The Self-respect of Nations: The Philippines and China

by W. Scott Thompson and Oliver Geronilla

 

Somewhere in the first of Trollope’s 6-volume set Palliser Novels, “the Prime Minister,”  the Duke of Omnium, also the premier, tells his usually silly wife that—and we paraphrase—nations are like people:  they elicit (the) respect from outside powers to about the same extent that they do so on a personal basis—according to how much respect they give themselves.

We respect countries and people who respect themselves.  Costa Rica is truly a tiny country, but it eliminated its military, developed peaceful relations with its neighbors, and is considerably the most prestigious country in its neighborhood.  Botswana, by far the richest black state in Africa, even used its adversity during a drought to make itself still richer, but had a unified proud country pulling with it.

Recently, we have been reading with great interest the debate in the Philippine press of how to deal with China.  One of us has been reading this sort of thing for 42 years. This is in fact the most substantive debate on foreign policy we have seen here.

But we are bothered by a few things.  Let’s get some facts straight first.  The Philippines is not a ‘small’ country and it is not a ‘powerless’ country.  It’s going beyond even being a middle-sized country as it hits the 100million mark.

Now, in all respects China is bigger, richer, and far more militarily powerful.  So?  What else is new?  Throughout history smaller countries have had to find ways of dealing with stronger ones.  The only thing the smaller country must never do is make a big deal about how powerless it is.  For by such it becomes far weaker, even pathetic, in the eyes of the stronger.

How should the smaller power act?  There are some old shoes to use.  Of course one constantly reiterates the sovereign equality of nations.  It’s a bit meaningless if one is talking about navies, but it has a basis in history and law, at least back to the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.  It means that there is a prima facie basis for each power, no matter what size, respecting the others.

Now, to be sure, China has been ascending up a steep ladder.  Britain and then America, as they expanded, found ‘natural and historical’ rights to establish coaling stations (Shanghai, Bombay) that became colonies or extra-territorial enclaves. Empire Britain became.  America found ‘friends’ to rent all over the world as cold war fever swept over it, and poor countries like Ethiopia sold rights to its Asmara high ground, where a vital communications link was built to bring the world together—under American hegemony.

China historically has not gone in that way.  It never established a world empire.  It thinks regionally–whence its invasion of Vietnam in late 1978, to ‘teach it a lesson,’ though it seems like it was China that got taught a lesson.  Yet here’s the rub for the Philippines: It’s right in the way of China’s claim to maritime supremacy in its region.

Manila is right to build up its navy to minimize the danger.  It is wrong to go around feeling sorry for itself.  No one respects that.   But there is precedent. One of us, in September, will be publishing a long and authorized biography of former President Fidel Ramos, in which a major player is General Jose Almonte, himself quite a card to play, as the region’s foremost and smartest strategist.  FVR assigned Joal the job of dealing with China over the first real eruption of major problems with China over the Spratly islands.  Joal told us—and we are paraphrasing from the forthcoming biography—that he didn’t even believe in FVR’s assignment—to find a solution.  Joal understands power; he didn’t believe he had any cards to play.  But he rallied the region, even consulting Koreans and other nearby non-Asean powers.  He put China on the defensive and they began asserting that they were not a traditional great power; they weren’t trying to use might over right.  Ha!

General Almonte, to his own astonishment, achieved his purpose.  The Chinese backed down.  Of course there’s a lot of water over the dam since then—and a far larger Chinese navy.  What worked then must be tried harder today.  Insist in all fora on the ‘equality of nations;’ work the region as a whole.  Differences among Asean countries must be eliminated, as they play right into the Chinese hand.

Above all, achieve coherence at home.  Nothing strengthens a country more than the integrity of its political system and a growing economy.  Respect your president—give him the free hand he needs.  So far he’s been a winner abroad.  Does China want to look like a bully against a freely-elected (and overwhelmingly supported) young and popular leader?

Fight all you want domestically for advantage (but Ampatuan methods are ruled out), but as a nation be as one.  Foreign policy begins at the water’s edge, we always said.

Yet there are times when might makes right—for a time.  Still the picture of the beleaguered exiled emperor of Ethiopia at the League o Nations, after Italy defeated his forces in 1935, appealing on the grounds of sovereignty and dignity of his country, is one of the most popular of the 20th century.

If the Philippines doesn’t want to see its sovereignty violated, it must be wholly united, not by asking for pity on grounds of its powerlessness, but on grounds of its rights as a united political entity. This time it’s going to be a lot more difficult.  The Foreign Secretary looks like he’s got it right—and he’s a man of dignity who had to work for years in Washington with a weak hand to play; but he did it well.  Get Behind Secretary Del Rosario.  Be two nations if you will: a squabbling one internally (though the less so the better) but a coherent people with respect to foreign policy.

The Philippines has never had much interest in statecraft—compare Thailand.  Manila felt for too long it was protected by the US.  Even now it is putting wordly faith in its mutual defense treaty with Washington.  That has to get substantive.  Call a conference.  Put America more and more on the spot. Card by card build your hand.  The Philippines can’t stand up to China in a military conflict, but the Philippines can make that the least likely of scenarios.  In fact, we see the Philippines as having a quite strong hand in law of the sea, ASEAN unity, history, international law, and international prestige (the latter as applied to China as it wishes to present itself internationally).  Go for it!

————-

Oliver Geronilla is a language instructor based in the City of Dasmarinas .  W. Scott Thompson, D.Phil. served four presidents in the United States and is professor emeritus of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Boston .  He lives in Washington and Makati City and is the author of 14 books on international relations and Southeast Asian politics.


In Not So Recent Memory


by Oliver Geronilla

Taking a stroll down memory lane always makes me smile. I smile for all the things I did in the past—both good and bad.

March and April are special months. They are the months when graduations are held—the time when many– if not all school friends– say goodbye to each other. They’re also the months when I reminisce the graduations that I was a part of. At BNCS-A, I lead the graduates of school year 1991 in reciting the “Pledge of Loyalty.” We didn’t wear academic gowns then.

Weeks before the most anticipated day, we rehearsed two “graduation songs” (If We Hold on Together and The Greatest Love of All) which until now I still remember very clearly–both the lyrics and the melody. Our teachers painstakingly taught us how to pronounce the words correctly.  Mrs. Lilinda Golloso repeatedly told us to say MOUNT’NS and not MOUNTAYNS.

During the Closing Ceremonies, everyone was in high spirits except for me. I was disappointed– terribly disappointed. I felt bitter that time despite the two medals I received—a bronze medal for being the first honorable mention, and one gold medal for being the representative of our district to a science quiz bee.  In my mind, my teachers “cheated” me. I knew I wasn’t the best pupil, but I knew I was the second best among us.

I told mama and papa about my disappointment, but they just smiled at me; they were happy for what I achieved. They were proud of me. That’s what mattered.

From the processional down to the recessional, I wasn’t excited. But I could see that all parents were. We, the graduates, were there… just there trying to remember all the things we had to do. It was more of a performance.  There were speeches. There were rounds of applause. It was an academic pageantry that I wanted to erase from my memory.

That childhood angst lingered for more than a decade. I just couldn’t see beyond the end of my nose. Acceptance, or should I say “closure,” came only some years ago when I personally witnessed how academic rankings were actually done. It was far more complicated than I thought. That  gave me a blast of the past with a twist I failed to recognize.

Maybe it’s too late for me to personally extend my gratitude to my teachers back then at BNCS-A. After all, without them, I wouldn’t have learned the ropes of the English language. My elementary school teachers, for sure, played a pivotal role in shaping my future. That’s a fact of life I can’t deny. And that’s something I should forever be grateful.

Some of them are no longer with us mortals; some of them are now enjoying their retirement days. Some of them may still remember me: the lanky boy who didn’t copy the notes written on the board. I do still remember most of them. Who could forget, for example, our math teacher from  the 5th grade to the 6th grade? Her weapon was not the quintessential rod or stick –which every school teacher had that time–which could leave a bruise on our skin when we’re hit, but her (right?) thumb and index finger that could skillfully grab our sideboards …to either pull them up or down.  Addaayy!!

There’s, of course, our SIBIKA teacher who was fond of delivering monologues mouthing out all the names, places, and dates he could muster from our textbook.

(to be continued)

Whistling in the Dark

 

By Oliver Geronilla

 

From where I am, I can sense that Bulan politics is so still you could hear a pin drop. The pledge to be transparent, the enthusiasm to inform and be informed have all vanished into thin air–perhaps corked in the trapos’ bottles of potions only to be reopened when it’s time to bewitch the electorate again.

Something’s wrong. This silence needs to be broken lest we be accused of being privy to whatever plot is being brewed by these political wizards and witches. This is the point when silence is no longer golden. It reeks of many things that you and I are both wary of—secrecy, muted whimpers, and God forbid… a whole new world of shenanigans!

Just a few more weeks, the year will be over. And yet, nothing significant has transpired in the way hits and misses in local governance are regularly reported to the people of Bulan. Well, fair do’s, at least its official website has been recently tweaked making it technically no longer dormant. Thanks to Tinker Bell! But, by golly, it still bears the same news items that netizens have probably read and reread to their boredom. To make things worse, count how many times the mayor’s picture “graced” the welcome page. Has the moon’s gravity paralyzed the mighty brains and hands of our local heralds? Or have they been gagged by the powers that be?

Whatever the case may be, it still puzzles me why this is happening when I suppose there’s enough manpower to do this job. It doesn’t take a genius to write what we see, hear, and feel. We’re not asking for brilliantly written pieces; we’re asking for reports, for observations, for stories decently written that can fill the vacuum of emptiness that make one stop thinking the world has come to a halt—in Bulan.

Personally, I want to go home, go around the town, and gather some news just for me to have a springboard. But do I really have to do them? For sure, columnists don’t go to Iraq or to North Korea just to get some juicy pieces of information for their articles. For sure, they can have the needed information to put substance into what they write without hopping from one place to another.

Hence, it bothers me that I can write commentaries about Southeast Asian affairs at a drop of a hat, but I can never write a piece about my own hometown. I can’t … because I rely mostly on cyber news. And there’s nothing much and there’s nothing new that we can read about our town through the world wide web. That’s for sure.

So, let me propose one thing: let’s all write. It might be daunting at first, but when we get the hang of it—perhaps through trial and error or dedicated mentoring—everything will just go smoothly.

By writing down our “observations,” we can subtly change the course of events in our town. It’s not tilting at windmills. In fact, it’s doing our share.

Silence is not what we need now. Make noise. Let’s write.

                                                                       ———end———

Turning Weaknesses into Strengths

 

By W. Scott Thompson and Oliver Geronilla

 

 We have always hated people giving advice.  It usually stems from their own insecurities or their desire to look stronger and wiser than we are.  But what if you ask for it? Sartre, on one occasion, said: “Once you choose your adviser, you’ve chosen your advice.”  So much for the impartiality of advice.

Now when a bright new president comes on the scene, Dutch Uncles are just full of advice especially if that “advice” might give them an entrée to Malacanang. There are also the doubting Thomases-cum-analysts who sometimes play politics. The question is:  Is it wrong for analysts or the general public to think about all the qualifications—and disqualifications—of a new leader—and how to play to these?  We don’t think so. After all, no one is perfect. 

There are five things that people say about the new president that might be negative but can be positive.

First, he isn’t an economist—though he, in fact, studied economics at Ateneo.  Well, Barack Obama isn’t an economist either. Nor Winston Churchill. Nor Franklin Roosevelt. Nor is any major leader in the world to our knowledge.  Oh,  there was GMA—an economist.  What a marvelous reason to be grateful that P-Noy isn’t an economist.

Second, P-Noy isn’t peripatetic,  isn’t instant-energetic, likes to sleep late, and doesn’t get excited.  That’s a disadvantage?  Well, there are lots of things to be done when you are president, and we assume that P-Noy isn’t like Erap, sleeping late because he’s hung over and wants to start the new day (as we once saw him) with brandy and roast beef. All hail to saying ‘Chill’ when everyone else is running around.  Remember Kipling’s poem ‘If’?  ‘

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
….

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;

If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

  …you’ll be a Man, my son!

 Third, he is sometimes faulted for not having a wife.  But he was overwhelmingly elected with that in full view.  In these days, is this anybody’s business?  Maybe it’s strength.  Every eligible woman in the country will hope to become first lady.  The position is not foreclosed though we presume that the new president is comfortable with his life as it is, and we shouldn’t expect any changes.

There is only one ‘weakness’ that might be scary—the fourth. P-Noy hasn’t been to Europe.  In this he echoes ‘W’ Bush, who through his father’s headship of the CIA, ambassadorship to China, etc., never traveled beyond the Rio Grande. P-Noy could have accompanied his mother on her trips as head of state—and chose not to.  We don’t however think his reasons are the bad ones that ‘W’ had (‘W’ was drugging and drinking in those years).  And we recall our own shock that Ronald Reagan went to Venice for a G-8 summit, revealed he’d never been there, and even then avoided St. Marks Cathedral and the great plaza.  But Reagan was a great president. In fact P-Noy’s tendency to stay at home might mean a lack of braggadocio, a contentedness with his huge responsibilities here in the archipelago.  Let’s hope so.

Now the last weakness: P-Noy smokes.  Maybe that’s his biggest strength, but it makes him an instant friend of Barack Obama. At the dreamy level of heads of state, the highest club of any, all you need is a connection to the king-of-kings.  They have it; they’ve already had a long chat about it.  Obama we think a bit hypocritically is reported as saying that he’s quit, but his annual physical contradicts that. So they’ve got plenty to joke about.  And no doubt on his state visit, President Noy and Barack will find a room deep down in the nuclear-secure area of the White House to have some smoke and jokes.

A leader usually emerges because he ‘fits’ the needs of his electorate.  In this case, President Noy fits the desperate need of the Filipino electorate for someone whom they can trust after nine years of scalawags; Benigno Aquino III was elected because he fits a huge requirement for the job—the nation’s desire for someone in the mold of his mother, more a saint than a devil.

Don’t worry about critics, and don’t worry about all the advice, P-Noy. Remember what Franklin Roosevelt said, when the carping got intense? “I welcome their hatred,” sublimely—and with his cigarette flashing from its iconic holder. //

 

Oliver Geronilla is a language instructor based in Dasmariñas City. W. Scott Thompson, Dr. Phil. served four presidents in the United States and is professor emeritus of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Boston.

   ……..end…….

  

 

                                                                                          

Sports and Politics

 By Oliver Geronilla

I join BO in congratulating Mayor Helen De Castro for winning another term as Bulan’s chief executive. This “resounding mandate,” as Mr. Gilana astutely phrased it, will give her ample time to collaborate with Bulan’s crème de la crème in close consultation with her “mga padaba na kabungto” in bringing about meaningful change in our town, to continue all the laudable projects she has spearheaded, and of course, to address the issues that have been left unsolved if not overlooked.

The election fever is over. Yet, some are still “feverish.” I hope both losers and winners can go through this “stage” without angst or grudge for it’s time to buckle down to work. There will be election protests, doubts, accusations, etc, but I wish these won’t spoil the true essence of election as a democratic process.

In sports, there’s a great tradition where athletes play fair and square and handle both victory and defeat with grace, style, and dignity. That’s what we call sportsmanship. Ideally, it should be a code of behavior that should be followed not only by athletes but also by politicians and their supporters. As they say, “sportsmanship is a distinctive trait that defines one’s character and mettle.”

How about in politics?

Well, Jun Asuncion gallantly set the tone by positively responding to the post made by the PIO. That’s what we call local diplomacy at its finest. A few expressed the same view; and as expected, others dissented. It’s no surprise that a nebulously phrased comment from who-is-it of Timbuktu created a stir because of his bitter and unfounded disparagement. Boy, that’s what we call dirty politics.

Winners should always bear in mind to be cordial and munificent. Victories should be acknowledged without mortifying opponents; being quietly proud of success and letting victories speak for themselves are virtues worth keeping and observing. Good sportsmanship, when practiced in politics, dictates finding ways to compliment our “opponents”—even if we win by landslide.

Losing, of course, is difficult to come to terms with. It takes time. So, it doesn’t help when people incessantly “jeer” at the losers or their team after the “game” is over.

When we lose, we sometimes take it out on our opponents, blame election officials, or even our own party mates. The best thing to do is to take it in stride. When we lose, we ought to lose with class. So, here’s my unsolicited advice for the losers and their supporters: Thank those who supported you, congratulate the winners promptly and willingly. That shows maturity and courage. And for the winners and their supporters? Be true to your words through and through.

                                       

  ———end——-

Still Tongue Makes a Wise Head

 

By Oliver Geronilla

 

Politicians and their apologists have never failed to amaze me. From their empty rhetoric to their convoluted orchestration of truth down to their infuriating chutzpah, everything seems to bring me to a fleeting rapture of guffaws every time I see them on national TV unsuspectingly shedding their own skin.

That’s true for national politics where the media seem to follow political demagogues quite naturally for juicy bits of information and commentaries. But does it also hold true for local politics? I’m afraid not. Perhaps it’s too parochial to merit the giant TV networks’ costly airtime and the major broadsheets’ precious op-ed page. Thank God we have Bulan Observer.

A couple of days ago, while dining with Dr. W. Scott Thompson, FVR’s biographer and former US assistant secretary of state, I mentioned how frustrated I was with the LGU’s nonchalance over some pressing matters in our hometown. He laughed and said: “Oh, perhaps they have forgotten what Thomas Tip O’Neill, a longtime Speaker of the House in the U.S. Congress, once said.” He paused, banged the table (perhaps for theatrical effects), looked at me, and said: “Remind them that all politics is local.”

I nearly drew a blank. In fact, it took me almost half a minute before I recognized that he was waiting for me to react. When I was about to give my rejoinder, he started speaking again and ended up giving me a “lecture” on the dynamics of Asian politics particularly that of ours. He went on and on only stopping to have a sip of wine. Then, he mentioned “hiya” as one of the culprits of our flawed perception of leading and following—our own rendition of democracy.

According to Dr. Thompson, hiya, loosely translated as shame or sense of propriety, is a Filipino cultural trait that unites and divides us as a people. How? Well, look at those comments generated by the article posted by Mr. Jun Asuncion regarding the “fate” of Congressman Jose Solis. Most of them can be described just by using the word hiya and its cousins: nanghihiya, hiniya, walang hiya, nahiya, kahiyahiya, etc.

All these can either be a coping mechanism or a mere defense mechanism. But I could evidently see the angst, frustration, and resentment in their words. These, I suppose, were bottled up emotions just waiting to be “unleashed.”

In no time, BO became a temporary theater of word war. Yes, explosive bursts of emotions flooded BO’s comment page making it a repository of genuine sentiments and scathing remarks worthy of being “processed” to redefine our atavistic views.

I cringed in utter disbelief when I found out, through this site, how some of us could be vindictive—at least verbally. Still, I think there are many things that we can learn from out of this issue. One of them, and perhaps the most salient, is how we view success, failure, and downfall vis-à-vis “hiya.” We always bask in our victories walking tall thinking that our triumphs would last forever. That, of course, is an example of delusions of grandeur. Even mighty monarchs of great civilizations were dethroned. And in our case, we had the Marcoses who tried to cling to power at all costs disregarding that Filipino virtue of hiya (sense of propriety). In recent history, Erap suffered from more or less the same fate; but as we can see, he’s back in politics trying to have his last shot at the presidency. The Marcoses have long been back and, without a shadow of doubt, have reintegrated themselves to the local and national politics. Where is their sense of propriety?

What about Congressman Solis’ case? Is this the end of his political career? Maybe yes, maybe not. It’s just too bad that the verdict came out very close to the election season. Bad timing for Congressman Solis; good timing for his critics and political opponents. Well, as the cliché goes, “bad publicity or good publicity…it’s still publicity.”

Now, on the issue of hiya, is this something that is kahiyahiya? Perhaps, yes… for it has tarnished his reputation both as a public servant and as a private individual. But this is not the end. Vindication is not included in our lexicon for nothing. As pointed out by some observers, there are ways to prove his innocence. It is, in my own reckoning, clear to everyone how to do that, and where to do that.

BO writers and observers have no business defaming anyone. That’s for certain. Admittedly, some observers might have gone overboard. And their best defense? Of course, a good offense.

As I write this, things aren’t fizzling out yet. In fact, everything seems to be coming to a head. I join Mr. Jun Asuncion in asking everyone to remain level-headed and to avoid mudslinging. Let’s give our readers something worthwhile to read, something that is edifying, something that identifies us as civilized Bulanenos. Remember, what sauce is for the goose is sauce for the gander. That can perhaps change our warped views, and put hiya to proper use.

Generally speaking, we, Filipinos, are magnanimous. That’s something to bank on especially for Congressman Solis and his family members. Criticisms are part and parcel of politics. Noynoy said it well when he reminded Kris “that in any election, we’ll have our share of fervent supporters and harshest critics. And if you can’t take the heat, then politics isn’t for you.”

                                                                        ……end—

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.

                                      

———end—-

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.

                                                  —–end—–

Have A Way With Words

 

by  Oliver Geronilla

 

The power to communicate effectively and wisely sets us apart from our primitive roots, but it’s the ability to understand and respond pragmatically and strategically that clearly makes us truly civilized.

Last year, BO readers were exposed to all sorts of communicators. Some were glib if not voluble; others were taciturn and even curt. You could easily tell it from the way they communicated their ideas using logos, pathos, and ethos which all got entwined all in the name of being heard and read. This only tells us one thing: there’s a need for us to have a “reliable” platform like BO where people can freely express their innermost thoughts and even simple observations without the fear of being censured.

Ceteris paribus, it’s simply beyond me when I see or read BO contributors turning in articles or comments decrying politicking when in fact they themselves engage in it verbally or otherwise. That’s the pot calling the kettle black!

This is quite contagious; and we can see this form of verbal malady all over the country. Unfortunately, the incumbent Mayor did not spare herself from being a victim of this political disease which GMA was a victim too. In Mayor De Castro’s 2009 Year-End Report to the People of Bulan, she did not mince (her) words in telling her constituents about how she felt being “criticized” by her political rivals.

That should have been stricken off the report as it did not help bolster her sense of leadership; nor did it help her exude her favorite catch-phrase “Ina san bungto.” In fact, it weakened the almost linguistically well-polished speech she (and perhaps her speech writer) prepared. That destroyed the spirit of Christmas which, according to Christopher Dilts, is all about “seeing the goodness in others, recognizing, acknowledging and reflecting this goodness back to them. This can be done with a loving look, a kind gesture, a warm embrace, a few words of encouragement, or an expression that is as rich and elaborate as you wish.”

Well, she somehow saw the goodness in it by saying that “naging danun ini para maging inspirasyon na lalo namo pakay-adon an pag-administrar nan paglingkod sa iyo.” That and only that. The other elements were missing which I believe would have made her a better ‘mother” had she gone further by hinting at the possibility of working together despite the ugly past that has put them at a very awkward position in being role-models of goodwill and statesmanship.

A doting mother, as we all know, welcomes back to her arms all her children, prodigal or not, without conditions. But that’s far from the gist of her accomplishment report which reeked of angst and frustration. As such, the glaring paradox in her annual accomplishment report has made me wonder how she could continue being a good mother of our beloved town when she still harbors ill-feelings towards those “people who might have gone astray.”

Had she not used the word “ina’ in her report only to bash her critics around prosodically, I wouldn’t  have any qualms about her sincerity in leading Bulan towards a united, progressive, and God-fearing community.

Alas, she’s not properly coached to use language more skillfully to unite her constituents.

Still, I tip my hat to the present corps of leaders of Bulan for continually communicating with us (and hopefully continuously next time)–a step more important than the political junkets that most candidates would be busy undertaking these coming local and national elections.

My (desired) present for everyone this year: the gift of the gab minus the roar of the tiger.

Happy New Year!

                                                                                                                     ——-end——

Wise Guys Vs. Wise Men

  By Oliver Geronilla

 

Times have indeed changed! Gone were the days when rumor-mongering, yellow journalism, and character assassination were confined to the walls of beauty salons, roadside eateries, and other similar places where rancor and candor filled the bucolic air of yore. Now you can see people from different walks of life—fishwives, henpecked husbands, bums, government and non-government workers–doing it anytime, anywhere.

Welcome to the world of the The Chatterbox!

Expect this so-called national “pastime” to go several notches higher as more and more issues–both real and concocted– surface out in time for the local and national elections. Certainly, we’ll all be tickled pink with how political parties try to outsmart each other. This is the perfect time to spot the differences between wise guys and wise men as they engage themselves in this seasonal battle of wits and dough.

And so, this early, we find people in Bulan talking about “culture” in juxtaposition with “corruption” to peddle things and ideas with all the feigned glitter and pomp of the cognoscenti. Not surprisingly, many people are tempted to buy their “merchandise” either attractively wrapped in legalese or painstakingly presented in pathos-laden dialectics. The result: mushrooming of ideas that are meant to condition the mind which of course can eventually lead to a warped weltanschauung.

Bulaneno, who remains incognito– at least to me and to other Bulan netizens– sparked my interest to examine his shrewd ways of achieving three things: getting “feedback” from the local chief executive, winning the people’s heart and sympathy, and of course creating ripples.

Making and maintaining a blog solely for the purpose of showing those purported hard facts did not– in any manner– explicitly malign anyone nor did it put things in proper perspective. In fact, Bulaneno has left things hanging and open creating reactions that are poles apart: suspicion from the sitting chief executive including his phalanx of supporters and perhaps adulation from the other side of the fence.

It would have been better if he presented what he believed to be the crux of the matter as an integral part of his blog, not as a separate opinion piece written as a rejoinder to the Municipal PIO’s commentary. But if his only purpose was just to inform the people of Bulan about these alleged shenanigans, then he failed quite miserably. All he got was a “commentary” from the Municipal PIO and some comments from a very small group of Bulan netizens- a number too minuscule to warrant change. After all, how many households in Bulan are wired?

It’s impossible for Bulaneno not to know that only a few could read his blog; and mostly, these people already have their own beliefs and principles that are hard to change.

With that in mind, I also wonder what prompted Mr. Gilana to waste his time reacting to a mere compendium of data. Things should have been taken at face value. But perhaps the urge to protect the image of the administration from being tarnished made him write a commentary followed by a riposte.

The Municipal PIO’s decision to respond to that blog–through a commentary– was quite understandable, but the ensuing write-ups from both sides turned things askew.

So came the awful use of terms and the scathing retorts made somewhat comical by the insertion of irrelevant facts and/or red herring which did not escape the eyes of Ms. Mila Asuncion and other Bulan Observers.

Libelous  remarks were obviously sugarcoated so as to avoid legal sanctions, but the allusions were crystal clear. Had it not been for the skillful use of language, how do you think would Mr. Gilana refer to that person who “pocketed a measly amount of P2, 000?” And how would Bulaneno rephrase the title of his article and perhaps rehash his concluding sentences?

These, to me, are what the culture vultures call the edification of what’s obviously not edifying.

Well, to say that “corruption exists in Bulan” is not downright wrong. We’re not born yesterday to believe that no one is corrupt in our hometown. In fact, it’s easier to understand and believe that “there is some sort of corruption in Bulan” than to totally deny it.

Perhaps, the problem, which is further compounded by our myopic views, rests on how we define corruption vis-a-vis culture. Jun Asuncion hit the right note when he dropped the word “culture” to refer to the problem of corruption that allegedly haunts the local government of Bulan. Yes, Jun, you’re right…. that’s “The Issue of Corruption, and not The Culture of Corruption.” And most, if not all, issues can be addressed given the right frame of mind and the drive to do it.

Let’s all be reminded that when engaging in a public discourse, there’s a need to be politically correct. This should be coupled with a holistic understanding of the issue at hand, pragmatic competence, and an honest and relevant presentation of facts so as not to mislead people from the real nub of the issue.

So, I ask: What’s the real score? Is it really about those whom we accuse of committing graft and corruption? Or is it about “the subculture” that nurtures and allows it to prosper?

Makes me wonder.     //

                                                                                —————end————–

Slings and Arrows (random thoughts)

 

by Oliver Geronilla

 

I don’t live in cloud-cuckoo land; so, I won’t pretend that black is white. For the nonce, let me do a double take at the scintillating points raised in some of the articles here.

Quite interestingly, many of those who make no bones about the way things are being done in Bulan are armchair observers; and I am not an exception. The comments that I put forward in here are based on secondhand information, not based on what I’ve actually seen, heard, or experienced.

Well, that’s the very essence of writing columns or commentaries. We read and gather as much information as we can; then we make our own slant—not just to float an idea, but to make positions clear.

Being away from Bulan for almost a decade and a half makes me feel hesitant to write about local issues, especially local politics. But the irresistible pull to be a “neighbor” of level-headed Bulan Observer netizens and to contribute articles on a local platform is so strong that I I’ve decided to shelve my ifs and buts. Thus, I started submitting articles (that dealt with national issues) which I co-authored with Dr. W. Scott Thompson who is the official biographer of FVR. Now that the official website of Bulan is fully functional, I believe that it’s easier for me to access pieces of information that I need in order to stay abreast of the latest developments in my hometown. This will also give me the chance to widen my palette in writing columns that focus on what’s within the readers’ grasp—something that you and I know like the back of our hands.

On language…

I might have started off on the wrong foot by anchoring my comments on language use and usage and the highly cerebral discipline of weaving thoughts in the Queen’s English. But this is the language that I know well and the language that has molded my perception and appreciation of the world. More importantly, this is the language that enables me to express my thoughts and ideas with that yokel twist of a being a Bulaneno.

Truth be told, I am fascinated with the distinctive writing styles of most of the authors or contributors of Bulan Observer (BO). Except for the minor lapses in grammar, I feel that the articles here are treasure-troves of ideas waiting to be put together for a future publication—a compendium of the works of Bulan’s contemporary think-tank. (Shall we look for sponsors then?)

Not to put too fine a point on it, I sometimes recoil at the sight of code-mixing and code switching being liberally used by many BO writers. Of course, in some cases it’s inevitable because we know for a fact that there are certain concepts or words that do not have equivalent English translations. On that note, I have nothing to complain about. I only take issue with such a proclivity when it’s done despite the availability of exact lexical and semantic translations.

BO’s major strength is publishing articles unedited. This encourages “personal journalism” to flourish. But this strength is also its major weakness. Every now and then, you’d be jolted when you come across with mistakes in Subject-Verb-Agreement (S-V-A), tense and aspect. Copy-editing, I believe, is needed for every article published here so as not to give a false impression to the young minds that such errors are permissible.

On being away from home….

In societies where education is the only hope to stay afloat, it’s not surprising to see family members pooling their resources just to send their children to good schools. The logic is quite simple: good school means having a good chance of getting a good job; having a good job means having a better life.

Unfortunately, I think Bulan is far from being the place where our dreams can actually come true. It was pointed out by one of the authors here that there are certain professions that have no room to be practiced in our hometown. I couldn’t agree more. Most , if not all, of those who earned academic degrees (other than education, and business management) from the top universities are employed in cities where there is career growth, and where their needs can be addressed. Seldom can you see Bulanenos who earned their undergraduate and graduate degrees from reputable universities working in Bulan.

By and large, most yuppies yearn to live and work in highly urbanized areas where opportunities abound, and everything seems to be perfect. They receive handsome paychecks, enjoy life in the fast lane, and breathe the sweet smell of success. But are they happy? Beats me.

Sadly, I also belong to that crop, and it pains me to admit that despite being on the crest of a wave , I feel that I am still in search of the will o’ the wisp.

For sure, there’s not just a handful of professional Bulanenos–young or not–who think the way I do. I personally know a lot of them; and we all have one thing in common: we work hard to have a better life.

Hence, after receiving our respective passports to success –our diplomas of course–, we begin joining the bandwagon: the burgeoning groups of people who have given diaspora a new face.

Those who aren’t contented with their jobs in cities like Manila usually look for greener pastures abroad. They’re called OFWs, hailed as living heroes and the lifeline of the Philippine economy. Never mind the hardships, the loneliness and homesickness that they have to endure; forget about the weakening family relations. Focus on the remittances that make life here more bearable. That’s something that we usually hear. Hence, it’s nothing new.

My high school classmate, Dr. Ma. Kristina Asuncion, practices dentistry in the Middle East. She’s not from a poor family; in fact, she does not have to go overseas just to earn money. Her sister, who is also a dentist, has a clinic in Bulan. How many dental clinics or dentists do we have in Bulan? Very few. But why is she working abroad? Not enough patients? Perhaps.

My eldest brother, Clint Geronilla, who finished BS Forestry at UP-Los Banos, opted to work in Pampanga while waiting for his working visa. He, too, will be leaving the country pretty soon. His reason? “There can’t be more than three foresters in Bulan!” Well, he might have said it in jest. But somehow, there’s a grain of truth in what he said. I believe Miss Kelly Tan, my former dorm mate at UP and a “sis” in UP Sorsoguenos– a varsitarian organization – is more than capable to set the world on fire.

Miss Tan’s decision to serve the people of Bulan through the local government unit is laudable. How I wish others would do the same – serve the people despite the sacrifices that have to be made.

All these things put me in a pensive mood. How many Kelly Tans do we have in Bulan? Just a handful.

To have better opportunities, we usually go to other places. As such, we find many of our compatriots scattered in many places– working, finding their own niche, pursuing higher education,creating waves. Every now and then, you’d hear progenies of our beloved town who’ve toiled hard to become engineers, educators, medical practitioners, athletes, etc., making it in the headlines for their excellence in their respective fields. These are the very people whom we need to make Bulan BIG.

Can we lure them back to our hometown? That’s the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question.

Personally, I find it difficult reintegrating myself in the town where I grew up. I have many reasons, but perhaps the biggest one is all about my profession. As a language teacher, a freelance columnist, and a ghost writer, I see very limited opportunities for me in Bulan.

Or, perhaps I am just too ambitious.

Frankly, I think of Bulan as a haven where I can spend my retirement years. For now, I still want to see how far I can go, experience joie de vivre, and perhaps “make a difference.”

When that time comes, I hope Bulan’s still the Bulan of my youth where trust and respect rule everyone’s heart; where children frolic under the sun; where people commune with nature; where nobody is left behind; where “progress and not corruption” is the buzz word.

Home is where the heart is.

                                                                             —————end———————-

VFA: a Lick and a Promise?

 

By W. Scott Thompson and Oliver Geronilla*

 

“Well, because he looked like a wild boar,” the American serviceman explained his shooting of a Pinoy at Subic Bay forty years ago; was there anything more insensitive he might have said? Oh yes there is. When rich Bill Blair arrived with his wife (Deedee of the ten best dressed women of the world), he said Filipinos were “ungrateful” with respect to the bases and all else America had purportedly done for the Philippines—was he referring to the Thomasites or to the development of the Colt 45 so to be able to kill Filipinos more efficiently in the independence war?

This has always been the worst issue between Filipinos and Americans, so it’s no surprise that Senator Santiago has picked it up. She always knows how to inflame issues for her own advantage. Should the government dance foxtrot with Miriam? With her stance in the senate, it seems that she’s now on the fast beat strutting much faster to ask GMA to renegotiate the executive bilateral agreement. And if all fails, “terminate the agreement,” she opines.

Here’s the nub of the issue. At independence, the Philippines was destroyed by war and destitute; the American star was ascending all over the world. America was—since it was little affected by World War II—half the world product, if only briefly. The Philippine bargaining position wasn’t exactly strong. And the governing elite, more or less the same then as the sugar elite, satisfied itself with the famous American sugar quota, whereby the American consumer paid a 400% bounty for sweets from the archipelago, in return for all the concessions on sovereignty. There was also a lot of talk back then about how the American military commitment to the Philippines was a lot less automatic than to NATO partners, which was true, though with time this has become moot.

Principally, here was the question of jurisdiction over crimes committed by Americans on official duty at and around the bases. Status of forces agreements in almost all cases involved the American request for waivers for soldiers charged with a crime to be tried in their own courts. NATO countries granted 94.8% of the waivers requested as of 1970; the Philippines 00.9%. There just wasn’t a lot of trust in this realm.

For a generation, that’s all we heard of. The agreements here were “second class,” America saw the Philippines as “second class.” Well, yes and no. It is true that the NATO provisions were more favorable to the host countries. But in all fairness, the Philippines was just developing its judicial system and we all know some of the weaknesses. The USA used its economic position for concessions, but it was increasingly—and has been ever since—a comparison of apples with oranges.

Come the base lease endings in 1991, new temporary agreements were concluded. They really encapsulated the best of the past, though one of Cory’s chief advisers thought they were less favorable than those previously existing. Not so, said the then SND, Fidel V. Ramos, when he was interviewed at the time.

But now the atmosphere is heating up all over again. Filipinos are discovering that the 500 Americans merely ‘advising’ in Mindanao (and the moon is made of cheese?) are thick in the fight and they are worried that once again the USA can slip one over on the less powerful Philippines, and spirit away offending American troops. Well, at least the 500 got GMA enough of an excuse to extract a meaningless thirty -minute meeting with Barack Obama, right? And the fight in Mindanao, the leading authority on insurgency in Southeast Asia, Zachary Abuza, has said, is the foremost front in the region against terrorism, right?

That puts all and sundry in limbo.

Seeing the people in the government espouse principles that are poles apart is nothing new. Senator Santiago’s “either A or B” approach in making VFA work for the country is laudable, but things are not always what they seem. All these issues have been there for a long time waiting to be examined. But why just now? People might argue that certain loopholes only become apparent when problems surface out. True. But isn’t it a classical case of healing only when and where it hurts?

Secretary Teodoro sings a different tune. Almost a month ago, he warned the nation against abrogating the agreement as it won’t bode well for the country for “it might send a wrong signal to its allies that it cannot keep its commitment.” Just recently, he issued another statement saying that the discussions on the matter must be done after the elections so as  to avoid putting political color into it. That holds water, doesn’t it? Or, is it just a political posturing?

Legal luminaries have of course asked the Supreme court’s help on this issue zooming in on its constitutionality; however, the Supreme Court has articulated its position not only once but twice– It is constitutional! What happened to Art. VII, Sec. 21 of the Philippine Constitution? It says: “No treaty or international agreement shall be valid and effective unless concurred in by at least two-thirds of all the members of the Senate.” It’s perhaps due to this reason that the Former Senate President, Jovito Salonga, together with the other petitioners who questioned its constitutionality does not lose hope. In fact, they’re keeping their fingers crossed that the other justices would join the four who dissented.

Has the Upper House done its job? For the nonce, yes. Senate Resolution No. 1356 serves as its clarion call aimed at GMA to serve notice to the US to terminate or renegotiate the agreement.

And the Lower House? Well, based on their reactions, it seems that they are not singing from the same hymnbook.

Not too long ago, Senator Joker Arroyo succinctly wrapped up the issue by asking both the legislative and the executive branches of the government to iron things out minus the bickering that we have been seeing on national television.

Clearly, they are at loggerheads. Without a unified stand on the issue, we all know too well that everything is bound to come a cropper. We think that Miriam is doing a disservice. This is a very difficult issue, and as a lawyer, she knows better than to present it all in chiliastic terms. Time for her to consult her, shall we say, “advisers”?

And oh… Let’s all wait till the fat lady sings.

——————-

* W. Scott Thompson, D.Phil., is professor emeritus of International Politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. He wrote this with the assistance of Oliver Geronilla, language instructor at HMA, Dasmariñas, Cavite

                                                                         ……………..  end…………

Madame John Quincy Adams?

 

By W. Scott Thompson and Oliver Geronilla*

 

The sixth American president, like GMA, was the child of a previous president: John Quincy Adams was son to second president John Adams. After he lost his bid for reelection in 1828 to the populist Andrew Jackson, he bided his time looking for ways to be useful to the young republic, and stood for election in 1830 to the House of Representatives as a candidate from his home state of Massachusetts.

Is there another parallel emerging? We hear that the 14th president of this republic plans to stand for election to the Filipino House of Representatives from her home province of Pampanga. Is this a horrific loss of face—to go from palace to mere Batasan? Well, Adams refused to consider it as such, and as Congressman Adams in fact achieved far more than as President Adams. His was the essential and eloquent voice against slavery throughout his 17 years in the House, and he is remembered as one of the preeminent men of principle in the history of American politics. So we guess the parallel has already become dubious.

For we know that Congress is not all that GMA has in mind. Hers has been a relentless search for ways to remain in power, and we haven’t found a single suggestion here in Manila that it is because she so deeply wants to serve her country. Rather, it is usually suggested, she doesn’t wish to serve it in jail. For a single page of paper issued by the department of justice can instigate a search for any properties she or any member of her family may have obtained—even with a smidgen of evidence—of laundered or otherwise unlawfully gained funds.

Here’s what could happen. An unfriendly successor in Malacanang can authorize the DOJ to empower any investigator abroad to go to a court (say, in San Francisco) with the slightest of proof that a building was so obtained, and the court will in all likelihood freeze the ownership of this house or building, preventing its sale. The investigator can then go to that American court and through a complicated but brief process demand under oath an accounting for all funds used to acquire it (it’s called ‘Discovery’ in America). The resulting bank records, of course, can be used to follow the flow of funds all over the world. One can hide one end of a bank record—but not both ends—and the resulting search can take the investigator all over the world to discover all related funds in cut-out companies, holding firms, banks, or any other entity used to acquire properties or equities with illegal monies. The results can be, might well be, devastating.

Globalization has proceeded in international law at a breathtaking pace in recent years. Government ministers can be arrested in any of a number of countries. Israeli ministers do not, for this reason, travel to Belgium, which has ‘friendly’ laws for seizing persona of governments so accused. Small wonder Robert Mugabe doesn’t travel without previous assurances of legal immunity. The United States kidnapped the Panamanian head of state; a San Francisco court convicted the former prime minister of Ukraine on 27 counts of felony connected with his acquisition of about $40m of properties in the Bay Area and he has spent quite a time in jail or otherwise restricted there.

Apparently Mrs. Arroyo knows all this. It’s no wonder she wants the protection of high office. But at what cost to the Republic? Her problem though is a different one. A friendly successor can promise her immunity here in the Philippines, but that’s worth nothing abroad. Any properties she or her family hold abroad can be scrutinized for any illegality.

In this instance of course she can avoid travel to the accusing country, but that might be a bit of a problem if she, say for example as prime minister of a newly-formed parliamentary republic, wishes to address the United Nations (or enjoy the properties members of her family are thought to possess abroad).

Now John Quincy Adams didn’t have any of these problems. Though his family wasn’t poor—they’d been merchants prior to Father’s presidency—he didn’t have properties abroad or much at home. But he had honor, honor to burn. And his descendants—though two of his sons had painful careers trying to carry family honor—included the great Charles Francis Adams, diplomat and writer, whose namesakes continue to brighten the Boston skyline.

There is a parallel with the sixth American president for the fourteenth president to consider. She could run for Congress, and of course win, and then serve with honor in the manner that her ample professional qualifications allow her—the macroeconomic record of her presidency is very impressive. She and her family could continue to serve the Philippines in a way that causes no ugly rumors to emerge. One presumes that her financial problems aren’t great; it’s the legal ones that bother her. But if she began anew, let us say in the style of her incorruptible father, she could burnish the golden side of her record impressively—and our guess is that no one would dare challenge her legally. When you have honor on your side, even if it emerges only latterly, foreign courts just aren’t too interested in incarcerating you. And the American president would surely then welcome such a person—it is all too well known that Barack Obama spurned her initial attempts for a meeting simply because of the tarnish that lingers over her presidency.

Eight years ago, it was written that Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo had an unparalleled opportunity to leave a fantastic legacy, since she almost certainly had most of a decade to do it from Malacanang. It’s never too late to start.

————-

*Oliver Geronilla, a Bulaneño and  co-author of Dr. W. Scott Thompson (a former US Assistant Secretary of State), is a senior language instructor of  Han Maum Academy, Philippines. He has been teaching ESL since 2000.

                                                                                                     ——– end ——-