Monthly Archives: February 2011

Column: Aquino and the “mouthpiece”

A conclusion. Published on September 28, 2010.

The photographs from last week’s seven-minute meeting between President Benigno Aquino III and US President Barack Obama are rich in nuance. Allow me to add another possible layer of meaning: the Indonesian connection. First, both presidents have suddenly cancelled state visits to Jakarta, because of domestic politics (Obama cancelled twice). And second, Obama has a statue in the Indonesian capital, showing him as a little boy, to mark the years he spent in the city; because of a backlash, the statue (built with private funds) was moved from a public park to the grounds of the government school he attended. In contrast, Aquino doesn’t have a statue in Jakarta, but should. I don’t mean a monument or a marker of himself, but of a Filipino whose cause the President can advocate and make his own when he meets, finally, with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Continue reading

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Column: Aquino and the “evangelist”

A continuation. Published on September 21, 2010.

President Aquino’s once-postponed state visit to Indonesia, tentatively rescheduled for October, may profit from a detour through the steppes of Siberia. A side trip only in the imagination, I must add, but one that helps place the influence of both Jose Rizal and the Philippine Revolution on Indonesia’s nationalist awakening in a new, perhaps brighter, light.

It involves the memory of a controversial Indonesian mestizo (an “Indo”) whom biographer Paul van der Veur calls “the evangelist for Indonesian political nationalism”—the very first, in fact, to demand independence for Indonesia, and who spread the good news through his work in journalism and political organizing. “The Eurasian E. F. E. Douwes Dekker, through agitation and the establishment of a real independence party, the Indische Partij (Party of the Indies), was the first to make a major contribution in the field of political nationalism.” DD, as he was more familiarly known, was a grand-nephew of Eduard Douwes Dekker, who as Multatuli wrote “Max Havelaar,” the searing anti-colonial novel which preceded “Noli me tangere.” Continue reading

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Column: Aquino and “the troublemaker”

From September to October, I had the good fortune to be allowed to go on book-writing leave. The following column, and the two that come after, were written as I was first coming to grips with the research I had done (or failed to do); they were, I guess, a way of writing a book by other means. This first column was published on September 14, 2010.

The distinction does not belong to Executive Secretary Jojo Ochoa, who looks more and more like President Aquino’s weakest link; or Undersecretary Rico Puno, who revealed yesterday morning in a TV interview with Anthony Taberna that he is not playing hardball with the country’s jueteng lords; or my friend Billy Esposo, whose dismaying descent into factionalism has him all but foaming at the mouth, describing erstwhile allies as enemies of the state, and “stray dogs.”

The title refers, instead, to Jose Rizal himself, as Sukarno, Indonesia’s charismatic founding president, described him in yet another rousing speech in 1962. “And I also ask the United States of America, is it true if people say, for instance, that the independence of the Philippines was the result of the troublemaker Jose Rizal y Mercado, or Aguinaldo? No!” Continue reading

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Column: At the end of the day: A President’s accountability

Published on September 7, 2010.

In his latest outburst, Sen. Joker Arroyo has given us yet another yardstick by which to measure the depths of corruption the country plumbed, under the Arroyo administration he supported and succored. Apparently, for the former human rights lawyer, President Benigno Aquino III’s Trumanesque statement that when all is said and done about the Aug. 23 hostage-taking tragedy, he was “responsible for everything” was absolutely the wrong thing to say.

“It’s good for listening and good for the image,” Arroyo said in a radio interview last Sunday. “But it amounts to nothing. It has no effect because he will not resign, according to his advisers. It is an unnecessary comment. If he said that, does it mean that everyone who is under investigation is absolved?” Continue reading

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