When we defied China

Apr 22

originally published by Rappler.com On July 19, 2011, three of my colleagues in Congress and I landed on Pag-asa Island in the Spratlys. Our mission: affirm our country’s sovereignty over nine islands and maritime formations in our possession amidst China’s increasingly aggressive behavior in the area. In the days before our trip, Beijing condemned the mission and warned then President Benigno Aquino III to order us to cancel it. The Chinese Ambassador went to the Department of Foreign Affairs to lodge a protest. To his credit, President Aquino made no effort to stop us. Instead, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda told the Chinese our government practiced the separation of powers and, besides, we were not doing anything wrong since we were visiting Philippine territory. A few days ago, President Rodrigo Duterte announced to the world that he would go to Pag-asa to raise the Philippine flag on June 12 this year. Then, he did the unthinkable: fearing Beijing’s displeasure, he abruptly backed off. Duterte violated the basic rule of diplomacy when a small country faces a big country: you don’t allow yourself to be intimidated. Practically the whole country supported the President’s initial decision to raise the flag at Pag-asa. There was great relief that the policy of appeasing the beast was finally over. Of course, if there were a credible Chinese threat to prevent Duterte’s visit by force, the President’s retreat would have been understandable. But there was no such threat; the Chinese were not so foolish as to threaten the use of force to prevent Duterte from visiting an island that has had a Filipino community since the late 1970s, when Pag-asa was made a municipality of the province of Palawan. The reason for the presidential retreat was more ignominious: Duterte backed off because he was worried Chinese President Xi Jin Ping might be offended. Born to resist Our visit to Pag-asa lasted no more than four hours. But it was hugely symbolic. The military garrison and community of about sixty people welcomed the congressional party, composed of myself, Representative Teddy Baguilat, and two other members of the 15th Congress. We also had with us then Palawan Governor Abraham Mitra, Pag-asa Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon, and Major General Juancho...

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On the United Airlines Incident…

Apr 11

Yes, this behavior from stupid corporations is increasingly common. This was the appropriate response to overweening corporate power: Resist. Then sue the bastards for $10 million. They picked on the doctor because he was Asian and thought he would submit meekly. Stereotyped, racist thinking leads to big, big trouble.

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Boy Samples Toys

Apr 10

The boy tries out his toys, and he decides he likes them. Press this button and that delivers an airstrike 10,000 miles away.. Press that button and that sends a naval task force to a conflict zone on the other side of the world. Hey, hey, this is fun! Now what would happen if I press this button that reads WARNING: DO NOT PRESS UNLESS UNDER MISSILE ATTACK? Really, well, shit, nobody ever tells me what I can and can’t...

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Revenge of History

Apr 07

Francis Fukuyama, who famously said in the 1990’s that the “end of history” had arrived, with countries having no other path than to evolve towards western-style liberal democracy, came on the air on National Public Radio this morning and said liberal democracy is now in big trouble throughout the world, including the US. In Fukuyamanese, he said that the “democracy” part of liberal democracy was eroding the “liberal” part. I laughed so loud though when he described himself as a “dispassionate social scientist” that I almost ran a red light. I guess listening to Fukuyama while driving can get you into real trouble. You could become...

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EDSA, Neoliberalism, and Globalization

Mar 23

(Delivered at Coalesce Conference, sponsored by Ateneo Lex, Ateneo de Manila, March 18, 2017.) Most of you had not yet seen the light of day when the EDSA Uprising took place in February 1986. To my generation, this event was a memorable step in the Philippines struggle for democracy. The three decades that followed were marked by the reign of liberal democracy as the country’s political regime. Those thirty years coincided with the rise and dominance of neoliberalism as an economic ideology and globalization as an economic trend. It is now clear that those three decades constituted a lost opportunity for the Filipino people, that the promise of the EDSA Republic was subverted by the neoliberal and pro-globalization policies that were adopted by the administrations that reigned between 1986 and 2016. It is also evident from the tumultuous events of the last year that what we now call Dutertismo is to a great extent an angry and resentful reaction to the EDSA Republic’s failure to live up to the promise that accompanied its birth. My focus in this talk will be on how neoliberalism and globalization combined with the continuing gross inequality in the distribution of income and wealth to subvert the promise of EDSA. I would like begin, however, by briefly discussing the failure of EDSA to deliver on the political front. Unhealthy Birthmarks There were three unhealthy birthmarks that marred the EDSA Republic: the role of the military, the intervention of the United States, and the leadership of the elite. The prominent role of the military rebels in triggering the insurrection gave them a sense of having a special role in the post-Marcos dispensation. Only after seven failed coups was civilian constitutional role stabilized. But, in retrospect, military discontent was not as damaging to the EDSA Republic as US patronage and elite hegemony. The US was not only a player; it was a decisive player. Even before the Aquino assassination in 1983, Washington sought to nudge Marcos and the elite opposition to arrive at some compromise. These pressures escalated in 1985, resulting in Marcos’ calling for the snap elections that became the vehicle for the mobilization of the middle class and some of the popular sectors against...

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Is the Philippines Now Paying the Price for Child Sexual Abuse?

Mar 23

Apart from the interviews with his family members, the most important revelation of Richard Paddock’s March 21, 2017, New York Times profile on President Duterte was the fact that as a child he was apparently much affected by the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of Mark Falvey, a Jesuit priest, that he took revenge by spraying other priests with black ink with a water gun, for which he was expelled from the Ateneo de Davao. (Duterte revealed during the campaign that he had been abused by Falvey.) Falvey was eventually transferred to Los Angeles, where he continued to abuse other chIldren, unrestrained by his religious order. Given the massive psychological damage inflicted on victims of child sexual abuse, it is certainly relevant to ask to what extent the country is now paying for the acts of a sexual predator as Duterte engages in his interminable killing spree? The Church hierarchy must really police its ranks more effectively and discipline predators and turn them over to the legal system for the punishment they deserve instead of covering up for them, like the Jesuits did in the case of Falvey. How many more Dutertes are there out there waiting to explode owing to rage created by childhood abuse? Of course, Duterte is responsible for his own acts and must be held accountable for them; the point is one’s experiences as a child contribute to the formation of one’s personality, character, and values. Here is an account of what Falvey went on to do in the US after abusing Duterte and perhaps many others in the Philippines. Jesuits agree to sex case payout Nine people who say they were molested by Father Mark Falvey between 1959 and 1975 will divide $16 million from the order. May 18, 2007|John Spano | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer The Jesuit order has agreed to a tentative payout of $16 million to settle claims that one of its priests sexually abused nine Los Angeles children over 16 years ending in 1975. Mark Falvey was accused of molesting four girls and five boys between 1959 and 1975 at Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Church in Hollywood. Falvey died 31 years ago and was never charged with...

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Keynesianism and the Great Recession: An Interview with Walden Bello

Mar 02

From Triple Crisis “We need to work towards a post-capitalist system that aims at promoting equality, enhances instead of destroys the environment, is based on cooperation, and is engaged in planning to achieve short term, medium term, and long-term goals. In this scheme, finance would function to link savings to investment and savers to investors, instead of becoming an autonomous force whose dynamics destabilizes the real economy. A post-capitalist society does not mean the elimination of the market. But it does mean making use of the market to achieve democratically decided social goals rather than having the market drive society in an anarchic fashion.” This interview with Walden Bello is based on the study “Keynesianism in the Great Recession: Right Diagnosis, Wrong Cure,” available here from Transnational Institute. Q: What were the main ways in which neoliberalism created the Great Recession? A: Neoliberalism sought to remove the regulatory constraints that the state was forced to impose on capitalist profitability owing to the pressure of the working class movement. But it had to legitimize this ideologically. Thus it came out with two very influential theories, the so-called efficient market hypothesis (EMH) and rational expectations hypothesis (REH). EMH held that without government-induced distortions, financial markets are efficient because they reflect all the available information available to all market participants at any given time. In essence, EMH said, it is best to leave financial markets alone since they are self-regulating. REH provided the theoretical basis for EMH with its assumption that individuals operate on the basis of rational assessments of economic trends. These theories provided the ideological cover for the deregulation or “light touch” regulation of the financial sector that took place in the 1980s and 1990s. Due to a common neoliberal education and close interaction, bankers and regulators shared the assumptions of this ideology. This resulted in the loosening of regulation of the banks and the absence of any regulation and very limited monitoring of the so-called “shadow banking” sector where all sorts of financial instruments were created and traded among parties. With so little regulation, there was nothing to check the creation and trading of questionable securities like subprime mortgage-based securities. And with no effective monitoring, there were no constraints...

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