Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Michael Tan's Arithmetic With Roman Numerals

Michael Tan's PDI column today, ABCD or A Ba Ka Da? addresses the use of English as a medium of instruction in the public schools (in the most eloquent and passionate English, of course!)
PINOY KASI A, B, C, D or A Ba Ka Da?
By Michael Tan Inquirer 05/30/2007

With the new school year upon us, I’m wondering what our schools are going to do, given the President’s Executive Order 210, which for the nth time revises our medium of instruction in schools.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed the EO in May 2004. There was a delay with the Department of Education’s implementing rules and guidelines, which were released only in July 2006. In a nutshell, the EO and the implementing rules provide for the following:

English will be taught as a second language starting with Grade 1. Starting with Grade 3, English will be used as a medium of instruction for English, Mathematics and Science. (This is actually an old requirement dating back to 2002.) Finally, the President and the Department of Education require that English be the “primary medium of instruction” in all public and private high schools, “primary” defined as English being used in “not less than 70 percent of the total time allotment for all learning areas.”
Just so everybody knows what Michael Tan is talking about here, please check yesterday's post, The High Cost of Free Public Education for a breakdown of the Basic Education Curriculum of the Dept. of Education, showing each of the subject areas and the number of minutes per school day allocated to each.

There are five official Subjects in the Basic Education Curriculum (since 2002): English, Filipino, Mathematics, Science and Makabayan. The latter subject area, Makabayan, is actually composed of four component Subjects: Social Studies, Music and Arts, Technology and Livelihood, and Values Education. Below, the number of minutes per day per subject in the DepEd's current Basic Education Curriculum is shown for the Elementary and Secondary School levels

Medium of Instruction

360 Minutes Per Day
Gr 1 Gr 2 Gr 3 Gr 4 Gr 5 Gr 6
English ENGLISH 100 100 100 80 80 80
Filipino FILIPINO 80 80 80 60 60 60
English MATHEMATICS 80 80 80 60 60 60
English SCIENCE** 0** 0** 40 60 60 60


80 80 100 100 100 100

*The MAKABAYAN subject area is actually composed of four other very large subjects: (a) Sibika at Kultura(1-2); Heograpiya, Kasaysayan, Sibika(3-6); (b)Musika, Sining PE, Health (Mapeh); (c) Teknolohiya, Pangkabuhayan at Ekonomiya; and (d) Values Education.

** The SCIENCE subject has not been taught in Grades 1 and 2 of Elementary Public School since 2002 though it is said to be "integrated" into the English and Makabayan subject areas.

Medium of Instruction SECONDARY SCHOOL
420 minutes per day
English ENGLISH 60 60 60 60
Filipino FILIPINO 40 40 40 40


60 60
English SCIENCE 80 80



Araling Panlipunan

48 48 48 48

Musika, Sining, PE, Health

48 48 48 48

MAKABAYAN Teknolohiya,
Pangkabuhayan at Ekonomiya

48 48 48 48
Filipino MAKABAYAN Values Education 24 24 36 36

As Prof. Tan correctly points out, the use of English to teach the subjects of English, Mathematics and Science has been in place since 2002. And for over a century might I add! What the new Executive and Deped Orders seek to do is increase the use of English as a medium of instruction in the Secondary School level to 70% from less than 50% (200 minutes equal to the total of 60+60+80 minutes of English, Math and Science out of the 420 minutes typical high school day.)

Michael Tan says a "group of educators" don't want this to happen and have gone to the Supreme Court to fight it.
PINOY KASI A, B, C, D or A Ba Ka Da?
By Michael Tan Inquirer 05/30/2007

A group of educators has gone to the Supreme Court to challenge the executive and department orders on grounds that they are unconstitutional. The group includes National Artists Bienvenido Lumbera and Virgilio Almario, University of the Philippines professor (and Inquirer columnist) Randolf David; Isagani Cruz, president of Wika ng Kultura at Agham [Language of Culture and Science], and Efren Abueg, writer-in-residence at De La Salle University.

The educators argue that the 1987 Constitution declares Filipino as the national language and mandates the government to “initiate and sustain [its] use ... as a medium of official communication and as language of instruction in the educational system.”
The text-in-read above is Michael Tan's abbreviation of the following provision of the 1987 Constitution:
"Section 6: The national language of the Philippines is Filipino. As it evolves, it shall be further developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages. Subject to provisions of law and as the Congress may deem appropriate, the Government shall take steps to initiate and sustain the use of Filipino as a medium of official communication and as language of instruction in the educational system."
The ironies and humorous blindspots are to be found in The Medium is the Mess Parts 1 and 2. Chief among these are: (1) the Supreme Court itself has produced its "official communications" purely in English, perhaps because the Document it guards and interprets, itself, is in English; (2) If anything it is Deped which has "sustained" the use of Filipino as a language of instruction, by using Filipino as language of instruction for over 50% of its subject time; (3) Petitioners themselves, though they be National Artists and Noted Columnists submit an official communication in the most eloquent and passionate English--hardly exemplary of their own adovcacy.

The main point I think is that English is an integral and inseparable and most substantial part of the Filipino cultural heritage--ineradicably a part of our intellectual, educational, and historical patrimony. It's rejection and treatment as "foreign" is a twisted form of the SELF-LOATHING that some people wish us all to practice as "nationalism." What they actually are propagating is a romantic kind of aboriginalism that masks a more modern and leftist agenda. Then there is the Rizal Law!

ENGLISH AND COMPUTERS Michael Tan next addresses the issue of English proficiency in a globalized, computerized world. Incredibly he proves and concludes that English is not really needed and our attempts to improve the Filipinos' English language skills are the real reasons for their mediocrity!
PINOY KASI A, B, C, D or A Ba Ka Da?
By Michael Tan Inquirer 05/30/2007

The rationale for EO 210 is explained as “a need to develop the aptitude, competence and proficiency of our students in the English language to maintain and improve their competitive edge in emerging and fast-growing local and international industries, particularly in the area of Information and Communications Technology (ICT).”

It’s an appealing argument, given all the publicity around call center jobs and how so many applicants are turned down because of lack of English proficiency. But the educators point out that call centers don’t generate that many jobs in the first place so trying to get all schoolchildren to speak English does not make sense. On the other hand, if it’s the broader ICT industry that’s being targeted, then English becomes even more unrealistic, given that tasks such as software development are not tied to English proficiency.

Michael Tan makes two assertions here: (1) The call center industry is not all that important as a generator of jobs so we don't need more English proficiency; and (2) it is "even more unrealistic" to go for more English proficiency if the target is the broader ICT industry.

Both assertions are absurd and fallacious!

(1) At about half a million positions today, call centers and other offshore outsourced services may not generate as many jobs as the Tricycle Drivers Associations (Todas) and the honky tonks that hire Guest Relations Officers (GROs) and the fast food chains, but they certainly make up for it in typical starting salaries that are five to ten times minimum wage, the benefits, the contacts, the co-workers in the company, and relatively clean, safe working environment.

I don't know who is trying to "get all schoolchildren to speak English" as Michael Tan complains, but I think the point is the call center industry is able to hire only about 5 to 10% of its applicants, so that no matter what their total employment potential is at the moment, they surely could use more Filipinos with the simple skills of speaking English that used to be far more common in this archipelago.

(2) Prof. Tan's statement that the ability to perform "software development tasks is not tied to English proficiency" is true only in the same silly academic sense that such arithmetic tasks like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division COULD be taught and done using Roman Numerals (I, II, III, IV...) and so numeracy is not essentially tied to proficiency in the use of the Arabic decimal number system (1, 2, 3, ..., 10, 100, 1000...).

So, it is fallacious for Michael Tan to conclude that the promotion of greater English language proficiency among Filipinos is "even more unrealistic" for targeting the "broader ICT industry" considering that English is the COMMON language not only of the ICT industry, but of business and international commerce in general.

Perhaps I should put it like this for the Linguist Michael Tan, whom I suspect has never written a line of machine-readable code in his life:

The very idiom and vocabulary of modern computer languages at the most critical level of the source code IS English! Just because Michael Tan sees a few Tagalog words on his personalized Google page cannot erase the fact that for purely historical reasons, ALL modern computer languages are actually dialects of English. Take the famous language called BASIC ((Beginners All purpose Symbolic Instruction Code)--all its commands and keywords (RUN, PRINT, INPUT, etc) are in English. So with Pascal, Fortran, C++, html, Java, Javascript, etc.

So if there is one college-level subject in which TRANSLATION makes absolutely no sense and is worthy of being called "even more unrealistic" it would have to be SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT at the level of executable source code-writing. Like I said, it would like using Roman numeral for arithmetic: doable, but why?

The textbooks, instructional materials, hardware and software reference manuals at the international standards levels are all developed in English, before being translated into other languages. Design specifications, engineering documents and production conventions of all sorts are similarly English.

Nearly 100% of all major scientific papers are published in English, even by non-native English speakers, not only in Computer Science, but in Physics, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Medicine, and the rest of the hard sciences.

English is unavoidably the lingua Anglica of the world in this historical epoch, even if it irks the Filipino nationalists and their ideologies of resentment.

I think that is why the Dept. of Education has correctly adopted the policy of teaching Mathematics and Science in English.


This is the currently very popular line of reasoning that Michael Tan next employs in his column:
PINOY KASI A, B, C, D or A Ba Ka Da?
By Michael Tan Inquirer 05/30/2007

Just for the sake of argument, let’s say there is indeed a bonanza out there -- in terms of outsourced and overseas jobs -- waiting to be reaped if we could produce better English speakers.

The President and her advisers presume that this is best done by making English the primary medium of instruction. But this runs counter to all the scientific evidence. The research into language and education shows clearly that learning is best done through a local language.

The mother tongue (which can be Ilokano or Kapampangan or Tausug, whatever is spoken locally) should be used in the first year of school to build a bridge for learning other languages. That would be Filipino in non-Tagalog areas, and could, later, include English, Spanish, Chinese or other global languages.

One study by the Summer Institute of Linguistics’ Diane Dekker and Catherine Young, “Bridging the Gap: The Development of Appropriate Educational Strategies for Minority Language Communities in the Philippines,” describes an innovative program in Kalinga where the community worked with educators to develop a curriculum and teaching materials for primary school in Lilibuagan, the local language. The article is so fascinating I’m going to save a more detailed description for another column, but the authors show that this approach can produce good literacy and numeracy levels.

The conclusions of local and international studies are simple: pupils learn faster when taught in their mother tongue. By imposing English as the medium of instruction as early as Grade 1, we actually further slow down the learning processes in our schools, including those for English.

In fact, I’d argue that the continuing predominance of English for teaching has produced a labor force that is barely literate in English or Filipino, and that this translates into mediocrity in the work place. It’s not surprising that overseas investors set up production facilities in other countries that may have poorer English proficiency than we do, but far surpass us with technological development and labor productivity.
Pay close attention because the tongue is faster than the eye!

TOO MUCH ENGLISH? A simple examination of the tables above shows that there is actually NO predominance of English for teaching in the Basic Education Curriculum, since majority of the classroom time is spent in subjects using Filipino as a medium of instruction. That is what the new Executive Order seeks to change at the high school level by making teaching 70% in English.
And no one is "imposing English as a medium of instruction as early as Grade 1," as Tan asserts. The controverted Executive Order merely reiterates a long standing reality that English is taught as a second language as early as grade 1 because English has traditionally been a part of the public school curriculum. (From the very beginning!)

Prof. Tan posits the existence, "just for the sake of argument" that there is a bonanza in overseas and outsourced jobs. How generous of him! But OFWs indeed repatriated over a billion US dollars per month in 2006 and the Philippine Call Center industry is in the global Top Five. Since no one involved with overseas employment or the outsource industry could possibly agree with Prof. Tan's position that less English would be better than more English instruction, he makes a curiously convoluted argument: that students would learn even the English language faster by having it taught in "the mother tongue"!

This I find extremely hard to swallow or even follow! The practical difficulty arises in the fact that there are nearly 200 mother tongues involved here, and given the equities assumed of the public school system, there would be insurmountable practical difficulties in situations where student populations are of mixed mother tongues.

Also, it turns out, that all mother tongues are not created equal, since the vast majority of the Philippine dialects are NOT written languages as such, and therefore would be unsuited to be a full fledged "a medium of instruction". At best, most of these mother tongues can serve as means of communication.

Even the bigger mother tongues, like Cebuano, Tagalog, Pampango, Ilokano, do not have the vocabulary to handle most of the modern science and math subjects, and would require extensive investment in translation by probably nonexistent linguists. How many mathematician or physicist authors do we have proficient also in English and say Hiligaynon?

That is why Michael Tan and the Language Petitioners really cannot go whole hog, and must limit their advocacy of the use of the mother tongue to Grade 1.

Hohum, the public school teachers say. They've known all that all along and OF COURSE use whatever langugage is required to communicate with first grade pupils.

TAGALOG IMPERIALISM Prof. Michael Tan also reveals an embarrassing streak of Tagalog imperialism in the statement that "local languages should be used to build a bridge for learning other languages. That would be Filipino in non-Tagalog areas, and could, later, include English, Spanish, Chinese or other global languages." I always hear or read Cebuanos batting for English as the common national language, because though they numerically outnumber the Tagalogs, they see through the official disguise of Filipino as National Language.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The High Cost of Free Public Education

DON'T LOOK NOW but it's back to school on June 4. Central to the multifarious debates and controversies that will arise in the next few weeks will be the the education budget, which is annually assailed as being "not enough" despite being the single largest expenditure of the government after debt service. At some metaphysical level of course, any finite expenditure of mere money to give Precious Knowledge to the youth, is "not enough" but I have come to a general conclusion that what ails the education budget is not primarily the amount spent, but what it is spent upon...

The 2007 National Government Budget allocates a total of 134.71 billion pesos for the Department of Education (DepEd) in 2007. More than 17 million students were enrolled in "tuition-free" public schools of the Philippines. The Basic Education system consists of a six year Elementary or Grade School program and a four year Secondary or High School program, both administered by the Department of Education, the largest single bureaucracy in the government with over half a million employees.

2007 BUDGET Basic Education


Personal Services (Teacher Salaries)


MOOE Overhead & Expenses


Capital Outlays


School Building Program




TOTAL (Billions of Pesos) 134.71

What does the Public actually get for this expenditure on education? Let's begin at the bottom of the above list and work upwards...

GASTPE stands for "Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education. " --a surprisingly effective government subsidy program to send public school students to private schools whenever the public school system lacks the facilities and cannot handle the demand. Former DepEd Undersecretary Juan Miguel Luz explains the rationale behind GASTPE:
Since the early 1990s, GASTPE has been paying private high schools an annual subsidy so that lower-income families could enroll their children in these schools. For the DepEd, GASTPE is a less expensive option to building more classrooms and hiring more teachers. Consider this: a class of 50 students under GASTPE can be subsidized at only P200, 000 compared to P625, 000 that will be spent to build a new classroom for 50 students, hire a new teacher, and procure more furniture and books (Luz, 2006).
The next item, the School Building Program, would seem to be self-explanatory, except for its miniscule size at 1.76 billion pesos! Soon the season will be upon us when people wring their wrists in pious outrage over the perennial class room shortage, decryng how little we spend on Education (mind you, with an eloquent and elegant capital E), usually to the inevitable accompaniment of that old chestnut about teachers holding classes under the proverbial mango tree. Well, no wonder, digging into the 2007 Budget Documents, one discovers that the "classroom gap" is actually for over 10,000 classrooms that would require 16 billion DPWH pesos to construct, or 5 billion if sourced through the open market.

The Capital Outlay budget for 2007 is a pitiable 3.35 billion pesos, almost an afterthought.

MOOE, which represents operating expenses such as electricity, gasoline, telecommunications (yup, we are paying for a lot of texting and cell phone usage by government agencies and employees!) is up considerably in 2007 at 17 billion pesos, but is still below the internationally recommended level of 15% of total budget.

The lion's share of the DepEd budget --109.78 billion pesos-- goes to Teacher Salaries, demurely called PERSONAL SERVICES in the budget.

But if you really want to know where all this money goes, especially the large slab called SALARIES, you need look no further than the Basic Education Curriculum.

Follow the money? Know the Curriculum!

There are five official Subjects in the Basic Education Curriculum (first adopted 2002)--English, Filipino, Mathematics, Science and Makabayan. The latter subject area, Makabayan, is actually composed of four component Subjects: Social Studies, Music and Arts, Technology and Livelihood, and Values Education. Strictly speaking, there are eight subjects in the Philippines Basic Education Curriculum. Below, the number of minutes per day per subject in the DepEd's current Basic Education Curriculum is shown for the Elementary and Secondary School levels.

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL Gr 1 Gr 2 Gr 3 Gr 4 Gr 5 Gr 6
ENGLISH 100 100 100 80 80 80
FILIPINO 80 80 80 60 60 60
MATHEMATICS 80 80 80 60 60 60
SCIENCE 0** 0** 40 60 60 60


80 80 100 100 100 100

** The SCIENCE subject has not been taught in Grades 1 and 2 of Elementary Public School since 2002 though it is said to be "integrated" into the English and Makabayan subject areas.

Medium of Instruction SECONDARY SCHOOL I II III IV
English ENGLISH 60 60 60 60
Filipino FILIPINO 40 40 40 40


60 60
English SCIENCE 80 80



Araling Panlipunan

48 48 48 48

Musika, Sining, PE, Health

48 48 48 48

MAKABAYAN Teknolohiya,
Pangkabuhayan at Ekonomiya

48 48 48 48
Filipino MAKABAYAN Values Education 24 24 36 36
I have put in the Medium of Instruction columns above because this may also become a hot topic, after a group of Naitonal Artists and other Official Language Patriots filed a Supreme Court case basically claiming the failures of the public school system are due to teaching of too much English! -- an allegation that seems to be amply disproved above.

[I've been trekking up North for over a week in case you're wondering why posting has been non-existent recently. Basically been off-line and cut-off from the Manila media. Recreating mostly on the sounds of the primeval forest..the murmuring pines and the hemlocks, as it were, of the Philippine Cordillera. Lil hiking, lil cycling, lots of visiting old and new friends, even more of eating and sleeping. It was a good time to go on a vacation. Comelec and Namfrel, in a race between the turtle and tortoise, are ponderously scurrying to a conclusion in canvassing over 224,000 Election Returns and CoCs. Perhaps next week or about a month after the polls, Comelec can finally say how many voters actually cast ballots and which candidates have actually won. There is a roundup of these yet-to-be-concluded May 2007 elections (and the ensuing political commentary and repartee) over at MLQ3.]

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Road to Automation-Part 1

INK FLAGRANTE DELICTO Many of the women in my family voted on the morning of Election Day last week after which we all met for lunch. When I arrived, I noticed they were casually passing around a bottle with a nice-smelling liquid with which they were cleaning off the "indelible" ink from carefully manicured fingers. Not that they had any plans involving flying and voting, mind you, but being a lifetime afficionado of the fountain pen and inks of all kinds, I was amazed at the remarkable simplicity with which "indelible ink" is managed after voting in a Philippine election. I think the use of indelible ink is no longer an effective security feature, but a social signal that one has exercised the sacred right of suffrage and is available for some chit-chat and unstructured "exit polling". It's purpose is more like Ash Wednesday's gray mark on the forehead, and only a lil more difficult to remove.

For the 2007 Midterm Elections, Comelec assigned over 44 million registered voters to 224,748 separate VOTING PRECINCTS composed of not more than 200 voters each and supervised by a Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) composed of three public school teachers, who supervise the polls, tally the votes and prepare the Precinct Election Return showing the votes received by each candidate.

SEVEN DAYS have now passed since the 2007 midterm elections BELIEVE IT OR NOT:

(1) No one knows precisely how many ballots were actually cast, i.e. what was the TURNOUT?
(2) No one knows precisely how many votes each candidate got and who won, i.e. what was the OUTCOME?

The DATA required to answer both these questions exists, but it is scattered throughout the 224,748 ELECTION RETURNS which were prepared by the BEIs after they tallied up to 200 ballots at their assigned precinct. HANDWRITTEN in words and figures on the ER, with the thumbprints of the BEI members, are the number of valid ballots tallied and the number of votes each candidate received.

Someone still has to READ the words or figures in each ER for each candidate, TYPE it into a computer which can later ADD up the corresponding numbers on ALL 224,748 Election Returns. But who has a copy of ALL the ERs at this point in time?

Comelec Resolution No. 7815 (Jan. 26, 2007) instructs the BEIs to prepare the Precinct Election Return in SEPTUPLICATE (7 copies):
1. The first copy, to the City or Municipal Board of Canvassers;
2. The second copy, to the Commission;
3. The third copy, to the Provincial Board of Canvassers;
4. The fourth copy, to the dominant majority party as determined by the Commission;
5. The fifth copy, to the dominant minority party as determined by the Commission;
6. The sixth copy, to the citizens’ arm authorized by the Commission to conduct an unofficial count; and
7. The seventh copy, to be deposited inside the compartment of the ballot box for valid ballot.
Theoretically therefore, there are four entities who should have copies of ALL the 224,748 Election Returns, or are entitled to them:

(1) The Commission on Elections.
(2) The dominant majority party, Lakas-CMD.
(3) The dominant minority party, Liberal Party.
(4) The Comelec's Citizen Arm, National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel).

The city/municipal, and provincial Boards of Canvassers receive only the ERs of their constituent precinct ERs, and the seventh copy stays with the ballot box.

THE CHALLENGE: Even assuming we could get physical hold of all 224,748 ERs, the fact remains that the DATA we need is handwritten in words and figures beside each candidate's name on each of 224,748 separate pieces of paper the precinct Election Returns. In this form, the data is said to be in "analog" and not "digital" form. To CANVASS the election now means that a human being has to READ each Election Return and WRITE into an adding machine the number of votes received by each candidate. The analog data must be converted to digital form so that it can easily and accurately be transmitted, processed, stored or otherwise used by a computer.

The Comelec of course conducts the Official Tally via a multistage canvass that first determines the winners in the local city and municipal races, while aggregating and carrying forward the provincial and national results. Provincial Boards of Canvassers likewise determine election winners at their level and aggregate national results from below before forwarding everything to the Congress, which performs the final stage of canvass. This process naturally takes a long time, not only because of monkey business, but because even if everyone were absolutely honest and efficient, the official correction of errors and settlement of disputes and the orderly conduct of a MANUAL election canvass simply takes a lot of time.

Enter Namfrel and the idea of a Quick Count...


Operation Quick Count
contains Namfrel's latest update on its ongoing count of the 2007 elections. As of 20 May 2007 11:29 pm, Namfrel has tallied 38% of the total or 86,464 out of 224,748 precinct ERS at the counting center at La Salle Green Hills High School in Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila. At this pace, Namfrel is at least two weeks from answering with precision our two questions: how many voters cast ballots and how many votes did each candidate receive?

The glacial pace of the Namfrel "Quick Count" in 2007, does not bode well for its prospects of completion, given what happened in 2004 and reported problems already this year with software and human error.

"Namfrel must die!" TONY LOPEZ of the Manila Times declares -- fuming that the Namfrel QuickCount™ has fizzled out in 2007 just like it did in 2004:(via MLQ3)
Whatever Namfrel’s reason for existence, it should have evaporated by yesterday. The much-ballyhooed Namfrel Quick Count fizzled out. Just like in 2004, Namfrel failed in its mission, dismally, which is inexcusable considering that the self-proclaimed poll watchdog is run by do-gooding Catholics and businessmen inured in the art of management and handling difficult logistics. It is manned by what is claimed to be half a million volunteers and equipped with hundreds of computers.
With Chairman Ben Abalos vowing to finish the official tally in TEN DAYS, and Namfrel reporting mysterious problems with its software, it is not inconceivable that Comelec could finish before Namfrel. IF that were to happen then Namfrel would indeed be DEAD and Tony Lopez's imperative would be fulfilled.

But if the Board of Election Inspectors can typically count the votes and produce their ER within 24 hours of polls closing, why does it take both the Namfrel several weeks to add up the numbers that are already written out, in words and figures on the ERs?

Why can neither the Comelec nor Namfrel, even today, give us an exact figure for HOW MANY VOTERS cast ballots last week?

The simple reason is this. It is a very, very hard thing to actually bring together in one tall pile, all 224,748 Election Returns! I wager that NO ONE, not Comelec, not Namfrel, not Lakas, not the LP, will ever actually have every single ER they are entitled to, all in one place, where a dedicated staff might get to work on them.

At La Salle Green Hills High School, at the Namfrel CountingCenter, one finds the closest thing to an attempt at quickly counting those ERs that the Namfrel's half million volunteers have managed to fax, email, text, or otherwise upload to the Center, from the archipelago's far flung precincts.

Comelec's multistage canvass, which may be slow, is actually more logically organized in some respects. Consider a physical fact. The average distance that an ER Sixth Copy must travel to get to the Namfrel Counting Center in Metro Manila is far longer than the distance it will travel to municipal, provincial and Comelec counting centers. As late as last Friday, Namfrel reps were admitting on tv that they do not yet have all the ERs, many being enroute or being transmitted, audited, and checked by overworked volunteers.

It is not surprising to me that neither the dominant Majority nor Minority party mounts its own Quick Count, despite being entitled to official copies of all the Election Returns. The logistics, organization and discipline required to do it properly would be daunting, and not even the Comelec has achieved it, nor does it seem inclined to do so.

But from a purely technical standpoint, an important lesson or insight can be gleaned:

The most logical place to AUTOMATE the Philippine Election is at the Precinct Level, when 750,000 public school teachers are actually available to DIGITIZE the Election Return.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

A Shepherd Rides Into The Augean Stables

ictory claims by the Palace of having at least dominated the local races during these 2007 Midterm elections, have been roundly controverted by a 53-year old Catholic priest running for his first elective office, who has just won the Governorship of Pampanga, the home province of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. A rare ALL CAPS headline from PDI proclaims a MIRACLE IN PAMPANGA as Rev. Father Ed Panlilio, won by a narrow 1,147 vote margin, defeating two Palace allies: incumbent provincial governor Mark Lapid who has been hounded by graft and corruption charges; and Lilia "Mrs. Bong" Pineda, from Lubao, the President's hometown and a political heavyweight in her own right in Pampanga politics. Some have naughtily said, she is the President's Lady-in-Jueteng.

This turn of events seems to be the continuation, only bigger, of a series in which the following Strange Things Have Happened: Manny Pacquiao has been mercifully knocked out of politics by the cute and petite but potent, Diane Custodio of General Santos City; Virgilio Garcillano has lost but continues to intrigue the public revulsion; Naga's Jessie Robredo has won over the spawn of Satan, or something; Roilo Golez has won by a landslide in Paranaque City and Jojo Binay likewise in Makati City; and though Luis "Chavit" Singson has topped the Senate Races in the fairy-tale province of Maguindanao, where the Ampatuans grow in profusion, his really consistent performance has been a rock solid hold on last place in the Magic 25, a position that has not changed up or down or sideways in the SWS polls since the campaign period began.

OK. But the following questions are probably lurking in the back of many people's minds and will most likely become hot topics in the days to come:


When Jesus is Lord Movement head Bro. Eddie Villanueva ran for President in 2004, similar questions arose in regards to the Separation between Church and State and its implications on who may or may not run for elective office. But Father Ed Panlilio's case may confuse some people since he is a Roman Catholic priest and once, during Spanish Taliban times, it was a Roman Catholic theocracy that ruled the Archipelago and its benighted peoples. I guess no one now alive remembers those times, or relates to them with other than a bemused historical detachment.

Paradoxically, now that we have an established Democracy in place, any violation of the Constitutional rights of Roman Catholics, or anybody else, cannot now be tolerated, for such violations would precisely be indistinguishable from the repressions expected of theocratic or totalitarian states!

The best way to ensure that a theocracy does not arise, or that one Church come to harmfully dominate society, is to protect the right of ALL churches and systems of belief or non-belief to freely exist and flourish. In order to do this, we must protect the rights EVEN of the dominant religions and their ministers to participate fully in our political life, within the bounds set by the Constitution.

Looking over the 1987 Philippine Constitution one first finds the following pertinent, but bare provision:
Article II - State Policies - Section 6.
The separation of Church and State shall be inviolable.
It's good we have the Bill of Rights which expresses the fundamentals of Freedom of Religion quite classically and cogently:
Article III - Bill of Rights - Section 5.

No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed.

No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.
Undoubtedly, this last declarative sentence applies to Father Ed Panlilio. The mere fact of his BEING a Catholic priest cannot be used to prevent him from exercising his right to hold political office after being duly and democratically elected. Even Roman Catholics, in other words, are equal before the Law, and may, if duly qualified, run and serve as Governor of a province of the Republic.

CAVEAT: Above considerations of equality before the Law and the Bill of Rights do NOT give such elected officials with religious affiliations license to then violate, subvert, revise, amend or otherwise disobey or disrespect the established Constitution, or fail in any way to uphold their Oaths of Office, to which they will conversely be held accountable as much as any other type of Citizen that might happen to acquire such Office.

In particular, even though Among Ed Panlilio has been elected the Governor of the Province of Pampanga, once he takes the Oath of Office, he must then faithfully discharge its provisions and the Constitution which he will swear to uphold. As the democratically elected Governor, he may not then act theocratically upon inauguration.

Governor-elect Panlilio may wish to review the following provisions of the 1987 Charter--
Article VI - Legislative Department - Section 29
(2) No public money or property shall be appropriated, applied, paid, or employed, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, sectarian institution, or system of religion, or of any priest, preacher, minister, other religious teacher, or dignitary as such, except when such priest, preacher, minister, or dignitary is assigned to the armed forces, or to any penal institution, or government orphanage or leprosarium.
As governor, Fr. Panlilio will have to tread carefully not to then violate the very provisions of the Constitution that safeguards his own right to win and hold office. And to lead.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Senator Trillanes, Sir!

The chart below combines the pre-election surveys conducted in February, March, April and May by Social Weather Stations, and the just released ABSCBN/Pulse Asia Day of Election Exit Poll. Neither pollster does such combining of the competition's data with its own, but it's interesting to see that they do seem to fit and thus give mutual confirmation.

Surprise! Mercy Abad (Trends TNS) appeared on ABSCBN News with Pulse Asia's Dr. Ana Marie Tabunda in order to discuss the results of the ABSCBN/Pulse Asia nationwide election exit poll with Tina Monson Palma. The results were announced Tuesday evening instead of Wednesday, to the chagrin and feeble complaints of Tonypet Albano (is his voice is getting squeakier?) During the show Dr. Tabunda mentioned that their "effective margin of error" was plus or minus 1.6% from which I deduce the sample size was 3906 out of 12000 targeted respondents, who actually completed questionnaires and were interviewed by Trend TNS field staff. I hope they won't have the same trouble they had in 2004 with non responsive respondents caught by the rains skewing the distribution of the exit poll sample (itself a beguiling possibility)

The big news of course is that the exit poll has detained Oakwood Mutineer and Navy Lt. Senior Grade Antonio Trillanes IV set to claim a Senate seat at NO. 9 in the Magic 12. In the graphic nearby, I've combined four data points from SWS (their Feb, Mar, Apr, and May1-3 polls) and added today's Pulse Asia exit poll data for each candidate. I've emphasized the curves of Trillanes and Juan Miguel Zubiri to show how they've apparently barged into the Magic 12, possibly for good, as shown by the exit poll.

Several novel legal, political and constitutional issues will probably arise as a result of a Trillanes victory and entry into the Senate. First of all, what happens to all those administrative and criminal cases brought against him in connection with the Oakwood Mutiny? Hasn't he effectively won acquittal by election to the Senate?

It has been four years since all that happened at Oakwood, yet the cases seem to be getting nowhere fast, while some of the finest fighting men ever trained by the Philippine Military Academy and West Point are languishing in jail, under detention for allegedly launching a coup d'etat in 2003 by capturing a floor or two of a Makati executive service hotel and holding a Press Conference at which they proceeded to accuse the Military top brass of corruption and malfeasance.

I hope Antonio Trillanes does win a Senate seat and this exit poll has made a valid prediction because I think there has never been a proper closure brought to all the issues and mysteries surrounding the Oakwood Mutiny, and it does not seem the military justice system, or even the Judiciary itself, is capable of dealing with the really substantial matter involved there: how to finally reform the Military so it becomes a professional, honorable fighting force for national defense, instead of being a "nest of coup plotters" waiting to withdraw support for the duly constituted authorities.

Philippine Commentary has been pleased to link to Trillanes website since he put it up before the start of the campaign. It seems he's been busy studying legislative issues involving corruption even beyond the realm of the Military (on which he wrote his Masters Thesis at the University of the Philippines). For example, asked on tv what he thought of the pork barrel, I thought he gave one of the most cogent positions in recommending an integrated national infrastructure program to which all pork barrel funds now being assigned to individual congressmen would then be allocated.

The meteoric rise of Migs Zubiri was acknowledged by Adel Tamano, who nonetheless managed to take a swipe at the rest of TU by saying Rep. Zubiri was the more palatable and saleable to the public, because of his environmental stands.

WHATS IN A NAME? It's a dirty rotten trick they've played on Alan Peter Cayetano over at Comelec. Ben Abalos, James Jimenez and the rest of that bunch of bum steer cowboys are really cruisin' for a bruisin' on this one from the Public (who I think deserve some early kudos for rejecting the likes of Virgilio Garcillano and Manny Pacquiao!). Dr. Tabunda said however that they treated respondent ballots the way Comelec threatens to treat ballots with just "Cayetano" written on it: spoilt! So it is quite possible that the Magic 12 will contain Alan Peter Cayetano depending on how those ballots are counted.

The Exit poll main results:


Exit Poll

1 Legarda, Loren 58.5%
2 Escudero, Chiz 53.3%
3 Villar, Manuel Jr 49.8%
4 Lacson, Panfilo 46.4%
5 Kiko Pangilinan 44.6%
6Aquino, Noynoy42.6%
7 Angara, Ed 41.1%
8 Arroyo, Joker 36.8%
9 Trillanes, Antonio 35.4%
10 Zubiri, Migs 34.9%
11 Honasan, Gringo 34.6%
12 Recto, Ralph 34.3%

Monday, May 14, 2007

Strange Things Do Happen

Strange Things Do Happen: In 2004, the SWS/ABSCBN Day of Election Exit Poll correctly predicted eleven of the twelve eventual official winners of the Senatorial Race from Mar Roxas at No. 1 to Rodolfo Biazon at No. 12 (by only 6,000 votes over Robert Barbers at heartbreak 13). However, the SWS Exit poll completely missed the 8th place Senate finish of Alfredo Lim, whom the exit poll placed at 14th-15th place. This election year, the SWS/PDI prediction is for a 6-4-2 GO-TU-Ind finish. Getting all 12 winners right would certainly bespeak of "world class" public opinion polling--the best that could possibly be achieved. In a sense, it is not only GO or TU gunning for that mythical 12-0. But SWS has a better chance than either of achieving it!

There is certainly an admirable kind of CHUTZPAH involved in being a Public Opinion Pollster. Making brazen predictions about who will win Senatorial elections and by how much, at the risk of gaining a reputation for quackery, requires that the pollster have supreme confidence in the science of statistics that he is employing. Surveys may seem indistinguishable from the magic to the masses, although done correctly, there is no need for tricks in nailing the results of an election with an exit poll or pre-election survey, and endless prestige. Public affirmation of a pollster's credibility and reliability seems to be the number of privately commissioned surveys that follow from insecure ambitions anxious to avoid penury through vainglorious delusions about their chances of electoral victory.

DR. MAHAR MANGAHAS of the Social Weather Stations made the perhaps little-noticed remark on ABSCBN News (ANC) last week that "in the last three years" SWS has "become independent" of its data collector, Trends TNS--the little known market research firm that used to collect the raw survey data for the SWS periodic monthly and quarterly surveys. SWS has apparently decided to develop its own organizational capability to do the field work previously outsourced to Trends like selecting the random sample of respondents, distributing and explaining the survey questionnaires, interviewing the respondents, organizing and tallying the results, etc. I welcome this capability expansion on the part of SWS, as it will lead to potentially more security and integrity for their future polls. (It also seems to be helping the SWS bottom line: as an unexpected bonus, SWS is apparently getting a lot of new business for pure market research--the main line business of Trends.).

After hearing Mahar's remark, I could not help but think the breakup of a long-standing relationship between Pollster and Surveyor must have something to do with that disastrous SWS day of election survey for President in 2004. Something went awfully wrong with that survey that they had to convene a committee to figure out what.

Now that SWS is capable of doing its own survey field work and raw data collection, they can secure their raw data better and ensure its integrity from the source. When SWS relied on a different organization to collect this data, I believe they were vulnerable to a knowledgeable attack or special operation in which survey data could be corrupted for some intended effect.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Plus or Minus Three Percent is Six Percent of Nail-biting Uncertainty

SENATOR RODOLFO BIAZON was talking to ABSCBN News anchor Pinky Webb at noon time today and reminded everybody of the fact that his 2004 Senate victory to claim 12th and last seat contested in that election was achieved with a razor thin 6,000 vote margin over Robert Barbers. In an election of 30 million voters, that is one part in 5000 or .02 percent. You can't call a race like that with surveys that have plus or minus three percent margin of the latest SWS survey of the Senatorial Horse Race in the homestretch...

The most recent PDI-SWS poll measures voter preferences in the Senate race just days ahead of the May Midterm elections. The table at left shows how the composition of the so-called Magic 12 Candidates has evolved over the last four SWS surveys. You can easily spot the names that have been in the winner's circle from the beginning. However, as Election Day nears, the Undecided begin to decide, and even the Decided can easily change their minds. And since the Social Weather Stations Surveys for voter preference involves a random sample of just 1200 respondents, there is a statistical sampling uncertainty or "margin of error" numerically equal to plus or minus the reciprocal of the square root of 1200, or plus or minus 2.89 or about 3 percent, attached to every statistic measured by the survey. For example when the survey reports that Loren Legarda has topped the May 1-2 SWS-PDI survey in the Senate race with 59% of the respondents saying they would vote for her, then the pollster and the media are justified in saying that if the elections had been held when the survey was taken, then the percentage of voters for Loren would be between 56% and 62%.

But I think a sample size of just 1200 respondents produces statistics that are much too coarse to make firm predictions about who exactly will compose the Magic 12. Although the first six or so places may be said to be quite firmly occupied by their present tenants, there is an awful lot of uncertainty below that statistical level. It is not enough to say that anyone below 3% of the current No. 12 candidate has no chance of breaking into it. Consider the performances in the last period of Juan Miguel Zubiri and Sonia Roco. I note with some ill-disguised gladness that in the May 1-2 survey, it looks like Ed Angara and Joker Arroyo are fighting it out for the last two seats, and both could in fact be displaced by hard-charging candidates from below. Even Antonio Trillanes is within striking distance, in my opinion and cannot be counted out, along with Migs Zubiri and Sonia Roco.

There is of course another consideration. No matter how many respondents the pollsters use, there is a natural time limit involved which means there is no way for the surveys to capture fast changing developments in voter preferences as election day nears, when the Undecide decide and even the Decided can easily change their minds.

Calling a Presidential Race is actually easier for the pollsters because there is only one winner and not twelve.

MAHAR MANGAHAS gives a succinct definition of Public Opinion Polling in a recent talk to the Management Association of the Philippines titled, Social Surveys and Research Enterpreneurship,
A survey is based on a sample of voters, while an election is based on the entire population of voters. The science of statistics is all about using a sample to learn the characteristics of the population from which it is drawn.
Techniques borrowed from Marketing, such as the key ideas of random sampling and statistical inference have been successfully used by public opinion pollsters to track and report upon political contests, such as elections or referendums, as well as to accurately predict their outcomes. Mahar likens the SWS to a kind of listening post or social observatory and compares Public Opinion Polling to the rest of Main Stream Journalism in order to explain how such empirical social research, which is really a form of "market research," is actually financed.
"Opinion surveys are scientific instruments for mass communication - not for disseminating, but for LISTENING to the masses...A media news company disseminates both unpaid news and paid ads to the people. The ads don't buy the news; they only finance it...SWS listens to the people's voices, on both unpaid and paid topics...The commissioned projects don't buy the election survey standings; they only finance them."
As one of its principal founders, Mahar Mangahas is justifiably proud of the Social Weather™ Stations (SWS) and its scientific accomplishments, which have gained international recognition. He lays down the gauntlet for any would be public opinion pollster--
The global litmus test of sample survey quality is ability to predict an election. If it weren't for elections, in fact, there wouldn't be regular demonstrations that the science of statistics works for sample surveys about people's attitudes and intentions.
"If it weren't for elections," Mahar Mangahas admits, "there wouldn't be regular demonstations that the science of statistics works for sample surveys about people's attitudes and intentions."

It cannot be denied that SWS has accurately predicted the winners and the winning margins in numerous national and local elections over the years. It's well-deserved reputation for conducting scientific voter preference polls has been earned the hard way: by conducting random sampled surveys

Public Opinion Polling produces a very special kind of information, quite analogous to the physical weather information of Pagasa weather bureau, but pertaining to trends in public opinion itself, often in response to national events such as elections or other major news events. Pollsters like SWS have established the notion that Public Opinion itself is a measurable quantity. As such, the surveys and their results have acquired a newsworthiness with a commercial, journalistic, social and political value to the pollsters, others in the Mass Media, as well as the subjects and objects of the polls. Having assiduously built up a well-deserved scientific reputation over many years of hard work and hitting the statistical bullseye most of the time, the survey results of the SWS are deemed by its subscribers and customers to have diagnostic as well as a predictive uses. One can only imagine how many vainglorious ambitions have been saved from folly and penury after seeing the cold hard figures of a privately commissioned SWS survey. Conversely, how much vainglory has been stoked by the same, or disasters wrought, how are we to know? Nonetheless, the professionalism of the SWS has made it into a sustainable business AND a scientific research institution, a "social weather observatory" if Mahar likes that term better...
SWS is a research entrepreneur. It is an enterprising non-profit -- a term used in the Harvard Business Review -- or, if you like, a business-like non-business. It is misleading to term it simply as "a business" or "a company" or "a firm". A good generic term is "institute." SWS is venturesome. It gathers data on topics without earmarked funding. It deliberately focuses on critical gaps in data on meaningful development, even if the topics are un-commissioned - in particular, the data gaps on poverty, hunger, governance, and opinions on important public issues like charter change. SWS will definitely take up anything that could be tested in a referendum or an election.
Now let me make a point about the last statement above. I think that WHEN a pollster like SWS takes up anything that will be tested in a referendum or election, the survey results usually have the advertised statistical accuracy and the scientific value of the survey measurements are of the highest quality available. But WHEN any survey, no matter how scientifically conceived and carried out, seeks to measure the Public Opinion about something that will NOT be tested in a referendum or election, or some other similar universally experienced event, the scientific VALUE of the survey measurements, whether diagnostic or predictive, is far less compared to surveys that probe real-world events and reactions.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

They're in the home stretch

The chart at left is a distillation of the last three months of Voter Preference Surveys conducted by the Social Weather Stations since the 2007 Midterm Election campaign began. It shows the top 25 candidates running in next Monday's national elections for 12 new Senators and the percentage of voters who say they would vote for the candidate if the election were held at that point in the campaign. The country will also elect all new Congress representatives (District and Party List); all new governors, mayors and thousands of other local government officials during the May 14 polls. The conventional wisdom is that the first eight Senatorial seats are now "spoken for:"

LOREN LEGARDA looks ready to repeat her 1998 feat of topping the Senate Race -- given chart-topping voter support (currently at 58% in the SWS polls.) Neither being the running mate of FPJ in 2004, nor the wife of accused murderer Gov. Antonio Leviste has dented the loyal core of supporters that first brought her into politics and the Senate.

Senate President MANNY VILLAR inexplicably faded in the race for No. 1 with Loren, losing double digits in the SWS survey from 57% at 45% between March and April. His team needs to understand why this happened, despite doing a lot of commercials and the candidate working hard on the campaign trail. It may be important when these two political heavyweights go after higher office in 2010.

Senator PING LACSON has a solid lock on 3rd place with rock-steady numbers, reflective of having run for President in 2004 and placing a very respectable third place. He's also got his sights set on higher office in 2010. His law and order message is consistent and clear and unifies Ping's solid electoral base behind a strong record as former Chief of Police. Ping is also a credible voice when it comes to the pork barrel and will be a contender in 2010.

House Minority Leader Francis "Chiz" Escudero, (and prospective father of twins) looks set to enter the halls of the Upper House, in a well-deserved promotion by an appreciative and intelligent base of electoral support. His always well-reasoned arguments and explanations on complex and crucial issues of the last few years have given the Opposition a respectable voice and leader and have earned Chiz a place in the Senate. There, I hope he will continue to rain thunderbolts and lightning strikes on the corrupt and the stupid in government with his erudite analyses of laws and policies and his patient exposition of them.

Senator KIKO PANGILINAN can afford to be an "independent" because he has Sharon Cuneta there like a Life Insurance Policy. But it also means he can avoid making certain tough choices that might otherwise be forced on him. The precipitous slide in his polling numbers (a plunge from 57% to 39%) just means he doesn't have the respect of some who see fence-sitting in the claim of independence.

Senator RALPH RECTO follows closely behind his fellow Wednesday Group member, who has his own famous wife's drama in Batangas province to deal with. Vilma Santos will be running for Governor of that key Luzon province and is also an important factor in her husband's political career. Both Kiko and Ralph should find themselves back in the Senate, thanks to the MegaStar and the Vilmanians.

Senator ED ANGARA joins his two younger colleagues in the Magic 12 list. Re-electionist Ed Angara returns to the Senate with solid support. An efficient LDP party machinery, experience and many years of service show in his campaign. Rumors of a romantic relationship with Loren Legarda have also not hurt him at all, and have been secretly encouraged.

Senator JOKER ARROYO completes the return of the entire Wednesday Group to the Upper House, (since the latter is presumably safe at eighth place this late in the race.) Joker has played all his cards right, pandering to both the Left and the Right in just the most effective ways to ensure no loss of key blocks of support. And of course, he claims to have chosen the side that would not be cheated by the Comelec.

Congressman ALAN PETER CAYETANO comes in ninth behind Joker in the April survey, however, his overall numbers have been far stronger than this result might indicate. His problems don't seem to be over either, with that nuisance doppelganger in the form of KBL's stevedor-candidate Joselito Cayetano still not declared as such by the Comelec. But I think his election to the Senate is about as secure as that of Joker Arroyo's if not more so.

Following within 6 percentage points of Cayetano's 31% score are candidates ranked tenth to fifteenth: Tito Sotto, Gringo Honasan, Koko Pimentel, Noynoy Aquino, Migz Zubiri and Sonia Roco (30% to 25%). Given both the sampling margins (plus or minus 3 percent) and the fact that all election rankings tend to become highly dynamic and volatile at the end as the undecided decide, and the decided change their minds, any of the above six candidates seem to have more than a fair hope of making it into the Magic 12. In the March to April period, the candidacies of Sonia Roco and Juan Miguel Zubiri have really taken off and both of them threaten to barge into the Magic Circle. Zubiri is apparently being buoyed upward by an aggressive media campaign powered by global warming buzz, whose up-draught Migs has craftily caught with a his support for a biofuels law and pro-environment pose. Sonia Roco, with her sympathetic demeanor and Roco name is just within striking distance that could solidify into a real stake by Election Day. Even though the April Survey had Koko Pimentel in 12th position, ahead of Noynoy Aquino, the latter's overall numbers look more solid to me than Koko and if the toss up is between them, I would put my bet on Noynoy Aquino.

John Osmena has had the unusual privilege of getting Erap to pitch for his candidacy on AM Radio during the last few weeks, but whether it will be enough to win remains to be seen. His numbers have plummeted disastrously.

Mike Defensor has been unable to improve upon a 21% voter preference score in three months of trying. I guess it's time for Utol to accept the fact: he won't be going to the Senate. Nikki Coseteng deserves to lose for her unthinking pro-Left statements and positions early in the campaign, which turned off her Chinese base. Tessie Aquino Oreta gets nothing but negatives for a pointless, even insincere "I am sorry." speech. Butch Pichay is getting planted like a cabbage alright, but not in the Senate, (as his silly, silly slogan suggested). Luis "Chavit" Singson may be willing to handle live grenades in a made-for-media hostage situation, or even crash in a helicopter while campaigning in the mountains, but Chavit won't be going to the Senate, either. Richard Gomez makes more sense to me than many of these established politicians, and voters ought to take a better look at him next time.

The candidacy of Oakwood Mutineer Antonio Trillanes IV has been supported by many famous people, in the Media notably by Manuel L. Quezon III and Ellen Tordesillas. Campaigning while under detention and facing Court charges for coup d'etat, he might have made a very interesting addition to the Senate. I think Trillaness would be more serious about working as a Senator to reform the Armed Forces than Gringo Honasan has been.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Sarkozy Wins French Presidency -- Vive la France!

CNN on the 2007 French Election I suppose it might have been too absurd even for the French, to have followed up Jacques Chirac with Sigolene Royal as the first female President of France. There will be no such first for the French as a result of this election. (The Americans may attempt that feat next year with Madame Hillaire d'Clinton.) For now, by 53% to 47%, the French voters in a large 85% turnout, have chosen instead, the conservative Nicolas Sarkozy, to succeed to the Presidency. His immediate message was that of Justice and opportunity for all. Sarkozy also vowed better relations with America, whilst calling on a "great country like the US" to lead in problems like Global Warming. Has France turned to the Right? I just heard the Left is already organizing L'Barricades.

Anna de Brux (Hillblogger3) has some awesome nice pictures of Nicolas Sarkozy and Sigolene Royal (though I'm afraid she's none too happy with the result).

AMANDO DORONILA controverts the notion that the 2007 Midterm elections in the Philippines represent a kind of referendum on the President, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. He thinks the Great Debate is actually a Big Yawn, with no real issues of great importance being debated by the candidates. He also reviews the old arithmetic involving the House of Representatives, but I think he underestimates the power that the opposition will have in the Senate, after a decisive sweep by GO in the May midterms.

MANUEL L. QUEZON III produces a list of his preferred candidates for twelve Senators during next week's election, many of whom won't be in the winning circle. Deservedly so, in some cases.

ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN former Supreme Court Chief Justice turned paper pundit, reviews the dastardly (dastardly!) history of the Comelec as seen from the High Bench over the years. It's a wonder that no one has ever gone to jail or been punished really, for any of it! Perhaps the title would've been more explicatory as Another Slap on the Wrist of Comelec.

It seems that Senator Serge Osmena III recently commissioned an unusual survey with the Social Weather Stations to gauge how influential certain famous people are, when it comes to making endorsing political candidates. SWS asked if respondents "would vote" or "would not vote" for a candidate if that candidate had the endorsement of certain famous people.
If Candidates is
Endorsed By:
Would Vote
for Candidate
Would Not Vote
for Candidate
GMA 18% 31%
Fidel Ramos 17% 32%
Joseph Estrada 36% 18%
Cory Aquino 36% 18%
Susan Roces 36% 17%
Kris Aquino 27% 22%

During the last few weeks, I've heard Joseph "Erap" Estrada's old stentorian slur on radio ads endorsing former Sen. John Osmena, whose Genuine Opposition senatorial candidacy seemed to be flagging in the latest SWS survey of the 2007 Senatorial Horse Race. We shall see if Erap's endorsement can actually boost John Osmena back into the Magic 12 for one last hurrah in the Senate. Along with Cory Aquino and Susan Roces, Erap's endorsements can apparently be turned into votes for a candidate. But there is fierce competition for the remaining seats on this particular flight, including some that the Administration's command votes could decide the ultimate fate of, along with the mysterious or miraculous workings of Machinery and the unpredictable vicissitudes of Election Day.

Well, I hope Serge feels better after the news that he'd had a mild stroke a few days ago. At least he has a lot of nice data to ponder over from the Social Weather Stations.

Social Weather Stations Answers the Complaint that it puts words in the Mouth of Public Opinion The pollster's Legal Dept. earned its retainer with this piece replying to the charge brought by an interested citizen that "leading questions" asked in its public opinion surveys actually taint the results and are used as propaganda against the Administration. SWS demonstrates its appreciation for the fine distinctions among ethical, legal and moral in the practice of public opinion polling, which both Philippine jurisprudence and Philippine Commentary hold to be a genre of Journalism, an exercise in the freedom of speech and expression.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

English, the Rizal Law, and the Filipino Cultural Heritage

AMBETH OCAMPO wrote about the Rizal Law of 1956 (Part 1) and the Fight Over the Rizal Law in PDI this week, noting that he has been teaching Rizal for almost 20 years. The Rizal Law is relevant to the recent brouhaha over Media of instruction in the public schools because of its specific use of English in Rizal education:

Republic Act No 1425 (June 12, 1956) An Act To Include In The Curricula Of All Public And Private Schools, Colleges And Universities Courses On The Life, Works And Writings Of Jose Rizal, Particularly His Novels Noli Me Tangere And El Filibusterismo

Section 1. Courses on the life, works and writings of Jose Rizal, particularly his novel Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, shall be included in the curricula of all schools, colleges and universities, public or private: Provided, That in the collegiate courses, the original or unexpurgated editions of the Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo or their English translation shall be used as basic texts.
Sec. 2. It shall be obligatory on all schools, colleges and universities to keep in their libraries an adequate number of copies of the original and unexpurgated editions of the Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, as well as of Rizal's other works and biography. The said unexpurgated editions of the Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo or their translations in English as well as other writings of Rizal shall be included in the list of approved books for required reading in all public or private schools, colleges and universities.

Sec. 3. The Board of National Education shall cause the translation of the Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, as well as other writings of Jose Rizal into English, Tagalog and the principal Philippine dialects; cause them to be printed in cheap, popular editions; and cause them to be distributed, free of charge, to persons desiring to read them, through the Purok organizations and Barrio Councils throughout the country.
In Section 1, the Rizal Law specifically requires that college level Rizal courses use as basic texts the original, unexpurgated (i.e. complete) versions in Spanish or in English translation.

In Section 2, the Rizal Law requires all schools to have in their libraries "adequate copies" of the Spanish or English versions of Rizal's writings, which are deemed to be included in the "approved lists for required reading" in all public and private schools.

In Section 3, the Rizal law says the government must make available free of charge to anyone popular editions of Rizal's works in English, Tagalog and the principal Philippine dialects.

But in a recent Petition to the Supreme Court regarding the use of English in education, one finds as a Cause of Action the following assertions:
9.4. Government and institutional studies have shown that children in the grade schools cannot learn how to read and write in English. Instead, it is the vernacular or Filipino, which is easy for them to understand, which will enable them to learn how to read and write and enable them to acquire the foundations of knowledge in the first few years of education.

9.5. The failure of Respondents to implement Filipino and the regional languages as the primary media of instruction has led to serious difficulties in learning among school children in elementary and high school, including herein Petitioner Minors, which has led to ineffective communication in the classrooms, low academic achievement, and high drop-out rate.

9.9. Furthermore, the use in education of English alienates children from their own cultural heritage and will produce a generation of young people who have no cultural values and who lack the traditions that make for a nation's identity. This has beclouded the responsibility of Petitioner Minors to pass on the cultural heritage of our nation to the next generations. Such a grave responsibility can only be accomplished through the use of the national language in school.
On their face, several of the above statements are really far-fetched or are literally falsehoods. For example, it is most certainly not true that children in the grade schools cannot learn how to read and write in English. One wonders what government research proves this amazing claim.But what the heck? Petitioners blame the use of English as a medium of instruction for the high rate of functional illiteracy, emotional insecurity, feelings of ostracism, learning difficulties, low academic achievement and high drop-out rates in elementary school. English language use will allegedly produce a generation of young people who will have no cultural values or traditions that define their identity. Yet, after over one hundred years of the English language in Filipino society, one would think that English already IS a big part of the Filipino cultural heritage, unless we adopt a completely aboriginal conception of what constitutes cultural heritage.

If we are to adopt the attitude of the Petitioners in this case, however, we would have to throw the Rizal Law out with our Spanish and English-tainted cultural heritage.