‘Stupidity is invincible’

NOT TOO widely known is the fact that the Greek language is not only a precise, nuanced language, but it has a treasury of aphorisms. The beauty of these adages is that one would have to do some thinking to understand them. But when understanding dawns, one realizes how rich the proverb is.

Think of President Aquino’s very first order as head of government, Memorandum Circular No. 1, which would have paralyzed government. It was rescinded, as his officials put it, just “to fine-tune” it. Think of Dinky Soliman boasting that yes, the President was in command during the hostage crisis in August because he had a command post—at the Emerald Garden restaurant. Think of Mr. Aquino antagonizing the United States by saying that its travel advisories warning of terrorist attacks in the country are merely pressure connected to the Visiting Forces Agreement. Think of the incompetent tourism secretary, Alberto Lim, arrogantly saying that there wasn’t any plagiarism in the design of the slogan he wanted since Poland doesn’t have a copyright on it.

I can’t help thinking of the Greek saying, “Stupidity is invincible.”

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Why Pacquiao matters much in the imagining

A WEEK after my wife Getsy and I came back to our country after four and a half exciting years in Greece representing our country, I was fortunate to have a chance to commune in a deep way and in the most unique circumstances with my fellow citizens last Sunday. This was at the fully packed Bubba Gump restaurant at Greenbelt. There I cheered loudly with my fellow Filipinos for Manny Pacquiao as he made boxing history.

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Learning from Indonesia

THE ARTICLE “Why Indonesia outperforms RP” (Talk of the Town, Inquirer 10/30/10) by Ed Tadem gushes as much over Indonesia as it bashes the Philippines. It is however so deeply flawed, and a sorry instance of national self-flagellation.

Still comparing the two countries is extremely useful in understanding the real strengths or weaknesses of our nation.

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Learning from the Vietnamese

IT’S A bit disconcerting to hear President Benigno Aquino III telling Filipinos to learn agriculture from the Vietnamese. The advice at best appears to be one borne from misinformation, and at worse, another indication of our unnecessary insecurity over our country’s condition.

The Philippines after all is more developed than Vietnam, a country ravaged by wars of aggression by the French, Japanese and finally by the Americans since the start of the 20th century. Our country’s $1,890 GDP per capita, a measure of a nation’s level of development, is more than twice Vietnam’s $890.

Mr. Aquino advising Filipinos to learn from the success of Vietnam in agriculture is just like saying that residents of Metro Manila should learn farming from Mindanao since that region produces more rice than the metropolis. Vietnam is still a dominantly rural economy, with 73 percent of its people in rural areas (roughly the same proportion in Mindanao) compared to 37 percent for the Philippines. That our agricultural sector is more productive than that of Vietnam is reflected in the fact that even with much fewer people in agriculture, our agricultural value added as a percentage of the total economic output is 14 percent—close to Vietnam’s 20 percent.

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Coup-plotting now a career path

WITH HIS amnesty plan to free military mutineers, particularly former Navy Lieutenant and now Senator Antonio Trillanes, President Aquino will make plotting and participation in coups viable career paths for megalomaniacs in the Armed Forces. Congress is even being asked to rubber-stamp a distorted kind of military thinking, which in essence rejects the very idea of a parliament.

The reaction of another accused mutineer, retired Brigadier General Danilo Lim, to the proclamation lays bare the bankruptcy of this kind of thinking: “A soldier must be ready at all times to fight and defend his country, even if the oppressor is the government itself,” he said.

The question is: Who or what decides whether or not the government is an oppressor a soldier must fight? Is it Lim? Surveys? Media? NGOs? The size of demonstrations? Disgruntled fame-seeking government officials?

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‘Imagine’

THE INTERNET behemoth Google recently paid a rare tribute to a cultural icon who is ironically little admired by the generation that most uses the web. It celebrated John Lennon’s 70th birthday on October 9 by having its logo changed to a doodle that had a sketch of the Beatle, with his famous grandpa spectacles.

Clicking the logo triggered an animation of an idyllic scene, and the playing of Lennon’s greatest song “Imagine.”

And then a week later, UN goodwill ambassador Lea Salonga, sang the song at the World Food Day celebration in Rome, with the line perfect for the occasion: “Imagine a world without hunger. It’s easy if you try.”

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Filed under: Inquirer Columns, Philosophy

Why many Filipinos are poor (2)

TO RECALL the first part of this topic, the World Bank’s latest report on the country, titled “The Philippines: Fostering More Inclusive Growth,” started its analysis of poverty in our country by asking: “Who are the poor, what are the characteristics of the poorest Filipinos?” The World Bank’s answer: first, the typical poor Filipino belongs to a large family of five members; second, he lives in a rural area.

My past two columns dealt with the first part of the answer: Our unbridled population growth has become one of the major factors causing poverty. We focus now on the second characteristic of the poor: Seventy-one percent of poor Filipinos live in rural areas. Poverty is mainly a rural phenomenon.

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Filed under: Economics & Business, Inquirer Columns

Majority of Filipinos against Church’s stand

IT WILL take a miracle for the Catholic Church to undertake a civil disobedience campaign against the use of contraceptives because the vast majority of Filipinos are in fact against the Church’s stand. They unequivocally support a state-sponsored modern family planning program.

According to two Ulat ng Bayan Pulse Asia surveys (October 2008 and March 2007), 82 percent of Filipinos nationwide think it is government’s duty to provide knowledge, services and materials for modern family planning methods, both natural and artificial. In Manila, considered the more informed sector of our nation, the support rises to 86 percent.

The Pulse Asia surveys also imply that the claim that the Church through its faithful can block a candidate supporting birth control from winning an election is a myth. Some 72 percent of Filipinos nationwide and 74 percent in Metro Manila in fact think it is important for candidates to include state-financed family planning in their promised programs, and that they would vote for candidates favoring such programs. President Aquino shouldn’t worry a bit that his principled stance on family planning isn’t supported by Catholics. In fact, the big majority most definitely do.

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‘All population statistics wrong, except mine’

THAT WAS what the economist Dr. Bernardo Villegas was saying in effect when he claimed, in an article in the Manila Bulletin last Sept. 19, that Philippine “population statistics are being doctored.” He had it reprinted in this newspaper a few days later with the headline, “The Philippine population is not exploding.” His article is a perfect illustration of dogmatism: “If the facts don’t fit my theory, they’re wrong facts.”

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Why many Filipinos are poor: WB’s latest report

THE WORLD Bank’s most recent analysis of the Philippine economy released last month was quite underreported, probably since, as is typical of its reports, you have to wrestle through its technocratic language.

The title itself of the study doesn’t make for exciting reading: “The Philippines: Fostering More Inclusive Growth.” It would have been covered better in the press perhaps if it was titled based on its actual topic: “Why so many Filipinos are poor, and will be poor—and their numbers will certainly grow—if little is done by government.” As is typical of World Bank reports, it is a comprehensive analysis with a long list of “to-dos” for government (e.g., more efficient tax collection, more infrastructure), which, I would say, could be a good blueprint for President Aquino’s reform programs. We focus though on two of its major conclusions on why so many Filipinos remain poor.

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