And though I had slain a thousand foes less one,
The thousandth knife found my liver;
The thousandth enemy said to me,
'Now you shall die,
Now none shall know.'
And the fool, looking down, believed this,
Not seeing, above his shoulders, the naked stars,
Each one remembering.
--John M. Ford, The Final Reflection

The Asylum Director

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"The only thing I was fit for was to be a writer, and this rested solely on my suspicion that I would never be fit for real work, and that writing didn't require any." - Russel Baker

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Gripe #1: On Philippine Politics

Opening Note: This is the first of a series of me griping about certain things that matter to me or I know have an effect on me and my lifestyle.

It pains me to watch Philippine politics nowadays – mainly because it seems more like an elaborate Hollywood scandal designed to promote a movie than political news. Of course I eventually realize that not even Hollywood or any other cinema industry in the world can create as big a debacle as Philippine politics.

First, let’s take a look at the basic tenets of Philippine politics. If you win an election, you must be prepared to take flak from the opposition. It is guaranteed that no matter what you do, you will be opposed even if the opposing party/parties agree that your plan is what’s best. Why? Because you’re running the show and they’re not. If you’re the opposing side (i.e. the losers in the election) you’re automatically assigned the task of accusing the winners of cheating – which is interesting since, on at least one occasion, the losers were actually right in their accusations. Mud-slinging – no matter how ridiculous since, as Lenin said ‘quantity is a quality all it’s own’ – is the order of the day once someone – Hell, anyone – is in office and during elections, sexy stars and hot singers are more likely to get someone to vote for you than a solid political plan or even election-time promises. Logic is thrown out the window, as is concern for national welfare. If Al Gore had lost a Philippine election, he would’ve been called a coward and a quitter if he asked that there not be a recount of the votes. If John Kerry had done what he did in a Philippine presidential election, he would have been scorned for life and his supporters – regardless of whether or not he wants them to – would have stormed the streets demanding that the winner step down and snap elections be called.

Now, on to the current situation: the short-stop president Arroyo is taking more flak than any president since…well, since just her predecessor Estrada. The opposition is calling for her to step down in light of all the accusations of corruption and dealing in the local illegal gambling game jueteng. They are also claiming that she stole the presidency by cheating in the elections – as supposedly evidenced by the so-called ‘Gloriagate’ tapes. Ridiculous since there really isn’t that much concrete evidence that she is talking about cheating on the tape and let’s face it, in the Philippines, candidates calling the phones of people working in the COMELEC (Commission On Elections) to get election returns ahead of time is commonplace. In her infinite [sarcasm]wisdom[/sarcasm] Arroyo admits to being on the tape and actually apologizes, thus giving the opposition even more flak. The idiocy of her move cannot be fathomed, nor can the reasoning behind it. Groups are now calling for her to step down but I’m inclined to think about whom’s going to take her place if she does. Let’s take a look, shall we?

There’s the vice-president, Noli de Castro. No good since he has no political background, has no public service background and is currently fighting a rather decently formed protest to his winning the election from opposition candidate Loren Legarda. He can’t take the position as he neither has the qualifications nor the experience required. Then again, that’s never stopped the Filipino people from putting similar (or even worse) in positions of power before.

Then there’s Susan Roces, widow of the deceased presidential candidate FPJ. With all due respect to her, she has no background, experience and her recent statements have made it clear that while she might have some level of political savvy, she is no leader. She is a follower, a sheep and letting her lead the country is a sure path to damnation and ruin. Even as the head of some sort of military, civilian or military-civilian junta, she cannot be relied upon to lead the country properly. She has no capability and even less political potential.

The Philippine army you ask? It might have morale but it doesn’t have the power or the capacity to really take over. It’s fighting the NPA communist rebels in central Luzon, chasing after the Abu Sayaff and fighting the Moro International Liberation Front and Moro National Liberation Front in Mindanao, preventing terrorist attacks in key cities and trying desperately to get a respectable hold on any of the Spratly Islands. In the simplest of terms, the Philippine piece-of-garbage army is spread too thin, too poorly armed and with leaders far too interested in personal power or too incompetent in anything outside finding a way to make money to effectively run a platoon, let alone a country. Besides, if a bunch of people with flowers can take out entire tank and infantry divisions by sheer psychological and emotional power, what does that say about the quality and motivation of the training the army gets? And did I mention that all the soldiers are using guns that are older than they are? Some of those guns date back to before the Vietnam War and some of the tanks are actually WW2 vintage.

The opposition party is too divided to take over as well. We’ve got Estrada’s supporters and Estrada himself, who really hasn’t been proven guilty or innocent of graft and corruption. Plus, he’s proven that he’s not capable of leading a country even though he can rally the masses like few others can. Ping Lacson? Most people don’t trust him, very few outside of the major cities even knew he was a candidate until Election Day and frankly, he can’t rally enough support to take over. Anyone from the opposition? Not likely as the opposition is divided like nobody’s business. And signs point to them staying that way for a long, long time.

So who’s left? No one. Right now, the only viable person to take the presidency is…well, being asked to step down from the presidency. What a predicament, no? All this political instability and chaos, plus the rising gas prices (which would be followed by the rise of prices of goods and services) and a constantly rising foreign debt to pay for another foreign debt, the Philippines is more screwed than the Soviet Union at the time of it’s collapse. Oh well. The Philippines and the Filipino people have been screwed ever since Magellan got killed on our beaches anyway. We’re genetically pre-disposed to it.

Funny how these things are…

Right now, I'd rather have Hitler (who managed to pull Germany out of it's post-WW2 depression) or Ferdinand Marcos (who, despite corruption and martial law, managed to keep the Philippine economy at an acceptable level and maintained a decent standard of living for most) running the Philippines.

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