GMA NEWS NETWORK OPINION

PHNO OPINION OF THE WEEK by Antonio Contreras: WHEN THE PRESIDENCY BECOMES A PERSONALITY CULT   

CARTOON FROM GMA NEWS OPINION: This is my reaction to the talk about President Aquino entertaining the thought of pushing for the amendment of the Constitution not only to allow him a second term, but also to enable him to clip the powers of a Supreme Court that has turned adversarial. And if it was just a knee-jerk reaction, a slip of tongue, a Freudian slip, or he was just thinking out loud, or as Walden Bello said, he was just pulling our legs to piss off his critics, I wish he was sincerely serious. And if it was a calculated move to arrest the slide in his political capital due to his being a lame duck, I wish he would be bold enough to put his mouth where the politics of those who speak on his behalf are—from Evardone to Erice to Roxas. Let him try, so that he would suffer the most precipitous fall from being a demi-god to one who will be consigned to the universe of political infamy reserved only to the much maligned and over-demonized enemies of his family—from Marcos to Arroyo.

When PNoy lashed out at the Supreme Court after it ruled against the salient features of the DAP, I took that as simply an authentic expression of a tantrum from someone who is used to getting his way—irritating and childish, but still from the heart. And when he almost broke in tears during his SONA, I sympathized with his genuine show of vulnerability. After all, we have a President who is deeply wounded and hurt, and it would have been against any sense of decency, good will, or civility not to recognize some element of fallibility, or even humility on his part for him to almost, since he did not actually say it but somewhat alluded to it, ask his bosses for some understanding. After all, he has a difficult job. Despite being one of his critics, and I say that with a lot of pride, and would dare those who call me names to make my day by continuing to heap insulting comments at me in the space below, I nevertheless am cognizant of the goodness in his heart, and the sincere desire to reform our political system. Unlike his supportive anonymous trolls in cyberspace who are either demonizing his critics simply for fun, or are miserably misled and blinded, or are seriously fatally attracted to his critics, my criticisms of the President are neither frivolous nor obsessive.

Indeed, my criticisms of the President do not in any way negate my admiration of his authenticity. Unfortunately, it is an authenticity that is weakened by lack of self-control. The people around him have tried to manage his image, in the same way they stage a theatrical production. They have in fact turned PNoy’s presidency into a personality cult. However, much as they try, we occasionally get to see the real Noynoy Aquino slipping through the simulations and the stage-directed speeches and coached or scripted punchlines. The problem of the President, which is in fact a flaw so fundamental that it effectively negates everything that such good heart and good intention could bring, is that he is simply a spoiled brat, a person who is so self-absorbed in himself, and he considers governance simply as a black and white game.

This produced a lethal combination of someone who has the proclivity to throw a tantrum, of making himself as the center of our nation’s politics, and of looking at critics and criticisms as dysfunctional elements of the political process. He is not used to being told that he is wrong, and appears to be fixated on those who offend him. He simply does not forget, and is not contented in being angry. Renato Corona had the pleasure of experiencing this fixation, which some can interpret as cacique vindictiveness, or the wrath of a haciendero on a warpath. And this brattish, self-absorbed and self-righteous attitude, more so that he truly believes in the supremacy and non-negotiability of his Daang Matuwid, has practically undermined the good will and the political capital that many people were willing to grant him. In his authentic desire to clean the stables of government, a Herculean task at that, he misunderstood the limits of his influence and the bounds set by the Constitution, and he failed to see that even if he is the son of glorified political icons, he is not a son of Zeus, more so a son of God. *CONTINUE READING....

ALSO by Harvey Keh: The best President the country never had   

Oftentimes we never fully appreciate the greatness of a person until he or she
passes away. Such was the case when Jesse Robredo passed away last August 18, 2012 in a very unfortunate plane crash as he was on his way home to Naga City. Not many people knew about him then but as the nation collectively prayed for a miraculous rescue in the succeeding days, many of his achievements in his 18 years as mayor of Naga City and two years as secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) slowly but surely was made known to the general public. What happened in the following days was a massive outpouring of love and support for him and his family. The whole nation grieved the loss of an honest, dedicated and hardworking public servant that many consider to be a rarity in a country that is often governed by well-entrenched political dynasties and the corrupt.
Naga City’s Tsinelas Leader Yet, when I asked ordinary Filipinos about what endeared him to them, it wasn’t about his startling achievements in the field of governance such as his introduction of the Seal of Good Housekeeping for local government units to aspire for when he was DILG Secretary, nor was it about making Naga City one of the top performing cities in the country when it comes to education and health.

For many Filipinos, Robredo was considered a modern day Filipino hero because he was able to show them that leaders can also be grounded in understanding the real needs of the poor and powerless in our society. Many Nagueńos share fondly how Robredo would be the first one to go out and clean up the streets of their city after every typhoon. According to Robredo, he would do this so that when his constituents wake up they could already see a sense of order in their community. They would also recall him going around the city on his bike to consult with his constituents without the usual escorts and fanfare that would often accompany political leaders of his stature. Most importantly, the people of Naga would often say that in his 18 years as mayor of the most progressive city in the Bicol region, he has lived in the same apartment and has never used his power to enrich himself or his family. * CONTINUE READING...

ALSO by Jing Lejano: That Amazing Race of an obstacle on the MRT  

I live down south in Las Pińas City. Whenever I have to go to Quezon City, I always take the
 MRT. It’s still the fastest way to get from point A to point B, especially if you have to traverse the length of EDSA. The service, of course, leaves much to be desired. There are only a handful of trains, there’s really not much of a schedule, and the trains themselves badly need maintenance. When I heard the news that an MRT train has been derailed, I wasn’t the least surprised. For many months now, we have seen evidence of how poorly managed this transportation system is. In the mornings, commuters taking the MRT are greeted by long, long lines, the kind that spill out onto the streets below. If you already have a Stored Value Ticket, then you only need to get in line once. If you don’t, well, you have got to be one of the most unfortunate creatures on earth as you would need to line up twice: first to get your ticket, and second to actually get onto the platform. It is not a funny thought especially if you’re a nine-to-fiver who needs to be at work on time.

Of course, once you get on the train, you encounter another Amazing Race of an obstacle. When the train pulls in, the mass of bodies, pushing and jostling against each other, carry you in. You try to find a nice spot, but there is none to be had as elbows and knees, bags and umbrellas, press onto your body. That you’ll be a fine mess even before the clocks strikes nine is already a foregone conclusion. There have also been several reported instances of trains just stopping at the stations, as if giving up after many years of neglect. I’ve experienced one of these woefully unpleasant encounters. The train stops at a station, passengers get off, passengers get in, the door closes, and then nothing. We just stand there. The airconditioning stops working, the door refuses to open, and it takes a few long minutes before we all realize that we may be in some sort of sh*t. When the door suddenly opened, I was out of there. No way was I going to stay on that train!

The plight of the poor commuter has been all over the news. It’s produced a hundred Facebook memes and thousands of tweets and re-tweets. But has anybody, and by anybody I mean the powers-that-be, done anything concrete about it? Sadly, the answer is no. Same sh*t, different day. A couple of weeks ago, I remember PNoy defending his pork barrel (Yes, I know, it’s not supposedly pork, but it’s just semantics). He needs power over this particular kilo of pork, he says, so he can address pressing issues with speed and efficiency. I thought right then and there that the MRT situation was an extremely pressing issue. But apparently, the powers-that-be don’t think so. And now this: A train full of passengers shoots out of the platform causing untold injury to the women and children on board. After the accident, PNoy’s spokesperson said that the president has a “high level of interest” in the safety and convenience of Filipinos using the mass transport facilities.

Mr. President, we don’t need your “interest.” We need your action. We don’t need your sympathy. We need a transport system that’s swift, safe, and secure. We need a transport system that doesn’t have us acting like barbarians at seven in the morning. We need a transport system that gets us to our destination with dignity. We need transportation—and we need it now!  THIS IS THE FULL OPINION.

ALSO by Antonio Contreras: Political upheavals, anti-democratic elites and the pseudo-revolutionary President  

PHOTO: CREDITS: AFFAIR WITH GUNFIRE http://goo.gl/fDq2sf.  There seems to be an inconsistency in the political discourse of some people that presently circulates in the public sphere. I am referring to those who condemn the three impeachment complaints filed against the President, and denounce these as having destabilizing effects on the country. Others even say that those who filed the said complaints are committing an irresponsible act, by pointing out that such would undermine the gains made, the reforms on the way, and the straight path which the political community is now treading, or to which it is now headed. While many apologists of the President do not see the impeachment prospering by raising, almost gleefully, the point that it is a numbers game, and that the President has enough numbers to block it in the House, and even a more solid number to ensure that it will be dead on arrival in the Senate, if by any rare chance it gets through the watchful and protective eyes of Speaker Belmonte, they nevertheless deride the complainants as troublemakers.

For people so sure of the numbers on the side of the President, it is puzzling that some are so worried of a political upheaval that they lose no time demonizing the complaint and maligning the complainants. Yet, these are also the people who fail to see the destabilizing effect of the push to castrate the Supreme Court and ligate the foundational powers of the Constitution as the sole source of all rubrics where the legality of all laws are weighed. They do not see the political upheaval being whipped when the Chief Executive himself conducts a press conference where he literally challenges the power of the Supreme Court and issues a veiled threat to its members. They seem to be blind to the destabilizing effects when some members of the Legislature threaten to impeach the Justices, or the softer version of it embodied in moves to weaken the Supreme Court’s independence by redrawing its budgetary autonomy, or by the even softer approach of going around its ruling by redefining the legal terms upon which its judgment was based. They seem to be tolerant of socialites labeling the Constitution as simply a piece of paper, of journalists-turned-constitutionalists forcing the Constitution to bow to the power of a mere Administrative Code, and of young, aspiring lawyers or lawyers-to-be beginning their legal careers not on a stable respect for the Constitution, but on a contemptuous attitude towards its flaws and imperfections, and the flaws and imperfections of the men and women in Padre Faura who are sworn to protect it.

ALSO by Efren Padilla: PNoy and the fifth commandment  

PHOTO: FROM BONGMENDOZA.WORDPRESS --President Noynoy with Tita Cory's portrait behind him“Honor thy father and thy mother.” For the majority of Christians and non-Christians in the Philippines this fifth commandment of The Decalogue is regarded as one of the foundations of moral life or even political life. What does it mean to honor thy father and thy mother? How does one honor them? For me, these questions are easy to answer if one stays faithful to his or her parents’ memories and legacies. And yet, they are difficult questions to answer if one chooses to ignore or go astray from them. In the case of PNoy, I have no doubt that he had decided a long time ago to stay faithful to his parents' memories and legacies. Just like many of us, he gets as mushy as a Hallmark card when thinking of what they did and what they meant for our country. But what does it mean for him to stay faithful? Does he literally tread the same path they trod? Or does he clear a different trail for himself given the circumstances of his time? I think PNoy had already charted his course within the confines of his parents’ values, principles, and sacrifices. When his father Ninoy decided to come home, he decided to die for us because we are worth dying for. And he did die for us. When his mother Cory ran for President, despite being unprepared and buffeted by coup after coup, she provided our country the smooth transition from dictatorship to democracy. At the risk of their own personal lives, PNoy’s parents gladly laid down their lives for our democratic subculture—these are their memories, these are their legacies.

The criticism that PNoy seemingly dishonors his parents’ sacrifices by floating the idea of having an extra time to lead is I think misguided. How does it dishonor them when our fragile democratic system needs that constitutional change as a much-needed shot in the arm to strengthen it? Like PNoy, I am convinced that our political future is not only still standing on shaky ground, but also, threatened by an allegedly smooth but shady character lurking in the dark corridors of dynastic power. I'd like to think PNoy is like his father and mother. He has to see to it that our democratic gains will not retrogress into the murky and corrupt world of “business as usual” politics. I'd like to believe that PNoy does not mind even if the constitutional change he seeks means a political death for him as his detractors and critics would have it. I am sure he realizes that they will always have enough fodder for political tirades against anyone in position of power anyway. That is why the fifth commandment makes sense to him because it is really about the unrealized hopes and dreams of his parents for a less corrupt and a more just democratic institution. And so, to stay faithful to those memories and legacies is to continue the saga of what his parents had started and paid for with their lives. CONTINUE READING TO THE END...


READ FULL REPORTS HERE:

When the presidency becomes a personality cult

MANILA, AUGUST 25, 2014 (GMA NEWS) By ANTONIO P. CONTRERAS, August 19, 2014 10:19am 22 7 0 46 Tags: Benigno Aquino III Let him try.


By ANTONIO P. CONTRERAS

This is my reaction to the talk about President Aquino entertaining the thought of pushing for the amendment of the Constitution not only to allow him a second term, but also to enable him to clip the powers of a Supreme Court that has turned adversarial.

And if it was just a knee-jerk reaction, a slip of tongue, a Freudian slip, or he was just thinking out loud, or as Walden Bello said, he was just pulling our legs to piss off his critics, I wish he was sincerely serious.

And if it was a calculated move to arrest the slide in his political capital due to his being a lame duck, I wish he would be bold enough to put his mouth where the politics of those who speak on his behalf are—from Evardone to Erice to Roxas.

Let him try, so that he would suffer the most precipitous fall from being a demi-god to one who will be consigned to the universe of political infamy reserved only to the much maligned and over-demonized enemies of his family—from Marcos to Arroyo.

When PNoy lashed out at the Supreme Court after it ruled against the salient features of the DAP, I took that as simply an authentic expression of a tantrum from someone who is used to getting his way—irritating and childish, but still from the heart.

And when he almost broke in tears during his SONA, I sympathized with his genuine show
of vulnerability.

After all, we have a President who is deeply wounded and hurt, and it would have been against any sense of decency, good will, or civility not to recognize some element of fallibility, or even humility on his part for him to almost, since he did not actually say it but somewhat alluded to it, ask his bosses for some understanding. After all, he has a difficult job.

Despite being one of his critics, and I say that with a lot of pride, and would dare those who call me names to make my day by continuing to heap insulting comments at me in the space below, I nevertheless am cognizant of the goodness in his heart, and the sincere desire to reform our political system. Unlike his supportive anonymous trolls in cyberspace who are either demonizing his critics simply for fun, or are miserably misled and blinded, or are seriously fatally attracted to his critics, my criticisms of the President are neither frivolous nor obsessive.

Indeed, my criticisms of the President do not in any way negate my admiration of his authenticity. Unfortunately, it is an authenticity that is weakened by lack of self-control. The people around him have tried to manage his image, in the same way they stage a theatrical production. They have in fact turned PNoy’s presidency into a personality cult.

However, much as they try, we occasionally get to see the real Noynoy Aquino slipping through the simulations and the stage-directed speeches and coached or scripted punchlines.

The problem of the President, which is in fact a flaw so fundamental that it effectively negates everything that such good heart and good intention could bring, is that he is simply a spoiled brat, a person who is so self-absorbed in himself, and he considers governance simply as a black and white game.

This produced a lethal combination of someone who has the proclivity to throw a tantrum, of making himself as the center of our nation’s politics, and of looking at critics and criticisms as dysfunctional elements of the political process. He is not used to being told that he is wrong, and appears to be fixated on those who offend him.

He simply does not forget, and is not contented in being angry. Renato Corona had the pleasure of experiencing this fixation, which some can interpret as cacique vindictiveness, or the wrath of a haciendero on a warpath.

And this brattish, self-absorbed and self-righteous attitude, more so that he truly believes in the supremacy and non-negotiability of his Daang Matuwid, has practically undermined the good will and the political capital that many people were willing to grant him.

In his authentic desire to clean the stables of government, a Herculean task at that, he misunderstood the limits of his influence and the bounds set by the Constitution, and he failed to see that even if he is the son of glorified political icons, he is not a son of Zeus, more so a son of God.

* The President thought that he made his message clear to all when he was able to mobilize the House of Representatives to indict, and the Senate to convict a sitting Chief Justice. What further emboldened him was the manner by which the public showed its approval of such moves.


CREDITS: PNOY by Jubuy Cartoons & Comics / Digital Media / Cartoons / Other©2011-2014 Jubuy

But politics is not just about human agency. The rise and fall of political systems do not rest simply on the popularity and the goodness of hearts of leaders.

President Aquino may be accused of megalomania, not because he is megalomanic, but because in his ardent desire to reform the system, he has placed so much emphasis on his goodness, and has in effect over-inflated his indispensability.

In doing so, he failed to recognize the limits of his reason, and he forgot that the stability of political systems rests not only on the goodness of leaders, but also on the robustness of institutions.

It now appears that the reform agenda of PNoy is not about strengthening institutions, but in making institutional processes dependent only on moral uprightness, of which his is the template from where others have to be measured.

He inflicts a lethal blow on corruption not by striking deep at the heart of its watershed, but in simply putting as exhibit the jailing of three Senators.

Already pregnant with a personalistic ethos, the moral yardstick used by PNoy is further personalized by limiting its application only to his enemies, as he spares his friends from its reach.

He has perfected the science of forging a pliant legislature and the art of making politics as a performance based on images and representations, and not on substance.

He challenged the power of the Supreme Court to interpret laws, and weakened the majesty of the Constitution by making its interpretation as subjective and relative to his notions of the moral and the ethical.

These are acts that undermined the stability of institutions, but nevertheless made him a rock star to many of his supporters. A President undermining the very foundation of his rule led to the entrenchment of a powerful narrative of an agency-based, and not an institutionally-driven reform agenda.

It was the triumph of the personal over the institutional.

It is the celebration of a personality cult around Noynoy—clean and upright, on a mission to exorcise the political system of its ghosts, and bold enough to challenge traditional politicians and political traditions.

One can argue that his desire to change the Constitution may appear to be a more structural and institutional approach to political reform. He attempts to present charter change as an opportunity for the Executive to regain its much-clipped power, by clipping the powers of what he now considers as an obstructionist and overreaching Judiciary.

But this stance is not in fact a sincere attack on the structural roots of what he alleges as an imbalance of power, but is simply a subterfuge for personal anger at a Court that has inflicted on DAP a fundamental slap in the face.

The lukewarm and obligatory protest which he raised when the PDAF was declared unconstitutional pales in comparison to the rage he felt when the guardians of Padre Faura reminded him of the limits of his powers to redefine savings, and to transfer funds generated therefrom to offices outside the Executive branch on items that are not covered by appropriations identified by Congress.

The PDAF he could have lived without. It is the DAP that hurts him most, as it is a direct assault on something that bore his personal imprint. The Court inflicted on him a ruling that practically judged his act as wrong. And he took it personally.

On its face, the Aquino presidency, despite its reformist image, is obviously ruled by personalistic politics. This is a Presidency that has personalized the impacts of Constitutional constraints. He looks at the Constitution not as a fundamental law upon which his decisions have to be based. Instead, the Constitution is only as good as it serves his personal vision.

One just has to look at the manner PNoy candidly elicited a personalistic view about his reforms that need to be continued, of how he will use as basis the decision of his bosses on whether he should move to change the Constitution so that it will no longer be an obstacle to reform that he has owned as his, and can only pass to someone he supports.

And since Mar Roxas’ chances in 2016 are increasingly becoming weaker and bleaker on account of every survey that comes out, and that the specter of a Binay presidency is perceived to be too risky for his reforms as well as for his liberty should cases be filed against him when he steps down, it is understandable for Malacańang and the Liberal Party to float the idea of term extension, if not of allowing for re-election.

What you therefore see is clearly a personalistic attitude towards the fundamental law of the land.

What is increasingly becoming visible is a President who sees our redemption in the hands only of good men, and in this world, only him, his friends and his allies can qualify.

The danger of a Presidency that subsists on a personalistic cult, and is derived from a near-hero worship, is that it faces the risk of sinking or swimming on the attitudes of a citizenry that has a short memory, and has an unstable notion of what is popular. For these people, leaders and idols are dispensable.

The other danger lies in the presence of dedicated crusaders for reform and good governance who are willing to part ways with a leader who has gone astray.

These are the people whose convictions on what constitutes reform are deeply embedded not on loyalties to one single person, or to political parties, but on political movements and their genuine desire to see reform in its barest minimum, and where the rubric for good governance rests not on leaders alone. For these people, leaders are dispensable too.

This is the tragedy that may befall the president. The masses who deliver to him the popularity ratings can easily abandon him for the next available heroic personality.

And those who are committed to a reform agenda can easily abandon him when he ceases to become the hero that he promised them to be.

And what will be left with him will be the loyally blind apologists who will still keep on seeing in him the hero image even if it is no longer there.

The author is a former dean of De La Salle University. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of this website.

The best President the country never had By HARVEY S. KEHAugust 13, 2014 1:59pm 1027 303 0 1385 Tags: Jesse Robredo


By HARVEY S. KEH

Oftentimes we never fully appreciate the greatness of a person until he or she passes away. Such was the case when Jesse Robredo passed away last August 18, 2012 in a very unfortunate plane crash as he was on his way home to Naga City.

Not many people knew about him then but as the nation collectively prayed for a miraculous rescue in the succeeding days, many of his achievements in his 18 years as mayor of Naga City and two years as secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) slowly but surely was made known to the general public.

What happened in the following days was a massive outpouring of love and support for him and his family. The whole nation grieved the loss of an honest, dedicated and hardworking public servant that many consider to be a rarity in a country that is often governed by well-entrenched political dynasties and the corrupt.

Naga City’s Tsinelas Leader

Yet, when I asked ordinary Filipinos about what endeared him to them, it wasn’t about his startling achievements in the field of governance such as his introduction of the Seal of Good Housekeeping for local government units to aspire for when he was DILG Secretary, nor was it about making Naga City one of the top performing cities in the country when it comes to education and health.

For many Filipinos, Robredo was considered a modern day Filipino hero because he was able to show them that leaders can also be grounded in understanding the real needs of the poor and powerless in our society.

Many Nagueńos share fondly how Robredo would be the first one to go out and clean up the streets of their city after every typhoon. According to Robredo, he would do this so that when his constituents wake up they could already see a sense of order in their community.

They would also recall him going around the city on his bike to consult with his constituents without the usual escorts and fanfare that would often accompany political leaders of his stature.

Most importantly, the people of Naga would often say that in his 18 years as mayor of the most progressive city in the Bicol region, he has lived in the same apartment and has never used his power to enrich himself or his family.

* It was not surprising that despite not having millions of pesos to spend, he would go on to win every time he would run for mayor in their city.

A special place for Mindanao

While Naga City was home to Robredo, the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) held a very special place in his heart as he would often visit Sulu and Tawi-Tawi to assist mayors in developing education reform programs that were aimed at ensuring that every Filipino child would learn how to read.

Despite his very busy schedule as DILG Secretary, he did this without drawing much attention as one of the pillars of Synergeia Foundation.

ARMM is considered to be the poorest and most underdeveloped region in the country and he believed that providing access to quality basic education to every child would help bring peace and development in the region.

Robredo endeared himself to the people of Mindanao so much that mayors in the region would often say that if Robredo ran for the Senate, he would easily get the highest number of votes among all the candidates in ARMM.

His attention and focus to helping our fellow Filipinos in Mindanao reflected his preferential option towards the most marginalized communities in our society. Something that is very much needed in our government leaders.


IN MEMORIAM: 2nd!

President Jesse Robredo

As the nation braces itself for the last two years of President Noynoy Aquino and the upcoming 2016 national elections, the task at hand is to now look for leaders who will continue the reforms that President Aquino has started in his term.

Let us not anymore allow our nation to go back to the dark ages where corruption and illegal practices were the norms in our government.

We need effective, ethical and empowering leaders who are not afraid to go against powerful institutions in our country just to ensure that rights of the majority are protected.

We need leaders with integrity who know how to listen to the poor and powerless in our society.

We need leaders who as President Aquino aptly pointed out in his last State of the Nation Address (SONA) will continue the transformation that our nation is undergoing right now.

We need "Tsinelas Leaders" who would go beyond lip service and lead quietly through their way of life.

Hopefully, when we look for these leaders we will find in them the qualities and values of Jesse Robredo, the best President our country never had.

To commemorate the 2nd death anniversary of Jesse Robredo, the Jesse Robredo Foundation has organized a commemoration mass to be officiated by the Most Rev. Antonio Tobias, D.D. on August 18, 2014 (Monday), 5 p.m. at the St. Joseph Church, Camp Crame, Quezon City. The Mass is open to the public.

Harvey S. Keh is the President of the Acts of Hope for the Nation (AHON) Foundation and the Executive Director of the Institute for Governance and Strategic Partnerships (IGSP).

Comments are welcome at harveykeh@gmail.com.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of this website.

That Amazing Race of an obstacle on the MRT By JING LEJANOAugust 15, 2014 3:11pm 112 93 0 240


By JING LEJANO

I live down south in Las Pińas City. Whenever I have to go to Quezon City, I always take the MRT. It’s still the fastest way to get from point A to point B, especially if you have to traverse the length of EDSA.

The service, of course, leaves much to be desired. There are only a handful of trains, there’s really not much of a schedule, and the trains themselves badly need maintenance.

When I heard the news that an MRT train has been derailed, I wasn’t the least surprised. For many months now, we have seen evidence of how poorly managed this transportation system is.


PHOTO COURTESY OF MANILA BULLETIN: Commuters patiently wait for their turn to board the MRT in North Avenue Station. (File photo: Mark Balmores)

In the mornings, commuters taking the MRT are greeted by long, long lines, the kind that spill out onto the streets below.

If you already have a Stored Value Ticket, then you only need to get in line once. If you don’t, well, you have got to be one of the most unfortunate creatures on earth as you would need to line up twice: first to get your ticket, and second to actually get onto the platform. It is not a funny thought especially if you’re a nine-to-fiver who needs to be at work on time.

Of course, once you get on the train, you encounter another Amazing Race of an obstacle. When the train pulls in, the mass of bodies, pushing and jostling against each other, carry you in. You try to find a nice spot, but there is none to be had as elbows and knees, bags and umbrellas, press onto your body. That you’ll be a fine mess even before the clocks strikes nine is already a foregone conclusion.

There have also been several reported instances of trains just stopping at the stations, as if giving up after many years of neglect. I’ve experienced one of these woefully unpleasant encounters.

The train stops at a station, passengers get off, passengers get in, the door closes, and then nothing. We just stand there. The airconditioning stops working, the door refuses to open, and it takes a few long minutes before we all realize that we may be in some sort of sh*t. When the door suddenly opened, I was out of there. No way was I going to stay on that train!

The plight of the poor commuter has been all over the news. It’s produced a hundred Facebook memes and thousands of tweets and re-tweets. But has anybody, and by anybody I mean the powers-that-be, done anything concrete about it? Sadly, the answer is no. Same sh*t, different day.

A couple of weeks ago, I remember PNoy defending his pork barrel (Yes, I know, it’s not supposedly pork, but it’s just semantics). He needs power over this particular kilo of pork, he says, so he can address pressing issues with speed and efficiency. I thought right then and there that the MRT situation was an extremely pressing issue. But apparently, the powers-that-be don’t think so.

And now this: A train full of passengers shoots out of the platform causing untold injury to the women and children on board.

After the accident, PNoy’s spokesperson said that the president has a “high level of interest” in the safety and convenience of Filipinos using the mass transport facilities.

Mr. President, we don’t need your “interest.” We need your action.

We don’t need your sympathy. We need a transport system that’s swift, safe, and secure. We need a transport system that doesn’t have us acting like barbarians at seven in the morning. We need a transport system that gets us to our destination with dignity.

We need transportation—and we need it now!

Jing Lejano, freelance writer is a single mom of four and "lula" of one.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of this website.

Political upheavals, anti-democratic elites and the pseudo-revolutionary President By ANTONIO P. CONTRERASAugust 5, 2014 1:51pm 1257 87 2 1465 Tags: Benigno Aquino III


By ANTONIO P. CONTRERAS --Former dean of De La Salle University

There seems to be an inconsistency in the political discourse of some people that presently circulates in the public sphere.

I am referring to those who condemn the three impeachment complaints filed against the President, and denounce these as having destabilizing effects on the country.

Others even say that those who filed the said complaints are committing an irresponsible act, by pointing out that such would undermine the gains made, the reforms on the way, and the straight path which the political community is now treading, or to which it is now headed.

While many apologists of the President do not see the impeachment prospering by raising, almost gleefully, the point that it is a numbers game, and that the President has enough numbers to block it in the House, and even a more solid number to ensure that it will be dead on arrival in the Senate, if by any rare chance it gets through the watchful and protective eyes of Speaker Belmonte, they nevertheless deride the complainants as troublemakers.

For people so sure of the numbers on the side of the President, it is puzzling that some are so worried of a political upheaval that they lose no time demonizing the complaint and maligning the complainants.

Yet, these are also the people who fail to see the destabilizing effect of the push to castrate the Supreme Court and ligate the foundational powers of the Constitution as the sole source of all rubrics where the legality of all laws are weighed.

They do not see the political upheaval being whipped when the Chief Executive himself conducts a press conference where he literally challenges the power of the Supreme Court and issues a veiled threat to its members.

They seem to be blind to the destabilizing effects when some members of the Legislature threaten to impeach the Justices, or the softer version of it embodied in moves to weaken the Supreme Court’s independence by redrawing its budgetary autonomy, or by the even softer approach of going around its ruling by redefining the legal terms upon which its judgment was based.

They seem to be tolerant of socialites labeling the Constitution as simply a piece of paper, of journalists-turned-constitutionalists forcing the Constitution to bow to the power of a mere Administrative Code, and of young, aspiring lawyers or lawyers-to-be beginning their legal careers not on a stable respect for the Constitution, but on a contemptuous attitude towards its flaws and imperfections, and the flaws and imperfections of the men and women in Padre Faura who are sworn to protect it.

* It is simply astounding that these people would label the act of filing an impeachment complaint, a right that is provided for in a constitutional democracy as the only recourse for citizens to redress a grievance against officials who are immune from suit, as irresponsibly destabilizing.

Yet in the same breath they defend those who are undermining the power of the fundamental law of the land, and challenging the authority of the Judiciary, including even those who took office swearing to uphold and protect the laws, as responsible crusaders and reformists for the common good.

There are two ways one can make sense of this dissonance, of this seemingly irreconcilable contradiction.

First is to take into account the class dimension of this dismissive, if not derisive, view of the political elites on those who dare to challenge the power of the ruling class, and who dare destabilize the comfort zones of those who are allied with it.

It has to be said. I have come to the conclusion that the elites of this country actually adhere to an inherently anti-democratic political discourse. Even as they ride on democratic symbolisms, and talk about political reform, what is in fact celebrated is one where such symbols are crafted by limiting choices and denying nuanced political positions so that the resulting political configuration would be safe to their interests.

This can be seen from the black or white narratives that simplify a complex political terrain where pluralism is supposed to be celebrated.

In a complex political world, simplistic dualisms tend to undermine choices, and have the effect of pushing nuanced political positions to the margins.

The President rested his mantra on a straight path, and made this as an absolute rubric to measure his friends and his enemies. He reasserted this in his SONA when he labeled his critics as not simply against him, but against progress and reform, and therefore de facto enemies of the people.

This simplistic politics is echoed by his apologists.

I have been repeatedly accused of being a Marcos loyalist, a Gloria apologist, and a paid hack of the Binay camp for taking the President to task on the issue of the DAP. I am neither anyone of these, and I am sure many of those who criticize the President aren’t either.

This dumbing down of the political endeavor and the forced dichotomies that are deployed could only but have the effect of preventing the emergence of authentic voices. It has the effect of forcing many to remain in their political closets for fear of being labeled. This is not different from the structural violence that we inflict on women, the LGBT community, and those who are at the margins when we deploy dichotomies of normal-deviant and acceptable-unacceptable subjectivities.

And this discourse is incompatible with democratic pluralism, as it is patently elitist when it attributes virtue only to those who follow the ruling sector of society, which in this case would be the President and his yellow crowd. While there is no evidence yet that this discursive violence has led to physical oppression, as admittedly nobody has been imprisoned yet for posting, tweeting and blogging against the President, it has a chilling effect nevertheless.

After all, violence in the post-modern world is no longer limited to lives being snuffed by the tyrant’s bullets, but now includes identities being defined and objectified by tyrannical words.

The dismissive attitude towards the opposition and the diminution of legitimate voices of resistance as illogical and irrational, or are simply partisan attacks from discredited enemies wishing nothing but the downfall of the President, are patently cacique in nature, and are tyrannical by implication. This is how landed elites would view farmers who clamor for their rights to land, or how bourgeois capitalists would treat workers fighting for their rights to fair working conditions.

And the tyrannical element of this form of elitism is even more enhanced when it juxtaposes with a messianic attitude of infallibility.

When the President talks of reform and leading people to the straight path, and where his minions sing praises to such noble goal, but in the same breath do not recognize the validity of criticism, and the place of constitutionally-guaranteed processes, what we are in fact celebrating is a one-track political world that delegitimizes free speech.

In this elitist and messianic worldview, the Constitution becomes merely a factor to be considered in, and not a bedrock for making decisions. What comes out is an instrumentalist attitude towards the fundamental law of the land.

It leads to an elite attitude that looks at the state as a mere venue for capital accumulation and the government as an arena for political games, and the SONA as a theater to mesmerize the hoi polloi not only with propaganda, but with a taste of tasteless fashion. And such elitism is found in those who believe that their class or their education entitles them to treat the Constitution, in the words of one socialite, as just a piece of paper.

And this brings me to the second perspective that would provide some sense to the dissonance I earlier cited.


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Caught in his messianic belief that he is the savior of our country, and cognizant of the fact that he is being accorded by his supporters almost a monopoly for virtue, as evidenced for example by counterarguments against the impeachment process around the theme that there is no alternative, and some even suggesting that the Constitution should be amended to allow for him to run again in 2016, what we have in fact is a President who acts as if he is leading a revolution from within the institutions of governance.

A quick look at the DAP controversy, from the time of its inception to the manner the Administration reacted to the SC decision of declaring it unconstitutional, will reveal a Presidency that is willing to push the Constitution against a wall.

The mantra of many of the President’s apologist in social media is full of allusions to a flawed, imperfect fundamental law, effectively pointing out the restrictive elements of the Constitution that constrain the reforms which are being pushed.

This discourse has the effect of positioning the Constitution as a limit to reform, and the Supreme Court as an inconvenience in attaining such reform. And the President himself parrots this, even as the Congress that he effectively controls echoes it.


After years of living high on the hog, are guilty politicians finally getting their just desserts? Manix Abrera, GMA NEWS

This is indeed characteristic of a pseudo-revolutionary government, for nowhere in the discourse of mature democracies that you see this mouthed by people who are in power, and by those who support the ruling party. This stance is usually reserved for activists, and those who fight the ruling establishment.

In management parlance, the appropriate term for this would be “creative destruction.” A similar phrase was used by a US military officer in the Vietnam War justifying the destruction of a village—“We have to save the village by destroying it.”

Indeed, and in the name of “saving the Republic of the Philippines,” the President is pushing the limits of the Constitution, challenging established institutions associated with constitutional democracy, and destabilizing and undoing established traditional processes which he thinks are cogs in the wheel that drive corruption.

Unfortunately, he is not a revolutionary leader, but a President sworn to protect the Constitution. He took that path when he accepted his nomination as candidate, and when he took his oath as Chief Executive. His reform pathway has been delimited by that solemn oath.

And he chose this, over that of leading his crusade on the streets being bombarded by water cannons while another President is delivering a SONA, and on the hills fighting an armed struggle. There, his successes will be counted not on the guns he gave every policeman, but on every military personnel he would have gunned down; he will not boast of the fewer labor strikes under his term, but on the many successful strikes that occurred.

He would have understood that waging a revolution is a sincere and serious counter-narrative to a deeply structured malaise of the state, and not a mere political posturing, an act which he as President has unfairly accused those on the left to be guilty of.

He chose to live in a world where reforms have to be done within the ambit of a Constitution, which while not perfect has to be accorded respect. If needed, it can be changed, if only to show that it is not an eternal document.

And in this world, painting the Constitution as a flawed document and the Supreme Court as composed of fallible men and women in robes, in contrast to a seemingly righteous and infallible President undoubtedly inflicts damage to the stability of constitutional democracy.

Many of its foundational principles are being undermined, such as the principles of the separation of powers, of check and balances, and of the hierarchy of laws and statutes.

When the President condemns the Court, and the Legislature responds with threats to curtail its independence, and when even intellectuals and lawyers argue that it is warranted, there is reason to believe that we now live in dangerous times not in the hands of revolutionaries, but from people sworn to govern us.

And when those who are vigilant enough to run to the Constitution and avail of the remedies allowed legally to make the President answer for acts which they consider to be actionable offenses are considered enemies of the people, instead of defenders of the rule of law, there is reason to believe that our polity is at risk of becoming no longer that of law.

Indeed, we may be in for a period of political upheaval. But this is not because some people filed an impeachment complaint against the President. It is not because some petitioners filed a case against the DAP. It is not because critics are posting, liking and tweeting their criticisms in cyberspace.

These are what democracy is all about.

Instead, we are in for a political upheaval if the political elites will continue to see these as aberrations, and if the President will continue to see himself as a messiah leading a revolution from within—infallible, above the law and outside the bounds of the Constitution.

The author is a former dean of De La Salle University. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of this website.

PNoy and the fifth commandment By EFREN N. PADILLAAugust 21, 2014 2:26pm 9 1 0 17 Tags: Benigno Aquino III


By EFREN N. PADILLA

“Honor thy father and thy mother.” For the majority of Christians and non-Christians in the Philippines this fifth commandment of The Decalogue is regarded as one of the foundations of moral life or even political life.

What does it mean to honor thy father and thy mother? How does one honor them? For me, these questions are easy to answer if one stays faithful to his or her parents’ memories and legacies. And yet, they are difficult questions to answer if one chooses to ignore or go astray from them.

In the case of PNoy, I have no doubt that he had decided a long time ago to stay faithful to his parents' memories and legacies. Just like many of us, he gets as mushy as a Hallmark card when thinking of what they did and what they meant for our country. But what does it mean for him to stay faithful? Does he literally tread the same path they trod? Or does he clear a different trail for himself given the circumstances of his time?

I think PNoy had already charted his course within the confines of his parents’ values, principles, and sacrifices. When his father Ninoy decided to come home, he decided to die for us because we are worth dying for. And he did die for us. When his mother Cory ran for President, despite being unprepared and buffeted by coup after coup, she provided our country the smooth transition from dictatorship to democracy. At the risk of their own personal lives, PNoy’s parents gladly laid down their lives for our democratic subculture—these are their memories, these are their legacies.

The criticism that PNoy seemingly dishonors his parents’ sacrifices by floating the idea of having an extra time to lead is I think misguided. How does it dishonor them when our fragile democratic system needs that constitutional change as a much-needed shot in the arm to strengthen it?


https://bongmendoza.wordpress.com/President Noynoy with Tita Cory's portrait behind him

Like PNoy, I am convinced that our political future is not only still standing on shaky ground, but also, threatened by an allegedly smooth but shady character lurking in the dark corridors of dynastic power. I'd like to think PNoy is like his father and mother. He has to see to it that our democratic gains will not retrogress into the murky and corrupt world of “business as usual” politics.

I'd like to believe that PNoy does not mind even if the constitutional change he seeks means a political death for him as his detractors and critics would have it. I am sure he realizes that they will always have enough fodder for political tirades against anyone in position of power anyway.

That is why the fifth commandment makes sense to him because it is really about the unrealized hopes and dreams of his parents for a less corrupt and a more just democratic institution. And so, to stay faithful to those memories and legacies is to continue the saga of what his parents had started and paid for with their lives.

*  Lately, PNoy has been getting flak from both sides of the political aisle regarding an old hope that had been peddled around by every political regime, PNoy’s regime being no exception with its share of undue criticism from inflexible ideologues and partisan provocateurs without regard to the merits of his position. Instead, the “No to Cha-Cha and term extension,” as the banner goes, had morphed PNoy from a “Daang Matuwid” persona into an alleged cult personality violating his parent’s legacy of preventing another dictatorship, at least, in the eyes of his critics and detractors.

But I have a different take when PNoy floated the idea of constitutional change.

PNoy, who is entertaining the notion of extending his tenure, may still do something big to continue the legacy of his parents. I’d say that it’s the Legislative that holds the key to this, which in the past did not act the way previous administrations wanted it to.

PNoy is no different from reaching an accommodation with his so-called bosses from any leader who rewrites the rules in his favor as soon as he or she is in control. At least in PNoy’s case, he wants to do it constitutionally. After all, any government that refuses to listen to the legitimate clamor of the people is undemocratic. Only an insecure opposition can fail to understand that. Eventually, Cha-cha and term extension will happen anyway. And PNoy appears to be the person of the moment to make it happen. And why not?

PNoy must sell our people that hope—that is, if not PNoy, who then? Given the almost insurmountable lead of Vice President Binay against all possible presidential candidates in the poll, some of my friends had already descended on me recklessly, like the Delphic Oracle and advised me to already think of a post-Binay era.

Is Vice President Binay our hope? Is Vice President Binay all we got?

For now, I must confess that I am not optimistic about our political future with him. I have my moral reasons. In the context of the fifth commandment, I’d prefer to see our political future just like having children and putting all your money in the pot and you do everything you can to hedge your bet. Hopefully, they’ll turn out incorruptible, honorable, and respectful to your values, principles, and sacrifices. And so, when it comes to hedging my bet, I’d rather hedge my bet on the son of Ninoy and Cory rather than someone else’s son.

Let’s honor the memories and legacies of Ninoy and Cory with the much-needed constitutional change—ipagpatuloy natin and “Daang Matuwid.”

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