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Political Dynasties in the Philippines: In My Opinion

Next year’s Philippine midterm elections are fast approaching and it paints an all too-familiar image once again: candidates that are ei...



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Whether a person likes it or not, virtually no one is completely beyond the reach of some kind of political system. A citizen encounters politics in the government of a country, town, school, church, business firm, trade union, club, political party, civic association, and a host of other organizations. Politics is an unavoidable fact of human existence. Everyone is involved in some fashion at some time in some kind of political system.

This is how Yale University’s Robert Dahl opens his book on Modern Political analysis which is definitely holds true in any polity. But the term “politics” often suggests a negative connotation. The term politics suggests a “dirty word” according to David Herd because people feel a combination of skepticism and mistrust.

Add to this, the negative tone of our evening news. In a speech I’ve attended last month in Manila where the one of the keynote speakers was BBC correspondent Rico Hizon, I quote him in saying that the Filipino news tends to make its audience cynical. These are the types of news which initially greets you “Good evening” then moves on telling you why it isn’t.

One of the things most of us which probably hate about politics is its "fog of war". Hardly any of the things you hear are straight forward, blunt truths. Everything is wrapped up in a sticky web of attacks, lies, and some truth. Which, at the end it is very hard to distinguish banter from the truth. Probably, it’s because of the “oppressive arrangements” of our colonizers that were subsequently carried over the succeeding generations. Politics has become a dirty word indeed, when in fact, it shouldn’t really be.

I remember in one of my major class in Political Science a few years back, Prof. Darwin Manubag told us that in other countries like in Australia, people equate the word, “politics” with “good governance”. Most think of what can be done towards the government. If only we have that kind of mindset here in the Philippines.

Mga PoliTikalon. :)

Many of the world’s great leaders were masters of politics, such as Abraham Lincoln, Lee Kuan Yew, Winston Churchill, Deng Xiaoping, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. President Harry Truman as a matter of fact, had a Ph.D. in political science; while Barack Obama had his PolSci degree from Columbia University in New York.

Politics deals with those relations among men and groups which are subject to control by the state, with the relations of men and groups to the state itself, and with relations of state to other states. Although it is primarily concerned with the association of human beings into a "body politic" or a political community (organized under government and law).

Filipinos have one of the best functioning brains in the world. (Man that just sounded weird). I don’t know, but after watching guys and gals battle for noontime game shows, I think I do know something about intelligence of the Filipino mind.

I suggest if you want proof that we aren’t stupid, just turn on the TV and listen to the retention of facts. It is amazing and it’s proof that the Filipino mind is alive and well. It just isn’t challenged with anything interesting or exciting.

Our challenge, Noam Chomsky said, was to find a way to make politics as gripping and engaging as sports. When we do that, watch how Filipinos will do nothing but talk about who did what to whom at the lower house. But ofcourse, they first have to know what the "lower house" is.
Mababa nga ba na uri ng tao ang nasa "lower house"?
So if you live in a country where almost seven (7) million of people age 15 and overcan’t read and write (2008 est.) and perhaps another million can read but usually don’t – well, you and I are living in one dumb place. A nation that not only churns out illiterate students but goes out of its way to remain ignorant and stupid is a nation that should naturally lag behind its neighboring countries.

The saddening fact is that a smidgen percentage of the Filipino people even bother to read a daily newspaper, beyond the comics, sports, Pinoy showbiz, or the latest lottery combinations. And let’s look at the mighty Filipino TV programming: out of the daily TV broadcasts, only a small percent of the airtime is devoted to stories about politics, the economy, and cultural and social issues. (You may click here for my rants on Philippine TV Shows)That leaves a gargantuan percent for advertising, sports, weather, features, channel promotions, or showbiz.

What’s so exciting about politics? Why should we be aware of the fuss on government operations? The answer’s simple: because as a people, we have to know where we are going.  Because it matters. Our goal is to create a society that maximizes liberty, freedom, and human rights; we want a better Philippines.

Our government’s role is to protect people and to provide needed and desired services that no one else can provide, in as an efficient and effective manner.  For whether Filipinos will be blown to smithereens or will design political arrangements that enable our species to survive is now being determined by politics and politicians.

Our democracy is, arguably, the best government of the options, not because it creates an environment absent of conflict, but because it is the one most fair in managing it. We cannot have a civilized democratic society unless citizens understand objective facts rather than ill-founded beliefs regarding the Constitution, government philosophies, government structures and procedures, and the citizens’ responsibilities in this country of ours.

By being politically observant, it prepares us to be better watch dogs of liberty, better citizens, and to be actively involved in informed public decision making. Critical thinking on politics is the oxygen of democracy. Remove it and democracy becomes ill and eventually dies. 

If all the enlightened minds in the country are summed up, this would mean revolutionary changes for the Philippines and hope for a better future. I am still crossing my fingers that this would happen incrementally from this generation onward.

I use to console myself about the state of stupidity in this country by repeating this to myself: Even if there are ninety million stone-cold dimwits in this country, that would still leave at least a few thousands who’ll get and understand what I’m blabbering on this blog. This is the path for change I take.

Dahl, Robert Alan (1991). Modern Political Analysis. 5th Edition. Prentice Hall: U.S.A.
This is Chinese Warship 560. You are in the China territory. Leave the area immediately…‘I will shoot you’”.

Upon hearing this warning through the marine band radio, the three Philippine boats fishing in Quirino (Jackson) atoll, scampered away.

After a short while, the Chinese missile frigate Dongguan, fired three shots at the vessels F/V Jaime DLS, F/V Mama Lydia DLS and F/V Maricris 12. One of the boats had to cut its anchor lines in order to flee from what it sensed was imminent danger.Ringing projectiles hit the surface of the water 0.3 nautical miles away from the position of the Philippine fishing boats.

This was the scenario last February in the hotly-contested area of the Spratlys. It is a group of reefs, islets, atolls, cays and islands in the South China Sea between the Philippines, Vietnam, China, Malaysia and Brunei.

About 45 islands of the 700 islets are occupied by relatively small numbers of military forces from the nearby countries. Of the more or less 160 islands, Vietnam occuppies 25 islands; China, 12; the Philippines, nine; Malaysia, five, and Taiwan, one. Although Brunei does not occupy a single geographical feaure, it has established a fishing zone that overlaps a southern reef.

What may comprise as less than four square kilometers of land area is deemed important in establishing international boundaries. It has been reported that the group of islands is very rich in marine diversity.The closeness to the nearby oil- and gas-producing sedimentary basins suggests the potential for oil and gas deposits, but the region is largely unexplored.

The issue of the Philippines contesting and (eventually losing territory) is not a rare issue. Back in the 1970s, we lost Sabah to Malaysia eventhough historically speaking, it has been long part of the Sulu Sultanate. Sabah state was only lent by the Sulu sultans to the British in 1878.

For so many years, the six countries has been debating and fighting over the ownership of the territories. It even paved the way for the signing of a nonbinding accord with China in 2002 that discourages aggressive behavior. Clearly this was violated on what happened with the three Filipino fishing boats in the Quirino atoll.

The Spratly is just very less than 200 miles from mainland Palawan in the Philippines. Geographically speaking, China is more than 500 miles away from the group of islands, Vietnam is more than 700 miles away are obviously claiming most of the Spratly Islands.

People’s Republic of China, Vietnam and other claimants should respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippines under the United Nation Conventionon the Law of the Sea. Let me post its provisions with respect to my study of Public International Law: ()

Article 55: Specific legal regime of the exclusive economic zone

The exclusive economic zone is an area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea, subject to the specific legal regime established in this Part, under which the rights and jurisdiction of the coastal State and the rights and freedoms of other States are governed by the relevant provisions of this Convention.

The Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is the area that extends 320 km or 200 nautical miles form the low-water mark out to the sea. The Philippines has 395, 400 sq. miles of water under EEZ in which it has exclusive jurisdiction over the living and non-living resources in the area. To continue:

Article 56: Rights, jurisdiction and duties of the coastal State in the exclusive economic zone

1. In the exclusive economic zone, the coastal State has:

(a) sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, of the waters superjacent to the seabed and of the seabed and its subsoil, and with regard to other activities for the economic exploitation and exploration of the zone, such as the production of energy from the water, currents and winds;

(b) jurisdiction as provided for in the relevant provisions of this Convention with regard to:

(i) the establishment and use of artificial islands, installations and structures;

(ii) marine scientific research;

(iii) the protection and preservation of the marine environment;

(c) other rights and duties provided for in this Convention.

2. In exercising its rights and performing its duties under this Convention in the exclusive economic zone, the coastal State shall have due regard to the rights and duties of other States and shall act in a manner compatible with the provisions of this Convention.

3. The rights set out in this article with respect to the seabed and subsoil shall be exercised in accordance with Part VI.

Article 57: Breadth of the exclusive economic zone

The exclusive economic zone shall not extend beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.

Article 58: Rights and duties of other States in the exclusive economic zone

1. In the exclusive economic zone, all States, whether coastal or land-locked, enjoy, subject to the relevant provisions of this Convention, the freedoms referred to in article 87 of navigation and overflight and of the laying of submarine cables and pipelines, and other internationally lawful uses of the sea related to these freedoms, such as those associated with the operation of ships, aircraft and submarine cables and pipelines, and compatible with the other provisions of this Convention.

2. Articles 88 to 115 and other pertinent rules of international law apply to the exclusive economic zone in so far as they are not incompatible with this Part.

3. In exercising their rights and performing their duties under this Convention in the exclusive economic zone, States shall have due regard to the rights and duties of the coastal State and shall comply with the laws and regulations adopted by the coastal State in accordance with the provisions of this Convention and other rules of international law in so far as they are not incompatible with this Part.
With respect to the construction of China in the vicinity of the uninhabited Amy Douglas Bank, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario is quoted to have said that it is “a clear violation of the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties (DOC) in the South China Sea.”

In line with this, last month, President Benigno Aquino III warned the Chinese defense minister of a possible arms race in the region if tensions worsened over disputes in the South China Sea. The Philippine government even warned China that it might increase its military capabilities.

Last June 5, the Philippine ambassador to the US, said he has asked the national defense department and armed forces back home to provide him with a wish list of military equipment they will need to shore up the country’s defense capability.

Wala na yata tayong magagawa.

My question is: conceding that we might be able to purchase hand-me-down weapons from the US, would we still have a fighting chance against the almost 3-million sturdy Chinese Armed Forces? My guess is, in the event of skirmishes over the islands, the Chinese could squat us like flies. We are no match and it’s the reality even if their ammos are basically Made in China.


Today, we celebrate our 113th Philippine Independence Day. Being a social science teacher lecturing about history and politics, I see it timely to share my piecemeal thoughts on our “Independence Day”.

Firstly, we call today’s occasion as the “Independence Day” or “Araw of Kalayaan”. But if we look closely, Araw ng Kalayaan does not literally translate to “Independence Day”; it is “Freedom Day” (kalayaan=freedom). Therefore, Independence Day should be formally translated as “Araw ng Pagsasarili”, isn’t it?

Anyway, about one hundred and twelve years ago, Filipino revolutionary forces under General Aguinaldo proclaimed the sovereignty and independence of the islands from the Spanish colonizers. Eventhough this declaration was not recognized by other countries during that time, this date was proclaimed as the “Independence Day”in 1963 by then President Macapagal. This is due to, above other reasons, that the people themselves should proclaim their own independence from the colonial master (and not the other way around, as what in July 4, 1946 happened). “Freedom should not be bestowed but be achieved”, Pres. Roosevelt once said.

Freedom is a country's right to rule itself, without interference from, or domination by, another country or power. But we Filipinos, in many ways, are still bound by other forces that cripple our chances of economic prosperity and development.

Are we really free? My answer is both yes, and no. Thanks to our system, this blog can not be closed down by the government because of my freedom to express myself.
But in many ways, we as a country, are still bound by the very basic of problems.

One is, to quote lines from Gloc 9’s song, “Balita”: Alam ba ng lahat ng mga husgado at lahat ng hukom/ Na mayroong mas masahol pa sa hatol ng kamatayan / Yan ay ika’y maging mahirap sa sarili mong bayan?”

Poverty. Forty percent of the 90-plus million Filipinos still can hardly get by. Apparently, a hungry stomach cannot imbibe civic pride from our rich history and trace their lineage from brave ancestors who defied foreign invaders.

The wealthiest 10 percent of families earn more than twice as much as the poorest 40%. The last elections, the supposed-to-be manifestation of our freedom, has been an event manipulated by the oligarchs for them to put their Kamag-anak Incorporated back to business. We are blinded and bounded.

We lost track of where we came from and where we are heading. We are even very forgiving and very quick to forget of the wicked ones that should be punished. We may not be virtually run by foreigners yet, the multinational companies flourish in the market. Most small Filipino products just don’t stand a chance. New form of colonialism at its best, contributed to the Philippines’ dependency while domestically not raising our own standards of living.

A country that is free should be able to provide jobs internally for people to freely engage to whatever enterprise they want. This is not true here in the Philippines. Ten million people are outside the country, flying over to foreign shores for greener pastures. And the worst, majority of them just don’t want to work there, they want to flee from the Philippines and migrate there. It’s either they work outside the country to serve foreign masters, or live abroad and be one with the masters.

That is why I am not wondering why very few of us think and ponder about our “kalayaan”. The very government that we have even show minimum importance to this annual holiday. It is even moved to be celebrated on Monday (June 14), this is in line with the “Holiday Economics” that “promotes tourism and strengthens family ties”. The Proclamation 1841 while I agree to be good and logical, should exclude sacrosanct days (like today).

Our Independence Day is the only day yearly that Filipinos should totally devote to strengthening pride in our legacy of heroism and sacrifice against foreign colonizers. As inheritors of the patriotic legacy of exemplary forebears, we now seem to take Independence Day for granted, which is absolutely deplorable.

What we were yesterday, what we are today, and whatever we will be in the future are made possible only because of our freedom to live our lives to their fullest potential. The nice thing about our freedom is that we have the free will to do good, let’s bank on that and do our share for the country. Padayon ta!

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