Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Old 4Gs to New 4Gs Gaining Ground

The other day my barber questioned me again what town mates of mine, classmates and friends had been asking me. When would I go back and participate in instituting real changes in the political environment? When would I run for public office or accept a government position?

Again I had to explain that although it was my youthful ambition and even reinforced it with academic preparation and campaign experiences both in the Philippines and in the United States, I have retreated from running for public office because of what I called the 4G requirements: Guns, Gold, Goons and Girls. I did not have the stomach to use them.

But as I have expressed in my previous articles, I have not given up on the Philippines. On the contrary, my involvement is as intense and as deep. One can make a difference without having to occupy a public position.

Noynoy’s election as President brought hope to a lot of us. Implicit is the expectation that he would continue the People’s and Cory’s unfinished revolution. “Walang corrupt, walang mahirap” (No corrupt, no poor) reflected such hope and expectation.

In response, he sought the creation of the Truth Commission to go after the corrupt practices, excesses and loots of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) and her cohorts including her husband and family. Unfortunately, GMA’s Supreme Court struck it down as being unconstitutional because it supposedly violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution. I disagreed with the decision and expressed it in a previous article, but at the same time I also stated that the Truth Commission was not necessary to perform the tasks for which it is being created.

When Cory Aquino became a Revolutionary President her first act was to issue Executive Order No. 1 creating the Philippine Commission on Good Government (PCGG).  Under Section 2, it was tasked to assist the President in the following matters:

(a) The recovery of all ill gotten wealth accumulated by former President Ferdinand E. Marcos, his immediate family, relatives, subordinates and close associates, whether located in the Philippines or abroad, including the takeover or sequestration of all business enterprises and entities owned or controlled by them, during his administration, directly or through nominees, by taking undue advantage of their public office and/or using their powers, authority, influence, connections or relationship.

(b) The investigation of such cases of graft and corruption as the President may assign to the Commission from time to time.

(c) The adoption of safeguards to ensure that the above practices shall not be repeated in any manner under the new government, and the institution of adequate measures to prevent the occurrence of corruption.

The above law remains effective currently pursuant to Section 3, Article XVIII of the 1987 Constitution which provides that “all existing laws, decrees, executive orders, proclamations, letters of instruction, and other executive issuances not consistent with the Constitution remain operative until amended, repealed or revoked.”

PCGG has been known more for its responsibility in performing task (a). In fact, it is being judged primarily on its achievements based on such task. Created on February 28, 1986, PCGG has been in existence for 25 years. It has recovered about P85 billion so far out of a projected $10 billion or P450 billion – a recovery rate of less than 20%. While it is relatively low given the span of time, the P85 billion represents about 85% of the authorized funding for CARP (Agrarian Reform) for the law’s first twenty years.

Presently, I understand that there are 276 anti-graft cases pending in various courts against the family of the late Ferdinand Marcos - his immediate family, relatives, cronies, subordinates and close associates. The amount of money still under litigation is about P175 billion. While there are criminal cases filed against the same people for violation of the provisions of Republic Act 3019 and the Revised Penal Code, not one of them has been sent to jail to this day.

Does the record of PCGG merit its abolition as recommended by Executive Secretary Ochoa and supported by Justice Secretary De Lima?

The New PCGG is composed of a relatively young, driven, smart, idealistic and techno-savvy group whose education included “man (service) for others” and whose battle cry is, “Fly High, Blue Eagle the King.” It would have been nice to include one whose education considers “working is praying” and fight and roar with the heart of a “Red Lion.” But it’s okay for now. After all, the last time one of the latter was included, he was caught dancing with Imelda Marcos.

In its first 100 day report, the New PCGG envisioned three possible scenarios for the future of the commission:

  1. Outright and categorical abolition of the Commission by legislation;
  2. Legislative abolition but with recommendation that the bill includes the creation of an Institute for Good Governance which will serve as a policy center focusing on the conduct of analytical and ethical research to inform and enlighten both national policies as well as the Filipino people, through mainstreaming of best practices and case studies on good governance; and
  3. A presidential directive for the Commission to wind down its affairs as far as Section 2 (a) of E.O 1, 1986 is concerned but also directing the commission to fully activate its functions under 2(b) and 2(c) as a corruption agency.

The new commission is recommending option no.3. Why would you wind down recovery of ill-gotten wealth knowing that there are at least 4 times more that you have not recovered? Why would you make yourself a lame duck agency in dealing with Marcos’ ill-gotten wealth? Why do you voluntarily remove that “Sword of Damocles” hanging over the targeted individuals and enterprises to prevent a similar occurrence?

I propose a fourth option. Let PCGG stay as it was created with some change in attitude. Fight and give all these corrupt and dishonest officials and politicians the pains that the law imposes and inflict them with ACHES (Aggressive Competent, Honest and Effective Service) for others. Go after GMA and her cohorts using the same law. Give the 3 tasks specified under Section 2 of E.O. 1, 1986 equal importance.

Cory Aquino’s first legal act is God’s Gift of Good Government to the governed. It should be perceived as the new 4Gs. What we do with it is our gift to Him. Given the new cyber technologies and gadgets available and accessible in this digital age, we could, should and would be recovering not only ill-gotten wealth but also our lost honor and standing in the world of nations.

From the old 4Gs (Guns, Gold, Goons, Girls) to the new 4Gs (God’s Gift of Good Government), we must gain ground and be in good graces.



Tuesday, March 22, 2011

MARCOS: To Be or Not To Be @LNMB (Part II)

My youth, my dreams, my early hopes, my ambitions and my politics intertwined with three Filipino political giants whom I called the 3Ms - Macapagal, Marcos and Manglapus.
As a young boy, I could never forget the first time I heard Raul Manglapus deliver a campaign speech for Ramon Magsaysay when the latter was running for President. Listening to him either as a Senatorial or Presidential candidate was always a joy for me. To date, I consider him the greatest Filipino orator, bar none. He graduated from the Ateneo University, Summa Cum Laude.  My speeches as an AFS Scholar in U.S.A.were patterned after his.
Diosdado Macapagal was for me the most academically prepared candidate to become President - a holder of a Doctorate in Economics and a Doctorate of Laws. He placed No. 1 in the Philippine Bar Exams the year he took it. My Valedictory address in high school was inspired and influenced by his 5-year Socio-Economic Development Program.
Ferdinand Marcos was a well-known Ilocano like me who reviewed for the Bar Exams while in prison having been accused of killing his father’s political opponent.  He topped the Bar and defended his own case and finally won acquittal after having been found guilty in the lower court.  He was reputed to be a “war hero”. During my college graduation he awarded me with a Presidential Award on Student Leadership and Academic Excellence.
In 1965, these three brilliant men ran for President against each other. I was part of the San Beda Debating Team that took the Macapagal side in a Marcos vs. Macapagal public debate.  While we won the debate for Macapagal, Marcos won the elections while I was a young non-voting campaigner for Manglapus.
In 1969, I was chosen to be part of the San Beda Law Debating Team that faced the Ateneo Law Team. It was a Marcos vs. Osmena proposition. We were assigned to defend the Marcos side. We won it before a big crowd at the St. Scholastica’s Auditorium. Marcos won the elections but I was then leading the YCSP, Young Christian Socialists of the Philippines, youth arm of Manglapus’ Christian Social Movement, a social oriented but anti-Marcos movement.
As I have shown, in a debate, one could go against Marcos and win. One could also take his side and still win.  Of course, this is true in a more or less free environment where issues are debated freely and without fear.
When Marcos declared Martial Law and made himself a dictator with almost absolute powers, for freedom-loving Filipinos, it became untenable to take and defend his side. You would have to be a sycophant, a paid-propagandist, a loyalist, or a threatened and coward liar to defend the atrocities committed during his dictatorial regime.
I was sincere when I said in my previous article that for the sake of his father and his own, Senator Bongbong Marcos should let his father rest in peace and should instead fathom his own destiny and focus on his own achievements and family redemption through good deeds.
Imee Marcos earlier publicly declared, “If it were my call, I would want my father to attain peace and quiet at a proper grave just so this controversy will cease.” She feared that her father’s tomb could be vandalized at LNMB, in the same way that the giant bust in his likeness was exploded by dynamite at its Benguet site.
Imelda Romualdez Marcos also had previously indicated she had lost interest in having her late husband brought to LNMB a couple of decades after his death. She said, “There’s always another place to bury FM. Besides, there’s always divine justice when you are on the side of truth, so with Mr. Marcos’ achievements as war hero, congressman, senator and president, there’s sure to be another equally beautiful burial place for him.”
There is wisdom to what the two Marcos women were saying as compared to Bongbong’s stance at this time. Bongbong should realize that insisting on his father’s burial at the LNMB would encourage those against it to revive what had been forgotten; remind everyone of all the gruesome details; state newly and freely discovered facts; and make them all available and accessible through modern communication technology and social media to the old and new generation not only in the Philippines but worldwide.
People only remember, forget, and forgive what they know. So far, Filipinos only know what was published and made known on a limited accessibility, availability and affordability basis. In fact, when some of the information came out, Marcos was in control of the Philippine media, and could detain anybody who published anything negative about his regime and who disagreed with him, his family or his cohorts. 
If Bongbong continues to insist and persist, everything that brought dishonor during his father’s dictatorial regime; the many offenses involving moral turpitude; would be known and spread up to the remotest areas that regular media, the internet and smart phones can reach.
Research made by the Movement for a Free the Philippines led by Manglapus and other human rights groups shows that Ferdinand Marcos allegedly committed the following offenses:
1.    Shutting down Congress and the independent media;
2.     Imprisoning innocent nuns, priests, professionals, journalists, professors, students, labor leaders, and political oppositionists;
3.    Detaining tens of thousands of others whose only offense has been to dissent and to speak for freedom;
4.    Torturing prisoners with monstrous devices, including electric shocks to male and female organs, which our fathers and forefathers never experienced even under the Japanese Kempeitai, the American Military Police or the Spanish Guardia Civil;
5.     Killing lesser known political prisoners in secret summary executions, trusting that their lack of prominence will invite no attention to his vile act;
6.    Castrating the judiciary, emasculating the labor unions, prostituting the teaching profession by making cheaters out of them in farcical elections; disgracing the journalism profession;
7.     Assaulting the minds of the young, scheming like Hitler, Stalin, and Mao to kill their innate passion for liberty with vicious techniques of regimentation;
8.     Indulging in an orgy of foreign borrowing, mortgaging future generations beyond redemption;
9.     Causing, by brute coercion, to be transferred to his name, or that of his relatives and cronies, commanding shares in every significant industrial, agricultural and mining enterprise in the land; 
10. Looting Philippine coffers of billions of dollars; and
11.  Many other offenses which we obviously do not want current and future generations to emulate.
Marcos built his political life on being a “War Hero” claiming to have earned 33 Awards, Medals and Decorations. This is more than what Audie Murphy, the most decorated American hero, earned.
On December 18, 1983, John Sharkey of the WASHINGTON POST opened a long article by saying, “However, 18 months of effort to verify Marcos’ claims to high American decorations raises serious doubts that he actually was awarded those medals.” He then proceeded expounding on the results of his research.
In 1982, WE FORUM in the Philippines and the PHILIPPINE NEWS in the United States published a series of articles by Bonifacio Gillego debunking the bases for the award of the numerous Philippine military medals and decorations of Marcos. Many of the medals were awarded on the same day of December 1963 almost 20 years after the end of World War II and several medals were awarded for the same alleged action and no reliable record could be obtained for the heroic action alleged as the justification for these awards. Marcos summarily shut down the WE FORUM and detained its Editor and staff accusing them of “sedition”.
On January 23, 1986, the NEW YORK TIMES demolished the myth that Marcos led a major guerilla unit of more than 8000 men against the Japanese called “Maharlika”. The WASHINGTON POST also published a day later revealing that the U.S. Army documents suggest that instead of fighting the Japanese, Marcos actually worked on behalf of Philippine politicians who were in collaboration with the Japanese.
Many of the offenses allegedly committed by Marcos mentioned above were not only crimes involving moral turpitude, offenses that brought shame and dishonor but most especially, crimes against humanity. Under the latter, following the doctrines enunciated in Yamashita and several cases and under International Criminal Law, there is no Statute of Limitations, there is International Jurisdiction, and that Command Responsibility is an accepted principle.
Marcos may have died preventing an international trial ala the Nazi criminals, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Chile’s Pinochet, Rwanda’s Kagame and other fallen dictators. But many of his co-conspirators, cohorts, cronies, co-principals, accomplices, and accessories are still alive.
Reviving, discovering, detailing, and uncovering the atrocities under Marcos could lead to unintended consequences that Senator Bongbong Marcos might regret just for insisting that his father be buried at the LNMB.
Instead, in the words of Facebook friend Bettina Bonnevie Obias, “His children should make a remarkable act of atonement, if they want the sordid mark on their name untarnished and not to contrive further ruse that further impugns their name and Pres Marcos’ memory. After all, we Filipinos are compassionate & magnanimous people.”
LIBING is LEAVING it to the LIVING! Or as my barber said, "is it Living > Leaving > Libing?"

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

MARCOS: To Be or Not To Be @ LNMB

Should Ferdinand Marcos be buried as a hero at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB)?

Sometime after his election as President of the Philippines in 1998, Joseph “Erap” Estrada indicated his intention to approve the burial of the late President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. He claimed that it was mandated by law. When many of the anti-Marcos groups which included the victims of human rights violations and their relatives expressed their vehement objection, Estrada responded with the following statement, “Show me a law that says Marcos may not be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.”

I was in the Philippines at the time and I heard what Estrada said. Staying at a condo in Salcedo Village, Makati and close to the Ateneo Law Library I decided to go there to do a little research. Being a Bedan alum, I had to pay a few pesos for the privilege. As a result, I sent a letter to Estrada in response to his challenge to show him a law that may prohibit him to bury Marcos at the heroes’ cemetery.

I also sent a copy of the letter to famous author and columnist Carmen N. Pedrosa who featured it in her column “From a Distance” published on June 27, 1998 by The Philippine Star, a national daily in the Philippines.

As discussed by Ms. Pedrosa, my research and letter showed precisely the legal basis which may prohibit Marcos’ burial at the LMNB. I specifically mentioned Republic Act No. 289 and AFPR G 161 374. The former is the statute that provides for the creation of a national pantheon for Presidents of the Philippines, National Heroes and Patriots of the country while the latter is the last of a series of implementing rules relating to the construction, development and maintenance of the pantheon.

The main reason for the national pantheon’s being as provided in Section 1 of Republic Act No. 289 is “to perpetuate the memory of all the Presidents of the Philippines, national heroes and patriots for the inspiration and emulation of this generation and of generation still unborn.”

In short, to be buried in the hallowed ground are the remains of Filipino heroes who would serve as “inspiration and emulation” of the generation when the law was enacted, today and most especially those of tomorrow who are yet to be born.

By the very letter of the law alone, given what transpired during his dictatorial regime and the way he was eventually deposed, it would be very hard to justify making Marcos as somebody to emulate and as a model to inspire any generation.

AFPR G 161 374 specifically provides who are qualified and who are disqualified to be interred in the national pantheon. It requires that they must have the qualifications and none of the disqualifications.

Paragraph 2 of AFPR G 161 374, entitled, Allocation of Cemetery Plots at the Libingan ng mga Bayani enumerates who are qualified to be interred in the cemetery. It says, “The remains of the following deceased persons are qualified and therefore, authorized to be interred in the Libingan ng mga Bayani:

a.                  Medal of valor awardees
b.                  Presidents or commanders-in-chief AFP
c.                   Secretaries of national defense
d.                  Chiefs of staff, AFP
e.                   General flag officers of the AFP
f.                    Active and retired military personnel of the AFP
g.                  Veterans of Philippine Revolution 1896, WW1, WW2 and recognized guerillas
h.                  Government dignitaries, statesmen, national artists and other deceased persons whose interment or re-interment has been approved by the commander-in-chief, Congress or the Secretary of National Defense
i.                    Former presidents, secretaries of defense, CSAFP, generals/flsg officers, dignitaries, statesmen, national artists, widows of former presidents, secretaries of national defense and chief of staff are authorized to be interred at the LNMB.”

Those who support Marcos’ burial at the pantheon could be relying on this provision because clearly and understandably Marcos would qualify as among those enumerated.

Unfortunately there is another paragraph in the said rules which also clearly states those who are not qualified to be interred in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. It says, “The remains of the following shall not be interred in the Libingan ng mga Bayani:

a.                  Personnel who were dishonorably separated/reverted/discharged from the service.
b.                  Authorized personnel who were convicted by final judgment of the offense involving moral turpitude.

Read with the statute that created LNMB, mere inclusion in the list is not sufficient. Anyone in the list must also serve as “inspiration and emulation” for the current and future generation. So they must not therefore bring dishonor in any shape or form. That is why the provision on disqualification was also added.

Marcos cannot be disqualified on the basis of letter “b”. He was never convicted by final judgment of any offense involving moral turpitude. Although we can cite several offenses involving moral turpitude allegedly committed by him, he died before he could be charged, tried and convicted. There are legal effects or consequences of death. In this material world, our finite courts cannot acquire criminal jurisdiction over the soul of the dead. It would be too late for any measure of personal and material reformation and / or retribution. The Divine courts take over for final judgment.

Letter “a” is another matter. Marcos was President, Dictator and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. He installed himself as such virtually for life. There is only one way for him to be dishonorably discharged, separated or deposed – by revolution of the people who as the sovereign authority had temporarily vested its governmental powers to him. The EDSA or People Power Revolution of 1986 “dishonorably discharged” him not only for conduct unbecoming of an officer but most significantly  for killing democracy, for violation of human rights and a list of other reasons too long to enumerate in this article.

As quoted by FB friend and author Carmen N. Pedrosa in her column I wrote, “Your (Erap’s) election and coming inauguration is a necessary, legal and historical consequence of the EDSA revolution. Without the latter, a Marcos dynasty would not have provided Erap the opportunity to become a senator, vice president and now president…..”

Marcos’ burial at the LNMB never materialized under the presidency of Erap despite his initial intent to approve it.

Senator Bongbong Marcos just recently revived the issue: Marcos: To be or not to be @LNMB? Senator Bongbong insists “to be”.

I say it is not only legally unsound but politically and morally untenable as well. For the sake of his father and his own, the Senator should let his father rest in peace and let the positive memories dominate and for him to focus on redemption with good deeds.

I will discuss this further in my next column.

Photos sent by my barber:

Photo Bongbong

Photo ng Ama ni Bongbong
Photo ng Ina ni Bongbong

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Watching Wronged Women Win Worldwide

As I write this article, the 100th Anniversary of InternationalWomen’s Day is being celebrated worldwide.  I thought this was a good time for me to pay tribute to the efforts of women in their war against oppression and in their struggle for equality.

Records show that International Women’s Day was commemorated for the first time on March 19, 1911. The date was specifically chosen because it was the day that the Prussian King promised to introduce votes for women. This promise was not kept however. The date was later changed to March 8th.

About 30 years ago, I was a lucky delegate to the first United Nation’s sponsored World Youth Assembly in New York. Outside of the assembly was another conference being held – a conference of Liberation or Revolutionary Movements in the United States. Among the participants were the Black Panthers’ Party, the Puerto Rican Young Lords, the Gay Liberation Movement, the Black Community for Self-Defense and the Women’s Liberation Movement.

I was invited as one of the speakers having represented an activist organization in Asia. I followed Gloria Steinem of the Women’s Liberation Movement as a speaker. I remember delivering the following words:

            “There is this never-ending debate as to who is superior, man or woman? It is so never-ending that we had to look for some signs from God, the Almighty as to who is superior.
            The success or failure of any project or endeavor is dependent upon three factors: first, you must be innovative – must conceive of new ideas; two, you must work or labor hard to implement such ideas; and third, perform or deliver.
            The key words are: CONCEIVE, LABOR AND DELIVER.  Who did God choose to conceive, labor and deliver? Debate settled.”

Although it was meant only to generate laughter and it did, I always thought that women indeed, have shown superiority in many areas. I have seen it in the way my mother ran our family efficiently and effectively. I noticed it in the way my five sisters ran theirs. My wife, of course, is the best in this field.

As a college student, I had this group called “ADEBNAS” which is San Beda in reverse. We used to get invited to parties for one major reason – we believed and made sure that no girl would remain a “wall flower” so everyone would enjoy the dancing party. As I watched the girls dancing without stopping from 9:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. I wondered why they would not get tired while I usually took a break after a few dances. It made me conclude that in endurance, the women had no equal!

In a book entitled, “The Natural Superiority of Women”, author, biological and social anthropologist Ashley Montagu contends that “irrefutable and scientific evidence supports the conclusion that women as biological organisms are superior to men.”

As reviewed by Maureen Slade, “Women apparently have a more powerful immunological system, which affords them greater protection against and better recovery from starvation, fatigue, shock and illness…….Consequently, the female brain is more highly developed structurally and functionally, and it is capable of thinking more soundly and intuitively than the male brain. Montagu says, “The end result is that women are insightful and have greater stamina and longevity --- or, in other words, women stand the test of time.”

And yet sadly, according to the World Vision Magazine, “….in our world today, being female often means being sentenced to a life of poverty, abuse, exploitation, and deprivation. Compared to her male counterpart, a girl growing up in the developing world is more likely to die before her fifth birthday and less likely to go to school. She is less likely to receive adequate food or health care, less likely to receive economic opportunities, more likely to be forced to marry before the age of 16, and more likely to be the victim of sexual and domestic abuse. Girls are forced to stay home from school to work. In fact, two thirds of the nearly 800 million illiterate people in the world are women. Only one in 10 women in Niger can read. Five hundred thousand women die every year from childbirth complications— that’s one woman every minute. Girl babies are even killed in countries where males are considered more valuable. Women are denied property rights and inheritance in many countries. Worldwide, women own only 1 percent of the world’s property. They work two-thirds of all the world’s labor hours but earn just 10 percent of the world’s wages. Being female, in much of our world, is not “heavenly.”

That’s why it is not surprising that emerging as the driving force in the revolts against dictatorships in the Middle East are the women. They have been showing up in rallies in big numbers without fear. They are fighting not just for their lives but more for freedom, for equality, for hope and for their future.

The People Power Revolution in the Philippines was led and won by female leader Cory Aquino joined by nuns, female teachers, students, mothers, the young and the old in large numbers. They bravely faced the military tanks with spiritual inspiration from the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ.

As a tribute to women in general, Newsweek magazine featured “150 Women Who Shake the World”. In its cover was Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State and the second most admired woman in the United States. In its poll survey, the magazine reported that a large majority of women approve of the way Hillary Clinton is performing her job as secretary of state with 76% approving and 9% disapproving. Women across the political spectrum approve of Clinton’s performance. Democrats approve 94 to 0 percent, Independents approve 81 to 9 percent, and Republicans approve 54 to 18 percent. Liberals approve 98 to 0 percent, Moderates approve 84 to 4 percent and conservatives approve 63 to 8 percent.

Having endorsed and campaigned for Hillary Clinton in the last presidential primaries, I feel vindicated in my choice of a woman presidential candidate.

An English professor wrote the words, “Woman without her man is a savage” on the blackboard and directed his students to punctuate it correctly.

The men wrote: “Woman, without her man, is a savage.”
The women wrote: “Woman! Without her, man is a savage.”

What would you write?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


My dual citizen barber asked me what my views are regarding the protests in the State of Wisconsin as he proceeded to cut my hair.

I told him that whatever I say or write about on the matter would be perceived as biased because my parents were public school teachers and that I belong to a clan that produced more than a hundred educators. Furthermore, while I am known more as a lawyer and business and association executive, I actually hold a Master of Arts Degree in Education and was in the lecture circuit for many years. Currently, I am a very strong advocate for Cyber or Online Education.

It should not however stop me from expressing my opinion and feelings on an important subject like this.

In order to reduce Wisconsin’s budget deficit, Governor Scott Walker and the Republicans would like to reduce the benefits of State workers, increase their contribution to the pension fund and most importantly, curtail the workers’ right to collectively bargain for sick leave, vacation, and the hours they work.  Exempted from this curtailment of rights and benefits are the local police, fire departments and the State Patrol. The snowplow drivers would be hit but the teachers who compose the majority are the main targets.

There shall be no increase of taxes.  So Walker’s businessmen friends and campaign contributors that include the Koch brothers would be spared. The budget deficit will just have to be reduced mostly on the back of the public school teachers. Furthermore, when prosperity in Wisconsin comes with economic recovery, the same public workers will not be able to collectively negotiate to bring back all or part of the benefits which were removed.

The government workers are protesting this move by Governor Walker. They claim that they are willing to accept a reduction of their benefits but expectedly, not to give up their right to collectively bargain for the aforementioned benefits.

Governor Walker insists that he has the people’s mandate to do it by obtaining 52% of the votes as against his Democratic opponent’s 46% in the last election. While it is true that he campaigned to reduce the deficit I find no record that he also campaigned to curtail the collective bargaining rights of government workers, especially the teachers. In fact, there are reports that had he campaigned against the right to collectively bargain, his 52% votes would have been reduced by about 11% mostly from the public sector. In short, he would not be Governor now.
According to TPM based on a poll conducted by PPP, 57% of respondents said public employees should have the right to collectively bargain compared to 37% who said they should not. In fact, 55% said the state’s union should have the same rights or more than they already enjoy.

On Walker’s job approval, PPP reports that 52% of voters now disapprove of his performance while 46% approve. In a recall vote, 48% of voters favor it while 48%  oppose. In a hypothetical do-over election against Democrat Tom Barret, the latter wins 52% to 45%.

It looks like the “mandate” argument of Governor Walker has lost some ground.

Reviewing my notes in International Law when I was pursuing my Master of Laws years ago, I see and get reminded that the right of the worker to join or form trade unions with others  and bargain collectively has been enshrined in several International Treaties, Covenants, Declarations and Trade Agreements, many of which were signed, authored and / or sponsored by the United States. Examples include Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Even our trade agreements with several countries incorporate such a fundamental right emanating from the freedom of association.

I have always considered teaching as a noble if not the noblest profession. Without teachers, there would be no doctors, lawyers, engineers and other professionals. Unfortunately they also produce politicians like Governor Walker. In many jurisdictions worldwide, teachers are heralded as heroes as they play a major role in helping the parental and state’s obligation to educate and prepare the children as citizens of the future. For most hours of the day and most days of the week, they are burdened with the responsibility as surrogate of both the state and the parents.

For many years, Wisconsin was a model for respecting public school teachers’ significant role in society building. The respect was shown in the way they were treated, rewarded and dignified. It was a state where their fundamental rights were recognized and that being a public school teacher could actually help them realize the American Dream.

Yet through no fault of theirs, the U.S. economy collapsed and with it came the financial crisis, the fall of the industrial sector, the credit collapse, the rise of the unemployment rate,  the exposure of the greed of the Wall Street banks and Fannie’s and Freddie’s mortgage bubble burst.

The unintended consequence is the bankrupting of the Wisconsin State government due to declining tax revenues. It was not caused by the fact that the teachers have the right to bargain collectively.

A budget deficit is reduced by either raising tax revenues, reduce spending or both. Walker’s refusal to raise taxes would leave the burden and sacrifice only to the state workers who are mostly teachers. Taxing Walker’s rich friends a little more would be helpful but he wants no part of it despite the fact that it would not hurt them at all.

The government workers said they are willing to sacrifice part of their benefits. Sacrifice is the teachers’ middle name. They go to school early waking up at 5:00 a.m. and they leave the school late. Many of them bring the school supplies bought from their own pockets. Parents and students bother them beyond school hours and yet they do not complain. Most, if not all, are highly educated and trained professionals and therefore, deserving of a decent salary.

But deprive them of their internationally recognized right to bargain collectively for better working conditions? Walker you might be but putting your foot down to trample on  workers’ rights in the process, is wrong then, wrong now and wrong tomorrow.

Finally my barber decided to express his own view: “Walker, either with small or big Koch, wants to screw the Wisconsin workers.”

Take that from my barber!