February 27, 2010

Sta. Ana, Manila, Philippines


Mr. Jun Asuncion;

 Dios marhay na hapon po.

 Last Thursday (Feb. 25), on my way to Manila from Davao City, I was bombarded with calls and text messages from friends and relatives abroad and also in the Philippines to confirm the message/s appearing and circulating in the email accounts, particularly the accounts of my contacts, allegedly coming from me that I am asking people for financial assistance amounting to 1600 pounds to pay for my hotel bills, as I was stranded in UK for a project and that I am in dire need of money and asking for financial assistance, etc.

 Apparently, the same messages were sent and forwarded to my other contacts, if not all, by the impostor, who was able to gain access to my password ( Even  “dora the mouse” (Angelita Kowalewski) was shocked upon reading the message, and according to her, she was already contemplating of sending money to me, had she not received my email to her disclaiming the doing of the hacker/swindler. Worst, upon my arrival in Manila, I could no longer open my email account, its password has been altered or changed by the hacker/swindler. Even worst, I could not recall the email addresses of all my other contacts out there, and because of this incident, I could not anymore send information or clarification to them on the matter.

 Jun, thru your blog (BO), I would like to take this opportunity to inform everyone that the message/s appearing below (italics in Red) are not true and fictitious. Because, I’ve never been to UK and I did not even attempt to enter UK. I am here in the Philippines, working as Legal Officer in the anti-narcotics agency of the government. I would assume that the message/s herein below is the work of a swindler/crook to deceive the public, using somebody’s name for personal gain, advantage and interest.

 I denounce and condemn this act in the strongest possible terms. Thank you very much, Jun.


 Benjamin “Benjie” Gaspi


 NB: My new official email add: ( but, I am also using ( as my unofficial alternate email. Kindly disregard or delete the email add (, salamatunon tabi, mabuhay ka!

 REPRODUCED  hereunder are the email message/s sent by the swindler/hacker to all my contacts to deceive people, and enrich himself/herself at my expense.


From: Benjamin Gaspi

Sent: Thu, February 25, 2010 5:38:02 PM

Subject: Please help

“Hope you get this on time, sorry I didn’t inform you about my trip in UK for a Program, I’m presently in UK and am having some difficulties here because i misplaced my wallet on my way to the hotel where my money and other valuable things were kept. presently i have limited access to internet, I will like you to assist me with the loan of 1600 pounds to sort-out my hotel bills and to get myself back home.

 I have spoken to the embassy here but they are not responding to the matter effectively, I will appreciate whatever you can afford to assist me with, I’ll Refund the money back to you as soon as i return,let me know if you can be of any help.I don’t have a phone where i can be reached.

Please let me know immediately.





Reflections On The Realities Of Social Change


 by  jun asuncion


Part I


I. Bulan Observers and Social Change

Social change comes in different ways,  from different directions, tools- and even distances. The “mighty pen” is one of the most economical tools for social change but its message cuts across time and space. So it’s not bad to be away from home because  then we are left only with this economical yet powerful option. To go home and actually change the politics sounds also interesting but, for me and for now, we just leave it to our people in Bulan as we continue with our goal of creating a big Bulan-On-line Community of observers. Writing and observing have also their proper place in social change and in the culture of Bulan in general and has a deeper effect on Bulanenõs perception.

 For social change begins in the minds of the people, a perceptual re-organization as people adjust to the totality of their experience as Bulanenõs resulting to changed behavior. To this experience belong also things that they read, see and hear.

 Hence, it is important that communication exists between our people and our local leaders, between people like us who are away yet send messages if we sincerely desire to contribute to a positive change in Bulan. Writing alone can not effect change, so as leadership that is just concerned with power and self-aggrandizement. It needs this communication in form of a constructive dialogue, a working together for the good of each. 

We cannot change the system in Bulan if there would be no change in the national level in terms of concrete electoral reforms or totally blame the De Castros for their permanent political  eminence for as many other local political clans throughout the country, they are just beneficiaries of this defective democratic culture, defective from the perspective of people who suffer from its imperfections, or from a nation whose reputation internationally is bad, but a perfect democracy from the perspective of those who benefit from its imperfections.

The least thing we can do is to help in a way as to make Bulan a different town from the rest, – a growth-sensitive town with freedom-loving and responsible people, support only the good intentions of the De Castros and those of future leaders so that when the electoral reforms  become a reality, Bulan would be the first to respond positively.

Going home can not change the politics that we decry for it is about the whole system that is to be changed. To paraphrase Marx, “Filipino intellectuals have only interpreted Philippine politics, the point however is to change it”.

In our setting, this change  is not to be achieved through revolution or “call to arms”  for these had already achieved their goal, namely, that of restoring  some pieces of democracy in our recent history, or, as  in the earlier revolutions, that of achieving freedom from foreign oppressors.  Some pieces because “our”democracy is incomplete when leadership and constituency are still miles apart from each other, meaning, political leadership that can not respond to the needs of the constituency and a constituency which has no proper representations in Congress and which has no direct influence to the affairs of government except during election every three or six years wherein things do not go properly anyway for votes are sold and bought, politicians promise fictions, cheat and kill one another, voters tyrannized, misled or abused.

It is neither achievable through moral revolution for we really do not know concretely what it is or what constitutes moral revolution. For me this is an empty phrase that’s why it has never functioned in the Philippines,  a phrase invented by those leaders to excuse themselves from their corrupt practices and to fool the masses.

But before everything, it is proper to ask this: Did we ever have a democracy before? I’m afraid there was  none not even during the time of the Americans who took pride in introducing it to the Filipinos. What we inherited was a corrupted form of democracy over a hundred years ago when the Americans left and plundered what  the Spanish plunderers could no longer take with them. What Marcos did was to corrupt it more that the pain went beyond what was  tolerable, forcing  the people to regain it by force. (You see that the strength of tyranny depends after all on  the capacity of the people to be patient with it. At the moment, the Iranians are losing their patience with their dictators and it’s just a matter of time before the whole repressive system will collapse. Social change in Middle East  happening before our eyes.)

Again, the  “democratic” America helped Marcos in all his endeavors of ridiculing this “American” legacy.  I still vividly recall how George Bush, Sr. lauded Marcos for his “adherence to democratic principles” during his visit in Malacañang, a capitalistic statement that pierced through the hearts  of repressed and suffering Filipino people. Well, this is real politik, a face with many ugly faces.  America has a double definition of democracy.

In essence,  during the EDSA  revolutions what we regained or restored was the old form of corrupted democracy. Hence, the pain continues.

 This pain is the reason for all of these outcries for systemic change and reforms, the reason for all our acute sensitivities to all forms of social inequalities and political corruption.

The cry for social change  that fosters social justice is in the heart of every compassionate Filipino. There are however stumbling blocks to these goals aside from the reforms in question. Namely, people tend to be very passive and concerned with their own security. This stops them from involving themselves with social change movements. Or, as in culture theory of social change, there is this problem of free-riding, meaning that if someone believes  the movement will succeed without him, “he can avoid participation in the movement, save his resources, and still reap the benefits“.

This is naturally bad to have such “social change parasites”, but this is a phenomenon everywhere. We just don’t have to focus on that but rather on those people who want to actively shape the future of their town and nation- and I  guess there are many of them in Bulan.

Hence, we  can view Bulan Observer as a movement for social change, not just an ordinary blog, but a movement that aims to mobilize Bulaneños at home and abroad to be sensitive to the greater  principles that shape a brighter future for Bulan. As pointed out, there are many ways and small intermediate steps that lead to this goal as we (actively) wait for that legislative  national reforms. In the same way that we care for our town’s future, we should not forget that Bulan has also an active role to play in achieving those urgent reforms that the nation needs. Bulaneños can show it this coming election by choosing carefully the right group of candidates to occupy the legislative and executive seats of the national government.

 II. To The Victor Go The Spoils

Social change in Maguindanao

 Looking back, the Ampatuan massacre has shown us that it is not after all impossible to dismantle  powerful and murderous political families  in the Philippines. Any Filipino president- as this experience has shown us- is after all also able to enforce justice,  peace and order if he or she is willing or possesses the right political skills.

But no one would buy it that Mrs. Arroyo was willing in this case- she was just  forced to yield to the pressure from the Filipinos and from the international community.  Thanks to modern technology which allows communication to spread with a lightning speed, hence, allowing people to quickly  expose  such disasters or tragedies.

Not willing? For according to the presidential spokeswoman Fajardo (who  left her post already), President Arroyo remains friends with the Ampatuans despite allegations that the clan perpetrated the massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao last November 23… that the president “would not turn her back on political allies even though they (Ampatuans) were in that situation”. Yes, perhaps declaring Martial law in Maguindanao was one of the ways of not turning her back from her political allies who cheated and intimidated Maguindanao folks  a couple of times for her to win the previous elections.

This is a murderous statement of loyalty: murderous for the Filipino people, for truth and justice and for journalism. This is the dirtiest political statement I have ever heard, a president declaring her loyalty to bestial criminals. Or was Fajardo just out of her mind to issue such a statement before the  world? In a way we sympathize with Fajardo for she’s got a difficult job of always lying for the president. So we just hope she was lying on her own at that time.

Ideally, people from the political  clans should also be subjected to punitive measure when they commit felony, should be treated like any criminal offender. But political patronage also distorts the judicial, the legislative, the military and to some extent the private and business sector- even the arts and education. On the other hand, big time businessmen and industrialists expecting  government favors- are also instruments of corruption in the Philippines for they are the ones offering bribes.

But the greatest mistake starts with the power of the president to appoint “his or her “officials and the lack of control mechanism (which is again due to this patronage system) in the Philippines, high-level appointments made by the president go uncontrolled by the legislative branch. Therefore,  in the Philippines the president has her private chief justice, her private ombudsman, her private  generals,  etc.

Hence, what can you expect when the president has privatized the country,  having her fingers everywhere? The nation is dirty- and bloody, the same situation as the Marcos’ time.

Marcos appointed allied generals and even let them occupy civilian posts, a practice started by Ramon Magsaysay only that he got good intention; Marcos who had the selfish intention of remaining in power by all means abrogated  democracy and used  the military to achieve his ends.

As I have mentioned somewhere, this massacre just went out of proportion and so it became a problem for Arroyo. Critics say that declaring Martial Law over Maguindanao was just a trick to help the Ampatuans because then the  administration can limit public access to important objects and places that could be very relevant for the trial against the Ampatuans.

In any case, this Ampatuan massacre  will be the legacy- or, if you want it, the diploma-  of Arroyo’s presidency. I have no idea why she’s running for a congressional seat this coming election. Has she not given up the idea of charter change and her ambition of becoming a prime minister?  To make up for her mess- or to continue with her mess? Well, with the Ampatuans in jail, she has lost one of her important allies and protectors, with some military generals and officers  suspected of being involved in this massacre she had lost some personal bodyguards. And there are other corruption cases waiting for her outside the doors of Malacañang once she steps out of it. Would congress offer her the needed sanctuary of her troubled soul, would it shield her from eventually joining her southern allies in prison?

Praying for a peaceful election?

These political candidates on the lists for the 2010 election- whether from a political dynasty or not-  should not just be proud in telling the nation that they are praying for a peaceful election. They should rather realize by now the urgency of the need for electoral reforms, that to have peace in the Philippines is  to serve the people  in the first place and to put into practice the democratic principles that have existed in theory already as early as  1935.

The Philippines is in need of a good president next year, not a movie star, but somebody who respects the laws and push for these urgent reforms,  a president who puts the country first and not his political allies and who is willing to lead the millions of hardworking Filipinos to a better and decent place they deserve.

 It’s the system that corrupts any good politician from realizing his or her initially good dreams for the town, for the country, that the system should change for the Philippines to improve. But since the system can not change itself, it needs a strong president who knows how to use properly his  great deal of authority as provided by the constitution. A president with political skills and  the strong political will  to change the system by strengthening the existing democratic institutions (Congress, Supreme Court..) and push for the realization of  political reforms we all have wanted since ages, like:

1. Abolishing or Prohibiting Political Patronage

 Political patronage ruins the Philippines because:

–  it leads to widespread political corruption, poor and inefficient governance and delivery of basic services. This happened in the U.S. in the 1800’s, the time when the Filipinos  were still fighting for freedom from Spain.

–  it  interrupts continuity. This is typical characteristic of political patronage system as a wholesale turnover occurs when a political party losses election. Appointed positions being taken over by the next appointed people who supported the victorious party or official during the election campaign; unfinished projects of the predecessor will not be finished or continued.

– the power to appoint positions by the executive official undermines democratic process and growth for such appointments are generally not being checked; sinecures- or paid offices without responsibilities- are created.

– Patronage is the pervasive political virus. It infects  all other institutions- the Judiciary, the Legislative, the Ombudsman, the military officers and so on.

The nucleus of the patronage system is the Filipino Utang na loob, a negative trait within the Philippine political context. Any candidate for higher government position who wins the election appoints people who helped campaign for him. This contributes to the downgrading of public service as important positions may go to unqualified appointees or spoils.

The Civil Service Commission is mandated by law to safeguard the quality of public service. I’ve visited its site and was impressed by their missions and visions, the professionalism, etc. But I wondered why we still have all these serious problems of quality service in the Philippines, prompting me to think that this commission is also suffering from the Lip Service Commission that is very dominant in our country.

 2. Abolishing the Pork Barrel & Budget Process

These two institutions nurture corruption at the national level in the real sense of the word because they give the money to the congressmen of each district and senator and the freedom to deal with them at their own discretion, uncontrolled.

This Pork Barrel or the Priority Development Assistance Fund does not reach its proper benefactors, namely, the local communities represented by each congressman, funds supposedly for infrastructures ( hospitals, school buildings,  roads…) environmental projects and other developments.

(And if the Congressman representing our region is not really in good terms with the governor and/or with the town mayor, then there are problems with funds for certain projects, perhaps  like what is happening until now with our sick Pawa Hospital.)

 The Budget Processing that occurs in Congress offers the opportunity for our greedy congressmen to inject more pork barrel in their departmental budgets with the argument that public funds appropriation is a legislative priority. This “legislative priority” opens the door to their kickbacks. Indeed, many of our  lawmakers are there to break the law and to cheat the public.

3. Enforce The Development Of Strong and Program-Oriented Political Parties

This is the only way to abolish personality politics (usually screen, sports, media personalities- or  young military coup leaders) in the country, prohibit “political prostitution”– or the shifting of party depending on the politicians’ caprice, and re-introduce the  straight party voting.

Historically, it was America who left behind a colony in the hands of those they had used for their own colonial purposes, namely, the  landlord families and few elite- the first oligarchs in the Philippines who made it a point to control the masses just where they are, namely, away from affairs of the government- for there  are the instruments for  social change which could only threaten the way things as they are now.

Leave  things as they are now? This cannot be. For as long as there are enough people with the ability to reflect, the reality of social change is inevitable.

And we are for a brighter nation. We are for a brighter Bulan.

Part II

Marcos’  Revolution From Within, or The Abduction Of The People.

Revolution is the twin brother of dictatorship, and Marcos the dictator had his twin brother- this Revolution From Within. The world has produced ruthless dictators with their ruthless twin brothers: Hitler annihilated over 6 million Jews, countless other people like the the European Zigeuner or gypsies, socially misfits and regime enemies, not to mention all the other civilians killed during its occupation and/ or attacks on countries like France, Poland, Finland and Russia; Lenin Stalin with their October Revolution, Mao, with his Cultural Revolution and Great Leap, Mussolini, Pol-pot , Suharto, the Military regime in Burma, all those African, Caribbean and south American military dictators had also their own bloody style of revolution. Hence, Marcos had to invent one for him and he called it the Revolution From Within.

With him and his revolution, the Philippines had involuntarily joined the list of nations that had produced high-profile dictators. But Marcos’ revolution from within did not help our national treasury from remaining within the country, as opposed to Suharto who kept the money within Indonesia. No wonder why the Indonesians also kept him when he died, while Marcos was also shipped out of the country when he fell, with his remains when he died being allowed only to be shipped back for “humanitarian” reason.

Bloody revolutions as vehicle for social change? Definitely. The Filipinos had fought several wars and revolutions already within the country’s borders and even outside its borders as in Korea and Vietnam. Its war against the communists and Muslim separatists movements are its longest wars being waged. Wars  had definitely changed the Phiippines- socially, culturally and economically.

But had all these revolutions changed the Filipinos from within? Did it change his Kaloob-looban? Did he learn from these experiences?

Definitely the Filipino psyche was changed after all those revolutions and social upheavals. But to what extent and how?

This is the point that tells us that it is difficult to talk about moral revolution or revolution from within an individual and take it as a starting point for socio-political chage for the whole nation. It is true that a group is after all made up of individuals, and that the kind of individuals define the quality of the group.

But for a nation it is futile to wait for every Filipino to change for the better for there is no way to gauge it and then use this moment so to speak to make a complete turn. In fact, many of us are already inherently good within but these good qualities do not come to the fore because there are no good political structures and political culture that support and stimulate such good intentions. A political culture needs good leadership, a series of national leaders and reforms that would serve as the basis of a new and sustainable political culture in the Philippines. Here, the picture of a “single stone that ripples, spreads out and creates bigger circle” is actually more fitting in this context: a good national leadership ripples and creates bigger circle at a predictable time and quality of social change.

The OFW experience shows that within a good system, Filipinos can also shine and deliver excellent performances in their fields.

Hence, quite the contrary to Marcos’ concept of change, I believe that change must start from those who have the power and the tools, from government leaders, from within Malacañang, Congress, Senate, Supreme Court, the Military and the police, the Civil Service down to the local governments.

I’m not suggesting that the individual political attitude and degree of consciousness are not important (in fact, Bulan Observer is focussing on these areas). They are important catalysts of socio- political change (especially in countries with direct democracy like Switzerland) but the igniter of such catalysts reside in our government leaders in a country where the people have no direct political influence except during elections.

As I have observed, only corrupt politicians and dictators sell this idea of revolution from within or  moral revolution. Elsewhere, where government leaders are competent, honest and sincere, you don’t hear them urging the people for moral revolution or revolution from within.

Centuries of colonization and foreign oppressions had instilled in the Filipino mind that it is inferior and that those who are at the helm are superior. Filipino intellectuals call it as a social ill or social cancer and ill-willed politicians used it to their advantage.

Marcos, who had the intention of controlling the whole nation according to his own greed-dominated logic, did it, hence his concept of revolution from within to divert attention and fool the people by making them responsible for the social decline during his rule of repression and plundering.

You may also call it a social cancer or whatever but this is not proper for there is no cancer but just this habit of viewing ourselves as victims. But this is an old habit, not really a grave illness that invalidates the Filipinos, for Filipinos could be very energetic, patient, productive and industrious when motivated. And is not a good national leadership a valid motivation?

Having seen what Marcos did during those years, I found no convincing reason to read his written works. It must have been better if he were a dictator in his writings, but a democrat in his actions. In this case I would have been impelled to read his books.

But then again, to put things in proper perspective, Marcos’ Revolution From Within was politically a revolution against the people of the Philippines, against the democratic processes. This occured in 1973 when Marcos issued Proclamation No. 1102 proclaiming his personally tailored 1972 Constitution as ratified by the Citizen’s Assembly, an assembly consisting of  individuals hand-picked by Marcos to substitute for the Congress which he disbanded earlier and as substitute for the people themselves when he stopped the holding of the initially announced and scheduled February 1973 plebiscite by issuing the General Order No. 20. With the backing of the Supreme Court and the military, Marcos easily achieved his goals. In essence, this was a revolution within the government or within the Malacañang or of the highest executive office against the people.

It is against this background that we have to understand Marcos’ concept of social change, a social change through a revolution against the people at the same time advising the people to help him by undergoing a kind of moral revolution in order for his New Society to prosper. Wasn’t everything a form of deception? How could anyone call this a better solution to the alleged social ills of the Filipinos? Treachery and deception are no solutions. The 1986 revolution- a revolution from without, or outside the Malacañang-  had shown that they were indeed not the solutions.

Part III

Change or Keep The Change?

It seems that I was not alone who went home to capture the election “fever” in the Philippines. I was in Bulan for actually just two full days (May 4-5) to deliver medicines to the Sta. Remedios Charity Clinic and left for Manila in the early morning of May 6. Just two days of walking and driving around and enjoying the sights and sounds of Bulan community. I made an unscheduled visit to the Municipio to talk with Mayor Helen De Castro but she wasn’t there ( though I listened intently to her speech in Canipaan the evening I arrived; but better luck next time!). I noticed a long queue of young people on the first floor just before the mayor’s office. I supposed they were job-seekers, or there to claim what has been promised to them.

Before Bulan I was already in many places in the northern part of Luzon. That’s the reason why I said to some people there in Bulan that our town is relatively a clean town, cleaner than the other towns I saw. I used to go before 6: oo in the morning to the market and at this time you could already see some workers dusting up the main streets of Bulan. I particularly enjoy Maclane Street for its proportions: for a town, its such a long and wide street. Now that it has lamp posts on each side, one feels like being in a city. A City? Well, for a town we love there is no limit to the dreams we can dream for it. For we only desire the best for it, isn’t it? Personally, that’s the reason why I sometimes laugh about our politics because this diverts us from our most common dream for Bulan. I am for leaders who don’t miss this dream, who don’t abuse their power and do not enrich themselves at the expense of the people. It’s not about Guyala, Gotladera or De Castro but about leadership with social responsibility and conscience.

With the daily temperature of 39-39 degrees centigrade, the election day was sweltering hot, a real fever. But I have seen how the people braved the heat the whole day queuing just to give their votes. In a place where I receive the ballots per mail, read the issues in the quite of my room, make my choice in between sips of coffee and then just drop them in the next mailbox, I could only give my highest respect to those voters last May 10 who waited for hours. I especially think about those people who did not sell their votes but voted according to their convictions. I think the future of a better Philippines rests on these people- and on the political candidates who opposed this bad tradition of vote-buying. Still, it’s in opposition that change can happen.

But what is basically wrong with this tradition of vote-buying and why don’t we just tacitly consent it? In my view, money used in this context robs the people (including the politicians) of their senses. This explains all our problems.

A tradition is always hard to change, but it can be changed, and I guess that’s the point that every Bulaneño should know. We don’t need a bloody revolution for that. All that is needed is reflection and a little sacrifice. A political candidate who is proudly sure of the support of the people because of good leadership and achievements doesn’t need to buy the people, and the people who support the agenda of a politician, do not need to sell themselves. You may again blame poverty for this behavior, but there were many poor local voters who did not sell themselves. I guess that if people wouldn’t prefer to “keep the change”, decent change would occur.

I was in Biton for a swim. The sea was clean and the scenery fantastic. So I was in my element for such experiences always inspire me- no longer to swim but just to sit and walk around and absorb and be absorbed by the beauty of being. It should have been a perfect day had it not for this ear-rupturing comment that I heard from a German who lives there: “Ohne corruption, würde es keine Filipinos mehr geben”- that “Without corruption, Filipinos would cease to exist.” What a disparaging generalization coming from somebody who doesn’t even know Heine or Feuerbach. The poetry of the day was instantly gone! Now comes dirty politics again- in a place I never expected. But that German did not expect the same that this time he won’t go unpunished for his arrogant comments. The winds changed direction as I began to frame the debate within the greater context of world history and current events in Germany. Were it not for the gentle kicks under the table and oculesics coming from my “camp” telling me to slow down, the place would have burned- in the fire of my apologia, naturally.

Yes, incompetent leaders, corrupt presidents, justices and generals, Ampatuan monsters, astronomic foreign debts, corruption, vote-buying, political violence, poor education and ignorance have increased our vulnerability. You can’t help but defend- it’s instinctive- even if you know there is a kernel of truth and even when it comes from a primitive German whose trunk reminds one of a huge barrel of beer about to break. (He told me his family name is Krüger. Krug is the German for jug or pitcher, and Krüger means a jugmaker. There is a Geman idomatic expression which says, “Der Krug geht so lange zum Brunnen, bis er bricht.” or, ” The jug goes to the well until it breaks”, which means, one day you’ll take it too far and you’ll come to grief. I think Mr. Krüger went too far that lovely afternoon…but we sailed home quick before the breaking.)

Now, as a nation, as a town, how do we manage vulnerability, how do we keep ourselves from breaking totally? This brings us back to the old discussions about electoral, political, educational and moral reforms. For now, I would say go for change, but avoid keeping the change for when money dictates, the bad tradition continues and so as this social order with all its problems.

Ninoy Aquino has vowed to combat corruption, hence, to introduce vulnerability management-“If there were no corrupt, there would be no poor.” He said that “Corruption is the single biggest threat to our democracy. It deprives the poor of the social services they badly need. It destroys the very moral fiber of our society. No reform agenda will succeed without a determined program to eradicate corruption.”

Well, this sounds good to start with. Good intention deserves support. Be reminded, however, that a campaign mantra is not a solution yet to the problem of corruption. I expect to see his concrete vulnerability management plan as soon as he assumes office.

But it’s in planning that one is faced with various factors that must be considered: He needs to have a solid presence in the Congress; the huge national debt of over P4.358 trillion and the pressures from the international lending institutions (IMF, WB) will surely have effects on his policies on taxations and budget spending. Fighting corruption means not only law enforcement and putting behind bar corrupt colleagues but-in my view- a fight against poverty and for better education. And here I see the problem that Aquino will face in his fight against corruption: it’s the problem of capital. How can he spend more for education and against poverty amidst the huge national debt and pressures from the lending institutions? Don’t you know that you owe these institutions P47, 247? Yes, each of us 92 million Filipinos carry this debt burden.

But still, the point that he is determined to fight corruption is already a good attitude (what Arroyo has lacked) as president-elect. For as Nietzsche says “‘He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how”. I suggest though that the people should support Aquino’s why but be cautious with his almost anyhow. Pay back the debts, but not at the expense of education and health programs.

Back to the poor people, it is right not to forget the poor and aim for the reduction and elimination of poverty in the Philippines- this is a social and moral responsibility of modern man. But in my observation, this slogan of helping the poor is a tool being used and abused by the rich, the oligarchs, and trapos to maintain their power and status quo. Truth be told, politics (Erap para sa mahirap, Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap, etc…) and religion in our country capitalize on the poor. It is easy to manipulate a hungry man or community, the reason why vote-buying works perfectly(and this first automated election has intensified it because there were no more ballot boxes for politicians to hijack) – the same with the promises of better (After-) life by materialistic religious preachers.

But did Philippine politics and church ever mention protecting, sustaining and strengthening the middle class? The middle class in the Philippines is disappearing and many of these people have been displaced outside the Philippines- those skilled migrant workers and intellectual capital. We know that the middle class stabilizes the society, it’s not easily manipulated, hence serves as the catalyst of social change and reforms. As Aristotle had observed during his time- and that was between 384-322 BC!- “The best political community is formed by citizens of the middle class”. I think Aristole would find in Switzerland of today a fine example of his community.

What made the voters brave the sun and wait for hours just to vote a corrupt candidate? That bloated German would argue that they were paid, that’s why. But even if I were paid, I would back out just because of the heat and the thirst and would not fall in line again. Indeed, faith moves mountain. For in that election day, I travelled around Luzon to observe and I was moved by the scenes I have seen. I thought that there must be something more to this. It’s neither just because of the most despised Arroyo administration nor of the cash that the politicians distributed but I think the Filipinos of today still have this faith that they could improve their country- and repay the debts we owe.

But there is a backlash to this, and that is the psychology of Filipino voters: This month’s election has shown that Filipino voters- bought or not- vote in terms of what is familiar already regardless of the records. Old names like Marcos, Estrada, Revilla, Enrile, Aquino- and even Arroyo or Ampatuans are back or have remained in the political scene. This mental attitude prevents change and gives the impression to any observer that Filipinos have impaired memory or simply “crazy” to vote for an ex-convict for president or support murdering political clans in the south.

And still, there are the local municipalities with their entrenched ruling warlords who won’t be ready to give up their extra sources of income like jueting, illegal logging, mining or sneaky little daily forms of deceit like that of adding an extra 0 (zero) on the receipt/check than the amount actually spent or issued (900 pesos is swiftly earned out of 100 pesos!). Laws against such crimes already exist, what Noynoy needs is to “enforce” law enforcement. Noynoy was not a high performance congressman of Tarlac(1998 to 2007) and senator (2007-2010) and not a single bill that he passed became a law but he could use his “moral” and political capital in defining his position in the country and using the right momentum to get things running from Day One, a difficult task for he has to wrestle first against the midnight sabotage that Gloria Arroyo has orchestrated.

Well, again we have an economist as president-elect and we all hope that he is not for keeping the change as Arroyo was but for a reduction of our national vulnerabilities, no matter how “noynoy” (little) it is.


Playing Politics


By Oliver Geronilla


Ask the children around you what they know about Bulan politics. I’m dead certain that you’d get the same answer that my childhood friends and I used to give: it’s all about the bigwigs plus their phalanx of entertainers and never about the nonentities.

Not a bad answer. At least they, or should I say we, know their names and the good and the bad things associated with them. What worries me is that these innocent children might have the notion that politics is all about these politicians, the external and internal struggles that they face, and how they paint reality according to their own world.

But why be bothered by these kids when they have no direct stake in the upcoming local election?

Well, we were all once like them. And we knew how amusing it was when election seasons kicked in. There were endless sources of entertainment to look forward to. Political junkets made us feel like we’re in a circus where music, dance, and other similar tricks were dime a dozen.

We didn’t care; we just took pleasure in all these jollities which went on and on like eternity. Then without us noticing it, the time came when we could start exercising our right to vote. Sadly, we’re no longer amused with their old tricks. But…oh yes, we still remember the names that entertained us every election season. And lo and behold! They’re still part of the “numbers game.”

Of course, there are some variations. For instance, when I was 16, it was Mr. Guillermo De Castro who was at the helm; and now that I’m 31, it’s his wife who’s there. She’s running for office again, and many say that she will once again win.

I was told about the many fine accomplishments of the De Castros: they’ve done these and those and have made our town more attuned to the times. According to my high school classmates, the signs of progress are everywhere. In fact, they enumerated quite a lot. Good tidings, aren’t they?

Bulanenos won’t forget these things. For sure, such accomplishments can help the incumbent mayor win the race again. That’s a good track record that’s hard to beat and the best launch pad she can ever have.

Are these things due to her efforts and of those manning the LGU? Or is it because of what we call “concurrent development” which might result in progress trap if not properly carried out?

I think it’s mainly due to concurrent development wherein we don’t have much of a choice but to forge ahead; otherwise, we’d be facing problems that are difficult to solve due to lack of resources which can of course halt further progress. It does not really matter who is in control. Progress in our town is inevitable given the kind of people that we have, not because of the kind of politicians that we have.

Remove them from the office, and the whole state of affairs will continue. A new set of  leaders will come to the rescue, and things will get back to normal. No one is so indispensable.

The opposition members will certainly have the “burden of proof” for they have not proven anything substantial yet. They’ll be articulating their promises, their aspirations. And you and I know that these are the main fares of election banquets. Partake but never be fooled for most of them are just empty roughage meant to satiate us temporarily. Forewarned is forearmed.

The official campaign period for local posts next month is nothing more than what we call “cramming.” Political candidates make themselves busy with all kinds of sorties conceivable just to get the figures that they need to win the battle of bailiwicks.

Do Bulanenos still get amused with the candidates’ old tricks? What I know is that nowadays, people cast their votes not based on these last- minute efforts to make the electorate vote for them. They cast their votes based on how these candidates –novice or not–measure up to their expectations from childhood to the present.

That’s their gauge. No more, no less.

My question is: What are these expectations? Well, they come in full spectrum.

I’m no longer a kid, and I know what’s right and what’s wrong; who are sincere, and who are not. And election season is not really about entertainment and the bigwigs. It is about making the right choice.



Doing Things Right and Doing the Right Thing



By Oliver Geronilla


 Most of the columns that I write for dailies and the articles that I turn in here at BO dwell on empirical matters that reflect our current state of affairs including, of course, my take on them.

For the columns that I write or co-write for newspapers, I get paid. For the articles I write for BO, I don’t get paid, but I feel elated. In both cases, I do my best to turn out highly credible and well-written commentaries. That’s my pledge, my commitment to the art of writing. And that, for me, is the right thing to do, isn’t it?

 Here at BO, after reading some pieces or comments, observers can opt to do many things. In fact, they have a wide range of alternatives to choose from in order to express their views on what they read and perceive. They can talk about them with their neighbors, their colleagues, their friends, and their family members; they can also keep a journal; or they can even “harness” BO as a platform to share their thoughts and ideas. After all, it is a “place” where such observations can be expressed and hopefully read and understood by the readers.

 Talking about reading, we all know that there are what we call passive readers and active readers. Both of them are observers, but not both of them are active participant-observers. When participation takes place, that observer joins the discussion by giving comments and suggestions or by writing articles. Mr. Jess Guim is a good example of an active participant-observer. He does not simply pontificate, he practices what he preaches.

 We have more examples of active participant-observers who have graced the electronic pages of BO with their well-thought-out articles. Sometimes, you see them, sometimes you don’t. Just like good neighbors, we refrain from being intrusive, from giving unnecessary provocation, from being snooty. We just give them all the space and time that they need; and in some rare occasions, we coax “observers” to say their piece in a unified prose. Alas, only a few have risen to that challenge. Do I have qualms about that? No, I don’t. Not even an iota.

 That’s doing the right thing.

 Going back to the subject of writing, we know that normally, effective writers are good observers. But are good observers also effective writers? Your guess is as good as mine. Writing style is a matter of taste. Effective writing is a matter of discipline; it reflects erudition; it promotes learning. There’s no single formula towards achieving fluidity in prose. Otherwise, it’d be like math where precision and accuracy reign.

 Writing should not be confused with the rules of grammar or diction. Writing is the end-result of our experiences, both professional and personal.

 So, my question is: why do we give pieces of advice on the ropes of writing when some of us have not even shown a proof of what constitutes “good writing”? Remember, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

 Our discussion on “writing” has drawn many comments from our readers. I just don’t see the need to tell others what to do. Even in writing workshops, we try to do away from giving run-of-the-mill suggestions. What we usually do is to encourage and guide participants to express themselves more succinctly without sacrificing clarity and content. And this entails practice and professional training. That’s doing things right.

 I am a writer, and I know what it takes to be one. For the serious ones, writing is a highly cerebral artistic expression; for the uninitiated, it is nothing but a mere form of human communication.

 Sadly, I can see a correlation between the issues we’ve tackled here about writing and the issues that haunt the kind of politics and politicians that we have in Bulan. They share the same problem.

 We always seem to know what is right. We always tell them what to do. And when we don’t get what we want, we raise a hue and cry about them.

 But can we blame them? Can you blame us? Until now, the LGU appears to have been under a spell of silence. Its PIO has remained mum about my queries. Is this the right thing to do? Is he doing things right? My blind horse neighs. Is it because I am just crying wolf? Beats me.

 Well, Mr. Gilana is an able participant-observer. And he is a good writer too. That is sure as God made little green apples. But what happened? Has he been reduced to silence with my questions?

 I am sometimes tempted to give him unsolicited advice—to do this, to do that. But that is simply not me. And that is not the right thing to do.