Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Archive for April, 2012

Corona Impeachment Trial: A Pandora’s Box

Posted by butalidnl on 24 April 2012

The Corona impeachment trial is not an ordinary trial. By its nature, and due to the national attention to its proceedings, it is turning out to be a Pandora’s Box – bringing to the fore issues about corruption and abuse of power beyond that of the trial itself. While these issues may not be resolved during the trial; they have been raised, and will have to be addressed by the Philippine political system.
The campaign against corruption will advance more through resolving these issues, rather than on whether Corona gets impeached or not.

SALN. Attention has been given to SALNs (Statement of Assets,Liabilities and Net Worth), which are formally required of all government officials and employees. Before the trial, filing it was only a routine procedure; but now we realize that not only should government officials file SALNs, but that they should also be accurate. And that the assets claimed should be ‘explainable’ given the officials’ income.
In discussing Corona’s SALN, the question has been raised about how accurate  SALN entries should be, and the conventions for making SALN entries (e.g. date of ownership, market values etc.)

Implementation of SALN rules will surely be more strict from now on. There will also be calls for the publication of SALNs of all elected officials.

Bank Secrecy. The existence of strict Bank Secrecy Laws (too strict, actually) has been brought to the public’s attention. People have seen the ridiculous extent to which these laws could be implemented. Congress will now have to pass a new Bank Secrecy Law that will allow government (especially the courts) to access bank accounts, including foreign currency accounts.

Executive Discretion. The issue of whether the Executive Branch can simply choose to disregard a Supreme Court order is also under discussion. Can a Cabinet Secretary ignore a Supreme Court order on the grounds that she thinks it was biased? What will happen to ‘rule of law’ where people can simply ignore laws that do not favor them? Shouldn’t Cabinet officials be sanctioned for disobeying the Supreme Court (I think they should, but I don’t think they would). In the future, Cabinet officials will be more careful before they decide to defy SC policies.

Courts will have to be more strict regarding violators of TROs. The De Lima precedent was followed recently by the administration of STC (a Catholic school which punished students for posting photos of them in bikini in Facebook) which ignored a TRO by a Regional Trial Court because the they said that they had filed a motion for reconsideration. This is partly the same logic that De Lima used.

Just Means. “A just struggle has to be fought with just means”- Mohagher Iqbal, 2002. The Corona impeachment process may be what is called a just struggle, but the means with which the pro-Aquino forces are fighting it are not just. The Corona trial will probably be determined by patronage, personal loyalties and wheeling-dealing, rather than by the facts of the case. And most people expect it to be so. The Aquino government is merely pulling strings in the old, politically corrupt way things have always been done.

But the people, who have been watching the trial on TV everyday, will not accept the old ways of politics as easily as before. There will have to be at least a semblance of a real trial, as a result of all the media coverage, It will set a standard for transparency in politics, which even the most hardened political wheeler-dealer cannot fully negate.

President Power over PDAF
Representative Tobias Tiangco said that his PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund ) allotment was not released after he refused to sign the impeachment complaint versus Ombudsman Guttierez last year. This use of Presidential prerogative in releasing (or withholding) Representatives’ ‘pork barrel’ raises the question of whether such control is justified. There would be calls to limit presidential discretion on the release of PDAF.
Another question would be whether PDAF allotments should be made in the first place. After all, the PDAF is used by Representatives in order to build patronage.

Lying About CV
Corona has also be accused of lying in his Curriculum Vitae, claiming honors that were never his.
This charge is rather trivial. After all, who does not ‘pimp up’ their curriculum vitae? The question, of course, is on the extent of ‘pimping up’ that will be allowed.

Hail Marys
‘Hail Marys’ is a term from American Football, when the quarterback throws the ball at no specific receiver And then, he just prays that it will be caught. This is seen as an act of desperation, as when the game is almost over.

The Corona impeachment is a case of a ‘Hail Mary’ thrown by the Aquino administration. They didn’t have a case at all against Corona, but they filed for impeachment anyway, under the logic that since most government officials are corrupt, Corona must also be corrupt, Since Supreme Court SALNs were not public, they assumed that they contained something improper. They calculated that Corona would most likely just resign if an impeachment case was filed. Well, he didn’t; and the prosecution had to be formed, even when they didn’t have a case.

So, they threw a ‘Hail Mary’ again, fishing for his SALN in the hope that some illegally accumulated wealth will show up. Now, it seems that this is being parried successfully by Corona’s defense. What will happen is what often happens with Hail Marys in football – the defense intercepts the ball, and the offensive side loses the game.

The whole Corona impeachment trial shows the folly of trying impeach someone just because Aquino dislikes him. The next time around, Representatives would demand much more proof of wrongdoing, before they impeach somebody else.

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A Look into the Future

Posted by butalidnl on 14 April 2012

Predicting how things will be like in the future is fun. You can let your imagination run wild and nobody could tell you whether you got it right or not. At the same time, it is tricky; a lot of things forecast before hadn’t come true – take the idea of the personal helicopter, or elaborate space colonization by the year 2000.

It was about 30 years ago that I arrived in the Netherlands (from the Philippines). I find it interesting to note the changes that have happened in those 30 years. Big things have happened: the end of the Cold War and Apartheid, the eradication of smallpox, the Internet and the Web, e-Books, digital cameras. At the same time, some other big things have not happened: manned space exploration, ubiquitous robots, Middle East peace, the ‘paperless office’ (not yet, at least).

I will try to predict things 30 years into the future (or 2042), which is as long as I can hope to live (though I think that I won’t live that long). Perhaps I could still see the changes that I predicted.
So, here goes.

Some Guiding Principles
The Future is Already Here. One thing about predicting 30 years in the future is that a lot of things then will be based on things that have already been discovered or invented today. After all, the basic discoveries for the internet were already made in the 1980s, even the 1970s. Fax machines were around since the 1930s. It takes about 20 to 30 years before a new discovery is fully developed. In the near future, this pattern will surely continue. Really new things that will be discovered in the next 10 years or more will be part of a longer-term future – i.e. beyond 30 years.

More People, More Comfort. Doomsayers who say that the people in the future will be less comfortable because of overpopulation will be proven wrong. While there will be more people in the world, they will be living longer and better than we now do. A lot of this improvement in well-being will be due to the better lives of many people in the Third World. But people in developed countries will also see their lives improved.

No Radical Changes in People’s Preferences and Habits. Social inertia is strong; ingrained habits will most likely prevail.
Many people will still hold elaborate weddings. National identities will remain. The food that people eat will generally look the same as what they eat today. People will continue to ride automobiles.

What will the Future look like, then?
Food. The world’s population will increase by at least 50% (from 7 to 10 billion). But there will be a need to increase food production by more than 50% since many people are underfed today. The Earth can sustain this population if we eat more sensibly.

The pattern of meat consumption will be different.The reason is that some kinds of meat are produced with more grain than others – this grain/meat ratio is known as the FGR (Feed Grain Ratio). Beef will be too expensive to be eaten daily by ordinary people. People will generally eat meat with lower FGRs than beef (which is 8). Pork’s FGR is 4, chicken’s between 2 & 3, FGR  for fish (i.e. the vegetarian kinds of fish) is 2. It is likely that the per capita consumption of vegetables will be significantly higher than today. A lot of ‘vegetarian meat’ will be produced from soya, mongo and other beans.

Food will be grown not only in rural areas; a lot of it will be grown in plots in urban areas (mostly vegetables and fruits). There will be a lot more fish grown in fish farms, compared to the present practice of ‘hunting’ for fish. People will NOT be eating insects (except where these are now already local delicacies).

Transportation. Personal vehicles will be small and electric. Rental services will cater to people’s need for bigger vehicles. Some vehicles will be powered by petroleum products: especially ships, airplanes, earth movers and trucks, but these will be mostly hybrid. Intercity transportation will be often done by Maglev, at least in the richer countries. High speed Maglev will replace a lot of short commuter plane links. Smart highways will guide cars through special lanes, making it possible for them to safely cruise at high speeds (200 kilometers/hour or more).

Energy. There will be a lot of energy generated; more than enough to keep people living comfortably. G4 nuclear plants (which use up 95% of the nuclear fuel, instead of the 5% that present G3 plants consume) will supply some countries with cheap electricity. For most of the rest, there will geothermal, tidal, wind, hydro and solar energy. Fossil fuel power plants will mostly be de-commissioned.Temporary surplus energy will be stored in various ways to even out the electricity supply across the day.

Solar energy will boom. The yield of silicon solar panels will have increased from the current 16% to 40% (present prototypes with improved silicon panels already have a yield of 30%, while those with Gallium Arsenide already routinely exceed 35%, so the technological jump will not be much). Electricity from fossil fuels (including coal) will be too expensive, especially since environmental costs will be fully factored in. Petroleum will be used for some vehicles (mostly heavy duty and offroad) and for making plastics and other chemicals. Solar panels will adorn every rooftop, except those used to plant food. Some walls will be made of special solar panels. The newer solar panels will be integrated into the building materials, so thye won’t look at all like today’s solar panels.

The energy needed for lighting, heating and transportation will be much less than today. Energy loss in transmission will be less, since much of the electricity will be generated close to the user.

The problem of global warming will shift from greenhouse gases to the heat dissipated with the use of all the energy.

Space Travel. Space exploration or colonization will continue at the same more-or-less leisurely pace as today. Earth-bound considerations will continue to put limits to how much is spent in space. There will have been one or two manned missions to Mars, but no permanent bases. There will be people living on the moon, but this will be more like the present Antarctic scientific camps. There will be a number of space stations in low-Earth orbit.

Life Expectancy. Major diseases like tuberculosis, malaria and even AIDS will be greatly reduced, affecting a shrinking percentage of the population. In developed countries, the treatment of degenerative diseases will be more successful.

The obesity epidemic of today will be a thing of the past. Perhaps 5% of the people may still be classified as obese; but increased prices of food, more exercise and better therapy (medication and surgery) will result in  decreasing numbers of obese people.

Cancer will still be around, but for most cases, treatment would make it more of a chronic, rather than a deadly, disease.

Death from accidents (especially vehicular and work-related) will be low and steadily decreasing, as traffic authorities and companies institute more stringent safety measures. Large-scale industrial pollution will be lower, lessening deaths from chemical exposure. The most hazardous tasks (e.g. underground mining) will be increasingly robotized.

Worldwide average life espectancy at birth may reach the late 70s (in 2010, it was 67.2 years); lots of people will live to their 90s (and be relatively healthier than now).

Computers/IT. There will be a range of devices for all kinds of needs: wristband, handheld, slate, notebook, desktop, wall, company network and super computers. People will have a wide range of options for keeping information in the ‘cloud’ or in their machines. A person’s devices will more efficiently share information with each other, in various ways and extents.

Information will be available for a fee – people will make micro-payments to access this. At the same time, more information will be shared for free. All of human knowledge will  be available on the internet. Devices can all communicate with each other, The choice will include: text, audio, full audio-visual, data.

A lot of ‘office work’ will be done partly at home, as with school work. Work and study will be combined with regular (a number of times a week) face-to-face sessions. ‘Traditional’ offices and schools will still constitute the majority, and those will employ the latest IT tools.

E-books will be widespread. Almost all books will be in e-book format. Paper books will be quite expensive in comparison, and will be bought by special book enthusiasts or as gifts.
E-paper will be used for posters/signs at stores, and maybe even on billboards.

All-round robots will still be experimental. But there will be a lot of special purpose bots. Examples would be restaurant bus bots, automatic vehicles (for use as taxis within cities), cleaning bots and smaller industrial bots.

Politics. There will be more nation-states than there are today. At the same time, many of these will be grouped into supra-national entities e.g. EU, ASEAN, Ecowas, Mercosur which would assume many functions which today belong to nation-states.

There will be peace between Israelis and Arabs – but the form could vary from a unitary Arab-Israeli state, to Israel as Jewish state at peace with its neighbours. North and South Korea will reunite. There will be no more dictators ala Gaddafi or Lukashenko anymore. However, there will probably be some ‘failed democracy’ (like present-day Russia).

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