The Good Life, the Good Society and the Role of the State

What constitutes a good life? Or put differently what is a life well-lived? Philosophers, artists and theologians have struggled with this question down through the ages.

The enjoyment of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” was a famous attempt at describing what a life well-lived meant. That was the culmination of thinking that began in antiquity and was captured by the Enlightenment, which defined a life well-lived as one in which people took responsibility for their own self-determination, as opposed to living under the strictures of gods, ancient scriptures, absolute monarchs, traditions of an external authority (tip of the hat to AC Grayling for that).

Professor Grayling says that this was not always the predominant way of thinking about the good life. He says that “from the fourth century AD until the Reformation a hegemony over thought was exercised by the Christian religion. The Church had a definite idea about how people should live, what the aim of life is, and how happiness is to be obtained. Part of this view was that happiness…is secured by living so that one survives into a posthumous existence in which one will be permanently in the presence of God’s glory, and therefore will enjoy bliss forever. In the mortal dispensation of the flesh, one might suffer and undergo the agonies of the ‘vale of tears’.”

We no longer think of pursuing the good life in that way. It is now seen as being possible in this life. The science of happiness is helping us uncover meaning behind that elusive term, happiness, or what psychologists call “subjective well-being”. It turns out that attaining physical security and material wealth is necessary but not a sufficient condition for it. Having positive social connections and a sense of purpose in what you do is just as important.

Thinking about the good life is ultimately tied to the question, what kind of society do we want to live in? Do we want to live in a world where the opportunity to have a good life is limited to some? Perhaps if we were part of the few that enjoyed the good life, that might be alright. But just as self-interest is part of human nature, so is empathy.

From Good Life to Good Society

When you walk down the street and see a homeless person, you might feel a sense of gratitude that you are not in that position. Much as I would like to think that where I am now is all a result of my personal effort, I know for a fact that I owe it to so many other factors that were outside my control. It distresses me then to realise that under a different set of circumstances, I might be that person living on the street.

That sense of lost utility or well-being comes from knowing that the society I live in still cannot cope fully with this problem. I know that in Australia’s case homelessness is not simply a financial question, but is connected to poor mental health. It is then incumbent on me to act on that by supporting causes and policies that address it. I live in a community, and part of my happiness is tied to the happiness of others with whom I live. I want others to have the same opportunity to pursue the good life, just as I have.

It is in considering the first two questions, that a third one emerges, what is the role of the state in guaranteeing equal opportunity to pursue the good life?

Some would limit the state’s role to simply securing life and liberty. Providing national defence, upholding the rule of law, protecting property rights and ensuring transparency and accountability of institutions is the only role of government, the only role it can perform competently, they would say.

Education, health, social security, including housing, unemployment insurance, disability support, are all best left to the private sector, charities and civil society groups to sort out. Any form of government intervention in these areas is seen as meddling that simply “crowds out” the private sector.

In most modern societies, the role of the state in providing an educated, healthy workforce is recognised as central to maintaining a high standard of living for its citizens. The public, social and economic benefits of health, education and social security are reasons for government to get involved. The pursuit of happiness depends on it.

The debate centres on how, not whether the government should, get involved to provide such services: whether directly, or indirectly, through co-production, collaboration and coordination with private providers, community and client groups. Public provision does not necessarily mean public production. But public provision is needed nonetheless.

Rather than seeing the public sector as “deadweight” to society, it is increasingly being seen as an important part of the economy, one on which a great deal of our personal well-being depends. Improving the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of its service delivery thus becomes the challenge.

Providing a skilled and healthy workforce is only half of the equation. The other half is fostering a vibrant economy that produces jobs. This leads to the next question: does the government have other roles to perform in the economy?

Some would limit its role to providing a favourable business environment by having “business friendly” regulations, low taxes, and efficient administration. Government should simply “get out of the way” of the private sector, remove barriers to entry, promote an entrepreneurial culture, efficient capital markets, healthy competition and reduce transactions costs.

That is not all, though. When private markets crash or hit a rough patch as they often do, government’s role is to smoothen out the business cycle by providing liquidity, unemployment insurance, and pump priming the economy through infrastructure spending.

Even when the economy is not in the doldrums, the state’s role in promoting innovation and technological breakthroughs has been recognised. Only the state has demonstrated the capacity to fund basic and applied research for a prolonged period of time in the early stages of technological development. Private sector involvement often comes in at a later stage.

Vision and Ethos Create a Moral Compass

The story of the recently deceased Douglas Engelbart, inventor of the computer mouse, illustrates this point. Decades before the rise of personal computing, funding for his research came from the government’s Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA).

At the Stanford Research Institute he worked on the ARPANET computer network, a precursor to the Internet. Although the state had originally approached IBM and AT&T to run this project, they declined thinking that it would compete with their existing business. IBM’s vision of the future was a world in which a handful of large machines did all the computing.

Of the 21 patents which Engelbart produced at SRI, the last one, which was for “an X-Y position indicator control for movement by the hand over any surface to move a cursor over the display on a cathode ray tube” now known as the mouse, was later bought by Apple.

This ubiquitous device and many others such as touchscreen technology, the Internet, HTTP/HTML, GPS and SIRI to name a few, form the basis for today’s electronic gadgets that provide us with so much social connectivity and enjoyment. They all came about through government funding of early stage, high risk entrepreneurial projects. The same state that is often derided for being bureaucratic, risk averse and an obstacle to creative dynamism.

Engelbart never received royalties for his inventions. He and the state actors that supported him were motivated by something else other than money. For Engelbart the young navy officer stationed in Leyte during the War, inspiration came from the words of Vannevar Bush, head of the US government’s wartime research effort.

Bush envisioned a “future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanised private file and library,” on which someone “stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanised so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility.” This vision created an ethos, one on which he operated.

It is that same long-term vision and planning that motivates the pursuit of energy security and environmental sustainability today with an agency called ARPA-E. And it was that same sort of vision and ethos that motivated the developmental states of East Asia to promote rapid industrial development through state investments and guidance.


It was easier in a way for these states, since all they needed to do was find a way to adapt existing technologies to local circumstances in a process of “catching up”. Assisting local firms in this process was often needed as they were inhibited to shoulder the associated costs which others would avoid by simply piggybacking or free riding on their discoveries.

From Japan’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry, to Korea’s Economic Planning Board to Taiwan’s Industry Development Boards to Singapore’s Temasek Holdings, they were governed not according to any external authority’s directives, dogmas or mantras, but according to what they saw was in the interest of their own national development.

It was in pursuit of the good life for their citizens that they operated for decades until that vision became a reality. It is only by following their example that other nations can find their own path to development, in which all their citizens not just a few have the opportunity to pursue a life well-lived.

Journalism as barbarism

Image of World of Warcraft orc by Flickr user Snowball1210. Used under the terms of a Creative Commons License.
Image of World of Warcraft orc by Flickr user Snowball1210. Used under the terms of a Creative Commons License.
The furor that continues to rage around the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) exhibition “Kulô”, and specifically Mideo Cruz’s installation Poleteismo, one of the works featured in said exhibition, has taken the form of a battle between blasphemy and censorship—an unfortunate development, in my view, as both positions seem predicated on a clear-cut, straightforward duality between how the public has responded to the work and how it ought to respond to the work. Whether the situation will shape-shift into something more capable of accommodating a greater, more complex range of possibilities remains to be seen, but that it has been reduced to such crude terms can be attributed in part to the manner that the mass media thoroughly maltreated the relevant issues.

It is highly likely that this ruckus would not have swelled to its current proportions—might never have happened in the first place—had Pinky Webb, host of the ABS-CBN current affairs show “XXX”, refrained from framing Poleteismo, diminished to its details, as a commentary on the contentious RH Bill. (The sense of the verb “frame” as pertaining to false incrimination is useful here.) As someone who has seen Poleteismo for himself, I find that interpretation completely untenable: the only element of the work that could be said to have a connection to the bill would be the condoms, and I saw no compelling reason to draw that connection—not least because the proposed measure is concerned with more than just prophylactics.

But the burden of the blame for the frenzied character of the dispute is not only for Webb, “XXX”, or ABS-CBN to bear. Understanding, no doubt, that anything related to the controversial piece of legislation would serve as a reliable magnet for rapid, even rabid, reactions, which would then translate into increased ratings, several prominent members of the fourth estate wasted no time jumping into the fray in order to whip the public into a state of hysteria.

Granted that these journalists might have been offended by the installation themselves, and were thus less motivated by profit than by piousness, their personal feelings do not excuse or exempt them from their responsibilities as gatekeepers of information. What could have been a teachable moment—that art can be unbeautiful and demanding; that any work has to be experienced in its entirety before being judged; that approval of a thing is not a necessary prerequisite for engaging or understanding it; that the production of transgressive images has a long (art) history; that the CCP has mounted similarly challenging exhibitions before; that the male genitalia in cultures past and present are emblematic of the divine; or that “Kulô” had 31 other, perhaps richer, offerings—was instead exploited for its explosive potential.

Surely there is a world of difference between calling public attention to alleged offense and sensationalizing said alleged offense to the point of extremism. Yet instead of sounding a call to careful contemplation and sober reflection, broadcasters and columnists, with monstrous insouciance and bestial impunity, presumed to think, speak, and act on behalf of their readers, listeners, and viewers. In the process, they did not only betray—as well as encourage in their audience—a false sense of entitlement to spew opinions, no matter how baseless, but also they fueled and inflamed various fears that served as barriers to dialogue, including, among others, iconophobia, homophobia, and phallophobia. (The last could be an especially interesting area of investigation for sociologists and anthropologists, considering that at least half of the outraged commentators are male and presumably have penises of their own.)

Two particularly appalling examples of the foregoing come to mind. The first is “‘Artist’ daw, binaboy si Kristo” a piece in Abante where entertainment reporter Marc Logan passive-aggressively suggests the different ways that a lynch mob of ostensibly devout Catholics could deal with Cruz—by beating him up, stabbing him, hanging him, throwing him into a creek, forcing him to drink muriatic acid, or shooting him—and warns the artist against seeking assistance from the media. The second is “Art as terrorism” a Philippine Daily Inquirer editorial that, though exponentially more intelligent than Logan’s article, contains a tacit apologia for the vandalism undertaken against Poleteismo—not to mention a nearby, unrelated painting, Love to Move by Lindslee—and, by virtue of its title, performs the callous and insensitive rhetorical maneuver of trivializing the indescribable shock and trauma with which any experience of terrorism is bound up, while at the same time implying that Cruz’s installation requires a radical riposte.

Given that both articles clearly intend to stage a defense of the Catholic faith and faithful, is the appropriate, ethical response to Cruz’s supposed symbolic violence the incitement of further violence? Will Abante, Philippine Daily Inquirer, or any other media outfit hold itself accountable should any of the threats that have been made against the CCP, its officers, and Cruz—threats apparently grave enough to warrant the closure of “Kulô”—be carried out?

The media community should take its cue from the arts and culture sector: this is as good a time as any for its denizens to begin the task of taking stock, of questioning themselves and their practices, and of upholding the emancipatory values on which such practices are founded. “The practice of journalism,” as the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) declares, “involves the use of power: the power to influence the way people look at themselves, their societies, and the world; the power to help shape the attitudes and values of others; and the power to help liberate men and women from the shackles of ignorance so they may exercise their sovereign human right to decide their destinies.” This power should not be used to perpetrate and perpetuate barbarism.

*This article was slightly modified on 15 August 2011, 4:50 AM (GMT +8).

Shattering the silence: An open letter to the Philippine writing community

Alfred "Krip" A. Yuson || Photo via Eileen Tabios

[scribd id=54149124 key=key-i8heou4u0nbsm317saf mode=list]

From the moment that sports blogger Jaemark Tordecilla brought to the light of public attention the fact that Alfred “Krip” A. Yuson had plagiarized an article by GMA News Online sportswriter Rey Joble, entire portions of which appeared in a piece under Yuson’s name in the April 2011 issue of Rogue magazine, we, members of the Philippine reading public, have followed the issue avidly and with great concern as to its resolution.

Our interest is rooted primarily in the fact of Yuson’s prominent position in the cultural matrix. As Tordecilla pointed out in his exposé, Yuson is a Hall of Fame awardee of the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, arguably the most prestigious literary distinction in the country. In addition, he has authored and/or edited several publications in different genres, has won recognition for his work at home and abroad, evaluates the output of other writers for the purpose of competitions and workshops—not least among them the annual Silliman University National Writers Workshop, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year—teaches with the Department of English at Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), and helped found organizations like the Philippine Literary Arts Council (PLAC) and the Manila Critics Circle (MCC). Finally, many of the texts that he has produced have found their way into the classroom as standard readings, which likely secures a place for him in the canon of Philippine literature.

It need hardly be said that Yuson’s stature as a writer, teacher, and gatekeeper affords him not only great power, but also a commensurate degree of responsibility. We believe that he has shown himself undeserving of the one and unequal to the other by virtue of how Yuson has thus far dealt with the matter in Tordecilla’s blog and in his own weekly The Philippine Star column. In these responses, rather than simply acknowledging the offense and apologizing for it, he offers up excuses—his advanced age, deadline pressure, and exhaustion, among others—deployed in rhetoric that belies his claims to contrition.

Moreover, Yuson seeks to confuse the issue by invoking the fraught relations between author and editor, in spite of the fact that his engagement with these relations, as well as with the concept of plagiarism, lacks the self-reflexivity, rigor, and intelligence required in order for it be tenable or acceptable. That he would resort to such subterfuge and at the same time admit that he had deliberately omitted any indicators that he had lifted material from Joble, like reportorial credits and purportedly “clunky” quotation marks, is breath-taking in its audacity and impunity. Surely integrity ought not to be incinerated upon the altar of aesthetics.

It is in this regard that we commend GMA News Online for its decision not to renew Yuson’s contract as editor at large. It is in the same regard that we profess ourselves disturbed and outraged by the deafening silence with which the writing establishment has met this controversy. The plagiarism of Yuson does not involve him alone: to the extent that he is representative of—because deeply imbricated in—the larger world of Philippine letters, his act also necessarily implicates the figures and structures that make up that world. The prevalent reluctance, nay, refusal among Yuson’s peers to openly condemn him would seem to indicate cowardice at best, and complicity at worst. Neither speaks well of our writers, journalists, scholars, and institutions—and may even be symptomatic of a more deeply entrenched cancer of corruption in our cultural sector.

What is certain is this: allowing the scandal to fester in a season of indifference would be tantamount to a virtual relinquishment of any moral authority and credibility that the Philippine writing community may have.

In view of the foregoing, we, the undersigned:

Condemn the act of plagiarism that Yuson committed. We reiterate what is generally accepted knowledge in journalism and the academe: plagiarism consists of misrepresenting the work of others as one’s own, and is considered a heinous violation of ethical standards. Furthermore, when one lifts information or material from a source without the appropriate quotation marks, formatting, and documentation, one has already committed plagiarism, and no amount of laziness, carelessness, or forgetfulness can be admitted as an exculpatory factor. We also denounce Yuson’s attempts to evade accountability for his actions by forwarding arguments that, as the Center of Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) has pointed out, tend toward the legitimization of plagiarism. Finally, we decry Yuson’s callous and cavalier treatment of Rey Joble and the effort that he put into his work as a sportswriter.

Challenge the members of the Philippine writing community to make an unequivocal stand against Yuson’s plagiarism. At the very least, we expect Rogue magazine and The Philippine Star to emulate GMA News Online in its commitment to integrity. Associate Justice Maria Lourdes P. Sereno, in her dissenting opinion on the Supreme Court decision to exonerate her colleague Mariano del Castillo from charges of plagiarism, argues that when entities involved in the intellectual life of a culture uphold guidelines against plagiarism, these bodies “are not making themselves out to be error-free, but rather, they are exerting themselves to improve the level of honesty in the original works generated in their institution”. It is true that valuable questions have been raised about the very notion of originality from various fields of inquiry, but we contend that the specificity of the situation at hand calls for no such questions, and would invest it with more profundity than it deserves.

Enjoin the institutions of Philippine letters to cooperate in order to educate their constituents and the wider public about plagiarism. Contrary to Yuson, plagiarism is not a “blooming buzzword” but a chronic problem, which many a teacher will no doubt confirm. Recognizing and avoiding plagiarism is a matter of acquiring particular skills, which, as this incident would seem to illustrate, are not taught as well or as widely as they ought to be. The need for these skills will become especially urgent as our society becomes increasingly knowledge-based. We presume to suggest that Ateneo de Manila University, unfortunately entangled as it has become in various plagiarism disputes, take the initiative in bringing students, teachers, writers, readers, and institutions together to work through this admittedly complex matter. Regardless of who takes the lead, however, Yuson’s offense constitutes a teachable moment for us all, and should not be allowed to pass from our cultural memory unremarked and ignored for the sake of a spurious harmony.

(SGD.) Karen Connie Abalos (SGD.) Mark Angeles (SGD.) Genevieve Aquino
Planet Philippines; Illustrado Magazine; University of the Philippines Manila Kilometer64 Poetry Collective University of the Philippines Los Baños
(SGD.) Reginald S. Arceo (SGD.) Philip Jorge P. Bacani (SGD.) Noel Sales Barcelona
Alumnus, De La Salle University-Manila Lawyer Editor-in-Chief, INANG BAYAN
(SGD.) Johnalene Baylon (SGD.) Brian Brotarlo (SGD.) Manuel Buencamino
Writer Writer Opinion columnist, Business Mirror
(SGD.) Karl Bustamante (SGD.) Asia Flores Chan (SGD.) Liberty Chee
Editor, Marshall Cavendish International Singapore Alumna, De La Salle University-Manila Graduate Student, National University of Singapore
(SGD.) Charles Edric Co (SGD.) Adam David (SGD.) Cocoy Dayao
Alumnus, De La Salle University-Manila Writer Editor-in-Chief, The Pro Pinoy Project
(SGD.) Christa I. De La Cruz (SGD.) Erica Clariz C. De Los Reyes (SGD.) Karlitos Brian Decena
Graduate student, University of the Philippines Diliman Alumna member, Heights; Fellow, 6th Ateneo Institute of Literary Arts and Practices (AILAP) National Writers Workshop Journalism student, University of the Philippines Diliman; Contributor,
(SGD.) Johann Espiritu (SGD.) Elise Estrella (SGD.) Anna Razel Estrella
Alumnus, De La Salle University-Manila Private citizen Alumna, De La Salle University-Manila
(SGD.) Jesser Eullo (SGD.) Katrina Fernando (SGD.) Karen Mae Frondozo
Faculty member, De La Salle University-Dasmariñas Copy editor Graduate student, University of the Philippines Diliman
(SGD.) Russell Stanley Geronimo (SGD.) Lolito Go (SGD.) Ronald F. Gue
Alumnus, De La Salle University-Manila; Fellow, 48th Silliman University National Writers Workshop Kilometer64 Poetry Collective Alumnus, De La Salle University-Manila
(SGD.) Marie Rose G. Henson (SGD.) Ken Ishikawa (SGD.) Leonides C. Katigbak II
Alumna, De La Salle University-Manila Private citizen Fellow, 6th Ateneo Institute of Literary Arts and Practices (AILAP) National Writers Workshop
(SGD.) Jabin Landayan (SGD.) Gomi Lao (SGD.) Dean Lozarie
Teacher Creative Director Journalism student, University of the Philippines Diliman
(SGD.) Aleck E. Maramag (SGD.) Alessandra Rose F. Miguel (SGD.) Francis T. J. Ochoa
Alumna, De La Salle University; Fellow, 48th Silliman University National Writers Workshop Alumna member, Thomasian Writers Guild; Fellow, 6th Ateneo Institute of Literary Arts and Practices (AILAP) National Writers Workshop Assistant Sports Editor, Philippine Daily Inquirer
(SGD.) Jonathan Corpus Ong (SGD.) Wilfredo B. Prilles, Jr. (SGD.) Nikki Erwin C. Ramirez
Alumnus, Ateneo de Manila University; Sociologist, University of Cambridge City Planning and Development Coordinator (CPDC), Naga City Co-founder,
(SGD.) Marck Ronald Rimorin (SGD.) Del Camille Robles (SGD.) Orlando Roncesvalles
Writer; Blogger Alumna, De La Salle University-Manila Blogger, FOO Law and Economics
(SGD.) Gerry Rubio (SGD.) Joanna Ruiz (SGD.) Faith Salazar
Publication Consultant, The CSC Statesman, Catanduanes State Colleges Editor, Ateneo de Manila University ISBX Philippines
(SGD.) Jaime Oscar M. Salazar (SGD.) Maria Teresa M. Salazar (SGD.) Chris de Pio Sanchez
Graduate student, University of the Philippines Diliman Alumna, De La Salle University-Manila Consultant
(SGD.) Vincenz Serrano (SGD.) Nik Skalomenos (SGD.) Angela Stuart-Santiago
Ateneo de Manila University Private Citizen Writer; Blogger
(SGD.) Jamila C. Sule (SGD.) Ergoe Tinio (SGD.) Martin Tinio
Teacher,; De La Salle University-Dasmariñas Marketing Associate, Adarna House Analyst
(SGD.) Jaemark Tordecilla (SGD.) Xenia-Chloe H. Villanueva
Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism UP Quill; Fellow, 6th Ateneo Institute of Literary Arts and Practices (AILAP) National Writers Workshop

April 28, 2011

[NOTE: The signatures for this open letter were solicited from 9:00 PM (GMT +8) on April 26 until 5:00 PM (GMT +8) on April 28.]


[via Interlineal]

An invitation to a UNESCO talk regarding ethics, energy and climate change

“Beyond Fukushima: Ethics, Energy and Climate Change”
Consultation Meeting with UNESCO Bangkok RUSHSAP in cooperation with the National Commission of the Philippines to UNESCO, and the Department of Philosophy of Ateneo de Manila University
Ethics and Climate Change in Asia and the Pacific (ECCAP)
8:00 – 12:00, 30 April 2011

Venue: Ching-Tan Room of Ateneo Gokongwei School of Management
Ateneo de Manila University, Loyola Heights, Q.C.



Ruins and monuments: A collective statement on the plagiarism of Krip Yuson

“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.”

—T. S. Eliot, “Philip Massinger

While we may be growing old, straining under the constant pressure of deadlines, and feeling overworked—and who, in truth, does not?—we may not be as jaded as we think we are: when blogger Jaemark Tordecilla of Fire Quinito exposed the fact that multi-awarded writer Alfred “Krip” Yuson had plagiarized entire paragraphs from an article by GMA News Online sports reporter Rey Joble for a piece that was published in the current issue of Rogue Magazine, we must admit to feeling no small degree of disappointment and outrage.

We find that we can only agree with Tordecilla when he concludes his post with, “Fuck that. We deserve so much better.” That such a sentiment has to be articulated in the first place is almost as dismaying as the wrongdoing itself, of course, because Yuson is no callow wordsmith, and therefore should be no stranger to the concept of intellectual honesty. Insofar as the realm of Philippine letters can be conceived of as a game, Yuson is one of its most prominent professional players, which even the most cursory survey of his curriculum vitae would show: he is the author and/or editor of several books in different genres, has won both local and international recognition for his work, evaluates the output of other, younger writers in competitions and workshops, and is a faculty member of the Department of English at Ateneo de Manila University.

[Read the rest in Interlineal.]

The media and the Manila hostage crisis: Preliminary notes

In the 2003 film The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Merry takes Pippin to task for stealing the palantír of Orthanc from a sleeping Gandalf and gazing into it, an act that sets off a terrifying encounter with Sauron and places the Quest in peril. “Why did you look?” Merry rails. “Why do you always have to look?” When Pippin says that he cannot help himself, Merry retorts, “You never can.”

The eye may be helpless, as the poet Jorie Graham says, “when the image forms itself, upside-down, backward,/driving up into/the mind,” but when “the world/unfastens itself/from the deep ocean of the given”, ought I/eye resign myself to helplessness, content myself with merely looking on? Ought I/eye not to attempt a refastening, however small or ultimately futile the gesture?


Newly arrived with a companion in Ayod—a village in the famine-stricken country of Sudan—and distressed by the sight of people starving to death, even as he sought to lend his efforts to an overwhelmed feeding center, the young man wandered into the open bush in order to try and calm himself. A soft, high-pitched noise caught his attention, prompting him to seek its source.

He traced the animal-like sound to a clearing, where he found an emaciated toddler—a little girl who was no more than skin and bones—whimpering pitifully. She was too weak to stand, and was crawling toward the very center he had just left. As he crouched before her, a vulture landed a short distance away, perhaps recognizing that, with a bit of luck, a meal was soon to be had.

The man would later recount that, in the wake of the appearance of the bird, he had waited about 20 minutes, hoping in vain that the scavenger would spread its wings.

Then, taking the utmost care not to disturb the tableau, the man raised his camera to his eye, meticulously framed his shots, and took several photographs.

Once he had finished with his pictures, he chased away the raptor, sat under a tree to smoke cigarettes, and talked—he claimed—to God, as he watched the gaunt little girl resume her struggle. He cried as well—according to his companion, when they reunited, the man was still wiping the tears from his eyes, saying he could not wait to go home, to see his own daughter, to embrace her.

The name of that man was Kevin Carter, and he was a South African photojournalist.

A little over a year after one of the images of the toddler and the vulture that he had taken was published in the New York Times, and subsequently reproduced in other publications around the world—becoming, in its way, an icon of Sudan, and, more generally, of the extreme hunger and poverty that many still suffer from—Carter was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography.

As for the Sudanese girl, whom Carter had abandoned, her fate remains unknown.


Sudanese girl by Kevin Carter

Photograph by Kevin Carter, courtesy of BBC h2g2. No copyright infringement intended.

I have encountered this, the most in/famous of Carter’s photographs, several times, but whenever I look at it, I feel a sense of horror: horror not so much at what it depicts, or at its formal, even sublime, beauty as an image, but at the fact of its existence. Carter’s picture does not merely re-present a long-gone moment—like all other visual records, it re-presences a particular way of seeing the world: in this instance, the kind of gaze that lights upon a famished child being eyed by a vulture and recognizes an opportunity—not to come to the aid of another, but to distance oneself from that other by retreating behind the lens of the camera and taking the best possible shot.

That the language of the camera, which is to say the language of photography and its sister arts of television and cinema, seethes with force is not, I think, a coincidence: moments, situations, and events are invariably caught, captured, shot, snapped, or taken—rather like animals hunted for their meat, while the resultant pictures and clips are the preserved carcasses mounted for display. The acts of seeing, of recording what one sees, and of sharing that record—these can be violent acts, especially when one is confronted with tragedy.

The violence is inherent in the decision to aestheticize, to render spectacular (that is, to transform into spectacle)—pain and misfortune, thereby acquiescing to the power of the structures that inflict them, as well as anaesthetizing whatever sympathy and care might be summoned for the ones who suffer—and such violence is everywhere perpetuated in the name of telling the truth, which, in our time, is no longer the province of prophets or soothsayers, but of reporters.

It may be true that Carter was only there to document what he saw in order that others might be moved into assuming the burden of addressing the problems of Sudan. It is equally true that the feeding center toward which the girl was crawling was only a short walk away, and Carter neither brought the child to the center, nor asked the center staff to rescue her, if, as some have argued, he had been explicitly forbidden by health workers to touch the children, on account of their depressed immune systems.


Much ink has been spilled and much air has been heated in the debate over the manner in which the local mass media covered the hostage crisis at the Quirino Grandstand last August 23, Monday, and journalists, individually and collectively, have sought to excuse their conduct by wrapping themselves in the flag of their duty to the public, apparently heedless of the possibility that such a duty could be exercised at the expense of the public they claim to serve.

“News blackout is not in our vocabulary anymore,” arrogantly declared Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) National President Herman Basbaño, never mind that Article 6 of the KBP Broadcast Code of 2007 [PDF] specifically contemplates crisis situations, stating that the coverage of such “should avoid inflicting undue shock and pain to families and loved ones of victims” and should not “provide vital information or offer comfort or support to the perpetrators”. In what way, shape, or form did the virtually panoptic, gratuitously detailed, and excruciatingly narrated coverage of the crisis, which some media outfits labeled a “drama”, comply or align with these provisions?

Those who challenge critics of the media to explain exactly how the crisis could have ended less tragically had the reporters on the ground behaved differently are being disingenuous, as one would only be able to respond with a species of speculative fiction. It seems to me that the right question to ask is not, “How would the situation have changed?” but, “Did the media act with due diligence, with integrity, and with compassion during (and after) the crisis?”

Also disingenuous are those who insist that media workers cannot be faulted for succumbing to the professional instinct to report. Are journalists victims of their training and experience? Are they fundamentally incontinent, utterly bereft of the ability to hold themselves in check, to remember that their work is governed by ethical imperatives beyond the injunction to bear witness, to lay bare the capital-T Truth—not to mention guidelines from previous unfortunate experience?

Perhaps the most honest—definitely the most chilling—response to the firestorm of criticism against the media that I have come across was from Maria Ressa, the head of ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs. During a forum at the College of Mass Communication of the University of the Philippines last August 28, Friday, she said that had ABS-CBN unilaterally stopped or delayed its broadcast, “We would have been criticized by the viewers or what viewers would have done is switch stations.” (She had previously tweeted a similar assertion.)

Based on this statement, the foremost concern of Ressa, and by extension, of her network, would appear to be nothing more than ratings—which is to say, in the final analysis, money, or what might be collected under the general rubric of cultural capital (trust, credibility, prestige), because ratings have no value if they cannot eventually be transformed into one or the other.

Let me be clear: I do not begrudge journalists their earnings. Like many other noble professions, journalism is practiced for money (though probably not wealth, and, in this country, certainly not longevity). The desire to inform and educate is not easily—if at all—separable from the desire to attain financial security and gain status. But has the drive for profit, economic or otherwise, become so overpowering as to erode the media’s sense of responsibility, if slowly and surreptitiously? Has the Fourth Estate become complacent, considering that it has historically received from the general public a level of trust far greater than most other institutions, including the state? Does the press see itself as accountable to its audience in the first place, and if so, to what extent?

What might journalists write about, report on, photograph, film, record, cover, broadcast, or talk about if they ceased to focus on fighting battles for attention, for advertisers, for legitimacy, for the bottom line? What might journalism look like if reportage ceased to involve sensational spectacles of suffering that serve less to stimulate action than to stupefy the mind and steel the heart against pity?

Villar his own worst enemy

Villar his own worst enemy
By Amando Doronila
Philippine Daily Inquirer

The fall in the poll ratings of Sen. Manuel Villar accelerated during the last two weeks of April when two issues exploded to derail his presidential campaign.

The first was the news story on April 23 that Villar put pressure on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) between May and June 2007 to release for a public offering locked-up shares of stocks of Villar’s real estate company.

The second issue stemmed from news reports on April 8 of an alleged psychiatric report on the mental health of Liberal Party presidential candidate Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III that turned out to be fake and originated from overenthusiastic “volunteer” supporters of Villar.

This report was dumped into the media stream as Villar’s poll ratings were going down. The publication of the falsified report in both broadcast and print media marked the descent of the 2010 presidential election into its lowest level of dirty tricks and smear campaign.

These news events have something to do with the decline of Villar’s ratings and the widening of the lead of Aquino up to the most recent 20 percentage points over the second-placer Villar in just a week before the May 10 presidential election.

These news developments threw into sharp relief as the underlying key election issue, i.e., who of the presidential candidates can be entrusted to run an honest and ethical government to replace the corrupt and scandal-ridden administration of exiting President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The issue of integrity, honesty and conflict of interest has been highlighted by the media events of the past two weeks as the defining theme of the 2010 election.

Enrile disclosure

On April 22, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile disclosed in a press conference minutes of the PSE discussions in 2007 on Villar’s Vista Land & Lifescapes Inc. showing that Villar appeared in a regular meeting of the PSE board and then had a caucus with them in June 2007.

As a result of Villar’s intervention, the PSE board allowed the release from escrow locked-up Vista Land shares for the company’s public offering.

From the record of all these proceedings, Enrile said there was no doubt in his mind that Senator Villar himself lobbied and exerted pressure to railroad the approval of his family-owned company’s request for exemption to enable him and his family to sell at a hefty premium their shares which were otherwise subject to a lockup period.

Enrile raised the issue of conflict of interest. He said that intervention of Villar showed that the latter, who was directly managing his company, violated the law. “He should have divested all his interests when he assumed his position as senator,” Enrile said.

Lirio article

Also delving into Villar’s interventions in the SEC and PSC, an article by Philippine Daily Inquirer reporter Gerry Lirio came out on April 24 revealing that Villar, then the Senate president, made several phone calls to the SEC and PSE officials seeking to release from escrow about 1.2 billion of the 5.3 billion secondary shares of Visa Land so these could be offered as both as primary and secondary shares at the same time, or several days apart.

According to SEC and PSE lawyers interviewed by Lirio, Villar not only made the calls but also appeared in SEC and PSE board meetings.

Villar and his wife Cynthia, the Las Piñas representative in Congress, are majority stockholders of Vista Land, the couple’s flagship company. Lirio’s article said the couple became P6.75 billion richer from the secondary offering of 985.9 million shares that began on July 26, 2007, or within the escrow period of 180 days from the date of initial offering.

According to lawyers, this offering violated Article III, Part D, Section 7 of the PSE’s revised listing rules, which provides for a 180-day lockup on secondary shares. The article said that simply put, Villar wanted the secondary offering held at once despite the 180-day lockup period. “He wanted to seize the day while the market was bullish,” the article said. “And he got it.”

Law on divestment

Villar said there was nothing inappropriate with his interventions in the PSE, pointing out that the PSE was not a government agency but a private company. He said the government earned more than P100 million in taxes from the public offering of Vista Land shares.

Villar is not entirely correct when he said his intervention did not violate any law. He must have overlooked Republic Act No. 6713, known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

Section 9 of RA 6713 states: “A public official or employee shall avoid conflict of interest at all times. When a conflict of interest arises, he shall resign from his position in any private business enterprise within 30 days from his assumption of office and/or divest himself of his shareholdings of interest within 60 days from such assumption. The same rule shall apply where the public official or employee is a partner in a partnership.”

There is nothing on record that Villar has divested himself of his holdings in his company when he intervened in the PSE and SEC.

Not so long ago, Sen. Joker Arroyo called the attention of Villar that the latter cannot be a senator and a businessman at the same time.

Villar has to make up his mind whether he is senator or a businessman. He is even aspiring to be the country’s president, who has vastly more powers of intervention in official or private business matters than a senator.

Ethical issue

We have to hear from Villar whether he will divest himself of his business interests and put them in a blind trust if he were elected president. This is an ethical issue that puts him on the spot.

His interventions reveals not only the ethical values of Villar on the issue of public office as a public trust but more so throws light into his methods in accumulating vast wealth as a businessman cloaked with the powers and influence of being a member of Congress for 16 years.

The newspaper disclosures of Villar’s interventions have drilled into the public more deeply ethical issues arising from the C-5 extension project which the Senate investigated and sought to reprimand the presidential candidate for his conduct.

The disclosure on Villar’s interventions in the PSE and SEC came at a time when he was struggling to overtake the widening lead of Aquino.

There is little doubt that the last-minute emergence of this ethical issue has not only badly damaged his campaign. It has allowed Aquino to pull away with a wide margin.

Villar laments he is swimming in “a sea of black propaganda.” But the case of his interventions are backed by documentary evidence.


They are not faked documents unlike the fabricated psychiatric reports on Aquino.

Villar’s response to this crumbling ratings has only sunk him deeper. Reeling from the blows delivered by the surveys, Villar is his worst enemy.

His reckless and desperate responses have revealed that he has an enormous talent for self-destruction.

Psychologists hit back: It’s normal

Psychologists hit back: It’s normal
By Philip Tubeza
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Who are you calling crazy?

The Psychological Association of the Philippines (PAP) Sunday denounced what it said was the insinuation that people who see a psychologist or any mental health professional were “abnormal” or “permanently debilitated.”

PAP also condemned not only the perception that depression was a permanent disability but also the use of terms like “abnoy” (abnormal), “sira ang ulo” (crazy) and “may diperensiya sa utak” (sick in the head) to label individuals.

“These irresponsible statements and similar acts perpetuate a profound lack of understanding of psychological concepts, of the nature of psychological problems and dysfunctions, and of the nature of psychological health and well-being,” the group said in a statement.

“Seeing a psychologist or any mental health professional does not make a person ‘abnormal.’ Seeing a psychologist means ensuring our mental health and psychological well-being,” it said.

Different reasons

PAP board secretary Mira Ofreneo pointed out that people visit psychologists for different reasons and in different contexts and scenarios.

“They feel that they have a problem or difficulty but, most of the time, these problems are not signs of clinical disorders,” said Ofreneo, a social psychologist.

“They may be depressed because of the death of a loved one or because they have relationship problems. So they seek help but that does not make them abnormal,” she said.

Ofreneo said most PAP members were counselors and not clinical psychologists or psychiatrists.

In its statement, PAP said recent events in the election campaign were “an affront to psychologists and to psychology as a discipline and profession.”

“In particular, partisan individuals and media practitioners have not only presented to the public fraudulent psychological reports, but have also made inaccurate statements about different aspects of the practice of psychology and the nature of psychological functioning,” the group said.

Bogus reports

Detractors of Liberal Party standard-bearer Sen. Benigno Aquino III have presented three supposed psychological exams of the senator but these have all been proven to be fabrications.

Two of the reports, which supposedly were prepared at the Ateneo de Manila University and cast doubts on the mental fitness of Aquino, were released by the camp of Manuel Villar, Nacionalista Party presidential candidate.

The Ateneo Department of Psychology and the two priests who supposedly individually signed each report said the evaluations were bogus.

“These irresponsible actions have dangerous long-term effects on efforts of Filipino psychologists and other mental health professionals to address the psychological well-being of Filipinos,” PAP said.


The group said psychological tests and assessments should not be released to media and the public to destroy a person’s reputation.

“In accordance with the PAP Code of Ethics, the results of psychological tests or assessments cannot be released to the media or the public or to any person other than the client.”

“Any reputable individual psychologist or psychological organization ensures the practice of confidentiality and that the results of psychological tests or assessment are only shared with the client,” it said.

PAP said psychologists “take reasonable steps to ensure that information to be disclosed will not be misused, misunderstood or misinterpreted to infringe on human rights, whether intentionally or unintentionally.”

The inside story of Villar's visit to PSE

The inside story of Villar’s visit to PSE
By Lala Rimando Newsbreak

MANILA, Philippines – Presidential aspirant Manuel Villar could argue that he did not violate any law or a regulatory rule when his family’s real estate firms were able to raise billions of pesos through the stock exchange in 2007. However, he crossed ethical lines.

Villar had “improperly interfered” when he attended a meeting of the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) board that was called to discuss an issue about Vista Land & Lifescapes Inc., his holding firm, according to Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile during a press conference on Thursday.

Villar was the Senate president in 2007 until Enrile replaced him in 2008.

In June 29, 2007, Villar attended the PSE board meeting purportedly to personally justify to the directors why some Vista Land shares should be allowed to be sold to public investors.

While his corporate lieutenants could have done the job, his presence in the boardroom was meant to rush the board directors in making a decision since Vista Land’s investment bankers and underwriters were about to hit the road to market Vista Land shares to local and foreign investors.

That same day, the PSE board decided to allow the release of some Vista Land shares from escrow. Villar had wanted the board to free up shares equivalent to 30% of the holding firm. The board’s decision was to allow only 11%. It was generally perceived as a decision in Villar’s favor.

“I got the impression that this guy really gets what he wants,” shared a well-placed source who was in that PSE board meeting. “I had shivers.” (Read: When Villar’s business and politics mix)

Villar’s presence at a PSE board meeting is not new to Manila’s business community. The incident has spread around and the general impression at the time was about Villar was throwing his weight around.

Bong Bernas, a corporate lawyer who has listed firms as clients, said businessmen whose empire has reached a certain size and scale are aware of the weight of their position, even if they are just in the private sector. “They don’t want image issues,” he shared.

On Villar’s visit to the PSE, Bernas has this to say: “There was clear conflict-of-interest there. He should not have used the weight of his office for personal gain.”

The Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, says a public official “shall avoid conflict of interest at all times.” (Read: When Villar’s business and politics mix)

Shares under lock-up

Villar reached out to the PSE board because he wanted to include the shares of his firm, Polar Properties, in Vista Land to be part of the pool of listed Vista Land shares sold to the public.

Polar, which used to be the residential condominium arm of the Villar Group, had 722,615,487 shares in Vista Land at the time the holding firm listed its common shares in the PSE.

The practice at the PSE was to identify who among the shareholders have 10% or more stake in the company after its shares were listed in the exchange. The physical copy of the shares are then delivered to a bank or another escrow agent, and these could not be withdrawn and sold before the lock-up period of 180 days.

Having a lock-up period is a common rule among stock markets in the world since it aims to protect the minority shareholders. Those who own a considerable stake—described as 10% and above—are likely to have acquired their existing shares at a price lower than how much new investors would buy them from the stock market for the first time during a public offering.

In the case of Polar, it acquired its Vista Land shares at P2.46 per share during a previous share swap exercise. At the time of listing, new investors acquired their Vista Land shares at around P6.85.

With a lock-up period, the existing shareholders would not be able to sell their shares, make a fat profit of around P4.4 per share (P6.85 selling price minus P2.46 acquisition cost), and leave behind the new ones who have yet to earn the same margin.

Since the stake of Polar in Vista Land was equivalent to 11.3%, these shares were set aside to an escrow account. The same was imposed on Fine Properties and Adelfa Properties, which at the time had 47.6% and 24.3%, respectively, in Vista Land.

Just because Polar breached the 10% threshold for the lock-up rule by a slim 1.3%, Polar’s shareholders could not sell any of its shares in Vista Land for 6 months.

At the target price of P6.85 per Vista Land share at the time, each share of Polar was worth P105 million. The entire block was worth P5 billion.

Villar’s presence in the PSE boardroom was an effort to ask the board to reconsider putting off the chance for Polar, which his family also effectively owns, to immediately cash in on the entire or a portion of its block shares.

Corporate lieutenants

The lock-up issue on the shares of Polar stemmed from the lack of coordination between two groups that were working on the Vista Land fund raising.

The cast of characters in this whole scheme included law firms—Picazo Buyco Tan Fider and Santos Law Firm and Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc & De Los Angeles Law Office—and those in charge of raising the funds: global coordinator and bookrunner UBS Investment Bank, co-lead manager ABN Amro Rothschild, and lead domestic underwriter BDO Capital and Investment Corporation.

One group was in charge of restructuring the entire Villar Group of real estate companies to raise funds for expansion plans and, as Enrile has alleged, for the campaign kitty of Villar.

Raising funds through the stock market was the chosen route since the real estate group, mainly previous flagship firm Camella & Palmera Homes (C&P), would have difficulty tapping the debt market again. C&P and its sister companies had defaulted on billions of pesos of debts from commercial banks and bond investors in the aftermath of the 1997 financial crisis.

The law firms essentially moved assets and resources around through share swaps, property dividends, among others. In early 2007, Vista Land emerged. It was packaged to be the largest homebuilder in the country and its portfolio of products ranged from low-end to high-end, and from horizontal to high-rise or vertical developments.

This first group arranged and signed the escrow agreement to lock up Polar’s shares for 6 months starting June 20, 2007.

The following day, June 21, the second group—composed of the investment bankers and underwriters—called the attention of PSE’s listing unit. In a letter request, this group asked that the shares of Polar be excluded from the lock up period.

The reason, apparently, was that the two groups are not abreast of the goal of the other. The investment bankers and underwriters, for instance, had already included the Polar shares in the pool of primary and secondary shares they were about to offer to public investors. The more shares the bankers could sell, the higher the chance they could produce the fresh funds that Villar and Vista Land were aiming to raise.

Proceeds from the sale of the 2.12 billion primary shares would translate to over P14.5 billion in fresh funds for the coffers of Vista Land. On the other hand, proceeds from the 986 million secondary shares will yield almost P7 billion, but this will go to the existing Vista Land shareholders, including Polar.

Apparently, the investment bankers wanted to sell 2% out of Polar’s 11% stake since this means another P1 billion in fresh funds for Polar’s shareholders, which include the Villar family.

Polar is 53% owned by Adelfa Properties, where spouses Manuel and Cynthia Villar have a combined 99% stake, based on the 2009 SEC records.

“Director Vivian Yuchengco said the board is in this predicament because of the fault of the underwriters and counsels who insisted on the structure. She suggested that sanctions be given to these professionals who caused these problem knowing fully well that the Exchange requires the lock up,” according to the minutes of a PSE board meeting provided by Enrile during the Thursday presscon.

No lock-up rule

“We didn’t know what rule we will apply to allow the release of Polar shares that were already locked up,” a source who was present in the board meetings said. The source spoke to on condition of anonymity.

The minutes of the board meetings confirmed that the PSE has no specific rule on how to apply the lock-up requirement in the mode of listing that Vista Land took.

Vista Land did not raise funds through an Initial Public Offering (IPO), which is the more common mode.

Vista Land raised funds through an alternative mode called Listing By Way of Introduction (LBWI), which is a way for companies to trade their shares and have access to liquidity. Some companies avail of this to prepare them for an IPO, which involves more stringent financial and documentary requirement. Others basically just want an avenue for their employees to trade their stock options through a financial market.

At the heart of the issue on whether Polar shares should be locked up or not is the difference between the listing date of the shares under an IPO mode and LBWI. Once the shares were listed in the stock exchange, public investors could already buy or sell them.

In an IPO, the company first offers the shares to the public before it lists the sold shares on the stock exchange. In an LBWI, the company lists its existing shares first on the stock exchange, before it could sell additional or new shares to raise funds.

Not having rules that could be directly applied to the Polar shares issue, the PSE’s Listings Department considered the lock up rule for IPOs: “The applicant company shall cause its existing stockholders or security holders who own an equivalent of at least 10% of the issued and outstanding shares not to sell, assign or in any manner dispose of their shares for a minimum period of 180 days after the listing of the said shares.”

All was fine and smooth as Vista Land’s lawyers agreed with the PSE to lock up the Polar shares and even executed the escrow agreement on June 20, 2007.

This was only raised when the other professional group working for Villar wanted to undo what the first group has already signed up and committed to.

Moreover, those who crafted the lock-up rules for the LBWI mode did not consider when or if the lock-up period applies to existing shareholders, like Polar, who would want to sell their shares in the company also on the same day that the company’s shares were listed.

According to the rules of the PSE for LBWI mode, the listed firm, in this case Vista Land, must “conduct a public offering of its shares within one year following the listing by introduction.”

There is no PSE rule that bans a firm that lists via LBWI to offer its shares to the public simultaneously with its listing.


As the PSE management and Vista Land counsels deal with these issues, the investment bankers and underwriters were uneasy. The roadshows on the Vista Land shares was to start 8 days after, or on June 29, 2007.

PSE president and chief executive officer Francis Lim raised the issue to the board. The PSE directors, however, only had one regular board meeting before June 29.

On June 27, the board members had a regular meeting and the case of Vista Land-Polar was in the agenda. The meeting ended without the board arriving at a final decision.

A special board meeting was called on the morning of June 29. Board members were surprised when Villar walked in with Lim.

Villar was in that special meeting with the group of Atty. Gemma Santos, the legal counsel for Vista Land, and the representatives of UBS, according to the meeting notes.

“Mr. Villar thanked the members of the board and gave a short background on the application of the Villar group to release shares in lock up so that they could be included as part of Vista Land’s public offering,” the minutes of the meeting chronicled.

Villar and UBS reportedly tried to bat for the lifting of the lock-up rule not only on Polar shares but also on Fine Properties (48% stake in Vista Land). They were eyeing some 30% of the locked up shares to be added to the shares for sale.

He stayed for less than an hour.

After the board members’ caucus, they debated the case of Vista Land from 10:00a.m. to 10:30a.m.(Read: How Villar ‘pressured’ the PSE board)

At the end of the meeting, the board has agreed to allow the release of the escrowed shares of Polar. Some 2%, out of the 11%, were eventually included in the pool of secondary shares for sale.

In a day, Polar’s 11% shares in Vista Land was listed on the exchange. Two percent of which were sold by the underwriters. At the end of the day, Polar was left with only 9%, which means it did not reach the 10% trigger level for the lock-up rule anymore.

In 2008, Polar’s stake in Vista Land has been whittled down to 5.35%. This means its owners have already cashed in somewhere in the vicinity of P2 billion from selling its shares in the listed company.