Quote of the Day

And although it seems heaven sent /We ain’t ready, to see a black President

– Tupac Shakur.

I think Tupac would have been glad to be wrong on this one. Congratulations to the 44th President of the United States of America, Barack Hussein Obama.

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Party and Principle

The Liberal Party of the Philippines is certainly the most sophisticated and legitimate political party in the Philippines, in regards to its organization, structure, coherency of platform, and history. Recently, however, the LP seems dangerously close to departing from the very traditions that make it the Philippine standard of what a political party should be. This danger stems from the tendency of the LP to focus all of its attention on one man – Senator Manuel Roxas II.

There is nothing wrong with Sen. Mar Roxas – he is a quality public servant who deserves to be mentioned alongside the other “Presidentiables.” What is troubling is that the LP, more than 16 months before the May 2010 elections, has practically already designated Mar as its presidential candidate and has begun to focus all its energy on promoting the Mar brand.

This is somewhat understandable. After all, Mar is the grandson of former President and LP founder Manuel A. Roxas. Combine his storied lineage with a solid credentials, a marketable personality, and political savvy, and Mar looks to be the ideal LP standardbearer for 2010.

But what about the other LP members? Liberalparty.ph, the party’s official website, lists 35 LP members other than Mar holding elected office, including other big names like Sens. Francis Pangilinan, Benigno S. Aquino III, and Rodolfo G. Biazon. Yet on the front page of that very same website, the activities of Mar dominate the space.

Let us compare the LP website to that of the triumphant Democratic Party of the United States of America. There is a lot of mention of President-elect Barack Obama, and with good reason. However, there are several other stories clearly linked concerning other important DP figures and policies.

LP must be careful not to become a personality cult for Mar. With a potential “time for change” feeling poised to flow from the US election straight into the Philippine election, the LP can be very successful across the board and, more importantly, implement their proposed policies and make a real difference. Sen. Roxas should not be merely anointed the LP presidential nominee because his father founded the party and he is the president of it; rather, Mar should be subjected to a formal, competitive selection process. A man and politician of Sen. Roxas’ calibur will surely be able to earn the nomination based on his merits, and not merely because of his name. The reputation of the Liberal Party as a legitimate political party may very well rest on this, and, really, more legitimate, organized political parties are exactly what the Philippines needs.

On Foreign Soil

An hour north of Metro Manila in the Pampanga province lies the Clark Freeport Zone, the remnants of the former U.S. Clark Air Base vacated by the Americans in 1991. You can tell that the CFZ was built for Americans – the roads are large, the grass is trimmed, and the design of the place has a sense of order that would feel familiar to anyone who had stayed in the United States for an extended period of time.

We stayed overnight at a villa in one of the large country club/tourism condos. The compound was huge – it took 5 minutes just to drive from the main gate to our villa. There were restaurants, bars, and even a full casino. As we drove by, I noticed that some of the villas are placed alongside the golf course, and that the villas were very uniform-looking. It was as if I was driving down the street in my old neighborhood in Glendale, Arizona.

Due to special economic provisions maintained even after the Americans vacated the place, CFZ has several duty-free stores selling American-made goods that are so hard to find in Manila. At one of the sporting good outlets I bought a vintage Mariners hat – common in the US, but absolutely rare and thrilling for me (fitted baseball caps are hard to find in Manila). I would have bought the Tom Brady jersey also, but it was over $120. Maybe next time.

I’m back in Manila now, which is fine, but I would like to take more trips up to Clark, or to Subic, where the old US naval base is. It’s fun to go to those places every once in a while, to remember where I’m from. Going to Clark or Subic is almost like going back to the US just for a day – an instant homesickness cure of sorts.

We’re Going Streaking!

Tuesday at noon, Alpha Phi Omega held their annual Oblation Run at the University of the Philippines Diliman. The Oblation Run is the event in which APO pledges run naked around the campus. And I mean naked. No leaves or socks covering sensitive areas. All natural, all the time.

The event, which originated as a form of protest during the Martial Law era of President Marcos’ reign, is a spectacle that must be observed by every Iskolar ng Bayan at least once. At noon in Palma Hall, hundreds (perhaps thousands) of students, as well as representatives from every major network from ABS-CBN to GMA, pack the steps outside and the space inside the building, waiting for the Oblation Men to run by in their uncensored glory.

In reality, the Oblation Run is more like an Oblation Walk, since the rose-carrying pledges tend to have a tough time navigating the crowd, especially inside Palma Hall. Still, it was definitely a unique sight. Perhaps more entertaining than the run itself was the reaction of the girls crowding around the Oblation Men – they either screamed with glee, or looked away in embarrassment and turned red as tomatoes. All in all, the Oblation Run is a fun, quirky, and perhaps a tiny bit perverse tradition that is unique to UP.

Mob Rule in the Philippines

Since President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972, the Philippines has been ruled by an unelected leader for 23 of the past 36 years – Marcos (1972-1986), Corazon Aquino (1986-1992), and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (2001-2004). The past 36 years of Philippine “democracy” have been rife with controversy, scandal, and chaos. Stable democracy in the Philippines has largely been a myth.

In the Philippines, mob rule is the name of the game.

The EDSA Revolutions of 1986 and 2001 are two of the most important events in Philippine history. Both, particularly EDSA I in 1986, are hailed as glorious triumphs of democracy. In fact, neither were truly democratic.

EDSA I can be excused despite being non-democratic. There was no democratic process through which the people could choose their leaders. There was no alternative to revolution. The fact that the transition of power was largely bloodless and relatively peaceful is a large credit to the Filipinos of that time.

The problem with EDSA I is that it set a dangerous precedent for destabilization and instability in the Philippine political system. Despite its correctness at the time, EDSA I was still undeniably an exercise of mob mentality – the whims of the three million Filipinos standing along Epifanio de los Santos Avenue decided the course of a country populated by over 80 million, meaning that less than 5% of Filipinos decided to overthrow Marcos.

EDSA II has little in common with EDSA I other than the street on which the “revolution” was centered. EDSA II was the realization of all the dangers set in place by EDSA I, a complete breakdown of the due process of law and Democracy. In hindsight, EDSA II was a hasty exercise of mob rule. The overthrow of President Joseph Estrada – a properly-elected president – without even the completion of the Senate impeachment trial was questionable, despite the allegations of corruption.

The most damaging legacy of Marcos may be the severe disruption he did to the democratic process of the Philippines. The tumultuous thing we have here masquerading as “democracy” can hardly be called that. Without reliable elections and more political stability, the Philippines can never be a truly democratic country.

The rising uproar over the attempts of Administration-allied Congressmen to make a “Charter Change” (Cha-Cha), which may potentially extend their terms and that of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo beyond the 2010 term cap, calls forth all these memories of political instability in the Philippines. If Cha-Cha somehow is passed into law, public outrage coupled with the intense unpopularity of President Arroyo could very well result in yet another EDSA Revolution.

If this is the case, the road to mature democracy in the Philippines will only grow much longer.

IC News, Issue #1

Here is the newsletter I slaved over for many an hour (click on the picture to prompt the download screen):

Through the Fire and Flames…Editor Style

“Being an Editor is hard.” Immense understatement right? I learned this the hard way this past week after being named Publications Secretary for my dormitory association. The task of founding, designing, writing, printing, and distributing a newsletter for the dorm to coincide with one of our major events of the year, Korean Night, was my responsibility. The plan is for the newsletter to be published once a month. This month, however, I was given about 7 days.

What a 7 days it was! I spent several unsuccessful hours trying to install different page design programs onto my computer. Then there were the hours spent coming up with a general design. Then there was the writing. And more writing. And more writing, because I was essentially a one man writing staff.

Then there was the waiting for people to turn in their bios and photos so I could design their pages. That was the worst. To all my former editors: I’m sorry for ever turning things in late. I now know your pain.

Of course, there was the final 24-hour crunch, where I worked until 5 AM on final touches, then woke up at 7:30 AM to keep working.

Finally, it is done. All that is left is to print and make copies. And thus, my first experience as an Editor is complete…until next month. 😐