Category Archives: Readings in Politics

Column: Which PH institutions are pushing back? (2)

WJP ROL 2018 Launch

(Photo from WJP launch announcement)

Published on February 13, 2018.

At the launch of the Rule of Law Index in Washington, DC the other week, forum moderator Rachel Kleinfeld of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace asked a crucial question. In those countries like Venezuela and the Philippines where adherence to the rule of law has weakened (as measured according to the Index’s eight factors), which institutions were “pushing back”? In my answer, I distinguished between institutions that are pushing back and institutions that are “holding fast” (including a military which abhors the vacuum of politicization and a Roman Catholic Church which, despite its efforts to engage the government policy agenda, is seen by Duterte supporters as anti-Duterte).

What do I understand by pushing back? It might be best to cite specific examples. Continue reading


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Column: Which PH institutions are holding fast?

ROL Index Launch 2018

With Jodi Vittori of Transparency International, exiled Venezuelan mayor David Smolansky, and moderator Rachel Kleinfeld of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, at the launch of the 2017-2018 Rule of Law Index. January 31, 2018. (Photo borrowed from @TheWJP, the World Justice Project’s Twitter account.

Published on February 6, 2018.

At the launch of the 2017-2018 Rule of Law Index of the World Justice Project (WJP) in Washington, I joined a panel of speakers tasked to discuss some of its implications. That the Philippines had fallen the most, by 18 positions among the 113 countries polled, was “not unexpected” but still “a shock,” I said. It offers yet more quantitative proof of something I asserted at the World Justice Forum in the Netherlands last July: that the Duterte administration had weaponized the rule of law, and that this weapon has been turned on its own people.

The Index, now on its ninth edition, is based on a massive global survey that incorporates the findings of a General Population Poll (involving over 110,000 household respondents) and the views of over 3,000 legal experts. Because of its scope, the GPP of any given Index consists of a rolling schedule of surveys conducted either in the fall of the previous year or the summer of the current year. For the Philippine data, some 1,008 respondents were polled in late 2016 in three major cities: Manila, Cebu and Davao.

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“The Marcos family’s last gasp”

I wrote this last October for the Asia News Network’s Writers Circle. It ran in several newspapers and news sites, including Vietnam News, the Korea Herald, and the Singapore Straits Times. The Nation of Bangkok published the commentary with a tweaked head: “The Marcos dynasty’s desperate last stand.”

With President Duterte in power, the Marcos family is ascendant in Philippine national politics again. The remains of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos have been buried at the national heroes’ cemetery; his only son and namesake has a live election protest against the incumbent vice president; his eldest daughter Imee, the governor of his home province of Ilocos Norte, is polling well among likely candidates for the Senate; and his wife Imelda, at 89, is on her third term as representative of the Marcoses’ old congressional bailiwick.

But despite the obvious support of a still-popular president, the celebrity that has attached to the Marcos name, and a slick, long-running, well-funded social media operation promoting the Marcos worldview, the Duterte era may turn out to be the Marcos family’s last gasp. These years may be their last opportunity to win back the presidency, and everything that goes with it.

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Under the Gun: Democracy in the Crosshairs

Eisenhower notice

Keynote at the 10th anniversary of the Eisenhower Fellows Association of the Philippines, on October 5, 2018. [The passages I bracketed in parentheses I did not read aloud anymore, to cut down on the speaking time.] I ran excerpts from the speech in my column of October 9. The opinion piece “The Marcos family’s last gasp,” written for the Asia News Network’s Writers Circle, first appeared in Vietnam News on Saturday, October 6, 2018.

Is the democratic project in the Philippines in the crosshairs?

To ask the question is itself already a sign—of something. I think we can all agree that, generally speaking, we raise medical concerns when we are ailing, not when we are in the full flush of good health. We ask whether our democracy is under the gun, when we sense that it is under threat, or a target.

Sometimes the threat is not obvious. Sometimes it is massive and persistent, but too familiar to be visible. We can take our initial bearings from the man after whom your fellowship is named. President Eisenhower, in his farewell address, famously warned against the “unwarranted influence” on “our liberties and democratic processes” of what he called the “military-industrial complex.”

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Column: ‘Our challenge IS President Duterte’

Published on January 23, 2018.

At the “Catholic media in challenging times” forum in San Carlos Seminary in Makati City on Friday, the veteran journalist and former professor Crispin Maslog—he wryly introduced himself as a “centennial,” not a millennial—rose during the open forum not to ask a question but to offer a comment. “I would like to share with you an answer,” he said. He pointed to the theme of the forum blazoned on the backdrop, read it out loud, and said: “I think our challenge is President Duterte.”

He cut to the quick. That is in fact the real reason why we live in challenging times, and why Catholic media organizations—in common with other media and with other sectors of society—are facing a challenge. The election of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte inaugurated a parallel era of anxiety in the Philippines; behind the record high survey ratings of the President are consistent confessions of fear, mistrust, uncertainty. The same surveys that show majority satisfaction or trust ratings for the President and approval for his signature antidrugs campaign show that almost three-fourths of voting-age Filipinos fear they or someone they know will be the next casualty in the so-called war on drugs. A far greater majority, over 90 percent, say keeping suspected drug dealers or users alive is important. Less than one-tenth say they trust the police when the police allege that suspects were killed because they fought back. Continue reading

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Column: ‘Who will rid me of this meddlesome Rappler?’

Published on January 16, 2018, after the Duterte regime’s continuing offensive against press freedom entered a new and more dangerous phase. Please also see: 10-tweet thread I posted on the same day the column came out.

If you squint hard enough, you can pretend that the little you see in front of you is the most important thing to see. If you do it long enough, you can even convince yourself that the little you do see is all there is to see in the world.

This sleight of sight explains the decision of the Securities and Exchange Commission, when it ruled that Rappler, the social media network, had violated constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership of media entities and revoked its certificate of incorporation. If this revocation stands, Rappler will effectively be shut down — the first time a news organization will be closed by government action since the dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972. Continue reading

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Column: Alvarez signals conquest of Supreme Court

Published on January 9, 2018.

Last week, the two PDP-Laban leaders who head the two chambers of Congress cut the holiday chatter short with unsettling messages.

Senate President Koko Pimentel, who is party president, decided it was time to point out an obvious consequence of the ruling coalition’s attempt to revise the Constitution: President Duterte’s term can be extended. On Jan. 3, he said in a text message to reporters: “We can extend the President’s term 1. If really necessary and 2. If he’s amenable to it …”

On the same day, Speaker Bebot Alvarez, the party secretary general, said much the same thing, and then dropped three more bombshells. If both chambers do convene into a constituent assembly as early as this month and complete a new constitution within the year, he told ANC in a mix of English and Filipino, the following may happen: Continue reading

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“The Shape of Harm”

Cartoon 3

“See here, sonny …”

The Philippines Communication Society asked me to speak on “misinformation and media manipulation” at their annual conference yesterday. I highlighted one recent and horrifying example, gave two reasons why we in the Philippines must not limit the scope of the problem of media manipulation to digital and social media only, and suggested three ways of understanding the threat posed by Rodrigo Duterte’s “narcolists.” (I also showed four cartoons, from 1898.)

We meet a mere three days after the horrifying attacks on the mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand—the shock has not yet worn off, the depth of human suffering has yet to be fully plumbed.

What seems clear now is that the world has just experienced what we can call an act of perlocutionary terrorism. Borrowing from the philosopher J. L. Austin, a perlocutionary act is classified by the “… consequential effects upon the feelings, thoughts, or actions of the audience, or of the speaker, or of other persons …”

Austin was classifying speech acts, or more specifically what he called effects of speech, but I am not the first person to say nor will I be the last one to claim that terrorism is also a statement: It is violence as political or ideological statement.

What makes the attacks in New Zealand even more repulsive is that at least one, the attack on the first mosque, was designed and executed as a made-for-media spectacle. As the Washington Post tech reporter Drew Harwell tweeted: “The New Zealand massacre was livestreamed on Facebook, announced on 8chan, reposted on YouTube, commentated about on Reddit, and mirrored around the world before the tech companies could even react.”

The violence was meant to have consequential effects upon the feelings, thoughts, or actions of a specific audience scattered across the world: white supremacists, both full-fledged or incipient. It was meant to persuade them, to move them to action. It was, chillingly, meant to inspire imitation. The statement was crafted to be shared and retold. In that sense, it was perlocutionary terrorism.

I hope I will not be misunderstood. When I focus on the aspect of statement, I do not mean to minimize the human suffering inflicted on the Christchurch victims, or to deny the horror of the violence, or to diminish the responsibility, the savagery, of the mass murderers. (The considerations would be the same, if we were to discuss, for instance, the bombing of the Jolo cathedral only last January, which killed 23 persons and wounded 95.)

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Stories, Estorya, Counter-History

ramon reyes lecture pic

Remembering in a Time of Forgetting
The 2019 Ramon Reyes Memorial Lectures

Stories, Estorya, Counter-History:
The Moral Thinker and the Crises of Deliberate Forgetting

Ramon Castillo Reyes was one of the greats. I was fortunate, as a philosophy major in the 1980s, to take his courses in the history of philosophy as well as in ethics. I must admit that, like Fr Reilly’s class in epistemology or Fr Green’s on language, Dr Reyes’ classes provoked me into poetry, not philosophy. I remember writing a poem prompted by Dr. Reyes’ impressions of an old folks’ home in Belgium; Father Reilly caused a poem I wrote in his class to be published in America magazine. So when I received the unexpected invitation to celebrate the memory of Dr. Reyes in the company of the peerless Doc Leo Garcia and the brilliant Ron Mendoza, a spasm, perhaps it was a metaphysical unease, seized me.

How can I pay this remarkable teacher and influential philosopher due honor and just tribute? Continue reading

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Column: Hope is an accumulation of decisions

Gene Sharp

A 2017 overview on Gene Sharp in JSTOR Daily, by Matthew Wills.

“A great political lesson: that all repressive systems, all governments, legitimate or otherwise, all tyrannies, all foreign occupations are able to continue only because they receive the support of those they rule.” Practical wisdom from Gene Sharp, in my last column of 2017. Published on December 26.

“Your Program on Nonviolent Sanctions at Harvard has always aroused much interest but also skepticism. Much of the skepticism about nonviolent methods was swept away by the success of the Filipino people in obtaining elections, in unveiling the fraudulent methods to distort the popular verdict, and finally in ousting Marcos in February 1986. How do you explain this shift?”

In 1986 and 1987, Gene Sharp, one of the principal theorists of nonviolent resistance and the director of the Program on Nonviolent Sanctions in Conflict and Defense at Harvard University’s Center for International Affairs at the time, gave a wide-ranging interview to Afif Safieh, then a visiting scholar in Harvard.

His answer to the introductory question attempts an overview of the Edsa Revolution; it is largely accurate, and still makes for bracing reading:

“The Philippines struggle had a number of distinct features. It was a very good example of the withdrawal of the pillars of power. The Filipino people withdrew legitimacy from the regime when it became clear that the elections were a fraud. There were plans for economic resistance and noncooperation against the supporters of Marcos. Diplomats abroad began resigning. The population became nonviolently defiant. Finally, a major part of the army and its officers in effect went on strike. They did not turn their guns in the other direction or bomb the presidential palace. They went on strike and said that they were doing it nonviolently. So the army itself was taken away. Then the church called on people to demonstrate and protect the soldiers nonviolently. The civilian population formed vast barricades of human bodies surrounding the mutinous officers and soldiers, in a case that probably has no historical precedent: the nonviolent civilians protected the army. Finally Marcos was left with very little power. You take away the sources of power and the man who was formerly a tyrant becomes just an old man. His choice was not whether to remain in power, his only choice was how he was to leave. And so he left semi-gracefully.

“That teaches us a great political lesson: that all repressive systems, all governments, legitimate or otherwise, all tyrannies, all foreign occupations are able to continue only because they receive the support of those they rule. Even foreign occupiers are supported by their own people, and frequently receive international support. If you can withdraw those sources of power, then the regime is threatened.” Continue reading

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Column: Jet ski joke aside, is Duterte a traitor?

Published on December 19, 2017. “Mr. Duterte, the first lawyer-president since Ferdinand Marcos, does not in fact believe in the power of the law; rather, he believes that law serves power”—I think Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, the target of a synchronized abuse of the law, will agree.

Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza used last week’s House justice committee hearing on the impeachment complaint filed against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to deliver a counteraccusation three years in the making: He asserted that it was Sereno, not he, who had committed acts of treason during the preparation of the (successful) Philippine arbitral case against China. He was responding to Sereno’s erroneous claim, in 2014, that then Solicitor General Jardeleza’s policy position on the South China Sea dispute, specifically on Itu Aba in the Spratlys, was disloyal to the country.

Lost in this unfortunate “spectacle of diminishment,” as an Inquirer editorial described the sorry appearance of one retired and three incumbent Supreme Court justices at the hearing, is any appreciation of the present reality: Under President Duterte, and despite the sweeping landmark ruling of the arbitral tribunal in 2016 in favor of the Philippines, the country’s rightful claims to the West Philippine Sea, to parts to the Spratlys and to Scarborough Shoal are at their weakest in decades. Indeed, Mr. Duterte has deliberately weakened them. Clearly, both Jardeleza and Sereno (and Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who shared Sereno’s dim view of Jardeleza’s position in 2014) support the arbitral tribunal ruling and want to see it implemented. If they want to accuse anyone of treason, of yielding to the Chinese, perhaps they should point their finger at the President. Continue reading

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Column: ‘Today is a dangerous time to be a Filipino’

UST NCJAPublished on December 12, 2017—and even more relevant today.

How is it a young student can see more clearly than senators or Supreme Court justices?

“Today is a dangerous time to be a Filipino. The country is being led by a President who promotes a culture of killing and impunity — a President who encourages his people, not just the police, to kill drug pushers on sight, and has vowed to protect those who carry them out. More than this, we have a President who has chosen to consider innocent people killed alongside as ‘collateral damage’ and not as victims of murder who deserve justice.” Continue reading

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Column: Duterte’s secret

“… [is] the accumulation of political capital through the systematic abuse of the rule of law. Mr. Duterte said it himself, about using his prosecutorial power to plant both intrigue and evidence. This is how he understands things get done.” Published on December 5, 2017.

The attempt to start a groundswell of public support for a “revolutionary government” failed dismally last week; some supporters of the Duterte administration have not yet come to terms with the brutal political reality, a year and a half since Rodrigo Duterte took office, that campaigning as outsiders is entirely different from governing as the establishment. Does this mean that the existential threat to the constitutional order that was the “RevGov” attempt has ceased to, well, exist?

The answer is No, because here is the truth of the matter: A deep antidemocratic spirit, hostile to the rule of law, characterizes Dutertismo. And this spirit will continue to seek ways to express itself—if not through the self-coup that is a revolutionary government, then through the extension and even expansion of martial law, the weaponization of Congress’ power to impeach, the continuing abuse of the justice department’s prosecutorial powers. Continue reading

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Column: Not rule of law but caprice of power

This column, published on November 28, 2017, ran the introductory parts of my keynote at the closing rites of the second Political Management Training for Young Progressives program conducted by SocDem Asia. The full speech, “The role of the youth in fighting populist authoritarianism,” is here.

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of addressing a new class of graduates of a unique political management training program: Young progressives from Southeast Asia who meet twice in a given year for a series of executive classes on both the form of politics (such as “election management and progressive campaigning”) and its substance (“climate change,” “feminism,” “migration”). The program is run under the auspices of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and the Network of Social Democracy in Asia. Allow me to publish the introductory parts:

I read your program of training, and was impressed by its breadth (16 topics!) and by its rigor. It is a privilege for me to meet you, the political advocates and activists gifted, as your class valedictorian said, with “energy, belief, thoughts, dreams,” who will help shape our region’s future. Continue reading

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“The role of the youth in fighting populist authoritarianism”

SocDem detail

Detail, from the SocDem Asia website.

I had the privilege of speaking at the closing rites of the second Political Management Training for Young Progressives program, conducted by the Network for Social Democracy in Asia (SocDem Asia), on November 3, 2017. The program—a partnership with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Olaf Palme International Center, and the Australian Labour Party—hosted “young progressives” from six countries: Malaysia, Indonesia, East Timor, Myanmar, Thailand, and the Philippines. (Coming in last, I had the chance to reference the remarks of the Thai class valedictorian, the SocDem Asia coordinator Machris, and Aemon of the ALP, who spoke of his party’s ideal, codified in a famous speech as “the light on the hill.”) I tried to present a cogent argument, and ended with a list of five responses we might all learn from Rizal.

I am very happy to be invited to speak at your graduation ceremony—not only because it gave me the opportunity to stand on the beautiful Taal lakeshore for the first time (yes, it really is my first time) and to see the famous Taal volcano this close, but also and more importantly because I believe we are all standing on the slopes of a social volcano, and you are the volcanologists who can study the problem and save the lives of our people at risk.

I read your program of training, and was impressed by its breadth (16 topics!) and by its rigor. It is a privilege for me to meet you, the political advocates and activists gifted, as your class valedictorian Golf said, with “energy, belief, thoughts, dreams,” who will help shape our region’s future.

The world you have chosen to become politically active in is different from the era which politicized me. In some respects, it is the opposite of the 1980s. In other respects, it is the culmination of the historic shifts that started in that decade.

Let me begin in earnest by reading an extended passage from a piece of political analysis. Continue reading

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Column: Duterte trying to do a Marcos with ‘RevGov’

Published on November 21, 2017.

From President Duterte down to his supporters, we hear the argument that the template for creating a “revolutionary government” was set by Corazon Aquino; why, he asks (they all ask), can’t he do the same thing?

He already raised the question when he visited the Inquirer in August 2015, during his long, coy campaign for the presidency. The idea that the presidency as an office was not powerful enough to fix what truly ails the country, and that a revolutionary government or a “constitutional dictatorship” was needed, was not Marcosian, he said. “Why will I be a Marcos? There is a lesson there in history to look at. Why not follow Cory?”

He repeated the same claim, that Cory Aquino’s revolutionary government was a pattern he can follow, in August 2017, over a year into his raucous presidency, when he started talking up the revolutionary government option again. “For the Philippines to really go up, I said: What the people need is not martial law. Go for what Cory did — revolutionary government. But don’t look at me. I cannot go there.” Continue reading

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Column: ‘RevGov’ is Duterte’s bid for total power

This column, about President Duterte’s fixation on expanded presidential power, was published on November 14, 2017.

Back in 2015, when Mayor Rodrigo Duterte was genuinely conflicted about running for president, he located part of that conflict in what he said was the lack of power of the Philippine presidency. The office, bound by rule and tradition, was simply not up to the task of running a sprawling, dysfunctional nation, he argued. If he were elected, he said in a June interview, “I will give myself six months to one year to do the reforms I want to do. If the system becomes obstructionist and I become inutile, I will declare a revolutionary government.”

He carried the same message to the Inquirer, which he visited in August of that year. “I have to stop criminality and corruption. I have to fix this government. I won’t do it if you want to place me there with the solemn pledge to stick to the rules,” he said. Then he added something truly startling: “The wellspring of corruption is the Constitution itself,” meaning the limits that the post-dictatorship charter placed on the powers of the executive branch lent themselves to graft and dysfunction.

“All money matters and budget appropriation [are limited by the Constitution],” he said.

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Column: Memo to business, civic leaders: Sereno IS the red line

Sereno ADMU

Sereno at the Ateneo de Manila, May 26, 2017. Unimpeachable sources say this commencement speech gravely offended President Duterte, and may have sealed the Chief Justice’s fate.

Rereading this column, which was published on November 7, 2017, I am filled with a deep sadness, not only because of what was done to Chief Justice Sereno, but also and even more to the point because of what was done to the country. With the encouragement of President Duterte, a majority of eight justices justified the unjustifiable. If the Supreme Court itself can remove an impeachable official outside of the impeachment process, what can stop it from, say, agreeing with the House of Representatives that it can convene as a constituent assembly without the participation of the Senate? Sereno was the red line.

I think I now understand why Speaker Bebot Alvarez and the leadership of the House of Representatives insist on restrictive rules on cross-examination, in the Duterte administration’s campaign to impeach Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. It isn’t, as I imagined, an attempt to humiliate her by forcing the head of a co-ordinate branch of government to conduct the cross-examination in her own impeachment case herself, or to subject her to direct questioning by all committee members as well as by a cartoon villain of a complainant.

Rather, the restrictive rules are meant to protect the fatally defective complaint’s witnesses and resource persons, especially — I am reading between the lines here — Associate Justice Teresita de Castro. The impeachment case against Sereno does not allege a single impeachable offense, but it does rest on an explosive but misleading memo written by De Castro. But the full context of the memo is not flattering to De Castro, and any counsel for Sereno who is expert in the art of cross-examination will swiftly surface the embarrassing details. (The exact same thing will happen to De Castro if the impeachment reaches the Senate.)

Alvarez may be able to protect De Castro in the House; as a matter of political expediency, he will treat her as a (very) friendly witness. But unless I have been misinformed, Alvarez has no influence over the Senate. Can President Duterte persuade enough of his political allies in the Senate to promulgate new impeachment trial rules to protect sitting justices from the indignity of a hostile cross-examination? That’s a risk De Castro will have to take. Continue reading

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Column: Government by the obscene

Andanar EU

This column was published on October 31, 2017. Remember the insane sexual banter Martin Andanar and Salvador Panelo thought made them look Duterte-like? “All they have really done is focus attention on the obscenities that have become characteristic of this administration. This is not a distraction from anything; rather, it is a concentration of perception.”

The recent scandalous public utterances of Secretary Martin Andanar and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo may have been scripted, designed to help deflect public attention from hidden wealth and drug smuggling allegations haunting President Duterte and his family, or they may have been launched, like other controversies, in an attempt to distract the public from its growing anxiety over extrajudicial killings. It doesn’t matter. We see through the statements and have not forgotten that only the poor caretaker of the warehouse where shabu linked to influential people in Davao was stored is in detention; we continue to monitor the President’s responses to the controversy over his bank accounts, and remember (at least I do) that when he visited the Inquirer in August 2015 he told us that he had “only P4 million” in the bank.

But the obscenities Andanar and Panelo used, whether deliberate or inadvertent, also reflect one aspect of the Duterte presidency which has begun to lose its sinister sheen: the use of foul language as format and substitute for policy. Some people still laugh, or titter, when the President fails in public appearances to “limit [his] mouth,” to use his own euphemism; I would think that part of this audience response can be attributed to nervous laughter, and part to a genuine appreciation of his colorful language. But I am not the only one to sense a general fatigue over his outrageous remarks. I’m sure part of this is resignation to the new normal, but if I’m not mistaken many people have learned to tune out the President’s bombardment of F-words, insults and rape jokes, to choose not to bear witness to his linguistic airstrikes. Like any entertainer whose performance is based on shock appeal, even a charismatic but tediously repetitive President will lose his audience.

All this makes the two secretaries’ scandalous statements not only sleazy but also lame. Continue reading

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On ‘distraction’

A recap: 14 thoughts (or tweets) on the “God is stupid” issue, the “Catholic veto,” and on the attention economy.


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‘All governments lie’: 15 theses

Varsi TPSF

The Varsitarian covered The Political Science Forum.

I took part in The Political Science Forum at the University of Santo Tomas on February 23, 2018; my jump-off point for discussion was the following set of 15 theses (since slightly edited).

1.All governments lie.

2.They lie out of necessity, to protect state secrets, or to gain an advantage in negotiations. They lie in an attempt to advance the public interest.

3.But they also lie when in a panic, to save face or to defend their principals. They lie to benefit public officials’ private interests.

4.In a democratic setting, there is no place for organized disinformation directed against a government’s own citizens.

5.Governments are not to lie, systematically, to their citizens.

6.Unfortunately, the Duterte government is breaking new ground in this regard.

7.Disinformation is false information intended to deceive.

8.Fake news is Deliberately fabricated information designed to Deceive, Disguised in a news format. The 3Ds.

9.On three critical issues, the Duterte government is either withholding vital information, or intentionally misleading the people.

10.First issue: EJKs. The government refuses to come clean about the casualty toll in the so-called war on drugs.

11.Second issue: The new alliance with China. The government declines to hold China to account.

12.Third issue: The rehabilitation of the Marcoses. The government ignores both history and jurisprudence.

13.The machinery of disinformation includes the agencies in charge of the administration of justice.

14.The machinery has a hands-on leader, the President himself, who is a primary source of disinformation.

15.The machinery of disinformation relies on an outsourced army: DDS social media.

The Varsitarian covered the forum.

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Column: What are we in ‘werpa’ for?


The inimitable, irrepressible Ethel Booba. This is one petmalu tweet.

Column No. 465, published on October 24, 2017. I argue that the Duterte administration is trying to “capture total control of the political infrastructure,” and point to five worrying developments.

Sen. Chiz Escudero is a political cipher; I always find myself questioning my understanding of his place in contemporary politics. Is that really all he stands for? I always think he is better than some of us give him credit for — and then he says something again that suggests he is not an idealistic young man with a vocation for politics but rather a privileged politician with a readiness for realpolitik.

At a “kapihan” at the Senate last week, he tried to paint a portrait of political normalcy: “Isn’t this like what the past administration did, threaten the former ombudsman with impeachment, who then resigned? Impeach the sitting chief justice, who was [convicted]? Jailed three sitting senators and his predecessor (referring to President Benigno Aquino III’s predecessor, President Gloria Arroyo)? No one said we were headed toward dictatorship then,” he said in Filipino.

That’s because we were not in fact headed toward dictatorship then. We fail our democracy when we use our UP education and Georgetown degree to argue for false equivalence. Continue reading

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Column: Digong, ‘pataka’

Sona 2017:Joan Bondoc

Bullshit artist, bully pulpit. (2017 State of the Nation Address. Inquirer|Joan Bondoc)

Had fun writing this analysis of President Duterte’s rhetoric from a Bisaya perspective. The comments on the website and on Facebook  (well, many of them) were fun to read too. Here’s the link to the original column, published on October 17, 2017.

As I have written before, there is a real difference between the way the President speaks in private and the way he responds to the presence of a microphone in public. In private, he is courteous, thoughtful, funny; in public, he is a bullshit artist. Continue reading

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Column: Death and Duterte

Published on October 10, 2017.

The drop in President Duterte’s satisfaction ratings was almost across the board — except in Mindanao, and in the ABC socioeconomic demographic. I must emphasize one fact: Despite the falling numbers, the President continues to enjoy majority approval for his performance, and also across the board. All the same, the drop in his ratings is substantial and a cause for worry in Malacañang as well as for his political allies in the Senate and the House.

That Mr. Duterte’s approval numbers in Mindanao are statistically unchanged, at 82 percent, is no surprise; he is the first president from Mindanao and won overwhelming support from Mindanaons in the 2016 election. But why was there an increase in his satisfaction rating in the ABC classes, in the Social Weather Stations survey, from 65 percent in June to 70 in September? The same survey found that in class D his rating dropped by 10 points from 78 percent to 68, and in class E his rating plunged by 19 points, from 80 percent to 61. Continue reading

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Column: Justice for Leila is justice for all

When I saw the news release (available on the Senate website), announcing Sen. Leila de Lima’s selection as Amnesty International’s “Most Distinguished Human Rights Defender,” I thought it was a good time to finally upload this column, originally published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on October 3, 2017. 

On Aug. 21 last year, waxing expansive in the wee hours, President Duterte shared the secret to his work as a city fiscal. “I learned a lot during my prosecution days. We planted evidence,” he said. “We arrested persons but we released them. But (switching to an example) telling him that it was this person who squealed on him and then when he goes out but killing, we would say it was this fellow who really did it, who did you in.”

It is important to note that the President was volunteering this information in a late-night-into-early-morning news conference he had called. The reason, he suggested, for what we must call out as an illegal tactic was practicality. “We first planted the intrigues, so that we would know where they were or where they came from.”

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