Category Archives: Politically impolitic

“Elections in the Time of Facebook”

In the 2004 presidential elections contested by GMA and FPJ, there were approximately 4.5M Filipinos with access to the internet while Friendster was the primary social network. In the 2010 elections for President that saw PNoy win the Presidency, Friendster was no longer the top social network and was in fact on its way to extinction; Facebook had dislodged it from “numero uno” position and established itself as the social network darling of all 22 million on-line Filipinos; and a fivefold jump in internet users from the last national elections of 2004 was realized. By then,  Facebook, amazingly, had users  in excess of more than half a billion people worldwide with close to a billion and a half subscribed users by the start of 2016.

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By the time the 2016 elections would be underway, the number of social network accounts in the Philippines would have more than doubled the 2010 figures bringing it to approximately 45.7M Filipinos, the same number  accessing the internet with a hundred percent penetration on Facebook, hence, the Philippine’s distinction of being called “the Facebook capital of the world.” The coming elections, indeed, could very well be decided on Facebook and Twitter knowing also that all news and entertainment programs and political talk shows broadcast on TV are themselves reporting the goings-on in Facebook and Twitter.  TV programs interact with netizens in “real time” giving internet posts a “double exposure” when broadcast as news on TV, or through the TV programs’ respective interactive features.

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Country Presidents and Prime Ministers, heads of organized religions including Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama, billionaires and celebrities such as Bill Gates and Richard Branson, all use one or another of the social networks to communicate with their constituents, fans, followers and supporters on matters of import as well as their personal feelings on certain issues. During one of the numerous sporadic flare-ups between Palestinians and Israelis, Twitter was used to warn Israeli citizens which district the next missile fired from Palestinian territory would most likely land on — this, in “real time” giving the people in a targeted area time to take cover. The “Arab Spring” in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt, terrorist attacks by Muslim extremists, embarrassing and glorious moments of international celebrities, as well as multi-million dollar fund raisers, have utilized the various social network portals for optimum effectivity.

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On the hardware side of the digital social network phenomenon is the trend towards the use of mobile gadgets in accessing the internet. These gadgets — tablets, notebooks, smart phones, etc. — mobile and smaller than the “endangered specie” desktop computers, are more affordable and have helped grow faster the number of people with access to the internet. These gadgets have also increased the over-all average frequency in internet use with apps like traffic advisories, road map directions, restaurant locations, reservations, video games, VoIP telephony, and other information exchanges that help in our daily activities. Next coming is “the internet of things” but we’ll avoid digressing.

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The situation in the Philippines is no different from the rest of the world albeit behind some countries in penetration but, also, ahead of others. The coming elections in May 2016 will be a “first” for the country to be held with  half of the population  having access to the internet in spite of our very slow internet speed connection which is another story.  As we have witnessed the power of the internet as manifested in other areas of the globe, we may see here in the Philippines — no less than the “Facebook capital of the world” — the results of the May 2016 national elections influenced to a large degree  by the digital social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Be that as it may, we expect the internet to  play a major role in the coming elections. The “numbers” are definitely present for it to have a strong impact on the outcome. And in close races, the politician  with the better use of the internet could end up the winner because of it. Politicians that don’t give it its’ due importance could be in for the biggest surprise of their political lives.

 

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Truth in Advertising NOT

Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. should be ashamed of himself and of his background as advertising man whom we shouldn’t have assumed practices what is known as “truth in advertising.” Mr.Jimenez was widely quoted in today’s dailies as having said that “crossing the 4-million mark is a feat in itself and puts us well on track to achieve our ultimate goal of 10 million visitor arrivals by 2016.” He was referring to the breaching of the 4M mark in number of tourists that visited the country last year. Before we go on, I hope Mr. Jimenez’ pants have been blasted with a fire extinguisher when it must have caught on fire after making that statement. Going back: he called reaching 4 Million tourist arrivals “a feat in itself” which is only eighty thousand more than the number of visitors of the year before or a 2% increase. The actual increase in number of tourists last year from the year before (2011) was a measly 355,357 bringing the total number of visitors to 4.27 million in 2012, up by 9% over the previous year. That fell short of their 4.6 Million target by almost half but that’s not as important as having crossed the 4 Million mark — “a feat in itself,” if we are to fall for the lie contained in Mr. Jimenz’ “advertisment” of his performance for the year 2012. download
They say one lie leads to another and true enough, he continued to say that though they had failed in achieving their modest goal of 4.6 Million visitors, they were still on track or poised in reaching their far more ambitious goal of 10 Million tourists by 2016 or an increase of about 240% in four years. One would normally think: how can he say that with a straight face and not worry that he may fail dismally in reaching that goal based on his performance so far? Simple. All he feels he needs to do is put a spin on whatever will be the result of his efforts for the next four years and people would buy it as a huge success. There will always be something that could be called “a feat in itself” if one is trained and honed in the advertising industry where truth is irrelevant. Now, we’re beginning to think that Mr. jimenez might convince us that his aim at a goal of 10M tourists by the year 2016 is already “a feat in itself.” It seems achieving that goal is of no significance and totally irrelevant to one’s performance if you think like an ad man. In fact, I would say “odd man” is more like it, at least, in the real world. And crossing the 4 M mark in number of tourist arrivals (eighty thousand more than the year before) is no feat at all unless he meant feet and a smelly one at that.

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A Chance to Allow the System to Work, Down the Drain

The Senate “had to accept” the Articles of Impeachment and convene as an Impeachment Court for political reasons — the people expected them to do no less — more than for what the Constitution provides which is debatable and another story. That was the “press release” of the Senate. Let’s assume that it was imperative for them to do so, even if the whole world knew the charges were railroaded in the House of Representatives. Still, the Senators say, they wanted to show the people that they were not one to shirk from their responsibilities.

But why did they not accede to the request of the Defense for a pre-trial to determine probable cause and whether the Articles of Impeachment transmitted to them was without any infirmity and nobody’s rights were violated. That process would have achieved what the people clamored for which was to see that “big people” — a Chief Justice — can be brought to trial and that the “other big people” — the congressmen prosecutors — can also be repudiated if their action proved unconstitutional which it was, and the Articles of Impeachment returned to them for curative measures. There was no “verification” — that it has been read and known to be true — of the charge sheet by the complainants as became obvious on the first days of trial when it became embarrassingly clear it was a fishing expedition they were embarking on. Had there been a pre-trial, all branches of government would have been given their “due respect,” the co-equal branches of government concept would have been strengthened, and justice would have been served and most important, the Bill of Rights and Constitution as ratified by the people themselves, would have been upheld. The House would then have to do things the right way in accordance with the Constitution, verification and due process included, if it wanted to impeach anyone including PNoy. The CJ would have seen that he was not invulnerable to actually getting booted out. The Senators would have been seen doing their job with fairness and lessons would have been learned and institutions strengthened. Problem was, PNoy would have been slighted and the chance for Senators and Congressmen to milk him for whatever it was they needed from the executive, the palace, plus the exposure and opportunity for grandstanding, would have been lost. We’re a miserable country not only economically but politically and culturally, too. And we can’t blame our political leaders only because, sadly, it is us that elected them. Those that say this has been a step forward in political maturity are fooling themselves.

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What is Yours is “Mine”

Good Morning Philippines!

ON SECOND THOUGHT

The NPA attacks on three mining facilities in Surigao del Norte could have been avoided had there been  a military presence in the area, a province known to be with NPA rebels. It was reported that  P3B worth of equipment and infrastructure were destroyed. The NPA rebels took an entire half day, with no one to prevent them, to carry out the destruction and burning of dump trucks, backhoes, bulldozers, barges and other equipment as they held about 2,000 employees hostage and carted away whatever they saw was of some value. That’s how far the nearest AFP battalion, division or brigade was from the area.  Three Billion Pesos is a lot of money to lose in one afternoon even for giant Sumitomo of Japan, a joint venture partner of Nickel Asia Philippines, owners of the mining concern. Fortunately, no one was killed but others that would have wanted to do business here might think of not being as lucky next time this sort of thing happens again. More than what was lost in the raid is the incalculable loss in business opportunities by way of Direct Foreign Investments that our country desperately needs. Knowing the huge amount of capital invested in their operations, why did anyone not think of providing safeguards in protecting these expensive equipment, not to mention lives? Whose responsibility is it among the government departments, agencies, or  bureaus to protect not only the companies engaged in mining but the mines themselves? Is it the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, the DENR, the AFP or all three in coordination? If we want to lure other foreign investors to come in and do business here, we have to show them that there are people that will have to be answerable to this latest rebel attack that has made obvious the lack of “intelligence information” on the part of our military. A couple of hundred rebels in an area should not be easy to hide from our armed forces if they were heads-up in their intelligence gathering against the NPA. The first order of battle in any war is knowing where your enemy is. Instead of acquiring antiquated naval battle ships that don’t make the slightest difference in our naval strength in comparison with the navies of our perceived or imagined enemies, like China over the Spratly islands for instance, we must focus instead, once and for all, in destroying the NPA that is “already” within our territory and will never give up their violent “struggle” if the last half century has taught us anything.

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We’ve heard P-Noy say more than once that he is not in favor of Charter change or even amending some economic provisions in the Constitution; and as an economist, he must have his reasons for thinking so. What’s curious is why none in his economic team are explaining in detail to business leaders why this is, indeed,  not  going to be of help in  growing the economy, as their boss has opined. The question that begs to be asked is: are P-Noy and his economic appointees in agreement on this issue?  The silence of his economic managers on the merits of amending economic provisions in the Constitution is getting more and more deafening.

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Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Friar?

"Let's DOH it!"

Family Planner Wins Senate Seat -- 2nd spot of 12

GOOD MORNING PHILIPPINES!

ON SECOND THOUGHT

 Akbayan Representative Walden Bello was reported to have said that the anti-RH Bill group don’t want an early vote on the Bill and would try and stretch the proceedings to bring the vote closer to the 2013 elections “so those running will be intimidated by the Church lobby.”  The people supporting the bill are behaving like they are afraid of their own shadows. If they claim that the most recent surveys show a big majority of Filipinos support the bill, why should they fear that voting comes close to election time? Are they lying about the surveys or are they just pathetically so conditioned in fearing the friars and the Church that they can’t manage simple logic that should tell them that if the surveys are true, then it should be the “antis” afraid that voting on the bill be held close to election time.

It’s true that there is plenty of residual fear coming from hundreds of years of Church domination over Filipinos but our leaders in the legislature are supposed to be above that, specially now, already more than a hundred years after ending that relationship of total subjugation of Filipinos by the Catholic Church that was then represented by Spanish friars. Today, the friars are now brown Filipinos speaking our native tongue and Akbayan Representative Bello sounds like he still shakes in fear before these Bishops and Priests as he suggests others do the same.

It’s time we  remember again a “jolly good fellow,” once a Secretary of the Department of Health, and a two time Senator. With a most amiable disposition, former Secretary and Senator Juan Flavier not only openly endorsed and encouraged the use of condoms (diametrically opposed to Catholic Church doctrine), but managed to endear himself to the public while doing it and was rewarded a Senate seat by the voters when he ran after three years as  Secretary of Health. He ran again in 2001 and was  overwhelmingly re-elected placing 2nd over-all among the twelve elected for Senator. Voters are attracted to politicians that stand up for what they believe in, period. Conversely, they can spot those that shift with the tide, forever “campaigning” and not knowing how to lead.

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We may never really know how the Japanese felt about PNoy’s insistence in donating $1M to the victims of the earthquake that triggered a tsunami in North-East Japan in March of this year.  The culture of the Japanese is not one that allows them to be overtly expressive of their true sentiments epitomized in their traditional tea ceremonies where slight nuances have to be interpreted by a keen  observance of movements and utterances.  A good indication might be to imagine how we would feel if we were placed in their shoes. Envisage then if after a devastating typhoon hit the Philippines, the Democratic Republic of Congo came forward and offered $1M to help those affected by the floods.  This is the poorest country in the world with about 80 countries in between them and us in the rankings while there are about 100 countries in between Japan and the Philippines. I’ll leave you to answer that question as there may be varied reactions to it. But for sure, there will be a lot of scratching of the heads and knowing Filipinos, not a few laughter.

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PRESIDENT only of and for the YELLOW

Good Morning Philippines!

Sorry seems to be the hardest word to say,” is as old a moral concept as morality itself. It implies admission of guilt and at times, opens the door to compensation for the aggrieved. When the relatives of those that died in last year’s bungled hostage-rescue crisis arrived in Manila from Hong-Kong to mark the 1st anniversary of that infamous debacle, they sought an audience with President Aquino to solicit his apology and demand compensation for the deaths of their loved ones. The President denied them both requests. On the question of apology, the President seems to have missed the point entirely in saying, “the lone gunman and not the state is to be blamed for the tragedy.” He also said that “this was the act of one man, in the same token that some of us citizens have been affected elsewhere in the world, we do not blame the entire population.” He would have been right had the demand of the relatives been an apology from the Filipino people for the acts of hostage-taker Mendoza.  Firstly, the demand was for an apology from the government and not from the Filipino people; secondly, he was not asked to apologize for the acts of Mendoza per se, but for the mismanaged rescue of the hostages. That the rescue was bungled, the Incident Investigation and Review Committee’s report established that the government did botch the rescue operations during the eleven hours that it had the chance of saving the hostages. The President was quoted as saying: “an apology connotes that the state harmed the tourists, which is not correct.”  In fact, the state did harm the tourists even if it did not instigate it. When a doctor is sued for, say, botching a surgical procedure, the doctor or hospital is not being sued for causing the ailment or the disease of the patient; he is being sued for aggravating  the condition of the patient which he was tasked to improve and which necessitated  that he follow medically accepted basic actions which if not followed, worsens the patient’s condition or, at times, kills him. In short, and ironically, Mr. Aquino declined to give the relatives of those that perished in the Luneta crisis what they did not ask for. And to underscore that this tragedy in its aftermath is not over yet is Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s reported admonition to President Aquino upon his arrival in China last week “to properly handle the aftermath of last year’s Hong Kong hostage incident in Manila.”

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Republic Act No. 10153, the law that effectively cancelled elections in ARMM that was scheduled for last month, August 2011, so as to synchronize it with the rest of the nation beginning 2013, is presently being discussed in the Supreme Court and will be adjudicated upon in the coming weeks. Based on the line of questioning, so far, by some of the Justices, the law signed by President Aquino last June may, indeed, be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. It is this column’s opinion or guess, if you wish, that the High Court will rule in favour of suffrage. To the Supreme Court justices, the appointing powers of the President as granted to him by this Act which mandates that he chooses their leaders to govern until the synchronized elections in 2013, seems difficult to accept especially that this will be implemented in a region with an autonomous charter.

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There have been increasing grumblings about PNoy’s insistence in wearing the yellow ribbon pin on his chest coming mainly from those that did not support him in the elections but are willing to see him now as their President, and one  they can rally behind to lead this country. But the feeling they get is PNoy stands as President and leader only of, and for, the “Yellow Brigade,”  symbolized by the yellow pin he wears instead of pins with the colors of the Philippine flag. It is indeed curious to know what the thinking is behind the choice of wardrobe “accent” which when one is Head of State, would be seen as an official statement and not just a fashion statement, and rightly so. The logo and the color were both used extensively by supporters of his candidacy, including himself, during his Presidential bid. So, one cannot blame those that claim he still represents only his supporters. It is said that symbols are the most profound and impactful way of communicating. It is also said it has “deeper layers of reality.” There is a political dictum made popular by the late former Senate President Amang Rodriguez, that states: “politics is addition;”  President Aquino, in wearing the “yellow brigade” symbol, does not seem to see this small but conspicuous “wardrobe accent” as divisive rather than inclusive – addition. Does he wear it as some kind of Anting-anting, perhaps?

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“Respect the Rights Even of Your Enemies” — Ninoy Aquino

Quoting PNoy’s DEFENSE Secretary Voltaire Gazmin: “Regulation No. 161-375 dated Sept. 11 2000 lists those who are qualified to be interred in the Libingan in Fort Bonifacio, including former presidents and military officers, and Medal of Valor awardees. Marcos is a recipient of the Medal of Valor, highest military decoration for bravery and gallantry in combat, for a feat in Bataan during World War II. My personal view is it’s (burial at Libingan) in the regulation.” Two hundred nineteen Congressmen, about 3/4 of the entire Lower House, have signed the resolution urging PNoy to allow the remains of former President Ferdinand Marcos to be buried at the LNMB. The majority of Senators including former AFP officers Trillanes and Honassan and former Defense Secretary Enrile have stated that Marcos has the right to be buried there. And according to Binay’s survey, 71% of Filipinos agree to Marcos’ burial in LNMB. That it is his RIGHT to be buried there is already, now, a given.

PNoy often likes to recall what his father supposedly told him in a letter he wrote from his cell in Fort Bonifacio, and he quotes him with a reverential expression and tone of voice that attempts to suggest profundity: “respect the rights even of your enemies.” I’m not sure why he takes pride in what he implies to be the one greatest lesson taught to him by his father because it’s the one he obviously has chosen to ignore. Can he actually discern the contradiction between his belief in being one that respects the rights of “even your enemies” and the action he has taken on the rights of former President Ferdinand Marcos who has been adjudged qualified for burial at LNMB as confirmed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, himself a former Commanding General of the Philippine Army. PNoy seems sincere in both contradictory instances making it more worrisome because this may require not just political observation but clinical observation.

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