A test of the President’s leadership

REVERSING THE Sandiganbayan’s pending decision to let retired Brig. Gen. Carlos Garcia off lightly would be a major test of President Benigno Aquino III’s leadership. And by leadership in this case is not meant simply giving orders or blaming the Office of the Ombudsman, but finding ways and means to use the enormous powers of the presidency to ensure that justice is done.

I realize of course that many would sneer at this, but during the earlier years of the Arroyo administration, there was a determined, organized and no-nonsense campaign against corruption. It was less talk and sloganeering, but hard, quiet work. After President Joseph Estrada’s conviction and incarceration, Garcia’s case was the highlight of that campaign.

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‘China is a hostage-taker’

THAT IS what in effect President Aquino told the world when he announced that his decision to boycott the Nobel ceremony was to convince China not to execute five Filipino prisoners convicted of drug trafficking. I hope I am wrong, but Mr. Aquino’s statements may have put the Death-Row prisoners closer to the firing squad.

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Truths the Truth Commission revealed

IN ITS brief five-month existence, President Aquino’s Truth Commission managed to show us three truths. The first is that the current administration is in a time-warp of sorts. It believes that June 2010 was another Edsa Revolt. The make-believe world of administration officials is that just as his mother toppled a dictator in 1986, the son had overthrown Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in May 2010.

What Mr. Aquino and his inner circle don’t seem to know is that Arroyo wasn’t kicked out as Marcos and Estrada were; she stepped down when her term ended and even ran for a lower post as a member of Congress. Her candidate lost in the elections, but so did the respected President Fidel Ramos’ anointed lose to a popular actor.

Because of that kind of mentality, Executive Order No. 1 that created the commission was nearly a plagiarism of his mother’s Executive Order No. 1 issued on Feb. 28, 1986. “Whereas, there is an urgent need…,” the mother said in his order in 1986. “Whereas there is an urgent call…,” the son said in his 2010 order.

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Secrets of the Communist Party

DR. MARIO Miclat’s “Secrets of the Eighteen Mansions: A Novel” (Manila: Anvil Publishing, 2010) reveals in rich detail many of the covert factors that contributed to the growth of one of our country’s biggest problems: the Communist Party of the Philippines.

The “18 mansions” are the buildings in a secret compound in Beijing where the Chinese Communist Party in the 1960s and 1970s housed delegations of communist parties all over the world to facilitate its clandestine aid to their own insurgencies.

Mansion No. 7 housed the living quarters and offices in Beijing of the delegation from the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founded and led by Jose Ma. Sison, aka Amado Guerrero. Miclat was a member of the CPP delegation who, with his family, lived and worked in that mansion starting in 1971. He returned to the Philippines in 1986, totally disillusioned with the party, which he says was a monster he “helped create, yet which devoured” him. He has since become an academic with a PhD and is at present dean of the Asian Center at the University of the Philippines.

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‘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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