Thursday, August 11, 2016

Ferdinand Marcos and a Hero's Burial

We knew sooner or later this question would no longer be purely hypothetical once it became clear that Rodrigo Duterte was going to be the president. Throughout his campaign, he maintained a close connection with the late dictator's son to the point that his running mate, Allan Peter Cayetano, was constantly hounded by questions on whether he was really pulling for the younger Marcos in the VP race. It seems that all systems are a go for the burial. Duterte understands that rallies are gonna be organized and he doesn't seem to have problems with people on the streets for a whole month. But as of now, Duterte is not budging on the issue.

But what is the real issue here? Is it how people choose not to speaking ill of the dead (link)? Is it how a president who doesn't put human rights as a priority is willing to grant an alleged human rights violator a hero's burial? Is it how our education system has failed to define an era as recent as 50 years ago yet has no problem telling the story of neanderthals? Or is it how we, as a people, constantly fail to move on? Certainly it's not simply about Marcos. It's hard for me to acknowledge that after 30 years, the issue is still solely based on that man.

But whatever the case may be, let's just bury the man wherever. Screw the human rights victims of his regime who are recognized by the government with the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act. Screw the fact that the Supreme Court recognizes that Ferdinand Marcos gained ill-gotten wealth (link). Screw the fact that our government continue to fund an agency whose sole purpose is to recover Marcos' ill-gotten wealth. Screw the fact the the NHCP cast doubt when it comes to Marcos' military prominence. Screw it all. Fuck consistency. Fuck rationality.

I don't know why President Duterte is so insistent on risking political capital for something that is this divisive yet, as some supporters say, merely symbolic. It's hard to read his mind. In the end, all I can say is:


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

On Arthur Tugade's Apology Regarding NAIA

Well this is certainly a breath of fresh air. It's not as fresh as I would like. But it's fresh nonetheless.

NAIA has long been a running joke for the past few years now. It was named as the worst airport in the world by Guide to Sleeping in Airports for three years. It eventually improved. But it is still considered as one of worst by the website and even flight crews. The "Tanim Bala" issue got people riled up (link). And now, its already-oddly-designed runways, being perpendicular and all, are the ones causing problems... well one in particular.

Problems in NAIA have become the norm. And for the past administration, the problems seemed to revolve around... well... hmm... luck (link)? I kid... I kid... hehe.

But seriously though, the past administration was at a lost when it came to managing the transport sector. I was particularly irked with the then DOTC, the MMDA (link) and the leaderships stubbornness in keeping the officials in place. And as disheartening as it is for me to say, I wouldn't have blamed Tugade if he went after Honrado or Abaya. But he kind of didn't.

Transport secretary Arthur Tugade, in front of business leaders and executives last July 19, manned up and took full responsibility for the damaged runways that caused delayed and diverted flights as well as, pending investigations, damage on an Eva Air Boeing 747.

On the surface, this action embodies the professionalism for which this nation has been starving. From last administration's transport heads' politics of convincing that it was not their fault or they're doing the best they can, we see a fresh political stance wherein one of our transport heads convinced the public that this sort of mishap will not be tolerated and it will not happen again. For the first time in a long time, an appointed government official acknowledged issues without particularly acknowledging a culprit. Tugade essentially put the pressure on himself to get things done regardless of context.

Looking at context has been a constant plea of the Duterte administration. When he joked about that Australian rape victim, his team tried to convince us he was taken out of context. When  Duterte antagonized the media, they did the same thing. Whenever we read or watch news about suspected drug pushers or users being killed instead of being just wounded or simply arrested, they convince us that the context was that the suspects endangered the lives of the operatives. And here we have Tugade who effectively said "Fuck context".

This post is not meant to praise Arthur Tugade. This is not meant to take back my stance on my last post where I said I will refrain from simply accepting this administration's stances on issues as the best course of action (link). This post is meant to call out people who still subscribe to the politics of context exclusively. Context, after all, is political and not factual in nature.

Arthur Tugade manned up. That doesn't deserve our praise since that is what we should demand out of our leaders. But it deserves acknowledgement. Hopefully, his politics doesn't get tainted by the noxious politics of Panelo and the rest of his allies in the Duterte administration.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

A Quick Look: Duterte's "Change" is Upon Us

Well, here we go. As of writing, we are a few hours in under Rodrigo Duterte's presidency. Within the 6 years allotted to his rule, he will have ample chances to succeed and fail miserably. And contrary to what many in social media are saying, now is not the time to judge/praise him or otherwise predict a catastrophic future for the Philippines. What we can do as individuals though is hope that he fails in implementing policies we don't want and succeed in implementing those that we view as essential to get to where we want to be.

Leading up and right after the elections, I've written a few posts that would lead people to believe that I didn't support Duterte; I posted quite neutrally about his proclamation speech here (link), I was not happy with how he handled a question directed to him by a UPLB student (link), his friendship with Marcos is troubling to me (link) and him being an ardent supporter of the death penalty doesn't sit well with me (link). But with all the things he does that don't jive with my political ideals, there are things about him and things that he has brought up that give me hope for the next 6 years.

I can't help but admire Duterte. I don't know. Duterte is one of those people that, based on the few friends I have from Davao, got a lot done. Davao was apparently a rotting cesspool characterized by lawlessness before he came. And now, it is supposedly one of the safest cities in the Philippines. But then again, statistical sources are not conclusive about the claim. But the fact that people paint Duterte as this doer who actually got stuff done is amazing. I'm not sure if he was successful in improving Davao per se. But his constituents there certainly believe so. And that alone shows the potential he has when it comes to influencing people. And this is made evident by the balancing act he has done in appointing free-market followers in his cabinet and at same time getting Bayan Muna and other leftist groups to compromise. That right-leaning economic agenda they released in May got leftists fuming. But here we are now, just a month later, and we have militants rallying in support of him.

It is scary in a way that he may use his seemingly limitless political capital in getting what I believe to be detrimental policies done. But at least, the things that he may institute that I agree with won't have as many problems going through as they would otherwise. A good example of this is the Anti-Discrimination Bill. He has shown support for the LGBT community in the past and he has said that discrimination is one of the things that he hates the most. As of now, looking through the comments on Facebook about June's Pride Parade, it is apparent that people are not for this bill. I don't expect this bill to be a priority of his. But we have a president capable of swaying people and also seemingly willing to get it done. We supporters just need to actually organize and be heard.

Aside from the things that need more time to ripen, Duterte has already recognized certain issues that are close to my heart. Minutes into taking his oath, Duterte went ahead and called the attention of government agencies. He called for an end to redundant requirements for government permits as well as efficient service delivery in the matter. Regardless of the politics you are running, without an efficient, effective and accountable bureaucracy, it will be all for naught. Some are saying this is Duterte's version of Aquino's wang-wang bit. But it's not. Wang-wang was a political stunt aimed at making people think that the president is like them and a showcase of empathy while this is Duterte calling for better public administration.

Like most politicians, Duterte has some quirks that aren't palatable to some. From his constant cussing to his apparent disregard for women's rights, it's easy to find things that would get eyebrows raised. But focusing on what's easy may result in losing sight of opportunities.

Duterte is the president. He seems to have a super majority in the legislature. The most prevalent critics of the government, the left, seem to be nestling down in his pockets. Cultural divides are being addressed with the Moros and Lumads. As easy as it is to abhor him, Duterte has made it just as easy to join his bandwagon. It is now up to us to choose which easy step to take: join in on the love-fest or disregard his calls for unity.

As for me, I turn to a line delivered by an extra in HBO's The Newsroom:

The individual price we are paying for not pretending to be "crazy" is nothing compared to the price the country is going to pay for not having a reasonable opposition party
I don't see myself writing positive things regarding Duterte anytime soon. Swimming with the tide is too easy.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

A Fat Commuter in the Philippines

Hi, my name is Aaron and I am fat or obese or whatever. I am 6'1'' tall and I weigh in at around 300 lbs. I am completely comfortable with my body regardless of the considerable mass and volume it may have. Sure, I do try to exercise through basketball and other things to improve my health. But my life expectancy is the only real driver for any attempt to get slim.

Unfortunately for me, my body's aesthetics always seem to be a cause for concern for others;I get teased by kids whenever I pass by streets in places I don't usually visit, my parents' friends always see me as "those two's fat son" and I'm sure looks have been thrown my way without me noticing them. But none of these things bother me. It may bother somebody else. But I see myself in too high regard to be bothered. But in the case of something like commuting, I can't help but be pissed off.

For my entire life, I've been a commuter. I know how to drive. But the gas prices and the damned toll prices from Alabang going north can really keep the car in the garage. And for my daily commute, I have to ride a bus, a jeepney and a tricycle. And of all of these, the bus has been the least discriminatory against me.

I've never experienced discrimination in a bus. Maybe it's because I always find a way to fit myself and two others on the seats on the driver's side. And the number of passenger always keeps the conductor preoccupied leaving no time to give a remark about me or any other passenger.

As for jeepneys, the barker and the driver sometimes insist I sit in front. I don't know why. But I always oblige. I always sit after another person sits next to the driver so that at least only one knee would be forced to suffer the pain of being squeezed onto the metal fabrication of the vehicle. This rarely happens. And letting it slide has always been my course of action.

As for the local tricycles in my neighborhood, they just piss me the hell off most of the time. Here, we have the option of special rides where the passenger pays for three passengers instead of one. Whenever I have to ride, they always ask me to pay for the special trip. I simply refuse and walk to the main road to catch a ride with one that already has a passenger or two. But there are just people who take things to a different level. Sometimes, they would pick me up from the neighborhood streets with the pretense of offering the non-special ride. If they are unable to pick up another passenger, they would harass me for the special fare. Being the hothead that I am, I would always impose my will and let out a profanity-laden tirade coupled with a swift turn away. I always get my way because of the disadvantageous position they have at my stop-over which don't allow tricycles to stay long. Other times, even when I am going to a specific house and willing to pay the special fair, I get passed around in the terminal because, according to them, their tricycles are incapable of carrying me around. And it's always the younger drivers who act this way. A lot of those young tricycle drivers are dicks.

Considering everything I've written so far though, the discrimination I face while commuting on a daily basis is manageable to me. I just hope that people who experience the same discrimination or harassment deal with them without having to resort to submitting to the harasser's will.

Us fatties need to get places too! And we'd appreciate some decency.


Things like discrimination are hard to manage. They are internal to an individual and may cost more than the benefits they may reap in some cases like having a discrimination case conducted by a problematic justice system (link); expect a ton of settlements being done instead of a lengthy trial which won't result in conditioning the offender's mind to be better. But has the government incentivized such discriminatory behavior?

In the case of the UV Express drivers/operators having stickers that discriminate against people of considerable size, there is one aspect of the issue not tackled by the reports presented by media groups that I feel is important: the front seat of those vehicles are designed for one person. You can't put the seat belts on if there are two of you there. And those seats that are supposedly "apatan", they're good for only three, as indicated by the curves in those Urvans' seats. I'm not sure about how UV Express handles its business in other places. But why is the LTFRB allowing these Nissan Urvans to load up on more passengers than their design accounts for here in our area?

It's not even limited to the issue of blatant overloading. For example, why has the local government of San Pedro, Laguna allowed a situation to arise where tricycle drivers in our area have the cushion to be picky?

I've ranted before about the traffic situation (link). And I understand there are a lot of stuff to be done that may be higher on the priorities of other people. But then again, we have a diverse group of agencies that have separate powers and expertise.

When Atty. Ariel Inton of LTFRB talked about commuter discrimination and focused solely on those stickers and set aside the fact that the shuttle buses are overloading their vehicles, he passed the guilt to us fat people. I guess the reason that a driver is not getting the most profit out of a trip is me and my fat ass, not the industrial design of his vehicle.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Death Penalty!? What?!

From the very start of his campaign, Rodrigo Duterte made it clear that if he ever became president, he would look to reinforce the death penalty, otherwise known as capital punishment. Evidently, the people felt that death penalty is needed. It's that or they are just willing to compromise their beliefs regarding death penalty because of some of Duterte's other promises. I mean, they did vote for the guy.

Anyway, with Duterte firmly established as our leader for the next six years, I have to ask . . . death penalty?! What?!?!

Obviously, I'm not enthusiastic with the notion of my country reinforcing it. But what is death penalty?

According to Farlex's The Free Dictionary (link), death penalty is " a sentence or punishment of death by execution" or "the practice or legal sanction of allowing the imposition of punishment of death for people convicted of certain crimes". But the term "death penalty" already gives us what it is and there's no point in looking it up in our dictionaries. And yet, I doubt people know what it really is.

Death penalty has been a hotly-debated issue for decades. It has divided people and many personal reasons exist either for reinforcing it or keeping it a non-option. But of all the reasons that are given, one reason against reinforcement has always troubled me: it is a sin.

I know I've already stated I'm against death penalty. But I have always been a firm supporter for the separation of church and state. I have once posted a thought piece on this blog saying that the state has no business in meddling in the church's affairs (link). In that post, I put a premium on professionalism on the state's part basically saying that government employees cannot let their personal beliefs get in the way of whatever is good for the nation. I demand a lot from public servants. That notion still stands here. I can understand if the person in the streets uses his religion to justify keeping the death penalty out of our country. But we need to ask more from our leaders when they discuss this issue.

Now that I have shared why morality should not be used when discussing the issue, let's take a look at another thing people use to defend their stance on death penalty.

Statistics and their interpretation have been back and forth on the issue. For every research saying death penalty deters crime, there are researches saying that the methods used are flawed. From researches of Isaac Ehrlich to Naci Mocan, there have always been experts who have released papers countering their methods. Quite frankly, I don't have the technical knowledge to fully scrutinize them. But if experts don't agree on the causes and effects, regression analyses or correlations shouldn't matter in forming political stands.

Morality and statistics about the deterring ability have been the bases most thrown when people argue about the death penalty on social media. And both bases should not be used right now. We could have used morality back then when theocracy was a thing. And we can maybe use statistics in the future when further study can be done and conclusive evidence is formulated. But right now, both bases can't be used in my book.

Now, how can I be against the death penalty?

Cambridge defines justice as the "fairness in the way people are dealt with" (link). There are many definitions given by other institutions. But justice always brings up words like fairness or reasonable or something in that alley.

Now, does the death penalty provide justice? No. Death penalty does not bring about justice to the victim. If someone is murdered and the murderer was killed by the state, how does that put the victim and the loved ones back from the disadvantageous position the killer put them in? The personal damages to the victims can be paid in monetary or whatever value by the killer through a separate sentencing. Sure, the death of the killer may relieve the anger of the loved ones. But that anger was not brought about by the desire for justice; it was brought about by the desire for revenge. And revenge, which is emotionally-driven, has no place in the professional and rational government this nation deserves.

Don't get me wrong. If somebody kills one of my loved ones, I'll hope the killer fries in the electric chair. But the state should not be influenced by the grieving because grief has a way of throwing rationality out the window.

Now, what do we do with the convict?

The state is also put in a disadvantageous spot in the event of a murder. The state loses a resource in the victim. And with the loved ones grieving, their contributions to society won't be as good for a long time even if given psychological care. Death penalty would basically double that. But it would also stop the killer's future transgressions no matter the magnitude granted the state actually got the ruling right. I've once said that our justice system is not really the greatest right now (link). And the potential costs of losing someone because of a wrongful ruling can really be devastating to the suspects' loved ones who are also resources of the state.

Now, the best thing to do to the killer is to lock him/her up. The biggest sin we commit is not seeing prison as more than just punishment. We have come a long way from the biblical times Pacquiao used to justify the death penalty. We have more resources discussing penology and mental health. Prison should be viewed as a way to rehabilitate the convicts. I'm not saying we should treat convicts like babies and spoil them. Prison should still be viewed as a punishment to deter crime. But it also needs to provide convicts with the opportunity to be better and to actually contribute to society. It is expensive. But so is the long arduous process of the state defending itself from international antagonism brought about by reinforcing the death penalty, actually killing someone, the opportunity cost of the used resources, controlling the rallies that will definitely pop up every so often when a sentence is carried out, etc.

All options being accepted by the public in dealing with heinous crimes are expensive. But wouldn't you rather spend for justice rather than revenge?

Now we return to giving death penalty the definition people don't read on dictionaries. What is the death penalty? It is a state's irrational go-to-move to appease the victim's loved ones. It masks the government's mismanagement through the promise of justice that doesn't really materialize. It is a lazy move supported by people who let their government get away with shit.

The death penalty is a step back from the Philippines our nation deserves.


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Farewell Manny and Welcome Senator Pacquiao

I've been a fan of Manny Pacquiao since the late 90's. I remember watching this reckless kid who swung at everything that moved on Blow by Blow with my father. To me, he isn't a representation of any Filipino value. To me, he is one of the guys, along with Luisito Espinosa and to some extent Gerry PeƱalosa, who made boxing fun for me and gave me and my dad a common interest.

Boxing is boxing to me. It isn't about Filipino pride. I love Luisito Espinosa because he could knock anybody out in any given moment and not because of his nationality. The same goes for Manny. Both fighters are amazing and I'm not gonna cheapen their hard work and skills by saying their nationality had anything to do with the fame and respect they are getting.

Both fighters had their fair share of glorious battles. Espinosa had that hellish battle with Guty Espadas where he dropped multiple times only to fight back valiantly before ultimately losing a tiring battle in the 11th round. Manny had that same kind of battle with his first matches with Marquez and Morales; he suffered a broken hand against Marquez and a ghastly cut against Morales. Espinosa was cheated against Soto in their second fight and Pacquiao was cheated in his first fight against Bradley. Espinosa turned Alejandro Gonzales into a zombie in their second fight. And Manny did this to some Thai dude:

Manny Pacquiao vs Fahsan 3k Battery
make animated gifs like this at MakeaGif

That's pro boxing. It's brutal, nasty, exciting and can be a source of some sort of pride I cannot fully comprehend. But those, along with other grand adjectives, are all it is. It's a dangerous sport of brave, skillful warriors who put their bodies on the line to gain personal gratitude in the form of money, fame or whatever.

Be that as it may, I always gave Manny the benefit of the doubt. When he went into acting in the early 2000's in films with Mikey Arroyo and April Boy Regino, I instantly knew he would suck. But hey, it was his dream and there's nothing wrong with cashing in on his fame. Wapakman suck, but so what? When he had concerts, I saw nothing wrong with it. He's no Frank Sinatra, so what? People love him and they enjoyed listening to that "Laban mo, laban ko, laban nating lahat" thingy.

But here we are now. Manny Pacquiao is an elected senator and a retired boxer. More than that, he's a bible-thumping legislator who may very well have the capability to turn his personal beliefs into public policy. The days of me cheering and shouting profanities at the TV because of Pacquiao's fights are over.

When he decided to run against the Custodios and lost, I hoped his desire to go into politics would be quelled. But as we all know, that didn't happen. He decided to do what a normal trapo would do which is to move to an area with weaker political opponents and run for office there. He later on became Saranggani's congressman and this slowly changed my view of Pacquiao.

I started to view Manny Pacquiao with more scrutinizing and critical set of lenses. He was no longer just the boxer that fueled my bi-annual excitement. He was this congressman who never attended sessions, got his family to run for different positions effectively creating a dynasty and used the bible as his source of legislative reasoning. But through all that, he was still the Manny who went into the ring and hauled ass. For all his faults in public office, the Manny that me and my dad enjoyed was still there kicking ass and taking names.

That's all over now. The traces of the Manny I cheered for is all well and gone. And all that remains is the well-dressed, power hungry "public servant", Senator Pacquiao. He's the same Senator Pacquiao who likened members of the LGBT community to animals (link). He's the same Senator Pacquiao who justified the reinstatement of the death penalty by saying that it is biblical effectively setting aside all the new information and advancements we have made in the last 2000 years. He's the same Senator Pacquiao who only attended a handful of congressional sessions and was unable to pass even one bill, which should be product of whatever platform that ideally got him his seat, into law.

It's pretty obvious that I don't like Senator Pacquiao. We have differing views on the separation of church and state (link) and I see him as a symbol, a poster child of our immature democracy.

But the people have spoken. All I can do now is say "Farewell Manny and welcome Senator Pacquiao".


Monday, May 16, 2016

A Quick Message to Marcos Apologists

We provided him a bunch of stuff and yet we are made to believe we still owe him something. We gave him 24/7 security for decades, vehicles ranging from cars to planes to use, a beautiful palace and the financial support to make his plans come true a reality. And yet we still owe him? Forget the idea that Marcos is allegedly corrupt or that his plans allegedly sent us to a period of collapse. Ang kapal ng mukha ng ilan sa mga tao para sabihing i-boycott ang mga pinagawang yan ngayo't patuloy pa rin nating binabayaran ang marami sa mga yan.

Wala namang masamang suportahan sina Marcos per se. Pero kung itong mga basurang memes o mga post sa mga pekeng accounts ang ginagamit niyong sources, you are in no position to tell us to boycott anything since you're currently boycotting rational thinking.

Note: There is no evidence suggesting that Erwin Tulfo has anything to do with the Facebook page embedded in this post.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Ever-Present Bias in Philippine Politics

*** The following post may contain strong language ***

In deciding things, we always look to some things that would validate a choice; if I'm allergic to peanuts, then I won't touch the stuff. That's how decision-making works. It can be simple and objective like deciding what's the best way to get to work. Other times though, if and then statements are not as easily constructed.

In life, we have to face decisions where the choices aren't necessarily wrong or right and the factors are not necessarily tangible and/or quantifiable. It's like choosing Martin Nievera over Gary Valenciano. Both are undoubtedly talented and legends in their field. It's just that Martin Nievara is always playing and waking me up every weekend morning. And in subjective choices like these, we tap into our individual biases. Martin Nievera has always been better than Gary V. to me. Maybe it's because my parents love him and his voice always accompanies great early morning memories. It's not about talent; Martin is certainly incapable of dancing like Gary. It's just that, I like Martin better.

These biases, I accept them. I actually embrace them because overall, I see myself as a decent guy because/despite of them. And I'm sure most people embrace a few of their respective biases as well. I mean, if you attack Aldub, Lizquen or any other love team, their fans would blow their tops and won't hesitate defending their idols on social media with their names and pictures attached to their posts.

Now, what if the subjective question encompasses more than entertainment? What if the subjective question where we have to exercise our individual biases is something that would affect the state? Say, the elections?

Before proceeding, let's be clear that politics is a grey, if not subjective, area. If it weren't, then every state would be following the same political stance. Free market, command economies or whatever is not the one best way to get things done.

Now, what's ironic here is that the questions I put forth are examples of instances where bias is exercised. I'm sure that some reading this may simply say "hold onto your biases for just a day and vote for someone who will usher in a new era of prosperity for this nation" or whatever. But can we blame a desperate mother looking to feed her child who accepts money in exchange for her singular vote? It's easy to say she's a treacherous moron willing to sell out our nation. But isn't it us, the supposed intellectual elite, who are responsible for shaping the government that failed that woman?

Bias is hard to contain. Whenever people say mass media is biased, all I can say is "Duh!". Everybody is biased. Those who claim they are less biased have actually been proven to be the most biased of all (link).

So, what do we do now?

The urge to close this tab is most likely a manifestation of your bias against whatever I'm writing here. So why don't we just embrace it and actually start to scrutinize it?

Denial is a major speed bump in making sound choices in the elections. Let's accept the fact that some of us turn away whenever bad things about our candidates are discussed. The fear of being proven wrong or being humiliated can be immense. But in politics, sit's different. As I've said earlier that politics is a grey area where one plus one can equate to Lynyrd Skynyrd. The only time you can be proven wrong is when you lose your conviction through something like a complete absence of logic or whatever.

Our failure to accept our bias is actually pretty evident. For example, we can look at Duterte. Duterte once said he won't run. But he finally decided to run because of the Senate Electoral Tribunal's decision to let Grace Poe run. Fast forward a few months and Poe said she would like to make Duterte her "crime czar". And in the most trapo way ever, Duterte said he would be "honored". And yet, the surveys keep looking good for the Davao City mayor. He is still seen as an alternative to what traditional politics normally offers. The unwavering support for the crass, vulgar and trapo-like mayor is amazing. And his supporters' lack of acceptance for their bias towards the mayor may have confused them as to why they were biased towards him in the first place. Walden Bello may have described the situation perfectly in his opinion article in Positively Filipino (link):
"What Duterte actually stands for is drowned out by what people wish him to be: the bearer of their fears and hopes and the sword that will bring about the radical measures they feel are necessary to contain the rot of the system."
People are enamored by the tough-talking mayor because of his hands-on approach on crime and his ability to no let due process get in the way of "justice". And yet, he used/usese due process to deprive us of information we citizens are entitled to have: our public servants' lifestyle situation.

Please, don't think Duterte's supporters are the only ones being clouded by their bias. There's Binay's that I feel need no clarification. Roxas' clean persona can be dashed by a little research that his supporter's fail to do because they just trust the Daang Matuwid thing a little too much (*ehem* overpriced firetrucks *ehem*). People will vote for Miriam because she's intelligent. Never mind that the drugs she is taking are having effects on her (Really, we have to spend billions on a plebiscite just to decide on the legacy of Ferdinand Marcos? Even in death he's gonna cost us shit?!). Grace Poe supporters so desperately want new blood that they are willing to look past her inability to answer Duterte's question in TV5's debate convincingly showing an utter lack of preparation. And to be perfectly honest, she has yet to divulge any meaningful macro plans that would help me evaluate her. Maybe I'm biased against her.

Understanding of biases is important whether they be our own or others. The accusations of supporters that mass media is biased towards a candidate don't hold water for me. Since these are profit-driven entities, they are biased towards whatever gets the clicks or viewers and not necessarily towards or against a certain candidate. Duterte was followed incessantly by mass media even before declaring his intentions. That proves to me that these entities only go where the story is hot. They are focusing on Trillanes' corruption allegations against Duterte because it's hot and not because it's against Duterte. It's that or they really are supporting someone because that someone would lead to more profit. Either way, I doubt the name of the president is important to them. The almighty peso is where their bias lies.

Can you imagine a Philippines where being biased is not held against you? We would have actual communists on prime time news programs talking about their ideologies giving us laymen the chance to know more about what they believe in and why they believe it. We would have disenfranchised, apathetic youths on TV talking there instead of some dude saying he wants to vote because he wants it to be an instrument of change or some shit like that. Karen Davila would actually be talking with LGBT representatives about same-sex marriage instead of some politician who respects the LGBT community but not to the point that he would allow them to marry each other. 

Acceptance of bias can lead to exchanges like these where idiotic ideas are exposed:

Really Jeffrey Lord?
Screw unity. Unity is a hollow, meaningless concept blurted out by trapos desperate to clean their hands of their dirty laundry. 

Let's talk about issues. We all want better healthcare. But not all of us share the sentiment that hospitals should be under the PPP program. That's where our bias lies. Some want hospitals to be under the PPP program because that leads to better equipment. I'm biased towards the idea that hospitals should remain purely public because profit-driven operators won't take into account the value of positive externalities of healthy people in determining their revenue.

Let's embrace our biases; scrutinize and understand them. And maybe, just maybe, our politics won't be as fucked up.

And as I say that... MARTIN NIEVERA PA RIN!!!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

On Kidapawan and Militant Rallies

It's been a firestorm of emotion ever since April Fool's Day. The Faculty Center of my Alma mater burned down prompting my college friends and acquaintances to start reminiscing and organizing support initiatives. With the emotion at a high, Kidapawan happened and my timeline was filled with unrivaled anger coming from even the most happy-go-lucky individuals.

With a re-energized Facebook friends list, political discussions ramped up. Kidapawan became the major focus of discussions and a lot was covered. Leftist friends started antagonizing pro-administation sentiments. Some showed appreciation for the men and women in uniform who were there at the location. And yet, a few remained silent - me included.

What happened in Kidapawan was truly sad and there's no denying that fact. With Mother Earth's unwavering, merciless wrath destroying their means of survival, people joined a rally to get reprieve. There, their source of help turned the other cheek and decided to continually ignore them. Until finally, their permit expired and they were left to either return to where they were in the first place or remain where they are and hope for some sort of relief. They chose the latter, relief never came and all hell broke loose.
I've touched on the paltry state of of our agricultural sector on my last post (link). With the continuing heat wave our country is experiencing, we may have reached the tipping point. And it is fair to say even if you are not in the fields that making ends meat through farming is getting harder and harder.

As I've mentioned, I've kept silent, relatively, regarding what happened. Hey, our president has basically done the same thing, right? Surely the leader of our nation knows the best course of action, right? In my silence, several issues have popped up. Several of them are regarded as facts we haven't changed at the moment while others are mere speculations. The torrent of information coming from the media is amazing and most of us are unable to keep up.

As of right now, we don't know what really went down. The PNP and the CHR have promised investigations in the coming days. But there have been reports of the police cleaning up evidence immediately after the confrontation. There was also a report that gun powder was detected on one of the protesters through a paraffin test. But then again, a paraffin test has its limitations. It can yield false positives especially if the one being tested has been handling tobacco or fertilizer, things a farmer would usually have (link). We have a bunch of politicians condemning what happened. We also have reports of the government's inability to release funds, food and supplies quickly enough to help the farmers cope with the heat. And, perhaps most prevalent recently, there have been reports that leftist organizations were the ones that urged the farmers to join the rally

But through all the things being reported, there is one thing that hasn't made its way to me through mass media: police procedures. I don't know, maybe I haven't been as focused on the news lately. But the lack of details on how things should be handled from my choice of news programs is troubling. And maybe a lot of my friends on Facebook are in the same boat because they're not talking about it.

Checking on the PNP Handbook (link), it's pretty clear that the main focus of police officers, or civil disturbance management team, is peace. There is a clear procedure to be followed and strict guidelines are put in place. The handbook also explicitly states that no firearm is to be brought within 100m of the rally. Police on the ground have said they gave warning shots. If they were following their handbook, would they even have that option? Plus, according to the handbook, warning shots are prohibited during police operations. TV5's Ed Lingao did a great job summarizing this in a Facebook post (link).

I once said in the past that "rules are not meant to be followed, they should be justified (link)". So let's justify this rule. Let's assume that the activists were the ones that attacked first and the police see their colleagues getting attacked by rocks and sticks. Is it justifiable for them to break the rule and use guns? Well, they are expected to be better-trained and physically fit. And the police are armed with better equipment. But what if the protesters had guns? I mean, one police allegedly sustained a bullet wound to the leg. Does that justify the usage of firearms? Sure! But that doesn't justify the continued "warning" shots seen on videos. And then again, those guns shouldn't have been there in the first place which, by the way, I think is a troublesome rule but a rule nonetheless. And a rule that, had been followed, could have prevented deaths. And it's also a rule that's still not being followed.
Through all this, I'm not discounting the heroism of our police officers. Most of them risk with some even losing their lives to protect our freedoms. But three people died and countless were injured on both sides. And even then, the DILG did not wait for any form of investigation to reward our men.

The issue of politics, whether you're a leftist or not, should take a backseat. The lack of professionalism being displayed by the government is worrisome. The bureaucracy's lack of effective and efficient service provision led to the farmer's desperation. I'm not usually one to prejudge prior to any investigation. But the police lacked the professionalism to follow their own rules. And the president remaining silent through all this is... well... you know.

Militant rallies happen all the time. Them urging the poor to join them is akin to your usual political candidates urging people to vote for them using their deep pockets and nonsensical jingles. It's dirty. But it is what it is. And just like those politicians, these leftists deserve the same professional, impartial and impersonal government whenever they come in contact with it. And those unknowing farmers certainly deserve that sort of governance as well.

This government that once said that it is not responsible for the seeking of justice for the Mendiola Massacre (link) is once again showing a complete lack of professionalism. This nation deserves better.


They put food on our tables. It's our turn to put food on theirs.Tulong Kabataan is now accepting donations for our fellow Mindanao Farmers. Please refer to the poster for details.#BIGAShindiBALA
Posted by KABATAAN PARTYLIST on Tuesday, 5 April 2016


A very important message from Dr. John Paul Vergara and the Ateneo University Press: The Ateneo de Manila University...
Posted by Rica Bolipata Santos on Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Startup Hopes to Open Up Agricultural Investments

The Philippines is a rich, fertile country with long winding rivers and multiple lakes. With these topographical characteristics, it would be easy to think that the country's agricultural sector is a major economic driving force. But unfortunately, that is not the case.

The Philippine agricultural sector has lagged behind its neighboring competition. With a whole host of issues like corruption, as exemplified by the Coco Levy Fund, infrastructure problems like irrigation and farm-to-market-road problems and lack of capital, the agricultural sector can be considered one of the most inefficient sectors of our economy. According to a paper by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (link), 57% of families whose head works in agriculture live in poverty. A good chunk of the workers in the sector don't have access to electricity and potable water which are essential in productivity. Current conditions and a lack of effective leadership has hindered in the development of one of the sector.

With the realities that are plaguing the sector, a startup company by the name of Cropital (link) has sprouted to help farmers gain capital as well as to give potential investors a medium to the sector.

Cropital is a company headed by three young entrepreneurs looking to provide a new market to potential investors. The capital is drawn from people who invest through the website. Each investor is free to choose the specific farm they wish to invest in. Cropital keeps 10% of the farms' profits, investors keep 20%. and the farmers keep 70%. These are desirable numbers for the farmers if you compare it to loan sharks who charge upwards of 40% interest even if the farmers don't turn a profit. It is also a decent alternative to placing their land on collateral. Ultimately, the farmers win because they are given another option to take their business to another level.

Browsing through their website, we will see a focus on high value crops and an absence of rice farms. The long-term crop currently available is napier which is used for renewable energy while short-term crops include beans, bitter melon (ampalaya), tomatoes, cabbages and pechay. As of writing, all farms are fully funded. But liking their Facebook page (link) would keep you up-to-date with more farms in need of funding.

As with other investments, there are risks to be considered. This has prompted the company to find ways to mitigate them. The company has partners with the local governments to help in interviewing and ultimately determining suitable farming partners. Aside from that, the capital to be raised also includes crop insurance from the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation. Pests are also mitigated as farmers are aided by agriculturists. It seems the main risk investors are to look out for is the market. Because even though the company has their own buyers and even if they cluster up the farms to improve market strength, the market is still a volatile entity. But at the same time, all forms of investment have to deal with market volatility from time to time.

I don't usually publish somewhat promotional posts for my blog. But in this case, I'm not simply promoting a company. I am promoting an approach to farming that should be considered.

Our farms have usually been operated by single proprietors who have to find ways to gain capital to be efficient or, at the very least, operational. With the level of bank-ability of the small farmers that comprise a significant amount of the sector, we have struggled to produce globally competitive goods from the sector. Mar Roxas once alluded to the problem and called for consolidation to improve productivity through economies of scale. But this may ultimately be disastrous to the farmers who are, more likely than not, ill-educated. Hopefully, with a system similar to that of Cropital, farms would have the resources to get with the times and be efficient and self-sustaining. Consolidation or the hacienda system may prove productive with certain crops. But with the help of a profit-driven entity willing to accept the limitations of the farmers/partners' resources, a shift to different methods or even higher value crops prompted by an informed company should lead to productivity as well.

Capital is a major problem for small farmers. And start-ups like Cropital should help with that aspect of the industry.

With the private sector slowly finding effective ways to fund the industry, it's time for the government to put down effective capital outlays to help our farmers. They continue to call for irrigation and farm-to-market roads. Such requirements may only be fulfilled effectively and efficiently by an accountable bureaucracy.