1. "Under the Administrative Code, the Executive has 17 
    budget-related discretionary powers. These include the Executive’s power over large lump sum allocations, the power over savings, and the power to impound. The use of such powers is critical
    because it has a huge bearing on how and to what extent limited resources are utilized to achieve various policy objectives. For instance, Social Watch Philippines, a network of nongovernment organizations (NGOs), has been criticizing the previous administrations for allocating significant proportion of the budget to the Special Purpose Fund (SPF) as well as in its utilization of unprogrammed funds. The said practice is said to have subjected the national budget to the whims and caprices of the President since SPFs are lump sum appropriations that are governed only by special provisions or requirements and released only with approval by the President. Similarly, as unprogrammed funds have no clear and identifiable purpose and are highly discretionary, they are prone to abuse and mismanagement."

    Senate Economic Planning Office, "Paving the Way for Inclusive Growth and Development" 2010, A Proposed Legislative Agenda for the 15th Congress.

    The Senate Economic Planning Office both respected and identified the powers of the President in the Administrative Code in 2010 as potentially necessary in marshaling limited resources and prone to abuse. It is clear the administration had basis for implementing the DAP, the basis is what needs to be addressed. It was not in the past and I fear it will not be in the near future.


  2. "

    Senator Defensor Santiago observed that the pork barrel is the source of many anomalies in government. She recalled that as a newly elected senator, her staff dealt with visiting contractors who tried to speak with her in spite of her reputation as a graft buster. She observed that there is a pattern of behavior among the contractors: they would go to the office of a neophyte senator, ask that the latter give up his/her projects entirely to them in return for an across-the-board 30%; the contractors would claim that the practice is being done by almost all the senators whom they would willingly identify. Obviously, she said, there are some legislators who misuse their pork barrel, otherwise, the contractors would not be so brazen. She stated that the behavior of the contractors is insulting to the integrity of the senators, some of whom, apparently, are receptive. She noted that when she ran for reelection, there were reelectionist candidates who were obviously richer than the others. She wondered where these candidates got their money to run very expensive campaigns.

    Senator Defensor Santiago pointed out that at 10% (P20 million) a year, a senator would get P120 million in six years; at 30% (P60 million) a year, he would get P360 million in six years. She stated that the pork barrel is a good idea; however, the problem is that while the legislator does not receive the money outright, he can identify which projects to implement, a privilege which he can use to collude with the contractors. She stated that she has to rethink her position on the pork barrel for fear that it might go to a person of low moral character.


    Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, September 20, 2004, Senate Hearing

    Holy shit. Back in 2004, MDS basically identified the mechanism and method that Napoles used in conjunction with senators.

    The hell? And no one noticed this back in 2004.


  3. "

    Senator Angara acknowledged the potential for the use of the pork barrel either for mischief or for good, depending on its user. Agreeing that something ought to be done relative to the use of the pork barrel, he stressed, however, that there are three’ greater evils inherent in the budget system - the automatic reenactment of the budget when Congress fails to pass one; the power of the President to use savings or to juggle funds; and the impoundment power of the President. He posited that when these three evils are combined with the automatic debt repayment, Congress becomes powerless, its power of the purse is meaningless.

    Senator Angara explained that ’ when the budget is reenacted, practically 80% of the dispensable or free money becomes savings
    because the projects and programs funded under the previous budget had been substantially or fully complied with. The President, he said, can put the savings to any use she wants. Senator Pimentel replied that in anticipation of the national elections, the 2004 budget was reenacted so that the savings could be used since under the system, the President is allowed to dispose of the savings generated in the previous budget. He stated that since the LGU share is 40% of the
    tax collected three years before the same is released, the LGUs do not receive any increase if the national budget is reenacted. This, he
    stressed, has caused damage to the ability of the LGUs to delive’r basic services to the people. He agreed to the observation that the biggest pork of all is the reenacted budget.


    Senatore Angara, Senate Journal Session No. 24, September 20, 2004

    What becomes clear, when digging through Senate hearings and reports from the Arroyo administration, is not only were Senators and legislators aware of the ramifications of certain provisions in law that allowed for juggling of savings and augmentation of certain provisions, they (at various) points actively discussed removing them. Yet they did not.

    The corollary to all of this, despite the protestations to the contrary by certain ex-budget secretaries, is that the substantiating provisions in law that the Aquino administration utilized to support DAP have been exercised and discussed in the past. This does not mean that the DAP is inherently evil or corrupt, but it does indicate yet again that the mechanisms at play need to be addressed.

    The failure of Congress to do so is a question they need to answer. This feigning of shock over budget processes, when it has been discussed repeatedly by essentially the same members of Senate in 2004, rings hollow. 


  4. "

    Senator Angara stated that his affirmative vote
    was a necessary vote because the national budget has been reenacted in the past two years without the Senate’s intervention. The reenactment of the budget, he pointed out, makes the whole budget a big pork barrel since the projects and programs funded under the old budget had already been substantially completed, and the money therefor would become savings which could be realigned under the Constitution, thus, giving the Executive department a huge pork barrel fund.

    Senator Angara believed that this is not good government and neither is it a sound fiscal and financial management. He asserted that the country could not afford to operate without a national budget and he expressed hope that the people would understand that the Senators acted in the interest of the country that is far greater than personal and political interests.


  5. Rebuilding Discourse: Considering the Flattening of the Philippines

    "To prevent this abuse, it is necessary from the very nature of things that power should be a check to power." - Montesquieu

    Over the last few weeks I have been hesitant to write about the smoldering controversy surrounding the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) in any sort of detail - which of course, has not precluded commentary in fits and starts on Twitter where instant reactions are the norm and detailed consideration of the various levels surrounding the ‘controversy’ are practically verboten. But, noise is the norm on Twitter, and sitting down to explore an issue should require more than just playing to the mob or gleefully acting the contrarian: It needs an approach that offers the writer and the reader an opportunity for introspection and deep consideration of the topic. 

    More than that, I have struggled with the entry point into the discussion. Worthy commentators like Dean Antonio La Viña, Randy David, John Nery, Raissa Robles, ex-Supreme Court Justice Adolfo Azcuna, Dean Mel Sta. Maria, the CMFR (in the form of Melinda Quintos de Jesus and Luis Teodoro), and ex-Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Artemio Panganiban have weighed in on the subject, and its concomitant complexities, through the prisms of their advocacies or defined intellectual frameworks. In much the same way, the opinions of Justice Marvic Leonen and Justice Mariano del Castillo, and the Supreme Court Disbursement Acceleration Program decision penned by Justice Lucas Bersamin, offer not just judgment, but clarity in accessing the manifold legal aspects. I tend to view and understand issues, especially those relating to government, governance, and constitutionality, through a historical lens. Which requires, to a certain extent, an understanding of the philosophical underpinnings that gird democracy and our form of government, the nature of action within a deeper historical context, and in terms of critiques of discourse and public intellectualism in the Philippines.

    Considering Discourse, Conversation, Media, and Provocation.

    The seeping of social media read and react sorties in discussing issues into the main (or maybe the continued prevalence is a more apt description) bring to mind the pressing issue of a lack of distinct public intellectualism in the Philippines. For better or worse, the names above are those who seemingly embrace their role as public intellectuals and work clearly within the context of educating and informing; not just pandering, playing, or leveraging. In critiquing the role of American intellectuals in the 20th century, Tony Judt offered a compelling description of intellectualism and its position with a nation’s discursive sphere should not be:

    So I don’t think intellectuals do very well talking about the need for the world to be democratic, or the need for human rights to be better respected worldwide. It’s not that the statement falls short of the desirable, but it contributes very little to either achieving its goal or adding to the rigor of the conversation. Whereas the same person, really showing exactly what’s defective about democracy and democracies, sets a much better base for the argument that ours is a democracy that others should be encouraged to emulate. Merely saying that ours is a democracy or saying that I’m not interested in ours but I want to help make yours, encourages the response: well, go away and fix yours and then may you’ll have a foreign audience, and so on. So in order to be international, we have to be national first.” - Tony Judt, Thinking the Twentieth Century, page 303-304.

    While this conversation focuses on the nature of intellectualism in the United States, and obviously in terms of exporting American conceits and perceptions of democracy, it holds some cogent points for consideration for us. Judt well-reflects the need for intellectuals to aspire to something more than just rabble-rousing or top-line discussions. Instead they have to, for lack of a better term, “show their work.” They have to take the reader on a journey, they have to help challenge preconceptions, demonstrate avenues for consideration, and inculcate deeply a penchant for critical thinking. Or, they run the risk of being propagandists and preachers, polemicists and demagogues:

    "Demagogues tell the crowd what to think; when their phrases are echoed back to them, they boldly announce that they are merely relaying popular sentiment…professional politicians now claim to listen to vox populi in the form of instant phone-in votes and popularity polls on everything from immigration policy to pedophilia. Twittering back to their audiences its own fears and prejudices, they are relieved of the burden of leadership or initiative." - Tony Judt, Ill Fares the Land

    Reflecting the emotional temperature or feeding and fanning seething anger and outrage, is not constructive when taking a macro-perspective on the growth of body politic. Sure, it can bring short term gratification in the form of street protests, petitions, and ‘venting’ through emotionally charged polemics, or high handed denunciations based on tenuously constructed grounds, but on its own these actions matter little except to satiate a desire for emotional expression: In some cases, satisfying desires to rewrite a perceived electoral wrong from 2010, or stemming from unsatisfied anger that has festering since the PDAF rallies of 2012, or any number of reasons ranging from political to ideological differences. This is not a indictment of the appropriateness of the motives behind some of the moves; the uncomfortable truth is there are kernels of truth behind some of the accusations, but it also begs for a deeper understanding of the historical and socio-political context in which governance (and governance decisions) occurs. Now that can be uncomfortable and refuge often is found in retreating to motherhood statements of expressions of clichéd ideological sloganeering and pandering or the blasé dismissal of any differing opinion.

    “Thus, the constitutional litigation presents a dilemma: it requires the Supreme Court to be more judicial than other govern- mental bodies yet more political (i.e., concerned with policy) than
    other courts.” - Archibald Cox

    I believe that, in some respects, the trivialization of issues and the stripping of their attendant complexities comes through personalizing the nature of the discussion. For example, one criticism I have held with regards to the complaints filed before the Supreme Court versus the DAP (and as a result the decision, pending reconsideration) was the focus solely on acts perpetuated under the DAP. While it is well and good to declare acts as unconstitutional, it almost felt like the point of the initial complaint was not necessarily stripping out the relevant provisions located in law that allow to Executive to implement a program as expansive as DAP (or for that matter, the Senate Hearing on DAP felt less like an exploration of remedies for legislation than an opportunity to question Executive decision-making) than to utilize the Supreme Court to score political points against the administration. This interpretation is somewhat borne out in the Motion for Reconsideration filed by Belgica, which again seemingly focuses on proving the administration acted in ‘bad faith’ and pushing specific ideological agenda points. While this may suffice in the moment for purposes of scoring political points and ‘rallying the base’, it (as well as a projected failure over the next few years on the part of the Congress to pass any sort budget reform and fiscal control measures) does little to remedy the issues inherent in our budget and fiscal management system. As has been cogently discussed (in the opinions of del Castillo and Leonen, as well as other commentators) there is a need for flexibility on the part of the Executive in executing the budget; however, flexibility is not indicative of carte blanche in rebalancing the budget during the fiscal year, which seemingly remains a concern for the future; remember budgets can still be re-enacted. But, appearances by ‘concerned’ members of Congress and civil society members, indicate that the focus is on constructing a foundation for impeachment and holding the administration ‘liable’ on relatively tenuous grounds (now and likely in two years) versus remedying the system through legislative means. In terms of remedying existing laws and laying the foundation for future legislation, DAP offered a ready entry point. One that I fear has been squandered. Expediency is the name of superficial oppositional politics, not necessarily seeking lasting legislative and judicial reform of the system. Any Executive budgetary reforms (whether they be zero-based budgeting, performance informed budgeting, and bottom-up budgeting) initiated by this administration can easily be undone by the next without concurrent legislative remedies. Mayhaps the challenge to our esteemed representatives in Congress is for them to propose budget reform legislation to the Executive and challenge for support in its passage in the next two years.

    The fact is the Executive and Legislature get first crack at determining and interpreting constitutionality of relevant laws on the books. Bills are deemed constitutional when passed and signed into law by the Executive branch, sans any immediate challenge before the Supreme Court (witness the excising of certain provisions of the RH Law by the Supreme Court recently). As long as provisions exist in the GAA or in the Administrative Code, the potential for a wide-ranging program that could make DAP look like an exercise in moderation and restraint exists. However, precisely because of the flattening, trivializing, and personalizing, of the complex issues of budget reform (as well as the conscious misunderstanding and ignoring of budget context) the dangers enshrined in law still exist and remain relatively unchallenged.

    What is apparent, despite attempts to delineate the discourse in overly simplistic terms, is that the discussion surrounding DAP must take place on multiple levels; no single issue is capable of being reduced to utterly simplistic and binary considerations, much less one possessing such inherent complexities as this. Yet, Manichaeistic denunciations and pronunciations have become the norm. One commentator recently wondered about what is in actuality driving the almost unreasonable anger and seething hatred that is apparent when discussing DAP. The nuanced discussion is ignored in favor of something more akin to muckraking and divisive rhetoric in constructing stories and talking points on DAP. The conversation and the manifold issues inherent in DAP have become flat in a sense; with the various pathways and levels available for exploration leveled and linked: Constitutionality is linked directly to criminality, which in turn presupposes corrupt practices as inherent and prevalent. This is not to say that impeachment complaints and investigation of liability and criminality born of the DAP should not be explored and adjudged in the appropriate forum. That, however, is a far cry from immediately equating unconstitutional with immoral and criminal; or for that matter the perceived overturning of the presumption of good faith, whether binding or not. As has been noted, those two paragraphs appear out of step with the rest of the decision penned by Bersamin; one can easily imagine the nature of discussion in the Supreme Court that lead to the inclusion of those paragraphs. My suspicion is that part of the heightening of the rhetorical environment (whether on the part of the Palace in impolitic public speeches or from provocative pronunciations from some legislators and civil society members) is precisely born of implied accusations of bad faith. What struck during the July 24 Senate Hearing is that the administration perceives the DAP as part of their overall reform agenda; and seemingly cannot reconcile how a reform program is being accused of bad faith, criminality, and corruption. That being said, at least the building of tension between the branches (despite dispute and disagreement being hardbaked in the structure of a tripartite government) was blunted with declarations that the Supreme Court decision will be honored.

    Flattened and Flawed.

    A deep exploration of the ‘flattening’ of discourse does not, in truth, require much searching. For example, a clear reading of the Supreme Court decision indicates that four practices under DAP were rendered unconstitutional, while at the same time the decision upheld the ability of the Executive branch to implement a plan like DAP in the future. The media, practitioners in their social media accounts, in print and online stories, and many commentators have instead described the Supreme Court decision as rendering DAP completely unconstitutional, while touting the 13-0-1 decision as indicative of an in-step Court. As Dean La Viña has repeatedly pointed out, they agreed on the result, but more than one differed in terms of the reasoning to arrive at the result: Compare the opinions of Leonen to Carpio, or del Castillo to Brion, and we get a sense that interpretive turmoil underpinning the unanimous assent in the result is roiling. It is a nuance that has been lost, or purposefully excised, in discussing the nature of the Court decision. Beyond, some have even utilized the 13-0-1 voting result to discredit the filing of a motion for reconsideration by the Aquino administration; in truth, whether 8-6, 8-5-1, 10-3-1, it does not affect the opportunity to present a counter-argument.

    This flattening and concurrent linking of various levels has resulted in a perceived confusion concerning the nature of multiple points surrounding DAP, as well as had the end result of fanning anger and (yes) hatred, entrenching now intransigent positions, and engendering an environment of emotionally charged ‘discourse.’ Understanding has been exchanged with intransigency and an almost overblown emotionality. A question for some media practitioners and organizations is whether they are attempting to educate, elucidate, and contextualize or engage in gross simplifications to entice clicks, bring in the viewers, push paper, or even adhere to ownership’s agenda.

    Even if, when taking a step back and considering the various levels upon which an issue like DAP operates, it is apparent that this issue is not simple, nor is it easy to construct as a discussion point. The Senate Hearing on July 24 aptly demonstrated this. At one point the discussion, correctly, became one of arcane budget practices, definitions, and the nature of allotment, allocation, and savings within our legal regime. Whether savings are pooled or line items augmented; whether declaring savings is impounding, and how exactly do we account for savings? At other points, the discussion shifted to the political nature of DAP and the lines between opposition and administration (if not necessarily set in stone, political bedfellows are fluid here) were clearly discernible. Haranguing, fawning, grandstanding, finger-pointing, and hand-washing were in evidence. If we view the Senate as a microcosm of the discussion taking place in the public sphere (or for that matter, with regards to the public screen), the varied dispositions of the senators, and attendant reactions from different corners, becomes fairly evident.

    What has become clear is the conversation around DAP is not providing what we need and must evolve. Else what is a key opportunity in the maturation of our democracy will be lost amidst unrelenting anger, virulent defensiveness, antagonistic hatred, and our hardwired need to seek the shorter solution and the easiest answer no matter how complex the problem or complicated the context - consider the inchoate, unfocused nature of public emotionality and we might have a clue why the tensions within public discourse are so heightened. The rhetoric from multiple commentators, proponents, arbiters, oppositionists, and critics, feeds directly (whether wittingly or not) into the Manichaeistic discursive divides does not aid the situation. We continue to short change ourselves through our discursive failures. A learning opportunity can just as quickly become another example of our almost pathological ability to short circuit our democracy.

    The Variegated Nature of the DAP Discourse

    Part of my hesitation with regards to commenting interrogatively on DAP is the general confusion and disorderliness surrounding. It is difficult, in relation to the current quality of conversation, to engage in a discussion of constitutionality without criminality being interjected; or for that matter ruminations (or denunciations as the viewpoint maybe) on immorality and morality. Once a conversation devolves around the morality, or lack there of, of the proponents (again a dangerously divisive shift from act to actor) it becomes increasingly difficult to excise emotion and constructively engage in the issues. Yes, the political actors can play in the realm of rhetorical considerations of ‘goodness, truthfulness, and morality.’ Intellectuals, media practitioners, and commentators can either choose to play along the thin line of Manichaeistic divides, or ascertain avenues for contemplating issues in less binary terms. Nuance, complexity, and due consideration are antithetical to the prevailing Manichaeistic nature of Philippine public and political discourse.

    So, let’s take a step back and consider the various levels in which DAP can be discussed. John Nery offered his “7 Theses in the Wake of Aquino’s Outburst”; Dean La Viña has published multiple columns through his Facebook and in the Manila Standard Times that offers explorations of the different facets and ramifications of DAP. Yet, the sense is, for various reasons, that nuanced commentators are being dismissed out of hand; implicitly accused of favoring the administration.

    Whatever the reasons may be, in considering DAP I see, at the very least, four major entry points (with potential sub-discussion points): Constitutionality, Legality, and Concurrent Issues; The Budget: History, Processes, Decision-making, and Reforms; Politics and Public Discourse; Democracy and Relationships within a Tripartite Government, and Good Governance. Any one of those subjects is worthy of thousands of words of dispassionate and analytic exploration. Will more of our public intellectuals take the opportunity to explore than provocate? 

    It is evident though that even in the construction of various levels of discussion, there will be interplay between them. For example, the constitutionality of an act will in turn lead to a discussion on the liability and criminality, if necessary. However, it is not the declaration of the constitutionality or unconstitutionality of an act that judges that acts liability or criminality. As Justice Leonen cogently pointed out, that is a dangerous precedent. In considering the nature and ramifications of the adjudged acts, liability or criminality becomes a separate discussion, although no less important. Our view, when it comes to ramifications of actions in the here and now, are sadly constrained to a very limited scope of emotional payoffs and political and social expediency; driven in part of superficial understandings of the political philosophy that girds and shores up our form of government and informs the structure of the Constitution.

    I referenced earlier the Senate July 24 hearing as a microcosm for the public sphere and public screen in the Philippines. In considering the various lines of questioning evident (as well as the confusion on the part of a number of senators regarding the complexity and enormity of the issue at hand) it becomes apparent how difficult it is to organize the conversation on DAP. This is not the same as considering plunder or dictatorships; economic theory or social programs. If it was, the level of confusion that reigns would not be as great as it is. And yet confusion reigns and I suspect a kernel of the inchoate anger present is precisely because we favor grasping those simple binaries instead of embracing the need to explore. And to be frank, to many of our ‘public intellectuals’ and media practitioners gleefully egg discourse of that level on; I suspect there are elements of the ‘personal’ involved in some of the reactions. The challenge inherent now and in the future is not just for our political leaders to raise the level of their contributions to the Philippine political environment, but to our civil society leaders and organizations to do the same.

    Public Sphere. Public Screen. Three Ring Circus.

    I wonder if the complexity required to grasp the various levels upon which a conversation such as this must take place in part lead to the marginalization of nuance and the embrace of emotionality. Differentiating between constitutional or unconstitutional, good faith or bad faith, criminality or liability, requires the ability to engage and hold views on multiple levels and with manifold arguments. Flattening a discussion into a simple binary - unconstitutional is immoral and thus criminal - is easy to grasp. It allows for ease is dissemination of talking points. It overly simplifies in favor of promoting reductive party lines in favor of agenda-making. The simplicity of delineating a complex issue along reductive lines also applies to the various discursive proponents: The generalized dismissal as anyone holding a differing opinion as a tie-dyed wide-eyed naif blinded by adoration; or an apologist; or a paid hack; or an ideologically blinded demagogue (Ideology not only can blind, but it can preclude logical analysis through its need to adhere to first principles; from whence all other considerations flow). This is not to argue that these figures do not exist, a quick spin around social media clearly demonstrates they exist in spades, but reducing attempts at multi-faceted discourse and nuanced opinion-making to those levels is intellectually bankrupt. It betrays more about the dismisser than the dismissed.

    "Christopher Lasch, for instance, bemoans “the transformation of politics from a central component of popular culture into a spectator sport.” What once existed but has been lost, in Lasch’s view, is “the opportunity to exercise the virtues associated with deliberation and participation in public debate.” What we are seeing is “the atrophy of these virtues in the common people—judgment, prudence, eloquence, courage, self-reliance, resourcefulness, common sense.”" - Michael Shudson

    I continue to believe that one of the looming, unaddressed, social and cultural problems in the Philippines is discursive. The battle lines drawn in issues like DAP, or for that matter in measures like reproductive health, the lack of engagement on intellectual grounds and the adherence to emotion and deployment ‘opinion as fact’ bedevil, and likely will continue to do so. Concomitant with reform in governance must come change in the body politic; else it really will not matter who is in the Palace, what names inhabit Congress, or the quality of thought being handed down by the Supreme Court. What we seemingly revel in is not only a hobbled public sphere, but the prevalence of adherence to the public screen: The use of issues by groups to get screen time, the opportunity for media to present politics as entertainment and a never-ending circus.

    Welcome the Greatest Show on Earth, it shows no signs of slowing. Popcorn?


  6. "Technological and social changes have produced the public screen. For a cultural critic, the key response to the structural transformations of our moment is neither to adopt a moral pose nor to express yearnings for a mythical past, but to explore what is happening and what is possible under current conditions. If embodied gatherings of culturally homogenous, equal citizens engaged in rational dialogue with the goal of consensus is no longer a dominant mode of political activity, what constitutes politics today? One answer is the public screen. Groups perform image events (DeLuca, 1999) for dissemina- tion via corporate-owned mass media that display an unceasing flow of images and entertainment."
    — Kevin Michael DeLuca and Jennifer Peeples, From Public Sphere to Public Screen: Democracy, Activism, and the “Violence” of Seattle

  7. "Christopher Lasch, for instance, bemoans “the transformation of politics from a central component of popular culture into a spectator sport.” What once existed but has been lost, in Lasch’s view, is “the opportunity to exercise the virtues associated with deliberation and participation in public debate.” What we are seeing is “the atrophy of these virtues in the common people—judgment, prudence, eloquence, courage, self-reliance, resourcefulness, common sense.”"
    — Michael Shudson

  8. "

    The Constitution itself, and the commentary provided by de Leon, present us with that curious mixture of realism and idealism Filipinos display. To state in the Constitution that civil servants must be honest, or patriotic, seems, to me, a first glance overdone. On second consideration, however, it probably hints at real problems. And so it is with the other commentary referred to above. Whereas the Constitution has been designed to remedy problems, it is people, and especially politicians who have to do the implementing, which is, most obviously, another piece of cake.

    In the ultimate analysis, we are stuck with a document, the 1987 Constitution that, by itself, cannot do a thing but bore students. Murdering rebels are apparently loyal [to it] because they are sometimes rewarded with high positions. Marcos’ stalwarts and cronies are in every office of government. Do people like this? I do not know. The people speak with God’s voice. From them emanates power. Government is of, by, and for them. Again, I do not know, but to me it sounds mystical. What we, what students see is people in power who try to do very much as they please. Really, to explain or visualize what, or where, “the people” are, is indeed very difficult. Are they the government, the state, the nation? In the various texts reviewed these concepts have not been clearly differentiated. So, is rebellion against the order of the state the same as treason of the Motherland? Perhaps not, as long as you can become a senator because of it. Then, finally, can the conscientious practice of democracy be expected among people who, in the vast majority, are poor and struggling for survival? Can such practice build a nation?

    After interviewing lecturers, the weakness of the GNC teachings became more obvious. These teachers do not necessarily agree with de Leon’s commentary, but they operate in the same vacuity resulting from an overemphasis on law. Their remarks, like de Leon’s, are awfully ad hoc, reminding of newspaper columns. What remains is the letter of the law. Of course, the law should and must be implemented. The government is the servant of the people; it derives its power from the people; people must be loyal to the government. And, as they must be aware, they also recognize that the government is weak, that there is an absence of order and discipline, that even the Supreme Court is wishy-washy and that its decisions often are controversial. After all, law is a game, and litigation a habit.

    It is as if the law is an entity unto itself, something free-floating, hovering over society, and being divorced from it. While in grade and high schools modest attempts still were made to connect it with the practice of life, with Philippine culture and with the history of democracy itself, the teachings at college level appear to have been separated from real life. Why it is so difficult to implement law, especially a charter imbued with ideals and high hopes, remains unclear, and does not seem to entice deeper comments than those offered by the newspapers lecturers also read.

    — Neils Mulder, Filipino Images, page 112-113

  9. "

    In the near-absence of reporting positive things, the papers offer a steady lamentation of doleful complaints about the mess the public world is in. A serious treatment of problems, an investigation of their roots, and solutions, or simple reportage on successful developments, apart from the occasional conviction of a high-ranking criminal, hardly ever occurs. Newspapers are obsessed with politics; these substitute for the public world, all other things being secondary.

    Politics is predatory; politicians prey on each other. Society stumbles on the brink of anarchy. The intention of the image is clear; it is, however, difficult to imagine. After all, people go to work, arrive, and come home again; children go to school, and so do their teachers. Traffic may be slow, but in the end people come to their destination and, tellingly, the newspapers are at their stands every day and at predictable hours. In other words, the very negative pictures the papers paint are biased. They give full exposure to irregularity and legerdemain, and do as if indeed, the latter are normal.

    — Neils Mulder, Filipino Images, page 53

  10. "To prevent this abuse, it is necessary from the very nature of things that power should be a check to power."
    — Montesquieu, The Spirit of Laws