Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Alexander Martin Remollino

Maguindanao, Sulu, Lanao del Sur:
doon pinagpasyahan ng iilan ang kapasyahan ng bayan.
Doo'y nakapaghalal ang mga taumbayan
nang di naghahalal:
sa maraming bayan sa mga lalawigang iyon,
ni hindi nila nahipo ang mga balota.

Isang milyon halos ang mga botong mula roon,
mga botong isinulat ng mga kamay
na karamiha'y hindi nakahawak ng balota --
isang milyon halos na botong kung ibilang na lahat
ay sapat upang itakda ang kapalaran
ng dalawang mahigpit na naglalabang koalisyon.

Maguindanao, Sulu, Lanao del Sur:
doon ibinaba ng iilan ang hatol ng mga mamamayan
sa karampot na kriminal na ayaw maparusahan.

Sunday, May 27, 2007


As the national canvassing of votes for the recently-concluded senatorial and local elections continues to go full-swing, all eyes are on the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) -– as massive fraud is alleged to have taken place in two of the region’s provinces while failure of elections has been declared in another.

Election Watch
Vol. VII, No. 16 May 27-June 2, 2007

As the national canvassing of votes for the recently-concluded senatorial and local elections continues to go full-swing, all eyes are on the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) –- Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, Shariff Kabunsuan, Lanao del Sur, Marawi City, and Maguindanao –- as massive fraud is alleged to have taken place in two of the region’s provinces while failure of elections has been declared in another.

Maguindanao and Sulu have aroused controversy for both delivering 12-0 victories for the administration coalition Team Unity. Meanwhile, a failure of election had been declared in 14 of the municipalities of Lanao del Sur.

The ARMM has a combined total of 1,381,467 registered voters, based on data from the regional office of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) there. Maguindanao has 212,795; Shariff Kabunsuan has 198,278; Lanao del Sur and Marawi City have 396,913; Basilan has 182,020; Sulu has 251,223; and Tawi-Tawi has 140, 238.

The size of the voting population in either Maguindanao or Sulu can affect the 11th and 12th slots in the senatorial race.

Based on the official Comelec count as of 7:30 p.m., May 25, Genuine Opposition candidates Antonio Trillanes IV and Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel are in the 11th and 12th slots, respectively.

The total number of registered voters in the entire ARMM is statistically enough to affect the rankings of all senatorial candidates.

Uncanvassed returns, pre-filled ballots

A May 25 report from the Task Force Poll Watch (TFPW) -– a joint effort by the progressive party-list bloc and the Genuine Opposition to monitor the counting of votes – reveals that up to 190 election returns (ERs) and 38 ballot boxes have yet to be canvassed in Pagalungan, Maguindanao.

“Up to now, the authorized Comelec officer has yet to collect the election returns and the 38 ballot boxes,” said Faizal Kalantungan, a member of Maguindanao’s Board of Election Inspectors (BEI), in an affidavit signed yesterday.

Kalantungan’s affidavit, which TFPW used as reference for its May 25 report sent to media, comes as a shocking disclosure considering that the Magundanao certificate of canvass (CoC) had been submitted to the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), where the Comelec en banc is conducting the national canvassing of votes.

A TFPW fact-finding team sent to investigate the reported fraud in Maguindanao discovered that the 190 uncanvassed ERs mentioned in Kalantungan’s affidavit contained all the votes for eight out of 12 barangays (villages) in Pagalungan.

“It is highly irregular that the Provincial Board of Canvassers already finished canvassing ‘votes’ in Maguindanao while the ERs remain in the custody of poll officers at the municipal level,” said Satur Ocampo, first nominee of Bayan Muna (People First) which is among the initiators of TFPW.

“This is a clear case of election sabotage, a criminal and election offense,” Ocampo also said.

Kalantungan’s revelation comes on the heels of reports that teachers serving as election officials in Maguindanao were literally forced to deliver a 12-0 victory for senatorial candidates belonging to the administration coalition Team Unity.

In a news conference on May 20, the poll monitoring group Legal Network for Truthful Elections (Lente) –- headed by lawyer Carlos Medina –- stated that a teacher from Maguindanao had talked to its volunteers and said that election officials were ordered at gunpoint to fill the ballots with the names of Team Unity senatorial candidates, starting with those of Luis “Chavit” Singson and Prospero Pichay.

Aside from Singson and Pichay, Team Unity’s other senatorial candidates are: Juan Miguel Zubiri, Mike Defensor, Jamalul Kiram, Ralph Recto, Joker Arroyo, Mike Defensor, Edgardo Angara, Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, Teresa Aquino-Oreta, and Cesar Montano.

Not only that -– students and other children playing around on the school grounds were asked to mark the ballots with thumbprints and sign their names on the voters’ list.

Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos has warned of the possibility of penalty should the Maguindanao teacher’s allegation “fail” to be substantiated. “We are also looking at the other side because unverified, invalidated reports, which cause alarm to our people, should not be tolerated and should not be left unpunished,” the Comelec chairman said in a press conference on May 22.

Lente even stated that the teacher said no actual voting took place in Maguindanao. “We request the Comelec to send an investigation team and talk to the common folk, look for indelible ink on their fingers because the teacher said the ink was not used,” Medina said.

Alongside Lente’s exposé came a report from Eric Alvia, secretary-general of the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), that Maguindanao Comelec officers withheld copies of provincial ERs from Namfrel volunteers.

Fr. Eduardo Tanudtanud, Namfrel’s Maguindanao chairman, said their volunteers were told that municipal election officers issued a verbal order to withhold the release of all copies of the ERs –- including the copy for Namfrel.


It is not only in Maguindanao that such occurrences have been reported. There were reports of similar occurrences in Sulu.

On election day, lawyer Raissa Jajurie, the only Lente lawyer assigned to Sulu, visited a number of polling precincts in the said province. “I was really taken aback by the massive cheating in the area,” she said in an account published in Mindanews.

This, she said, is what she witnessed in a school in one town (the identity of which she requested to be withheld):

“When I arrived, many of the rooms where the precincts were conducting business were closed, with a military guard right outside the door. When I tried to get in, I was told by the military that I could not, even if I showed him my (canvassing) ID.

“I peeped in and saw that there were people inside. I tried my luck in another building. I was able to get in. And I was shocked to see the BEIs (Board of Election Inspectors) writing on the ballots which had already been thumbmarked. They were writing the same list of candidates on each of the ballots. A man with a bolo was also near the BEI. A ballot box was open (without padlock) while ballots were being placed inside it.

“I saw the same thing (BEI writing on the ballots) being done in two precincts stationed on a stage (it is a school campus). When the BEI and other people around them realized that I was watching them, they whispered to each other but continued with their task. When I left, someone approached me and asked me what I was doing. I told him I’m a watcher, and showed him my IDs.”

In another school in the same town, Jajurie said, there were people “assisting” the voters. “There was no vote secrecy and voters, watchers and ‘other people’ were mingling in the rooms,” she said.

Jajurie said she had information that there were similar incidents in other towns in Sulu, but she admitted she had no opportunity to visit other areas.

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has called for the declaration of a failure of elections in Sulu on account of what it described as the “massive fraud” that transpired in the said province.

“Déjà vu”

In its preliminary post-election report released May 21, the election monitoring group Kontra Daya (Anti-Fraud) –- which has among its conveners former Vice President Teofisto Guingona, Jr., Fr. Joe Dizon, former Transportation and Communication Secretary Josie Lichauco, film director Carlitos Siguion Reyna, retired Army Col. Gerry Cunanan, and National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera –- noted that the occurrences in the ARMM seemed like a repeat of what transpired in the 2004 elections, where the said region was reportedly a major operating center.

“Kontra Daya finds significant the reports of Maguindanao province delivering a 12-0 sweep for administration senatorial candidates,” the group stated in its report. “There are incoming reports that Sulu province is also poised to deliver a 12-0 sweep for Team Unity. Such an overnight sweep, which the government attributes to overwhelming popular support for the administration, simply strains credulity.”

Kontra Daya has accused Malacañang of engaging in “large-scale electoral fraud” to favor its candidates in the senatorial and party-list elections. It has also denounced the Comelec for being “directly complicit with the Arroyo administration” in perpetuating fraud. Bulatlat

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Alexander Martin Remollino

Sa mga kaanak at kaibigan ni Jonas Burgos at ng iba pang biktima ng sapilitang pagkawala

Kabilang sa inaangkin nilang mga pribilehiyo
ng kanilang katungkulan at uniporme
ang karapatang ipagkait ang katahimikan
sa pinakatahimik man nating mga gabi.
Ilan nang kaanak at kaibigan
na nakitalad upang ang lipunan ng mga tao
ay maging karapat-dapat sa mga tao
ang kanilang pinapaglahong parang mga bula,
at tayo'y kanilang isinadlak
sa walang-katapusang pakikipagtalo sa mga sarili
hinggil sa kung ang nawawalang mga kaanak at kaibigan
ay aalayan na kaya ng mga elehiya
o patuloy na aantaying kumatok isang araw
sa mga pinto ng ating mga tahanan at tanggapan
o biglang sumulpot sa ating mga pagtitipon.

Dahil dito,
atin naman ang karapatang ipagkait sa kanila
ang katahimikan ng tiyak na pagkakaupo
sa mga luklukan ng kapangyarihan.
Atin ang karapatang ibitin ng buhok
sa tapat ng kanilang mga ulo
ang espada ni Damocles.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Alexander Martin Remollino

For Carlos Bulosan

Your courage does not lie in a one-time sigh of disappointment
at a seductive dream that turned out to be a nightmare.
Your life was a lifetime and a hundred of rage
against man's inhumanity to man.
From that fateful encounter with moneyed boors
at that market in your native Pangasinan
to your last days in America
(when you were too weak to even punch the typewriter's keys),
you were fighting for a truly human society.

It is not those one-hit wonders who can fully honor you.
It was not a one-shot deal for you
but a struggle lasting beyond a lifetime.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


In an interview with Bulatlat, an employee at the Department of National Defense corroborated reports that soldiers were instructed to vote 12-0 for the administration senatorial candidates as well as a military-backed party-list group.


In an interview with Bulatlat, an employee at the Department of National Defense (DND) corroborated reports that soldiers were instructed to vote 12-0 for the senatorial candidates of the administration coalition Team Unity, as well as the party-list group Bantay (The True Marcos Loyalist) –- which has retired Army Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, Jr. as its first nominee.

Soldiers are among those covered by the Absentee Voting Law -– which allows voting ahead of schedule. Also covered by the said law are overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), policemen, and teachers performing election duties.

“They had orders to vote straight for Team Unity, and to vote for Bantay,” the DND employee -– who asked not to be named for security reasons -– told Bulatlat in an interview.

Team Unity’s candidates are: Edgardo Angara, Joker Arroyo, Mike Defensor, Jamalul Kiram, Vicente Magsaysay, Cesar Montano, Teresa Aquino-Oreta, Prospero Pichay Jr., Ralph Recto, Luis “Chavit” Singson, Vicente Sotto III and Juan Miguel Zubiri. Based on a list of party-list nominees recently released by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) upon orders following a Supreme Court ruling, Bantay’s other nominees aside from Palparan are: Ramon Garcia, Benjamin Angeles, Alan Guevara, and Agnes Reaño.

“General Esperon himself issued the order,” the DND employee said, referring to Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The DND employee’s revelation corroborates the allegations made by a Col. Romeo A. Solina of the Philippine Army in a statement now circulating through the Internet. Solina’s letter was originally posted on the website http://sundalo.bravehost.com/, and began circulating around the Internet late last week.

“Information reportedly given by soldiers from different areas in the country claim that they were supervised by their commanders and ordered to vote straight Team Unity and for party list Bantay of retired general Palparan,” Solina said in his statement. “The soldiers come from Tarlac, from Samar, and from Davao. Personally, I also have my own informant confirming the same. Although out of the service, I still have a few soldiers in the active service who maintain contact with me.”

Before Solina’s statement started to circulate, senatorial candidate and former Navy officer Antonio Trillanes IV –- who is presently detained on mutiny charges -– had also told reporters that Esperon had issued a radio message to soldiers ordering them to “ensure victory” for Team Unity.

Esperon has denied the allegations of Trillanes, saying it is the military’s policy to remain non-partisan. “Internally, we have not been given or been giving instructions to our soldiers, officers and men, to vote for particular candidates and party-list groups,” the AFP chief of staff also told media.

Solina, however, is not convinced. “If he is telling the truth, then he has lost control of the AFP because someone in the organization can give out operational orders without his knowledge,” he said in his statement.

“And even if these orders really came from him, these may be ignored and disobeyed,” Solina added.

The DND employee expressed a similar view in the interview with Bulatlat. “I don’t know why the soldiers allowed themselves to be used in this manner,” the DND employee said. Bulatlat
Q & A with Atty. Adel Tamano, Genuine Opposition spokesperson

In this year’s senatorial elections, the Genuine Opposition is by all indications leading the race. What will it do if it is cheated -– or it does win?


In this year’s senatorial elections, the Genuine Opposition is by all indications leading the race. All credible opinion surveys point to the Genuine Opposition as very likely to win the majority of the senatorial seats up for grabs in this year’s polls.

In its website, the Genuine Opposition describes itself as "the umbrella political coalition party of the opposition’s senatorial and local line-up for the 2007 Philippine Midterm Elections." It is further described as a "multi-party and multi-sectoral coalition" which includes the United Opposition (UNO), the Liberal Party, the Nacionalista Party, the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), Aksyon Demokratiko, PDP-Laban, the Partido ng Masang Pilipino (Party of the A Filipino Masses), and a number of civil society groups.

Its candidates for the 2007 senatorial elections are: Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, Alan Peter Cayetano, Anna Dominique "Nikki" Coseteng, Francis "Chiz" Escudero, Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, Loren Legarda, John Henry Osmeña, Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, Sonia Roco, Antonio Trillanes IV and Manuel Villar.

The Genuine Opposition’s lead in all credible opinion polls shows that the coalition will win hands down in a clean and honest election.

The coalition’s lead over the administration’s Team Unity ticket is interpreted as a reflection of the electorate’s disgust with the Arroyo administration –- which is under fire from various quarters for massive human rights violations, corruption, and imposition of policies described as "anti-national and anti-people."

In what direction is the Genuine Opposition headed? What will it do if it is cheated in the coming elections? What will it do if it does win in the coming elections?

This interview with lawyer Adel Tamano, the Genuine Opposition’s spokesman, aims to provide answers to these questions.

How does the Genuine Opposition assess the conduct of its campaign thus far?

From the surveys, consistently we’ve been doing quite well. The surveys have been consistent that at least seven to eight of our candidates will come in.

So within the context that we don’t have much funds and logistics, and our opponents have so much funds and so much logistics, and we’re the underdogs because we’re not in power and yet in the surveys we're leading -- I think that's a testimony to the effectivity of our campaign.

Many are curious about why the Genuine Opposition did not field candidates in many of the local positions. Is there an explanation for that?

We have 50 percent of the candidates for provincial posts, we have 69 percent in the congressional districts, 25 percent of mayoral posts. Now, it may appear that we have a shortage of candidates.

But we have set up already an anti-poll fraud team that would cover 95 percent of municipalities. Because the next question would be, "How can you protect your votes?" In spite of the lack of candidates, the scope, the reach of our pollwatchers will be enough.

The Liberal Party, which is part of the Genuine Opposition coalition, has been accredited as the dominant minority party. Because of that, they will be able to get the election returns at the municipal level, which is the primary document used for canvassing and to assail the canvass.

So that is where we will get our protection.

As a related point, we don’t really believe that there is a command vote anymore, in the sense that Filipinos are maturing politically. So in spite of the claimed command votes, I think the Filipinos will really choose to vote on their own, regardless of what their political leaders say, and we’re putting our hopes on that also.

Team Unity spokespersons have been going around the entire country telling people that their so-called "political machinery" will ensure them a 12-0 victory in the coming elections. What do you make of this?

You know, I was just at a forum with Noynoy Aquino, and what he said was good, he had good insights.

In 2004 he campaigned with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He was a part of their slate, he was actually administration before, and he joined the opposition only in 2005. They campaigned really hard throughout Luzon then.

This is the same machinery, basically, that they’re tapping for the 2007 elections. And in Luzon in 2004 –- and it was just one person that they were really pushing for, it was just GMA. GMA only won in two provinces: Pampanga and Tarlac. So this goes to show you that this machinery actually, it's vaunted, but in real practice, in application, this showed the weakness of the machinery. Because in 2004 they were campaigning for only one person, and yet she only won in Tarlac and Pampanga, which is her own base. Now they're campaigning for a full 12 slate, and as Congressman Noynoy said –- since he has been in elective office for nine years –- if you ask the local leaders to add one or two candidates to the senatorial slate, it’s easy… But once you start doing four, five, six – the local officials will say, boss, that's no longer easy, because the amount of work they will have to do –- first to campaign, if the candidates are really palatable; and if they're not palatable, to cheat in order to get that result –- it would just be too much for the local candidates. So on the basis of that, he sees that it’s not gonna happen, this 12-0 boast. It’s not gonna happen. It's been proven. It’s really not possible.

There has been no closure on what happened to Fernando Poe, Jr.’s votes in 2004, as well as on the "Hello Garci" tapes. Do you expect a repeat of these scenarios in the next elections?

Two things:

First, we hope it won’t happen again because if we felt really that there was no more credibility in the election process, then one of the options for the opposition would have been to boycott. And there were calls, really, to boycott the elections. So our participation shows that we still believe in the process, that's number one.

Number two, this is not the same opposition as in 2004. We have learned from our mistakes and also from the cheating methods that they undertook in 2004, and we’re more prepared for that and we're taking the necessary steps to protect the votes and to ensure that "Hello Garci" doesn’t happen again.

Because we really believe that the country is not ready and cannot take another "Hello Garci" scandal.

Now, going to the legislative agenda of the Genuine Opposition…

We have 10 agenda points. They’re pretty broad, but you can see common threads. Our advocacies –- one common theme in all of them is that we are not promising to do something we cannot do. At the start of the campaign period, there were some discussions on, "How about we promise to give a P200 wage increase?" or "Why don’t we promise that we'll scrap the EVAT (Expanded Value-Added Tax) Law?" but we felt that as an organization, we would lose our credibility. Even if we win on that platform and we don't deliver, we would lose our credibility… In the long term, our credibility, we give it more importance than the short-term gain of promising so many things. I think the common thread in our legislative agenda is that it’s doable. For example, we want a moratorium on new taxes. That is doable. So we do not promise anything we cannot achieve, we want that to be one of the hallmarks of the Genuine Opposition, which is that we promise to do only that which we can do.

In the Genuine Opposition’s legislative agenda, there is an item which says something about instituting reforms “to make the economy more dynamic, efficient and equitable and make the Filipino workers and enterprises more globally competitive.” Would it be reasonable to expect then that these reforms would be taking place within the framework of the globalization program?

Yes, it’s reasonable to… Well, globalization, that is a tie that we cannot really go against. It’s here. We don't have to create a program for that: it’s here. It’s a reality that we face, and…

One of the things also that you’ll notice in our legislative agenda is we did not make it too specific. Because we want to give our opposition senators the leeway to make investigations and to decide which way they're going to go. So for example, to institute the necessary reforms to make us more globally competitive, I cannot give you a very specific answer to what specifically we would do, because we really want to also have the flexibility.

But underlying that is the idea that we feel that there must be not just economic growth, but an equitable distribution of that growth. Because we feel that you can have 5 percent GNP (Gross National Product) growth and even 10 percent GNP growth, but if poverty still remains at about 53 percent, then you don’t really call that a success. In fact, one of our primary beliefs is that one of the first freedoms is freedom from poverty, and until we achieve that, we’re not going to have a free society.

One of the items in the agenda that I noticed as being more specific is that on increased budgetary allocation for education.

Yes, under the Constitution, education should be given the top budgetary priority. Unfortunately now, under the current dispensation, the number one budgetary priority is debt servicing. Now, of course that’s a complicated issue, there are a lot of pros and cons to that, but for us, we want to give life to the letter and spirit of the Constitution. In fact, if you take a look at the 2007 budget, even the ranking –- number one is of course, debt servicing, while education is not even at numbers two, three and four –- it’s number five, if I'm not mistaken. Ahead of that are the allocations for the military, infrastructure – education is not as high on the priority list for this administration, and in fact on a per capita basis, expenditure for education has gone down by about P200 per student, and that shows you that we really have a long way to go.

Another thing is the generation of jobs "through labor-intensive infrastructure projects in the rural areas."

We feel the big projects, capital-intensive projects do not take full advantage, or do not take full account of our competitive advantage. Our competitive advantage is labor. We have cheap labor, we have plentiful labor, and our labor is actually skilled.

And yet we’re focusing on mega-buck projects. The focus on mega-buck projects is because it is easy to get cuts and kickbacks from these, as opposed to a project that is labor-intensive. So we feel that there should be a shift of emphasis, we feel that we should make the most use of our comparative advantage.

And that’s why we’re pushing for more labor-intensive industries, technologies, etc.

Just for clarification: aren’t the jobs to be generated from these projects more short-term in nature, or are they also long-term?

Of course, whenever you make a plan for job generation, you have to look at the short-term, the medium-term, and the long-term. Now these labor-intensive projects are varied –- again, I cannot really specify, like what specific project we're going to implement, because you have to see what the needs are.

The principle is sound that instead of more on the capital-intensive, focus on the labor-intensive.

So whether it’s short-term, medium-term or long-term -– at least you are able to address the issues of unemployment, underemployment. Of course we want...

It’s not just job generation per se, it’s also quality of jobs, it’s jobs that really give you the sufficient income to keep body and soul together. For us –- in this country it’s not just the lack of jobs, in this country you can have a job and still be poor. Obviously at a 53 percent poverty self-rating, we don’t have a 53 percent unemployment rate. Which just goes to show you that there are many people who are employed but consider themselves as poor. So that’s how we differ with more developed countries. In developed countries if you have any job, even a minimum-wage job, you don’t consider yourself poor, because it’s enough to take care of yourself and your family, unlike in our country.

A recent study by the World Bank put forward the observation that our extreme dependence on overseas remittances is not sustainable in the long term. What then can you say about the labor export policy being implemented by the government?

Let’s go back 30 years: in the 1970s, when we had our first OFWs (overseas Filipino woorkers) leave the country –- I know this because I used to teach Labor Law –- if you take a look at the original administrative orders, the original quasi-legislative papers, memoranda that were issued by the Office of the President, their perception really was that this OFW phenomenon would be a short-term phenomenon. The thinking was that this was brought about by the –- at that time was the oil shortage, the OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) –- their feeling was that it would only be short-term. In fact the idea was, eventually all these guys are going to return and everything would be normal. Because if you ask any Filipino, he’d rather stay home, right? Except the really rich ones who are more cosmopolitan.

But it persisted. Instead of being a short-term problem, it became a long-term problem. And in fact, this is a bit radical –- this is no longer the Genuine Opposition’s position, this is my own analysis –- one of the reasons why we don’t become competitive is that no matter what we do, no matter how badly we run this economy, we will always have that buffer, the OFW remittance that keeps the economy afloat. That’s the only reason this GMA economy is still afloat, it’s because of the OFW remittance.

So it’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing in the sense that of course we don’t want our people, we don’t want our economy to be destroyed, but it’s also a curse because it makes us lazy: it doesn’t force us to be competitive.

So it’s a very complex problem, what to do is to set up the legal and financial framework. Legal framework means we want to protect our OFWs, we want to strengthen the powers of the embassies and consuls to provide legal protection for our laborers. As an additional point, maybe give them insurance, other types of benefits outside of our country. And then the other component is the micro-financial component, because what we want is for our laborers, when they come back, if they save enough money, the government can give them some funding to set up small and medium enterprises so they don’t have to leave. I mean, that really should be the long-term thinking. The OFW phenomenon, it’s not a one-time phenomenon. We think they leave and don’t come back. But they go back and forth... Contracts, and then they come back and they spend all their money, and then leave again. It’s like that, it’s multiple exit and entry. And we have to really set up the legal and financial system so that if they return and they have money already, some savings, let’s give them micro-financing.

So they don’t have to keep coming back, because there’s a big social cost involved. You have to understand also that while economically it’s advantageous to us, the social cost –- in terms of families being destroyed, even increase in AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) amongst OFWs, health risks, of course those who get jailed or killed abroad –- all of these are social cost incurred because of the OFW phenomenon.

You know, I studied abroad, and I never met any -– even those who have fairly decent jobs –- (who would rather stay abroad). If you ask them, "If you could have the exact same job that pays the exact same amount of money in the Philippines, would you rather stay here in the United States?" and the answer is, "No, we’d rather stay in the Philippines." But precisely because they have no options, that’s why they leave our country.

I was at a recent miting de avance, and one of the performers there -– before giving his number – said something to the effect that the Philippines is presently "in danger" of having to go through another 1986-type scenario. Do you agree with that observation?

Well, if we’re talking about the 1986 scenario, if I recall in 1986 we won back our democracy because of People Power, so I don’t see anything so wrong with that. It’s not that I advocate revolution, but rather, if he was speaking in behalf of the administration –-

No, he was speaking against the administration.

Okay, if he was speaking against the administration, that’s something to look forward to –- that we’ll actually reclaim our democracy.

But I don’t want it to get to that point. The Genuine Opposition, our stand has been clear and in fact Joker Arroyo, at the start of the election period, said, "Well, the reason I didn’t join you is because you support revolution, you support unconstitutional means," so immediately we answered back and said, "That’s untrue, precisely we are participating in this election because we support constitutional processes in order to obtain reform." We do not want to have to go through that level, where we would have a revolution, in order to have reforms. We feel that there are sufficient constitutional processes under the rule of law that we can get the reforms through. Bulatlat

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Oligarchic Politics by Francis A. Gealogo, Roland G. Simbulan, Ely H. Manalansan, Jr., Felix P. Muga II, Bobby M. Tuazon, Temario C. Rivera, and Danilo Araña Arao
Published by the Center for People Empowerment in Governance

Oligarchic Politics, published by the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG), is a timely book considering that the Filipino electorate is again in the midst of an election season. The questions it raises and the answers it strives to provide, however, deal with issues the relevance of which will last beyond the coming electoral exercise.


Politics in the Philippines is often observed to be largely an enclave of the country’s moneyed and privileged classes. A new book published by the policy study institution Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG), Oligarchic Politics –- set to be launched May 8 at the Balai Kalinaw, University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City –- tells why this observation is sound.

Oligarchic Politics dissects the political party system in the Philippines, but gives special focus to the party-list bloc.

In his essay “History of Political Parties in the Philippines,” historian Francis A. Gealogo of the Ateneo de Manila University traces the roots of Philippine political parties to the American colonial period. He gives two reasons for their origins:

The first was the realized need by the American colonizers to put forward a viable avenue for political participation by Filipinos as a counterpoint to the armed resistance of the Filipino revolutionaries against colonial occupation. The electoral exercise and the attendant formation of political parties will therefore present itself as an alternative reaction to American rule by Filipinos who would otherwise be involved in armed resistance. The second is the need to attract a significant number of Filipino elites into the fold of colonial governance. The electoral process would ensure elite participation in the colonial political project of integrating the well-to-do members of the society to the institutionalization of the colonial administrative control over the population.

Roland G. Simbulan, a former Faculty Regent at UP, analyzes Philippine traditional politics since the 1986 downfall of the Marcos dictatorship in “Contemporary Politics in the Philippines: The Configuration of Post-Edsa I Political Parties,” using in part research by Cyrus Alanis. He puts forward in this essay the view that what happened after the ouster of Ferdinand Marcos from the presidency was not the restoration of “democracy” as claimed by some journalists and historians, but the restoration of what he calls “the trappings of the undeveloped and distorted party system”: elite domination and the “ideological monotony” of the mainstream political parties.

The succeeding chapter, “The Philippine Party-List System: Opportunities, Limitations and Prospects” by Ely H. Manalansan, Jr., provides a historical perspective on the Philippine party-list system. Manalansan, who was involved with a number of research institutions before working as a staff researcher at the House of Representatives, lays bare in his essay the bitter irony that while the party-list system is mandated to serve as a mechanism by which marginalized sectors may be represented in Congress, it is itself marginalized in the overall scheme of things.

He cites the proliferation of “party-list groups” that are appendages of traditional political parties and, worse, adjuncts of the incumbent administration. Manalansan also documents several instances in which the bills filed by progressive party-list groups were blocked, citing as a case in point the recall of Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Crispin Beltran’s bill for a P125 across-the-board, nationwide wage increase for private-sector workers after it was approved at the House of Representatives. He also cites the political persecution of progressive party-list representatives.

In the end, Manalansan points to the progressive party-list bloc as the force that makes the party-list system really work for those sectors of society it is supposed to serve. As he says:

Not only have they done the most in terms of legislations for the masses they represent, they likewise represent what genuine party-lists of the masses should be doing in Congress. Without them, prospects for the party-list system appear not very promising, even dreary. It may lead to party-lists becoming instruments of traditional political parties, as in fact is the trajectory of interests of elitists in government.

Meanwhile, in two essays -– “The Negation of the Party-List Law on the Principle of Proportional Representation” and “On Stakeholder-Based Allocation Method: A Fair Allocation of Power in the Philippine Party-List System,” Feliz P. Muga II, an associate professor of Mathematics at the Ateneo de Manila University, dissects the mathematics behind the principle of proportional representation in the party-list system.

The next chapter after Muga’s two essays –- “The Future of Oligarchic Politics and the Party-List System” by Bobby M. Tuazon, CenPEG’s Policy Study, Publication and Advocacy (PSPA) program director –- projects a not-so-bright future for the party-list system, with conditions having become “less and less favorable for its full realization” as he says, but nonetheless counsels the progressive bloc not to give up the struggle in the electoral arena even as he reminds that it is not only through electoral or parliamentary struggle that what he calls “real governance” can evolve.

In “The Crisis of Philippine Electoral Democracy,” Temario C. Rivera, a professor of Comparative Politics and International Relations at the International Christian University of Tokyo, examines what he considers the two “critical problems” of Philippine electoral democracy: the elitist mode of representation and the lack of accountability and its continuing political instability. “A clear alternative to this status quo lies in building up a strong and more representative and accountable party system that can challenge elite dominance of electoral processes,” Rivera writes.

The last chapter, “Elections, Personality Politics and the Mass Media” by UP Journalism professor Danilo Araña Arao, criticizes the personality-based orientation of much of media coverage of elections, and reminds journalists of their task “to ensure a comprehensive discussion of issues concerning politics, economics and culture and consequently transcend personality politics that characterizes campaigns during elections.”

Oligarchic Politics is a timely book considering that the Filipino electorate is again in the midst of an election season. The questions it raises and the answers it strives to provide, however, deal with issues the relevance of which will last beyond the coming electoral exercise. Bulatlat