Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Under the Spotlight: BEEN THERE, DONE THAT. NOW WHAT? by Edwin D. Bael

Democracy is ‘government of the people, by the people, and for the people’ according to President Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address (1863).

At EDSA I (1986), we Filipinos and our military toppled a long-standing dictatorship. Critical masses of people filled the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA); our people’s pent-up desire for freedom and their longsuffering patience - broken by the last straw of rigged elections (1986) on top of Ninoy Aquino’s assassination (1983) and more than two decades of dictatorship - found a ‘break in the dam’ and a ‘trigger to come together’ in the initial military revolts in Camp Aguinaldo (Enrile) and Camp Crame (Ramos) both along the EDSA. “People Power” became a global byword, capped with a flight to Hawaii, courtesy of the USA. Democracy returned to our shores, though not without wrinkles wrought by military adventurism.

Then at EDSA II (2001), a “conspiracy among political and business elites, military top brass and Catholic hierarchy”1/ usurped a democratically-elected albeit personally-imperfect presidency. According to critics, the ‘conspirators’ effected a de facto coup d’etat while hiding behind a well-planned and executed smokescreen of bused in and texted crowds forming critical masses of people in EDSA; thus, they ‘deposed and replaced’ a sitting President for a reason not found in the Constitution: the “constructive resignation doctrine” of the Davide Supreme Court. Subsequently, the critics continued, to foil any chance of success for the backlash EDSA III (2001), the usurper’s conspiring military and police violently prevented people from forming any critical mass in EDSA and anywhere else; any groups starting to increase in number immediately got broken up forcefully. They improved on the lessons of Tiananmen Square (1989).

In the 2004 elections, military elements again played a vital role, this time to “further legitimize and consolidate the power” of the usurper. The “Hello, Garci” tapes abundantly showed how massive election ‘dagdag-bawas’ (addition-subtraction) games were played by trusted generals and COMELEC Commissioner Garcillano to distort, replace and defeat the people’s will. The ruling clique maintained itself until 2010 mainly through ‘bagfuls of money’ as the then Governor of Pampanga, Father Ed Panlilio, found out in a 2007 visit to Malacanang and through astutely “holding the balls” of and at the same time “giving rich morsels” to cohorts, all done amidst the disengagement of the masses weary of mass action, yet continuing in vain hopes based on false promises, while muttering the communal sigh: ’what else is new’? Working abroad remained the preferred solution!

We are now hoping P’Noy Aquino III’s administration - swept to power in 2010 by the upswell in disaffection against corruption by the usurper and her ilk - will really bring us the “democracy” we dream of, against the backdrop of gripping dramas within, surrounding, related to or as consequences of “investigations in aid of legislation”.

Now, also, we witness through instantaneous global communications the on-going turmoil and upheavals in Arab streets, bringing out a cascade of EDSA memories upon our consciousness, making us wonder whether they will have “EDSA I” and/or “EDSA II/EDSA III” outcomes.

We have learned that, in “people power” types of actions, success or failure hinges largely on the pivotal role of the military (or the entity with virtual monopoly of arms) in allowing or encouraging the gathering of a critical mass of people for a time, or in preventing or denying the formation of such mass numbers, not unlike the atom bomb which only bursts into vaporizing explosion when a critical mass of fissile materials are brought together and triggered through fission or implosion. In other words, it generally depends on whether or not the military sides with the people.

On what we are seeing unravel then, especially in the Middle East and North Africa, some Filipinos might say: “Been there, done that.” But now what? Do we really have democracy as Lincoln defined it? Or simply a government of representatives, by representatives and for representatives who invariably win elections because of money and media popularity, thereby perpetuating elite rule through bagfuls of lucre? Isn’t this simply the operational manifestation of oligarchy, which is endemic in the third world?

We might be inclined to say no, yes, yes to these three questions. And, yes, we are never finished with the process of achieving true democracy, for “eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty”. 2/

Moreover, we don’t yet have Rizal’s magnificent obsession of “moral and material development” for the Philippines 3/ by which we can behold Inang Bayan with just pride, as the “Jewel of eastern waters: griefless the dusky eyes; lifted the upright brow: unclouded, unfurrowed, unblemished and unashamed!” 4/

But that does not mean we, the sovereign citizens, can do nothing. We, the ultimate stockholders of Republika ng Pilipinas, can choose to focus on the moral aspect of governance; for technocracy without morality has allowed, nay facilitated, the siphoning of public funds into private pockets. If the ‘walang kurap, walang mahirap’ (no corrupt, no poor) slogan can be given any real meaning, it might be done through another type of people power: not so much in asphalt or concrete streets but perhaps more so in the routes, channels, connectivities and hubs of the worldwide web. This way, the people can hold representatives accountable and loosen oligarchic control.

Since “people and government are correlated and complementary“ and “a stupid government is an anomaly among a righteous people” 5/, we the people can use modern tools like facebook, twitter, text, phone cameras, etc. to expose the corrupt. And let’s make sure our military is with us, involved from the beginning; after all, being part of and coming from us, “(their) goal is to secure the sovereignty of the State and the integrity of the national territory”6/ based on the principle that “(s)overeignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them”7/.

Of course, fighting corruption requires that all parties involved should not be spared. But being a tango of corruptor and corrupted danced at various degrees of intricacy - whether one on one, in groups or system wide - at different levels (perpendicular view) and in diverse sectors (horizontal view) throughout our society, corruption seems to have splattered on almost every one. As no one can walk through mud without getting muddied somehow, somewhere, most if not all of us may have been affected by or involved in corruption: whether actor or acted on, directly or indirectly, wittingly or unwittingly, liked it or not, with or without intention. Fighting corruption then is difficult, challenging and needs a systems approach. But, let’s agree and say: ‘Tama na!’ (Enough!) Let’s start anew. There is no obligation to repeat errors or actions that do not redound to the greatest good of our greatest numbers. “Sa ikabubuti ng madla, ‘di lang sa akin” (For the good of most, not just mine) can be our decision criterion.

Wiki-corrupt.ph, any one? Or corruptph-facebook? Or whatever? We call on the youth - “fair hope of this land of mine” 8/ - to lead, spearhead and choose any and all effective weapons. For your age group has the ease, access, competence and facility in the latest innovative technologies; when your parents are gone, only you, your children and grandchildren shall eat of the fruit of your actions, whether for, against or indifferent to corruption. Other age groups with less technical ability can only support you. But with the new and more effective tools now available, which you have the skills and opportunities to wield, let it not be said that you allowed the generational curse of corruption to continue and hobble more generations of Filipinos.

No more undue glory, honor, respect nor value should be accorded the corruptor! As in Genesis, the corruptor Satan bears more blame than the beguiled Eve or the misled Adam who nonetheless adopted the policy of taking the verboten. Through valid evidence, let us uphold our laws particularly those against plunder. But as a general approach, let’s focus on rejecting the sin of corruption (covetousness, avarice or greed combined with the consumerist desires for having-it-all-now and getting-away-with-it in ease, comfort, and convenience regardless of negative outcomes). We need not reject the sinners who must still be loved the way God did and still does. Let’s remember what Jesus told the adulteress whose stoning he stopped by scribbling on the ground ‘Let him without sin throw the first stone’: “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on, do not sin any more” 9/ In addition, let’s recall the Islamic teaching: “Hold to forgiveness, command what is right, and turn away from the ignorant.” 10/

Worth adopting as our own in this new resurgence for integrity, is Rizal’s firm resolve in ‘Hymn to Talisay’: “There is no darkness, there is no black night that we dread, nor violent storms; and if the devil himself comes forth, he shall be caught alive or dead.”11/ We can use the poster: “Wanted Dead or Alive: CORRUPTION” “Reward: MORAL AND MATERIAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE PHILIPPINES”. And let’s pursue this program declaring to Inang Bayan no longer just “to die to give you life”12/ but rather “to live and to succeed with uprightness to give you a better life”, while hoping that other peoples on the march to democracy will already integrate the moral aspects of governance as they advance.

About Edwin D. Bael:
* Edwin D. Bael is a Knight Commander of the Order of the Knights of Rizal. He was Consul General of the Philippines in Los Angeles, California (2000-2002) and is now the Managing Principal of Bael Consulting, LLC, based in Phoenix, Arizona.
     1/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EDSA_Revolution_of_2001
     2/ Andrew Jackson, Farewell Address, March 4, 1837
     3/ Rizal’s Letter to the Governor and Captain General of the Philippine Islands, Hongkong, 21 Mar 1892, Epistolario Rizalino,III No. 577, p. 306
     4/ Nick Joaquin translation: part of 4th stanza, Ultimo Adios: “Joya del Mar de Oriente, secos los negros ojos, alta la tersa frente, sin ceno, sin arrugas, sin manchas de rubor.”
     5/ Rizal’s Essay “The Indolence of the Filipinos”, La Solidaridad, 15 Sept 1890, p. 202.
     6/ Section 3, Article II, 1987 Philippine Constitution
     7/ Section 1, Article II, 1987 Philippine Constitution
     8/ Nick Joaquin translation: “Bella esperanza de la Patria mia”, 4th line, 1st Stanza, Rizal’s poem “A La Juventud Filipina”
     9/ John 8:11; New American Bible; http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/john/john8.htm
     10/ Al-'Araf 7:199; http://www.alquranclasses.com/?p=369
     11/ Edwin Bael translation: part of 4th stanza, Rizal’s poem ‘Hymn to Talisay’: “No hay tinieblas, no hay noches oscuras que temamos, ni fiera tormenta; y si el mismo Luzbel se presenta, muerto o vivo cogido ha de ser.”
     12/ Edwin Bael translation: “Morir por darte vida”, 4th line, 5th Stanza, Rizal’s Ultimo Adios

Leverage Mining Investments for S&T, Social Development - Angara

Senator Edgardo J. Angara, Chair of the Congressional Commission on Science Technology and Engineering (COMSTE) said that the country should attract and take advantage of investments in mining, while ensuring the protection of natural habitats and encouraging social development in communities.

Angara noted that several mining firms funded a total of P35.9 million worth of community based projects in the vicinity of mining operations. Republic Act 7942, The New Philippine Mining Act requires mining operators to implement programs that will benefit their host communities. The programs are called Social Development and Management Programs (SDMPs), which are funded based on 1.5 percent of operating costs of mining companies.

Benjamin Romualdez, President of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines reported that there are 19 large mining projects lined up with a total investment of nearly $13 Billion.

Romualdez noted that the growth of the mining industry in the country is translated to over $3 Billion to the economy.

“By strategizing our policies, we can take advantage of the situation and benefit from possible technology transfer and job creation brought by new and expanding mining projects,” said Angara.

COMSTE reports that the potential positive impact on S&T is enormous. The commission has also identified possible areas that can profit from investments in mining, such as the supplying highly skilled engineers and tech workers, creating supply companies to support mining operations, biodiversity studies and even environmental labs that can study and treat waste water.

Angara noted that there are potentially thousands of jobs that can be created if we can position ourselves and leverage the billions of dollars into projects that can expand along with mining operations.

COMSTE reports indicate that the Tampakan mining project alone has the potential to bring in up to $5 billion. The project has estimated deposits of 12.8 million metric tons of copper and 15.2 million ounces of gold.