July 2008


First, it seems I was not the only one who picked up on the complete lack of logic in Ermita’s statement, (see Ellen Tordesillas: “’Let the people be judge of GMA,’” Ermita said. The survey score is the people’s judgment.” Mon Casiple: “They illogically echoed each other, chorusing that ‘it is the people who will decide the popularity of the president, not surveys.’ As if the ones surveyed are not a cross-section of and scientifically representative of the people.” Conrado de Quiros: “It’s as if she’s saying, ‘What has being elected or serving the people got to do with being president?’ No, more than that, it’s as if she’s saying, ‘What has being disliked, detested and reviled by the people got to do with me leading them wherever I damn please?'”

Anyway, another gut reaction to another great thing Ate Glo has done. In preparation for the SONA address, several barangay leaders were “asked” to impose curfews and prohibit public drinking. This weekend, 120 people were rounded up and detained for violating this (I don’t even know what to call it…temporary and suddenly declared ordinance?), but, like so many, later released when it was found that none of the men had any criminal records or posed any actual threat to the safety and security of their communities. (see full story)

So despite our strong proclivity to brush such actions off as yet another unnecessary action, and one not so important because no one was actually harmed, I would like to point out several things wrong with this situation and how they contribute to the deterioration of our democracy:

1) This curfew is supposedly a city ordinance that applies only to a few barangays and, and uncoincidentally, barangays with high poverty levels. Yet, the very imposition of the curfew is illegal. It is difficult to believe there is an actual ordinace; it has no record. Furthermore, even if such ordinance exists, it must be published. Rehashing some of the arguments from GMA’s infamous curfew after the Manila Pen Incident last year:

1. As an inherent and extraordinary power of the State, police power is exercised through legislation. A curfew imposed without any law or legal order is illegal and unconstitutional. (Atty. Theodore Te)

2. The President has no authority to curtail freedom of movement. Also, such a directive needs to be in writing and has to be published. (Atty. Marichu Lambino).

3. The curfew imposition is unlawful and contrary to the Constitution — our right to liberty, our right to travel, our constitutionally guaranteed rights that cannot be curtailed or disregarded by executive order. Even curfews imposed in town and barangays need local ordinance. (Sen. Francis Pangilinan)

4. There is no right in Philippine law to impose a curfew on ALL PERSONS. There is only the ability to impose a curfew on minors. (Thanks to Dissenting Opinion. See also PCIJ.)

These legal arguments are, of course, in addition to all the overlooked  guarantees of personal liberty in the constitution.

2) The City “asked” barangay leaders to impose this curfew. Asked, in reality of course meaning the QC police went to the barangay chairmen and told them to impose a curfew. This not only brings into question whether or not barangay officials actually told their communities, but also the right of the City police department to basically co-opt the barangay. I don’t know the answer to this and I must admit that reading the Local Government Code of 1991 hasn’t left me with a clearer picture, but the LGU code as well as the 1987 Constitution portray an overwhelming spirit of the autonomy and limited sovereignty of the barangay, and are more explicit that the role of the city is “oversight.”

3) More generally, this temporary, suddenly-proclaimed, so-called ordinance is in direct violation of the basic legal principle that good law requires consistency and prior notice. A legal system where new ordinances can pop up all willy-nilly and be arbitrarily enforced is not systematic at all. It takes away one of the main purposes of democracy, which is some guarantee that government will be rational and not subject to the whims of a person or small group. Arbitrary laws (and the arbitrary imposition of laws) are authoritarian. (See Railway Express Agency, Inc. vs. New York, “Conversely, nothing opens the door to arbitrary action so effectively as to allow those officials to pick and choose only a few to whom they will apply legislation and thus to escape the political retribution that might be visited upon them if larger numbers were affected.” Kennedy’s opinion in Lawrence vs. Texas for expanded argument)

4) Once again, people were arrested, detained and then released and this is supposed to be alright.

  • If the ordinance was real, why were they released? If they were guilty of committing a crime their arrests were justified and they should not have been released. Their relsease, at the mercy and benevolence of the authorities, would have been another example of arbitrary justice and patronage. It takes away from democracy becasue one’s fate is not longer determined by a ratinal legal system, but by the will of hte authority.
  • More likely, the ordinance did not exist to begin with and the police rounded these people up becasue they could. The police simply wanted to assert their authority and send a clear message that if GMA can arrest people for doing something ordinary on a Saturday night, don’t even thinkabout speaking or acting against her. The people were then released after it was demonstrated that none of them had criminal records supports this second theory – the police basically rounded them up hoping to find a reason to continue detaining them, but couldn’t.
  • Similar arrests, detainment and then release after it was shown that there was no need for the detainments in the first place have happened before. (Think the Manila Pen incident – a big hoopla and then all were unconditionally released for lack of case). The ability of the police to detain at will and then release without consequence. Detainment without being charged. This is basically a form of de facto imprisonment without reason. Check the Guantanamo arguments.

5) And the kicker, 120 people were arrested for drinking on a Saturday night! Come on people, open your eyes. What do people do on Saturday nights? They sit around with their friends, throw back a couple beers, and make kuwento. In most neighborhoods, but especially in urban poor communities, where homes are too small and hot and going to a bar will add to expenses, you sit and drink in front of your house. Filipinos work hard. Filipinos suffer. And now, you want to arrest them for one of the small joys they have?

Welcome to the police state of the nation.

Reading the Inquirer website today over my morning coffee, I clicked on the first headline in the nation column, an article titled: “Let people be the judge of Arroyo.” Of course, my immediate reaction to this statement was a jubilant, “OK!”

But, much to my chagrin (and half-laughing, half-yelling at the computer screen), what I went on to read was a series of incredibly incoherent statements by EDSA hero-come toady marionette, Executive Secretary Ermita. A rundown:

The article begins by summarizing the Palace’s stance with “The people, not surveys, should judge President Macapagal-Arroyo’s performance.”

Um, excuse me, but isn’t the whole point of surveys to reflect the sentiments of the people? The Palace is not willing to go so far as to question SWS’s methodology, so in essence it accepts that the surveys that say the President has a negative 38 percent rating are sound measures of the nation’s sentiments. So, although Ermita accepts that SWS survey results = the people’s judgement, he says that people, and not the survey should judge the President. Yeah, I don’t get it either.

Ermita then went on to reiterate that much-loved Malacañang phrase: running and managing the country “is not a popularity contest.”

Well, I too will reiterate my main message in “Ready to Serve,” holding public office in a democracy is largely a popularity contest. You are always under obligation to answer to the will of the people; you serve only at the pleasure of the people. Telling the people that “you may hate me but I don’t care, what I’m doing is good for you,” is demeaning, it strips the citizenry of their dignity, and illustrates how this administration is just another perpetuator (patron) of the clientelist system.

Ermita then went on to “wonder” why all the good things that the President has done for the people haven’t been recognized, like the Katas ng E-VAT, NFA rice subsidies, and the ever-present “infrastructure projects” that supposedly create jobs.

So, the Presidency is not a popularity contest. Can anyone honestly and convincingly make the argument that these actions, are not populist in nature? Keep them poor, keep them dependent, and as a result we will keep them quiet.

Then, after refusing to question SWS’ methodology, Ermita went on to say “What is important is for the people to feel the effects of what the President is doing, so that they will see that the President has real concern over their plight.”

Oh, the people feel it alright. the highest inflation in 14 years, increasing rates of hunger, 71% of the people self-identifying as poor or very poor and 59% saying their situation has worsened in the last year, a decrease in personal optimism (in other words, a decrease in HOPE) and rise in economic pessimism. Of these and numerous other indicators, what hits me the most (and what should hit the President) is the decrease in hope, which is all that far too many families have. We feel what the President is doing alright, talagang ramdam na ramdam namin.

I only wish the President felt what she is doing to us. Despite my salty rhetoric I still have some faith that she is capable of mercy.

And finally, just for laughs, Ermita threw in that the President will prove in the SONA that “is a very active performing achiever, performing political leader, performing President.”

So, the record national disapproval ratings of the President, measured scientifically by a reputable (indeed, the Palace quotes SWS when it has results which are favorable to the administration) institution are not enough to prove that she is not doing a good job. We should look at the effects on the ground and the real difference in people’s lives. Okay. But wait, forget looking to the ground, a speech she will deliver next month will be enough to prove she’s doing a good job!

Yeah. The tortuous logic Secretary Ermita. Then again, he doesn’t actually like her, so maybe he’s incoherent on purpose. Sa abangan…

So lots of people have seen me hawking the jewelry collection I brought back to the U.S. from the Philippines. It’s mostly freshwater pearls, semi-precious stones (like jade, turquoise, amethyst, jasper, etc) and murano glass.

Well, this Saturday, I’ll be showing off this stuff, some other pieces I’ve made, pieces I acquired in Thailand (mostly from Burmese traders who snuck them across the border, so they’re actually from Burma), as well as other Southeast Asian fare, such as woven bags, home decorations, etc.

I really hope that this takes off and can turn into a livelihod project for collectives and rural villages. So if you’re wandering around the Lower West Side anytime between noon and 7 on Saturday, please stop by! (The Market showcases a lot of stuff from young designers in the area, so you wouldn’t just be coming for me:))

The Market NYC at Hudson

490 Hudson Street (between Christopher and Grove)

12-7 on Saturday

Some examples of stuff:

Thought for the day:

I’ve heard so many people say that the Philippines is not advancing because there is something culturally wrong with Filipinos. Perhaps by far the most popular statement is that “Filipinos have no discipline.” I’ve even heard some old timers yearn for the early days of Marcos because people at that time “had so much discipline.”

I would like to vehemently disagree. The problem is not that Filipinos have no discipline. The problem is that Filipinos have too much discipline. The problem is that Filipinos have so much discipline and are so well-taught not to speak up against figures of “authority,” that they just grin and bear it even when they see something wrong happening. Filipinos have so much discipline that they stay fervently loyal to particular people, names, groups and areas, even when these objects of their loyalty have moved far beyond whatever it was they or their predecesors did to earn that loyalty in the first place. Filipinos have so much discipline that they listen to their parents when choosing a course or career; they make life decisions based on their parent’s natural proclivity towards stability rather than their own natural proclivity towards greatness. Filipinos have so much discipline they work and work extra hard in a system that makes the its perpetual victims because “that’s just the way it is.”

The problem is not a lack of discipline. It’s too much discipline.

I’ve been avoiding posting for the last couple months because I promised myself the next post would be my long paper on election forensics. Finally, after much delay, here it is.

The paper is divided into two parts. The first is a regression analysis with percent voter turnout as the dependent variable and the socioeconomic variables of total popuation, voting age population, gender, urban/rural classification, municipal income classification, education, age, percent overseas Filipino workers, religion, marital status and household size as the independent variables. This test was run for all municipalities in the Philippines. Statistically significant positive relationships were found for percent voter turnout and municipal income class, education level, percent OFW, some religious groups and household size. Statistically significant negative relationships were found for percent voter turnout and urban classification and the Iglesia ni Kristo religious group. The second section held these socioeconomic variables as the independent variables, but tested percent support for gubernatorial candidates identified as “new entrants” or “reform” candidates in the 2007 elections. Except for the factor of age for Gov. Tupas of Iloilo, these tests failed to yield statistically significant results. These results indicate that socioeconomic characteristics are related to voting behavior, as there are clear relationships with voter turnout, but who certain groupd do or do not vote for is still unclear. This disconnect suggests the failure of campaigns to target voters based on social groups, and suggests that doing so may be an effective alternative to traditional campaign methods. (more…)