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.

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.

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.