Presidential Elections and the Country’s Foreign Policy

Source: Official Gazette online  http://www.gov.ph/2015/02/06/philippines-israel-hold-8th-joint-commission-meeting-in-manila/In the run-up to the May presidential elections, candidates will be held to close scrutiny by the thinking members of the electorate. How well have have they thought out the major problems of the country and the potential solutions that can best serve the long-term interests of the Filipino people, instead of the expedient solutions or promises that can merely help get them elected?

Among the myriad issues that will demand attention - perhaps not necessarily the one closest to the needs of Juan dela Cruz but nonetheless of vital strategic importance - is the question of how to handle relations with China. China is a major power with still growing regional and global influence, whether on questions of global financial stability, international security, energy, climate change, and more. It also happens to be a key protagonist and our major adversary in the single most challenging external security concern of the country at present – the territorial and maritime disputes in the West Philippine Sea. Thus far, the disputes have not led to armed confrontation, but the trends point toward increased militarization, expansion of occupation and presence, and the hardening of positions of the various states concerned. Finding a political solution based on law and diplomacy will be no easy task. The alternative - not finding one – could be tragic. How will the next president deal with this matter?

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Open Sesame: What we learned from National Election Data (1992-2013)

Alampay chart 1The Philippines is a signatory to the Open Government initiative; one of the 8 original signatories. While Filipinos have long clamored for freedom of information, the government has complained that no one is using the data that they have made public.

So the objective of this column is to promote open government data use. The column is called OPEN SESAME, in that our articles make use of open data, and “sesame” to refer to the TV show that enabled many of my generation to learn the basics of reading, writing and counting. In other words, this column aims to promote the beginner’s appreciation of open data and a more open government.

This of course comes with a caveat, as the data that is open is, as yet, narrow and limited in scope and depth. Perhaps by using the data, government will be encouraged to make more of it accessible so that we can have better analytics.

This piece will focus on elections, and we make use of available data that is open in the COMELEC website. Perusing the data, two questions come to mind:

  1. How relevant is the NCR vote in the national elections?
  2. What is the proportion of females who run for electoral positions, vis-­à-vis the proportion who are elected?

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Impossible Mission? The Challenge of Informed Decision-Making on International Migration

HK Victoria Park Filipino Migrant WorkersFilipino Migrant Workers in Victoria Park, Hong Kong. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Since the 1970s, millions of Filipinos have gone abroad in search of better job opportunities. For a growing number of Filipino families, overseas labor migration has become the only option to escape poverty. A substantial portion of these overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are women who take on jobs primarily in the services sector as factory workers, entertainers, nurses, and so on.

These OFWs are celebrated as modern-day heroes (bagong bayani) in recognition of all the sacrifices they have made and endured for the sake of their families. They have also made tremendous contributions to the Philippine economy through their income remittances. The instrumental role of the national government in managing international migration has become more and more evident and institutionalized over the last four and a half decades. The Philippines has been acknowledged globally as a labor-sending country par excellence with its highly developed and specialized labor migration management system. Ironically, international migration does not seem to be on the minds of our development planners and policy-makers.

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On Lumad Killings: The Need for Self-Determination and a Philippine President’s Role

Norma Capuyan, vice chair of Apo Sandawa Lumadnong Panaghiusa sa Cotabato (ASLPC), says in the press conference Friday, February 27, 2009 there is need to strengthen the ranks of indigenous peoples in Mindanao to be able to defend their ancestral domains. Capuyan is among of the 200 indigenous peoples who gathered in Davao City for the first assembly of the Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad sa Mindanao(Kalumaran), an umbrella organization of indigenous peoples groups in Mindanao, in Davao City on February 27 to March 2. AKP Images/ Keith BacongcoNorma Capuyan, vice chair of Apo Sandawa Lumadnong Panaghiusa sa Cotabato (ASLPC), says in the press conference Friday, February 27, 2009 there is need to strengthen the ranks of indigenous peoples in Mindanao to be able to defend their ancestral domains. Capuyan is among of the 200 indigenous peoples who gathered in Davao City for the first assembly of the Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad sa Mindanao(Kalumaran), an umbrella organization of indigenous peoples groups in Mindanao, in Davao City on February 27 to March 2. AKP Images/ Keith Bacongco. Photo made available by Wikimedia Commons.

The next Philippine president must be an active supporter of indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination, among other key principles that can advance the welfare and well-being of Filipinos in general. Why view the broad well-being of the Filipino people through the lens of the indigenous? Well, the marginalization of indigenous people (IP) has long been a penchant of Philippine administrations: development aggression in resource-rich lands, displacement, militarization, harassment, and most recently, massacre.

If the Philippine government insists on treating the very people who carry the bloodline of the country, the people who have laid claim to ancestral domain not just as property but as their cultural inheritance, the people who have carefully woven in the land and history of the Philippines into their lives today, in these abhorrent ways, then what more of Filipinos who are not of indigenous descent. What type of treatment can we expect from our government?

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In Defense of Archangels, Intergalactic Space Ambassadors, and No-hope Candidates

Certainly the country needs a leader willing to boldly go where no man has gone before. A self-declared intergalactic space ambassador, Carreon’s track record may or may not involve sealing the first peace treaty between the Klingon Empire and The United Federation of Planets. It bodes well for the commander in chief to have had experience in interspecies negotiation. Peace in Muslim Mindanao, fraught as it is with tension and resistance, may seem child’s play to a man able to walk away victorious from a rampaging phalanx of Klingon birds of prey.

This, of course, is my facetious way of appreciating Allan Carreon, Space Ambassador, one of many candidates who had filed for candidacy for next year’s elections. The number of presidential aspirants who filed their certificates of candidacy this month is record-breaking. There are many who have criticized the phenomenon, arguing it further confuses an already confusing electoral race.

The Commission on Election’s law department moved to disqualify 125 of 130 candidates. “The State,” according to a Supreme Court ruling, has “a compelling interest to ensure that its electoral exercises are rational, objective and orderly.” Individuals judged to have made a mockery of the election process—the “palpably ridiculous” ones—as well as those who do not have the funds to mount a national campaign have to be disqualified. Running for Presidency, it has been argued, is a matter of privilege, and not a constitutional right.

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