Thursday, August 28, 2014

Democratic and Constitutional Exercises in the Philippines

As a dual citizen, I cater to two audiences for my columns and blogs. This explains why at times the topics target either Filipino or American readers. But reviewing the readership data provided by my publishers online, I notice that I get more visits when the subject matter involves the Philippines. This is most likely because majority of my friends, family, followers, fans and correspondingly their own friends, family, followers, and fans which they share articles with are Filipinos. This also explains why my topics have been disproportionately Filipino.
When it is about democracy and the Constitution however, I know that both Filipino and American readers get interested.
The Constitution is the fundamental law that is used to promote, practice, and protect the democratic rights of citizens. It is where we hope that, through it, we could eventually achieve equal opportunity economically, real freedom and liberty politically, and justice and equity socially.
Recently, debates have started regarding proposed reforms – economic, political, and social. The focus of discussions in the Philippines is on some proposed constitutional amendments. Some are economic provisions regarding the liberalization of foreign equity participation. Some are political ones such as adding another six-year term for the President; or changing the system from the current Presidential to a Parliamentary one.
Democracy in Action
The main argument of PNoy’s critics, the naysayers, and/or oppositionists against the possibility of PNoy extending his term of office by amending the Constitution is that it would be undemocratic. Allegedly, it militates against the wishes of his mother President Cory – “the icon of democracy”.
Let us analyze this argument.  First, amending the Constitution in itself is part of the democratic process.  Article XVII of the 1987 Constitution specifically provides the ways to make changes to the fundamental law.
Second, it allows discussions and debates between and among the legislators if made through a Constituent Assembly; among the Delegates if made through the Constitutional Convention; and among the proponents and signatories versus the opponents if made through the People’s initiative. Meanwhile, the Press can freely publish the debates, and the columnists can voice their opinions without fear. The voters represented by the legislators or delegates can also express their views.
Third, if the proposed amendments are approved through any of the above means, it is submitted to a referendum for ratification by a majority of the Filipino people. Again, this process allows the people and the media to discuss and debate the Pros and Cons of the proposals.
Fourth, if ratified, a new election will be held. Those who are against PNoy or his anointed one can campaign against him. Under a Parliamentary system, the opposition party can campaign against PNoy’s ruling party.
Fifth, if they remain the minority party resulting from the elections, PNoy’s critics and naysayers will continue to fulfill their democratic role as the “loyal opposition”.
As my barber would say, “if that is not democratic, what else is?”
The Constitution is what we the people make. It is we who give it life and dynamism. It is our vigilance that gives it real protection. It was a scrap of paper under a dictatorship because it failed to protect our political, civil and human rights.
Through a People Power Revolution, we totally scrapped it and came up with a new one as an answer to the demands at a given time. After 28 years, the technological, political, economic, and social environment also now require changes to face the challenges of tomorrow.
In more mature democracies like the United States, there had been 11,539 proposals to amend its Constitution since it was put into operation on March 4, 1789. Actually, twenty-seven of these were adopted and ratified. In fact, ten of the amendments were the Bill of Rights, which were adopted and ratified simultaneously only two years since the Constitution became operational.

The Constitution itself provides the democratic mechanism. In all its facets, the people’s participation is recognized, protected, and encouraged. Vigilance is required and definitely fear from change is discouraged.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Remembering Ninoy Aquino

Ninoy is best remembered as offering the ultimate sacrifice and declaring that the “Filipino is worth dying for.” Indeed, he died for the Filipino, and became a National Hero.

Personally, I remember him both in words: orally, and in writing.  Orally – let me paraphrase what he said in a convention of the Movement for a Free Philippines in Detroit, Michigan during our years of exile; “We will win this battle against Marcos I promise you. Not only because we are fighting with all our hearts and our minds for the cause of freedom but also because we are fighting it with the heart of a lion.”

In writing, I am proud to say that he and I both affixed our signatures as witnesses to the testimonies of Colonel Romulo Manriquez and Captain Vicente Rivera, who were the Commanding Officers of the 14th Infantry where Marcos supposedly served during the Second World War. Both testified that Marcos was a fake hero and that what Marcos received were fake medals.
The fake heroism of Marcos and the genuine martyrdom of Ninoy Aquino convinced America and the world that Filipinos deserved to enjoy the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as demanded by the EDSA Revolution.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

PNoy: Lameduck He is Not and Reformist He Must Be

PNoy is determined to institute reforms in our society. Showing that “honesty is the best policy”, he unmistakably displayed it both in words and in action.  To prove that he was very serious in instituting “Tuwid Na Daan” (Righteous/Straight Path) in governance, he is following what I described as GPS (Grand Prosecution of the Sleazy). Working through first, the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) and the DOJ (Department of Justice) and then the Ombudsman, we are now witnessing the prosecution and trial of public officials charged with plundering public funds and criminal corrupt practices.
He hoped to achieve as much reforms within his six-year term.  He further hoped that someone who would surely continue the reforms that he initiated would succeed him. Recent surveys are seemingly dashing his hopes, thus – imperiling the accomplishment of his envisioned reforms both short term and long term.
Reforms could be initiated in several ways: first, by Executive/Administrative Action; second, by Legislative Fiat; and third, by Constitutional Amendments.
PNoy has less than two years left to continue what he started and to lay the foundation for further reforms applicable within the next eight, fourteen, or even 20 years. 

His enemies include time and the perception promoted by his naysaying critics that he is a lameduck President who is no longer as effective. Such a perception usually generates more courage to oppose or take more independent stands that differ from those of the President’s.
Time is relative and depending on how it is used, it could be your friend as well. The truth is, if used effectively, efficiently, and smartly, reforms could be initiated by either or a combination of Executive, Legislative and Constituent actions.
There is time to propose and pass constitutional amendments. Proposals to amend some economic provisions of the Constitution, for example, have plenty of support in Congress. Acting as a Constituent Assembly, Congress could propose other amendments outside of the economic ones. It could propose to allow another six-year term for the President or to change from the current Presidential to a Parliamentary system.  

Floating the potential changes would erase the “lameduck” perception and reinforces instead the belief that the President and his coalition continue to control both the immediate and mediate political future.
PNoy still controls the disbursements of the appropriations of all the executive and implementing agencies of the government in the next two years. It remains a major leverage that affects the fate of ambitious politicians, be they local or national. The next President would still be his choice, whether he chooses himself, Mar Roxas, or a third alternative.
If a Parliamentary system is installed, the coalition led by the Liberal Party and those who remain loyal would really control the government for a long period of time. Then there would be a greater guarantee of instituting reforms by legislative fiat. It would also strengthen the notion that the “power of the purse” really belongs to the legislative department. PNoy or Mar could be the Prime Minister of the new legislature.
Meanwhile, aside from proposed constitutional changes, there are legislative initiatives that can also be achieved before the expiration of PNoy’s current term. Passing them would most likely endear him and his coalition to the people.
There are 91 constitutional provisions that require enabling or implementing laws. Two of those are the implementing laws for Anti-Dynasty and Freedom of Information.  Passing most if not all the required enabling laws would make the Cory Constitution really a living, dynamic, and meaningful document.
PNoy’s critics, naysayers, and so-called political analysts are making a big deal out of his supposed decreasing satisfactory or performance ratings. For them, such decrease weakens his endorsement or his push for reforms.
The fact is, while compared to his own record a decrease is noticeable, a careful analysis would show that compared to his predecessors, he still registers very high ratings to deserve the trust and confidence of the people who clamored for his leadership in the first place.
A majority (56%) remains satisfied with his performance. About 26% are dissatisfied but a substantial portion of them will always be dissatisfied regardless of PNoy’s performance. We call the latter as naysayers or negativists.
Let us consider what SWS’ Mahar Mangahas himself wrote:
The new rating is higher than: (a) all the eight ratings of the Cory Aquino admin for 1989-92; (b) 20 of the 24 ratings of the admin of Fidel Ramos (except for scores of +30 to +32 in September 1992, December 1992, July 1993, and July 1997); (c) eight of the ten ratings of the short admin of Joseph Estrada (except for a +36 in November 1998 and a +34 in March 1999); and (d) all of the 35 ratings of the long admin of Gloria Arroyo.
The new record low rating under P-Noy is far better than the worst ratings under previous presidents: -10 (Poor) under Cory in November 1990, -18 (Poor) under Ramos in October 1995, -8 (Neutral) under Estrada in December 1999, and -45 (Bad) under Arroyo in March 2010.”

Even the so-called 16-point fall of PNoy’s rating is not as bad as his predecessors: 27 points under Cory; 24 points under Ramos; 26 points under Estrada; and 29 points under Arroyo.

So, those who do not wish PNoy well are advised not to celebrate yet.  Even famous author and novelist F Sionil Jose had this to say:

“In spite of the dip in his popularity as manifested in the recent surveys, I think he is doing very well and is far from the dictator that he is being charged with by, of all people, those who helped legitimize that immoral Marcos regime. Above all, I have it on good authority that he is honest — a quality I cannot say of many of those who are vociferously critical of him.

In stating these, I disagree with the Supreme Court. The President has the right to spend government funds where they can do the most good. What the Supreme Court should have looked after was how the moneys were spent. Did the DAP enrich anyone?” 

PNoy became the country’s leader and he brought honesty and humility in governance as well as honor and hope for the Philippines.  At this point in our history, he deserves the Filipino people’s support more than ever.

Monday, August 18, 2014

His Excellency RAUL GOCO, RIP

Yesterday, I received the sad news that Former Solicitor General and Ambassador Raul Goco joined the GOD Almighty in Heaven. Our condolences go with our prayers to provincemate Manang Marietta Primicias Goco and family!

My great memories of Solicitor General Goco were both professional and personal. Professionally, I worked with him when he was the General Counsel of Raul S. Manglapus’ Lakas-NUCD Party and the Presidential campaign of the then Secretary of Defense Fidel Ramos.  When he became Solicitor General under President Ramos, he gladly endorsed our law firm in Washington, DC to represent the interests of the Philippine Government in the United States.  We got the job. When he retired and became the Chairman Emeritus of a big law firm in the Philippines, he happily recruited me to be an “Of Counsel” of the firm.

Personally,we enjoyed hosting him for lunch at the prestigious and exclusive Metropolitan Club in Washington, DC during one of his visits here.  He was as happy using the choice Inaugural tickets during President Bill Clinton’s Oath-Taking that we gave him and Manang Marietta.

I also remember inviting him to be the Guest Speaker of the Ilocano Society of America (ISA) in a major event in McLean, Va. I was tasked to introduce him and enthusiastically described him as “Natarake (Very Handsome), Nalaing (Very Bright), ken Nasirib (VerySmart)!

I also enjoyed attending several diplomatic parties in the Philippines with him and his other diplomat-friends, both foreign and local.

Aside from being the solicitor general during President Ramos' term, Goco was also Philippine Ambassador to Canada. He was the only Filipino elected to the United Nations International Law Commission. He was also the first Filipino elected as president of the Law Association for Asia and the Pacific (LAWASIA) based in Australia and the first Filipino elected president of the World Jurist Association (WJI) based in Washington D.C.

A charter governor of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), Goco was also the recipient of many International and local awards. He was the awardee of the coveted "World Outstanding Lawyer Award" at Barcelona,Spain; the Dean Robert Storey International Leadership Award at Dallas, Texas;and was chosen as one of the seven distinguished lawyers in the Asian region.He was also the Outstanding Manilan Awardee in Law.

Records also show that as solicitor general, he “won many cases before the Appellate Courts; the first ExpandedValue Added Tax, the ratification of the World Trade Agreement, the privatization program of the government, the President's line veto power; the first preparatory recall assembly under the Local Government Code; the LRTcontroversy, the Aquino vs. Beltran and Soliven libel case (as SolGen andcounsel for the People he sought the reversal of a lower court's judgment ofconviction in which he succeeded), the Death Penalty, etc. “

More significantly, Goco is given the credit for being “the one who litigated abroad and successfully recovered the Marcos Swiss accounts.”

After coming back to the US for health reasons, I certainly missed his company and will forever cherish the memories.

His Excellency RAUL GOCO, Rest In Peace!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

AAA: A $38-Tablet vs. Poverty

AAA (Available, Accessible, and Affordable) is how I rate and describe Datawind’s UbiSlate 7ci. It is a $38-Tablet that makes “little miracles” available to the marginalized and forgotten. It is a device that easily makes data, information, intelligence, knowledge and education accessible both online and offline to all groups of all ages.  It is an affordable technology tool for the seemingly hopeless but supposedly “preferred poor” in the “Battle Against Poverty”.

In this year’s International CES held in Las Vegas, Nevada – a choice event that I attend every year, I purposely scheduled a meeting with the Executives of Datawind. I wanted to see a demonstration of the amazingly inexpensive electronic device that could prove to be an equalizer.

The UbiSlate 7ci is no iPAD and no Samsung Galaxy. Neither is it an Amazon Kindle Fire HD nor a Barnes & Noble Nook HD. The poor can never afford these devices as prized and possessing of features that are describable as “luxurious” beyond the poor’s basic needs at this stage of the battle. Having “options” is currently a monopoly of the relatively rich or middle class.

It took a while before I received a sample product for review. It took another while before I finished testing the product because I also got it checked by a “Digital Native” (born after 1980) and by a “Digital Immigrant” (born before 1980). As expected, as iPAD users, both had several issues such as multi-tasking, quality of screen viewing, and limited to WiFi for Internet Access for the inexpensive model.

My company, the First Convergent Communications Worldwide, Inc. and Franklin Electronic Publishers, Inc. introduced the eBook technology in the Philippines when we brought and exclusively distributed the eBookMan in the Philippines. My firm was also a licensed manufacturer of the gadget. The eBookMan is the predecessor of Amazon’s Kindle.

Through the device, we created electronic libraries that included an encyclopedia, dictionary, the Holy Bible or the Koran, basic laws and Supreme Court decisions, medical libraries, novels, hit songs, audiobooks, and other documents. We described them as "Library in your pocket; knowledge at your fingertips.”

We called the laws and jurisprudence library “Law on the Go”. And we jokingly tell users; “You can now take the law into your own hands.”

This is what I mean by a device that gives access to knowledge. I said in a TV interview once, “My dream is for a Filipino boy riding on a carabao (the country’s “beast of burden”) holding a gadget accessing the world’s documents, books, music, videos, and other contents.”

That dream is now closer to reality.  With the UbiSlate 7ci and all its current features, offline and online capabilities, I could see localizing global knowledge, and globalizing the local ones. Even online education in the remotest areas of the Philippines is no longer a remote possibility but a doable and distinct probability.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in fact, unveiled the UbiSlate 7ci at the United Nations in New York City in recognition for its role in educating the world and consequently as a means to fight poverty.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Datawind CEO Suneet Singh Tuli, India’s UN Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri

Education is the great equalizer.  It is the passport of the poor to obtain employment and to advance in life. It gives them equal opportunity to exercise freedom, enjoy Liberty, and pursue happiness not only for themselves but also for their children.

The ability to access knowledge offline through the electronic libraries made available in devices such as UbiSlate 7ci as well as online through e-learning courses in the Internet, broadens the horizon that even the poorest of the poor never imagined it could have.

Just think – eBooks, lectures in both video and audio formats, papers and documents, art work or drawings, photos, and other contents stored in the UbiSlate 7ci, and retrievable anytime anywhere from it.

The entire library from 1st Grade to senior year in high school could be accessible to the student as it is stored forever and retrievable as needed.

(Please continue reading at “Tech IT From My Barber” for more of the technical details 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

West Side Story

I write this column/blog as I arrive from Southern California on a trip down memory lane. 

First, I went to Huntington Beach to join the celebrations of my high school graduating Class ’64 commemorating its 50th Anniversary.  Remembering stories that happened ”two score and ten years ago” was really a feat for one who has been a proud member of AARP for a while, and who has already acquired rights to Medicare. Indeed, I enjoyed the exchanges with classmates both during the Dinner on July 26, 2014 and the Picnic the next day. Much has transpired in the lives of my fellow alums between 1964 and 2014. I wrote about the late HAROLD KESTER, who was the Student Body President, Class Salutatorian and my foster brother who hosted me during the school year as an AFS (American Field Service) scholar. I suggested to my class to make a collection of life stories to publish first in eBook format, to be followed by a print edition later. Many liked the idea and several committed to do it. In fact, the first one to do so, while I was traveling, was Loretta Hood the Class Valedictorian.

Second, I also had a chance to see and meet old friends. My Compadre (I am Godfather to his only son, EJ) Ernie Delfin and his beautiful and forever young wife Benita, hosted me to a nice dinner.  In fact, EJ who is a school teacher actually taught at my Alma Mater, My Facebook updated status described my visit with them:
“Yesterday, a welcome dinner for me was hosted by one of my closest friends, Ernie Delfin. The food was great but it was not what amazed me.

He brought me to his house for 36 years in Fountain Valley – only about 10-15 minutes from Huntington Beach. It was also the house where the late Editor-Publisher Max Soliven and I used to stay every time we came for a visit.

He showed the guest room which was renovated, for me to know that next time, I should stay with them as I used to. But again that was not what amazed me.

His front and backyards are only as small as mine in McLean, Va. This was what amazed me:

He was able to convert both into a combination of a Little FARMYARD and Floral garden. He planted and is producing the following:

A. VEGETABLES: Eggplant, Ampalaya, Kalabaza, Pipino, Leek, Kamatis, Kamote, Basil, different Mints and Herbs, Alugati, Malunggay, and a few more American salad vegetables that I cannot name.

B. FRUITS: Avocado, Guava, Banana (Saba), Persimmon, Papaya, Apple, Tangerines, Oranges, Grapes, Mango, and Palm trees.

C. FLORAL: Roses, Orchids, Arias, Annuals and Perennials, and hundreds of succulents.

Doesn’t that make you jealous? My friend, who has proven himself as a good CPA, an Innovative Entrepreneur, a Pioneer of E-Rotary, and a Patriotic Community Leader, is also an excellent Small Urban Farmer.

I ate some of the fruits we picked in the small farmyard for breakfast.”

Another old friend, Bobby Reyes who publishes and edits the Mabuhay Radio.Com, hosted me for lunch.  Known as Lolo Bobby, he is a fearless, prolific writer, witty and creative. Hard to be his enemy, I preferred to be his friend since our student days in San Beda College. Recognized for his leadership qualities, even former Senator Nene Pimentel wanted Bobby to be in his Senatorial ticket. His desire to be Governor of Sorsogon is still there.

I went to San Diego to fulfill some responsibilities that were suddenly and unexpectedly entrusted to me due to the death of my youngest sister, Mila Maynigo Denton Goldberg. I also got the chance to visit with the children of my sisters and brother: Euleen and Dean – Manang Perla’s kids; Joey – Manong Pepe’s only son; Homer – Manang Nellie’s youngest son; and Eugene – Mila’s only son who hosted me during my visit.

Bonding with them on separate occasions, not only did they display that Gal-lang-Maynigo wit and intellectual sharpness, but also that high achievement motivation.  The latter produced relatively high educational attainment that incidentally resulted in the accumulation of some wealth. 

I could not be any prouder. My siblings with their respective spouses certainly raised them well. My late brother Pepe must have participated spiritually because Joey was a posthumous baby.

By the way, Eugene and Joey are still bachelors. Both are scientists – Eugene, an Operations Scientist who works for Hologic while Joey is a Medical Scientist who is employed by Scripps.  Both good-looking and very smart, interested female parties should get in touch with me for proper introductions.

Before I get into trouble, I better stop.