‘MILF: Noy gave us hope’

That was this paper’s headline in August quoting Moro Islamic Liberation Front chairman Murad Ebrahim, who was ecstatic then that the President of the Republic went on a secret trip to Tokyo just to meet him and his comrades.  Two months later now, President Aquino has indeed given the MILF hope in ways beyond Murad’s wildest dreams.

He ordered the military to stand down, after the MILF massacred nineteen Army Special Forces soldiers in Basilan 18 October.  And even as he tied the military’s hands while the rebels made their get-away, Mr. Aquino called for a command conference only two days later.  The generals couldn’t believe what they were hearing in that meeting: instead of asking them to come up with a plan to retaliate against the massacre, he blamed the commanders, and ordered relieved Col. Alexander Macario as head of Special Operations Task Force Basilan and Lt. Col. Leo Peña as commander of the 4th Special Forces Battalion, the mother unit of the ambushed platoon.   Mr. Aquino fired even the Army spokesman Col. Antonio Parlade whose fault was to articulate soldiers’ anger over the murder of their comrades.

With his statements deflecting blame away from the MILF, the President sadly has assumed the role of PR man, spinmeister for the MILF.


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Two Years Hate

In George Orwell’s novel of a future dystopia, “1984,” there is what is called “Two Minutes Hate.”

This is a daily period in which members of the totalitarian party (patterned after the pre-war Soviet Communist Party) are required to watch a film depicting the “enemies of the people,” and for them to shout their invectives against these foes.   The ritual ensured the continuing brainwashing of the party members. Perhaps even more importantly, it also strengthened the bond, the camaraderie among the party members.

“Two Minutes Hate” of course is fiction. In the 1970s though, social scientists, particularly the French historian and philosopher Renè Girard, made observations, which in effect make the idea behind “Two Minutes Hate” a common phenomenon in human societies.

Girard pointed out that internecine violence should be commonplace when humans organize themselves into societies, especially because of envy when some members get to be richer, smarter or happier than others.   To prevent violence from wrecking it, a society creates the “scapegoat mechanism,” by which a person or group of persons is blamed for all the ills and inequality of that particular group. All hate and violence is channeled against the scapegoat, so that individuals in that society go through a catharsis that strengthens their bonding as a group.

Girard pointed that the scapegoat mechanism explains why human sacrifice—the killing of the scapegoat—was very common in ancient societies.  The Jesus myth has become a global religion because it is based on a brilliant twist of the scapegoat mechanism. Jesus is the willing universal scapegoat, whose execution “takes away the sins of the world.”  The power of the mechanism is such that even a nation like Germany, which put a high value on rationality, embraced Hitler when he designated the Jews as the scapegoats.

We’ve seen Orwell’s Two Minutes Hate, and the scapegoat mechanism in our country.   Even if they may not have been merely scapegoats, but perpetrators of crimes, we have had our Two Minutes Hate periods in the case of Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada.  Remember how people seemed to go into paroxysms of hatred whenever Imelda’s 2,700 pairs of shoes or Marcos gigantic bust in Ilocos were shown on television? For Erap, it was the “Boracay” mansion, the Petrus wines and the CCTV video of the former President playing high-stakes poker in a Pagcor casino.


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De Lima and Brillantes are taking us for fools

Just who is Norie Unas whose testimony against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo our justice secretary swears by, the Commission on Elections chief very distastefully boasts will put her in jail by Christmas, and the presidential spokesperson claims is “very solid evidence”?

When they presented Unas to media Oct. 3 as a “new witness” against Macapagal-Arroyo, Leila de Lima and Sixto Brillantes introduced him as if he were just some bureaucrat from the boondocks, “the Provincial Administrator of Maguindanao.”

That’s like identifying Heinrich Himmler as once a German Interior Minister, without mentioning that he was the brains and executor of the Holocaust.  A hyperbole that may be, but just as Himmler with his gas chambers mechanized the murder of six million Jews, Unas ordered the mechanization in digging the mass grave for 57 people, including at least 32 journalists, cold-bloodedly murdered in November 2009, purportedly upon orders of his boss Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his son.

According to Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, whose wife was among the victims, Unas ordered the provincial government’s tractor backhoe be deployed to the killing field so that the corpses could be swiftly and deeply buried and hidden.


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Time to get to work, Mr. President

Greece will most likely default on its debts soon.  With the resulting hit its creditor banks in Europe will take, a European financial crisis will break out, triggering a global economic slowdown just a few notches lower in intensity than the 2008 global financial crisis.

A slowdown is no longer a forecast but is already a reality. As a Citi Private Bank regular economic briefing dated 29 Sept. 2011 put it:  “Global growth is slowing and systemic risk is rising… Parts of the global economy are probably already in recession; the question for us is how much will it spread and how bad will it get.”


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Aquino endorses Brazilian drinks

President Aquino last week raved over what he thought was buko juice from our country that is a fad in gyms in the United States.   He proudly brandished, the way Madonna did, in press conferences in the US and in Manila the two brands of the coconut-water beverage popular in the US:  Vita Coco and O.N.E. (for One Natural Experience).

Unfortunately for us, both are Brazilian drinks, widely known in the US as such, except to Mr. Aquino and his party.  Ira Liran, one of the two owners of Vita Coco, got interested in the drink (agua de coco), which was the favorite of a Brazilian beauty he met at a Manhattan bar, who would later on be his wife. His company has been getting for the past eight years all of its coconut water from his spouse’s country.


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Demystifying Marcos’ martial law regime

Thirty-nine years ago, President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law, allowing him to rule the country for 13  years.

I was then a 19-year-old Ateneo college dropout heading the Manila and Rizal organization of the Communist Party of the Philippines, then a rag-tag band of dreamy-eyed baby-boomers (founder Jose Sison was then 33 years old, the legendary Kumander Dante, 29).   The party’s analysis was that the Plaza Miranda bombing of the opposition rally a year earlier had intensified “the split within the ruling class,” so much so that Marcos would soon declare a hated martial law—and create a revolutionary situation chaotic enough for the communists to take over power.


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Aquinomics: no economics

In Peter Sellers’ 1979 hit comedy “Being There,” a simple-minded gardener’s utterances drawn from TV commercials and gardening knowledge are misinterpreted as profundity, so that he is mistaken as a policy wonk in Washington, D.C. circles.

The movie somehow reminds us of how awe-struck writers read profundity in President Aquino’s actions to even call these as making up “Aquinomics.” Assuming that the term refers to something, it would be “no economics.”

Mr. Aquino has demonstrated a penchant for eschewing economic thinking. After a year in power, we may be seeing the upper-class version of the masa’s Erap, hopefully only in terms of economic literacy.


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Chinese premier asked for Aquino apology

Using diplomatic language, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao unexpectedly asked President Aquino to apologize for the massacre of August 23 last year of eight Hong Kong tourists in a hostage situation bungled by his government, diplomatic sources say. Mr. Aquino was caught flatfooted, as his foreign affairs officials had said they were sure the issue was a “dead one.”

Though stated in a roundabout way, Wen’s message was unmistakable, and wasn’t even made confidential, the sources say, pointing to the official account by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mr. Aquino’s September 1 meeting: “Wen urged the Philippine government to attach importance to the requests of the government and people of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and properly handle the aftermath of last year’s incident in which tourists from Hong Kong were held hostage in Manila.”

The main request made by the victim’s relatives was for Mr. Aquino to formally apologize for his government’s blunders in the hostage crisis.  The other two requests were for cash compensation, and for the government to file criminal cases against officials who bungled the crisis.


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Envoys queuing up to meet MILF head

It didn’t take too long for President Aquino’s meeting with Moro Islamic Liberation Front chieftain Murad Ebrahim in Tokyo—originally intended as a dramatic achievement for the State of the Nation speech—to unravel as one of his biggest blunders so far. In an insult to the President, as it ignored totally his “historic” meet last August 5 with Murad, the MILF ended the talks August 29, a day before its scheduled end, practically with a walkout.

The fallout from Aquino’s misstep had started earlier. Making Aquino’s meeting with the rebel chief as an excuse, the Japanese ambassador to the Philippines Toshinao Urabe, with his political affairs minister and other ranking embassy officials, trooped on Aug. 18  to the MILF headquarters in Maguindanao to meet  with Murad and other central committee members.


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Ghost stories on 2004 election fraud

This paper’s Talk of the Town last week, which Manuel Alcuaz’s piece, “Fraud in the 2004 Presidential Elections,” was, well, a ghost story. According to the editor’s introduction, there was this “rediscovery” of Alcuaz’s paper submitted way back in 2006.

“By coincidence or serendipity,” the introduction said, was the piece found, and when the editor decided to run it he was surprised (now you can hear that “X-Files” theme in the background) to learn that Alcuaz had passed away. Not only that, you are supposed to have gooseflesh. According to the introduction, when the editor called up the number in the cover letter to talk to Alcuaz, the phone company message was the number had yet to be assigned. (Reality check: The news on the death of Alcuaz, the fire-brand Linggoy’s brother, and a personality in the IT and management circles, was widely circulated in cyberspace, and reported in several newspapers the day after he died on July 24.)

The political ghost story peddled: A patriot whose article didn’t see print in 2006 has reached out from the great beyond to expose the 2004 electoral fraud committed by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Alcuaz’s ghost extricated it somewhere and put it on top of the editor’s pile of letters.


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