Tag Archives: John Rawls

Column: Tatad and political immaturity

Published on February 23, 2010.

Former Sen. Francisco Tatad is shocked —shocked!—that surveys in the Philippines, the same ones that show him lagging behind in the Senate race, are, in his words, “fatally flawed.” He told a media forum last week: “We are shocked that survey methodologies, techniques and practices that have failed and been completely discarded in the United States and other advanced countries are being used in local opinion surveys without any mention of their limitations.”

His attack came as a surprise to journalists and other survey-users who have made it a habit to read the Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia websites when new surveys are released. But Tatad did not mean just margins of error and confidence levels. He meant something even more fundamental: the practice of face-to-face interviews. Continue reading


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Column: The iconoclastic Gloria A.

Published on January 19, 2010.

This is not an essay in religious psychology, but only a look—via Fr. Joaquin Bernas’ precise theses, John Rawls’ “overlapping consensus” and the underlying philosophy of TV’s “CSI”—at what may well be Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s true legacy.

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I thought yesterday’s column by Father Bernas put paid to the debate over whether President Arroyo should name Chief Justice Reynato Puno’s successor. In 19 succinctly stated points (which he all but apologized for, saying he was forced to “write in telegraphic style” because “there are so many issues involved”), the foremost constitutionalist answered virtually all concerns raised in the debate. For instance: “The only instance I can think of where the presence of the chief justice might be indispensable is when the President is on trial on impeachment. But I cannot see that coming any time soon.”

Like many other political journalists, I am a layman forced to wrestle with legal and constitutional implications on a regular basis. Father Bernas’ theses-style approach, therefore, is useful for cutting through the clutter. For instance, an Inquirer editorial a few days ago took a few paragraphs to assert that Rep. Matias Defensor’s seeming desperation contrasted with the Constitution’s “massive calm.” Father Bernas disposed of Defensor’s panic in two sentences: “The original period proposed for filling vacancies in the Supreme Court was 60 days; it was extended to 90 days without debate … Thus even the Constitution believes that the vacancy can wait 90 days.”
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Column: Between Puno and Puno

Published on July 7, 2009. The links to the stories about the dinner with Secretary Puno can be found here. The main part of Chief Justice Puno’s speech can be read here.

Two weeks ago, over a 12-hour period, I found myself exploring the opposite poles of political discourse. On June 23, I was among several journalists who sat down for a freewheeling interview with quite possibly the most successful political operative since the Edsa restoration, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno. The following day, I was among many who heard the country’s leading moralist, Chief Justice Reynato Puno, thunder against the “epidemic of ignorance” threatening that same restored democracy.

I found the contrast most instructive, in large part because I happen to believe that public morality—the standards of conduct and performance we must expect from our public officials and from those who take part in public affairs—requires both competence and character. Good intentions are never enough.

Regardless of what I personally thought of Secretary Puno and his role in some of the political scandals of our time, I came away impressed by his political acumen, his strategic way of thinking about politics. And despite sharing many of Chief Justice Puno’s faith-based principles, I came away determined to measure him according to the lawyer’s standards—none of them faith-based—that he is sworn to uphold.

Between Puno the agent of pragmatism and Puno the prophet of the moral life, I found yet another confirmation that, in truth, morality is pragmatic.

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Column: Kiko, Chiz, Amina, Candy — and consensus

Published on May 19, 2009

Fortune favors, not only the bold, but the foresighted. The decision of Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan to contest the vice-presidency next year is no mere concession to survey realities; it is, in Ricoeurian terms, a consent to necessity. In other words, I don’t see it as a grudging acceptance but rather a welcome embrace of his present limits. It is also the most politically savvy strategy for taking Malacañang—not in 2010, but in 2016.

In the post-Marcos era, every elected vice president except for Salvador “Doy” Laurel has done very well politically: Joseph “Erap” Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo succeeded the presidents they had served, and Emmanuel “Noli” de Castro, if surveys alone are the gauge, is poised to succeed to the highest office in 2010. Barring a Doy-like descent into self-destruction, therefore, the next vice president should be in prime position to contest the 2016 election.

To be sure, I still think it probable (and I think there is growing consensus on this) that De Castro will give way to the presidential ambition of his good friend Sen. Manuel Villar; like senators, the vice president can run for a second six-year term. That would pit him against Pangilinan—and Pangilinan’s celebrity wife.

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