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LET’S ALL BE

BY PEPPER MARCELO

MABUTING PILIPINO

N THE heels of several corruption scandals that attended the past Arroyo administration, a new group has emerged to propagate good governance and responsible citizenship in partnership with the Aquino administration’s avowed goal of purging corruption.

The Mabuting Pilipino Movement (MPM) was founded by former Akbayan Representative Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, folk singer Noel Cabangon, and retired Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim. Its mandate includes reforming the different institutions of government, proposing sound policies and empowering the people to become better Filipinos. In an interview with Planet Philippines, Baraquel points out that the group was initially inspired by Cabangon’s song, Ako’y Isang Mabuting Pilipino, and President Aquino’s campaign slogan, Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap. “The song wasn’t just a mandate for the President, but it was also a movement of sorts for the voters,” she says. “Besides being in the campaign, we really want to prioritize anti-corruption.” Baraquel was the party-list Akbayan’s losing bet in the last senatorial election under the Liberal Party-

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led coalition. Formally launched last February, the movement gathered various advocacies and instituted three programs as a template for future activities: a cultural aspect to present the various faces of corruption creatively, improving the different bureaucratic organizations, and engaging the people to get involved. “Corruption has been so rampant in the Philippines,” MPM said in a statement. “In the past administration, corruption happened with impunity,” referring to allegations of widespread corruption during the

Beyond good governance, Mabuting Pilipino focuses on what it sees as a deterioration of common societal morals. It aims to “reaffirm and nurture good Filipino citizenship values, like truthtelling, bayanihan, concern for fellowmen and women, and love of country.”

Risa Baraquel (right) and former AFP budget officer George Rabusa hold the movement’s placards as other MPM members supporters look on. administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. “Without sufficient pressure and vigilance from active citizens, GMA’s legacy of corruption and plunder will continue unabated under this new political climate,” it added. Their campaign supports the exposes of former government auditor and now Commission on Audit Commissioner Heidi Mendoza and former military budget officer Col. George Rabusa about massive irregularities in the Armed Forces. Rabusa alleged that former AFP chief of staff Angelo Reyes had received a P50million pabaon (send-off money) when he retired in 2001, and that incoming military chiefs of staff also received millions worth of pasalubong (welcome gift) when they held the post. Mabuting Pilipino also claims that the Office of the Ombudsman was “rendered helpless, tolerant of corrupt practices, and worse, protector of corrupt officials.” It has launched a “Bantay Merci Impeachment” campaign to vigilantly monitor the impeachment proceedings against Ombuds-

man Merceditas Gutierrez. Gutierrez resigned last April and the Senate impeachment trial was aborted. Individuals and groups that have thrown in their support for Mabuting Pilipino include: InciteGov, Ateneo School of Government, University of the Philippines CSSP Student Council, Transparency and Accountability Network (TAN), Active Citizenship Foundation, People Power Volunteers for Reform (PPVR), Young Public Servants (YPS), LWUA Employees Association for Progress (LEAP) Yellow Army in Action, Para sa Bansa, Rebolusyonaryong Alyansang Makabansa (RAM) Akbayan Youth, and the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP). “The way the movement is evolving is that it attracts kindred spirits,” says Baraquel. “In every meeting, we make a conscious effort to not make this a Manila thing but be national.” In order for its advocacy to have more cohesion, Mabuting Pinoy aims to combine various reform strategies in keeping anticorruption and transparent and account-


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able events in the public view, as well as to providing creative avenues for citizens to participate in them. “We work together so as not to replicate each others’ ongoing efforts, and be aware of, support and amplify them,” Baraquel continues. “We tell each other what we’re doing, participate in other’s events to multiply the actual and perceived constituents.” Beyond good governance, Mabuting Pilipino focuses on what it sees as a deterioration of common societal morals. It aims to “reaffirm and nurture good Filipino citizenship values, like truth-telling, bayanihan, concern for fellowmen and women, and love of country.” The movement’s proponents point to common occurrences of corruption and irregularity such as tong to traffic policemen by erring drivers and pay-offs to fixers to speed up government and bureaucratic processes. Despite their focus on anti-corruption, Baraquel stresses that Mabuting Pilipino aims to uphold the positive values of Filipinos as well. “We believe they are part of our culture, but have been uprooted by a long history of institutionalized corrupt practices. We want to highlight and deepen bayanihan, support for whistleblowers, truth-telling itself.” She says that before we can change the government, we have to change ourselves first. “If I change my attitude and behavior in small ways every day, then it will enable us more authentic and consistent with the battle against institutionalized corruption. Over time, it creates a better culture for its

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Despite their focus on anti-corruption, Baraquel stresses that Mabuting Pilipino aims to uphold the positive values of Filipinos as well. Co-founder Noel Cabangon uses music to promote good governance and social justice.

Retired Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim was charged with mutiny for his anti-Arroyo activities but later pardoned.

A Mabuting Pilipino member poses beside the organization’s bus that tours different communities spreading MPM’s advocacies.

MAY 16-31, 2011

citizens.” According to Baraquel, there is a strong connection between individual practices and the systems and institutions that the former seeks to change. “At the same time, the reciprocity that we put in there is being good citizens – following laws, paying taxes, participating in political and social processes, speaking out against corruption and other evils. Fighting against corruption becomes a process of transforming ourselves.” MPM’s other activities include campus and community tours, a shame campaign and “truth actions” that protect and support truth tellers. “Since we have youth groups participating, they said there will be happenings outside of schools and communities. It’s a chance for them to encounter one another,” she says. MPM is strongly pushing for the passage of the Freedom of Information Bill pending in Congress which seeks to grant the public access to government documents and transactions as well as the financial and personal files of government officials. Baraquel believes that despite what appears to be an ingrained practice and tradition of corruption in our society and culture, all is not hopeless. “The worst we can do is define corruption as immovable or unstoppable. Yes, it’s a big problem, but it was set up by people like us over time. If we can construct it, we can deconstruct and reconstruct the system of governance. Let’s be active citizens and in that way, create a transparent and accountable government that we have long wanted.” n


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Pacquiao is the Pinoy “everyman” that the majority of the masang Pilipino can relate to, and his successes have made him a symbol for the Philippines and Filipinos, his efforts a matter of national pride.

Pacquiao’s feat of going up eight weight classes, gaining pounds yet never losing his speed, flexibility, and power, has never been done before or since. BY JENNY ORTUOSTE

N RECENT years, one of the most interesting phenomena ever to emerge from Philippine media is the Manny Pacquiao phenomenon. There has never been anything quite like it before. The various forms of mass media are saturated with news about Pacquiao— before, during, and after a fight—from television to radio to the Internet. It seems almost as if time stops in the country when Pacquiao fights; the crime rate is even said to drop significantly, something that would be a good topic for a research study. What’s so fascinating about Manny? Manny Pacquiao is a Filipino boxer who, from the deepest obscurity and poverty that most fighters come from, has punched his way into world consciousness and sport history as the “greatest pound-for-pound fighter” ever to grace a ring. His feat of going up eight weight classes, gaining pounds yet never losing his speed, flexibility, and power, has never been done before or since.

In general, fighters tend to stay within their weight class or go up a class or two (which means going up in weight). However, the added poundage takes a toll and as per the Peter Principle, they will hit their “level of incompetence” perhaps a class or two above their original one, unable to eke out any

There are less men in churches on Sundays when there are Pacquiao fights and media, particularly print, touts that “there is no crime on Pacquiao fight days.”

Every Pacquiao fight is now aired over multiple mass media channels—pay-perview cable and free TV, movie theaters, radio broadcasts, Internet and mobile phone.

more success from that point on. As an athlete, Pacquiao is incredibly disciplined. He maintains a strenuous daily training regimen which includes running several miles a day, sparring with several partners, and calisthenics. His hard work has paid off. He has suffered only three losses—in 1996, to Rustico Torrecampo; in 1999, to Thai Medgoen Singsurat; and in 2005 to Erik Morales, an indignity he avenged in twice, in 2005 and 2006. Once he hit his stride after that, under the able coaching of American trainer and former pugilist Freddie Roach, he has not lost any of the 14 fights he has had since. Because he has beaten many Mexican fighters, the US sports media bestowed upon him the monicker, “The Mexicutioner”.


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As a play upon his name, and because of his successive victories against fighters of many nations not just Mexicans, including Hatton (UK), Clottey (Ghana), and, most recently, Shane Mosley (USA), he has been likened to the power-packed enemy-chomping video game character “Pacman”. He offers each fight, each victory, to the nation (pagmamahal sa Inang Bayan); he is prayerful (madasalin), dropping to his knees to thank God after each fight; he indulges his Mommy Dionesia, wife Jinkee, and children (pagmamahal at pagpapahalaga sa pamilya); despite his wealth and lofty stature in sport and politics, he also is an average man prone to temptation with beautiful women (machismo, pagiging tunay na lalaki.) These are attributes deeply embedded in Philippine culture; he is therefore the Pinoy “everyman” that the majority of the masang Pilipino can relate to, and his successes have made him a symbol for the Philippines and Filipinos, his efforts a matter of national pride. Prior to the Pacman phenomenon, boxing in the country existed under the radar of the vast majority of Filipinos. It was perceived as a bloodsport, a cruel and inhumane activity participated in by men of poverty hoping to earn a living from prize money. For decades, the popular sport was

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He has entered the national mythos, and that is not the least of his achievements.

The persona of Pacquiao has become a sign connoting abstract concepts such as Filipino-ness, national pride, and love of country. professional basketball, under the auspices of the Philippine Basketball Association. After that, with the success of “Amang” Parica and Efren “Bata” Reyes in the international professional billiards scene, that sport enjoyed a run of popularity, as evinced by the sprouting of billiards halls in nearly every town, and the purchase of pool tables for the homes of those who could afford them. Despite the achievements of Flash Elorde, Rolando Navarrete, Gerry Peñalosa, and Luisito Espinosa in World Boxing Organization and World Boxing Asso-

ciation matches, it had to take a Pacman and his steady stream of exceptional international victories for boxing to enjoy a resurgence in this country. Every Pacquiao fight is now aired over multiple mass media channels—pay-per-view cable television, delayed telecast on free TV, for-pay screenings in movie theaters, radio broadcasts, updates on the Internet via news articles, Facebook updates, and Twitter, and between people using mobile phone texting. Round-by-round news of his fights is almost inescapable, being passed around even through word

of mouth. Try riding a taxi during a fight; the driver will update you the moment you step inside. Such a media phenomenon seems to have spawned some social effects, not the least of which is the new popularity of boxing. Undercards are now being seriously watched and the boxers followed, unlike before Pacman when undercards had the same relevance to viewers as the opening acts in big-name concerts (people tend to ignore them and think of them as necessary nuisances). Former undercard boxers such as Nonito Donaire have gone on to gain their own fans. Boxing and mixed martial gyms have sprouted up in many areas of the country, with more young men than ever hoping to fight their way into the ranks of multi-millionaires, while the outof-shape hope to get buff.

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There are less men in churches on Sundays when there are Pacquiao fights. Media, particularly print, touts that “there is no crime on Pacquiao fight days.” Also most telling, Pacquiao has become a symbol of Filipino pride around the world. The persona of Pacquiao has become a sign connoting abstract concepts such as Filipino-ness, national pride, and love of country. He has entered the national mythos, and that is not the least of his achievements. In Joseph Campbell’s concept of the monomyth or “hero’s journey”, a hero from the ordinary world is chosen to enter a realm of strange events; if he accepts the challenge, he must perform tasks and face trials. If he survives, the hero earns great gifts or boons which he may use to improve the ordinary world if he returns to it successfully. This Pacquiao has done – entered the strange world of international boxing, performed tasks impossible for other boxers, and earned prize money and learned skills that he uses to better the lives of his fellow Filipinos. For many, Pacquiao is a true hero, and his accomplishments have made changes on our culture, the effects of which we are discovering as his story still unfolds. (Manila Standard Today) n


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BY CECIL MORELLA • Agence France Presse

S

UBIC, PHILIPPINES - Two huge former US military bases have found a new lease on life in post-Cold War Philippines, with budget airlines and cargo ships taking the place of fighter jets and destroyers. The conversion of Subic Naval Base and Clark Air Base into tax-haven special economic zones nearly two decades ago has drawn a few thousand investors that include shipbuilders, electronic firms, airlines and tour operators.

The transition, however, has not been smooth and the vast areas, each about the size of Singapore, still do not live up to their potential with parts resembling ghost towns, officials involved in running them acknowledge. But they now employ around 150,000 people, nearly four times the 42,000 locals when US forces gave up what were then their biggest overseas military facilities in 1992, according to Subic’s stateadministrator Armand Arreza. “We’re the main economic driver here,” Arreza told AFP in an interview at his office at the sheltered deepwater port of Subic. The US military set up their naval and air presence in 1901 and 1903 respectively as they took colonial control of the Philippines, with Subic becoming the repair and supply yard of the US 7th Fleet that ruled the Pacific. Clark became the headquarters of the 13th US Air Force and the two bases were among the biggest employers in the Philippines for decades after World War II. But Clark was forced to close when the nearby Pinatubo volcano erupted in 1991, burying the area under vast amounts of ash. The following year Subic also closed when, amid rising nationalist sentiment and a dispute over rent, the Philippine Senate refused to renew leases on both bases. In their place, the government moved quickly to turn the areas -- a couple of hours’ drive north of Manila -- into special economic zones that allowed investors to import raw materials, capital and equipment tax free. The company tax rate in the zones was set at five percent, compared with about 30 percent elsewhere in the Philippines, and foreign businesspeople setting up there were given visa waivers. Foreign manufacturers -- from makers of electronic chips to door knobs, garments and car parts -dominated an initial rush in the 1990s. But some ran into difficulty during the 1998 Asian economic crisis -- a pattern that, most recently, again played out in 2008 with the global financial meltdown. Arreza and others involved in the process described the post-US withdrawal development as a se-

FORMER

U.S. BASES

THRIVE IN PHILIPPINES In a country that has fallen further behind many of its Asian neighbors on a range of vital economic and social criteria over recent decades, the bases have provided a crucial source of money.

This modern container terminal in Subic is one of numerous investments in the former US naval base, which reached $7.2 billion in 2010.

Officials are eyeing the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark as the country’s premier international gateway to replace the congested Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Subic has rich tourism potential, boasting tropical beaches and some of the most well-preserved rainforests left in the country.

Korean shipbuilder Hanjin Heavy Industries has built in Subic one of the 10 largest yards in the world which has delivered 20 ships over the past five years. ries of hits and misses. “There are assets that have been distressed, companies whose business plans have not been as successful,” Arreza said. One major setback came in 2009 when Federal Express moved its regional hub to China, leaving 800 locals without jobs, in what was seen as a symbol of the Philippines’ increasing inability to compete with its giant Asian neighbor. Many manufacturers that initially were attracted to the Philippines had in actual fact shifted

operations to China and Vietnam from as early on as the mid1990s. Richard Gordon, Subic’s first administrator, said one of the key misses was a controversial government decision to strip top Asian port operator Hutchison Whampoa of its winning bid to build a Subic container port in 1995. “If we’d brought (Hutchison’s billionaire owner Li Ka-Shing) to Subic who knows what companies would have come,” Gordon told AFP.

The government later borrowed money to build a container port that is now operated by Li’s local rival for the original project. Nevertheless, Clark and Subic have done well compared with the rest of the economy, said John Forbes, investment adviser to the American Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines. “The Philippines has done extremely well at both the bases... of course they are not being maximized but that’s because the Philippine economy has not been maximized,” Forbes told AFP. In a country that has fallen further behind many of its Asian neighbors on a range of vital economic and social criteria over recent decades, the bases have provided a crucial source of money. Total investments in Subic since its conversion into an economic zone reached $7.2 billion last year, with nearly $5 billion of that coming since 2005, according to government data.

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Clark, which has more usable space and a bigger runway, has attracted a total amount of $25 billion, official figures show. Among the biggest recent investors at Clark are chip-makers Texas Instruments of the United States, which arrived in 2009, and South Korean giant Samsung, which set up operations last year. The two have so far ploughed 860 million dollars and 135 million dollars respectively out of their initial billion-dollar investment pledges. Japanese tyre manufacturer Yokohoma, which has been one of the most enduring foreign companies at Clark after arriving in 1996, also has expansion plans. Meanwhile, regional airline AirAsia is due to make Clark its main Philippine hub in September, joining seven other budget carriers already there. Over at Subic, Korean shipbuilder Hanjin Heavy Industries has built one of the 10 largest yards in the world which has delivered 20 ships over the past five years. “Shipbuilding has become an emerging sector for us,” said Arreza, adding that the Subic port was now second only to Manila in terms of general cargo volume. In another sign of progress, Guam-based Aviation Concepts moved into Subic in February to provide fuelling and maintenance services for Asia-based aircraft, as well as air ambulance services. After Federal Express’ departure to China, Subic’s airport had remained dormant. One of the government’s main priorities now is to drive more traffic into the former bases to boost aviation and leisure facilities, with the huge Chinese market a top focus. “Tourism, for me, is the sleeping giant,” Arreza said. “Right now we’re into domestic tourism, but of course there’s a lot of seasonality and you are vulnerable to domestic conditions. So we want to get budget carriers to come here also for the foreign tourists.” Subic, in particular, has rich tourism potential, boasting tropical beaches and some of the most well-preserved rainforests left in the Philippines. Subic also already hosts international sporting events such as triathlons, mountain bike tours, sailing and kayak races. Lance Gokongwei, chief executive of Cebu Pacific Air, one of the seven current Clark operators, said the airport there had the potential to attract as much traffic as Manila’s international airport. “It’s just a question of making an investment in infrastructure,” Gokongwei told AFP. “There’s a large catchment around Clark, within a one-hour radius I think, (where) there’s five or six million potential customers.” n


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Teleseryes - most of them of the romantic, fantasy or “romantic-fantasy” sort - have taken over much of our primetime TV viewing. BY NESTOR TORRE

OME VIEWERS may not be aware of it, but we’re in the midst of a new revolution or convulsion (call it a “convolution”) that has slowly but surely been changing the local video landscape: Teleserye “culture” has taken over much of our primetime TV hours, “entertaining” millions of viewers with one extended series after another, most of them of the romantic, fantasy or “romantic-fantasy” sort.

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Teleseryes lull viewers into yearning to escape from their problems and realities, instead of more purposively confronting them.

‘TELESERYE CULTURE’ OVERWHELMS TV SCREEN When fantasy takes over, all problems can be magically “solved” by the well-timed appearance of a superhero, diwata or deux-ex-machina device. So, why bother doing anything to resolve your problems, dilemmas and conundrums in the real world? Simply fantasize and they’ll go away (until the next commercial break).

connected viewers into inaction. We leave it to psychologists and other social scientists to quantify how much our “rom-fan” tele-

seryes have softened our collective backbone as a people, and corroded our national vision into—well, television. But, if you’re sensitive

to the signs of irrelevant distraction and escapist rot, they’re all over the place.

Coin another new word and call it “rom-fan,” if you please. But, however you choose to describe it, the new mega- (and nega-) trend has upstaged many other program types and is well on its way to replace moviegoing as the nation’s communal way of getting its entertainment fix. We call it a new pop culture or subculture, because of its overwhelming pervasiveness and popularity. But, it is in fact anticulture, because the images it so persuasively sells have little to do with how we really are, or should be.

Simply fantasize

When fantasy takes over, all problems can be magically “solved” by the well-timed appearance of a superhero, diwata or deux-ex-machina device. So, why bother doing anything to resolve your problems, dilemmas and conundrums in the real world? Simply fantasize and they’ll go away (until the next commercial break). With more than 20 different teleseryes playing on TV each and every day, the essential depiction of reality has been rendered moot and academic—even on “reality” shows and on newscasts. Some “news” items are now being emotionally tweaked to come off like mini-teleseryes, complete with sumbatan, confrontations at the police precinct—etc.!

What can be done?

Escape from reality

For one thing, it lulls viewers into yearning to escape from their problems and realities, instead of more purposively confronting them. Its emphasis on idealized romance and “freaky” fantasy further distances it from reality, seducing an entire nation of dis-

MAY 16-31, 2011

Those of us who patronize teleseryes should make ourselves more aware of the negative effect of all that fantasticating escapism!

What can be done before “teleserye culture” utterly overwhelms and undermines the nation’s psyche? First, our TV people should realize the negativity and counter-productivity of this new force some of them have so thoughtlessly unleashed. And, second, all of us who patronize teleseryes throughout the TV programming day and night should make ourselves more aware of the negative effect of all that fantasticating escapism! (Philippine Daily Inquirer) n


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