Published on August 4, 2015.
CAN MAR Roxas win? The objective answer is yes. Will he? The most realistic answer is: It’s too early to tell.
I find myself belaboring these obvious points, because the theory—or the narrative, if you will—that Roxas is a sure loser is making the rounds again. (For a couple of days after President Aquino endorsed Roxas as the Liberal Party candidate for president in the 2016 elections, the news and social media environment for Roxas turned decidedly favorable. Call it the endorsement bump.) But some of the same people who thrill to the possibility of a Miriam Defensor Santiago presidential run (which would be her third), or declare confidently that Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has the right strategy and enough money to lay claim to the presidency, sweepingly discount Roxas’ chances because of his “low” ratings. But in the June 2015 Social Weather Stations survey, only 4 percent of the respondents saw Santiago as one of the three best leaders to succeed President Aquino, while only 3 percent listed Marcos. About a fifth of the respondents, or 21 percent, included Roxas in their list. Continue reading
Published on January 6, 2015.
The most consequential papal journey of the year will not be to Sri Lanka or even to the Philippines next week, although Pope Francis’ second visit to Asia is important indeed. It will be in September, to the new center of gravity of Catholic conservatism: the United States.
Apart from its intrinsic importance, then, the Pope’s second-longest journey outside Italy to canonize the Apostle to Sri Lanka Blessed Joseph Vaz and to condole with the victims of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in the Philippines can also be understood as a series of way stations en route to a historic encounter in Pittsburgh. (His longest journey, longer by a few hours, was the eight-day swing to Brazil in 2013.)
I do not wish to minimize the significance to the fourth papal visit to the Philippines. I understand that the Pope wanted to visit the country as early as late 2013, or just several months after his election—after all, it hosts the largest Catholic population in the world’s most populous continent and, despite the parochialism of much religion news in the country, plays a pivotal role in Asia in the new evangelization.
Unlike the visit to Seoul (his first to Asia, in August last year) and the one to Colombo that’s coming up in a few days, there is no beatification or canonization ceremony to perform in the Philippine visit. Unlike his visit to Rio de Janeiro in July 2013 or the one to Istanbul last November, there is no World Youth Day to grace or Joint Declaration to announce in the Philippines. He is, simply, a pastor visiting his people. Continue reading
Published on November 11, 2014.
Shortly after President Aquino marked his 100th day in office, in 2010, I wrote a column attempting an analysis of the new commander in chief’s self-evidently well-defined sense of limits. The unfortunate controversy over his decision to omit Tacloban City from his packed schedule commemorating the first anniversary of “Yolanda” over the weekend reminded me of that attempt; perhaps (if you will allow me) it bears a second look. Continue reading
Published on February 18, 2014.
Almost a hundred days ago, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour interviewed President Aquino in the aftermath of Supertyphoon “Yolanda.” It was not a winning moment. Annoying speech tics, factual slip-ups, outright exaggerations—and I’m just talking about Amanpour.
Mr. Aquino did not do very well; he tried to describe a national government that was, to use the familiar phrase, on top of the situation, but five days after the supertyphoon devastated parts of Central Visayas, especially the unfortunate city of Tacloban, the government was in fact still looking for its bearings. Was he covering up for the chaotic reality on the ground, or was he determined to not play the helpless leader of a helpless country? Or was he just talking through his storm-soaked hat? The feedback on social media that I followed was overwhelmingly negative. Continue reading
Published on January 7, 2014.
When Reuters ran an analytical piece on the “backlash” against President Aquino on Nov. 15, a week after Supertyphoon “Yolanda” swept through central Philippines, I sent a message to one of my friends in the wire agency. “Did you compare raw satisfaction (74% in Mar 2013) with NET satisfaction (+49, Sept 2013)?”
Like many at that time, my assessment of the Aquino administration’s response had swung from the initial thumbs up the day after the storm (when we interpreted the lack of news from the disaster areas as good news) to an emphatic thumbs down several days later, when the question of leadership was very much in the air (and on the Inquirer front page). “Who’s in charge here?” Indeed. Continue reading
The fourth edition, as it were, of an annual roundup of anti-Aquino criticism. Published on November 26, 2013.
At least once a year in the last three years, I’ve tried to document the patterns of criticism directed against President Aquino. I got started because of what I thought was unfair criticism; I continued partly because of the vigorous, sometimes orientation-altering feedback, and partly because tracing the patterns can be instructive and useful to understanding politics, Philippine-style.
The documentation is hardly comprehensive; my so-called field notes are only preliminary; indeed, as I wrote at the get-go about the patterns I discerned, “there are others, some of them perhaps better objects of study than the ones I’ve chosen.”
“Catastrophizing” disaster coverage. Published on November 19, 2013.
Read, and wince. “During this time, they said, girls and boys were raped in the dark and had their throats cut and bodies were stuffed in the kitchens while looters and madmen exchanged fire with weapons they had looted.” It won’t be easy to identify which esteemed media organization ran this sensational passage.
This post-apocalyptic vision was a description of the horrifying conditions at the Convention Center in New Orleans, days after Hurricane Katrina devastated the famous city in August 2005. But as it turns out, it was a description that was not (and perhaps could not have been) independently verified. The source (the “they” who did the saying) were unnamed refugees; other sensational details in the story with the remarkable headline “City of rape, rumour and recrimination,” could also not be verified, or were later proven false.
The British spelling in the headline is a clue, but it isn’t much of one. Because that story, with that headline, and that passage, was published by the “normally staid” Financial Times.