Tuesday, May 03, 2016

A continuity of 1896, Duterte's Revolution

The pundits have spoken. The Pinoy traditional political landscape has been completely refashioned. And who refashioned it? The mass of the electorate! The lettered elite is aghast and caught unawares but they shouldn’t be, only if they seriously read the history of the Philippine Revolution.
The 1896 Katipunan revolution was a truly mass movement, consisting of the working class, pesantry, middle and professional classes and the landed and lettered elites. The participation of the pesantry and the working classes were not due to propaganda alone. Neither were they deceived by their folk Catholicism. They saw meaning in these expressions which saw in their definition of nationhood. For without these the revolution would have not been a force and immediately would have been crushed.
The historian Rey Ileto notes that the folk Catholic “Pasyon” is the wellspring of Filipino ideologies of revolution. The meanings the peasants found in the Passion of Christ has counterparts in the journey of the Filipino nation to freedom. This idea of liberation is different from the Enlightenment European view (though the Ilustrado lettered elite has this as a foundation of theirs which was more rationalist and secular). The Filipino meaning of “kalayaan” has some elements of Roman Catholic teaching on equality, equity and morals which resonated much among the Filipino secular clergy. And this ideology is as F Sionil Jose wrote (and who is hated by some in the lettered elite), is rooted in the soil in the peasants and not on Marx (or Lenin or Mao).
The Revolution came from the people’s perception of this lack of equality and twisted morals that favored the ruling class. And so it was not surprising that in areas where the Revolution was secured, redistribution of the hated friars’ landholdings were done in the name of the people. This however was thwarted with the rise of the elite faction of the Revolution. Apolinario Mabini and Antonio Luna saw the necessity of this “rationalization” if the independent Philippines is to survive as a nation. American intervention however killed the nascent Republic. Since the elite faction became dominant, the revolutionary government limited political participation only to those of higher economic status and with it came massive corruption and violence so well documented in Dr Mila Guererro’s doctoral thesis on this period. We can only guess how the Republic had developed in answering issues of social justice.
The same questions of social justice are still behind the rise of marginalized (meaning from Mindanao) Rodrigo Duterte as the leading presidential candidate in 2016. While the elite is befuddled by his ideology, the fact is this ideology is in continuity with the 1896 one. The Heneral Lunacy blogger has this to say “ It is said there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. Unlike his rivals, the Duterte phenomenon is bigger than a single persona, it is a movement defined as an ideology (Federalism, anti-establishment, right-wing solutions to crime, left-wing solutions to the economy) with critical mass and energy. “
This is an idea that has time and time have come, 1896, 1986 in continuity with the 144 year history of Filipino nationhood but whose power was betrayed by the elite which sought to preserve its privileges as guaranteed by liberal democracy. But there are increasing signs that the elite’s franchise on these has become shaky and to avert the unthinkable, there has to be a peaceful negotiated settlement to fulfill the aims of the Katipunan. This is if we want to save liberal democracy.
No talk of GDP rise, investment grades, or what Australians or other foreigners think will assuage the masses. Everyone from the marginalized to the elite have to realize that the 1896 revolutionary ideology placed a premium on the ballot box but even that has a limit.
If the elite establishment cheats, the limit will be reached and the outcome won’t be a picnic cum prayers as in EDSA 1986.
As the Heneral Lunacy blogger wrote “It will not be pretty” And I agree and I don’t want to even think of about it.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Dutertismo? Simounismo? Revolution?

It is a good thing than in 2015 Anvil republished Dr Mila C Guerrero's 1977 doctoral thesis on "Luzon at War, Contradictions in Philippine Society, 1898-1902. Here we read her thesis that the Philippine Revolution of 1896 is now seen as a revolution that resulted in social levelling for social change but rather for regime change in the state and church e.g. replacing the Spanish leadership with the Filipino and on the religious side, replacing the friar with the Indio clergy.. And the Katipunan revolution never had a program of addressing social inequity but had one on legal inequity whilst preserving the privileges of the propertied class (who were to collaborate with the Americans later). The Katipunan was inspired by liberalism current in Spain then. This Rizal knew had its political limits and perhaps is the reason why he did not advocate revolution then. But Rizal in the El Filibusterismo knew that the romantic anarchism of Simoun may be a portent of what is needed and so he had to romantically kill Simoun in an author's Deus ex Machina and only to be absolved by an Indio priest.

This liberal idea of the Revolution would form the basis for justifying American "tutelage" leading to a semi-sovereign Commonwealth and eventual recognition of independence in 1946. As long as the elite's privileges were preserved, it can continue to rally for the liberal ideas of Independence and Revolution (sans massive redistribution of course!)  in 21st century platforms like FaceBookk and they continue to do so until this very moment. EDSA I and II can be considered true heirs of the liberal nature of the compromised Revolution. Perhaps until now. The Marcos bogey has emerged but that doesn't make the liberal knees shake. After all a big block of Chiz protects them! And Marcos Jr knows that to suppress the elite is futile. If Marcos Jr wins Malacanang by taking the veep route, the elite knows that a modus vivendi will protect them.

Now that is no longer sure.

What is now making the liberals tremble is the emergence of tough talking Mindanao citizen and Mayor of Davao, Rodrigo Duterte whose latest pronouncements literally shreds elite liberal democratic pretensions (e.g.Duterte threatening to close Congress permanently)  while advocating the federalist idea resonant with the non Manila urban classes.  In doing so Duterte threatens the elite in Manila and those in the regions whose powers, wealth and privileges are tied to Manila. We easily can see this since fear is magnified on social media. And if Herr Doctor Goebbles were alive today, he would have noticed this.

And one thing, Duterte comes from Mindanao a great resource rich island known by almost all who come from the regions as marginalized as best and colonized at worst by Imperial Manila. This accusation has basis since even from the start of the Filipino Republic the idea was government from Manila and all go to Manila.  Unless Manila's power is redistributed, Manila will always be an internal colonial power.

Duterte has not yet crystallized his ideology but we can be sure it is populist and now has a socialistic tinge by advocating some forms of redistribution. There is a hint of pragmatism yet. He is not closed to a diplomatic solution to our problems with China.  But my good friend an ex political detainee Randy Malayao doesn't think this Dutertismo can develop in some sort of Chavismo like ideology. Malayao is right since PH unlike Venezuela doesn't have the kind of resources that an imperialist like the US requires.  But I do not foreclose the possibility for these are early days in the presidential race.  But how Duterte will do it assuming it is really at the core of his ideology for the presidency, is something worth watching.

Rizal ever the prescient one knew that the anarchistic (now read as socialistic) route cannot be avoided if important reforms are not made. As early as 1899, the PH peasants were already advocating redistribution and there was agrarian unrest which the Aguinaldo government suppressed. Thus there was the  Katipunan of the propertied and the "other Katipunan".  Mabini eventually came to a realization that "rationalization" of the Revolution is unavoidable for the republic to survive. This would have entailed redistribution as initiated 'from above". While this was quite radical given the situation in 1899, it was still well within liberalist agenda. It is possible that if Antonio Luna had succeeded in deposing Aguinaldo, this partly socialistic agenda may have been realized since Luna already had those ideas for reform.  Such reforms never happened in substance then whether it was in Quezon's Commonwealth, the post 1946 republics. Marcos' martial law and the EDSA 1986 "democratic" restoration.

And so such expectation of the masses of the Filipino nation never was realized. Resistance came in the guise of religious messianism and this has translated to the secular side. If the PH elite on social media claims that Duterte is a sort of messiah, then they should read the history of the "other side of the 1896 revolution" and they will know the reason why.

Is it time to recover the nationalist ideology that animated the masses of the 1896 Revolution and not the one the elite constructed and survived US colonization? I have to caution that this is not the Maoist one (which the masses have decisively rejected) of Jose Maria Sison.

And so Nick Joaquin who asked "Whose Revolution" are we inspired by? Perhaps it might be interesting to follow Duterte's quest for the presidency.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Anatomy of an enrolment disaster in UP Diliman

The public higher education system in the Philippines is capped by the University of the Philippines, which by virtue of its charter, is provided by the State with a high degree of autonomy in managing its own affairs and resources.

All of these is aimed in ensuring that the university is able to deliver services for its students, faculty and staff.  Students who attend the university enter into a contract with the university every time they matriculate, that they would be given all the opportunities to fulfill their course requirements as best the university can provide. And most basic of this is the provision of enough places in the courses the colleges provide.

The constituent colleges and departments of the UP at the start of the academic year try to estimate the demand for their courses. With the registration and admission processes of the university done exclusively online, data management for projecting next semester's outcomes should be simple. The maths do so are simple. A bit of Bayesian statistics may be needed. While this may sound difficultly Greek for the layperson, it shouldn't be for the University of the Philippines in Diliman. There are quite a number of PhDs in this campus who can do that since they use that in their disciplines.

As the Science and Society Program of the College of Science (SSP), we are tasked to service the whole undergraduate population and we instituted management procedures that allow us to model the potential demand for our Science, Technology and Society (STS) courses. Given the lack of faculty items in the university, it is hard for us to service the student backlog of approximately 3500 students per semester as based on our predictive models. But we are  trying to address this problem in a rational way. Rationality however can be fail when the system is stretched to the limit and begins to break down.

And this happened this semester. An unexpected additional 900-1000 students had to be serviced and there was not enough classes to do that. STS historically has had a large class size for the 9 sections offered (mean = 120) but now we have no choice but to have classes at with a mean size of 173 students (Standard deviation 18.1, Standard error= 0.48 ) since we have a total of 1381 students now.  The mean is  53 more than what STS was intended for. The excess 53 is more than the manageable 35 students that UP classes are designed for. And please note, our standard error is so small. Therefore we could be confident to say our decision to admit the excess 53 can answer for the increased demand. Or does it?

Based on our past projections, admitting an excess of 25 students per class  in proportion to the 160 mean is enough to service the "desperately needing for slots students" (a.k.a. graduating!) which we estimated at 225 students per semester. This is  around 6.25% of the estimated by the Registrar backlog for our courses. That percentage is barely servicing the desperate since one of our models estimate 10% as a better bet.  But now since we have a mean 53 students in excess we can not be sure. Enrollment trends in the succeeding semesters may give an idea but I am reasonable to hypothesize that the prognosis isn't good as the demand for UP education with the Iskolar ng Bayan law, is certainly to increase.

The STS sections should be increased to at least 20 (at the 150 including 25 prerog admissions per section) to meet the servicing demand of 3,000 students per academic year. This means we need an additional 11 PhDs to teach the course. And these PhDs should read beyond their discipline! But faculty items in UP are hard to find since we need the Budget department of the national government to give us faculty items. A typical academic department has 9 faculty items. And so 11 is unrealistic from the administration's point of view.

In conclusion the SSP is overstretched and the present state of affairs stressing our staff who manage class enrollments and academic records in order to admit more students.  With this rationality might fly out the window.

And thus we need a stiff drink!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Be ballistic please!

There has been much controversy generated by a single tweet, one by broadcast journo Maki Pulido and her perception of the lack of compassion among health service providers at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).

We’ve long known that social media easily gets the nerves of people. The problem is in a 21st century world devoid of wit and almost all of satire, these little microblog phrases do more than surgery. They do vivisection and expose the illness and its pathology if we may, and in the process killing the patient. In a more literate age, another physician did a similar thing. Dr Jose Rizal did not pen a tweet, but what made for tweets or blogs in 19th century Spanish Philippines are novels and essays. They killed Doctor Rizal who was essentially a messenger. But unlike Ms Pulido the journo, Dr Rizal had what we now call post-residency training. He was part of the medical fraternity. I never heard of an account that a physician went ballistic over Dr Rizal’s diagnosis. Perhaps it was professional courtesy.

Dr Rizal likens the disease as a cancer, then as much as is now, an incurable disease. He made the only prescription possible given the state of medical science at the time.

Dr Rizal wrote on his prescription pad

“I will do with you as the ancients did with their afflicted: expose them on the steps of the Temple so that each passer by would invoke the Divine and propose a cure”

And so the illness stinks and stinks like a diabetic foot or a carcinoma in which the flesh had started to suppurate.

My work rarely brings me to PGH and in the few times I went there (aside from a medical procedure), it was to give talks about rapid environment changes to physicians. Since some of the doctors were once my students in undergrad courses, they welcomed me and showed me around. Since I am a scientist, I have this insatiable curiosity to learn about the conditions of the hospital. And noting an unpleasant smell, I asked what was that. The resident doc told me it was what they call “diabetic foot”. And so that was my nose-opener. It was not that new. I am no stranger to bad smells. In one post assessment of a disaster, I have known the scent of decomposing human bodies.

I did not extend my visit beyond what was required since the doctors had to attend to their duties. But it was not long enough to comment if the doctors were compassionate enough. But it was long enough to comment about the facilities of PGH and the great lengths the physicians go to provide basic medical care to indigents.

And here is where that issue of compassion goes. The crux of the matter is that compassion to a health provider is different to the compassion, or what is thought to be compassion by the lay observer or by the patient. Western medicine is built upon objectivity in diagnosis and in treatment protocols and in assessing the health outcomes. Here is where compassion of the doctor must be seen. When one of these is awry especially the last, doctors get troubled and in the last they may raise their hands in frustration. Like Doctor Rizal and why?

My curiosity to know more about it made me pick up a copy of Dr Ting Tiongco’s memoirs of PGH life in “Surgeons do not Cry”. If one wants to know the context of compassion in PGH, I would suggest he/she reads Dr Tiongco’s book.

With this, I do not blame the physician for reacting the way she did and whose nerve got nicked by Pulido’s tweet. In frustrated words; she essentially made Rizal’s diagnosis. The question is what the cure should be? Should mere “exposition of the Temple’s steps” be enough?

I am of the opinion that Ms Pulido was just as frustrated enough as the doctor was. Analogous to a doctor’s job, a journalist has certain diagnostic jobs to report what is there, the feel good stories and the stories of corruption that make listeners and readers rise in anger.

And so the doctor and journo did Rizal’s job and exposed the afflicted on the Temple steps. However what kind of cure can netizens propose aside from likes and memes?!?

For starters, the whole Philippines is a PGH, if you keep your eyes, nose and ears open. I am an environmental scientist and has been to this PGH of islands and likewise like the physician, I raise my hands in frustration when I learned that the reason why there were decomposing bodies is because when they were alive, they had no choice but to live in that hazard prone area. Why?

I rage when social media hypes of Laboracay at the beach when at the same time I am on a remote island beach better than Boracay, to assess an environmental problem related to some capitalist environmentally damaging investment, but the welcoming party are smiling but tubercular and obviously protein malnourished kids. Why should they be tubercular in an age of Facebook? My grandmother finished her nursing degree at PGH during the American colonial period and she treated tubercular children in the same hospital. I remember her calling this condition with its ancient Greek name “pthisis”. She caught it at the hospital and she had it until her death. And yet children are dying of the same disease when people complain of slow Internet speed. When I joke of the Laboracay camp when the revolution is triumphant, it’s not just tongue in cheek!

I can give an endless number of examples. But one that makes me extremely ballistic is this. I rage at the middle classes who suggest that poor people deserve the kind of services they get (including PGH) since they don’t pay taxes. And they do pay taxes at every cup noodles they buy while their children fall victim to infectious diseases the rich and middle class need not worry about. And the children should not be subsisting on sodium rich cup noodles for in the future they would need dialysis machines.

And so what’s the cure for the disease? Where is justice? Perhaps only when the government criminals have no choice but to seek hospital arrest in PGH! Whether that be from hypertension, some gynecological condition or mere hysteria. Taking from Dr Rizal, Dr Ting Tiongco gives what I believe is the right prescription

“Drag them screaming to the people’s court to account for the injustices”

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Law of Unintended Consquences

China's claim to territories in the Sea of Southeast Asia [I refuse to call it what the Europeans named it as "South China Sea". THE SEA DOES NOT BELONG TO CHINA]  and its deployment of an oil rig to the Vietnamese territory of the Paracels has changed the military balance in Southeast Asia. (South Vietnam once occupied these islands but faced with imminent defeat from the Communists with no American support, lost these to the Chinese in a naval battle in 1974) Vietnam however challenged the intrusion to its sovereign territory by deploying coast guard ships which exchanged with Chinese ships water cannons.

While this could be one of those spats in a similar league to India and Pakistan's border guards doing their martial struts to the delight of a partisan tourist crowd, it is not. Vietnamese workers started burning factories owned by Taiwan, Singaporean and Chinese interests. China had no choice but to evacuate its nationals from Vietnam.

The Beijing's provocation is aimed at Obama's pivot in Asia doctrine. Unfortunately, it is unfolding as an epic failure for Beijing.

The conventional  Western wisdom is

1) Vietnam is the loser
2) The Philippines can't do anything and is weak

I disagree. China is the loser and it will lose big. None of the analysts factored in what the Japanese WILL DO.  China's Communist Party is risking its own overthrow.

China defeated a Vietnam without American support (the 1974 Battle of the Paracels) or a Socialist Vietnam still recovering from the War in 1989 when China's navy defeated them on the same islands. However Vietnam is in no way a weak military power in the 21st century.

A Chinese invasion of Vietnam will therefore be an exercise in tactical idiocy. The Vietnamese will use the same advantage they used against the Americans and easily defeat the interloping Chinese.

However this is not the main unintended consequence. China risks another danger if it invades any of the islands in the Spratlys currently occupied (not just claimed) by the Philippines. These islands are a civil territory with a civil government. Invasion may bring the Americans in. The Americans are already in with the enhanced defence arrangements (EDCA) agreed upon by Manila and Washington. Washington will likely avoid direct military confrontation but is likely to provide the hardware and training to Philippine forces and increase interoperability. This is really the rationale behind the enhanced defence arrangements. EDCA is designed to make PH armed forces improve in capability and credible defence similar to what the Americans did to post war Japan's military soon after World War II.

The Americans need not fire a single shot. However the Philippines should expect more Chinese harassment (this is what China has the capability to do at moment) especially in its gas fields and fishing grounds.

It is Japan, America's superpower proxy in the Western Pacific that will likely fire the shot that will sink the Chinese, if China persists on its hegemony in the Sea of Southeast Asia. I say this since this has been America's strategy in the Western Pacific since the time of Ronald Reagan and Yasuhiro Nakasone in the 1980s. America has encouraged Japan to be the "unsinkable aircraft carrier"in the Cold War against the Russians and despite economic recession in the 1990s that still bedevils it, Japan has expanded its rearmament and the Diet has passed incremental laws that expand the scope of operations of Japan's de facto armed forces,  the Japanese Self Defense Forces (JSDF).

The JSDF has now legal remit to participate in UN peacekeeping operations and in disaster response. While JSDF troops and naval  and air assets cannot be on the frontline, they have successfully been deployed in Iraq, Ache, Indonesia during the great Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004 and maritime interdiction against piracy in the Indian Ocean. The Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF), the de facto navy has proven it can operate as a blue water navy (which the Americans intended anyway).

One important historical development in Japan's post war military buildup was largely ignored by the PH and Western press and analysts but was not lost on Beijing. For the first time since World War II, Japan sent its de facto aircraft carrier with a de facto "battle" group to Leyte Gulf in 2013 for the Yolanda relief. While the JMSDF was on a humanitarian mission, Japan showed that it can send its navy and project airpower anywhere it wants to. JSDF mobilization and response is quick as proven in the 2011 Tohoku tsunami.

The deployment of the oil rig in the Paracels give Japan a cogent reason to defend international sea lanes by projecting its power. And in the Senkaku islands which China also claims, Japan has not hesitated to confront Chinese vessels. Japan will likely legally make its de facto armed forces into a de jure one in the next few years.

Japan's armed forces at the moment do not have enough forward capability since as a self defence force, it is mandated to defend the Japanese home islands and Okinawa. However close interoperability with the Americans can easily remedy that and America will be on a supporting role.

It is likely that even Vietnam, Japan, the US and PH will have military agreements to increase interoperability. AFP interoperability with Japan was foreseen by President Marcos in the late 1970s since he foresaw that America is unlikely to pursue a direct confrontation with regional powers. My father went to Japan in the early 1980s to study this possibility.

A Chinese military and naval defeat at the hands of the Vietnamese or Japanese can cause unrest in an China that is primed for unrest. China's economy is slowing down as discontent increases. The Party may not be able to control this for long.

And that is the unintended consequence!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What's so good about the morning?

Cadets in formation. From the Philippine Military Academy website
The case of Cadet Cudia has brought into public (a.k.a. civilian) discussion what values the armed forces value and how this relates to the civil sector of society. In this country, the civilian authority as embodied by the President of the Philippines acting through his/her civilian defense secretary, is supreme. The constitutional tradition we inherited from the Roman Republic says "Cedant Arma Togae" or Arms give way to the Toga, only means that civilian authority is supreme. However, the civilian unless constitutionally given the right, is not supreme over the soldier. Thus social media warriors cannot claim supremacy over the soldier unless the constitution gives them authority! Social media civvie warriors at best have their own duty and the soldier his/her own. 

Philippine Military Academy (PMA) mistahs say that "civilians will never understand". Perhaps yes, if only the real ideal of civilian supremacy over the army. A mob can never be supreme over the army. An electorate expressing its democratic according to the modes prescribed by the Constitution will  and will always be.

However it is a bit daft for mistahs to think that civilians will never understand what the honor code is all about. Honor is actually a simple concept if one values the collective rather than the individual first. British public schools have the similar idea of what the PMA has and any violator is "dobbed" in. In fact even in university, by following the honor code, you can dob in an erring prof! (This was the "dob in a Don" controversy under the conservative Australian government about a decade ago) And this raises a ruckus if one considers American ideas of academic freedom.

 I am for the moment a civvie and I fully understand these things! Anyone one who signs up for the service (boot camp!) has to have his/her behavior changed. The army doesn't need individualists but people who will subordinate their will to command. It is not just simple following of orders, but reasoned obedience to command. The orders must be clear, concise and complete to the last detail. Any SNAFU can lead to disaster and unnecessary loss of life. When I blew my top after reading Cadet Cudia's appeal on a social media news site, it was because it violated what being clear, concise and complete really means!

Behavior is changed from day 1. Regimentation begins and then follows the almost endless inculcation of plebe knowledge from important stuff like the definition of military discipline, military courtesy to almost trivial things like the right answer to "What's so good
about the morning?" at morning inspection.

And of course the Honor Code that even we in the Cadet Corps of the University of the Philippines high school and ROTC had a version of.

And of course not to leave out the important objective of developing "esprit d corps" from a bunch of misfits and losers!

The plebe is the lowest form of life in the army. Even the private who issues the army issues have more authority! One has to respect authority and best of all be courteous even to the goddamned private!

And the plebe cannot be seen or heard not to know, but always to find out!

But the plebe doesn't remain a plebe for long. He/she will be recognized in due time and who knows may end up like General Douglas MacArthur! Then he/she will be commanding all, from the goddamed private to the Generals! The General of the Army like MacArthur is courteous to the lowest ranking soldier to the Commander-in-Chief. My oh my, courtesy is a rare commodity these days in our society!

But to get to this stage, one has to perform his/her duty well in honor and to his/her country above all. To do it well and honorably for the country is to persevere in what you are doing.

The unfortunate thing is that this important military training experience is lost to many of the young people. It's like the Latin Mass, almost lost. With ROTC being made an option and universities and colleges not promoting it as well as the other civilian options for national service, young men and women have not a idea that there are times one has to subordinate the will for a worthy cause, like national defense or responding to disasters. Here we need the values of discipline and courtesy that enable us to perform our duty well under grace and pressure.

And we then realize what our authority as civilians really is all about! The challenge for the armed forces and most especially for the mistahs of the professional officer corps is to live up to the whole idea of being a soldier. The AFP has to clean up its barracks and to show it as spotless to the civilian supreme authority.

My dad sang to me the  old Army ditty when I first put on the uniform. "You're in the army now, you'll never get out!"

What never left me is the sense that there are times I have to reasonably obey command and to give commands and also that important value of courtesy which plebe knowledge defines simply as "an expression of consideration for others"

What's so good about the morning? Sir, you sir!

Friday, November 15, 2013

The government is washed away

All Philippine Presidents have faced disasters and catastrophes in their terms, be this man made or natural. Manuel Quezon faced his greatest trial during the Japanese invasion. The president installed by the Japanese occupiers, Jose P Laurel faced his greatest trial trying to protect his people from the Japanese. Quezon's successor Sergio Osmena faced his by trying to rebuild the Philippines from the war's damage. The other presidents faced earthquakes, numerous typhoons and droughts and floods and they were able to rise to the occasion. And this even included Mrs Cory Aquino, who had to face the RAM coup disaster aside from the great earthquake, a big volcanic eruption and of course a series of deadly typhoons. She rose to the occasion even if many did not agree with her policies.

Why did these presidents of the Philippines rise to the occasion? Perhaps before they were elected, they realized that the Presidency is no PR cakewalk and that it involves a certain gravitas which Mrs Aquino was well acquainted with, given the tragic episodes of her life. She was known to be on her knees in prayer so many times.  The presidency as Mrs Aquino knew, isn't just PR. Mrs Aquino was known to be like steel when she decides, whether these decisions were right or wrong. She took the blame gracefully.

The presidency of Mrs Aquino's son Noynoy is probably the first presidency installed into power solely by PR hype. Everything in this Aquino administration smacks of PR stunts. From its "daang matuwid" mantra to how it manages important policy decisions. It is reactive. While some of the responses were for the greater public good, some responses were not, especially its stonewalling on the proper response to the tourist bus hostage taking in the Luneta.

The signs of the problem were apparent from the earliest days of this presidential administration. The response to the Haiyan catastrophe in terms of decision making and management is nothing but a worse version of how the bus hostage taking was managed scaled up in dimensions. This administration appears not to have learned any lessons on how to handle a crisis and now it is paying for it and the people are paying a huge price for it, in terms of lives being lost

The PR spin instinct has not been lost. Mr Aquino denies the scale of lives lost. Similar large scale disasters have happened in other countries and the leaders of these countries had to break the grim news to their people, not by PR spinning it. Presidents and Prime Ministers and even Monarchs who have no political roles have the responsibility to tell it how it is, comfort the nation and make the national resolve as hard as steel, raise the morale of the people and challenge them to rebuild or if necessary to fight. Manuel Quezon had the unfathomable responsibility of telling his people this in December 1941.

Mr Aquino, the body count is rising, tell your people to be strong. You have the nerve to tell them that they were unprepared one day after the catastrophe!  You also walked out of a disaster briefing and pointedly told a looting victim "that he did not die"!

Filipinos compare what happened in Japan. That is a very apt comparison in terms of damage and scale. The disaster response did take a while, about 2 to 3 days but the Prime Minister of Japan ordered his forces to respond on the same day. A few days later the government asked the  Emperor give a message to his subjects, asking them to grieve, help, and rebuild. In no instance did the Prime Minister or Emperor tell the people that they were unprepared. That will be in the chambers of the Diet, where the blame game should be.

The presidency of Mr Aquino, despite whatever good it has done, will solely be judged by history on how it conducted itself in this catastrophe, as Christiane Amanpour would rightly judge. But this presidency is found wanting. And all that ride on the political roller coaster of the presidency are found wanting, including media and the military in which my father served and warned a year before his death that corruption in the Armed Forces will result in the inability of the soldiers to respond to threats that could kill people. My father was referring to armed threats to national security. But disasters now are a threat to national security. Unless and we are seeing the breakdown of society in Leyte. This will continue unless the government imposes law and order.

I will not be as harsh like Peque Gallaga in his indictment. But like Direk Peque Gallaga, I will UNFRIEND anyone in social media and face to face if anyone asks me to obey AQUINO's GOVERNMENT and criticize it later! My conscience will not allow it. I cannot reasonably take commands from a commander-in-chief who cannot effectively command because he can't decide well! This is something I learned from my ROTC training.

PR like anything media practitioners have hatched is easily washed out. It was and with it this Aquino presidency. Like Peque, as far as I am concerned for those who criticize me for criticizing Mr Aquino and his government, it's either you  smash your idols or choose the welfare of the people.