Category Archives: workers

Landlords’ CARPER

“Now the CARP has become a corpse, we, the defunct sponsors of House Bill No. 400, are called upon to render our final function; to serve as pallbearers in the funeral rites of the original House Bill No. 400. As the principal sponsor of the deceased House Bill No. 400, my task is to deliver a final oration on CARP.” – Rep. Bonifacio Gillego, in withdrawing his sponsorship of the CARP bill twenty years ago.

House Bill No. 4077 or the CARPER bill was passed on Third Reading by the House of Representatives last week. A similar bill was also passed by the Senate. The measure is a certified priority bill of President Gloria Arroyo.

I am not a supporter of CARPER. Why would I endorse a measure which will only extend a pro-landlord agrarian reform program? Rep. Edcel Lagman, the principal sponsor, admitted during interpellation that CARPER will not correct the congenital defects of the original CARP.

The weaknesses of CARP are not unknown. There are numerous studies which highlight the institutional failures of the Department of Agrarian Reform and also the inherent defects of CARP. There are many (inserted) loopholes in CARP which favor the interests of hacienderos and multinational corporations. CARP provides legal basis for the displacement of farmers from their lands. CARP allows big landlords to retain ownership and possession of their vast landholdings through land use conversion, crop conversion, and the infamous stock distribution option. Hacienderos can easily appeal for the exemption of their lands from CARP coverage. For example, they can set up an agribusiness or convert their farms into prawn farms and fishponds. Even irrigated rice lands can be converted by landlords which probably contributed to the rice crisis.

It is not surprising that the original CARP has become an effective instrument to protect the property rights of the landed class. CARP was drafted and passed by a Congress dominated by landlords. CARP was signed into law by President Cory Aquino whose family owns the biggest hacienda in Luzon Island. CARP was designed to fail by its proponents.

Today it is almost unanimously recognized that CARP is a failure. Eh bakit natin ngayon gustong pahabain pa ang buhay ng CARP? Why do self-styled progressives and good-natured individuals insist that extending CARP (and introducing token reforms) is the best and only feasible approach to implement a better agrarian reform in the country? It is indicative of a mentality which lacks a proper radical imagination.

I’ve read the original CARPER bill. There is a clear provision for CARP’s extension but there are no well-defined proposals for reforms. It’s CARP extension with no reforms. There is an interesting entry on Rural Women and Gender Responsive Support Services which provides for the protection of rural women rights. But the section does not contain any clear mechanism on how to improve the plight of women workers in the countryside. Motherhood statements are not enough.

Ownership of land is the basic social question in the Philippines. Land disputes fuel the armed discontent in the country. We should abandon our NGO mentality in drafting a bill on agrarian reform. It may work on our other rackets and pet bills but it is not funny when we apply it on agrarian reform. There is no compromise when it comes to land distribution.

Landlord insertions

Landlords were initially opposed to CARPER. They do not want any land reform law, defective or not, which threatens their economic and political interests. During the interpellation period, the landlord bloc was aggressive in pointing out the inconsistencies of CARP and CARPER. They wanted to prevent or delay the passage of CARPER. They were even questioning the quorum of the House from time to time.

But something miraculous and funny happened last week. Landlords stood on the floor to defend and vote for the passage of CARPER. Even the Arroyos spoke in favor of CARPER. During the period of committee and individual amendments, the sponsor enumerated the accepted amendments proposed by the landlord bloc. Since all of the substantial landlord insertions were accepted, the landlords (including the sugar bloc) gave up their opposition to CARPER and ended up voting and defending the Arroyo-backed measure in the floor. These landlords never spoke to defend Con-Ass but they were inspired to rise and express support for CARPER.

The landlord bloc has cleverly inserted amendments which would further dilute the components of CARP. Their accepted proposals will give them more legal basis to exempt their lands from CARP coverage. The amendments will still allow land conversion in favor of landlords, local bureaucrats and foreign corporations. Consider this sweet-sounding, technically precise, seemingly neutral insertion:

“Sec 6…The determination of the size of the land for distribution shall consider crop type, soil type, weather patterns and other pertinent variables or factors which are deemed critical for the success of the beneficiaries.”

“…The DAR shall pursue and implement alternative forms of distribution and ownership.”

Landlords and their powerful friends in the bureaucracy can always come up with a believable land use plan justifying the exclusion of their lands from the distribution component of CARP. Now they can cite crop type, soil type, weather patterns to protect their landholdings. Peasant groups should draft a serious critique to the CARPER amendments inserted by the landlords hours before Congress voted in favor of the bill.

Progressives should not rejoice over the CARPER passage. It is unfortunate that some farmers were deceived into believing that CARPER was passed to serve their interests. We should expose the collaboration of the Arroyos, sugar bloc, and some partylist lawmakers in drafting a bill which further enhances feudal control in the countryside.

During one memorable instance, Rep. Ilagan of Gabriela proposed the nationalization of the vast landholdings owned by multinational corporations. It was a radical suggestion. But the concept of economic nationalization is becoming popular again even in the United States and some European countries. While Ilagan was explaining the rationale of her proposal, I tried to determine the reaction of a lawmaker who is known in some circles as a leftist intellectual. This lawmaker has nice words to say about Hugo Chavez and other Latin American leftist leaders who are nationalizing many industries in their countries. The lawmaker never stood up to defend or reject the Ilagan proposal. The lawmaker also never objected to the landlord insertions.

They said the Philippines has been implementing the longest land reform program in the world. In other countries land reform is swift, revolutionary, and productive. But our concept of land reform is flawed and skewed in favor of traditional elites. Our policymakers are not serious in distributing the agricultural lands; they do not want to lose the lands which are the principal sources of their political and economic domination in the countryside. Are you still surprised why agrarian unrests persist until today?

Instead of the Arroyo-landlord-backed CARPER bill, I am supporting House Bill 3059 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill.


they exist

Here is an interesting story on how former United States President Ronald Reagan tried to convert his atheist son back to Christianity: He served his son a perfect gourmet dinner; and then asked him if he believed there was a cook.

Reagan should be commended for being creative and imaginative in affirming his spiritual belief. I read that he also used this reasoning to convert former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

Maybe I have a simple mind but this anecdote does not directly prove the existence of God. Instead, it proves that cooks, waiters, and farmers exist in this world. It is not wrong for Reagan to argue God’s existence by highlighting the existence of a cook who is able to prepare a perfect gourmet. But he (and we) should also not overlook the obvious fact: the dinner was made possible because there were cooks, waiters, and farmers in the world.

Sometimes in our earnest desire to advance our metaphysical beliefs, we tend to ignore the in-your-face reality around us. Before we interpret too much the spiritual meaning of things, people, and events in our everyday lives, we should first recognize their concrete and symbolic significance in the human and material world. As Terry Eagleton reminds us, “There cannot be professional philosophers unless there are also cooks and stonemasons.”

Go on and believe in God. But are you also ready to believe that workers exist? Are you willing to believe that these humans who create useful commodities also inhabit the planet? That somewhere in a remote and protected enclave, there exists wage-laborers who produce the things we need to survive. That there is nothing mysterious on how the elegant clothes we see in oversized billboards can be bought in department stores. They were made by God’s disciplined army of workers in factories and sweatshops.

The significant contribution of workers in the global economy has been systematically undermined over the past decades. Workers were made invisible while advertisers and financiers were glorified by the corporate media. Consumers were not allowed to understand the labor exploitation which is inherent in the capitalist economy. This is the cover-up of the millennium.

Atheists are criticized for their belief that God does not exist. Let the atheists and the non-atheists debate this issue. My criticism is aimed against God believers who wouldn’t recognize the ungodly realities in the world. There are individuals who insist that a powerful and merciful God definitely exists but deny the existence of poverty and labor exploitation in human society. They could visualize the presence of a supreme being but they are unable to identify how workers are oppressed in the workplace. They feel Christ’s sufferings but they are indifferent to human sufferings in the community. How do you describe these persons: Inglorious bastards? Bourgeois hypocrites?

Labor Day is an opportunity to affirm some fundamental truths: workers exist, modern wage slavery still exists, and the proletarian revolution will be victorious in the future.

Global unemployment woes intensify

The worsening unemployment rate in the world is perceived by most people as the primary and most recognizable indicator of the global economic recession. This explains the proliferation and increasing popularity of websites which provide daily news updates on job layoffs. Many unemployed individuals are also documenting their daily struggles by creating blogs.

Unemployment has taught many people to identify the valuable things or persons in their lives. Individuals are learning to appreciate again the support and comfort provided by family and friends. But sometimes unemployment also defeats the spirit. An Egyptian politician blames the high unemployment rate for the phenomenal rise of suicide cases in Egypt.

Because of the deteriorating economy, workers are encountering difficulties finding a stable career in a fundamentally altered job market. A Palestinian worker in Canada echoes this frustration by castigating companies which are “looking for individuals who know everything but are willing to work for almost nothing.”

In Hong Kong a controversial subsidy plan of the government for university graduates has been met with severe criticism. The subsidy plan proposed by the financial secretary allows corporations to pay university graduates as low as HK$4,000 (US$516) per month, half of which is a government subsidy. Several Facebook groups have been created to protest this policy. The most popular group wants the financial secretary to be given a monthly salary of HK$4,000.

There are worries that Japan is already experiencing an "employment ice age" which would create another “lost generation” of young Japanese with no full-time employment. At least 87 companies canceled 331 informal promises of employment to university students last year. More than 500 temporary workers stayed in tent cities last January after losing their jobs.

In Germany many job hunters are forced to work for shorter working hours in exchange for government wage and social-insurance subsidies. Curiously, a Singapore employer has interviewed unemployed investment bankers from London who are seeking work in the city state.

Saudi women who have lost their jobs are faced with limited working opportunities because of sexual harassment in the workplace. Social media tools are being used too for job applications, like Twitter Job Search.

Perhaps the hardest hit by the continuing loss of jobs are poor nations which depend on the remittances sent home by their migrant workers. Today migrant workers are returning back to their countries in large numbers after losing their jobs in the United States and Europe. This reverse migration can be a source of conflict in Third World nations that cannot provide adequate employment and social services to their citizens.

News reports have noted that increasing numbers of overseas Filipino workers, including professionals, are returning home. There are Filipino residents of California who are now moving back to the Philippines after losing their houses and jobs. It is feared that many Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong are being replaced by locals. In my previous column, I mentioned that a Philippine airline has increased its flights in the United States and Canada, which can be interpreted as a sign that more and more retrenched Filipinos are forced to go back to the Philippines.

In the past, Brazilians of Japanese descent were migrating to Japan. Today, “Brazil is the new Japan.” Brazilian immigrants in Japan are returning home because of the crisis. At least 40,000 Brazilian immigrants are planning to leave Japan. Japanese media have reported that many Brazilians have been living in the streets of Japan since the financial crisis erupted a few months ago.

According to the International Labor Organization, the Middle East and North Africa region recorded the highest unemployment rates in 2008. One of the worst affected by the crisis is Dubai. Dubai’s population is expected to decrease by 8 percent this year as foreign workers continue to leave the city; one blogger contends that Dubai’s population will decrease by as much as 25 percent.

Schools in Dubai are receiving numerous applications for school transfer certificates as children of foreign workers return to their home countries. One school lost 10 percent of its Indian student population.

Except for Bhutan and Maldives, all countries in South Asia depend on remittances sent by their migrant workers. Economists are alarmed by the disturbing trend of migrant workers who are suddenly returning home in South Asia, especially in India and Bangladesh. As Malaysia prefers to give jobs to locals, it cancelled thousands of visas it had approved earlier for Bangladesh migrant workers. The number of workers leaving Nepal has also decreased.

Governments should present creative and effective stimulus programs if they want to preserve the social order. In China about 6,000 workers in Baoding, in Hebei province, went on strike as their factory was sold and they would be soon be out of jobs. Thousands of them are going to Beijing to present a petition about their rights. There are worries that their action might snowball into a disruptive political activity.

In Egypt a wave of strikes has erupted in the last three months. The culture of strikes, even among the non-politicized segments of the working population, has been reintroduced in the country.

If unemployment continues to worsen, the Chinese and Egyptian models of protest could haunt every ruling party in the world.

Mysterious objects

Black box. I read this joke somewhere: “You know that indestructible black box that is used on airplanes? Why don’t they make the whole plane out of that stuff?!”

It is a good question. Why not build indestructible planes? It may be expensive but at least it will save lives. Unfortunately, economists will insist there is no market for superior planes. Even if the required level of technology is already available to pursue this project, the market won’t allow it.

Aside from financial constraints, creating superior planes is not compatible with the dominant economic system. Commodities have to be perishable. Since amassing superprofits is the goal, capitalists have to continually produce objects that won’t last forever. Products are designed to be useful for a brief time only so that consumers will be forced to buy them again. Technology’s potential is not tapped to the fullest since it is not profitable. For example, wiping out diseases in the world is not passionately and sincerely attempted since it will also eliminate a huge market for pharmaceutical companies. This kind of market logic is bizarre yet it is accepted as a scientific truth.

The existence of the black box is a mystery. It is built to survive even during a crash. Passengers die and plane engines are destroyed during a crash but this “wonderful” little orange object could still function. It eludes death. In fact, its value increases during a plane crash. It becomes more useful after a catastrophe. It is a curious thing.

Isn’t the working class the black box of the capitalist system? Once the capitalist universe disintegrates, the proletariat will still exist. Capitalism’s last inglorious days will be recorded by the proletariat. The working classes are history’s wonderful and curious subjects.

Intelligent pill. First there was the camera pill created by an Israeli company. Now, Philips has invented a “battery-powered, programmable drug capsule” it calls the intelligent pill or iPill. The iPill is one-third medicine and two-thirds microprocessor. It contains a battery, tiny pump and wireless transmitter. The microprocessor is designed to release the medicine content of the pill to specific areas in the body. The iPill can also receive signals from its “outside controller” (most likely the doctor). The iPill is designed to treat digestive tract disorders.

Researchers have cited the possible therapeutic benefits of using the iPill: Precise drug delivery, use of lower doses that minimize side effects, and doctors can stop the capsule from releasing more drugs if the patient’s body is not responding well to the medicine.

Isn’t it interesting that Philips, which makes webcams and cordless phones, is also the same company which developed the iPill? Today, medical specialists are praising the iPill. Soon, the iPill will be used in the same way we are using webcams and cordless phones today. The iPill is a wonder drug capsule but its applications are not limited to the medical industry. The iPill complements the digital lifestyle of the present generation. Perhaps new versions of iPill for the mass market will be developed. This iPill will be the intelligent webcam inside the body; the camera pill which can display the literal inner self of individuals.

Privacy is being redefined by internet users today. Many are not bothered that strangers are “watching” their lives through the different social network sites which are popular today. There will be individuals who will find it amusing that the insides of their bodies can be viewed by the public. Websites will be designed for this new level of virtual reality. (Instead of “view my profile”, the user invites visitors to “view my stomach”). The real will become more real. Strange and scary.

Using the words of Paul Virilio, the iPill is an optical hardware which is both omniscient and omnipresent. The iPill will be used for “optical snooping.” The arrival of the iPill further proves that the information revolution is all about a “revolution of generalized snooping.”

Two news articles from San Francisco Chronicle about the iPill: here and here.

Shrinking balikbayan box. I have already written about the balikbayan boxes of Overseas Filipino Workers. I have defended the unique OFW practice of stuffing the boxes with various imported goods and native delicacies. Today, balikbayan boxes are literally shrinking. Because of airline restrictions, our kababayans are forced to limit their padala when returning home. This is unfair.

Aren’t OFWs the country’s new heroes? These heroes are allowed to bring only 50 lbs of baggage while Euro generals were almost able to walk away with P10 million “pocket money.”

The boxes represent more than the hardwork and sacrifice of our OFWs. These bulky objects are also cultural artifacts. A small piece of Pilipinas (for departing OFWs), and a bit of the foreign country of destination (for arriving OFWs) are contained in the boxes.

Packing and unpacking the boxes have become important family traditions. Tourists have suitcases which contain personal belongings but OFWs have balikbayan boxes which contain personal belongings and goods meant to be shared with others. The boxes and their contents have become symbols of pagmamahal, kapwa, and sakripisyo. OFWs communicate their affections through the boxes. The padala is not only for relatives, but also for friends and neighbors. Sometimes, the arrival of the boxes becomes a community event.

OFWs are loading and unloading their hopes, frustrations, happiness and heartaches in the boxes. These boxes remind them that there is a reason why they are far away from their loved ones. Whether they succeeded or not in fulfilling their dreams abroad, OFWs are comforted by the thought that somewhere in the Philippines, there are loved ones who wait for their arrival and appreciate their unspoken hardships. Through the boxes, OFWs could somehow justify the insane decision of leaving their families at home. It lessens the pain, however brief. A day or a few hours of being less guilty is enough.

A balikbayan box has an immense (and excess) value. But its value cannot be monetized or weighed. Balikbayan boxes strengthen family ties. They help alleviate the pain of OFWs who are consumed with guilt. They reflect the reluctant Filipino traveler in the era of globalization.

The decision of Philippine Airlines to reduce the baggage weight limit per passenger is not only an anti-consumer move, it is also anti-Filipino.

On shoes and politics

Links: The economic philosophy of Singapore’s leaders. Cambodia’s 55th Independence Day. Shortcomings of Singapore education. Examples of Vietnamese legends.

Politician bloggers in the Philippines, a post written for Global Voices. Subscribe to the mailing list of Global Voices.

Because of the courageous example shown by Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi, shoes will quickly become an icon of protests in the world. Activists will soon consider using shoes as a protest tool in their activities. This is bad news for politicians, especially the unpopular ones, who will now think twice before appearing in public.

What was more revealing in the incident – in which al-Zaidi threw his shoes at U.S. President George W. Bush during a press conference in Baghdad – was not the shoe throwing itself but Bush’s response. He dismissed the protest action as a non-event. He even described it as a normal act in a free society. Perhaps he wanted to prove that Iraq is now a democratic nation.

Bush overlooked the radical meaning of the act. He was ignorant of the significance of the throwing of shoes as a symbol of insult in Arab culture. Bush misunderstood the act in the same way that he miscalculated the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Why was Bush in Iraq? Did he expect to be welcomed as a liberator in this part of the world? Perhaps Bush was not aware of the deep hatred felt by many Iraqis against him. Perhaps he was misled by his advisers into believing that the U.S.-led military campaign in Iraq has been successful in stabilizing the country.

During the recent presidential election campaign, U.S. defense officials claimed that their policies in Iraq have been producing positive results. They argued that the United States could now refocus its “war on terror” campaign back to Afghanistan. Surprisingly and unfortunately, the American press did not question these statements.

In the past weeks President-elect Barack Obama has been quietly affirming some of the policies of his predecessor by appointing officials who are closely identified with the latter. Perhaps by visiting a “peaceful” Iraq, Bush wanted to show his successor that the current Iraq strategy is working well.

Hopefully, the shoe-throwing incident will remind the American public how the image of the United States has deteriorated under the Bush administration; and more importantly, convince Obama to enact drastic changes in foreign policy.

The act was also positive since it gave a new face to the resistance against the invasion of Iraq. Muntadar al-Zaidi is not the stereotyped anti-American militant. He is a journalist who had earned enough credentials to be admitted to the press conference. His act proved that the middle-class and educated Iraqis are also opposed to the U.S. invasion of their country.

This is not the first time that shoes have acquired a political image. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was reported to have owned a pair of lucky shoes which he wore for 10 years. It was discovered that former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos left behind 2,700 pairs of shoes in the presidential palace after her husband was ousted from power in 1986. Recently, the decline of the Philippine shoe industry has been cited as proof of the destructive impact of neoliberal economic policies.

Imelda’s shoes are now exhibited in a museum. Displaying the shoes is one way to make the younger Filipinos remember that the Marcoses practiced a lavish lifestyle while their countrymen suffered in poverty. Possessing several pairs of shoes is now deemed controversial especially if the owner is a public official. Shoe collection has been associated with corruption, abuse of power and extravagance.

Marikina City used to be the shoe capital of the Philippines. A decade ago, the city was producing 15 million pairs of shoes. Employment in the shoe industry reached more than 100,000. Today the city is producing less than 6 million pairs of shoes while people employed by the industry are now less than 50,000.

The decline of the shoe industry is blamed on unfair foreign competition and the neoliberal economic policies of the government. The demise of the shoe industry has been linked to the weakening of other domestic industries, especially the agriculture and manufacturing sectors.

What is the connection between the Baghdad incident, Imelda’s shoes and the Philippine shoe industry? Shoes and other mundane objects we use everyday can be effectively integrated into various political projects. If used properly, they have the power to generate political awareness among the people and even to be transformed into weapons of hate against public figures.

Who would have thought that shoes would be associated with corruption and disastrous economic policies? Who would have thought of using shoes to attack an enemy? The pen may be mightier than the sword but shoes are more powerful especially if thrown at a politician during a press conference. Now it is possible to rethink how ordinary objects can be appropriated as symbols of struggle.

Related entries:

Saddam and Gloria
Smuggling in the Philippines

Leader. Labor. Labog

Philippine labor leader Elmer “Bong” Labog completed a successful speaking tour in the United States and Canada a few weeks ago. Ka Bong was the first leader of the militant Kilusang Mayo Uno who was able to enter the U.S.

Ka Bong spoke in different schools and churches; he met several American labor leaders; and he linked up with many Filipino groups in the West Coast.

In his lectures, Ka Bong presented the grim situation of Filipino workers. He discussed the extent of poverty in the Philippines. He explained the negative impact of neoliberal policies on the Philippine economy. He exposed the systematic campaign of the Arroyo government to undermine the labor movement – he cited the brutal assassination of labor leaders, the filing of false criminal charges against progressive groups, and the illegal arrest of labor lawyer Remigio Saladero.

Ka Bong was very eloquent in his speeches. Maybe he was inspired since he was always introduced as the youngest chairperson ever elected in the KMU history. Talagang mas bata siya kung ikukumpara kay Ka Bel, Ka Lando at Ka Bert.

Ka Bong used humor to clarify some concepts; he used the Filipino language when he wanted to emphasize a point (tuta ng imperalismo); and he could link the relationship of monopoly capitalism to the P125 wage hike campaign without being too academic. He was not boring; in fact he was popular with the young audience.

Ka Bong surprised some of the foreigners when he claimed that Filipino workers can explain neoliberalism by using one word: LAPIDA. (acronym for Liberalization, Privatization, Deregulation). When the non-Filipinos learned what lapida means, they nodded in agreement to the choice of the word. In another instance, Ka Bong mentioned that Filipino workers are receiving a different kind of living wage. He called it “libing wage.”

What was Ka Bong’s reaction to the victory of Barack Obama? Ka Bong reminded his listeners about the need to sustain the movement for fundamental change. He urged ordinary Americans, especially the workers, to pressure the new government to deliver reforms in governance. Ka Bong highlighted the significance of building a strong mass movement that would force Obama to consider the signing of political and economic policies in favor of the poor.

Ka Bong invited the audience, especially the Fil-Am students, to visit the Philippines. He told the young people about the relationship of the national democratic struggle in the Philippines to the global fight against imperialism.

Ka Bong attended numerous gatherings in California. I was able to listen to his lectures in San Francisco State University and UC Berkeley. Of course mayroon ding send-off party para kay ka Bong.

Ka Bong is one of the most admired leaders of the Left. He said that after finishing his term, he wanted to be a community organizer. Click here to view more pictures of Ka Bong in the USA

Related entries:

Ka Bel
Labor pains

Chapter 11 – Thesis 11

Links: Breastfeeding campaign in Indonesia. Regulation of political activities in Singapore. Rituals in Laos and Thailand when moving into a new house. Student initiation ceremonies in Thailand.

Recession hits Singapore, a post written for Global Voices. Read the French translation.

Chapter 11 is part of the bankruptcy code in the United States. Corporations and individuals who are bankrupt can file for Chapter 11. This will give the troubled companies and individuals a court protection while reorganizing their financial assets. In short they will remain in business while finding ways to pay their creditors.

For many bankrupt American corporations, Chapter 11 is a convenient escape method. Last month Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. filed for bankruptcy. With declared assets of $639 billion, Lehman recorded the biggest bankruptcy in the US.

It is expected that Chapter 11 bankruptcy petitions (which are very humiliating) will rise in the US as the economy continues to shrink.

The options to solve our economic woes must be expanded. Instead of clinging to Chapter 11 and other limited (degrading) measures offered by capitalism, why not attempt to devise bolder ways of solving our problems. It’s time to accept the need to develop a better kind of economic system. And also admit that Marx-Lenin-Mao are correct.

Reject the Chapter 11 kind of thinking; instead, embrace a Thesis 11 attitude. Karl Marx’s 11th thesis in his Theses On Feuerbach: “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.”

Imagine if more Americans will abandon their Chapter 11 dependence and adopt a Thesis 11 revolutionary mindset. If this is accomplished, we can begin to talk of real change. There is hope after all. There is life after capitalism. Choose life, choose red.


Do we need superheroes? During times of crisis, America leans on superheroes. According to Brad Meltzer, America created Tarzan and Flash Gordon during the Great Depression “to transport people away from the reality of their lives.” Superman saved America during World War II while Spiderman (the movies) was the hero of 9/11. What about Captain America?

And the super heroes in these subprime times: The Dark Knight? Iron Man? The return of Indiana Jones?

Meltzer adds: “We’re a nation starved for heroes. That’s why we nominated these two guys for president: One is a savior by his acts in war (McCain) and one is a savior who offers us hope (Obama).”

In the Philippines, American leaders are the superheroes of Filipino politicians. Erap is Reagan (both were actors), Clinton is a classmate of you know who, Chiz is Obama, and Vilma is Palin. Nyek!

Sociologists have already explained the popularity of fantaserye TV shows in the Philippines. The poor need to believe that someone strong and good will rescue them from their destituteness. Somehow, fantasies are helping the poor to survive. Most of them do not realize that they themselves (in their very excess and lack) are the superheroes which the country need.

To borrow the words of Ka Daning Ramos: Hindi natin kailangang ng mga Captain Barbell, Darna, Mulawin, Sugo at iba pang mga superhero sa telebisyon. Ang mamamayan, ang masang api, ang magsasaka kasama ang mga manggagawa, kakapit-bisig ng iba pang uring inaapi sa lipunan, ang magsusulong ng rebolusyon at magliligtas sa ating kinabukasan.

Also, we do not need a superhero Obama.


Bush, McCain and the Republican Party are supported by neo-conservatives, reactionaries and other unfunny elements in society. Obama and the Democrats belong to the same ruling class. Different factions of the same party. Party of Big Business. The two presidentiables have been criticizing Wall Street banks these past weeks. But after the elections, it is expected that they will be good friends again with Wall Street. These politicians will never forget the Wall Street executives who gave generous campaign contributions.

Let us review some of the campaign contributions of Wall Street employees.

Merrill Lynch                   – $297,000 to McCain and $191,000 to Obama
Lehman Brothers             – $117,500 to McCain and $361,000 to Obama
AIG                                – $647,000 election donation
Washington Mutual          – $428,000 election donation
PAC                                – $600,000 election donation
Fannie Mae                     – $6,550 to McCain and $80,000 to Obama (kaya ba galit si McCain sa Fannie Mae, hehe)

Source: Wall Street Journal, September 16, A6

Do not expect the next American president to be hard on Wall Street. Expect the “incestuous relationship” of White House and Wall Street to continue. We should place our hopes on ourselves, on our struggles. After voting on November, we should fight, fight, fight.


How very disappointing that during these troubled times, magazines are featuring the life story of Warren Buffett, the world’s richest man, in order to inspire Americans to become rich as well.

From his biography, The Snowball, Buffet shares his money-making secrets: While visiting the New York Stock Exchange, the 10-year old Buffet had an epiphany – “That day, a vision of his future was planted. He wanted money.” After reading a book, One Thousand Ways to Make $1000, Buffet started thinking: “If he made $1000, as the book said, and it grew at a yearly rate of 10 percent interest, in 5 years, $1000 would become more than $1600. He could picture the numbers compounding as vividly as the way a snowball grew when he rolled it across the lawn. Warren announced that he would be a millionaire by age 35, an audacious statement for an 11-year old to make.”

Get rich. Desire money like Warren. Dream of becoming a millionaire. Why promote this kind of thinking? Whatever happened to 11-year old kids who dream of becoming a pilot or an astronaut or a superhero? Why portray the yearning to become a millionaire as a normal impulse?

Ganito rin ang ginagawa nila sa Pilipinas. Why praise billionaires who amassed their wealth by exploiting workers and waltzing with dictators?

Do not glorify billionaires. Instead, we should celebrate the lives of revolutionaries, dissidents, genuine visionaries, philosophers, scientists and the fighting poor. Instead of telling them to get rich, we should teach kids how to change the world.

Related entries:

Excess and lack
Other radicals

Launching a “War against Depression”

Links: Save Boeung Kak Lake in central Phnom Penh. Gathering of Twitter Saigon. Indonesia-made aircraft. Situation in Myanmar a year after the crackdown on the monk-led Saffron Revolution.

During the Great Depression a number of ordinary Americans initiated campaigns to restore confidence in the economy. One example is the campaign launched by a public relations firm which declared a “War against Depression.” The campaign encouraged 1 million employers to create one new job each in order to wipe out unemployment in six months.

There were other measures proposed by various individuals and coalitions. Many of the proposals were reasonable, some were ridiculous. But they were all sincere. Concerned citizens rejected cynicism in favor of a more active approach in solving the country’s economic problems. More importantly, the proposed solutions were meant to help the workers and poor citizens.

Today a new “War against Depression” is needed. The grassroots should be at the forefront of this movement. Politicians and big business do not have a monopoly on bright ideas on how to solve the economic crisis. To paraphrase American economist Stuart Chase, why should the White House and Wall Street have all the fun of remaking the world?

How should the “War against Depression” proceed? This should be a global effort since the U.S. economic downturn is now felt worldwide. It is good that governments of big countries are already exchanging notes and coordinating efforts on how to prevent the further collapse of the global economy. This is similar to what the Allied Powers did during the post-World War II reconstruction campaign. Nations approved a set of banking and trading rules which governed the global economy for many decades.

Another possible tactic in launching the “War against Depression” is to adopt the Bush doctrine. This may be unpopular and extreme but we can argue that the situation today demands extraordinary measures.

What would be the features of the campaign if we use the Bush doctrine? First, we will accuse Wall Street of being evil. Wall Street, the White House and their satellite offices in Europe are the axis of evil.

Then we will declare a war against Wall Street. There is more than adequate available evidence to prove that Wall Street has developed “weapons of mass destruction.” These deadly paper weapons are not only threatening our way of life; they have already caused so much misery and mayhem around the world.

During the Great Depression, a Detroit Catholic priest denounced “banksters” as being bad as gangsters. Wall Street executives are the same creatures. To use a more modern term, they are like terrorists who are using even the most unacceptable methods known to man in order to achieve their profit targets.

They worship the free market and they want the rest of the world to share their faith. They want to shape a new world order where money dictates everything. Wall Street is guilty of “terrorizing” our innocent children whose families today are poorer and probably homeless.

Then we will issue a warning that a preemptive strike will be launched on Wall Street. We will justify the strike by accusing the other soon-to-be bankrupt banks in Wall Street of posing a serious harm to the world. For the sake of our children and the future of this world, Wall Street will be invaded. The guilty Wall Street executives will be detained in Guantanamo Bay.

To preserve democracy and civilization, the world has to fight Wall Street even without the backing of international agencies. A “coalition of the willing” will be established. Then we will deliver an ultimatum to the world: Either you support this coalition or you are against what this group is fighting for.

Clearly, the Bush doctrine will not work. American unilateralism is not a useful model in waging a “War against Depression.” It is really unfortunate that the last major international effort to solve a global menace was poisoned by the Bush doctrine. Fortunately, no leader has proposed the use of this doctrine to overcome the financial crisis.

The other viable option in the campaign against recession is to expand and merge the numerous but dispersed anti-globalization movements in the world. Enough of the self-serving proposals of big bankers, discredited economists, corrupt politicians and sweet-talking presidential candidates. It’s time to hear the views of the poor and other marginalized voices in the world.

Anti-globalization groups can provide a genuine alternative to the oppressive status quo. They can offer practical solutions to our economic woes based on the principles of social justice and equality.

But it’s not that simple. Are we ready to open our minds to new and radical ideas? Are we ready to support a subversive vision of the future? Are we ready to create a better kind of world? Or are we more willing to listen to charismatic leaders who deliver angry and uplifting speeches but offer nothing out of the box?

There are different ways to launch the “War against Depression.” It is up to us to decide which platform we will pursue to change the world.

Related entries:

Capitalism without Capitalism
Recession in America
Poverty and system losses


Links: Thailand has the lowest exclusive breastfeeding rate in Asia. Post-tsunami reconstruction efforts in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Situation of gay men in Vietnam. How to get a license to drive a motorbike in Vietnam.

Southeast Asia: Views on US elections and politics, a post written for Global Voices.

In the Philippines, war veterans refer to those who fought during World War II. But during the 1950s, war veterans were those who fought during the 1896 revolution against the Spanish rule. They were the Katipuneros who waged a revolution to assert the country’s independence. Kuwentong Kutsero, a popular radio show in the 1950s, featured a character (Kapitan Hugo) who was a veteran of 1896. There was even an episode when Lolo Hugo joined his fellow Katipuneros during a parade of heroes in Luneta.

When did we start calling our WWII soldiers as war veterans? Perhaps soon after all Katipuneros died.

There are 18,000 WWII veterans who are still living today. Five decades ago, they were 300,000. How long will they continue to live? About 10 veterans are dying everyday. Do the math.

When they are gone, who will be our new veterans?


There are many war veterans in the United States. There are WWII veterans, Korean War veterans, Vietnam War veterans, Gulf War veterans. Coming soon: Iraq-Afghanistan War veterans. Is there a war (genocidal war seems appropriate too) which I missed? What about the veterans of covert CIA operations?

The U.S. has been involved in numerous wars. It deploys its military might to influence global politics. Its military (mis)adventures have caused irreparable damage in many parts of the world. For instance, there are still Laos farmers who could not till their land because of “planted” cluster bombs which US forces dropped during the Vietnam War.

If the U.S. will continue to play the role of a global supercop, then there will be more war veterans to honor in the next few decades. These veterans are entitled to receive pension money. Can the US government manage to pay the pension of all veterans? How long can the economy afford to finance the post-war expenditures of the US military?

More and more baby boomers are retiring from their jobs. Are there enough retirement funds? The retirement age was raised to 66 but sooner or later America must find a way to pay it retirees. It can help if the U.S. will cease to invade other countries. There will be fewer veterans to pay.

But this is wishful thinking. America needs wars. It will always create war scenarios. A war economy provides jobs, stimulates production and distracts the attention of the people. Wars are necessary to stabilize capitalism. The U.S. will enter into new wars as long as it is certain the opponents are not like the unbeatable Vietnamese guerillas.


Stories about war veterans have been turned into many Hollywood movie blockbusters and TV sitcoms. Which war is more famous in Hollywood: Vietnam War or WWII? Is it WWII because the U.S. won this war? Or Vietnam War because the U.S. lost its soul and many of its bright young soldiers in the jungles of Vietnam? The theme of a rag tag army defeating a more powerful force seems to be more intriguing.


There are American war veterans whose (bloody) legacy is still being defended by their descendants. I’m referring to US soldiers who were sent to invade the Philippines more than a century ago. After almost wiping out the population of Balangiga, a small town in Samar province (located in central Philippines), soldiers stole the town’s church bells and brought them back to the United States as trophies of war. Attempts by succeeding Philippine governments to recover the bells have all failed. The US government insists the bells belong to the American people. Descendants of the Philippine-American war veterans are also opposing the return of the bells claiming that many of their ancestors have perished in that war. It seems the bells have some psychological, nostalgic value for them.

By the way, did US soldiers brought home Iraqi historical artifacts during the mass looting in Baghdad when Saddam Hussein’s government fell in 2003? Just asking.


Pass the Filipino Veterans Equity Bill! For sixty years, the US government has deprived Filipino veterans of their right to be recognized as good and brave soldiers who fought for freedom and democracy alongside American soldiers. The heroism of Filipino veterans deserves to be recognized by the US Congress. But mere recognition is not enough. These veterans, many of them are already octogenarians today, need to pay their medical and other health bills.

What is stopping the US Congress from approving the bill? Maybe they do not want to pay our veterans. Or maybe they are waiting for a few more years until the number of veterans who are eligible to receive pension will be small only. Time is on their side. And they can manage to postpone the passage of the bill since Filipinos or the Filipino community wields little influence on American politics. Politicians are not afraid to lose the Fil-Am vote because only few Filipinos vote during Election Day.

During Pres. Gloria Arroyo’s visit in the U.S. last month, the Filipino Veterans bill was rejected by Congress again. Malas talaga siya.


Should the Quezon City government proceed with the sale of Veterans Hospital? Or the golf course beside the hospital? Don’t sell both of them to private developers. The local government should invest in the area. Tap its surplus funds to develop a retirement home/park for elderly citizens. If a business park will soon rise in North Triangle, then the real estate value of Veterans Hospital will also increase. Why give away a precious public property to the private sector?

Related entries:

Conjugal dictators
Losing the war
Laoag to Laoang

Peasant revolts

Links: Budget process in East Timor. A briefer on the Cambodian elections. Different types of Durian. Underground Bangkok radio.

First day of State of Emergency in Bangkok, a roundup for Global Voices. Chinese translations of my posts: click here and here.

Reference: Rowena Reyes-Boquiren, Ph.D. History of Colonialism and Struggle: Local Streams in Philippine Nationalism. Education and Development Quarterly. September 1999. pp. 22-33.

More than 20 land reform laws were enacted in the past century to quell peasant revolts. But land struggles have been documented as early as the 16th century.

In June 1571 the King of Macabebes led some 2,000 warriors in Tondo in a 3-day battle against Spanish soldiers. The revolt was mainly against the new political/religious set-up imposed by the Spanish colonizers.

In 1574 Lakan Dula mobilized 10,000 natives in Navotas to oppose the hoarding of food supplies by Spanish officials. The uprising targeted Spanish civil and clerical officials.

In 1585 all Datus of the Pampanga and Tagalog regions joined forces to expel Spanish forces. In 1587 they were assisted by Japanese and Bornean warriors. A famine caused by polo led to numerous revolts in Cagayan and Ilocos.

The Tamblot Revolt in 1621was participated by 2,000 natives of Bohol as a rejection of Catholic religion. Tamblot, a babaylan, promised the natives a life of happiness and prosperity without paying tribute to the Spaniards or dues to the churches.

In 1660 the natives of Pampanga protested against the polo and bandala. The struggle became a campaign to free the natives from Spanish rule. However, they were defeated when a certain chieftain Macapagal cooperated with the colonial rulers. (sounds familiar, eh?)

Another local revolt took place during the same year in Pangasinan when Don Andres Malong (the "King of Pangasinan") led 11,000 peasants in an uprising against the Spanish civil bureaucracy. Pedro Almazan (the "King of Ilocos") was joined by the Isnegs who led the Ilocos Revolt in response to the appeal of Malong.

The Tapar Rebellion in Panay which took place in 1663 was led by a babaylan who preached as a prophet. She promised her followers they won’t be hurt when hit by Spanish bullets; and those who will die in the uprising will live again.

The economic crisis in Cagayan Valley in 1718 was triggered by a crop failure. This led to an uprising. The people were also against the local Alcalde Mayor who was hated for being oppressive.

In 1745 a revolt in the Tagalog regions erupted. The aim was to recover the communal land system and to defeat the expansion of church-owned haciendas.

Juan dela cruz Palaris was a former timawa who became a member of the principalia. In 1762 he led farmers of Pangasinan in a local uprising.

Dagohoy of Bohol was assisted by some members of principalia when he launched his rebellion against the Spanish authorities. The revolt lasted for 80 years.

The Basi Revolt in 1807 was a reaction to the government wine monopoly. The Sarrat Rebellion in 1815 was anti-cacique but it only called for reforms within the context of the Spanish colonial state.

Hermano Pule’s Confradia de San Jose advocated for an armed struggle against the Spanish rulers in 1841. The colorum movement had members in Tayabas, Laguna, and Batangas.

The Guardia de Honor was originally a group created by Dominican priests to promote Christian values in 1872. It became a millenarian movement in Pangasinan and La Union under the leadership of a charismatic faith healer ‘Apo Laqui’.

Papa Isio in Negros (1887-1907) promised his followers that "the lands would be partitioned among the people, that machinery would no longer be permitted on the island, and that nothing but palay would henceforth be planted."

Local revolts challenged American hegemony during the early years of the 20th century. They were also struggles for land ownership. Examples: Santa Iglesia (Pampanga, Bulaca, Tarlac), Pulahanes (Cebu), Papa Rios (Tayabas), Kristong Itim (Manila), Dios Dios and Papa Faustino (Leyte), Papa Pable (Samar), and Yntrencheradista Movement (Iloilo, Negros).

Andres Bonifacio’s Katipunan mobilized thousands of farmers, mainly in Luzon. It was clearly an anti-feudal, anti-colonial, and anti-cleric movement. The formation of radical organizations in the 1920s and 1930s with comprehensive political programs was a Katipunan legacy. The merger of the Socialist and Communist Parties linked the peasant struggles to the urban mass movement; and also, to the international fight against imperialism.

Land reform continues to be the major component of the Maoist revolution in the Philippines. Landlessness in the country remains a key issue which fuels the guerilla movement in the countryside. Proposals for land reform laws must be appreciated in the context of the raging peasant unrest (though relatively ignored by mainstream international media) in the Philippines.

But land distribution is simply not enough anymore. Activist farmers are also demanding political and economic reforms. In short, a fundamental change in the basic structures of society. This is radical, but not surprising. Since the 1600s, farmers have supported campaigns which demanded the elimination of oppressive rulers, whether they were Spanish conquistodores, American imperialists, Japanese fascists, Filipino collaborators, opportunists and puppets.

Related entries:

Pampanga warriors
Rice revolution
Hacienda Luisita