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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