide. But of course none of these numbers can ever be challenged or tested in any effective or automatic way like voter preference surveys which have the elections to keep them credible. In the case of Pulse Asia, the recent example is the survey on who is the most corrupt President (cleverly and craftily designed and commissioned by Senator Serge Osmena) which turned up Mrs. Arroyo as being even more corrupt than Ferdinand Marcos.

Although this second category of surveys are scientifically conducted, they are not proper scientific statistical surveys, in my humble opinion, because they do not present a TESTABLE HYPOTHESIS that the subsequently collected data is supposed to affirm or deny. They may be professionally conducted by SWS and Pulse, but any conclusions, predicitons or interpretations of such data are merely STATISTICALLY ENTERTAINING since there is no future even to test their validity.

Objective, independent testability of a survey's results, predictions and analysis are what make it SCIENTIFIC.

Although science can be ENTERTAINING, don't be fooled when SWS or Pulse conducts and reports on the second type of survey. They are just paying the bills, not advancing science. In this sense, Public Opinion Polling as such really IS a genre of Journalism--it is a mix of hard data (news), opinion and editorializing by the pollsters designers and commissioners (views) and entertainment based on fun with numbers and questionnaires.

Over at the Philippine Daily Innuendo, which through the years has largely practiced and promoted the use of surveys as a genre of propaganda and innumeracy, there is at least John Nery (Newsstand blog) a PDI senior editor who has done a good deal to correct the situation by taking the trouble to understand Statistics 101 and actually attempt to apply it to real surveys. I hope he will continue to encourage his colleagues in journalism to study math and statistics too. Please note that John Nery's Five Rules of Thumb for understanding surveys refers ONLY to election surveys.

Surveys that are tested may be trusted. Those that are not tested by some external event like an election are really NOT scientific surveys at all, but they do trade upon the reputation of the pollster. Such surveys do have some validity in the sense that they are the result of random sampling techniques. However, I think that survey questions which will not be put to the test in a real objective event have mainly JOURNALISTIC and not scientific value.

Manuel L. Quezon III turns in a thoughtful lamentation on the matter of alleged public apathy and indifference starting with some choice quotes from Ninoy Aquino. I say alleged because he may really be referring to the apparent inability of the fiercely anti-GMA opposition to scare up even the shadow of an Edsa Dos style regime change. Having used that trick to get into power, GMA sees any attempt at flattery-by-imitation a mile away and nips it in the bud.
Despite one devastating scandal and controversy after another hounding the President, the magical combination of civil society outrage, military withdrawal of support and a judiciary willing to savage the Constitution has so far eluded the Edsa-envious and the scattered Opposition. Compared to Erap's kanto boy plunder of jueteng, GMA is possibly guilty of big league crimes like political murders and enforced disappearances, suppression of human rights and Press Freedom. No less than UN Human Rights Rapporteur Philip Alston has turned in a largely negative Final Report on her administration on the extrajudicial killings issue. The President countered brilliantly by getting King Juan Carlos of Spain to give her a Gold Medal for Human Rights, trading largely on her abolition of the death penalty in 2006.

So far, the Public has tolerated Arroyo, who is entering eight years in power, even if Pulse Asia says they think she is their most corrupt leader of the last five. But her enemies have simply never gotten it together like Erap's enemies once did. Having survived so much already, GMA seems to have turned into pure teflon-on-steel, untouchable and immutable, treating all opposition news, views and rebellions as political noise to be ignored or suppressed. Or ruthlessly exploited for political and propaganda advantage as in the Manila Peninsula incident when Trillanes and the Mass Media played a lethal Game of Chicken with the Authorities, but blinked.

How has GMA gotten away with so much and for so long
? It may have to do with the problem of the alternative. Consider that the "Civilian Component" of the Manila Peninsula Rebellion of Sonny Trillanes, such as it was, included the likes of Linggoy Alcuaz, Mentong Laurel, Dodong Nemenzo, Bishop Julio Labayen, Tito Guingona. Together with the CPP national united front organization Kapisanan ng Makabayaang Ekonomista, these same individuals had been calling for the immediate resignation of the President, Veep, Senate President and House Speaker to make way for a transition government to be headed by Chief Justice Reynato Puno. Not even snap elections, the bums! Puno reportedly issued a statement saying he is "neutral" on the proposed Treason, instead of roundly denouncing it as another illegal Regime Change a la Davide 2001. But Puno should set his sights higher--on Geneva and the international justice scene. Those human rights Rules of Court under his watch are absolutely brilliant. Writ of amparo and habeas data by Puno should trump even Davide's judicial coup d'etat on Erap and the Separation of Powers.

There is another reason I say "alleged public apathy" -- I don't think the Filipino people have been sitting around just taking it from their Failed Ruling Classes -- past, present and future. They've been busy as OFWs (what the Sour Grapers call "toilet bowl cleaners of the world") raking in and sending home the over ONE BILLION DOLLARS A MONTH which is the rising tide raising all boats in this God-forsaken archipelago. We are care-givers to humanity and the world. We are not indolent apathetics. And as we send back and return the fruits of our labor to our families and children, whom we have not at all abandoned or forgotten, as the Sour Grapers grouse, the spell is broken, the voices of political correctness and social authority lose their omniscience, lose their ability to abash us. The solutions to our own problems lie in our own hands, and not of saviors, or leaders with vain ideologies.

MLQ3 renews a favorite pitch of his (and mine) for "a common political vocabulary"--which I locate in the Constitution, and urge upon him and other utilitarians the greater appreciation for the Social Contract tradition of interpreting constitutions, citizen's and institution's rights, duties and privileges.

MLQ3 ends with a quote from Inday Varona Espina's recent essay in Graphic Magazine
“The young agree about hell lying in wait. But they think the solution lies elsewhere: Collective tinkering with a wheezing vehicle, the dismantling of roadblocks and a more discerning choice of routes. These acts require sober dialogue, not the hissy fits coming from all shades of the political spectrum these days.” So we must ask ourselves, how well do we understand the engine we intend to tinker with?
I really like the dark, quirky, unpredictable column pieces that Ms. Inday Varona Espina has produced over the years as The Scarred Cat. But that was mainly before she became chairman of National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and editor of Philippine Graphic Magazine. (By the way, I once shared a double bunk bed with her predecessor, Luis Mauricio, editor of the same venerable publication in September, 1972, when Ferdinand Marcos arrested us both along with about a hundred others including Ninoy Aquino and Chino Roces from both the Mass Media and the Political Opposition, on the night Martial Law came down.)

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has a ways to go in order to become Ferdinand Marcos, in my book, which also says on Page One: Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Freedom!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Is Global Warming the New Y2K Bug Without a Deadline?

PLANETARY EMERGENCY Since CNN has been showing large chunks of the polar ice caps slipping noiselessly but ominously into the sea, many are quite convinced that the world will end not in fire or ice, but in another Flood. In fact some think we are already in the midst of a planetary emergency because of catastrophic man-made Global Warming, even if more polar bears die from hunters than drowning. But is the price of further human progress the end of the world? Have we made war on the Earth itself, as Al Gore suggests and are locked in a relationship of Mutually Assured Destruction? Can a tax save the earth from the laws of economics and thermodynamics, as well as close the Gap between the Rich and the Poor? Do the rich nations of the world owe pollution reparations to the poor nations, and do poor nations have an equal right to pollute the atmosphere, at least for a while until they have both sinned the same amount against Gaia? Is green the new yellow journalism? Is global warming the new Y2K Bug without a deadline?

Update: Contrarians at Bali More than 100 scientists led by physicist Freeman Dyson and veterans of the IPCC itself have signed an open letter (full text) to UN's Ban Kie Moon urging adaptation instead of futile attempts to "fight" climate change with sin taxes.

Upon hearing he had won the Nobel Peace Prize last October, former US Vice President Al Gore said that, "We face a true planetary emergency. The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity. It is also our greatest opportunity to lift global consciousness to a higher level."

A TAX TO SAVE THE POLLUTION SINNERS OF THE WORLD Gore repeated this basic theme in his 2007 Nobel Peace Prize Lecture in Oslo and Bali this past week. He proposes a grand and sweeping solution to global warming in clarion call speeches that have energized a global environmental movement to "fight" climate change...with taxation that will also by the way, close the Gap between the Rich and Poor. Gore is way beyond just the US Presidency.
AL GORE (Nobel Lecture): "This week, I will urge the delegates in Bali to adopt a bold mandate for a treaty that establishes a universal global cap on emissions and uses the market in emissions trading to efficiently allocate resources to the most effective opportunities for speedy reductions...

We also need a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store carbon dioxide.

And most important of all, we need to put a price on carbon -- with a CO2 tax that is then rebated back to the people, progressively, according to the laws of each nation, in ways that shift the burden of taxation from employment to pollution. This is by far the most effective and simplest way to accelerate solutions to this crisis."

Here also is the Nobel Lecture of R.K. Pachauri of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, this year's co-winner with Gore for work on global warming, summing up the scientific data and the general consensus that it is "anthropogenic" or man made--but not necessarily how to deal with it.

According to Al Gore, the way out of this Global Warming problem is by imposing a new global sin tax based on the amount of carbon dioxide pollution a given activity represents, shifting the tax burden "from employment to pollution." For example, if I take a vacation that involves jet travel, I ought to be taxed according to my share of the damage done to the environment as a result of my flights, with the tax proceeds being used for environmental remediation. Of course, the assumption is that the governments or institutions that end up with my sin tax can effectively undertake remedial efforts or channel the taxes in such a way as to offset at least the amount of damage I've caused, and not just fund bureaucracy and regulators' polluting vacations!

It's not a new idea. Taxation is the economic mainspring of Gore's "organizing principle for human civilization". Yale University Professor of Economics, William Nordhaus (pdf) has analyzed Gore's proposals and concludes that they would result in $12 trillion of climate mitigation -- at cost of $34 trillion in taxes.

BEFORE BALI WAS KYOTO Writing in the Wall Street Journal University of Buckingham's Prof. Julian Morris points out some interesting facts about the Kyoto Protocol:
Even if the Kyoto Protocol were fully implemented — not just by the EU, but by all of the more than 160 signatories — and its restrictions kept in place until 2100, its effect on the climate would barely be discernible. It would merely delay the projected warming by less than a decade over the course of the next century. Meanwhile, the economic cost has been estimated at between 0.1% and 3% of gross world product. Even at the lower end, that is an enormous price to pay for essentially no benefit.
Ron Bailey of ReasonOnline in a dispatch from Bali :
RON BAILEY: "In his 1992 book, Earth in the Balance, Gore argued, "We must make the rescue of the environment the central organizing principle for civilization." Man-made global warming is an economic and technical problem of the sort that humanity has solved many times. For example, forests are expanding in rich countries because they have well-developed private property rights. Also in rich countries, regulations have helped once polluted rivers and lakes to become clean and have drastically cut air pollution. One of the keys to solving environmental problems is economic growth and wealth. Economists have identified various income thresholds at which various air and water pollutants begin to decline, with many indicators improving once GDP per capita in a country reaches around $8,000 per year. So keep in mind that anything that unduly retards economic growth also retards ultimate environmental clean-up, including global warming.

In any case, global warming is not the result of environmental sin; it is the result of human progress creating another commons problem. We do not need to "lift global consciousness"; we need to find a cheap, low-carbon source of energy. I have no doubt that man-made global warming is an economic and technical problem that an inventive humanity will solve over the course of the 21st century."
Regular readers of Philippine Commentary may recall my previous postings on
Garrett Hardin's famous article in the peer-reviewed journal Science (1968) on The Tragedy of the Commons which is particularly relevant to Global Warming--a problem that involves the global commons. Here the sense of the word "tragedy" is that of Alfred North Whitehead: "The essence of dramatic tragedy is not unhappiness. It resides in the solemnity of the remorseless working of things."

An important conclusion about problems involving public commons is that there is no "technical solution" to the basic problem. It's like the game of tic-tac-toe. There is no way to win once all players become familiar with the game. Keeping the "commons" publicly accessible inexorably leads to the destruction of the commons. The only solution is to turn such commons into private property. I don't know how we do that to the global commons.

I am also not sure yet how Gore's ideas fit into this framework. If the new CO2 tax he is proposing is likened to a sin tax, we only have to look at the continued prevalence of gambling, drinking and smoking to wonder if this is the right way to go. On the other hand, if it spurs the development of new technologies that don't have the problem of discharging CO2 into the atmosphere, could a case not be made for such taxes being beneficial?

Not if they degrade human living standards or retard economic development, since the more immediate needs of food, shelter and clothing cannot easily be sacrificed for the dubious benefit of seeing a graph move in the right direction at the IPCC headquarters in the UN.

BEING LIKE THE COCONUT TREE...There is an entirely Filipino way of looking at this, which may be more universal than the parable referred to implies. Perhaps the right way to deal with global warming is to accept the fact that it may be the inevitable product of the Laws of Thermodynamics, that it is unavoidable unless we want to shun the elementary and tangible benefits of industrializaon and modernizing human societies and communities. In which case, we would want to put more of our efforts into ADAPTATION to a warmer, wetter world. Maybe it means giving up large coastal areas over the course of the next few centuries. Maybe it means living in and conquering the undersea territories of the earth--about two thirds of it waiting to be recovered. Maybe it means bending to the weather and rising to the technological challenge, instead of flagellating ourselves for inventing refrigerators and jet airplanes and lengthening the human life span and building air conditioned cities.

I'm with those who say science and technology ought to lead the way on this one, not the politicians or the prophets of doom of the environmental religion.

Something to keep an eye on too is the possibility that all the planets are warming and that something happening with the sun is responsible for global warming on earth and not human activities. The polar ice caps on MARS have reportedly been shrinking too, over the century since we've been imagining water channels built by Martians there have drained them to supply vast civilizations of err, Rednecks.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Right to Life Has Priority Over the Right to Know

To hear some Journalists talk (MP3) they are the true and authentic heroes of the Information Age. Can some Senators and politicians do anything but nod their heads in avid obsequiousness? Well, we can be fairly certain that the Mass Media can win virtually any public argument involving Press Freedom since they famously use barrels of ink (and oodles of bandwidth) in the daily exercise of their Constitutional right to sell news, views and entertainment to us, the Public, whose insatiable Right to Know they claim to serve. But what I know is the Right to Life has just priority over the Right to Know, and when Media men and women become the Message, journalists become public personalities and may as well run for public office, as they are largely lost to the profession once they effectively deny the official fiction of neutrality and objectivity. The inability of most of the Mass Media to state unambiguous rules of engagement vis-a-vis "the yellow line" is a most dangerous ambiguity--what one newspaper called "the insufferable conceit of the Press. "

Freedom of Speech is truly the governing principle of the Free Market of Ideas and the entire subjective experience of the citizenry in a pluralistic and open democratic society. The right to speak necessarily implies the right to be heard, as well as the right to hear what others are saying. Thus the Public's Right to Know is the Public's right to get news, views and entertainment, as well as education, the arts, history and knowledge of every sort, that would be frustrated without the ability of some to provide information to others, oftentimes for a fee disguised in the beguilements of advertising or the price of tuition.

Information is a prime commodity in a world where most forms of wealth including the business infrastructure itself are a form of intellectual property. Thus the buying, selling, trading and commercialization of news, views, entertainment, education, and all other forms of information is an integral part of our civilization.

A newspaper, radio, television station is a commercial enterprise which manufactures and packages news, views and entertainment, or some other form of information desired by the Public. Free enterprise includes the concept of a Free Press. The Public's Right to Know is really the Public's right to maintain a free marketplace for those Ideas called news, views and entertainment, and the rights to buy, sell, trade, make and disseminate them.

Professional journalism, at least on the news gathering side, can be seen as an organized form of data acquisition and dissemination in which the News Reporter is duty-bound to accurately record and report the facts of a story (who, what, when, where, why, how) and in controversial issues to get all sides.

In order to accomplish this feat of getting accurate information from sometimes tightlipped, busy or hostile sources, it has been traditional for news reporters, as such, to be objective, neutral, or at least accessible to all in order to gain access and not be seen as biased or unreliable. In this way, the newspaper, tv or radio station that becomes the outlet for such information gathered by reporters can build up a good reputation and become "credible" to the Public. Product loyalty is built up by the Mass Media at least partially on the credibility of its news even though no one has ever lost money underestimating the Buying Public's intelligence or overestimating its undying preference for the entertaining.

Yesterday, what we witnessed in the Philippine Senate was a remarkable event in which the Mass Media have become a big part of the Message...

The Senate hearing on the Nov. 29 Manila Peninsula incident chaired by Senators Chiz Escudero and Gringo Honasan was attended by well known Media Personalities who have definitely become a part of the National News. Malaya's Ellen Tordesillas and Jake Macasaet; NHK's Manila correspondent Charlene Deogracias; Ms. dela Pena Reyes of GMA-7; PDI's Gil Cabacungan; ABSCBN's Maria Ressa; National Press Club's Roy Mabasa; Ruben Canoy of Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas; Mr. Tony Lopez of the Manila Overseas Press Club. They are as much Public Personalities as the First Gentleman, or any Senator.

As usual invited Executive Dept. officials, police and military officials were no-shows at the hearing but the pusillanimous Senate has done nothing to compel their attendance to cooperate with the Congress in aid of legislation.

The hearing gave mass media personalities a nationally televised soapbox to air their grievances about the incident. There seems to be especial umbrage taken by some of the Journalists upon being arrested by lowly SPO1s instead of Metrocom Colonels and above, as in the time of the Dictator Ferdinand Marcos. That was before they even invented plastic tie locs, but the MOPC's Tony Lopez was wrong to claim that more journalists were arrested at the Manila Pen than during Marcos' martial law. There is simply no comparison, susmaryosep!

Even before the hearing itself started, Vergel O. Santos of Business World and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, said on ANC that Press Freedom of Speech and the right of the public to know should have the highest priority in the hierarchy of our democratic rights and freedoms. Compared to what I wonder?

Isn't the true priority self-evident in the traditional formula naming the triumvirate of our most essential Rights as those to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Surely there is no Liberty or Freedom to be exercised, even by a Journalist, if he or she should happen to lose their life for refusing to heed reasonable orders by lawful authority to clear a crime scene or potential battle ground.

Asked by Sen. Dick Gordon whether she she was maybe getting in the way of police at the Manila Pen and endangering not only her life but that of others, Malaya's Ellen Tordesillas did her best Lil Bo Peep act claiming there was no way she could possibly be in the way of a tank and several APCs worth of SWAT Teams trying to arrest several armed Magdalo rebels with uncertain intentions or capabilities. Why did she have to respect the Police's yellow line when she was already inside the line before it was set up, she asked plaintively. If there was going to be any action, she claimed she would only be recording, not getting in the way of the massacre and bloodbath.

Meanwhile the MOPC's Tony Lopez intoned the argument that safety is the journalist's lookout, insisting to Senator Dick Gordon that even if a few reporters or camera men had been killed at the Manila Pen, that the Media would accept such losses as part of the profession or vocation they have chosen. But it is an argument that is disingenuous. It can only be made because no one was killed in this incident. But I bet he would have been singing an entirely new song if there were any fatalities on that day. It's a little self-serving to proclaim a willingness to die while covering the beat and Tony was clearly having fun with the whole thing, especially after Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan stroked his ego by opining how senatorial was his testimony.

What strikes me as paradoxical is how journalists can claim to be willing to accept getting killed in a crossfire, but will complain for being arrested and "processed" by the cops for a few hours. What did they expect, after they refused to clear out despite several ultimatums from the authorities. Rebellion charges are being brought against Trillanes, Lim and several others as a result of that incident. I think the journalists who refused to clear out, came dangerously close to obstruction of justice, or at aleast, interfering with the police.

I find it particularly charming for Tony Lopez to suggest that he wouldn't mind journalists getting killed, as long as it isn't intentional. As if it were only their lives that might be endangered by their presence. What about the law enforcers themselves who have to deal with a potentially deadly situation while having to deal with civilians who may have no idea what is going on and are in fact only trying to find out. Surely, between the work of the police and the work of the journalists both Democracy and Common Sense agree as to who ought to please just get out of the way until the smoke clears.

The Right to Know surely does not abrogate the Rule of Law because it simply does not trump the Right to Life.

Not all Mass Media agree with Ellen and Tony about this lexical priority of rights, as Maria Ressa of ABSCBN News at least has declared that "No news reporter would be willing to die for a story." But I think Maria Ressa wants to claim for broadcast television the same Press Freedom that print media journalists like Ellen and Tony are used to.

Are all Mass Media created equal? Apparently not. Today's Senate hearing delved in some detail into the very real distinction between Print Media (such as newspapers and magazines on the one hand), and broadcast media on the other (such as television and radio).

Because the airwaves used by both TV and Radio (actually the electromagnetic frequency spectrum) are considered to be part of the national patrimony, like its lands, seas and rivers, a Congressional Franchise is required to operate radio or tv stations. As found in a typical franchise of this kind the broadcasters are being granted a privilege "to construct, install, establish, operate and maintain for commercial purposes and in the public interest, radio and/or television broadcasting stations in the Philippines..."
SEC. 5. Right of Government. - A special right is hereby reserved to the President of the Philippines, in times of war, rebellion, public peril, calamity, emergency, disaster or disturbance of peace and order, to temporarily take over and operate the stations or facilities of the grantee, to temporarily suspend the operation of any station or facility in the interest of public safety, security and public welfare, or to authorize the temporary use and operation thereof by any agency of the government, upon due compensation to the grantee, for the use of said stations or facilities during the period when they shall be so operated.
Now, I do agree with Tony Lopez that this is an anachronism that has been rendered obsolete by technology. There should be no distinction made in Law among the various forms of the Mass Media. Newspapers ought to be treated the same as broadcasters and subject to the same equal and equitable protections and restrictions.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Long Live Sancho Panza!

Raul Panganlangan calls the Filipinos "A Nation of Sancho Panzas" while equating Antonio Trillanes to Don Quixote, with a straight face! --
We crucify the Don Quixotes and sanctify the Sancho Panzas ever craving for the petty dukeships we covet. We deride Quixotes’s Dulcinea because she was not real and was a mere figment of his fertile imagination. We mock the dreamers whose dreams we had the power to give -- and then blame them that we didn’t. We treat revolutions and coup attempts as if we had absolutely nothing to do with them.
The reality in this case, of course, was that "we" the Public had absolutely nothing to do with Trillanes' artless attempt to tilt at windmills at the Manila Pen. Our covetous craving for petty dukeships had little to do with it, as even Teddy Casino and the Left could not make head or tail of the short-lived putsch. The Manila Pen was a farce that some are trying to aggrandize into some Battle between Good and Evil, or the perpetual struggle between the idealistic and the pragmatic. Or the Battle for Press Freedom.

Manuel L. Quezon III continues the bashing of Sancho Panza in the words of Leon Ma. Guerrero and accuses the Spanish government of indolently engaging in the "hazy security of nostalgia" while giving President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo a gold medal for abolishing the death penalty, thereby exalting her entire human rights record. The inconvenient fact is that Arroyo did abolish the death penalty, a quintessentially liberal accomplishment left uncherished by her erstwhile admirers in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Here is how PDI editorial sour graped at the Spanish fly in the ointment:
For abolishing the death penalty, the King of Spain toasted the President as a champion of human rights. He described the Philippines under her regime as being “at the forefront of liberties and the defense of human rights with the abolition of the death penalty, a gesture which gave us satisfaction.” A gesture, the King added, that was “applauded by the international community.”

Quick. Give the Spanish King a copy of Alston’s final report.

President Arroyo has shrewdly used no less than the Spanish King Juan Carlos to trump the hand of United Nations rapporteur Philip Alston and not even PDI can out-innuendo the international press covering Europe and the Spanish royal family. They can't change the subject right now. Malacanang Palace is giving tit-for-tat on the extrajudicial killings issue perhaps because it senses the Bum's Rush from the Left and it's allies. Given the boost she got from the Manila Pen incident, Pres. Arroyo has pressed her advantage on the international stage not only in Espana and Brittania but also in Kuwait, by now saving the life of OFW Marilou Ranario spared at Arroyo's last minute plea by the Kuwaiti Emir Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.

PDI readers have certainly gotten a bad impression of Sancho Panza this past week. But in a recent Guardian essay, Professor of Literature at Yale University, Harold Bloom says of Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel Cervantes:
The heroism of Don Quixote is by no means constant: he is perfectly capable of flight, abandoning poor Sancho to be beaten up by an entire village. Sancho, as Kafka remarked, is a free man, but Don Quixote is metaphysically and psychologically bound by his dedication to knight errantry. We can celebrate the knight's endless valour, but not his literalisation of the romance of chivalry. I would rather be Falstaff or Sancho than a version of Hamlet or Don Quixote, because growing old and ill teaches me that being matters more than knowing. The knight and Hamlet are reckless beyond belief; Falstaff and Sancho have some awareness of discretion in matters of valour.
Which is really more than can be said for Antonio Trillanes, who tossed his cookies out the window of the Manila Pen. But of larger significance to me is the propagation by Pangalangan and Quezon of a certain interpretation of the West's canonical novel, Don Quixote, which I call the Impossible Dream idealism. This complements and appeals as consolation to the perverse Filipino taste for defeatism and victimhood expressed in the continuing official holidays commemorating surrenders, defeats, betrayals, and of course, Rizal's execution and death on December 30. Here is Harold Bloom again, after reminding us that in the novel, Don Quixote "dies" to become again Quijano the Good, whom Sancho Panza wishes would begin the Quest anew, and gives us the definition and interpretation of it,
"Perhaps the Quixotic can be accurately defined as the literary mode of an absolute reality, not as impossible dream but rather as a persuasive awakening into mortality...This curious blend of the sublime and the bathetic does not come again until Kafka, another pupil of Cervantes, would compose stories like "The Hunter Gracchus" and "A Country Doctor". To Kafka, Don Quixote was Sancho Panza's demon or genius, projected by the shrewd Sancho into a book of adventure unto death. In Kafka's marvellous interpretation, the authentic object of the knight's quest is Sancho Panza himself, who as an auditor refuses to believe Don Quixote's account of the cave. So I circle back to my question: Does the knight believe his own story? It makes little sense to answer either "yes" or "no", so the question must be wrong. We cannot know what Don Quixote and Hamlet believe, since they do not share in our limitations."
The Press ought to aspire to be more like Sancho Panza to all our would-be Don Quixotes, not less!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Oblivious Human Shields and the Right to Be In Harm's Way

he recently famous statement of ABSCBN's Maria Ressa notwithstanding that "No reporter is willing to die for a news story," Senator Sonny Trillanes did cynically use an apparently all-too-willing, or oblivious, Mass Media and various civilian and military supporters, as human shields in a press conference that suddenly turned into another spectacular standoff this time at the Manila Peninsula Hotel a week ago. This is no way to be a Senator. And there are better ways of taking advantage of the the Mass Media than involving them in Regime Change stunts that are doomed to fail and gets everybody into plastic tie-locs and serious trouble with the Law.

Commodore Rex Robles of the Feliciano Commission investigating the 2004 Oakwood Mutiny, accuses Trillanes of strengthening the hand and hold of President Arroyo on the helm of power by jumping off a political cliff with Gen. Danilo Lim in front of the frankly amazed cameras and befuddled reporters at the Manila Peninsula Hotel last week, who would later be arrested for their perspicacity.

Speaking of which, the Mass Media managed to make itself a big part of the News with ample help from the Police. Of course, both sides claim they were just trying to do their jobs in a strange and unpredictable situation, after all, no one knew what Trillanes and his Magdalo cohort were up to or capable of. After the police authorities had asked for everyone to clear out of the hotel, some fifty media people decided to stay and await events, which quickly began to envelop them. Mercifully, surrender from Trillanes and Lim came swiftly as soon as the acrid smell of teargas from the first floor wafted upstairs and live television showed a battle tank with machine guns blazing away at an expensive glass facade as APC's disgorged SWAT teams entering the hotel.

Just between us girls, I think the Media was playing a Game of Chicken with the Cops, who were not however, suckered into a long, protracted stand-off and decided to call everybody's bluff by showing up in a tank with a battalion of special forces to produce a quite welcome stand-down.

But in our society, can the police reasonably expect cooperation from the Media in crisis situations like hostagings, stand offs, kidnappings, etc.? There could easily have been a blood bath at the Manila Pen. but my favorite newspaper, PDI of course, even defends the Freedom of the Press to put journalists in harm's way --
Journalists do not ask for -- and do not need -- special privileges in coverage; they just need a free, unrestricted environment in which they can effectively carry out their principal function of informing the public about what is happening in the country and the world...The media organizations should make their own rules, and individual media persons should make their own decisions, on whether to stay in a potentially dangerous or even fatal place.
Much as we might want to oblige, that country and that world that are the target of journalism are not themselves "free, unrestricted environments"--nor are situations like the stand-off at the Manila Pen last week. After all, the Police could also say, with even more justification that they too, need a "free unrestricted environment" to carry out the tasks of maintaining peace and order, securing the public safety and arresting criminals caught in the act of direct contempt and rebellion. Surely such things as public order and safety, law and order, and national security have priority over the purported right of the public to know, and certainly over the right of the Press to know! Such lack of priority for this right to know lies in the broad and general nature of the right itself and what it actually encompasses.

It is not as if the right of the public to know is limited to what Trillanes and Lim were up on Thursday morning last week. The public also has a right to know what telecomm load or SIM card to buy, what Kris Aquino is struggling with in her colorful life this week, which minor starlet is plugging some aging Lothario, who died, who's hiring, and all the rest of the ocean of "knowledge" that flows as ceaseless messages through the Media. Yet, precious as this right obviously is, it cannot have the highest possible priority.

I agree with constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas' recent remark that journalists do NOT have more freedom than ordinary citizens, even if their professions necessarily expose them to greater hazards to the exercise of those common freedoms.

But there is a curious and self-serving line of reasoning that goes like this... First, the right of the public to know is accorded the highest priority in our constellation of rights because it is believed that an informed public is the best antidote to a corrupt or incompetent government; second, as agents of information to the Public, journalists therefore have the right to a "free, unrestricted environment" in which to do their job "of informing the public about what is happening in the country and the world." In other words, since the public's right to know has the highest possible priority, the right of the Press to Know so it can tell the Public about it, (for a fee of course), should also have the highest priority.

But the biggest fault in all this still lies with with Sonny Trillanes. He refuses to grow up and be a Senator and insists on making an utter fool of himself at every opportunity instead. This time, it looks like he's gotten not only his military buddies in trouble, but "the civilian component" of his support as well.

Rebellion charges have been filed against the following for the Manila Pen stand-off are:
Sen. Antonio Trillanes, Gen. Danilo Lim, former Vice-President Teofisto T. Guingona, Jr., Infanta (Quezon) Bishop Julio Labayen, Rev. Father Robert P. Reyes, Capt. Gary C. Alejano, Capt. Segundino P. Orfiano, Jr., Navy LTSG Manuel D.G. Cabochan, LTSG James A. Layug, LTJG Arturo Pascua, Jr., Lt. Eugene G. Peralta, Lt. Andy G. Torrato, 1Lt. Billy S. Pascua, 1Lt. Jonnel Sangalang, ENS Armand Pontejos, Jose Virgilio "JV" L. Bautista, Argee Guevarra, former University of the Philippines president Francisco Nemenzo, Julius J. Mesa, Cezari Yassir T. Gonzales, Corporal Clecarte D. Dahan, Private First Class (PFC) Juanito Jilbury, PFC Emmanuel C. Tirador, PFC German M. Linde, Myrna H. Buendia, Dominador E. Rull, Jr., Romeo C. Solis, Roel J. Gadon, Rommel R. Loreto, Julian L. Advincula, Francisco N. Bosi, Leodor G. dela Cruz, Sonny B. Madarang, Francisco C. Peñaflor, actress/scriptwriter Elizabeth Siguion-Reyna and the senator’s brother, Antonio III.
The presence has been noted on the above list of Myrna H. Buendia, said by Police Chief Avelino "Sonny" Razon to be a "common law wife" of Jose Maria Sison, and mother to his illegitimate child, as well as a ranking member of the CPP-NPA. What she was doing at the Manila Pen has become one of the side issues in the whole affair, with Gabriela Party List Rep. Liza Maza calling for Ms. Buendia's immediate release. A far more prominent Leftist personality also on the list is former UP president Francisco "Dodong" Nemenzo, who however, defends his presence at the Manila Pen as a form of "academic research." Into what? Experimental Regime Change Techniques?

Among the Catholic clergy, most noteworthy were Infanta bishop emeritus Julio Labayen (from the most NPA infested corner of Quezon province); and Father Robert Reyes (whom I thought was safely in China doing missionary work among the Red Guard instead o running around fomenting protests, hunger strikes and other uhmm, performance art). Both have lately been involved with Tito Guingona and the Kapisanan ng Makabayang Ekonomista (KME) in calls for the formation of a "transition government" run by a Junta headed by Chief Justice Reynato Puno. The latter's lukewarm "declining to accept" the offer and protestations of neutrality and non-involvement in the proposal seemed to me a less than a definitive rejection of the hare-brained and patently anti-constitutional scheme.

"Was the police planning a bloodbath at the Pen?" Neal Cruz naughtily asks after the Mass Media became a major part of the news event at the Manila Pen last Thursday:
"Did they perhaps think that with Trillanes, Lim et al. dead, the threat to the Arroyo administration would be gone? No, sir, it won’t. It would have aroused other soldiers to anger and the desire to get rid of the tyranny of the Arroyo administration would increase and more and bigger mutinies would follow again and again until one of them succeeds. So they should thank the journalists for being there and prevented a bloodbath."
Neal is being convoluted but he wants us to be grateful to the brave and dedicated media men for having prevented a bloodbath! The public should be grateful. Trillanes, Lim and the Magdalo Guy-in-a-Wig should be grateful. And even the government should be grateful -- that by preventing a bloodbath, the media also prevented a military uprising. By preventing the anger of soldiers from being aroused, more and bigger mutinies have been prevented thanks to the media, don't you see?

The Manila Standard's Emil Jurado thinks it was obstruction of justice.

I think everybody got lucky and should thank God because this could easily have turned into a blood bath. It's silly for Neal Cruz to claim credit for the media as having prevented it. There is no doubt of course that a sizeable number of reporters, camera men, and civilian and military supporters of Sonny Trillanes and Danilo Lim could have been subjects of a bloodbath as Neil Cruz grimly suggests. Of course, "BLOODBATH" is a melodramatic ratcheting up even in speculation, from OVERKILL--which was the headline description a few days ago.

Both of these labels fly in the face of the fact that no one was actually killed or hurt. The tactic used by police forces to effect the arrests of Trillanes, Lim and their supporters actually worked like a charm. Carpers in the Press cannot take that away from Razon and the PNP with epithets like "bloodbath" and "overkill" or worse, violation of Press Freedom.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Rapporteur is French for Reporter and Amparo is Gobbledygook for Unconstitutional

UN Rapporteur Philip Alston is NOT the United Nations. Neither is the UNCHR (Human Rights Commission). But that banner headline on Wednesday, UN: AFP behind killings gave many PDI readers the false impression that the United Nations itself was blaming the Armed Forces of the Philippines for the killings. (No one does headline innuendo more adroitly!)
Thus the Final Report of Philip Alston to UNCHR on his Mission to the Philippines arrived like a bombshell the Wednesday before the Makati Peninsula stand-off. Perhaps Sen. Trillanes and Gen. Lim thought the authorities would be too stunned to react if they pulled some kind of stunt on Thursday, which they did by walking out of Judge Pimentel's Court room and holding court instead at the Makati Peninsula, along with several hundred journalists and supporters. Trillanes and Lim misread both the authorities and the Public if they thought they could foment a withdrawal of support scenario based on the Alston Report and the takeover of yet another posh Makati address.

But the record should be set straight. Philip Alston's Report is NOT a judicial or legal finding. It is a summary of observations and opinion of an essentially JOURNALISTIC nature. It is the result of a nine day visit to the Philippines last February during which Philip Alston conducted some number of interviews and briefings in Manila, Baguio and Davao. From the testimonies and documents he was shown by both government and NGO sources, Alston concludes that between 100 and 800 killings have taken place since 2001 outside the bounds of Philippine and international law. The lower figure comes from police and military authorities while the higher numbers come from NGO's like Stop The Killings and Karapatan.

The Alston Report is not however a primary source of data or evidence on extra-judicial killings in the Philippines. It's main objective is to try and explain the killings as such, so that the UNCHR can later come to further conclusions and recommendations. Alston lays most of the blame for extra-judicial executions of leftist activists since 2001 on the Philippine Military and its Commander in Chief, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Alston finds "strikingly unconconvincing" evidence that the CPP NPA NDF is currently engaged in a large-scale purge adding that "The military’s insistence that the “purge theory” is correct can only be viewed as a cynical attempt to displace responsibility."

Alston specifically blames the Arroyo administration's counter insurgency strategy which targets "front organizations" of the communist movement by going after its local leaders and organizers using both legal and illegal tactics. This focus on above ground mass organizations and leaders as communist fronts, claims Alston, has led to the reported string of extra-judicial executions of leftist activists under the Arroyo administration. And he asserts that the killings continue because the perpetrators of past killings have not been arrested or punished by the criminal justice system.

A careful reading of the Alston Report reveals it to be "balanced" in the sense that it does not spare the CPP NPA NDF from the accusation that it too conducts extra-judicial executions and engages in insurgent activities and combat tactics considered illegal from the standpoint of international law. These violations include the holding of sham "people's courts" which can pass death sentences and other punishments without any legal framework and are tantamount to kangaroo courts.

However, the Alston Report puts the Philippine Government and the communist insurgents on the same moral and legal level of equivalence. The basic thesis of the Report is that both sides are guilty of violating Philippine and international law, but that the Philippine government and military are somehow more guilty.

It ignores the essential reality of the insurgency, which is an armed, violent and ongoing criminal activity that is supported by organized extortion and front organizations. It is silly to deny or ignore the fact that the CPP makes use of front organizations and personalities in almost everything it does. And that MOST its work is actually conducted not through the NPA, but through the NDF and its "united front".

One might ask Mr. Philip Alston to name the members of the CPP NPA NDF that he has met or communicated has communicated with. I bet he would be hard pressed to give one example for each organization because even Jose Maria Sison won't readily admit to being a Member, even if he is widely acknowledged as the CPP's founder and still chairman and grand poobah.

Nonetheless, it may yet be useful that at least Philip Alston acknowledges and identifies the decades-long-in-the-tooth communist insurgency as the locus of circumstances and events at the very center of the phenomenon of extra-judicial killings of leftist activists.

Many people find it a logically persuasive claim, at first, that leftist activists are being killed extra-judicially by rightist elements, such as military or vigilante death squads, a practice known as "SALVAGING" under the Marcos regime. Yet it is not only Marcos fascists or military rogues who've tortured and killed leftist activists in the past, but also the leftists themselves. This happened in paranoiac purges against alleged deep penetration agents of the government in the 1980s and assassination strikes against Joma's ideological and organizational rivals.

But here is a counter-example for Mr. Alston to consider in his stack of evidence that comes from November 2007 and not November 1987.

At STOP-THE-KILLINGS website take a look at this still uncorrected entry A family of 4 abducted by soldiers of the 74th IBPA in Agdangan, Quezon Province, Philippines. This entry from 4 November 2007, is typical of the 850 or more extrajudicial killings or enforced disappearances that United Nations Rapporteur Philip Alston mentions in his Final Report to the UN Human Rights Commission, for which he blames mainly the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The entry and report in the Stop the Killings Website is false and wrong!

In the Amparo Plea of Malapute a certain Roperto Malapute claimed to the court that his son Edwin may have been abducted by the military in Quezon province. Turns out, both his son Edwin, daughter Edwinalyn, her husband Primo Retuda and their young daughter, were all in the protective custody of the Philippine Militar --as rebel returnees waiting to be reintegrated. Although Edwin agreed to return home with his father, Edwinalyn and Primo indicated their desire to stay under the military's protection.

We do not of course know what the true relationship is between father, his son, daughter, granddaughter and son-in-law. But the circumstances and disposition of the writ of amparo issued in this case clearly suggests that the Puno Court's inventions have indeed, vastly expanded the substantive rights of nosey relatives. It has also informed the New People's Army exactly where their missing recruits, Mr. and Mrs. Reduta have gone off to.

What I take from this case is the realization that a large percentage of the cases that Philip Alston considers as "evidence" of extra-judicial killings or enforced disappearances may be similar in circumstances and details to the Malapute case. How would he know? He was here for a scant nine days, just like any other parachute journalist. All of a sudden he's got Ph.D. on Philippine security affairs?

The communist movement puts a lot of its time and resources into above ground operations, fund raising by extortion, protection and blackmail; political recruitment and organizing; the legal parliamentary work at Congress and of course, peaceful but confrontational mass actions and demonstrations that ever keep the political kettle warm.

The Alston Report also takes to task the Philippine Justice system, which is of course an Augean Stable of backlog, gridlock and corruption. But let me help him out a little...

Although it may not be quite enough for somebody like Philip Alston, the Philippine Supreme Court is unabashedly activist. Nothing could make this clearer than the introduction of the writs of amparo and habeas data. They are touted by the Chief Justice Reynato Puno as the Court's contribution to the protection of human rights. The Supreme Court is said to have unsheathed special powers in making such new "Rules of Court" found in the following Constitutional provision on the powers of the Judiciary:
1987 Art VIII Section (5) Promulgate rules concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights, pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts, the admission to the practice of law, the Integrated Bar, and legal assistance to the underprivileged. Such rules shall provide a simplified and inexpensive procedure for the speedy disposition of cases, shall be uniform for all courts of the same grade, and shall not diminish, increase, or modify substantive rights. Rules of procedure of special courts and quasi-judicial bodies shall remain effective unless disapproved by the Supreme Court.
In promulgating its new Rules of Court on the Writ of Amparo has the Supreme Court complied with the above provision not to diminish, increase or modify substantive rights? In the Supreme Court's News Flash September 2007, we have this on the new Rules of Court on the Writ of Amparo:
Today, the Supreme Court promulgated the rule that will place the constitutional right to life, liberty, and security above violation and threats of violation. This rule will provide the victims of extralegal killings and enforced disappearances the protection they need and the promise of vindication for their rights. This rule also empowers our courts to issue reliefs that may be granted through judicial orders of protection, production, inspection, and other reliefs to safeguard one’s life and liberty,” said Chief Justice Puno.

The writ of amparo imposes a higher standard of diligence (extraordinary diligence) on public officers or employees than on private individuals or entities (ordinary diligence). There shall be no presumption of regularity on the part of the public official or employee. The filing of the petition for the said writ is not mutually exclusive with the filing of other reliefs (i.e. habeas corpus), as well as the filing of separate criminal, civil, or administrative actions.
If one considers those criminal, civil or administrative actions which "not mutually exclusive" with the filing for a Writ of Amparo, not one denies the PRESUMPTION OF REGULARITY on the part of public officials and employees. Since the filings of one or more of all of these reliefs is "not mutually exclusive" and one of them, the writ of amparo in fact denies the presumption of regularity on the part of the public official, has not such denial been effected for any concurrent legal reliefs being sought??? If so, has not a substantive right -- the right to a presumption of regularity -- been diminished thereby?

Hmmm, one might think the new Rule on Amparo violates the Constitution! But that would not be unusual for this Supreme Court which does not seem to regard the Constitution as a Social Contract at all but a pliable Construction for them to invent and re-invent, to redact as though it were a Bible.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Breaking News--Stand-off at the Peninsula Hotel--Trillanes--Danilo Lim

I am monitoring TV and Radio coverage in Manila of a breaking news event involving Senator Sonny Trillanes, General Danilo Lim, and the highest levels of the government over an incident at Makati's posh Manila Peninsula Hotel. As of this posting a Live Press Conference is going on from Malacanang Palace with Press Sec. Ignacio Bunye, DENR Sec. Lito Atienza, Presidential Legal Adviser Sergio Apostol, Trade Sec. Peter Favila, Finance Sec. Gary Teves. Messages of support from provincial governors and city mayors are being highlighted as supporting the president. Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez has just made an appearance. Updates will be in the Comment Section for an accurate time stamp.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Power of Prayer--Asking God to Kill Someone Else

GMA TV News has the neatest animation of the tracks of the two typhoons, Hagibis and Mitag during the last week or so, and their predicted paths, also shown in a snapshot of the Western Pacific from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii. You can see Hagibis crossing just north of Mindanao towards Palawan, and supertyphoon Mitag approaching the Bicol region from the east. But after hundreds of thousands had evacuated to churches, schools and government shelters, Mitag changed direction, thus "sparing" Bicol. One editorial asks the philosophical question,
What happened? Answered prayers, many Bicol residents said, recalling how people in the region swamped radio stations with messages urging prayers. Priests noted that attendance at Masses grew as “Mina” was reported to be approaching closer. When the typhoon changed course and spared Bicol, one priest said it was “sort of a miracle.”
Answered prayers? A sort of miracle? But what should we make of the later headline: Mina death toll rises to 12 as storm leaves RP (but in Isabela, Northern Luzon and the Babuyan Islands). Shades of the oratio imperata (Prayer for Rain) that the Catholic Church also led the Faithful in besieging Heaven itself with supplications for, earlier in the year, when rumors spread in media of "drought." Hmm...seems to be working a lil too well, folks.

By the way, the naming of typhoons and other terrestrial storms can be a bit confusing because there are regional and local naming conventions in use all over the world. For example the Western Pacific regional names for the two storms mentioned above are "Hagibis" and "Mitag" which were actually contributed by the Philippines and Micronesia to a rotating list of names used by group of 14 participating countries. Meanwhile, the "Philippine region" names for the same storms are "Lando" and "Mina" respectively. The authoritative source for all the agreed upon names is the National Hurricane Center of the US National Oceanograhic and Atmospheric Administration, including Philippine region names.

FYI: For 2008, be advised that the Philippine region names that will be assigned to typhoons are Ambo, Butchoy, Cosme, Dindo, Enteng, Frank, Gener, Helen, Igme, Julian, Karen, Lawin, Marce, Nina, Ofel, Pablo, Quinta, Rolly, Siony, Tonyo, Unding, Violeta, Winnie, Yoyong, Zosimo.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Who Cares About Wahab Akbar Anyway?

Senator Juan Ponce Enrile does not see terrorism in the Batasan Blast. He says that it was not an attack on Congress "as an institution" and that a "coercive element" on government was absent. There's also that absurd matter of election season suspension of the law, but we won't bother with that detail for now... What is amazing is how people who normally detest JPE seem fervently willing to join him in this state of denial.

Yet the Batasan Bombers committed this daring and brazen mass murder right at the doorstep of the House of Representatives, inside the Batasang Pambansa Complex in Quezon City which is the equivalent of the US Capitol Building in Washington DC. How can the Batasan blast not be an attack on the Congress as an institution? Surely the venue of the assassination was not an accidental one. Even if this attack was directed at one individual, that individual was still a Member of the House of Representatives. The assassination of Wahab Akbar violates the security of the Congress and its Members, physically and psychologically. The government is forced to accept this fait accompli as a failure to protect its own elected officials and ensure the security of a major branch of the State.

On Friday, the Australian Embassy in Manila expressed the opinion that the Batasan Blast was indeed a terrorist attack and issued a fresh advisory to travelers about terrorist attacks possible "anywhere in the Philippines".

It was a "directed attack on one individual," was how DIlG Sec. Ronnie Puno put it. That individual was Wahab Akbar, the Congressman from the lone district of the province of Basilan, who was killed Nov. 13 by a bomb hidden in a parked motorcycle and remotely detonated with a cellphone, as he was about to board his own car at the south entrance to the House of Representatives building in the Batasan Complex in Quezon City.

But then, why should we care about some Basilan politician like Wahab Akbar, with his checkered past, his terrorist associations, his self-aggrandizing speeches? Like the first and only privileged speech he ever made: "I AM Basilan!" by Wahab Akbar (July 31, 2007) following a wild month in which Father Bossi was kidnapped, then mysteriously released, then fourteen Marines were ambushed by the MILF after which ten were beheaded by the ASG, yet the Govt has not served a single one of the 130 arrest warrants issued by Basilan Judge Leo Principe. And here, Wahab Akbar is dead, blown to smithereens!

Who has the balls to conceive of and carry out such a brazen attack in a high profile venue like the Batasang Pambansa? Amazingly, the Philippine National Police have charged at least four persons with multiple murder after a big break in the case just days afer the blast. After a P5 million reward for information on the Batasan blast was announced by Malacanang, the Philippine National Police got a hot tip and a big break. The police raided a house in Payatas killing three suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf in an ensuing gunbattle including a bomb making expert named Abu Jandal. Police also arrested three others whom they are charging with multiple murder in connection with the Batasan bombing based on evidence gathered at the crime scene and during the raid. A fourth suspect, said to be Hajarun Jamiri former mayor of Tuburan town has also been arrested in Malate, Manila. The investigation continues into the question of the Master Mind, with the family Akbar itself seeming to be willing to wait on authorities to get to the bottom of it.

But does the assassination of Wahab Akbar qualify as a terrorist crime? What harm to the government comes from the Abu Sayyaf successfully carrying out an explosive assassination right on the grounds of the Congress itself?

Several come to mind. It is a big propaganda victory for the ASG since the front pages and prime time newscasts have been given over to the powerful message that the Republic cannot enforce the laws even right where it makes those laws--the Congress! The government evidently cannot guarantee the personal and physical security of its lawmakers. An institution like the House of Representatives, (whatever one thinks of the current quality of its tenants) is surely under attack and obviously has a major security problem, when one of its Members is blown up with dynamite on its own premises, by an assassin who dials a cell phone number safely from a distance.

It is also a big advertising and marketing coup because with the live demonstration of its latest technology and expertise, everyone, on both giving and receiving ends, is made aware of the tender services available for sale and delivery by ASG, aka Murder, Inc.

The terrorist assassination of Wahab Akbar sends a message about what happens to those who even nominally turn away from the organized Jihad and decide to participate in the parliamentary democratic process. In this sense, the assassination directly contravenes the government's policy of attracting and integrating both Bangsamoro leaders and ordinary citizens to the task of peaceably working towards justice and reform in Mindanao.

There is of course, one absurd reason the Batasan Blast cannot be considered terrorism under Philippine Law:The very last provision of the Human Security Act (R.A. 9372 The Anti Terrorism Law) has got to tickle even the most mirthless of terroristes

Sec. 62 Special Effectivity Clause: Thereafter, the provisions of this Act shall be automatically suspended one month before and two months after the holding of any election.

Now, since the Barangay Elections were held on October 29, the provisions of RA 9372 are automatically suspended between October 1 and December 31. The Opposition Senator Nene Pimentel and several other very shortsighted legislators put in this provision out of O.A. because they claimed the Anti Terrorism Law could be used as a political weapon before, during and after elections. And so they put in the effectivity clause a blanket suspension of the Act for three months around election time.

But there is also an explicit Definition of terrorism as a crime in the Human Security Act and one wonders if the Batasan blast qualifies as a terrorist crime under that definition.

The Human Security Act of 2007 (Rep. Act 9372 the Anti Terror Law) defines the Crime of Terrorism in the Philippine jurisdiction:
R.A. 9372, Section 3. Any person who [1] commits an act punishable under any of the following provisions of the Revised Penal Code:

1. Article 122 (Piracy in General and Mutiny in the High Seas or in the Philippine Waters);
2. Article 134 (Rebellion or Insurrection);
3. Article 134-a (Coup d‘Etat), including acts committed by private persons;
4. Article 248 (Murder);
5. Article 267 (Kidnapping and Serious Illegal Detention);
6. Article 324 (Crimes Involving Destruction,

or under

1. Presidential Decree No. 1613 (The Law on Arson);
2. Republic Act No. 6969 (Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Waste Control Act of 1990);
3. Republic Act No. 5207, (Atomic Energy Regulatory and Liability Act of 1968);
4. Republic Act No. 6235 (Anti-Hijacking Law);
5. Presidential Decree No. 532 (Anti-piracy and Anti-highway Robbery Law of 1974); and,
6. Presidential Decree No. 1866, as amended (Decree Codifying the Laws on Illegal and Unlawful Possession, Manufacture, Dealing in, Acquisition or Disposition of Firearms, Ammunitions or Explosives)

[2] thereby sowing and creating a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace, [3] in order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand shall be guilty of the crime of terrorism.
Thus, the crime of terrorism is a COMPOSITE CRIME that involves the commission of other crimes already punishable under the law, "in order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand" using extraordinarily lethal or threatening means. Terrorist crimes, as distinguished from "ordinary" crimes, have an END or objective of forcing some unlawful demand upon the government through MEANS that are so lethal, random, insidious, or threatening, that the authorities have no moral choice but to comply. Even if the extent of such compliance is a helpless acquiescence, both the ends and the means of a terrorist act are considered to be morally unacceptable.

FEARFUL and LETHAL MEANS "...thereby sowing and creating a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace...";

A terrorist crime is expected to involve the use of remarkable means and weapons or extraordinary tactics whose sheer deadliness, random destructiveness, or diabolical conception seems designed to sow fear and panic in people. However, it has only gradually been accepted by critics of the law that suspected terrorists need not actually succeed in creating a condition of widespread fear and panic for this element to exist and be applicable to a given instance. In fact, a credible threat or ability to foment such a condition fear and panic in the populace may arguably have greater coercive effect on the government. In addition, as a matter of public policy, we would NOT want the public to ever react with unnecessary fear or panic under any threat condition. Thus this element of the crime of terrorism distinguishes the MEANS employed in a terrorist crime from ordinary instances of that crime.

UNLAWFUL and COERCIVE INTENT " order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand..."

Although JPE is right that no explicit demand letter or other "coercive element" has been associated with the Batasan blast, there now exists the possibility of using death threats by means of remote conrolled bombs as a very potent threat that other House Members or even Senators their staff members, and other high government officials cannot afford to ignore.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Read This, But Please Don't Kill Yourself

Does Poverty Cause Suicide?

In 2004, the Times of India asked this question after stories circulated of farmers committing suicide in one of the provinces out of financial distress. But they concluded that, "Suicide is related to illness, old age, teenage stress, family problems, and a host of minor causes. Financial stress comes rather low in the list." Curiously, they also quoted a US study, "A 1986 study in the US showed that teen-age suicides increased 7 per cent following nationally televised suicide stories. Thus, the media not only discover but also create suicide waves."

Recently, we had our own media-led stampede of "jumping to conclusions" on the issue of poverty causing suicide in the case of Marianett Amper when the PDI headline breathlessly read, Girl who killed self lamented family's poverty in diary
DAVAO CITY, Philippines -- A 12-year-old girl, who became despondent over her family’s poverty, hanged herself inside their makeshift house a day after her father told her he could not give her the P100 she needed for a school project.
PDI later canonized the young Mariannet Amper by calling her "a Saint of Poverty" then laying a Guilt Trip on everybody!
PDI Editorial: "BY HANGING herself a day after All Saints' Day, 12-year-old Mariannet Amper of Davao City has become the embodiment of the Filipinos' worst nightmare, a saint of poverty for a nation that continues to deny the blighted reality of its impoverishment."
Published a few days after the suicide, this editorial and other writings like it, started a FEELING FRENZY among publicly bleeding hearts, both in the Main Stream Media and in the blogosphere. It became ammo against the Palace's glee over glad tidings from Social Weather Stations, where self-rated poverty statistics are said to be on the low side.

Then there appears to be a fly in the ointment, an inconvenient truth about theory that "poverty" caused Marianett to take her own life.

Journalist R.M. Balanza of the Mindanao news blog durianburgdavao -- covers the Bizarre Twist to Marianet Amper's suicide. Meanwhile, GMA-TV has the autopsy result indicating the 12 year old may have been raped some weeks before she apparently hanged herself November 2. Cheryl Fiel of Davao Today has Mayor Roger Duterte's remarks after the results were made known following exhumation of the 12 year old girl five days after her burial.
“It’s not fair to us, it’s not fair to the girl who died, it’s not fair to the Filipino people because you are covering the truth,” Duterte said. “If there’s poverty in our midst, it’s not the fault of the city government of Davao, we are not the captain of the ship, it’s Manila,” he added. He said the “whole episode has turned into a very sordid event, because of the penchant of people to color the incident with romantic fairy tale.”
But Conrado de Quiros seems to be sorely disappointed that such a perfectly serviceable romantic fairy tale about victimhood, poverty and hunger stalking the land, has apparently been blown up by a medico legal examination. He thinks the authorities are making it up the way some newspapers do:
What reason would the authorities have to lie? Plenty. Rodrigo Duterte, who was among the first to broadcast the theory of rape, is an ardent supporter of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and can’t particularly like it that his favorite hometown has become the source of this regime’s hugest embarrassment -- at a time that it’s desperately trying to convince the citizens that unbeknownst to them things have never been better for them than today. It is to his, and Arroyo’s, interest to show that no one, least of all a child, commits suicide in this country out of impoverishment and deprivation.
Well there you have it folks. The whole rape angle is a lie by the pro-GMA mayor of Davao, sez de Quiros, (even if it does make more tragic sense than the Sad Fairy Tales of Poverty and Hunger Causing Suicide.)

As cruel and gruesome as the circumstances of this process must be for the family and friends of this little girl, I think the Public does have a right to know the truth about her suicide, after she had just been made the Poster Girl of the Poor and Oppressed. Dr. Tess Termulo of Prudence and Madness bravely says so.

By the way, global suicide statistics show that the Philippines must be doing great if high suicide rates follow from "extreme poverty, hunger and deprivation" as claimed by the the new Marianett Devotees, since the Philippines is only No. 83 or thereabouts at 2.1 suicides per 100,000. This is compared to Russia at No. 3 and Cuba at No. 17; Japan (not an impoverished country) at No. 8; and Belgium, Finland, and Switzerland all in the Top Sixteen most suicidal countries.