A Nonkilling Meditation

The Bohol Chronicle
August 3, 2014

About two weeks ago I received an email from Bill Bhaneja, a Canadian leader on our Council for Global Nonkilling who had inspired me with his idea of proposing a Department of Peace in Canada. So I proposed the establishment of a Department of Peace in the Philippines to then Senator Manuel Villar who filed a bill that Senator Cynthia Villar followed up.

But the bill has not made progress just as our leaders have not supported our Movement for a Nonkilling Philippines: Tungo sa Kalinaw at Walang Pagpatay. And Help Buil a Killing-Free World!

This time Bill Bhaneja sent us “A Nonkilling Meditation” by Mark Gerzon because Bill was musing over Nonkilling that day and hoped it would also inspire us.

“A Nonkilling Meditation
By Mark Gerzon

“Human Beings are moral, they have both ego and conscience. We know when it’s wrong and when it’s right.

“When we are wrong and are unable to speak our heart out, cover our acts with empty words, we then become deeply wounded humans. Our heads hung in shame as we are unable to answer to our conscience.

“All this is felt when we become witness to killings of innocent:
– when a child is burnt alive by bystanders
– when a child is a victim of stabbing or gun killing
– when a child commits suicide
– when a child is killed as part of a collateral damage
– when a child’s life is taken by a sniper or a soldier
– when in the last Century 200 million were killed, mostly innocent mothers and children

“No amount of warfare, violence, counter violence justifies killing as means of resolving conflict or victory. Violence is preventable like any disease – not eliminated but preventable.

“Work towards ending killing and its prevention is a hard slog for which all world leaders were chosen by their people to find solutions. Ought they not be ashamed of, apologize and repent about their inability to tackle this basic human right TO LIVE?

“Do they seek forgiveness when in private for what they or their predecessors have done, and resolve: NO MORE KILLING.

“Sustainability of our fragile planet earth can only be accomplished by Nonkilling.

“Resurrect as nonkilling knowledge is being discovered and made freely available (www.nonkilling.org) to assist leaders and people of the world to end this era of killing.

“We keep walking.”

What made Mark Gerzon compose his “Meditation”? Anoop Swarup wrote the following observation.

“The piece by Mark Gerzon is moving and brilliant !

“The downing of the [Malaysian MH17 in East Ukraine] and the Israel-Palestine conflict is a stark warning of the looming dangers to international peace particularly killing of innocent civilians. As aptly mentioned  ​in the piece, an endless stream of innocent deaths — not to mention other indignities, insults, humiliations and degradations — will never lead to victory”.

“Why we do not have a  ‘NonKilling Principle’ drafted (to be appropriately worded) for the UN Charter for all its Members !”

Our Movement for a Nonkilling Philippines. I should also ask: Why are most of our lay and religious Filipino leaders indifferent to the appeal of our Movement for a Nonkilling Philippines for their support since 2011?

First, I should acknowledge that the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (first Annabelle Abaya and then Teresita Quintos Deles) supported our survey and research on violence and nonkilling that made us write our Report. And that the PAGCOR (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation under Chairman Ephraim Genuino paid the printing of our Report and its free distribution by us to our government, religious, and lay leaders.

But President B.S. Aquino has not supported the proposal of Our Movement for a Nonkilling Philippines to make nonkilling specifically a goal and policy, not just seek peace in general terms as the end to violence and rebellion. Yes, we are happy and encouraged by his strong support to the Bangsamoro peace process and the establishment of the proposed Bangsanoro political entity.

I have appealed to the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines since 2011 as they convene in Metro Manila, orally and in writing and the distribution of our published Report: Let’s Build a Nonkilling Philippines! But they have completely ignored our appeal. I have written Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle but he has not responded either. Neither has Vice-President Jejomar Binay or several legislators responded to our appeals.

Recently, I proposed to Senator Grace Poe and Representative Ma. Eleanor Robredo to champion our revised proposal to pass a law to establish our proposed Department of Peace that adopts the goal and policy of building a nonkilling Philippines, and I hope to see them as soon as I hear from them.

Again, I want to thank Governor Edgar M. Chatto, Vice-Governor Concepcion O. Lim, and the whole Bohol Sangguniang Panlalawigan for establishing the Bohol Nonkilling Society, the first provincial council to do so.

For emphasis, let me restate the rationale/justification for “building a nonkilling Philippines.” and

As defined in our 75-page Report, “a non-killing Philippines” is an envisioned ideal Philippines marked by “the absence of killing, threats to kill, and conditions conducive to killing.” In practice the MN-KP aims for progressive change that will make Filipinos value, uplift and sustain life, and create the conditions, structures and behaviors that will drastically reduce violence and killing in the country. It means building and sustaining peace and progress everywhere for the good of all.

The Report asserts that a nonkilling Philippines is a desirable vision and a measurable goal. Nonkilling can be measured by the proposed Philippine Index of Killing/Nonkilling that will record, map, and monitor the incidence of killings nationwide. This will indicate the various kinds of killings and their probable causes. Communities that excel in nonkilling peacefulness will be recognized and their experience sought to be replicated elsewhere. A Department of Peace is recommended to focus and coordinate efforts toward peace, nonkilling, and the protection of human rights.

Published by Kalayaan College, the Report indicates specific conditions that lead to violence and killing and the factors conducive to building a peaceful, nonkilling Philippines. It appeals to our leaders in the government, civil society, and the media  for support to ensure a sustained nationwide movement.

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President Aquino’s Troubles: Unconstitutional PDAP and DAP, Less Public Approval, Proposed Impeachment

A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe” Abueva
The Bohol Chronicle
July 27, 2014

End pork barrel. Remembering “PEOPLE Power” that ended the long corrupt dictatorship of  Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, a hundred thousand protestors massed at Rizal Park on August 26, 2013 demanding  an end to pork-barrel politics. I was there myself with a poster advocating  shifts to a federal republic and a parliamentary government.

COA had revealed that senators and representatives had channeled  over six billion pesos into 82 NGOs through Janet Napoles and gotten their enormous kickbacks. The continued rule of family dynasties who depend on their patronage makes the Philippines one of the most corrupt in South-East Asia.

In the sudden death of her iconic mother, President Cory, P-Noy Aquino III became president in  the 2010 election with his neat election slogan, “Kung walang korupt, walang mahirap! But for three years his success centered on the arrest, prosecution and detention of his predecessor, Gloria Arroyo, for allegedly plundering millions in the state lottery funds. And the impeachment and removal of Chief Justice Reynato Corona and his replacement by P-Noy’s protégée; and somehow this might have been facilitated by his enormous presidential pork barrel.

So P-Noy advanced his daang matuwid against the humongous pork-barrel money that was disbursed during President Arroyo’s term. But P-Noy initially defended the pork-barrel scheme because he is at the top of the pyramid of political patronage. He decides which legislators get their pork and how much—in our ineffective and unaccountable political party system.

The Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) has institutionalized pork barrel in the Philippines. Each of the 24 senators used to receive P200 million and each of some 300 congressmen could receive P70 million.  Pork barrel funds can finance public works, scholarships, health service. But legislators may also enrich themselves through kickbacks from contractors.

On August 23, just before the anti-pork barrel rally, President Aquino, flanked by Senate Drilon and Speaker Belmonte, pledged to abolish the PDAF. But the public was skeptical.

Pork barrel unconstitutional. The Supreme Court ruled in November 2013 that the widely misused pork barrel funds (Priority Development Assistance Program) for legislators’ pet projects, some of which were nonexistent, was unconstitutional and ordered the money be returned to the Treasury. This became “the biggest crisis of Aquino’s three-year rule, tainting his image as a corruption fighter and undermining his ability to push economic reforms.”

Analysts say pork barrel funds have been used by every sitting president to buy loyalties of lawmakers as well as influence their vote on crucial legislative and political measures.

Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Ejercito, and Bong Revilla are under trial for plunder before the Sandiganbayan; and several former congressmen are facing corruption charges for the misuse of pork barrel funds from 2007 to 2009. In a Senate public inquiry a whistle blower said about 50 percent of pork barrel funds were routed back to lawmakers in a scheme allegedly ran by businesswoman Janet Napoles at the centre of the controversy.

Why did the Supreme Court declare the pork barrel  unconstitutional. U.P. Professor of Law HarryRoque explained. “The reality … every single member of Congress who partook of the funds participated in a systematic and unconstitutional expenditure of public funds: (1) The Court said that because of the principle of separation of powers, legislators, as soon as they pass the annual budget law, should no longer have any participation in the implementation of the law; (2) The Court said that the power to provide the annual appropriations law cannot be delegated to the individual members of Congress; (3) The Court said that the pork barrel violates the system of check and balances since it deprives the President the power to veto line items in the annual appropriation law. The Court also said that as a tool to level the playing field for politicians, the pork barrel system violates the constitutional principle of granting local autonomy to local governments. (4) But on closer scrutiny, perhaps it was public indignation that emboldened the Court to assert its judicial power against the more powerful political branches of government. In the final analysis, it was the people, through the million people march and their outrage in social media- that emboldened the Court to defend the Constitution against the stronger branches of government.  (Manila Standard Today, Nov. 28,2013).

Supreme Court declares unconstitutional the Disbursement Acceleration Program of President Aquino III. On July 1, 2014, the Supreme Court ruled against the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), voting 13-0-1. Following is from the exposition of Chay F. Hofileña of Rapplers. July 17, 2014.

“The High Tribunal ruled as unconstitutional the following: (1) the creation of savings prior to the end of the fiscal year and the withdrawal of these funds for implementing agencies; (2) the cross-border transfers of the savings from one branch of government to another; and (3) the allotment of funds for projects, activities, and programs not outlined in the General Appropriations Act.

“Here are highlights of the 92-page ruling in Question and Answer format:

“What is the issue that the Supreme Court addressed in its resolution pertaining to the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP)?

“Petitioners challenged the constitutionality of DAP, which was intended by the Aquino administration to accelerate government spending. They also questioned National Budget Circular 541 which, in effect, characterized unreleased appropriations and unobligated or unused allotments as savings. The question brought to the Court was whether the Executive exceeded his powers to augment items in the budget within the executive branch of government.

“When exactly did the DAP start? The closest indication is a memorandum dated October 12, 2011 from Budget Secretary Butch Abad seeking approval from the President to implement DAP. The memo listed funding sources that amounted to P72.11 billion (about $1.7 billion) which could be used for other proposed priority projects – among them, National Housing Authority programs, capitalization of the Bangko Sentral, and peace and development interventions in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

“How was DAP supposed to be implemented and funded? Three ways: (1) by declaring savings from various departments and agencies derived from pooling unobligated allotments and withdrawing unreleased appropriations; (2) by releasing un-programmed funds; (3) by applying the “savings” and un-programmed funds to augment existing programs, activities or projects (PAPs) or to support other priority PAPs.

“Can the President transfer funds? With limits. While the power to transfer funds from one item to another within the executive branch existed since 1909, during the time of American Governors-General, this power was reduced to merely augmenting items from savings. The 1987 Constitution put limits on the President’s discretion over appropriations during the budget execution phase (when the budget law is being implemented).

“The Constitution authorizes the President, the Senate President, the Speaker, the Chief Justice, and heads of Constitutional Commissions to transfer funds “within their respective offices”; when these funds involve savings generated from appropriations also for their respective offices; and when the purpose of the transfer is to augment items in the Appropriations Law again for their respective offices.

“How is “savings” defined? How did this issue make DAP problematic? The Court defined savings as funds that remain unspent after the completion or discontinuance of a project. Congress provided that appropriated funds are available for a period of one fiscal year. But in a May 20, 2013 memo, Budget Secretary Butch Abad sought omnibus authority to consolidate savings and unused funds to finance the DAP on a quarterly basis. This shortened the period that funds were supposed to be available for, giving rise to questions about the budget department’s own definition of savings.

“How were funds under DAP spent? What are related issues? According to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), as of 2013, P144.4 billion (about $3.3 billion) was released to implement programs, activities, projects (PAPs). In 2011, P82.5 billion (about $1.8) was released, while P54.8 billion (about $1.2 billion) was released in 2012. About 9% of the total DAP applied to PAPs were identified by lawmakers.

“The DBM also said that 116 PAPs were financed by DAP, each of which had existing appropriations in the budget. The Office of the Solicitor-General submitted 7 evidence packets in support of this claim, but the Court found that there were projects not covered by an existing appropriation – for example, items under the P1.6-billion DREAM project under the Department of Science and Technology. DREAM refers to Disaster Risk, Exposure, Assessment and Mitigation.

“Are “cross-border” transfers or augmentations of the budget allowed? No. Cross-border transfers refer to the movement of funds from one branch of government to another. These are allowed only within respective offices – thus the use of DAP funds to augment funds of the Commission on Audit (for its IT infrastructure program and the hiring of litigation experts in the amount of P143.7 million, or about $3.2 million) and the House of Representatives (for a legislative library and archives building/e-library in the amount of P250 million, or about $5.6 million) violate the Constitution.

“What is the operative fact doctrine and why is it relevant to DAP? In effect, it says let it be, because the consequences resulting from DAP could no longer be undone. For instance, the positive results of DAP funding could include roads, bridges, homes for the homeless, hospitals, classrooms. Not applying the operative fact doctrine would require the physical undoing and destruction of these infrastructure – a considerable waste. The application of the doctrine, however, does not exonerate the proponents and implementors of the DAP – unless it is established that they acted in good faith. Rappler.com.”

President P-Noy asks the Supreme Court’s reconsideration of its decision against DAP, but he also argues against the decision in his televised speech and media publicity. The Administration even hints at a constitutional crisis as a consequence of the divergence of positions between the executive and judicial departments.

Proposed impeachment of the President is most unlikely to succeed. The public opinion surveys of Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia indicate that the President has suffered a notable decline in the people’s trust in him. Mass media and social media also reflect adversely against him.  Three initiatives for his impeachment have been submitted in Congress, although the House of Representatives is most unlikely to approve any of them so that the Senate can sit in judgment of his impeachment.

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Our Rights and Duties as Citizens

The Bohol Chronicle
July 20, 2014
 

As a teacher in political science in U.P. Diliman from 1950, I sensed that the framers of our 1935 Constitution merely copied the U.S. Constitution by having a Bill of Rights but no Bill of Duties. When I studied in the United States in the 1950s and taught there as a visiting professor in the 1960s, I observed that Americans were much more conscious of their duties and responsibilities as citizens than we, Filipinos. Many Americans, including professors, joined either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, and they vigorously participated in the nomination and election of their presidential candidates.

In sharp contrast most teachers and also U.P. professors have not joined any political party to this day because they feel our political parties are meaningless and not worth joining! And I joined a political party only in 2012, at the age of 84, because the Centrist Democratic Party is truly Ang Partido ng Tunay na Demokrasya in its ideology and political platform. All members pay our annual dues and take our political platform seriously.

And I have also observed that most of us, Filipinos, are more concerned with our rights and entitlements as citizens than with our duties and obligations to our nation and government.

A Proposed Bill of Duties to Complement the Bill of Rights in Our 1987 Constitution. As the senior adviser to the Citizens’ Movement for a Federal Philippines (CMFP), I led the drafting of a proposed constitution to change our Unitary-Presidential System to a Federal-Parliamentary System. In our Draft Constitution for a Federal Republic of the Philippines with a Parliamentary Government, the CMFP proposed a new Bill of Duties and Obligations to complement the Bill of Rights in the 1987 Constitution.

We argued that, together, the Article on the Bill of Rights and the proposed Article on the Bill of Duties and Obligations would be very helpful in the civic education and training of responsible and accountable citizens and leaders. While respecting freedom of worship, we also urged that citizens should be assisted by concerned leaders and institutions in their spiritual development—to round out their civic and political education.

Our society seems to suffer from an excess of selfish individualism, (Wala akong paki-alam sa inyo. Bahala na kayo.); materialism (materialismo, hindi espiritual); and secularism (makamundo, hindi maka-Diyos).

On the other hand, we have these important reminders over many years. “Bayan muna, bago ang sarili!  (“Nation before self.”) This is a nationalistic reminder to all Filipinos as a sign of our love of country. As Jose Rizal said: “…the thought of my whole life has always been love of my country and her moral and material development” (1892). In his Dekalogo (1893), Andres Bonifacio said: “Always bear in mind that the true love of God is the love of country, and that this love is also the true love of thy fellowmen.” Apolinario Mabini said: “Procure thy country’s happiness before thine own, making her a kingdom of reason, justice and labor, for if she is happy, happy will also be thou and thy family” (1898). For his part, Manuel L. Quezon said: “We must imbue our whole citizenry with a spirit of heroic patriotism. For a country as small and with such limited wealth as the Philippines, ordinary patriotism is not enough to insure its security. Heroic patriotism is necessary—a patriotism that is devotion, loyalty, and courage that rises to the heights of self-sacrifice” (1939).

To the Catholic Church: “Filipinism, which is nationalism for Filipinos, means hard work and generous sacrifice for the welfare of the Philippines in the temporal order, genuine love of Filipino culture in its nobler aspects, sincere appreciation of our historic past, honesty in public as well as in private life, mutual cooperation in common endeavors, scrupulous administration of public affairs, faithful compliance with laws, unselfish acceptance of the burden of services required by the nation, payment of taxes and sincere love for national symbols and institutions” (1959). Catholics who make up the great majority of the faithful have a duty to respect and not discriminate  against Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, and believers in other religions, or nonbelievers.

And as John F. Kennedy said in his inaugural, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

Therefore, as citizens in a developing democracy we should balance our emphasis on individual rights and privileges with a much stronger sense of individual, collective and communitarian duties and obligations. In this way many more citizens can become patriotic, responsible and effective—in solidarity with our kapwa Pilipino. We can then build a cohesive national community, a working democracy, and a peaceful, nonkillng, just and humane society.

Citizens of progressive nations like Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Israel, the Scandinavian countries, Germany, and the United States of America have a deep sense of their duties and obligations to the community and the nation.

Accordingly, the CMFP Draft Constitution that I drafted has Article V. Bill of Duties and Obligations immediately after Article IV. Bill of Rights. The 1935 Constitution and the 1987 Constitution do not have a Bill of Duties of citizens.

The proposed CMFP Article V. Bill of Duties and Obligations.

Section 1. Loyalty, obedience, cooperation. It shall be the duty of the citizen to be loyal to the Federal Republic of the Philippines and to honor the Philippine flag, to defend the State and contribute to its development and welfare, to uphold the Constitution and obey the laws, pay taxes, and cooperate with the duly constituted authorities in the attainment and preservation of a peaceful, just, and orderly society.

Section 2. Correlative duty. The rights of the individual impose upon him or her the correlative duty to exercise them responsibly and with due regard for the rights of others.

Section 3. Human life, dignity, rights. Citizens shall respect the life and dignity of every human person and help uphold human rights whenever these are threatened or violated. The State and the citizens shall prevent and prohibit the killing of humans in any form and for whatever purpose.

Section 4. Duty to work. It shall be the duty of every citizen to engage in gainful work and to work well to assure himself/herself and his/her family a life worthy of human dignity.

Section 5. Civic, political participation. It shall be the duty and obligation of every citizen qualified to vote to register and cast his or her vote at every election, to participate actively in other public and civic affairs, and to contribute to good governance, honesty and integrity in the public service and the vitality and viability of democracy. Citizens shall enhance their civic efficiency and political effectiveness by their involvement in people’s organizations, non-governmental organizations, civic and professional associations, community associations, or political parties, as well as in discussions on public issues.

Section 6. Promote equity, social justice. In their own homes, in the workplace, and in their various organizations and institutions, citizens shall cooperate in the promotion of equity and social justice for the good of all.

Section 7. Responsibility of youth. The youth shall assume their responsibility in developing their social, economic, intellectual and moral well-being. They shall develop their patriotism and

nationalism and their civic and political competence in order to serve the common good and national interest  and their own welfare.

Section 8. Health, ecology, environment. Citizens shall exercise their right to a balanced and healthful ecology, and contribute to the maintenance of a clean, enjoyable and sustainable environment.

The 2005 Consultative Commission. In 2005 President Gloria Macapagal Arrroyo appointed three leaders of the CMFP (Rey Teves, Lito Lorenzana, and I) to the Consultative Commission on Charter Change which elected me as chairman. The Commission proposed a Federal-Parliamentary System and the following  proposed Bill of Duties.

Article V. Bill of Duties

SECTION 1. It shall be the duty of every citizen to be loyal to the Republic of the Philippines, honor the Philippine Flag, defend the State, contribute to its development and welfare, uphold the Constitution and obey the laws, pay taxes, and cooperate with the duly constituted authorities in the attainment and maintenance of the rule of law and of a peaceful, just, humane and orderly society.

SECTION 2. The rights of the individual impose upon him the correlative duty to exercise them responsibly and with due regard for the rights of others.

SECTION 3. Citizens and the State shall at all times respect the life and dignity of every human person and uphold human rights.

SECTION 4. Citizens shall participate actively in public and civic affairs, and contribute to good governance, honesty and integrity in the public service and the vitality and viability of democracy.

Unfortunately for our proposed constitutional amendments, President Arroyo had lost her legitimacy and public trust. So the people suspected that she only wanted a change to a parliamentary government to extend her term as head of government. The Senate refused to join the House of Representatives in proposing the amendment to the Constitution. The President had abandoned our Consultative Commission’s advocacy of federalism, a Bill of Rights, and liberalization of the constitutional provisions on foreign investments.

President Benigno Simeon Aquino III is obstinate in his objection to any “tinkering” with the 1987 Constitution that her mother, President Corazon C. Aquino, had proposed for the restoration of democracy after the Marcos dictatorship. So our Supreme Law is also known to some as “the Cory Constitution.” More seriously, our political oligarchy and family dynasties have a vested interest in preserving our dysfunctional political system that perpetuates their supremacy and works against building a working democracy for the common good of our citizens.

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Building Our Ideal Nation and Republic: Looking Back, and Ahead With Hope

A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe” Abueva
The Bohol Chronicle
July 13, 2014

History. The historical reality was that our revolutionaries then headed by General Emilio Aguinaldo were succeeding in fighting and ousting the Spaniards in the Filipino Revolution. (This began in 1896 under Andres Bonifacio who was inspired by Jose Rizal.)  That’s why Aguinaldo declared our independence from Spain on June 12, 1898.

But the Filipinos lost their independence from Spain. How? By the collusion between the Spaniards and the Americans. Facing defeat, Spain sold our country to the U.S.A. for 20 million dollars at the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898. Our leaders would lose the Filipino-American War and the Americans took over our country as a U.S. colony that became a ten-year Commonwealth that lasted from 1935 to July 4, 1946. (But our country was under Japan occupation from 1942 to 1945). We should note that the imperialist U.S.A. had also taken over the Hawaiian Islands as a colony that would much later become her 50th State.

Reasons for our backwardness and failure in national development. Honestly, like many of our countrymen, I am frustrated that we, Filipinos, have not achieved more progress since our independence in 1946, compared to some of our progressive neighbors in Asia that were less developed then. It’s been over sixty long years.

We know some of the reasons for our inability to solve our problems and achieve our goals as a nation. One of them has to do with our lack of unity and focus as a people who form the Filipino nation. Too many of us may not love our country enough to transcend our selfish personal and family interests when we are called upon to obey the laws, support change and reforms, and make some sacrifice in order to promote the common good and the national interest These deficiencies make us a weak nation in the face of our grave problems and challenges.

In turn our weak nation makes for a weak state and its ineffective government, what Gunnar Myrdal calls “a Soft State.” [“Soft States are dominated by powerful interests that exploit the power of the State or government to serve their own interests rather than the interests of their citizens. In Soft States “Policies decided on are often not enforced, if they are enacted at all, and in that the authorities, even when framing policies are reluctant to place obligations on people.”

Our weak nation and “Soft State” are related to the tendency of many of our leaders to use governmental power and authority more to serve their private and political interests rather than to promote the public good. Entrenched in their power bases as “family dynasties” in our political oligarchy (the rule of the very rich), they lack the spirit of patriotism and nationalism, and a sense of urgency and accountability to the citizens who are the source of the nation-state’s sovereignty, according to our 1987 Constitution. This has led to the collective failure of our national leaders to lead us toward our constitutional vision, ideals and goals through “good governance.”

In turn “good governance” depends not only on good leaders and good citizens but also on functional or effective institutions through which we can satisfy our needs and fulfill our lives as citizens and as a nation. These institutions include our own families, and all kinds of community, socio-cultural, religious, educational, professional, civic, political, governmental, economic, and business organizations. We refer to these various institutions and organizations as belonging to one or another of the three intersecting spheres of (1) State, (2) business/market, and (3) civil society. Indeed some of the institutions are transnational and global in nature.

Of course, we have some outstanding national political leaders who serve our country well. And we have many more local political leaders who stand out as faithful, accountable public servants who faithfully serve their constituents. In turn satisfied constituents trust and support their leaders; and together they work to achieve their common goals and aspirations.

Dysfunctional institutions. However, in the absence of functioning political parties as in the established democracies—like the U.S.A., United Kingdom, Federal Republic of Germany, and Japan –citizens are unable to choose better leaders and hold them accountable for their shortcomings and corruption. As citizens, by and large we tend to focus on personalities, personal popularity, and “win-ability” in choosing our president and legislators, rather than on their ideas and policies and performance in office.

Political parties are meaningless to the people who see no significant difference among them; for our political parties are organizations mainly of politicians concerned with electing candidates and dividing the spoils of office among themselves and their partisans. Politics seems always to be a competition between those who are in office and those outside (the “Ins” vs the “Outs” who want to take their place—with no clear relevance to the people’s welfare and the public interest, and to expected public policy and public services, and reforms.

Poverty, ignorance and apathy make some citizens vulnerable during elections when they sell their votes to vote-buying candidates. The same citizens tend to exchange their support and loyalty for the political protection and employment that the leaders promise and provide as patrons and padrinos. If we could somehow develop economically so that many more citizens can be better educated and employed, be able to escape poverty and rise to belong to the middle class, they will become more secure and independent, more informed about public affairs, and also more critical of bad governance and corruption. They will also demand change and reform in government and politics.

Our weak nation and “soft State” are also related to the fact that our public institutions continue to be weak, obsolete, and dysfunctional. We have not been able to reform or change them in more meaningful ways since 1946 when we gained our independence from the United States under the 1935 U.S. Commonwealth and Independence Act for the Philippines.

We should never forget that in September 1972 President Ferdinand Marcos became a dictator and molded the 1973 Constitution to serve his self-serving personal agenda. By destroying our democratic institutions, he was able to extend his powers as an authoritarian president from the maximum of 8 years to over 20 years, until he was overthrown by the people at the EDSA “People Power” Revolt in February 1986. Meanwhile, he had plundered the government and the economy, enriched his family and cronies, reversed our economic development; corrupted politics and society, and spoiled the military and police as his partners and beneficiaries in power.

Under President Corazon C. Aquino we restored our democracy under the 1987 Constitution. But despite its laudable vision of “the Good Society” and its constitutional ideal of public office and governance, this Constitution simply restored the old and dysfunctional or ineffective political institutions. Under the new Constitution the old politicians who had collaborated with Marcos would quickly recover their power.

By “the old and ineffective institutions,” I refer specifically to: (1) our presidential government with its exaggerated separation of powers and checks and among the President, the

Senate and the House of Representatives, that is causing endless conflict and gridlock among them; (2) our highly centralized unitary structure of governance that concentrates governmental power and decision-making in the National Government in Metro Manila and the lack of local and regional autonomy; and (3) our political party system that prevents our political parties from being principled, policy oriented, cohesive, responsive, and accountable to the people.

Moreover, the 1987 Constitution restricts the participation of foreign investors in our economic development, so they have invested a great deal more in our neighboring countries where they feel more welcome and appreciated. This is one reason why we have not developed as fast as they. Other factors are our lack of infrastructure and the high cost of doing business in the country because of red-tape, corruption, and high cost of electric power.

Our weak nation and ineffective “soft State” cannot hold our officials accountable for their failure and corruption. As a weak and divided nation, we are continually fighting each other in our personal, parochial, and adversarial style of politics. We have not been able to end the

Communist rebellion or the Moro rebellion and achieve a just and durable peace (We hope peace and progress will come to Mindanao through the new and autonomous Bangsamoro.)

Unfortunately, too many of us don’t love our country enough to sacrifice and do much more for the good of all. We seem to be trapped in a vicious cycle of underdevelopment with our weak nation and “soft State,” and ineffective governance, despite some notable improvements in policy and performance. Thus a public mood of dissatisfaction and pessimism and even of hopelessness might still prevail.

Because of our collective failures, somehow we seem to feel that as a nation we have no vision, no common purpose and goals, and no clear direction. This is one of the worst failures of our national leaders. As a whole, they have not focused our sights on our authentic and authoritative vision and goals which are clearly stated in our 1987 Constitution. And on our indigenous and emerging ideals of “good governance.”

Revolt against corruption and bad governance. On the other hand, as a reaction to massive corruption through the misuse of pork barrel funds (PDAF) and Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), we are witnessing a crescendo of public dissatisfaction with our traditional politics, leadership and governance, and a rising demand for change to “a new politics” of rectitude and good leadership in a modem society and government. But we have not yet reached the tipping point for organized “people power” to effect change and reform buoyed by rising hope and self-confidence by a majority of our people. The weight of political custom and tradition may still be holding us down.

For this reason we’d like to help raise our sights in order to raise our hopes of what is possible and achievable. We should support the crescendo of citizen demands for prosecuting and punishing those guilty of plunder, malversation, and waste of public funds. And push for the badly needed amendments of our 1987 Constitution.

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A Quick Visit to Bangkok and Singapore, and Life Abroad

A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe” Abueva

The Bohol Chronicle

October 27, 2013

In the week before the awesome, deadly earthquake that rocked Bohol and Cebu and other parts of the Visayas and Mindanao on October 15, my wife, Coring, and I made a quick visit to Bangkok and Singapore: two very different and fascinating major Southeast Asian cities. 

Much earlier, in the full year 1975, we lived with our young children in Bangkok, following a whole year in Kathmandu, Nepal. [I lived alone in Nepal in 1973-74.] The sojourn in Nepal and Thailand enabled us to visit Kuala Lumpur and Singapore as well on our return to Manila. In these places and in the United States each of us gathered impressions that enabled us to better appreciate, as well as feel sorry on some points, about dear Manila in comparison.

We  commiserated with the Nepalese on their relative deprivation but appreciated the spectacular beauty of the snow-covered Himalayas all year round. Up in the highest hotel in the world we would see Mt. Everest, the highest peak on earth. I made a quick sketch of the panorama and later painted it from memory. 

We’d gather more impressions as we lived in Tokyo before living briefly in New York. My work with the Ford Foundation in Nepal and Thailand (1973-1977) and the United Nations University center in Tokyo and New York (1977-1987) enriched our lives as all of us learned from our foreign experience and shaped our outlook as individuals and as a family. All our children were able to study in America. Our eldest, Lanelle, learned to be a potter as she apprenticed for three years with a Japanese master potter in Hachijojima.

            Revisiting Bangkok. The Bangkok International Airport, called “Suvarnabhumi,” replaced the existing Don Muang Airport in 2006 for international flights. It is about 30 kilometers east of Bangkok and accessible for the most part by a skyway. There is also a train to take passengers to central Bangkok in 20 minutes.

The airport is so spacious that it allows simultaneous arrivals and departures, unlike our NAIA airports. All these make our airline travel and land transportation in Metro Manila primitive. But then Thailand boasts of 23 million tourists in 2012. Thailand is strategically located for world travelers from West and East of mainland Asia. Indeed, we saw many big, colorful tourist buses in the major tourist sites. For the most part we found road traffic better controlled than in Metro Manila.

Moreover, we were vividly reminded that Thailand is so much more exotic than the Philippines because of its temples and huge government buildings, its being a constitutional democracy with the King as Head of State, and its nationwide use of its indigenous language. Large signs are mostly in Thai, unlike the Philippines were these are usually in English or Filipino readable script. Most foreign travelers in the Philippines would find it comfortable because English is widely spoken and understood. We had trouble communicating in our two days in Bangkok.

Sidewalk food stalls and sundry goods stalls are on many streets, and people may avail themselves  of massage and beauty treats as well.

 

 
 

Bangkok, or Krung Thep, which means the City of Angels, was constructed in 1782. It now has a population of about 10 million and is considered one of the biggest cities in the world. But Metro Manila has over 12 million.

In land area the Philippines has 300,000 square kilometers spread over many islands. Thailand has a solid land mass of 514,000 square kilometers. In the 1960s and the late 1970s, the Philippines and Thailand had a similar population. But then Thailand adopted modern family planning that has kept her population down to about 65 million to our 94 million. Thailand has a per capita Gross Domestic Product of US$5,480.00 to the Philippines’ US$2,587.00; and Singapore’s US$51,709.00. Thailand is richer than the Philippines. It produces a lot of food for her people and for export. I also remember that in the 1950s and 1960s many young Thais came to the Philippines for their higher education.

On our way back to Suvarnabhumi International Airport our taxi driver was severely coughing. Coring tapped his back and gave him a lot of tissue. The coughing continued and he tried to stop as he could not control the vehicle. We were very worried for him, and for us, because he had to suddenly slow down while the other vehicles were whizzing by. And what if we missed our plane to Singapore?

            Revisiting Singapore. This small but very rich, well governed, and well groomed island-nation-state always impresses us and makes us wonder about its people’s and leaders’ ingenuity. I have visited the place several times for meetings with scholars. One of our two sons, Jonas, and his family lived there for several years. And now one of our two daughters, Rossana, has just relocated there as a director at Standard Charter Bank, after some 12 years in London, working last for the Bank of New York, Mellon.

This time my wife and I visited for just a few days, but in style because Rossana lived in a luxury executive apartment for the time being. We only window shopped because the malls we went to were too upscale for our taste and pockets. At the Museum at Marina Bay Sands we managed to watch a movie and exhibit of an Egyptian mummy and an exhibit of 50 masterpiece photographs. Rossana also showed us the apartment building where she would be moving to that very weekend, and the mall across the street where we had our lunch.

On our last night Rossana decided to treat us to dinner at the restaurant on the 57th floor of the Marina Bay Sands Tower. Trouble was it rained so hard and it was so windy, and too many people were lining up for a taxi. We were worried that she’d lose her reservation. So we dared run in the rain with our umbrellas, for a distance of almost half a kilometer. At ages 85 and 81, we managed to make it to our destination with our much younger daughter; as if we were all very much younger. We were drenched but quite happy, nay triumphant, that we had made it. [May I add some trivia? I and Coring have the same age as the King and Queen of Thailand.]

Rossana was determined to make it worth our struggle, so we had a very special dinner and a bottle of red wine to celebrate the occasion. Then the rain stopped and we saw a good side of Singapore in its evening splendor. We somehow felt dry too.

Thank you, Lord, for our most enjoyable and memorable visit with Rossana.  And for our whole safe quick journey.

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Earthquake and Endearments

A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe” Abueva

The Bohol Chronicle

October 20, 2013

Bohol, the epicenter. Early morning on Tuesday, October 15, we got a call from my sister, Ching, in Duero, Bohol that a strong earthquake had struck the town and shaken our ancestral home. Deeply scared, they scampered out. Fortunately no one was hurt and there was no visible damage to the home. Then our daughter, Lanelle, in Antipolo City, and our son, Jobert, in New York, called to share the troubling news that Bohol had been struck by an earthquake with 7.2 intensity.

TV news reported that the epicenter was in Carmen where the Chocolate hills are located. Till then I didn’t know a major earthquake fault-line runs in our home province. The earthquake was felt in most of the Visayas and northern Mindanao. We were saddened by the news and photos of the destruction of the Loboc Church, and of the Baclayon Church, the oldest and most beautiful church on the island. I was reminded of the famous Loboc Choir and its angelic voices, and “the bridge to nowhere across the river.” Churches in Dauis, Loon, and Maribojoc also crumbled. We were saddened by the reported deaths that had risen to more than 160 on the third day and many more hurt.   

            Family reunion for Ching’s 80th birthday and the blessing of our ancestral home. Our sister, Ching Abueva Floro, had long planned a reunion of some members of our family and clan on her 80th birthday on October 22. I shall be in  Duero with our daughter, Lanelle Abueva Fernando, and three of her friends. My sister, Inday Abueva Martinez, and her daughter Jessie, would be visiting from Chicago. Other relatives and friends are joining our celebration.   

Unfortunately, our National Artist brother, Napoleon “Billy” Abueva, who is recovering from a stroke in their home in Quezon City, could not join the reunion. His wife, Cherry, a medical doctor, didn’t want him to suffer the rigors of travel. Billy’s presence would have been very special because he was most responsible for putting up our ancestral home in the early 1980s. Other kin contributed to the construction and facilities. And Ching did much of the needed renovation and the final finishing that made the structure the beautiful and livable ancestral home it is today.

In addition to Ching’s landmark birth anniversary, we shall be formally blessing our Abueva Ancestral Home, with us as the surviving ancestors. We call it “Handurawan: Balay Abueva.” I’d like to share with you our cherished thoughts on our ancestral home.

HANDURAWAN: BALAY ABUEVA

By Jose Veloso Abueva

 

Images in our minds, warmed in our hearts.

Our footprints in time and space. Remembrance

of our journey through life as family

and clan blessed by God’s grace.

For experiences shared, love given and received,

joys and pleasures savored, pain and sorrow

endured. Hurts forgiven, dreams fulfilled,

or broken—with smiles of acceptance.

 Hopes and wishes for a bright future for family

and nation and humankind. For keeping

Banay Abueva together, celebrating

ancestry, kinship, and heritage.

All these are our Handurawan nurtured by Balay

Abueva, the ancestral home and park in Duero,

Bohol by the sea—facing Mindanao. To share 

with our loved ones around the globe.

Forever to honor and thank our parents and

grandparents who gave us a good start in life,

loved and generously cared for us, and

served our community and country.

To hold together Banay Abueva,

in solidarity through the generations

despite the separate lives we must

lead in our wide open world.

Handurawan: Balay Abueva, our living

memorial in loving remembrance of

Papa Doro and Mama Nena, Papa

Awing and Mama Cadia, Papang

Peping and Mama Neneng, and

all aunts, uncles, cousins in our

Banay who touched our lives

with their love & generosity.

Humbly we offer our Handurawan

to God Almighty who gave us life and

protects us. To Lord Jesus who teaches us

life’s meaning and purpose and redeems us.

To the Holy Spirit who sanctifies and guides us.

 

No one who believes and belongs can turn away

from our Handurawan. Every member can

do something now or sometime. No gift is 

ever too little or too much.

 

We urge everyone in the Banay to keep

our ancestral home bright and livable

as the memorial and heritage

of our love and kinship.

                                                                        We ask all to come to our Handurawan by the sea.                                                                                                                                      To honor and be one in spirit with our beloved.

To be together and enjoy

howsoever briefly.

 

For Balay Abueva enshrines our Handurawan:

the images, memories, and bonds of love

and kinship alive in our minds and

warm in our hearts.

 

(Originally written on my way back to New York

from Manila, March 12-14, 1985.)

 

TEODORO V. ABUEVA, JR. (Doring/Teddy)+

MANUEL  V. ABUEVA  (Manoling)+

PURIFICACION (Neny) V. ABUEVA+ and RAMON (Ramon) BINAMIRA+

JOSE V. ABUEVA (Pepe) and MA. SOCORRO (Coring) ENCARNACION ABUEVA

NAPOLEON V. ABUEVA (Billy) and SERGIA (Cherry) VALLES ABUEVA

AMELIA V. ABUEVA (Inday) MARTINEZ and VICTORINO (Sonny) MARTINEZ+

TERESITA V. ABUEVA (Ching) FLORO and MARTINIANO FLORO+

ANTONIO V. ABUEVA (Tony)+

MARIA V. ABUEVA (Maria)+

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“Million People Rising” Across Our Country

A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe’ Abueva

The Bohol Chronicle

October 13, 2013

Where it began. It began on August 26 when more than a hundred thousand people from all walks of life gathered at Rizal Park for the first “Million People March.” They were angered by legislators and administrators, and a private operator named Janet Lim Napoles and her phony NGOs. They had reportedly connived to pocket and waste some ten billion pesos of public funds sourced from the congressional pork barrel. The rallyists chanted: Makibaka, Wag magbaboy! In Bohol, my home province, they shouted: People Power vs. Pork Barrel! Abolish pork barrel, Jail all the scammers! Similar protest rallies were held in other cities.

In a futile effort to diffuse the people’s anger, President Aquino announced on August 23 that he would abolish the congressional pork, officially and innocently named the Priority Development Assistance Fund. With him were Senate President Drilon and Speaker Belmonte. But people remain betrayed and suspicious. Publicized investigations and Senate hearings have enabled the principal whistle blowers and other witnesses to divulge the details of the pork barrel scam and the main legislators allegedly involved.  The Department of Justice has lodged plunder charges before the Sandigan Bayan against Napoles, three senators and several former and current members of the House for the P3  billion pork barrel scam.

Fifth “Million People March.” On October 5, on Ayala Avenue in Makati, the fifth “Million People” marchers called on business leaders to join the fight for the abolition of the scandalous congressional pork barrel. With a huge golden pig made up of golden pig made of papier-mâché as their mascot, the protesters staged in front of the monument of martyred Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. and urged his son, President P-Noy: “to listen to the call of the people to change a government system that allows rampant stealing of taxpayer money by corrupt public officials, leaving the country impoverished.” Our column draws heavily from the report of Nikko Dizon and co-authors who covered the Ayala protest march. (Nikko Dizon, PDI, Oct. 5, 2013).

“Taxpayers’ money is people’s money.” According to the BPO Industry Employees Network (BIEN), workers in the business process outsourcing industry supported the movement, “If the taxes we pay to the government are only being pocketed by big politicians, we might as well keep our money,” the group said in a statement issued during the rally. “Taxpayer money is people’s money,” said Ismael Cruz, a veteran stockbroker and president of IGC Securities who personally supports the movement. Although business groups are slow to respond, Cruz said many businessmen in Makati share the public’s sentiment about the pork barrel personally.

“Stealing the future.” The misuse of billions of pesos in public funds through the pork barrel “is literally taking food from our mouths, the seats from our classrooms, and the roofs over our hospitals,” said  Giovanni Tapang, national chair of the Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (Agham), in a brief speech on the stage. “They have stolen our future from us because of the pork barrel system,” he said.

“President Aquino can leave a “legacy” if he heeds the call of the people to scrap all forms of  pork barrel, including the Presidential Special Fund (PSF),” said Peachy Tan, spokesperson for the Scrap Pork Network, one of the organizers of the Million People March. Tan said “the network was calling on Mr. Aquino to direct government auditors to look into how the presidential fund has been spent in the first three years of his administration.”

Business is cautious but also concerned. In contrast to the public responses of people

and workers generally, businessmen are cautious because in their view the economy is doing very well and they see the President as honest and their principal ally. Investors watching the protests, were concerned that public anger at official corruption might be diminishing the popularity of President Aquino and his infrastructure program. However, businessmen are aware that the reported high growth rate of our economy is not inclusive of most of our workers and the many people who remain poor. Poverty, inequality, and injustice prevail as businesses prosper.

Although business groups are slow to respond, broker Izmael Cruz said, “many businessmen in Makati share the public’s sentiment about the pork barrel personally.” Richard Anthony Liboro, director and head of high net worth sales at BPI Securities, said “the mass protests had no impact on business sentiment over the short term. But if it drags on, there could potentially be a long-term impact on the economy and the market because this could constrain funding for (public-private partnership) projects and other projects.”

Appeal to President P-Noy. Outspoken leaders in the protest rally “expressed dismay at Mr. Aquino for turning a deaf ear to the call of his ‘bosses,’ the Filipino people.” Talking to the statue of Ninoy Aquino, political satirist Mae Paner, also known as “Juana Change,” said:  “Ninoy, bring Aunt Cory (Aquino) and tell your son to abolish the pork barrel.” The crowd responded in wild cheers.

National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera said: “Mr. President, it’s time for you to listen to the people’s voice. We have been repeatedly calling your attention to the corruption in your administration. How long will you keep your silence? Lumbera heads the Artista Kontra sa Corruption.

No ouster of P-Noy. The organizers of the protest made it clear that the Million People March was not for the ouster of the President. Instead, they said, “it was a call for change in the system and to make corrupt public officials accountable, whether they were from the opposition or allies of the administration.”

 “Personally, I am not calling for the ouster or resignation of P-Noy (President Aquino’s nickname).  What I want is for P-Noy to listen. That’s all we want, for him to listen [and] scrap all pork and listen to the people so that genuine change can happen for the good of all,” Juana Change Paner told the Inquirer.

In general, the continuing protests by the Million People March and other organizations is “anti-system,” Peachy Tan said, acknowledging that there were groups in the rally with complaints against the administration.

She said that “what unifies the protesters is the sentiment against the pork barrel, as well as the little-known Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) from which Budget Secretary Butch Abad released millions of pesos to senators and congressmen after the ouster of former Chief Justice Renato Corona by impeachment last year.”

“We want to clarify that this is not directed toward one person. Personally, I believe that he wants a straight path. P-Noy is a good person. He is not a thief. But the point is, we have a rotten system that will still be there after he steps down,” she said. “Mr. Aquino would be leaving “a legacy” if she removed all forms of pork barrel. “Whoever comes after him, taxpayer money will not be vulnerable anymore,” Tan said.

Renato Reyes, Bayan secretary general, said the pork barrel issue is being “addressed to the President himself because who else would craft the policy? Who will set the direction of the country? It will all fall on the President,” Reyes said, “stressing that Mr. Aquino failed to hear the voice of the people despite four earlier protests against the pork barrel.”

Abolish all pork: congressional and presidential. Some 3,000 people had signed the “Million People March” petition on the online advocacy site, Change.org, “calling on the Aquino administration to scrap all forms of pork barrel, account for all pork spent and investigate and punish all those who abused the PDAF.” At the rally, the Scrap Pork Network urged both the government and the people to live up to their responsibilities as citizens. The group called on the citizens to monitor the budget process when Congress opens and on the Senate to remove the PDAF from the budget.

The Network also urged “the opening of the Senate-House conference on the budget to the public; called for the creation of an independent commission to include the private sector to look into what laws could be amended so that discretionary funds could be abolished; and for a better government audit system that would determine if certain government projects are necessary.”

The group also pressed for the passage of the freedom of information bill in the House of Representatives and urged Mr. Aquino to certify it as urgent, and the filing of cases against the abusers of the pork barrel in the Sandiganbayan within 100 days. “We want an investigation and prosecution of all. We want speedy justice so that they can return our money. We understand the need for emergency funds for calamities but we also need a clear mechanism for oversight,” Tan explained. She added that her her group wanted local governments and government agencies to involve people’s organizations and civil society organizations in the budget process.

“The people must also participate. Our call now is Tuwid na Paraan Tungo sa Tuwid na Daan (Right Way to the Straight Path),” Peachy Tan said.

The Church’s voice. An alliance of church leaders and businessmen joined the public in demanding the abolition of the pork barrel. The Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference for Human Development (BBC) described the pork barrel as “institutionalized dissipation” of scarce government resources, and said the Filipinos could fight corruption only if given the full and correct information. “The call for the abolition of the pork barrel underlines the necessity of passing the (freedom of information) bill, because full and correct information is the lifeblood of citizen power to effect change,” the BBC statement said.

The BBC opposed the pork barrel “because it gave the President a means to control the legislature and bend it to his will by releasing or withholding funds. The pork barrel is an abuse of the congressional power of the purse. It is institutionalized corruption that uses the people’s money in order to serve not their interests but the personal interests of individuals,” the BBC said.

            Overhaul our Political System!  We should realize that the misuse, abuse, and stealing of funds in the congressional and presidential pork barrel are inherent in our Presidential Government and highly centralized Unitary System. This political system must be overhauled by amending our 1987 Constitution!   pepevabueva@gmail.com

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