Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hope springs eternal

“Never deprive someone of hope; it might be all they have.” — Anonymous

Seven out of 10 Filipinos still believe there’s hope in the Philippines ; they should. Our hope lives on while there are still outstanding leaders who keep setting the example of sacrifice and determination to liberate this country from poverty, mental stupor and national mendicancy. Gen. Danilo Lim, Sen. Trillanes, the Bagong Katipuneros and President Joseph E. Estrada—with his slogan, “Walang tutulong sa Pilipino kundi kapwa Pilipino”—are all such leaders who lead us toward national emancipation.

In historical terms, our struggle is still shot compared to the awakened giant of Asia, China , which decayed and languished for 500 years before revolutionary, anti-colonial, and nationalist leadership emerged 59 years ago. If measured from the year of the Malolos Republic of 1899 when the Philippine struggle set up its sovereign government, it will only be 100 years next year.

We thus have no reason to believe that this historical event may finally be completed soon. But with the right leadership to galvanize this nation’s energy, we can achieve a turnaround in 10 years of what China has achieved for itself in 60. By then, we would have returned to our pre-eminent stature in the Asean community—something that we took for granted in the 50’s. But these positive aspirations should be first stoked in all Filipinos’ hearts that they may be fired up to achieve the socio-political and economic changes we so direly need. For where there is no hope, there can be no progress.

It is therefore heartening news that hope still springs from the Filipino soul as the recent Pulse Asia survey found. Yet, there is another factor that increases the likelihood of our much-needed changes: The return of thousands of OFWs who are now jobless.

All the decades since the 70’s, the only pressure relief valve for scores of unemployed but able-bodied and talented Filipinos was the OFW deployment. Millions had left the country to earn a living, including many leaders from the activist movement and the intelligentsia. But now that these foreign jobs are disappearing, OFWs still with boundless energies will be forced to return home with little prospect of employment.

Where are they going to work here? Where are the kinds of factories they’re used to when they were in Taiwan , for example? What about construction workers from the Middle East who are coming home to a construction slump? Workers in the electronics sector, meanwhile, will come home to the news that Texas Instruments had just laid off 400 workers in its Baguio plant. Then, as Filipino white collar OFWs from the US also come home, to what office will they be recruited when retrenchments here have already begun?

Radically changing the present paradigm is thus the only way to solve this impending unemployment tsunami: By reorienting the country’s economy toward import substitution to produce what we import today such as milk, diapers, rice, meat, etc.

Buttressing this is the latest PhilExport News sent via e-mail: “Exporters increase sales to domestic market… A manufacturer and exporter of handcrafted Christmas and other holiday décors…said since sales abroad went down because of stiff competition from China and other Asian countries three years ago, exporters have been participating more in domestic trade fairs. She bared that the local market now comprises around 20 percent of their total sales, while that of a furniture company is much higher at 40 percent… So over the years, we have found out what the Filipinos are looking for. We already produce for the domestic market…and it is enough to take care of our overhead cost.”

For sure, increased earnings will take care of more than just the overhead if there is a full blown government-led policy to cultivate the domestic market henceforth. However, it’s more than just furniture and Christmas décor we should make for the domestic market. We need agricultural implements, organized organic fertilizer production, production of skim milk from coconuts to replace almost all milk imports, and more high tech people to put up big and micro-geothermal power plants all over the country. You see, it just takes some little imaginative twists to shift our orientation from export-dependence to import-substitution.

Then again, there are macro-economic issues to take care of too, like reviewing our debt amortizations to shift resources to domestic pump-priming, as well as, cutting down power and water costs, which, despite declining oil and exchange rates, are still going through the roof with petitions from Meralco, the NPC, and the new Maynilad owners, to increase charges yet again.

These are the things that all Filipinos should be focused on while struggling to remove the one big obstacle to all these remedies—Gloria Arroyo, together with the foreign and local oligarchs propping her up. All the other carping from diverse anti-Gloria groups are only secondary to this. The debate on the CARP law, for instance, is moot and academic, as any land reform program won’t work while the landlord class still controls Malacañang and Congress. Moreover, all investigations of corruption will come to naught while Gloria Arroyo is in power for she serves to cover all their asses.

All forces for positive change against Gloria’s tyranny must therefore come together and concentrate on the removal of Gloria and the establishment of a genuine leadership dedicated to the welfare of this nation and its shift to an independent and progressive economy.

Thankfully, the nation is coming close to a final turnover of power to a new leadership that can and will change this country. The previous Friday, all soldiers were confined to barracks with a headcount conducted to ensure that no one was out to join any unauthorized movements, an intel major confirmed. The Gloria Arroyo regime is suffering from violent nervous convulsions because it knows that there are unceasing efforts to break open the floodgates of change. Their diversionary bombings won’t help them anymore. The odds are all against Gloria and her corrupt henchmen as she and her FG’s billions will be inutile when the social volcano erupts.

(Tune in to 1098AM, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.; Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Destiny Cable, Channel 3, Tuesday, 8:45 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., featuring Mrs. Aloy and Ms. Aika Lim, wife and daughter of Gen. Danilo Lim; also visit http://hermantiulaurel.blogspot.com)

Monday, December 15, 2008

United toward victory

The two huge rallies staged by two major anti-Gloria movements signify a resurgence and imminent victory of the fight for justice and truth that was started at Edsa Tres in May 2001.
Last November 10, six Catholic bishops and the KME (Kilusang Makabansang Ekonomista) mustered one of the largest rallies of the past year in front of St. Peter’s Cathedral along Commonwealth Ave. What distinguished it was the active mobilization of thousands of Catholic school students by the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP). With them too were thousands of farmers from various land reform advocates such as Unorca, the group of Bishop Labayen, and fellow Manila Pen veteran Ka Vangie.
On November 12, Friday, it was the turn of the political opposition -- from the Left to the Middle Forces – to gather up to 30,000 people at the juncture of Ayala Ave. and Paseo de Roxas. Though it was a very positive show of force, it didn’t match the 60,000-strong October 2003 march on Ayala that our own Edsa Tres groups organized -- the one where I was able to block a phalanx of at least half a dozen riot policemen with my outstretched body pressing against their riot shields until I collapsed from tear gas asphyxiation. Still, a significant thing about this recent gathering was the broad spectrum of forces represented in the rally -- except for the presence of tradpols and political opportunists like Frank Drilon and Butch Abad who, aside from spearheading Edsa Dos, continue to promote globalization and power privatization policies that are so discredited today. If only the rallies at St. Peter’s and Ayala were combined, we would have had one of the largest rallies ever assembled.
Few people know that the St. Peter’s rally was just a glimpse of the movement’s nationwide character. Bishop-led rallies in six other provinces were held simultaneously in Zamboanga, Samar, Naga, etc., with Bishop Navarra mustering 30,000 rallyists in Bacolod City alone.
I am sure there will soon be a convergence of those two opposition movements, provided that nationalist objectives form the basis of their anti-Gloria unity. These developments prove once and for all that the struggle started in May 2001 for a just cause will bring the nation to final victory. Already, President Estrada’s role in the anti-Gloria, anti-Cha-cha struggle has been accepted by all significant sectors of the opposition. He was not only welcomed but eagerly awaited in the march, which he unfortunately had to miss at the last minute due to his ailing mother’s condition.
On another front of our struggle, another victory is being won: The Senate is now working on the teleconferencing attendance of Sen. Trillanes in its sessions. This will be a sweet triumph for supporters of the Oakwood young officers and the Manila Pen protest, as they’ve kept faith in the peaceful struggle by Gen. Lim and Sen. Trillanes.
While we have no love lost for the likes of Juan Ponce Enrile, we have to acknowledge his act of making amends by helping in this action, if it does finally push through. The Senate is sorely missing the contributions of Sen. Trillanes who has continued to perform despite incarceration; participating or sponsoring over a hundred Senate resolutions and legislations the past year.
In Sen. Trillanes’ latest blog entry, for instance, he discussed energy generation from garbage incinerators, which is an advocacy of mine too. In 1991, I built one neighborhood incinerator with a wet scrubber pollution control mechanism in Quezon City , and it worked very well. Only environmental nincompoops and energy saboteurs like Meralco’s Bantay Kalikasan spew the lie that incinerators are bad, even when Japan already has 2,500 of them. This is but one necessary component in our country’s quest for energy independence -- part of the economic liberation this nation should realize in the midst of the global economic crisis.
While the political fight continues to expand, we must also be aware that the economic struggles of this country will be escalating.
Partly due to self-preservation, Gloria Arroyo and Congress are now forced to heed some of this column’s warnings and prescriptions. One newspaper headline, for instance, reports Congress readiness to reduce the rVAT from 12 to 10 percent, which, of course, I would like to push even further by calling for a debt default -- the same kind that Ecuador has just officially implemented.
Thanks to the West’s financial collapse, all have now seen the perfidy of international bankers and the double-standard of ratings agencies that pontificate on corruption and credit-worthiness. We should be fighting back now and reject all onerous and unjust debts. For sure, Gloria Arroyo and her “tongresista” are incapable of doing this, which is why we need the change even today.
Pump-priming by infrastructure spending is what every government is doing these days, from Obama to Hu Jintao. Gloria is allocating P100 billion for this, but the question is where to put it. If Gloria will be given her way, she’ll spend it all on grass cutters until Election Day. That’s certainly what her Neda chief Ralph Recto would do as well. After all, he has proven himself stupid by his sponsorship of rVAT during election year (for which he was handsomely rewarded as his own staff admits he got loads of money from oil and power companies for removing the “no pass-on” provision).
Fortunately for us, Gloria, by necessity, has assigned the task of studying where this allocation should go to one professional economist, Romulo Neri, who’s also anti-oligarchy. This proves that despite having called her “evil,” it is actually Neri who has Gloria by the balls; not the other way around.
Neri could thus seize the day by focusing on three areas that offer the greatest economic impact from the P100-billion fund: a crash program for geothermal energy projects; coconut integrated processing centers the Philippine Cooperative of VCO and Allied Products proposes to maximize the 350 million hectares and three million coconut farmers’ coconut resources for skim milk, flour, sugar, pharma- and nutri-ceuticals; and the “System of Rice Intensification” (SRI) from Cornell Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development, taught by Filipino scientist Engr. Obet Verzola, that increases rice farm yields by 50 to 100 percent without chemical fertilizers.
Neri must also work with medium and small scale business associations to include import-substitution industries among the sectors to be supported.
The anti-Gloria forces should talk, then unify and consolidate for another push toward victory while working with all sectors to help the national economy triumph over the global financial and economic collapse.

(Tune in to 1098AM, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.; Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Destiny Cable, Channel 3, Tuesday, 8:45 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; also visit http://hermantiulaurel.blogspot.com)

Friday, December 12, 2008

‘Lord, it’s you!’(?)

There’s very little for Filipinos to celebrate this Yuletide season had the Pacquiao fight didn’t come along. But is it really something to cheer about? I came across a Nevada news website which reported that the three Pacquiao fights the past year saved the Nevada economy, saying that 90 percent of audiences who paid to watch the fights on site and via pay-per-view were Filipinos in the US , in other countries and in the Philippines . That’s hundreds of millions of dollars from Filipino pockets and, indirectly, from the national economy paid to promoters, bookies, and foreign satellite and cable operators. Pacquiao did earn a lot, but the Philippines lost a hundred times more than the fraction he earned.
At the Manila airport, Pacquiao was reported to have credited his win to “the Lord.” Is this the Lord Pacquiao acknowledged first before any other in the speech he made in the boxing ring? I doubt that the Lord of Archbishop Oscar Cruz would find it amusing to be confused with that widely renowned lord of jueteng and other nefarious activities Pacquiao has been effusively praising. We can’t blame the boxing great if he gets a little confused about Lords and Ladies and the issues he raises. Pacquiao advices people to forget politics but he not only wouldn’t stay away from politicians who blatantly use him for their ends, he caters to them. It’s laudable that Pacquiao says he’s going back to school. Maybe he’ll find better company there than the kinds of Lords molding his values today.
For the followers of the true Lord of the season, this Christmas is clearly a very different celebration. Six bishops of the Catholic Church led the Wednesday demonstration at St. Peter’s Cathedral and the march to Batasan. The action was spurred by the failure and junking by Congress of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, as well as, the Cha-cha Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been attempting to sneak through that body. The common arena for these issues is Congress and it’s not going to be a fair fight for the bishops when the congressmen have just enjoyed the impeachment bonus which they used for their trip to Las Vegas to watch Pacquiao. CARP, the oligarchs say, has failed. What no one explains is the sabotage of the farmers from denial of credit and support, to Congress’ reluctance to speak for those without money.
The bishops and the marchers don’t have the money to give congressmen to vote against the Cha-cha; though the fear of the Church consolidating people power may strike the fear of God in them. The bishops’ rally will eventually merge with the Friday anti-Cha-cha demonstration in Makati , but these demonstrations will go the way of countless other bigger rallies of the past eight years if there is no action on the part of our AFP to support change and reforms. Mao has always challenged the lords of peace on this point every time his tenet is uttered: “Power comes from the barrel of the gun.” Even withdrawal of the gun is enough to tip the scales in any situation, but the AFP men of good intentions have been more like lambs -- except for those who have openly protested, who now languish in detention. Still, hope springs eternal and we’ve all learned to wait in waging the struggle peacefully.
The Congress’ fear of God may not equal the power of the god of money that Gloria commands. Besides, there’s a way to genuflect before the bishops and still get more money out of Gloria, through a Con-con or Constitutional Convention. The Church may be persuaded with a Con-con as conservatives have always found this acceptable. A little sweetener for the likes of Bishop Capalla will help smooth the Church’s slide to the Con-con, while opposition politicians may be lulled into thinking this formula automatically disqualifies Gloria Arroyo for lack of time. Or, they’ll think, the US and the new global rich like the South Koreans, Taiwanese, and Chinese, will be too happy to buy hectares upon hectares of Philippine land from congressmen and big businessmen who’ve been land banking the past years -- a sure bonanza for land speculators.
Speaking of Lords, there’s been a lot of talk among local columnists about events involving the Lord of Thailand, the King -- nitpicking with the Thai ambassador who expressed irritation over descriptions of the Thai demonstrations as “immature,” with some comparing these to the Edsa Dos “parliament of the streets” -- altogether missing the core political-economic and geopolitical issues.
The collapse of parliamentary democracy in Thailand was engineered by the Royal Family and the pro-western Privy Council backed by western royalty. At issue are: The drug trade, which the Thai establishment has profitably condoned but which Thaksin cracked down and worked with Myanmar to stamp out (to the chagrin of the opium-trading British and drug legalizer George Soros); Thaksin’s Asean support for Myanmar and their joint projects; Thaksin’s grassroots-up economic development model through massive credit to the villages which started to build a politically consciousness and base that was perceived as a challenge to the Thai monarchy; and the slow shift of economic relations from the West to the East, as symbolized by the sale of the Shinawatra telecoms company to the Chinese-dominated Temasek of Singapore.
Forbes reports that the Thai King is the richest monarch (topping the Sultan of Brunei) with $35 billion in personal fortune while Thai peasants remain poor. EIR’s Michael Billington writes, “Ji Ungpakorn, a professor at Chulalongkorn University… denounced the ‘democratic’ demonstrators for what they are: a ‘royalist’ fascist mob which has powerful backing from the Army, the Queen, the so-called Democratic Party, the courts, the mainstream media and most university academics… with total contempt for the Thai electorate who are poor… (On) Nov. 7, the British government cancelled the visas of both Thaksin and his wife. It is certainly not coincidental that Princess Alexandra, the cousin of Queen Elizabeth, arrived in Bangkok on that very day, at the personal invitation of her close friends, the King and Queen of Thailand.”
In this supposedly democratic day and age, should small power elites still be allowed to lord it over the Rule of the Majority?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Media: Educator or entertainer?

I am writing from a small carinderia just a few meters off the corner of the Bataan National Highway and Alauli, Pilar Road after a two-hour drive from Manila , through the NLEX (which brought me at loggerheads with one of the Lopez potentates) and the SCTex. I am on my way to a mountain farm I’ve put up to grow ginger, leeks, camote, cassava and other vegetables and spices for our family’s little food chain. I lament having to reduce our regular supplier’s income but with the economic tsunami hitting us now, we all have to cut costs. Ginger, for example, now costs P75 a kilo in Manila and I could get it here for the cost of planting and tending it for the next eight months, which is practically free.  
I’m afraid there’s very little being done to prepare Filipinos for self-reliance and sustainability. At the Ka Entrep (entrepreneurial association) assembly held last week at the Adamson University , I was asked how small entrepreneurs should brace for the challenges. I could have chanted the standard mantra: Cut cost, innovate and adjust; but any thinking entrepreneur would be doing all these already. Instead, I advised the 200-strong audience to work more closely together and pressure government to promote the growth of domestic, import-substituting industries, and reverse past policies of mainly promoting exports.
While the G7 and G20 cautioned countries from turning “protectionist,” the undeniable reality is that most are now taking steps to shore up their economic and financial defenses.
For instance, in a direct negation of the West’s demands for China to revalue or appreciate its currency to reduce its trade imbalance with the West, the UK’s Telegraph reported last December 4 that China is set to even devalue the Yuan by 6 percent over the next year. Obviously, China devised this to take other export market shares to offset the precipitous drop in its export sales, which is essential to stemming the tide of social dislocation caused by the US subprime and credit collapse (that’s leading more and more to a US Depression as many fear).
Another case in point: OPEC countries are cutting back production to inflate oil prices. That’s also protectionism.
To this day, it still is a dirty word to prescribe protection for the Philippine economy and its people. But why are our supposed leaders unable to grasp this for the sake of our people?
There are grand talks of an economic “marshal plan” from some administration economic advisers, like investment agent and Arroyo-sponsored Bicol governor Joey Salceda, who recommended a P100-billion stimulus package, which was raised in the Ka Entrep open forum. But where does Salceda propose this to be put and used? For really, there are never any details from him because he doesn’t understand real economics like Gloria, as they’ve been brought up in the Lehman Bros. and AIG tradition of investment speculation.
Unfortunately, these breakfast reflections didn’t carry over to my lunch here at Morong because of Manny Pacquiao’s latest match. The noise from the TV in Donny’s carinderia made it hard for me to “hear” my own thoughts. But then, I also saw why there is so little thinking done in this country. Practically all -- senators, congressmen, the hoi polloi -- prefer the slam-bang of boxing to the task of understanding, mastering and surmounting our national crises.
I imagine that if another TV monitor were set beside the Pacquiao fight TV, and reported on the P1-trillion swindle the 50-year franchise for the Transco privatization wrought, I doubt that anyone else will pay attention.
Even the BIR’s announcement that it will tax consumers for the refund of illegal Meralco meter deposits, amounting to several billions, would probably not distract the audience from the said bout. In addition, despite this being announced two weeks ago, we still seem to be the only ones protesting.
Not even a recent Napocor announcement that it will be charging consumers for its billions of pesos in fuel supply contract losses to foreign and local Independent Power Producers (IPP) the past decade turned heads. No wonder this country is going to the poorhouse while it hapless citizens enjoy the “entertainment!”
At that point, amid the loud and bloodthirsty goading of the audience signifying Pacquiao’s apparent lead, I focused on the problem of information and values in this country.
Many studies have postulated that media molds 80 percent of the public’s views and people’s understanding of their world. It will, thus, explain what we, as a nation, are today. By the same token, progressive countries that can be comparable to our development in recent history, where entertainment and boxing are given lower priority, all seem to be doing much better.
For instance, boxing offers no great shakes for China , South Korea , Malaysia or Taiwan , and they are all progressive. While Japan has Sumo wrestling, it is more a cultural and spiritual ritual rather than a gladiator sport.
True, the Philippines has had several boxing champions; but it undeniably has a failed economy. These reflections lead me to recall a speech at the formal launching of the Global News Network (GNN) of Destiny Cable and its satellite link of over 200 networks of the Philippine Cable TV Association -- making GNN a truly nationwide broadcast soon.
Mrs. Elena Lim, matriarch of the Destiny Cable group, stressed her vision of education over entertainment in shaping the GNN mission -- a visionary declaration I was extremely delighted about.
We need comprehensive information and values education for true democracy. And as Pacquiao just won; thanking the worst of the lot like Chavit Singson and several “tongressmen,” it only means we will have a lot more work to do toward values formation.
(Tune in to 1098AM, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.; Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Destiny Cable, Channel 3, Tuesday, 8:45 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; also visit http://hermantiulaurel.blogspot.com)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Behind the sound and fury

The sound and fury over Gloria’s Cha-cha cum Con-ass are rising. Among those who have joined the anti-Cha-cha bandwagon, El Shaddai’s Mike Velarde and JIL’s Eddie Villanueva are sure to give their “heavenly” stamp to this rallying cry. A supposed Palace ally, meanwhile, the NPC of Danding Cojuangco, is said to be ready to spring a surprise on Gloria too at the proper time.

Of course, President Estrada has long warned about this and is now ready to mobilize the briefly hibernating masa against it. Coupled with Catholic Church progressives, these combined groups will be a force to reckon with.

But lest anyone believes Gloria’s schemes have been thwarted, there is still a Con-con fallback, and it will be foolhardy to think she can’t buy her way into that as well.

The Liberal Party, for example, has already expressed its desire for an elected Con-con in 2010, which would seem to bar the incumbent for a new term on the premise that Gloria can’t get her way with an elected body.

But that’s just wrong on many counts. First, Gloria can pick the winners in a Con-con election with her control of the Comelec. Then, she can control that delegation with her money, in the same way that she has held local executives and Supreme Court justices, among many others, by their balls.

A Con-con could then neutralize the Catholic Church, which has expressed openness to this route since 2007, as objections from progressives will be drowned out by conservatives, who’ll argue for the body’s seeming democratic composition, apart from its expected espousal of federalism, which some quarters in that church have foolishly rendered as a panacea to save the country.

At best, a Con-con would only put the anti-Cha-cha forces in disarray. Come to think of it, this may yet be the best bet for Gloria to open up the Philippine economy, particularly Mindanao, to US ownership.

Filipinos should therefore brush up on global realpolitik to understand the Philippine political-economic milieu today -- an arena where Gloria has outsmarted almost everyone.

Gloria understands that the key to her political longevity is to capitalize on the geopolitical and economic interests of the US to her advantage.

In Edsa II, she promised US transnational corporations the right to plunder the nation through power and other privatizations in exchange for their sponsorship of her coup. And in the years that followed, we saw how her covert Edsa II cohort, the MILF, formally kowtow to the US in a letter to Bush, with its acquiescence for their joint primacy over what should only be RP’s national patrimony in Mindanao.

The US is a superpower because of its economic and military clout. Even with its economic clout now greatly diminished, the “Sword of Damocles” still hovers above any Malacañang occupant because of potential US-instigated subversion through its many elements in the military, police and NGOs or “civil society” groups.

In the 1989 coup attempt by the RAM, for instance, it was the US agent FVR who pleaded with then Gen. Colin Powell to get Phantom jet backing for the Cory Aquino regime, forcing coup leaders to back down in the face of what they perceived to be “superior power.”

But putting military might aside, we also need to discern the deeper issues that are clouded by the sound and fury or the smoke-and-mirrors of what turn out as anti-Cha-cha and anti-Joc-joc “theaters of the absurd.”

Let me point out that the Transco franchise was passed last week by the legislature right from under our very nose despite the Senate’s promise never to allow this P1.1-trillion highway robbery of the Filipino people through.

To refresh, $6 billion worth of Transco assets were sold for a significantly paltry $4 billion sum and on an installment, pay-as-you-earn basis, transferring annual clean profits from public to private hands of at least P20 billion, or P500 billion in its 25-year franchise, without compounded interest. Perhaps, our only consolation is that this “franchise” will expire at some distant point. But still, imagine the glee of this transnational syndication composed of the Carlyle group with the China State Grid and Gloria’s “packager,” renowned for his ZTE role and his port operations that charge the highest fees in the world!

Thus, the real way to stop not only the Con-ass but the Con-con and the US-Gloria collusion is to inform all Filipinos, with special emphasis on the AFP, on the real plan behind Cha-cha by whatever means, to dismember the country and swindle us of our national patrimony, to the detriment of our children and grandchildren. In sum, it is the theft of our country’s chances toward economic security and prosperity that is at stake here.

The only action this country needs to bring about social change and liberation, which neither a Con-ass-ed or Con-con-ned Cha-cha, nor even an election can lead to, is a nationalist revolution lead by civilian and AFP patriots -- the same revolution that harks back to the days of Rizal and Bonifacio.

If the parliamentary opposition remains weak, it’s only because it is still not unified in embracing the true political revolutionary, Erap, who aroused masa power. If the political revolution has yet to push through, it is only because the likes of Gen. Danilo Lim and Sen. Antonio Trillanes continue to be wasted in detention.
Let us have the nationalist revolution first before any constitutional review. Otherwise, we will only fall right into the trap of Gloria and the foreign powers.

Friday, November 28, 2008

N29M: Our movement for democratic struggle

Today, Fr. Robert Reyes, with members and supporters of the November 29 Movement (N29M), will be launching his book on Gen. Danilo Lim and Sen. Antonio Trillanes’ internationally-covered protest march from the Makati RTC to the Manila Peninsula against the Arroyo regime. It has been, thus far, the culmination of years of struggle by soldiers and civilians who continue to uphold decency and integrity, as well as, offer hope and vision for our country. While the incident ended peacefully despite the fascism displayed by Gloria’s PNP attack dogs, the debased character of her regime was further highlighted as media found itself cuffed and gagged until it fought back to thwart the intimidation.

The standing of the N29M leaders has continued to soar in reverse proportion to Gloria’s credibility in the eyes of the people. Despite the almost total media blackout on Trillanes, he continues to figure in the surveys, beating even some presidential wannabes who’ve been using their public posts to figure in the next elections. And while Gen. Lim has had a much lower profile, there are now many Gen. Lim t-shirts being voluntarily printed by supporters all over the country, which feature his battle cry: “Dissent without action is consent.”

Fr. Robert’s book, which includes short contributions from those who were detained in connection with the event (Gen. Lim, UP president Dodong Nemenzo, myself and others), will be launched at the Ninoy Aquino statue on Ayala Avenue at 10 a.m. today. A book signing will follow, along with a mass by Fr. Robert -- all in humble and sparse rituals, capped off by some delicious siopao and sago’t gulaman. A commemorative N29M march cum rally will be held the following day, starting off from the intersection of Timog and Edsa at the GMA 7 corner, and then proceeding to Camp Crame , where a mass will be held to signify the people’s solidarity with those still detained.

The commemoration is timely as the killing of the latest impeachment effort in Congress emphasizes the futility of working within the system so corrupted by Gloria et al. Investigations into the most horrendous corruption cases have been stonewalled or trashed, leaving Gloria and her band of crooks much bolder, seeing that they’ve gotten away with their crimes with impunity each time.

Past critics of the November 29 move of Sen. Trillanes’ group have now come around to appreciate the action; for truly, it was not the end but the beginning of a real struggle for democracy. It was a call to action, to civil disobedience, to reject the courts that have continued to run roughshod over the nation’s democratic foundations of law.

Of course, another action at this time would have even more chances of completing the process. With the way things are, waiting for elections in 2010 is not an option because there can be no legitimate elections under a regime determined to keep itself in power by thwarting the people’s sovereign will. In fact, removing the obstacle, Gloria, is only a prerequisite to conducting true, honest and credible elections. We still have others to deal with.

Whenever power usurpers impose their will, chaos ensues. Just look at Thailand where a repost of Edsa II is playing out for the nth time. There, neo-conservatives, comprising “loyalists” and urban “civil society,” sabotage democratically-elected governments that prioritize the common weal. In the current instance, their leader admits that demonstrations there cost $25,000 a day and are funded by bankers. In the King’s Palace, there are anti-Thaksin forces too led by retired, US-backed generals. Taken together, these are the same elements that staged a coup against the democratically-elected Thaksin by using their media dominance to raise spurious corruption charges. It is also their media mogul leader, Sondhi Limthongkul, who recently called for a largely-appointed parliament instead of an elected one. Now that chaos reigns as a result of their intransigence, their captive military is again calling for new elections to resolve the impasse. Oh, when will they ever stop?

The Philippines will certainly need an intervention from good men in our military, arm-in-arm with non-corrupt Church leaders and citizens, to remove the obstacles to honest elections. It’s a prerequisite upon which a government of, by and for the people can fulfill a program for the nation’s survival and prosperity into the 21st century. Our columns and TV shows have focused on this very platform of: geothermal energy, full utilization of the coconut -- our “tree of life,” nationalization of public utilities, national debt audit, and import substitution toward a self-reliant, self-sustaining economy.

Only an independent economy can give rise to a truly independent foreign policy, which should steer us clear of any participation in international warmongering and enable us to call for: a multi-polar world based on regional associations, a global financial system based on productivity, and the adoption of new technology drivers such as country-specific renewable energies.

Only in a world of independent nations will we ever not be compelled to resort to wars created by a few powerful, rival “big powers” and the war-for-profit factions behind them.

And because good men who have powerful and positive visions are needed in such an effort, the November 29 Movement revives its call for our nation’s good warriors to gather, to escalate the democratic struggle against the evil that has stolen our Republic.

(Tune in to 1098AM, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.; Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Destiny Cable, Channel 3, Tuesday, 8:45 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., with this week’s topic, “SRI: Another RP Savior”; also visit http://hermantiulaurel.blogspot.com)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Program for Recovery, Peace and Prosperity

The Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) and the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) have made public their assessment of a staggering one million OFWs losing their jobs due to the western financial tsunami. A day earlier, the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. disseminated in its e-mail newsletter the American Chamber of Commerce’s announcement that multi-nationals will be laying off a great many workers domestically.

Since DoLE and NEDA will naturally soft-pedal their alarming findings, we can be sure that the real adverse effects will be far greater. We should therefore not be lulled to complacency and should prepare for the worst just as what the G-20 economies are doing.

For its part, the US , has shifted talks about recession, which it now accepts as reality, to the apparent deflation that has been rearing its ugly head. Deflation, alongside depression, is one of a pair of dreaded “D” words policy makers wouldn’t want to come out of their lips. The 1930’s Great Depression was accompanied by massive deflation of prices of commodities.

Today, we are seeing oil price crashes left and right, and while nobody is declaring it as the official start of deflation just yet, it certainly is a good sign that production costs will have to be re-studied and expensive extractive oil wells shut down -- like the Galoc oil field recently re-inaugurated. If the US goes into full deflation and depression, the RP economy will face another “D” word -- death.

Amid this backdrop, global trade and commerce’s very lifeblood, the Letters-of-Credit system, is also facing its biggest threat. Rense.com has featured articles on rotting cargoes and seized shipments in major global trading ports due to uncertainties in the banking system and the collapse of several major banks.

Here at home, economic bosses from transnational and local Big Business firms, along with their “techno-quacks,” have long designed RP’s export economy to be an appendage of the US and Western system. This system is thus crashing too.

This space, which is unabashedly anti-corporatist, has long warned of this because it had been alerted to the fundamentally flawed, unviable and suicidal nature of the greed/profit-based financial and economic system that is not held together by a strong center -- government leadership taking affirmative action for the national welfare.

The crisis the world is facing today is described as a once-in-a-century occurrence. The last time it happened in the 1930’s, it led to one of the most destructive cataclysms of the 20th Century -- the Second World War (WWII). That war was not entirely an accident as opportunistic financial and Big Business elements engineered political conditions to advance it.

The Philippines was totally helpless at that time. Used as a pawn, Manila became the second most devastated city in the world after Warsaw . As a consequence, the squatter phenomenon in the Philippines emerged after WWII from the decimation of the carabao population and thence, agriculture, which forced urban migration that has remained up to this day.

Even if many may think that these are merely alarmist, history has proven that the worst imaginable scenarios always become reality in crisis times. I don’t want my people to suffer the kind of casualties that we had during WWII, which could include us or our children and their children. Whatever problems we have today will be miniscule to what would happen if there is a real world war in this nuclear age.

The attack on Iraq has produced a generation of victims of “Depleted Uranium” radiation among Iraqis and US Iraq veterans, and these are just the first examples of what we would see in a new global war. But even before that happens, we are already faced with economic radiation sickness today.

We must assume that at least three times of what the DoLE and NEDA project by way of additional unemployment must be added on to the 25 percent real unemployment we have today. Hence, the nearly 50-year old “export oriented” economic template no longer applies. To follow it will only guarantee the utter collapse of our economy, like what we’ve seen in Africa .

The key economic action to reverse this would be what’s called, “import substitution.” This entails tapping into domestic resources to generate jobs and wealth locally, producing the most critical of items such as food, power, transport energy, and fertilizers -- akin to turning our economy inwards, like what the most stable of economies like China have long been doing.

To remedy rice price crises and shortages that have been caused by the Arroyo regime’s deliberate suppression of domestic productivity to favor imports and smuggling, we should implement self-sufficiency programs within a year after Arroyo’s ouster.

Coconut food products and by-products, sourced from over 300 million coconut trees (which used to be 400 million), can then substitute for our many food imports, like coconut skim milk replacing expensive dairy products.

Meanwhile, geothermal energy utilization from already identified sites should be fast-tracked to supply another 2,000 MW or 40 percent of our power needs. Additionally, since the US Geological Service already identifies our country as one of its potential geothermal suppliers, just think of its wonders in meeting all our energy requirements, a few years after full exploration commences. On top of this, transport fuel from geothermal energy in the form of hydrogen, is also worth pursuing, as Iceland has shown.

Similarly, RP’s current natural gas capacity can be doubled to over 15 percent of total supply just as Mindanao ’s natural gas can be further opened up. Then, as we explore oil resources on- and offshore across our vast archipelago, building better-designed coal plants will reduce our oil dependence as well.

Since the Philippines is gifted with more potential than the US for food and energy independence given our vast mineral ores, which so many other countries covet, there’s really no need to worry about the resources for industrialization. It only takes good leadership and 10 years of determined implementation to carry our nation toward the path of recovery, peace and prosperity.

(Tune in to 1098AM, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.; Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Destiny Cable, Channel 3, Tuesday, 8:45 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., with this week’s topic, “The Coconut: RP’s Savior”; also visit http://hermantiulaurel.blogspot.com)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Erap’s Phenomenal Rebound

“Eat your heart out, Billy!” I silently exclaimed as SWS and Pulse Asia continued to confirm the only real startling development in Philippine politics today -- the astronomic rebound of President Joseph E. Estrada in the national scene. Despite persistent efforts by mainstream media and “civil society” to demonize him, these groups must know by now that such survey results only show just how ineffectual their demonization has been. Billy Esposo, for one, who is a rabid anti-Estrada columnist, must have been dealt a double whammy – one from Erap’s ascendance, and another from his PR client Manny Villar’s fall from the Senate presidency, partly a fallout from the latter’s perceived culpability in the C5 and other scams, which will only weaken his chances in 2010.

Another chief Estrada demonizer, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, performed its usual tricks on the day Pulse Asia corroborated an earlier SWS survey, finding Estrada a very close second to Noli de Castro -- with just a 1 percent statistical difference -- in terms of the public’s leadership preference. Apart from failing to report it on that day, which other papers like the Tribune dutifully did, it made sure that when it was reported a day later, the item carried a new distracting twist -- that of Estrada having engineered the Senate coup that installed Juan Ponce Enrile, on the say-so of an unnamed “administration senator” -- truly, an old trick that smacks of deliberate misinformation.

The Inquirer should have known that it is only its own credibility that would be damaged by coming out with such an outrageous theory to spite Estrada. Fortunately, Enrile had the good sense to speak the truth quickly, denying any hand of Estrada in the coup. It should be obvious to anyone with common sense that the Senate coup had been brewing for some time now as presidential aspirants in the Senate had been gritting their teeth for months, watching Villar use the Senate presidency to gain undue advantage over the others. Besides, Villar really doesn’t deserve the august office, which controls P1.2 billion in funds, when he has shown himself to be untrustworthy of the public’s trust, which is par for the course for most politicians like Enrile, who has admitted lying to the people too.

The dramatic rebound of Estrada in the face of a whole year of the Inquirer’s constant repetition of totally distorted terms such as “convicted criminal” is nothing but phenomenal. This should not be brushed off simply as a “sympathy” reaction from the masa because the surveys show that he has also gained in the A, B and C levels. The contrast between the actions and policies of the Filipinist Estrada versus the globalizing Gloria and FVR has become clear and swung public sentiment to him, especially with regard to the following issues: his “all out war” in Mindanao versus Gloria and FVR’s appeasement and capitulation embodied in the MoA-Ancestral Domain treaty; his “carabao breeding” program symbolic of expanding domestic production versus Gloria and FVR’s import dependent policy; and his “food security” thrust versus the rice shortages of Gloria and FVR.

The lies of “civil society” mouthpieces can no longer hold up to the truth. It has been said that…

“The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” - Joseph Goebbels (Hitler's Minister of Propaganda)

In a State controlled by Gloria and “civil society” elements, the lie of progress and prosperity could only last up to a certain point. As shown by increasing hunger incidences, reported by surveys and the UN agencies, majority of Filipinos are now feeling the pangs of hunger. Worse, the Gallup polls even rank the Philippines today as number 5 among the hungriest nations of the world.

President Estrada has repeatedly declared that he would only be compelled to run if the opposition cannot come up with a unified candidate, which makes his rise in the public’s presidential preference even more remarkable. He is the only undeclared candidate who is rising in the polls while others, who have made their intentions known, have resorted to all sorts of gimmicks -- from seeking attention in a celebrity singing match, to spending wildly on radio and TV ads, grandstanding on OFW woes, to using government housing projects to endear himself to the masa -- but all for naught.

The fact remains that whenever Estrada was included in the surveys, the supposed leading candidate’s percentage share dropped from 29 to 18. If Erap does in fact run, Noli, as the perceived Gloria candidate, is a goner.

Having fought to obtain justice for Estrada for the past eight years, it no longer matters to me if he runs again or not. By the repeated acclaim given him by his people alone, he has already gotten enough vindication, which will only increase as the system that went against him continues to fail. The saga of Estrada and his mission, which has also become ours, is echoed by the following:

“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.” – Abraham Lincoln

As Estrada stands by his people, they will continue to stand by him. Nothing -- whether it’s Gloria or her puppet high court -- can stop the fulfillment of a nation’s destiny.

(Tune in to 1098AM, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.; Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Destiny Cable, Channel 3, Tuesday, 8:45 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., with our topic, “Economic Freedom with Coconut”; also visit http://hermantiulaurel.blogspot.com)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Middle Class Revolt: Now!

The newspapers on Sunday morning all had headlines on De la Paz taking the fall for his peers and mistahs in the PNP top brass, not to mention the real big fishes in Malacañang, in Saturday’s Senate hearing on the “Euro Generals.” Some of my friends and colleagues in the citizens’ movements kept sounding me off on the infuriating performance of De la Paz, including his inane admission that he doesn’t know the Anti-Money Laundering Act’s prohibitions on transiting huge amounts of cash. I had to feel sorry that I didn’t watch the proceedings at all, since I found those Senate hearings as a useless grandstanding that results in nothing. Now, if somebody there had instead called for revolution outright and started rallying the nation, I’d drop everything and rush over to join.

No one should be surprised of De la Paz’ actions anymore. There is, after all, a much richer reward for protecting his fellow rogues and masters than for him to spill the beans. I know of no willing scapegoat for Arroyo and her cabinet crooks who has paid a price for keeping silent or for running rings around investigations that are ferreting out the truth.

Take Garci for example. Most Filipinos know that this fellow has already tons of money for his “election services” in subverting the people’s will, yet he has not been punished one bit. Even the generals Garci worked with have all been promoted to lucrative civilian posts. Meanwhile, the other Garci, Gen. Carlos Garcia, is behind bars but has already been acquitted of several charges, and his family is still rich beyond imagination.

As for some of the senators grilling De la Paz, they have known the corruption in the regime and in the PNP all along but never did anything to stop them. Take Miriam Defensor Santiago who proudly admits to being Gloria’s supporter nowadays. She, of course, knows that Gloria is allied to one of the worst corruptors of the PNP -- the jueteng lords. But why is she dead silent about it?

Fundamentally, even when there’s a law against illegal gambling, of which jueteng is undoubtedly the biggest, nothing has really been done to end this scourge that rots every fiber of the PNP’s character as an institution. A hundred thousand policemen know their superiors are all raking it in from the jueteng loot. Add to this the hundreds of millions from PNP logistics, and all these amount to much, much more than the euro generals’ stash. So again, why have the senators chosen to pound on a relatively minor issue?

I haven’t really bothered with the Senate hearings even on Joc-Joc Bolante. From the very start, I already anticipated the Arroyo regime’s strategy in this case. While the supposed principal, Cito Lorenzo, is out of reach, all culpability for the gross anomalies in the “fertilizer scam” can be dumped on him, thanks to his absence. Unluckily for us, Lorenzo wasn’t the one who got caught with US entry transgressions. If he had been forced back sooner, we could have more easily gotten to the very core of the crime. For now, Joc-Joc has been showered with VIP treatment at St. Luke’s, complete with a suite reserved by Cerge Remonde, according to Malacañang sources, plus, a plush new manse in Alabang to replace his old BF home.

But really, what else can we expect from lowlifes like De la Paz -- who probably doesn’t have much of a brain to begin with, given the fix that he is in, nor any moral fiber -- to know any better than to follow the common rule, that is, to follow the leader? From the top, the rule is: Be corrupt in order to survive and prosper.

To be honest and strive for what is just, right, and fair, one is ostracized from power or lands in jail -- like Gen. Danny Lim, Sen. Sonny Trillanes, the Bagong Katipuneros, and President Estrada, who was ousted by a conspiracy of the corrupt, and made to languish in confinement for six years and six months, before finally being smeared by a kangaroo court. Which reminds us of several Supreme Court (SC) justices who “convicted” Estrada and have religiously favored their patroness in critical cases such as the MoA-AD and “executive privilege” issues -- SC appointments as rewards for corrupted judges.

Thus, we need revolution in this country as much as the world needs one too. Imagine, the IMF and World Bank being envisioned by western countries in the G-20 to administer the “new world financial architecture,” in spite of their being among the major culprits of our current deepening crisis? The same is true in the US as Obama is set to appoint Wall Street operators to head his cabinet’s finance portfolio.

Gerald Calente, CEO of Trend Research Institute, who accurately predicted the 1987, Soviet Union, 1997, and “subprime” mortgage crashes, was reported by Prison Planet to have predicted revolution in the US by 2012. A British Ministry of Defence report echoed this last year, saying:

“…the growing gap better the super rich and the middle class, along with an urban underclass threatening social order would mean… the world’s middle classes might unite, using access to knowledge, resources and skills to shape transitional processes in their own class interest… The middle class could become a revolutionary class.”

Calente sees tax revolts amid food riots, job marches, and squatter rebellions in the US of A. So the world’s middle classes do need to revolt now, as they’re the only hope of restoring balance and sanity in the advancement of humanity in the 21st Century. Let’s start it in Manila , in alliance with our urban poor. Let’s start avoiding taxes which go to the IMF and Gloria’s coffers. Let’s free Gen. Lim, Sen. Trillanes and other nationalist-patriots to help blaze the trail!

(Tune in to 1098AM, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.; Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Destiny Cable, Channel 3, Tuesday, 8:45 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., with our topic, “The Geothermal Imperative”; also visit http://hermantiulaurel.blogspot.com)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Credit should be a public utility

Electricity and water, roads and telecommunications -- all these are treated as public utilities in most countries. In some others like China and Vietnam , credit also counts as a public utility, and these countries’ national banking systems are built around it just as there are national agencies for their other public utilities. Few people in the Philippines , though, understand the credit system from this point of view, having gotten used to the institution of private banking patterned after the US that is run for profit instead of development. Verily, it is this same private banking system that has been indicted to have brought down the global financial and economic system over the past few months.

Now that a global discussion of a “new financial architecture” among G-20 countries (the G-7 industrialized economies plus other major economic powers China , India , Brazil and Russia ) is to commence, there will surely be a tug of war between the concepts held by western G-7 countries and others from the east and South America .

The Global Research website, headed by intellectuals like Michel Chussodovsky and William Engdahl, whose advocacies I subscribe to, launched on November 11 a signature campaign, “For a Monetary System That Puts People First.” As its opening salvo, it lifts a passage from Abraham Lincoln’s 1861 address to the US Congress as the rationale for its proposed new global architecture: “Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed had not labor first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

The gist of such a petition, outlining the principles for reforming the global system, along with my comments in parentheses, spells out that:

“● Monetary systems should be controlled by sovereign national governments, not the central banks which mainly serve private finance. The main economic function of the monetary system should be to assure adequate purchasing power to consume an environmentally sustainable and optimal level of production whereby the basic needs of every person in the world community are satisfactorily met.” (The US Fed is not publicly accountable, as well as, our BSP -- see Sec. 20, Article on the National Economy.)

“● Income security, including a basic income guarantee and a national dividend, should be a primary responsibility of national governments in the economic sphere. A right to adequate purchasing power should be part of every national constitution.”

“● The primary function of international finance should be to assure fair transferability of value among national economic systems, utilizing, to the extent possible, fixed and transparent exchange rates. Speculative attacks on sovereign currencies should be outlawed.”

“● Private creation of credit for speculative purposes should be abolished, and capital markets should be regulated to assure fairness, openness, and freedom from predatory practices.”

“● Every national government should have the right to spend low cost credit directly into existence for public purposes -- including infrastructure, environmental protection, education, and health care―without incurring new debt.” (Unlike the Philippines today, where we borrow to finance everything.)

“● The physical backing for every currency in existence should be the actual production of national economies.” (Hence, encouraging production, not speculation…)

“● National governments should treat credit as a public utility -- like clean air, water, or electricity -- and should assure its availability to all citizens as their social heritage and as a basic human right.” (Not an object for profit…)

“● National credit policies should favor the development of sustainable local and regional economies, of small business, and of family farming.”

“● Credit should be regulated in order to encourage maximum ownership of property by individuals without artificially inflating its price.”

“● The private banking system should be utilized to provide liquidity for business operations but should not be needed in a properly constituted system to finance consumption or capital formation.”

“● There should be an immediate worldwide moratorium on home foreclosures and recognition of the right of each person to a secure home.”

“● An International Debt Settlement Commission should be formed and charged with producing a clean financial slate by reviewing all existing public and private debt and determining through due process what can reasonably be repaid, restructured, or forgiven.” (Particularly urgent for debt burdened RP…)

Then it ends with: “It is time to assure that the world financial system is no longer operated for the benefit of the few over the many, and that it reflects the spiritual principle that the natural resources of the Earth belong to all of humanity and must be rationally distributed to every individual, such that no one is left behind on the path of human progress. -- Initial Signers (a long list of academics, finance experts, journalists, advocates, NGO leaders from all continents)”

The petition in its entirety is already a short course on the socialized or nationalized credit and banking system that more Filipinos should learn about. This space will initiate a Philippine signing of this petition in coordination with other citizens’ movements. We will invite our readers as soon as it happens.

We have seen a number of Philippine local politicians count themselves among the hopefuls for the 2010 presidential race, but I have yet to hear anyone of them discuss genuine issues that can turn this nation’s dire straits around. They all think that showing a heap of wealth (that invariably comes from some form of graft anyway) already qualifies them for leadership. But we can only see them abuse the Constitution, as they use their offices as platforms and campaign way before the allowable period begins. All of them display ostentatious lifestyles alright, but few can account for their untainted sources of wealth.

What “transformational” leadership can there be if there are no “transformational ideas” emanating from any of these declared aspirants? If these are the ones presenting themselves, then let me propose Gen. Danilo Lim for the presidency too. He’s someone we can be certain to have never finagled a single centavo from public coffers, and has proven his dedication to the common and national good.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The John the Baptist Dilemma

The more things change, the more they actually stay the same, or get worse. Even as Barack Obama wins the US presidency and generates a great deal of euphoria among his countrymen, from early indications of his cabinet appointments, it’s clear that more war is on the offing. The appointment of an Iraq War supporter with dual Israeli citizenship, Rahm Immanuel, as his chief of staff, augurs well only for warmongers and the US military-industrial corporatocracy. Meanwhile, his candidates for the finance portfolio include another former Goldman Sachs man and other Wall Street guys. Tie these in with Barack’s offensive statements against Iran and you will be puzzled as to why despite all these, the US population is still going gaga over Obama, their supposed anti-war candidate.

I would have reacted differently if Barack had started appointing from among his prominent and most active campaigners, the likes of Michael Moore, who have shown genuine anti-war, pro-people, and pro-poor convictions. Moore , for instance, has produced documentaries that exposed the anomalous Bush investigation of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, the Columbine student massacre, and the US profit-driven private health care system that has paled in comparison with the socially-oriented systems of Canada and Cuba . Yet, not a single visible sign of Obama’s appreciation for Moore ’s one million-strong e-mail campaign list was seen.

Timothy V. Gatto writes on Information Clearing House, “The Election: It Had to Be this Way,” and says, “Barack Obama will be the catalyst for a new movement, away from false hope and false promises, not because he will deliver to the people of this country anything worthwhile, but because he won’t. This will be the final nail in the coffin of our corporatist society.” He then reflects on the attitude of the more insightful but less patient US intellectuals, who are not impressed by the US liberal flank’s claims of Obama’s promise of change, but who are sure to be demonized, this time, by both the liberal and conservative media.

Ralph Nader, for one, has already been hit hard after an early run-in with Fox News when he expressed hope that Obama would be an “Uncle Sam” for the hapless majority of US peoples and not an “Uncle Tom” for the corporations. Nader was twisted and pilloried for that in the mainstream media, and now, on the Internet. Thus, the US liberal movement is turning out to be as intolerant of other more radical views that would criticize their current idol and icon.

While Obama is now working on a bailout of beleaguered US car manufacturing giants, which further popularizes him, he is actually not doing much to make the bailouts for the financial sector work for people who have lost their homes. So early yet so slick.

By the way, I am writing from Morong, Bataan , beside my favorite beach resort, owned by a colleague from the Philippine Refugee Processing Center (PRPC). The place, called Dorothy, is beside the Panibatuhan Beach , which I wouldn’t trade for the plastic, manicured spot across the hills that used to be the pristine Ilingin Beach , now converted by the Ayalas to another artificial place of relaxation. How anyone can rest in a place where he has to put up with the requirements of glamour boggles my mind. Moreover, it’s worse than that other place, Montemar. There’s still nothing like the original, the truly pristine, which only the cottage industry resorts can cater to simple folks like me -- with the hand pump to wash sand off our feet, their home-cooked meals from the corner tindahan, and a beach almost all to oneself.

Dropping in the morning was Jun Repedro (poor boy graduate from Ateneo on a scholarship) who headed our PRPC food services department (that fed up to 25,000 refugees daily). Jun recalled with amazement the discussions we had and the columns I’d written ten years ago on the impending financial collapse. “Ten years ago,” he said, “you already saw it coming.” But he lamented that our predictions were too early and sounded like hard-to-appreciate “doomsayers,” like John the Baptist. Actually, I said, there was one already in 2000, the dot.com (or dot.con) collapse, but the powers behind the system created the “War on Terror” with 9/11, to distract and delay the awakening of the masses.

True enough, Obama is the latest distraction, to shift our focus away from the evil of corporatist control of government. Although he seems to have an authentic populist ideological upbringing (once a practitioner of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals in organizing the poor, which I also studied during my activist days), by the kind of associations he has made today, he’s clearly been co-opted. But it’s going to be very hard to make people listen, as so many have worked and pinned their hopes on Obama, and they will never believe that they can go so wrong again after Bush so soon. But four years down the road, the US population will see that they’ve been fooled again. That’s when Timothy V. Gatto and Ralph Nader will be better appreciated.

Elections in 2010 are being set up for the Philippines , which will be a distraction again from the bitter lessons of the massive failures of the two Edsa’s. While people hope 2010 can bring about change to the country, with the obvious candidates of the administration and opposition -- Noli, Teodoro, Gordon, Bayani, Belmonte, Villar et al., no change can be forthcoming. In contrast, those who offer real change, like President Estrada, Gen. Danilo Lim and Sen. Trillanes, are deliberately being excluded, like in the SWS survey published the past few days that did not mention Estrada as an option, resulting in his No. 6 ranking. A later survey yet to be published, which explicitly names him as one of the options, will show a very different and surprising result.

Predicting unsavory consequences and deflating popularly-held illusions are hazardous but necessary. Hopefully, in time, only those with the track record of telling the truth can be heeded. That’s the John the Baptist dilemma.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Back to Reality

It’s probably like the euphoria the US felt when John F. Kennedy won the presidency in 1961. Great speeches from a great orator, tears welling up from his triumphant voters, and great economic stimulus plans in the “Man on the Moon” project. But the reality of the Vietnam War immediately confronted JFK and led both him and the US to eventual disaster.

Obama’s people stopped the elections from being stolen by the corporatocracy and neoconservatives for a third time, but can they stop the latter’s power to continue their wars for profit, oil and global hegemony? Obama’s era has barely started, yet the internal, national debates have already begun. Let’s listen to some US voices who are providing timely counsel, admonition, and forewarning. The first comes from one whom I consider the best campaigner of Obama, film producer-director Michael Moore:

“There was another important ‘first’ last night. Never before in our history has an avowed anti-war candidate been elected president during a time of war. I hope President-elect Obama remembers that as he considers expanding the war in Afghanistan . The faith we now have will be lost if he forgets the main issue on which he beat his fellow Dems in the primaries and then a great war hero in the general election: The people of America are tired of war. Sick and tired. And their voice was loud and clear yesterday.”

Lest Moore’s appeal may not be enough, let me add that the people of the world are also tired of war as they gain nothing from it and are impeded from their aspirations to hold dominion over the cosmos. Barack can only gain the respect of all of us if and when he stands up against the warmongers of his country. Otherwise, we, together with Moore, will bring him down too.

Let us remember that the people of the world helped bring down the Bush regime and its lies. We must acknowledge our gratitude to the countless Iraqi fighters and their families who have undergone unimaginable suffering to stand up to the US ’ own bloodthirsty bullies -- without which their countrymen might not have awakened from the illusion of their country’s invincibility and condescension.

Let us remember the defiance of Venezuelans under Hugo Chavez, Bolivians under Evo Morales, Ecuadoreans under Rafael Correa, Argentineans under Kirchner, and most of all, Cubans under Fidel, as well as, other South American and Asian leaders, like Kim Jong Il and Ahmadinejad, who have served to humble the US down. The Cuban welfare system, for one thing, has also inspired Michael Moore to urge his people to demand equally just health care from their government.

Only mendicant and sycophantic Filipinos would look to Obama to bring about changes in the Philippines and the rest of the world. Nationalist Filipinos understand that any change for the better in the world and in their own country comes not from the outside but from their efforts.

Obama may change some policies internal to the US , but it is clear that if the world puts up with his desire to expand the war in Afghanistan , a fact that does not escape the concern of his most ardent campaigner Michael Moore, then there will be no change.

We, the world, must stop the US ’ continuing war crusade and force Obama to conform to the will of the human race.

Michael Moore is understandably polite to Obama, so let us also hear from the most radical defenders of the US people, like our ally against the global corporatocracy, Webster Tarpley:


For those who bother to study Obama more than skin deep, the controversy is not over skin color but over his policies that support the present system with its countless deceptions, which Tarpley exposes here:

“With Obama’s win, the tasks of justice in the US of A has just begun. As Brasscheck TV on the Internet, a regular source of social critical and insightful videos, said: ‘…it’s not ‘completely over’ until Karl Rove (Bush brains and blamed for leaking CIA agent identities) and George Bush are in jail.’ Ralph Nader says it all with literary flourish in an interview over Fox News, ‘To put it very simply, he (Obama) is our first African American president; or he will be. And we wish him well. But his choice, basically, is whether he’s going to be Uncle Sam for the people of this country, or Uncle Tom (slave) for the giant corporations,’ for which Fox News lambasted him very unfairly – (the same) pre-election anti-Obama…corporatocracy mouthpiece Fox News (that is) now sucking up to Obama.”

Don’t be fooled by Obama’s anti-Wall Street diatribes; McCain did the same. The US corporatocracy gives funds to both the GOP and Dems every time. Obama got lots of small contributions because he received lots of initial assurance of seed money from the likes of George Soros who openly backed him. But as we said in our previous column, because of his multi-cultural and socially-oriented upbringing, Obama can spring a surprise -- just like John Kennedy did, but who got blasted by assassins not long after. Such is the reality; only fools of history will choose not to see this.

By the way, the US presidential election’s tipping point was race: 55 percent of Whites voted McCain while 96 percent of Blacks and 66 percent of Latinos voted Obama. Will there be secessionist White states soon? We should stoke this so they’ll stop cajoling the MILF in our southern backyard.

In the Philippines , let’s get back to reality too. Big Business continues with its many abuses: Meralco’s PR people are sowing intrigue among consumer NGOs, quoting me on things I never said against Pete Ilagan; GMA’s intelligence gooks are circulating a text of alleged coup plotters (including Cory and Noynoy Aquino), which shows they are stalemated -- otherwise they should have made arrests; and Manny Pangilinan keeps raising my DSL bill but I can’t connect to the Internet 80 percent of the time even as my WiFi works perfectly.

So then, it’s back to our struggle -- REGIME CHANGE, SYSTEMS CHANGE!

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