“By participating in these events against President Aquino, the protesters have declared themselves enemies, not of our President, but of the Philippines itself. As an invited guest, President Aquino was covered by the same blanket of academic freedom and safe passage that the University guarantees for all who set foot on campus.

The purpose of that high privilege is to guarantee free traffic in diverse ideas – and of the diverse people who espouse them – which is the lifeblood of a liberal academic institution. Those who violate that security and privilege by resorting to physical threats and violence sow apprehension and fear among bearers of contrary and unfashionable ideas, who would henceforth shy away from participating in the University, resulting in an impoverishment of intellectual life and a reduction of debate to a monologue among the already-converted.

The acts of Wednesday’s protesters, therefore, not only violated decency and courtesy, they were an assault on the University itself.

To remove this blot on the University’s reputation:

We enjoin those who participated in the dishonorable events of last Wednesday – but who were possibly misled or sincerely unaware of the gravity of their acts – to come forward, own up to their participation, and proffer a public apology to President Aquino and to the University.

impunity20140926

Filipina activist displaying protest placard vs Aquino at Columbia University last Wednesday.

We call upon the University responsible for organizing the event to publicly dissociate themselves from the actions of Wednesday’s hooligans;

We enjoin the University authorities to begin an inquiry to identify those ultimately responsible for the violence, and who cynically staged the incident, applying penalties, wherever necessary;

We call on the University authorities henceforth to enhance the security provided to invited visitors of the University to prevent a repeat of the said incident.

Finally, we call for a renewed discussion and clarification among faculty, staff and students, of the University’s unwritten rules of free speech and safe passage, to ensure that the University remains a free and fearless field for ideas, where debates are won not by assault but by argument, not by shouting down but by speaking up.”

I’m just having a thought experiment that could sharpen our views of issues, and clarify things in a “what-if” fun.

I had been expecting the above statement from UP School of Economics faculty members, as it would have taken them just a few seconds to replace, using their Microsoft Word program, “Secretary Abad” with “President Aquino.” And after all, it is the same issue—of “decency and courtesy”—involved.

Why was there no outrage by their academic colleagues in Columbia University over the Filipino activists’ “disrespect” for Aquino? Maybe it’s because Columbia University is ranked in 2014 by the annual “QS University Rankings” as the 14th best university in the world, while UP stands far behind at the 367th slot.

What a hypocrite
President Aquino’s address to the UN Summit on Climate Change is as hypocritical as his speeches on his tuwid-na-daan tack. For Aquino to talk about climate change in a high-level meeting is like having him speak in an anti-addiction retreat. He doesn’t know anything about, and has never been interested, in the issue.

“Everyone here has to do everything they can to address climate change, without first waiting for their neighbors to engage in action,” he said in his speech. “Doing anything less leaves the problem unattended to thereby increasing the problem we all face.”

But Aquino is a heavy smoker, and one villain for climate-change activists is the global cigarette industry.

One reason for this is that the tobacco industry has been funding heavily those who claim that climate-change is a myth. Environmental and political activist George Monbiot, among others, wrote in his book Death Denial: “The corporate funding of lobby groups denying that manmade climate change is taking place was initiated not by Exxon, or by any other firm directly involved in the fossil fuel industry. It was started by the tobacco company Philip Morris.”

The reason for this is that if governments tighten regulations on environmental issues in order to reverse climate change, they would in the same laws include harsher restrictions on cigarette smoking, as there is a view that cigarettes produce pollutants just as factory smoke-stacks do that worsen our climate.

The respected newspaper Handelsblatt, Germany’s version of the British Financial Times for instance had reported:

According to the World Health Organization, about 1.1 billion people smoke around the world. This number is likely to triple over the next 25 years. About 11,000 people die every day by smoking. Smoking also worsens everyone’s environment. The addiction releases 2.6 million tons of carbon dioxide and 5.2 million tons of methane gas to the atmosphere every year, according to the newspaper.

But there’s worse: tobacco farming and disposal of its waste. Tobacco farming extracts six times more potassium from the soil than growing other plants does. Some 150 kg of wood are needed for drying one kilogram of tobacco, which means to 1.2 million hectares of forest of fuel. About 600 million trees are chopped down annually to make room for tobacco plants. These trees could remove 22 million tons of the climate-killing gas yearly.

And then, cigarette filters end up on the ground, and contaminate the groundwater with nicotine, dioxin, formaldehyde and cadmium. Tobacco companies produce 5.5 trillion cigarettes every year—approximately 900 for each person in the world. Of those, 4.5 trillion have non-biodegradable filters that are thrown to the ground, accounting for as many as one out of every five pieces of litter. Cigarette butts require months or even years to break down, releasing almost 600 toxic chemicals into the soil.

Because of these, the first thing one has to do to contribute to the world’s efforts to stop climate change is to stop smoking, if you’re a smoker — and Aquino is one.

Before he opens his mouth pontificating that everyone should help reverse global warming, Aquino should first stop smoking. He would even strengthen respect for our laws by curbing his addiction, since regulations now categorically ban smoking in any government facility, where he is—even in his official car—nearly 24/7. He will have to go home in Quezon City or to a private house to smoke legally.

We didn’t live happily ever after

by Rigoberto Tiglao on September 23, 2014

Every year in September, a fairy tale is told: A Dark Lord imposed his will upon a hapless people, but then a messiah sacrificed his life to embolden Filipinos to topple the evil regime in 1986.

It’s an old storyline reinforced over recent years by movies such as the Lord of the Rings and the Star Wars series. But reality is always, and in all ways, complex. And after all, you never read in fairy tales things like class structures and exploited peasants.

And reality very seldom ends with that fairy tale line, “And they lived happily ever after. “

To artificially create a revolutionary flow, and provoke the ruling class to internecine strife, the fledgling Communist Party bombed the Liberal Party’s miting de avance in August 1971— quite amazingly just before its superstar Ninoy Aquino arrived. The communists blamed it on Ferdinand Marcos.

Talk of the law of unintended consequences. The bombing only gave Marcos the justification to impose martial law, after a year of meticulous preparation.

The communists had not foreseen, though, that a surging economy would allow Marcos to crush his enemies, and rule for so many years.

Most Filipinos acquiesced to martial law since the economy surged from 1972 to 1980 at an average annual growth rate of 6 percent. The growth rate for 1973, the first full year of martial law, as well as for 1976, was 9 percent, an astounding pace never since posted. We, those jailed for fighting to overthrow the dictator by force of arms, and those who were killed or tortured for that, became unpersons.

Ethnic Chinese businessmen loved Marcos, among other things because he decreed their mass naturalization, allowing the rise of a new generation of Filipino taipans such as William Gatchalian and Andrew Tan. So did the Spanish elite, with the Ayalas and Sorianos happy with what then was their beer-monopoly San Miguel Corp.

The South Luzon Expressway transformed rice fields, like Alabang near the metropolis, into prime properties. It was during martial law that the Ayalas’ Makati became the country’s premier business district. A shoe merchant, Henry Sy, built his first department stores in the 1970s, the prototype for his huge malls, the first of which, SM North was opened in 1985. Even the Araneta Center, owned by the Roxas family that was supposed to be a Marcos enemy, was given a boost in 1975 when it staged the world famous Ali-Frazier fight dubbed “Thrilla In Manila.”

Green Revolution
Whether it was because of Marcos’ “Green Revolution” or simply because the International Rice Research Institute was luckily located in the country, production of the high-yielding Masagana 99 rice boomed during martial law that prices of the staple fell, the most important factor for an acquiescent populace.

Marcos’ regime unraveled because of a conjuncture of factors, the economy being the most important.

After the Arabs took back the oil fields from the Western “imperialists” in the early 1970s, they found themselves awash in what would be dubbed “petrodollars.” Western bankers recycled these as loans lent quickly and cheaply to Third World countries. For the first time, poor countries such as those in Latin America and in Asia (us) were deluged with cheap loans purportedly needed to finance their development.

But then, the Iranian Revolution broke out in 1979 and the Iran-Iraq War in 1980. These triggered an oil crisis that pushed up global interest rates. The local enterprises that were funded by the petrodollar loans were white elephants, or were cronies’ milking cows. Marcos’ Swiss accounts were probably mostly payoffs from members of the elite who got the state-guaranteed foreign loans. Countries including ours had to take out new loans just to pay interest on their old loans, thus falling deeper and deeper into debt. In 1982, Mexico and several other Latin American countries defaulted on their loans, creating the global debt crisis.

Aquino’s return in August 1983 to the Philippines couldn’t have been made at a worse time. Interest rates were going through the roof, eating at our dollar reserves so fast that the central bank falsified data on its level.

The political instability in the wake of Aquino’s assassination accelerated the economy’s collapse. In October 1983 the country ran out of dollars to service its loans, and defaulted on its debts, financially isolating it from the world. The GDP collapsed by an unprecedented 7 percent in 1984, and in 1985, the peso’s value crumbled from P9 to P20 to the dollar, and inflation surged by a riot-in-the-streets rate of 50 percent in 1984. No president could have survived such an economic catastrophe.

The elite suddenly became freedom-lovers, donning yellow Armani shirts and joining street protests, to demand that Marcos step down. People power was based on a bad economy’s power to make people want to overthrow their government.

The unhappy reality
After 42 years, the drama of dictatorship and democratization, told again and again this time of the year, does not excite people anymore. We are even often depressed at an unhappy reality we face:

We see the same oligarchs, or their children or grandchildren, ruling the land, even as a fourth of the nation’s citizens live in utter poverty and abject misery, while those just above their station in life are killed in broad daylight or in their homes in a country run by incompetent buffoons.

They have even become more powerful. Few among the youth would know that their favorite hangout, Starbucks, is part of a conglomerate owned by an alleged Imelda crony, the Tantocos of Rustan’s. Why, her nephews are in mining, media and politics. For all their political protestations against Marcos the Aranetas never lost their friar lands in Quezon Ciy, which have become booming business districts. The Lopezes’ are more powerful now than before martial law with their dominant ABS-CBN media empire. Marcos corny Eduardo Cojuangco’s San Miguel empire has become so diversified and powerful beyond his wildest dreams.

Just take a look at the latest Forbes’ list of Filipino billionaires. They are the same tycoons you would read in the business pages of newspapers during the Marcos era:

Henry Sy, Lucio Tan, Enrique Razon (at least his father), John Gokongwei, the Consunjis, George Ty, the Aboitizes, the Ayalas and Zobels, Robert Coyiuto, Andrew Gotianun, Vivian Que (Mercury Drug), the Jose Yao Campos clan, the Lopezes, Roberto Ongpin, Manuel Zamora, the Concepcion Family, Alfredo Ramos, the Uytengus.

Yes, there are entirely new faces, even dwarfing in power these pre-martial law tycoons, the most prominent of which is Manuel V. Pangilinan, who controls the country’s strategic utility firms in power, communications, water, and infrastructure.

But the core capital of what many admire as the ”MVP” group was accumulated not in the era of our strongman Marcos — and not even here. Brilliant as he may be, Pangilinan is not a brown taipan, but an executive of the regional conglomerate built by Indonesian strongman Suharto’s crony Liem and his son Anthoni Salim when they had to flee their country as it was going through its own version of people power in 1997.

Before martial law, we had the oligarch clan, the Lopezes, controlling Meralco. During martial law it was Marcos who controlled it. The People Power Revolution handed it back to the Lopezes, who gave it up to a group controlled by the Indonesian Salim, who has had no qualms remitting its huge profits first to Hong Kong and then probably to his British Virgin Islands and Liberia holding companies.

This is the glory of People Power?

The story gets more depressing.

While percentages show a rosy picture of poverty incidence declining since 1985, population growth—thanks to the power of that body ruling our minds since the 17th century, the Catholic Church—meant that the number of dirt-poor Filipinos (those living on $1.25 or P55 per day) presently stands at 17 million, or about the Netherlands’ population, with only 2 million pulled out of abject poverty since 1985—and most probably just a notch higher.

In this tale of Dictatorship and People Power, they certainly have had no chance to live happily ever after.

A blow to UP econ profs’ integrity

September 21, 2014

I was surprised at the vitriol hurled by 23 professors of the UP School of Economics against the students who demonstrated last week against Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, one or two of whom reportedly threw coins and a placard at him, (Jungian synchronicity? It was also a placard thrown at Marcos on January 26, 1970 [...]

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UP students mob the worst official ever

September 19, 2014

And he’s Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, coming across the other day an angry bunch of UP students who threw crumpled paper balls and even placards at him as they shouted “thief!” “Hooligans!” Abad accused them . The students’ ire was not undeserved. We have had corrupt officials, elected or appointed, who stole money from the [...]

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Could the Bangsamoro be haven for ISIS in the future?

September 17, 2014

I realize I could be labeled an alarmist by that question, but for the sake of our nation’s future we have to confront it, and answer it as objectively as possible. If Congress, because of its P21 billion pork barrel this year, doesn’t care that the planned Bangsamoro bill could dismember the country, I do [...]

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Seek truth from facts

September 14, 2014

“The truth shall set us all free,” President Aquino quoted the Bible to argue against allegations that the Senate investigation into the alleged overpricing of Makati City Hall II building was really his private demolition project against Vice President Jejomar Binay. Talk of the devil quoting scriptures, as that old adage says. “Seek truth from [...]

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Bangsamoro bill: Have they lost their minds?

September 11, 2014

couldn’t believe what I was reading in the bill for the “Bangsamoro Basic Law” President Aquino personally submitted to Congress as his priority to implement his peace agreement last March with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Have Aquino and his negotiators gone mad? Read it yourself, it’s available in full on this newspaper’s website, [...]

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Crime surge responsibility falls squarely on Aquino

September 9, 2014

That we are in the midst of a crime surge, probably the worst we’ve seen in our lifetimes, is undeniable. Newspaper headlines and TV news programs have been filled with reports of the most horrific and most spectacular of crimes, from the gang-rape and ruthless murder of a seven-year old girl, the robbery-killing in broad [...]

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Is the real estate bubble about to burst?

September 7, 2014

GO to any mall, from the posh to the pedestrian, and well-dressed young ladies (far more in number than the gentlemen) will approach you to hand you a brochure selling condominium units. By the roadside along Sta. Rosa in Laguna – said to be the emerging mega-suburbia –you’d see less well-dressed sales people waving to [...]

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Did Abad’s new pork stop Aquino’s impeachment?

September 4, 2014

The quick death of three cases of impeachment against President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd in just one hearing, purportedly for lack of substance, was not much of a surprise. Aquino still holds by the neck the House of Representatives because of the still existing pork barrel system, wherein he completely controls massive amounts of money [...]

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