February 2011

Who (the hell) is General Tomas Diaz?

Over the weekend, I have been both writhing in agony and ecstatic with laughter going through the comments on the PCIJ video and the answers to @jaredramos’ question on the 1986 People Power Revolution. And the most common immediate reaction I read and had from both old friends on Facebook and followers on Tumbr was : “Who (the hell) is General Tomas Diaz?”

I must say, despite having been a teacher of Philippine history to high school students and having had several classes on the subject in my academic years, I do not know who he is. Perhaps the most common succeeding reaction of viewers of that video was to Google “General Tomas Diaz.” And I think most of them encountered nothing but random names of individuals who live in Spanish-speaking countries or former dependencies of the old empire.

Googling the name after viewing the PCIJ video and holding some reaction of surprise and disgust are mere indicators, not of shock but of an attempt at disassociation from those who gave both bewildering and outrageous answers to a very simple question. As far as I can recall, only one guy in the video gave correct and sensible answers. Most were merely trying to protect what was left of their “image” while the others were very forthcoming and even proud of their ignorance which resulted out of their indolence.

There were some among those who answered @jaredramos’ question who justified the answers of the interview by saying that the blame should be placed on the teachers of those students. That the students were unable to answer the question because their teachers failed to teach them about it. To some extent this view is justified. But only to some extent.

Perhaps the students may not notice it but if one takes a hard look at how Philippine history is being taught in this country, one can see that it is taught in a linear fashion which extends from the discovery of the Tabon Man to the conditions in Pre-Spanish Philippines; to the arrival of Magellan and the Propaganda Movement, the Katipunan, the war for Independence; and the Philippine-American War. Before the teachers and students notice it, the 10 months of the academic year is done.

And so ends the Philippine history lessons for the average freshman in high school. It ends without the student learning about the impact of American colonialism; the Second World War in the Philippines; the post-war reconstruction and independence; corruption during the Quirino administration; the counter-insurgency campaigns during the Magsaysay administration; the price hikes during the Macapagal administration; and the early years of the Marcos adminsitration and its later descent to the darkness of the Martial Law period; the miracle of 1986 People Power; and the struggle for progress in the age of globalization.

A couple of years ago, I wrote something about Ninoy and the Blindspots of History and how the pedagogy employed in the country for teaching Philippine history has hindered the students’ appreciation of their heritage. Back then I supposed that the introduction of better text books and the effort of teachers to incite interest in Philippine history in their students may remedy the blind spots. But looking back, I think that sustaining the current methods of teaching the subject will never yield good results unless a student had more than a year of Philippine history.

While Philippine history is taught in bits and pieces as early as the fourth grade, the bulk and organized teaching of it though only comes in the first year of high school. And it is again taught as one subject for a semester in college (that’s five months long in most, three months in some). And in these various occassions, the methods employed by the teachers may vary in terms of presentation, but the same linear pedagogy is adopted. In the end, the student maybe bombarded with facts about the days of Majapahit and Sri-Vijaya empires, but he or she knows so little about the Martial Law years or the coup attempts during the earlier Aquino administration.

Perhaps, it is time that the academics and scholars in Philippine history consider teaching the subject the other linear way around. Teaching the subject from the contemporary times, coupled with regular discussions of current affairs, and moving back to the older past may incite more interest in the subject, and make more progress than starting subject with discussion of remote facts about the days of the early humans in the caves of Palawan.

Teaching Philippine history from the present to the past instead of the past to the present would allow the students to understand better certain public institutions and social phenomenon. They would understand how the MILF came out of the MNLF and how different these two are from the Abu Sayyaf. They would understand better why the burial of President Marcos is being debated. They would understand better why the 1986 People Power Revolution is being celebrated and why they don’t have classes on that day in February.

Then again, I am just spitballing and my thoughts have yet to be tested to see if they will work or not. But I think that there’s no harm in exploring other ways by which the heritage of the people and the struggles encountered can best be passed on to the younger generation. If the current pedagogy in teaching has produced kids like those in the PCIJ video, then maybe it is time that new ways of teaching be explored.

Beyond the classroom though and being that the Information Age makes almost anything from fashion trends to the latest buzz on celebrities accessible to the youth these days, ignorance on the 1986 People Power Revolution to some extent is inexcusable. If the youth these days can spend time reading on why Justin Beiber had his bangs cut or why The King’s Speech won the Oscars, then what is a few seconds checking on the reason behind a national holiday?

Or maybe Googling and taking note of Charice Pempengco’s episodes in Glee is more important for the younger generation than remembering those who died so that we may post whatever post we want on our blogs today?

You the youth of today, especially the Christians, are being wisely educated to despise your past, your race, your beliefs, and traditions, so that seeing yourselves constantly being humbled and keeping before your eyes your own inferiority, you will obediently place your neck under the yoke and become slaves.

-Kamandagan in Jose Rizal’s Sinagtala and Maria Maligaya

 

Playing it safe (or the Deal or No Deal Scenario)

This Monday’s release of priority bills from Malacañang before the convening of the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) will be less controversial for what it contains, and more for what was left out of it. Today’s morning papers report that about 23 bills are to be certified as urgent by the Palace to Congressional leaders.

For the purpose of presentation, I have classified these bills into five categories, namely: programmatic, fiscal and budgetary, regulatory, judicial and legal, and finally security and national defense related. The full set of measures are shown in the table below:

First Set of Priority Bills by the Aquino-II Administration

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conspicuous for their absence are two measures: the Reproductive Health (RH) and the Freedom of Information (FOI) bills which were scuttled during the last Congress. A lot of discussion has occurred in this space over the two measures.  I will not be focusing here on the merits of these bills but rather on the reasons for their non-inclusion. I think it will shed some light on the current disposition of the president.

What follows is an analysis of the legislative agenda proposed by P-Noy. I will place special emphasis on what I think are driving and resisting his policy agenda. It is my belief that certain factors are at this time creating an atmosphere of risk aversion on the part of the administration. I will try and explain the reasons for this and the reasons for why it has to change.

Drivers: Events, programs and lobbies

Although the Cabinet through Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa will try to put a rational, dispassionate face on the deliberations that took place prior to the compilation of this list, it is clear that recent events have had a direct hand in driving the agenda put forth by the Palace.

The first of these events was typhoon “Ondoy which entered the Philippines and wreaked havoc on Metro Manila prior to the start of the election season in 2009. With the trauma of this tragic event etched in the minds of many residents, the long-overdue process of creating a land use and development plan has finally been put on the table along with the creation of a housing department.

After the deluge that crippled the city, the twin but related crises involving water and energy gripped the headlines early in this administration’s life. Thus the creation of a water regulatory body and an amendment to the EPIRA law have been proposed to deal with it.

The oil spillage by an Indonesian vessel off our eastern coastline has also flagged the importance of defining the rights of foreign vessels who enter our territory as well as to define more clearly our maritime zone.

The global financial crisis has also had a lingering impact via the fiscal deficit. The Arroyo administration was on track to balance the budget or bring it back to surplus when the financial crisis hit. The government had to counteract its effects on the economy through stimulus spending. This along with some revenue erosion measures passed by Congress have forced several measures to be considered including the ones on fiscal responsibility and rationalization, and government procurement.

The recent Congressional hearings concerning the plea bargain agreement of former AFP comptroller Garcia have also affected the policy agenda. The modernization of the AFP was always on the cards prior to that, but recent events make them even more urgent along with measures to protect whistle blowers and state witnesses.

The Maguindanao massacre and the trial of the Ampatuans have also put the strengthening of the witness protection program on the table as well as influence the scheduling of the elections of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Apart from events driving the policy agenda, some very rational processes have also been responsible for placing a few proposals forward. Some of these were a direct result of policy statements and promises issued during the campaign and following the election of P-Noy. These include the additional two years for basic education or K+12, health insurance coverage for the poor, housing, public-private partnerships/Build-Operate-Transfer law changes, anti-trust or pro-competition policy, and land administration.

One of the immediate impressions P-Noy had upon assuming office which he mentioned during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) was the amount of waste that he saw particularly in the National Food Authority (NFA) and state owned firms. It is not surprising to see a proposal for the re-organization of the NFA (to basically strip it of its rights to import grains and allow it to become a regulatory body instead) along with a measure that seeks to standardize executive compensation at state owned and controlled companies.

Finally, the influence of the business sector is also evident with the proposed amending of the labor code to deregulate the working hours of women. This is to help the business process outsourcing industry comply with labor standards and to legitimize their hiring and work-scheduling practices.

Resistors: Conflicting agendas

There were supposedly 180 measures that the Cabinet looked at. This was apparently whittled down to the list above after much deliberation. Among the measures dropped were the RH and FOI bills. These two measures have been pending since the last Congress. They represent key planks according to their proponents in the fight against poverty and corruption. I will not dwell on the merits of these proposals, only on the possible reasons for their omission from the final cut.

The Catholic hierarchy and their adherents remain the single biggest hurdle in the way of the passage of the RH Bill. What is curious is that during the election campaign, rumors floated around that they were campaigning against P-Noy and had endorsed other candidates who toed their line on this issue. It is unclear as to whether supporting reproductive health was part of the formal party line of the Liberal Party or whether it was just a personal position of then candidate Aquino. What is certain was that up to late last year, P-Noy had expressed support for it.

Which makes his back flip on the issue quite absurd. On the one hand, he was not cautious in upsetting the Catholic bishops as a candidate when he needed their endorsement the most. On the other hand, the fact that his popularity ratings nearly a year in office remain sky high should have emboldened him to pursue this long-awaited measure despite veiled threats issued by the clergy.

This type of behavior is reminiscent of contestants faced with the prospect of losing or winning in the game “Deal or No Deal”. The theory that explains it was first posited by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, founders of behavioral economics, and is called prospect theory. Basically, it states that individuals exhibit different risk preferences under different situations. A study of game contestants on the popular show confirms this. I have blogged about this phenomenon in the context of Australian politics and budget policy here.

During the campaign when P-Noy was faced with falling poll numbers, he needed to take some bold steps to help invigorate his sagging position. His vacillation over Hacienda Luisita was affecting his credentials as a reform candidate. It was a reminder that Aquino was after all part of the establishment comprised of landed elites who would protect his economic interests once elected.

To shore up his reformist credentials, support for the RH bill was one of those positions he could brandish to voters hungry for change. Standing behind a bill that a majority of Filipinos were actually supportive of despite the displeasure of a powerful bloc, the Catholic bishops, would cast him as a conviction politician. This was of course a risky proposition given how the bishops choose to wade into politics from time to time. Just like a contestant faced with lower prospects of earnings, Aquino went “all-in” in favor of reproductive rights.

Now that he is president and enjoys heretofore unseen popularity ratings, he can afford to be more circumspect in his policy stance. After failing to reconcile his version of the RH bill with that of the bishops, P-Noy decided to yank it out of today’s announced priority bills following a brief conversation with a retired archbishop. It appears that the religious lobby has won.

Just like a contestant faced with increasing gains, P-Noy has chosen to be more conservative or risk-averse in his decisions. Normally, economists steeped in the neoclassical tradition would say that we are dealing with one person here who ought to have only one set of risk preferences. The president who considers himself an economist proves that that is not the case. He has exhibited different risk preferences in different situations based on his recent gains or losses.

The same type of behavior change is noticeable with respect to the FOI bill. Before he assumed office, candidate Aquino was all for measures that would improve transparency and accountability in government. Now as commander-in-chief he is becoming reticent regarding too much openess. Not even the revelations of corruption during the Garcia plea bargain hearings were enough to convince him that this is what is needed.

Temperament versus culture

An alternative explanation for this sudden change in temperament is the notion that the work environment of the public sector supports a risk averse culture anyway. This behavioral norm is often attributed to bureaucrats more than their political masters though. It is often cited as the reason for making the bureaucracy answerable to elected officials. While the latter tend to be more entrepreneurial and risk-seeking, the former tend to favor incrementalism.

It may just be that having come from a wealthy family might have made P-Noy’s personal temperament more tentative and risk averse. Individuals who have amassed great wealth tend to exhibit this attitude. Having abundance makes acquiring more material wealth less of a priority. In the same manner, politicians with so much political capital may be hesitant to spend it for fear of losing it in the process.

The irony is that sometimes the surest way to lose that political capital is by not spending it. This was the case with former PM Kevin Rudd of Australia. Prior to 2010 he seemed to be coasting to re-election enjoying extremely high poll figures in his first two years as prime minister. Having ratified the Kyoto Protocol and issued an apology to the stolen generation of indigenous Australians, he was seen as a reformer. When the global financial crisis hit, Australia was heralded as one of the shining lights in the G20 summit for its fiscal management and prudential regulation of its banks.

Then in the early part of 2010, faced with increasing pressure from an opposition that had once supported his policies on climate change, he along with three other members of his “kitchen cabinet” decided to back down from enacting a law that would introduce a  price on pollution via an emissions trading scheme. This was despite his previously stating that climate change was the biggest single “moral, economic and social challenge of our time.”

The duplicity of this back flip was not lost on the Australian voter. It caused a reversal of Mr Rudd’s once unassailable lead in the polls as preferred prime minister. Eventually, his colleagues within the parliamentary Labor party decided to switch horses mid-stream and decided to elect a new prime minister to lead them into the 2010 elections. They survived in office after the polls only by forging an alliance with the Greens and some independents.

This is a lesson that many incumbents should learn from. Shying away from promised reforms when the going gets tough and filing them under the “too hard” basket is the surest way to see their popularity tumble. It does not matter how high one’s polling figures are. Complacency will prove the biggest risk. A government that is hesitant or tentative at reform because it is faced with stiff opposition or pain in the near term will not be rewarded by a public looking for authenticity in its leaders.

The underlying message here is that if it thinks it can “play it safe” by skirting the important policy decisions, the administration needs to think again.

Monsod: Economy was in total shambles under Marcos

Maiki Oreta of ABS-CBN interviewed Solita Monsod on Philippine economy:

“We were borrowing money like it was going out of style. And the projects those moneys were going to had no immediate, redemptive return value. They were not productive, that’s the problem.  Our foreign debt was about 95% of our GDP. Right now it is less than 50%.

From the time [former president] Cory Aquino came in in 1986, it took another 14-15 years before the Philippines was able to regain the real per capita income levels that it had lost since the international debt crisis.

But the good news, at least, [is that] poverty went down since 1986. Although it went down between 1997 and 2000 and it went up again between 2003 and 2006. It’s gone down just a tiny bit in 2009. So as far as poverty reduction is concerned we are slightly better off than we were when Marcos left the country.”

The news comes in context with the war of words between President Aquino, who says the Philippines could have been another Libya if 1986 didn’t happen, and Senator Marcos, who said the Philippines could be another Singapore under his late father.

Apple introduced ultrafast Macbook Pros

Apple on Thursday introduced their 2011 Macbook Pro family. What’s new and great? 15-inch and 17-inch Macbook pros now come with standard quad processors. The 13-inch Macbook pro comes with a dual core Core i5 processor. And every Macbook pro will have Hyper Threads enabled. Benchmarks reveal that the new Macbook Pros are easily faster than even some desktop Mac Pros.

Boom.

The 15-inch and 17-inch Macbook pros now come with AMD Radeon graphics with 1GB of dedicated GDDR5 video processor. The 13-inch Macbook pro uses Intel HD 3000 dedicated graphics processors.

According to Apple’s Press release:

“The 13-inch MacBook Pro is available in two configurations: one with a 2.3 GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i5 and 320GB hard drive starting at PHP 61,990.00; and one with a 2.7 GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i5 and 500GB hard drive starting at PHP 76,990.00. The new 15-inch MacBook Pro is available in two models: one with a 2.0 GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7, AMD Radeon HD 6490M and 500GB hard drive starting at PHP 91,990.00 and one with a 2.2 GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7, AMD Radeon HD 6750M and 750GB hard drive starting at PHP 112,990.00. The new 17-inch MacBook Pro features a 2.2 GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7, AMD Radeon HD 6750M and 750GB hard drive and is priced at PHP126,900.00.”

As of this writing, shipping times for Philippines is 4 to 6 weeks.

The new Macbook Pros now come with Intel’s Thunderbolt. It promises to have 10Gbps transfer rate or twice that of USB3.0. Thunderbolt is expected to replace USB.

According to Apple, Macbook Pros come with 7 hours of Battery life. All Macbook Pros come with Facetime camera, bluetooth, Superdrive DVD burners, Magsafe adaptors.



Photo credit: Courtesy Apple

The Anti-Christ?

The Philippine Star reported that Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales “expressed optimism the Catholic Church would succeed in blocking the passage of the consolidated Reproductive Health (RH) bill in Congress.”

The Cardinal reportedly said,

    “Believe me, whatever they do, there is no chance that the Catholic Church would lose (on the RH bill issue) because Jesus Christ always wins.”

Now that statement got me thinking… what if the RH Bill is enacted into law despite the Catholic Church’s opposition, would that mean Jesus Christ is for the RH Bill? And if Jesus Christ is for it, does that mean the Church’s stand on the issue is anti-Christ? So what does that make the Pope and his bishops?

Just asking.

Meanwhile Muntinglupa struck down the anti-contraceptive resolution passed by Barangay Ayala Alabang. Contraceptives:1 Catholic Church:0

But it’s too early too tell who will come out on top. Suffice it to say that whoever will win is the side chosen by Jesus Christ, that is if we are going to take Cardinal Rosales’ words salt-free.

Muntinlupa City strikes down Ayala Alabang anti condom ordinance

The ordinance, “An Ordinance providing for the safety and protection of the unborn child within the Territorial jurisdiction of Barangay Ayala-Alabang; Fixing Penalties for its Violations, and for other purposes,” which made “Ayala Alabang” trend on Twitter was struck down by Muntinlupa City.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/karadavid/status/41475177632108544″]

ProPinoy.net supports the UN WFP's We Feedback campaign

“Three years after the 2008 food and financial crises, food prices on international markets are rising again. Price volatility hits poor people the hardest, as they already spend the majority of their income on feeding their families.”

This statement is from the official website of the United Nations World Food Programme (UN-WFP). As supporters of the WFP’s WeFeedback campaign, ProPinoy will be publishing stories showin

g how hunger and food prices are affecting not only the lives of people from around the world, but also systems, economies, and the entire world order.

This page shows the situation of high food prices in six countries, while this shows the real impact of rising food prices. We invite you to learn more about this issue and understand how food is not just a personal issue, and not just an issue of the poor and hungry, but an issue that all of us need to know more about.

We also invite you to check out the WeFeedback website, where you will find a Feedback calculator that computes the feeding impact of our favorite foods. It’s an interesting exercise in keeping track of our food consumption and how it could potentially affect hungry people from other parts of the world.

Everyone is hungry for something. The question is: what are we doing to feed that hunger?

Filipina Louise Amantillo sends Text message from rubble in New Zealand

Louise texts sends text message to her family:

1:50 p.m. — “Mommy, I got buried.”

2:31 p.m. — “Mommy, I can’t move my right hand.”

Between 2:31 and 2:39 — Louise manages a brief cell phone call to say: “Mommy, it’s painful already. Please help me, please have me rescued.” Linda Amantillo passes the phone to the girl’s father, Alexander Amantillo, but the signal is cut before he hears anything. The mother later says that “Her voice was shaking, like she was really scared. I know she was in pain.”

Read the full story at Global Nation – Inquirer.

WWF is looking for volunteers for Earth Hour 2011

Just sharing a message from our friends over at World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines is inviting any able body who would like to help in making this years Earth Hour 2011 a success to come and volunteer.

WWF-Philippines has been helping communities in the Philippines adapt to climate change, secure food and water sources, conserve local ecosystems and species, minimize ecological impacts and development and promote renewable sources of clean energy.

Among WWF’s most successful global campaigns is Earth Hour, which since its inception four years ago has captured the world’s imagination by becoming a global phenomenon. As a global campaign, Earth Hour is a worldwide initiative showing how individuals, communities, businesses and governments can address the threat of global warming if we resolve to work on it together. Earth Hour 2010 inspired more than a billion people worldwide and over 15 million Filipinos to switch off their lights for the planet.

On 26 March 2011, the Philippines will once again join the global community in launching Earth Hour 2011, with cities and towns all over the world switching off their lights for one hour at 8:30 P.M. sending an even stronger message to take action on
global warming. However the key difference for this year is that we also hope to inspire the public to go beyond this hour and make long-term commitments to do more for our planet.

Everyone can help in their own little way, whether it be to simple things like unplugging your cellphone charger from the wall socket when not in use, or using a tabo instead of the shower. Or if you would like to do something more, we are inviting you to come and volunteer for the Earth Hour 2011 Team.

Any time and effort you could donate would be greatly appreciated! For those interested, please email us at [email protected] so that we could coordinate with you!

You can also help by donating. Any amount would be appreciated;

For Globe and Smart subscribers, support Earth Hour by:

Texting EHOUR to 5333 – to donate Php15 for Smart and Php20 for Globe and receive an MMS picture
Texting EHOUR ON to 5333 – to subscribe to the SMS info service and eco-friendly tips. Php 2.50/text.

Once again, we hope you will help us in sending a message as a global community through this information and education campaign against climate change. Thank you!