When Militant Labor Strikes Back – Reorganizing the Philippine Left

The problem with unions today is that there aren’t enough of them.-Martin Johns

In the aftermath of the Berlin Wall’s fall and the oil crisis of the 1970’s, right-wing organizations seized control of the world’s political machinery as the Left’s popularity collapsed along with the USSR. The fall of socialism overturned the era of the Keynesian doctrine, which was the standard macroeconomic model in the non-Communist world after the Second World War. There was much distrust against left-wing parties who were often seen as sympathetic to their more radical cousins in the Soviet Union. The words ‘liberal’ and ‘socialist’ became political insults. Thus, the Left found itself at a political crossroads. It either had to give in to the pressure of adopting more moderate positions or risk losing elections for years to follow. In the end, it had to abandon many of its traditional pro-worker ideals to win back the support of a vexed electorate–the same electorate that has benefited from decades of militant labor struggle.

Third Way ideologues vowed to take the Left to a new direction, which meant less government control and more market-oriented reforms. This proved popular to a public which clamored for wide-scale reforms. Labor unions and militant organizations gradually saw a cessation of their political influence as left-wing parties turned to the business sector for support.

Yet what was supposed to be a harmless co-optation of some right-wing policies to win back control turned out to be a massive betrayal of the labor movement. Left-wing parties the world over ignored the pleas of workers and instead listened to their allies in the business sector. It was in the ‘90s where we saw the convergence of both the center-left and the center-right as deregulation, privatization, and trade liberalization became the Holy Grail of economic growth. Both factions became the prophets of the neoliberal consensus.

The political debate was no longer about nationalization vs. privatization. The question this time was: To what degree should we privatize our industries? In other words, to what degree should we cede control of our basic necessities to the wealthy and owners of capital? To what degree should corporations be allowed to make profits off the backs of middle-class and poor families? Thatcherism and Reagonomics became economic orthodoxy worldwide with the almost cult-like support of every moderate political stripe.

Not surprisingly, there have been numerous economic crises since the rise of neoliberalism. The Asian financial crisis, the dot-com bubble, and the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis which threatened the stability of the global economy were all borne out of the lack of financial oversight. The same workers who forced the Left to become more moderate realized that their swift acquiescence of right-wing policies was not in their best interest. As Big Business became more powerful, workers suffered since corporate elites could influence politicians to gut welfare programs and other pro-labor policies.

Today, with the rise of right-wing fascists like Trump and corporate sellouts like Paul Ryan, capitalism is brewing yet another global catastrophe. For what would Trump do when he’s faced with another global recession as a result of his policies if not resort to what America does best, which is to invade another sovereign country in the guise of spreading democracy?In the words of war criminal George W. Bush, “ All the economic growth that the U.S. has had, had been based on the different wars it had waged.”

Clearly, the global labor movement is well-positioned to take back the Left and drive away the neoliberals as it becomes increasingly clear that there’s hardly any difference between the center-left and the center-right in terms of economic policies. With jobs becoming more volatile and demands for higher wages routinely ignored even by so-called leftist parties, workers will become more sympathetic to labor unions in both the developed and the developing worlds.

Most importantly, the Trump Era represents an opportunity for the Philippine Labor Movement to increase its political clout, to unite the entire Filipino working class against the wealthy who have plundered the country’s resources for their benefit. This is the time for more labor strikes and massive protests. This is that point in history where the labor movement is needed the most. The Philippines, as it strives to become a developed country by 2050, must replicate the successes of Western Labor if it wants to reduce income inequality. It should integrate left-wing politics into the national dialogue. Anyone who looks into the history of countries with welfare programs can see that they are products of decades of militant struggle and left-wing leaders like Eugene Debs, Cesar Chavez, Michael Harrington, Franklin Roosevelt, Clement Attlee, and Harold Wilson.

But how do we redeem a country where major political parties are bereft of any ideology? How can we implement welfare programs and labor law reforms when many government appointees have ties to large businesses? Is it possible to elect leftists in a country where leftism is automatically associated with the New People’s Army?

Because of their lack of political representation, labor unions had to make various concessions at the expense of workers’ rights. For most of its history, the Philippine Labor Movement has only acted as a pawn in the political fights between elite-controlled parties. The radical KMU supported Grace Poe and the sexist pig Win Gatchalian. TUCP endorsed the corporate puppet Mar Roxas, SENTRO endorsed the neoliberal Leni Robredo, while the Philippine Trade Group Workers Organization (PTGWO) and the Federation of Free Workers (FFW) endorsed the son of a mass murderer, Bongbong Marcos.

The labor movement, understandably, has succumbed to personality politics. It had no reason to support national political parties because there aren’t really any national political parties. What we have are national fundraising coalitions. This is arguably the root of many of the country’s problems and to correct this, one can’t simply sit down, implement laws, and expect political parties to change their behavior. There has to be an alternate national political party, one that functions as a united political force with a clear and consistent goal. There has to be a political party that can run progressive candidates both at the local and national levels. Thus, the labor movement not only has the responsibility of redeeming the working class from the scourge of corporate plunder through mass movement, it must also reform the government from within.

Of course, any organized political body has to resolve its internal conflicts. The labor movement itself has partly been responsible for stymied labor law reforms. Some militant labor unions have become subservient to Soviet and Maoist demands, causing others to break away and form another labor union. Some have been corrupted by opportunistic leaders who are beholden to corporations. And other labor unions have elected unprincipled leaders who take compromise as a default position. On the surface, it’s hard to imagine how a labor party could ever form with such a divided labor movement.

But I maintain that it is possible. After all, if KMU could afford to compromise some of its principles by endorsing Grace Poe who has ties to Danding Cojuangco, couldn’t it work with other left-wing trade unions to form a national labor party? Essentially, the problem is not of ideology, but the distribution of power. A national labor party led by left-wing leaders, radical, progressive, and anti-neoliberal unionists, can become a major political force if it ensures that all member groups are represented fairly in all elections. For instance, they could agree to an alternating system where radical and moderate groups file candidates for either national or local elections.

However, the Labor Left must rectify many of its past mistakes. While militant groups are important allies in the fight against neoliberalism, the party must not allow them to bring the party too far to the left, alienating many voters in the process. I envision a Labor Party that acknowledges the failure of full state planning and proposes better economic systems that do not allow greed to become the foundation of the economy. The Labor Party must uphold the welfare of workers above all. It must be built from the ground-up because grassroots efforts will ensure success in future elections. Unlike other national political parties, which are only active during elections, membership into the Labor Party must be open to the public.

Eventually, the Left will have to acknowledge that 21st century problems cannot be solved by outdated economic systems. While I share many, if not all, of the criticisms that socialists have against capitalism, I find that many people have fallen victim to the false dichotomy between the two. In other words, critics of capitalism label themselves socialists and communists because they couldn’t find other alternatives.

For too long, Leftist political thought has stagnated and it has become dominated by the ideas of Marx and Engels. If the Labor Party is to assert its relevance in modern politics, it must begin with an intellectual revolution that takes in ideas from scientists, anti-war activists, radical feminists, environmentalists, anti-globalization groups, and yes, even Communists. It must stop deifying Karl Marx and acknowledge that many of his ideas aren’t feasible. This intellectual revival will start in university campuses, especially within the ranks of the powerful student movement that once challenged governments all over the world to end the Vietnam War.

But to call for an intellectual revolution is not the same as treating all ideas as equal. It is not meant to reject sensible ideas from radical and moderates alike. Rather, it is meant to ensure the continuity of the Left. In the end, any idea must be guided by the rejection of massive profits and corporate greed. It must uphold the democratic control of workers over their workplaces and the equality of sexes. These new political and economic philosophies will become the foundations of a stronger labor movement.

On International Workers’ Day, we honor the toiling masses, labor leaders, and allies of the Labor Movement. Manggagawa at anakpawis, tumindig laban sa neoliberalismo at globalisasyon. Isulong ang makabayan at militanteng unyonismo!

What kinds of policies should the Labor Party advance? Here are my thoughts:
  • Support one industry, one union;
  • YES to a Maximum Wealth Policy;
  • Reject overconsumption and the myth of infinite economic growth;
  • Support the transition to a steady-state economy;
  • Withdraw from the WTO and all anti-worker free trade associations;
  • Oppose austerity measures;
  • Reject structural adjustments imposed by the World Bank and IMF ;
  • Fire all government appointees with ties to the right-wing think tank Foundation for Economic Freedom and the Makati Business Club;
  • Defund the neoliberal Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS);
  • Replace Carlos Dominguez and Ernesto Pernia with progressive economists;
  • Break up large banks and build more community banks;
  • Criminalize monopolistic company mergers;
  • Criminalize overtime without pay;
  • Arrest all executives who park money in overseas tax havens.
  • Nationalize the mining industry and arrest the executives of mining companies who fund militias to kill anti-mining tribal leaders;
  • Immediate shutdown of companies that practice child labor;
  • Oppose deregulation, privatization, and trade liberalization;
  • Break up all haciendas and distribute land to all farmers;
  • Protect labor unions from union-busting;
  • Raise the minimum wage;
  • Raise corporate and marginal tax rates;
  • Tax stock earnings and speculative trading;
  • Resist the influence of Monsanto and other monopolistic agri companies on the food supply;
  • Break up all monopolies;
  • End all forms of contractualization;
  • Seize all prostitution dens and deport all foreigners involved;
  • Tax all churches and ‘charitable’ foundations with ties to large companies;
  • Appoint progressive, left-leaning judges to the Supreme Court;
  • Justice for the workers of HTI and Kentex;
  • Call for the amnesty of all migrant workers on death row;
  • Junk the death penalty;
  • Close the gender wage gap;
  • Oppose all proposed free trade agreements;
  • Abolish copyright;
  • Junk the Wage Rationalization Act;
  • Junk the Herrera Law;
  • Junk the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement and withdraw from APEC;
  • Junk the Labor Export Policy;
  • Junk EPIRA;
  • Junk the Mining Act of 1995;
  • Junk CARPER;
  • Junk VFA.
Which labor unions and organizations should coalesce to form the national Labor Party?
  • Kilusang Mayo Uno – KMU
  • BMP – Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino
  • Sanlakas
  • Partido Manggagawa
  • National Federation of Labor Unions

“The essence of trade unionism is social uplift. The labor movement has been the haven for the dispossessed, the despised, the neglected, the downtrodden, and the poor. ” – A. Philip Randolph

 

Bachelor of Science in Corporate Sluttery

Too often, we get praises about our employment prospects in UP, and it’s easy to get distracted with a false sense of elitism. In truth, UP’s current employment climate isn’t worthy of celebration. It represents the sorry state of an already weakened labor movement.

There’s plenty of room for debate as to how this came about. It could be poor management and poor vetting of companies. It could be a result of a faulty RGEP curriculum, which focuses too much on the rote memorization of facts, dates, and events. Or it could be a symptom of an even bigger problem, which is the rise of economic globalization. What’s abundantly clear, though, is that there’s a worrisome trend of increasing corporate influence in most of our major universities, and we’re producing out of touch graduates who show little to no concern for the plight of minimum-wage earners in major corporations, focusing instead on the value of their first paychecks and how fast they could go up the professional leader.

Many companies have mastered the art of hucksterism, appealing to the deepest psychological instincts of consumers and prospective employees alike. They rebrand themselves according to what best captures this weakness. Oil companies are now energy companies. Those with a long history of busting unions and abusing workers show smiling faces of their employees in TV ads. And companies with controversial products use superficial CSR projects to distract us from the damage that they’re causing. Essentially, these marketing strategies have been shown to work.

To discern trickery of this sort needs more than an ability to solve a hard engineering problem. It requires a complex combination of personal development and institutional changes.

If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past five years about corporations, it’s that they do not spend money out of the goodness of their hearts. Stock dividends, CSR projects, donations to the poor–all are meant to improve their image to potential investors with the least possible costs. Make no mistake, the profit motive remains the central theme of our economic system.

It’s sad, then, to see  UP become a platform for corporate propaganda. We have allowed the culprits of economic inequality to present students with ‘facts’ that suit their own agenda. We compromised the integrity of our institution by underestimating the power of a small logo beside an event name. We have become so desperate for sponsors that we no longer care about a company’s legal history.

Imagine a situation where you’re looking at a poster for a feeding program for poor children. And at the top you have Company X’s logo. How would you feel? If this was me five years ago, my overall impression of that company would improve. I’d start planning out how to work for them in the future. And that’s exactly the kind of mindset they want you to have. They use our emotions to control us, to make us think that they’re on the side of the marginalized.

Another way in which the corporate elites appeal to students is by marketing themselves as ‘pro-science,’ as opposed to organizations like Greenpeace who peddle ‘left-wing conspiracy theories.’ We’re made to believe that everything we’ve been told about their company was a lie. And some people buy it. After all, there’s some form of psychological relief that we feel when we get to hear the ‘other side.’ We saw this in the first few months of Gina Lopez’s appointment when mining students from the College of Engineering organized against her crackdown on irresponsible mining companies. ‘Yes to Responsible Mining,’ they said.

But where were these people years ago when mining companies were destroying the lands of our indigenous tribes? Where were you before Duterte’s anti-mining rhetoric? As disagreeable as I find Gina Lopez, she shouldn’t be dismissed as a lunatic, nor should she step down as DENR chief. She brings to light the concerns of the poor and the creeping elitism within the academe about scientific progress.

There’s a reason why the tribes are against mining companies. It’s because they saw how their environment has been damaged. Beneath the pro-science rhetoric of mining companies lies their deceitful practices and inhumane treatment of the poor. Do you honestly think that a company with enough money for legal representation would work fairly with those who could barely afford food?  We seem to have forgotten the number of labor leaders and environmental activists who have died because they stood up against the greed of the mining companies. No doubt, mining is essential in creating our everyday products but we must always be wary of the intentions of mining firms and recognize that for many corporations, it’s always profit above anything else.

There are companies who sell lifestyles instead of their products. They center their company’s name around the virtues of hard work, grit, and perseverance. These are noble values to have. However, we must not fall for the trap of thinking that people who are poor are not working hard enough. So-called inspirational speakers love to say that it’s all in the head. That people are poor because they’re not passionate enough about their dreams. Well it’s bogus, and only people who are narcissistic enough would believe that. Focus on these’values’ implicitly undermines the pleas of the labor movement for higher wages. Graduates become dismissive of labor unions as too demanding because the graduate’s mindset is ‘Work hard, no matter how unfair the terms are because you’ll be rewarded in the end.’ Well, that’s not how corporations work.

Finally, there’s corporate environmentalism. Corporations have been increasingly active with their pro-environment propaganda, mainly in universities worldwide. They launch ‘idea-generating’ contests to make students think that they really care about the environment. But do they really or is it just another way of getting students’ intellectual property at a much lower price? Why do we trust the same companies who have polluted the planet to do the right thing now? It’s not just the product that should concern students, but the economic system itself. The current economic order requires excessive use of resources at the expense of other parts of our environment. We may soon be filled with renewable energy sources, but when you rely on an economic system based on massive profits for its execution, you’re bound to create more imbalance.

It’s important to acknowledge that assaults on the labor movement take different forms. Perhaps the most dangerous is that which targets its future members. As students, social awareness, healthy skepticism, and knowledge of our very own psychological vulnerabilities are enough to make a principled stand against corporate abuse. We must not contribute to the dismantling of an already fractured labor movement. UP organizations must not normalize sponsorships by companies with unethical practices towards the environment and the working class. It’s my hope that the administration itself would redesign the curriculum to highlight the history of the labor movement and how it’s been abused. The problem of economic inequality can never be solved if we keep producing future politicians and managers who think it’s fair for an executive to get millions of dollars while those in the manufacturing plant live paycheck-to-paycheck.

Trickle-Down Economics: UP Libertad’s Flawed Ideology

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Trickle-Down Economics has been the most destructive economic theory since the Great Depression which led to the collapse of the housing market in 2008. Adherents like Reagan, Thatcher, Ramos, conservatives and libertarians borrow their ideas from the Austrian and Chicago Schools which advocate for limited government.

They believe that regulation hampers economic growth, that taxes prevent businesses from growing, and that the government’s actions intrude into their personal freedoms. These leaders have made tax cuts for the rich, deregulation for the powerful, and wage suppression central aspects of their administrations’ economic policies.

And it shouldn’t surprise anyone that these have dug an even deeper hole for those who are already struggling to get out of poverty. This combination of the most naive, selfish, and cold-hearted policies is favored by many oligarchs and I think that’s a sufficient reason to take a deeper look into their pronouncements and ask any free market advocate about the implications of unregulated capitalism.

 

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LABOR POLICIES

Trickle down advocates say that when wages go up, employment goes down. Trickle down advocates say that when wages go up, employment goes down. In fact, at the heart of free market libertarianism is the belief that the minimum wage should be phased out so that employment would rise.

It sounds like legit economics. Although, in reality it’s an intimidation tactic masquerading as sound economic theory. It’s the oldest trick in the businessman’s job suppression handbook.

Nevertheless, as an advocate of absolute free speech, I admire UP Libertad for speaking up about their principles. The best way to prevent an ideology from reaching the President’s desk is by actively talking about them and I hope that future debates between the far-right and the far-left will give rise to a labor party that believes in the moderate principles of post-Keynesian economics.

Libertarianism has a bizarre populist appeal. Anyone who has no knowledge of the competing economic philosophies would find it hard to object to the basic tenets of libertarianism. On the minimum wage alone, however, there are already a handful of questions that can put libertarians on the defensive.

Do lower taxes for companies really favor minimum-wage earners? What incentive will there be for executives to raise the wages of people working in factories when they can pay you with the lowest wage possible and not be threatened with government lawsuits? Why should they pay workers first when giving their profit in the form of dividends to shareholders will attract more investors, and raise their stock’s price in the long run? Do you honestly believe that unregulated executives will think of the welfare of its employees first?

One good example is SM. Since 2005, their stock price has grown from Php 198 to Php 960. That’s 385%! Did the salary of minimum wage employees of SM also increase by 385% or anywhere near that rate? Of course not!

Another example is the US economy. Since the Great Depression, the US middle class has grown massively because of welfare programs of Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Johnson. When Reagan came in, much of the economic growth was concentrated in the upper class because of assaults on labor unions, the minimum wage, and on welfare programs.

I agree that the government has spent so much in terms of welfare–welfare for the rich, that is. Because of a series of flawed labor policies and lax tax rates on giant corporations, the government has been forced to pay more in terms of health care, free education, etc, which should not have happened if companies weren’t paying their employees with death wages.

Principally, what libertarianism is about is making acceptable the employer’s morally callous practices of abandoning its employees for the sake of profits. It prioritizes the interests of the wealthy to realize its flawed notion of freedom. Its stance on many labor issues is based on so many false assumptions that the Left should do everything to expose the ideas of UP Libertad for what they really are before we end up with policymakers who would replicate the terrible ideas of Milton Friedman and Ludwig von Mises.

Some of the false assumptions of libertarians are:

  1. That for every company that pays the lowest wages, the free market can provide another company which would pay higher wages and force the first one to increase its own.
  1. That allowing foreign companies to run businesses here will prevent mergers.

Some companies already have monopolistic control in some markets. Mergers have made them more powerful. They can lower the prices of their products anytime to kill medium-sized businesses, and then raise it when no competitor is left. Allowing foreign companies to compete would be great if we want to foster competition. But libertarians want to disband the government. Without the power to regulate, we’re faced with the possibility of giant local corporations teaming up against foreign corporations making it even harder for small businesses to get ahead or even enter the market.

  1. 1. That for every company that pays the lowest wages, the free market can provide another company which would pay higher wages and force the first one to increase its own.
  2. That allowing foreign companies to run businesses here will prevent mergers.Some companies already have monopolistic control in some markets. Mergers have made them more powerful. They can lower the prices of their products anytime to kill medium-sized businesses, and then raise it when no competitor is left. Allowing foreign companies to compete would be great if we want to foster competition. But libertarians want to disband the government. Without the power to regulate, we’re faced with the possibility of giant local corporations teaming up against foreign corporations making it even harder for small businesses to get ahead or even enter the market.
  3. Corporations will do everything to save the environment even if it meant lower (or even zero) profits.
  4. Raising the workers’ wages is a burden for employers.
  5. That having private prisons running our criminal justice system won’t lead to mass incarceration.
  6. That those running small and medium businesses are angels who will do everything to protect worker rights.
  7. That the free market can provide an ethical company for every unethical company there is.
  8. That the corruption in the justice system is better handled by the free market.
  9. That foreign investors operate here to raise our wages.
And of course,
10. That every public institution can be treated as a business and can give profits for everyone.

One can get an even greater idea about the ideology of free market libertarians by looking at UP Libertad’s ask.fm account:

Question: “How can a transition to libertarianism deal with the Philippines’ major monopolies?”

UP Libertad: “In the first place, the major monopolies in the Philippines only exist and keep existing because of anti-market government economic policy. Protectionist policies, such as the “60-40 rule” in the Constitution regulating foreign investment, only serve to protect the businesses of local oligarchs from competition.

Excessive labor regulations can be absorbed easily by big businesses, but make it hard for small businesses to hire and fire. Policies like these perpetuate the monopolies by hindering competition. In a transition to libertarianism, the major monopolies will actually have to compete by offering good products at good prices, lest they lose to their competition.”

How can the problem of the hegemony of local oligarchs be addressed by allowing other oligarchs to run our country? Doesn’t that make it more difficult for small businesses to compete? This is where the weakest assumption of libertarianism becomes apparent. Its vision of private corporations is that they’re run by angels who do what’s right even without the government telling them to. Thousands of lawsuits can prove that’s not the case. Corporations exist to make profit. Period. Anything it does is intended to generate more money. Allowing foreign corporations to get in would force local oligarchs to make merger deals because they wouldn’t want a foreign company taking away their share of the market. Although I agree that too much protectionism hurts the economy, I think the opposite would be equally catastrophic.

Question: “Mula sa pagkakaintindi ko, ina-advocate niyo ang free market kung saan hindi nireregula ng gobyerno ang mga negosyo. Ngunit sino ang magpo-police sa mga practices nila? Self-regulation lang talaga? Tingin niyo hindi sila aabuso? Ngayon ngang nireregulate ang businesses andaming abusadong kapitalista”

UP Libertad: “Una, ang ibig-sabihin ng “free market” ay hindi nakikialam ang gobyerno sa supply, demand, at kalidad ng mga produkto at serbisyo. Ang mga abuso na lumalabag sa karapatan ng mga tao at empleyado, tulad ng pagdaraya, ay bawal pa rin.

Ang mga negosyo sa isang free market ay mananagot sa kanilang mga customer, empleyado, at kalaban sa negosyo. Kompetisyon sa negosyo ay ang paraan ng pananagutan/accountability sa mga negosyo. Hindi dadayain o aabusuhin ng mga negosyo ang kanilang mga customer at empleyado kung maaari silang lumipat sa kalabang negosyo.

May mga abusadong negosyo kahit na may regulasyon dahil ang mga malalaking negosyo ay ginagamit ang regulasyon para tumakas sa kompetisyon. Sino ba ang enforcer ng regulasyon? Ang gobyerno, na puno ng mga crony ng malalaking negosyo. Dahil dito, ginagamit ang regulasyon para patayin ang kompetisyon: ang mga small and medium businesses. Para sa amin, ang kapantayan at katarungan ay makakamit sa pamamagitan ng pagtanggal ng kapangyarihan ng gobyerno na makialam.”

It’s best to analyze these responses one-by-one.

Point 1: “Ang mga abuso na lumalabag sa karapatan ng mga tao at empleyado, tulad ng pagdaraya, ay bawal pa rin.”

Point 2: “Kompetisyon sa negosyo ay ang paraan ng pananagutan/accountability sa mga negosyo.”

Point 3: “Dahil ang mga malalaking negosyo ay ginagamit ang regulasyon para tumakas sa kompetisyon.”

Point 4: “Ang gobyerno, na puno ng mga crony ng malalaking negosyo. Dahil dito, ginagamit ang regulasyon para patayin ang kompetisyon: ang mga small and medium businesses. Para sa amin, ang kapantayan at katarungan ay makakamit sa pamamagitan ng pagtanggal ng kapangyarihan ng gobyerno na makialam.”

Response to Point 1: In what way is it not allowed? Morally? Yes. Legally? Certainly not!

If the government no longer has the responsibility to regulate product quality, how can consumers hold abusive corporations accountable? How can they file lawsuits against the company’s executives if there is no legal basis for their complaints? Wala kang standards set by a central institution, so the only way you can seek justice is by telling other people not to buy from them. Move on nalang. Been using lead-contaminated products for months? Buy from another company. That’s the libertarian response. Move on and hope that their building burns down.

Response to Point 2: They admit my previous point. It is competition that will bring down an abusive corporation, not the government. What does that mean for consumers? It means that they will release defective and substandard products into the markets first and make huge sums of money before the people find out and simply start buying from other companies. And it means that the double-dead meat of company X that you’ve been eating will continue to be sold until someone speaks up.

Response to Point 3: True. I think the solution is to reform the government and set-up institutions that will prevent corrupt regulators instead of removing the government altogether. For Filipino libertarians to conclude that the government can never function properly, they must have seen government go through all kinds of reforms first. We’ve never done that. There’s so much that needs to be done, from political party reform to campaign finance reform. Despite the many flaws of government, it has helped poor people to some degree. And so, to simply assume that the problem stems from the mere presence of government and not from the way it is organized is logically untrue.

Response to Point 4: Puno daw ang mga crony ang government? What’s the best solution according to he libertarians? Let them roam free by removing the government’s ability to regulate? Who would put them in jail? Private prisons? Any kind of private prison? Pano pag nakatakas? Just hope that Adam Smith’s invisible hand magically creates a more secure prison cell for them.

UP Libertad: “Contractualization occurs because government regulations and mandates make it too expensive to regularize workers. “Banning contractualization is not a solution. Doing so will only throw people out of work, make it even harder for the unemployed to find jobs, and raise prices on goods and services.”

No, contractualization occurs because corporations can save more money through it. Lowering taxes and limiting the government’s ability to regulate will not remove contractualization. It will just strengthen it. Digong is right for appointing Joel Maglungsod, vice-char of KMU, as head of DOLE. While the Communists are just as objectionable as the free market capitalists, I think SM and other oligarchs deserve a dose of radical Communism so they’ll start treating workers more fairly. We need to revitalize our labor unions, erstwhile defenders of employees’ rights for better working conditions.

Contractualization is the Filipino version of right-to-work laws in the US, and companies should be banned from practicing it if we want to see our workers become more productive.

FREE EDUCATION

“We believe in less government, not more, and that also applies to educational institutions. Institutions of higher education are hampered by excess regulation and dependence on the state. Therefore, we believe that universities must have fiscal, administrative, and operational autonomy in order to be free from government influence. If subsidy is necessary, then it should be the students who are subsidized directly, not the institutions.” – UP Libertad

This is probably the craziest idea of the libertarians. To defund the Department of Education/CHED, and eventually privatize our entire education system would make Filipino education completely inaccessible to minorities and the poorer class. It would blow up student debt and enrich the lending companies at the expense of poor students.

Laboratories and classrooms will improve but the biggest trade-off would be higher tuition rates. Further, letting private institutions run our universities would drastically change the curriculum in favor of business-friendly courses. Who cares about physics and calculus when you can replace them with marketing and sales courses?

Even researchers would be at the mercy of this ideology, because it would subject their research to the whims of rich donors. Since no one would find the Higgs Boson profitable, no businessman would ever fund it. In fact, only those researchers who are working on industry-relevant studies would get private funding.

ENVIRONMENT

The US Libertarian Party wants to defund the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Education–two of our best hopes to save the environment from further corporate assaults. Imagine privatizing our education system and having Exxon Mobil offer free education for students. The top promoter of climate change denial would fund our education and is free to change its curriculum according to what suits its business model.

This kind of practice is not unique to the oil industry, it is true for every other company that wants to deny the truth about its products. And if that’s not outrageous enough, listen to what Dr. Mary Ruwart has to say:

“Obviously, owners make better environmental guardians than renters. If the government sold its acreage to private ranchers, the new owners would make sure that they grazed the land sustainably to maximize profit and yield.Indeed, ownership of wildlife can literally save endangered species from extinction.

Between 1979 and 1989, Kenya banned elephant hunting, yet the number of these noble beasts dropped from 65,000 to 19,000. In Zimbabwe during the same time period, however, elephants could be legally owned and sold. The number of elephants increased from 30,000 to 43,000 as their owners became fiercely protective of their ‘property.’ Poachers didn’t have a chance!

Similarly, commercialization of the buffalo saved it from extinction. We never worry about cattle becoming extinct, because their status as valuable property encourages their propagation. The second step libertarians would take to protect the environment and save endangered species would be to encourage private ownership of both land and animals.”

Another insidious idea from the libertarians. And it’s not just stupid, it’s outrageous! Sometimes I wonder why the logo of free-market libertarians is not a huge dollar sign. Greed is at the heart of the libertarian movement’s policies. Everything they advocate must be profitable for giant corporations, cause who cares about the oxygen you breathe when your bank account is full of cash? Take the buffalo’s case. Dr. Ruwart wants to legalize owning of elephants as well as defund the EPA. In other words, let them have different owners. Don’t worry about abusive owners. Expect Adam Smith’s invisible hand to punch them in the face if they ever subject the animals to harsh conditions. And I love how she’s so implicit about treating endangered animals as livestock!

Additionally, keep in mind that it’s not just a portion of our country that would be under private control. Every single island would be owned privately. It’s not enough that businesses are already a huge gamble for libertarians as well as our education system, they want to gamble the environment too! Under a free market system, our best hope for saving our forests and oceans is if a kind billionaire offered to buy them and did not touch any of the trees and animals. But if some evil billionaire like Charles Koch happens to buy them, let the free market run its course and expect Adam Smith’s invisible hand to bring back to life the dead animals.

This is one tactic of the libertarians that shows that their entire ideology is based on one giant Ponzi scheme and an irrational fear of a non-existent threat: point out cases of corruption of the government and use it to prove that it can never do anything right. Indeed, the number of elephants in Kenya declined because of a corrupt government. But what about the countries with efficient governments like those in Europe? Should they defund their environmental agencies too? A case of corruption in Kenya is not a general statement about the nature of governments.

In summary, the Libertarian movement is about individual freedom over anything else. As UP Libertad says,

“In a libertarian society, individuals are responsible for themselves.”

Really, that is the crux of the libertarian movement–the belief that poor people should be left to die in the street because they’re “free.” As Bill Maher puts it, free market libertarians give libertarianism a bad name by being such selfish pricks. From religious nuts to greedy businessmen, there’s a common theme that unifies all Conservatives, which is the general lack of an empathy gene–the inability to make the complicated jump from seeing people suffer to asking oneself “I wonder if that hurts?”

Still, it’s fair to point out that libertarianism spans the entire political compass, left to right. There are socialist and centrist libertarians. What I’m wary of are the free market libertarians who want unregulated capitalism. This is one of the most dangerous ideologies because it wants to deregulate the economy to maximize profits for the wealthy.

Oh, and don’t worry about people who are born poor. Their ‘freedom’ would take care of that.

 

Credits to justsomeidea.com and radiofreethinker.files.wordpress.com for the photo.

Hillary Clinton’s Best 2016 Photos

Thoughts on Miriam’s Political Expediency

It’s been almost a year since I left Philippine politics. Having unfollowed Rappler, The Philippine Daily Inquirer, and other news channels, I thought I’d get more sensible news from The New York Times,The Huffington Post, Mother Jones, and other American news outlets. I started following American politics where, despite the intense gridlock, there is actually one party that espouses liberalism and cares for the the middle class.

Days ago, I was forced to rethink my decision when Miriam Santiago decided to run for President of the Philippines. Perhaps she can unite this country once more and at least change the trajectory of a nation that is going in the wrong direction. Just look at how frustratingly stupid this country has become. Marcos, a criminal whose family destroyed this country’s fiscal stability is now revered like a saint by majority of Filipinos on social media. Erap, an ex-convict, almost got re-elected as President back in 2010. Gloria Arroyo, another criminal, has gained the sympathy of many for being “illegally detained” according to the United Nations. And the Liberal Party isn’t actually liberal, ffs!

Before her announcement, I was already leaning towards influencing the outcome of the general election in my own, small way, despite not being completely sure about voting for anyone in the presidential race. I have called groups and suggested questions for the presidential debate and called for making a mobile application that helps voters pick their candidate based on the issues that matter to them. I have also thought of making my own facebook group where I’d begin debates about important national issues. And Miriam’s announcement has doubled that list. Right after reading the news, I signed up to volunteer for her social media campaign, and I planned on making digital campaign materials and starting facebook groups specific to each region. That’s a natural, impassioned response for anyone who has seen the degree of foolishness of his fellow countrymen.

I thought, not only will the world elect two female presidents next year (the other being Hillary Clinton), it will hand the presidency to two intelligent leaders who have dedicated their entire careers working for their constituencies.

Like my disagreement with President Obama on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and with Hillary Clinton’s support of American intervention in the Middle East, I too have many differences with Miriam Santiago. Bordering on constitutional fundamentalism, she has opposed impeaching Corona and is against the constitutionality of same-sex marriage. But politics is not about ideological purity and I am not a single-issue voter. It is the art of compromise and seeking common ground with one’s opponents. That is why I have decided to continue my support for her despite choosing Bongbong Marcos as her running mate, the son of a criminal who won’t admit the wreckage that his father has left.

Believing in politics as an exercise of non-partisanship does not justify removing doubts about any candidate. Two possibilities come to mind. Maybe Miriam does share his views, except for the ones about the Martial Law era and a number of minor issues. On the other hand, I suspect that Miriam Santiago is simply using Marcos to secure a solid majority in the next election, given that hundreds of thousands of idiots are calling for his presidential run. Either way, there are a handful of judgement questions that Miriam needs to answer.

1.) How quick is she to compromise her belief in a corrupt-free government for the sake of political expediency?
2.) Did she ever consider that even without Bongbong Marcos, thousands are already on her side?
3.) Did she not think of the university students, mainly in Metro Manila, who were responsible for her success in the nation’s capital back in 1992?
4.) Did she ever consider that many professors in UP and Ateneo might withdraw their support?
5.) Did anyone on her team ever raise the concern that getting Marcos might split the vote instead of boosting it?
6.) Does this not give her opponents enough ammunition to derail her campaign?
7.) How will she answer questions from the victims of the Marcos era, now that she has Marcos on her side?
8.) How can she be proud of standing up to Marcos, as an RTC judge, when she’s comfortable running with someone who shares the opposite views?

Whatever her answers may be, I can still tolerate Bongbong Marcos as her running mate. Why? Becuase she doesn’t necessarily have to agree with him all the time and because of the way our elections are structured. Unlike in the United States where the electoral college votes only for the President and the VP shares the vote, our country elects the President and the VP separately, and they can come from different parties. That may not be good in today’s administration, but it surely is a great advantage for next year’s general elections.

It was such a disappointment to see Miriam take this decision lightly at the same time that Hillary Clinton was killing the 1st Democratic debate in Las Vegas. While I became less enthusiastic, I was determined to vote.

Now, I have changed my mind and I am withdrawing my support for Miriam Santiago, perhaps along with all the others who were flustered with her flip-flopping. No presidential candidate has qualified my simple litmus test of sanity and none of them are qualified to run this country.

Bongbong Marcos is part of the reason, although he isn’t the main one. In response to that Rappler article of a statistics magna cum laude graduate of UPD, I dislike him not because he is a Marcos but because he has called his father’s presidency a success, without any regard for all the people who were killed and suffered in poverty. If he admitted that people should not admire his father’s legacy, why would I hate him even if he were a Marcos? It’s his blind allegiance to his family and his lie about his educational record that disqualifies him from the second most powerful position.

The main reason is Miriam’s latest statement: “I don’t think the Marcoses, as a family, owe us an apology.”

The only acceptable reason for the Marcos family to be spared from making an apology is if they did not directly benefit from the late president’s cronyism. Has Miriam forgotten that Imelda Marcos remains one of the richest lawmakers in the country?

In addition, the Marcos and the Romualdez families have established political dynasties in many parts of the country. By saying that they shouldn’t apologize, has Miriam withdrawn her support for the anti-political dynasty bill, a bill which she herself has authored?

It wouldn’t hurt for Miriam to explicitly say that she is willing to make an exception when it comes to the Marcos presidency. But she has failed at that. She thinks that by having Marcos’ son as VP, she has to defend every part of his record, even his family’s history. Which is a completely irrational move.

I have long been suspicious about Miriam’s record. She was an ally of Gloria Arroyo and she voted against opening the second envelope during Estrada’s impeachment trial. But I ignored that considering her impressive legislative record. Now, that she has associated herself once again with another corrupt family, I am sure that there will be no end to corruption under her administration, especially when it comes to the families whom she is allied with.

Certainly, I’m not looking for a perfect candidate, because there is none. But you don’t have to be perfect to realize that the Marcos family has a criminal liability for many of the ills that are present in today’s society. And I demand the same for the two other corrupt families, the Arroyos and the Estradas. Miriam’s unwillingness to demand compensation from the Marcoses magnifies my disappointment with the generation who witnessed a heinous dictator, but are not speaking out against this disturbing trend of glorifying that bloody part of our history.

Miriam isn’t popular when it comes to tax reform or foreign policy. Her fame rests on repeated calls for accountability from corrupt politicians. By forgoing this one important trait, she has tampered the credibility of almost her entire record.

It’s sad that she committed this huge political blunder just days after millions were inspired by her announcement. She has descended from being the “only, qualified candidate” to being “the lesser evil.” Identifying the Marcoses as evil isn’t hard. It’s as easy as calling the Nazis mass murderers. A mistake in judgement on an issue as simple as this one raises one important question: How will she deal with more complex issues? Will she stick to the Constitution no matter what (which is probably the motivation for her statement) or will she acknowledge that it no longer serves the people and hold the corrupt lawmakers accountable?

I may be accused of nitpicking, which I have initially accused myself of, but I’m not. The Marcos era is not something to be taken lightly like what so many Filipinos have done, because thousands were killed during that time. In fact, it was so diabolical that simple acknowledgement of its evils has become my top screening question for anyone vying for the presidency.

Miriam, having failed this, is thus not qualified to be president of the Philippines, just like the rest of the candidates.

#FeelTheBern? It’s Probably Chlamydia

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The rise of Bernie Sanders brings to mind a legendary character from my childhood : The Pied Piper. He saved a town in Germany from rat infestation by playing his magical instrument. He was successful, yes. All the rats followed him until they drowned in the river. But the town refused to pay him and later on, the kids, too, got enamored by his music that they began leaving their houses as the vindictive character led them to his secret lair. He harvested their kidneys and sold them to the Nigerian prince.
I made up that part about the organs of course. But the kids were never to be seen and the town regretted not paying the piper his dues.

This whole story sounds all-too familiar once we hear of Senator Sanders popularity in white, college towns. His pie-in-the-sky proposals of free college tuition attracted naive students who are now behaving like cultists on social media. If you have a great job, it’s easy to say that you’d be comfortable with higher taxes in exchange for free education and healthcare. But what about middle-class college graduates who start with lower wages? Soon, they will refuse to pay for his 18-trillion dollar agenda (which can’t be paid by taxing billionaires alone), and it will end up negating the gains during the Obama presidency.

There’s a standard rule in politics that gets buried by an avalanche of rhetoric, which is that politicians will say whatever voters want to hear. Even Clinton and Obama do that. You wouldn’t want to talk to them about the things they’re uncomfortable with. That won’t win you the national elections.

As a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton, I started with this basic premise and analyzed both their views and ways of thinking. There have been nine Democratic debates. I’ve watched all of them and I can unequivocally say that Clinton is a far better candidate than Bernie Sanders. Even considering the hypothetical situation that Sanders also became Secretary of State, I can say that Clinton will still be leagues ahead of Sanders in terms of rationality and proper judgment.

I know Sanders no longer has the chance to be the Democratic nominee. But his supporters don’t understand math and logic and I believe I can say the same about their candidate based on his proposals. So to make it easier for them to swallow, I think rhetorical questions will suit them better.

Bernie Sanders,

1.) You have ZERO experience in foreign policy. And you have showed ZERO interest in understanding the complexity of the conflicts around the world, by diverting every foreign policy question to your vote in Iraq. This is 2016. A vote in 2002 is not a vote to defeat ISIL. How can you be an effective commander-in-chief given your non-interest in foreign affairs?

2.) You said North Korea is a far more dangerous threat even though it is Russia that invaded Ukraine, challenged NATO, supported Assad, and threatened to attack the Baltic states in the future. How can you stand up to Vladimir Putin if you can’t even see him as a top threat to the Western alliance?

3.) Why do you keep bringing up Clinton’s Iraq War vote when you yourself voted to fund that war?

4.) Why do you say you are against regime change when you supported the American intervention in Afghanistan?

5.) The Syrian people have fled their country and are threatening the economies of Turkey, Germany, Italy, etc. You do not support overthrowing Assad now because you say it will have unintended consequences. You said you want to defeat ISIS first and then throw out Assad later on. This strategy accepts the fact that millions will continue to die while Assad is in power. On the other hand Clinton’s proposal has the risk of leaving a vacuum that will invite HYPOTHETICAL terrorist organizations (assuming ISIS is gone) which might kill the Syrian people. Why do you think your incremental plan of defeating ISIS now and throwing Assad later will save more lives than Clinton’s plan of simultaneously defeating ISIS and Assad?

6.) You admitted to New York Daily News that you don’t know whether Obama is doing the right thing in Syria. Shouldn’t a presidential candidate be watchful and critical of the current administration’s foreign policy?

7.) Your supporters are one of the most hateful people on social media who will share anything that attacks Clinton despite them being lies made by the Republicans. As the Democratic nominee, how can you unite the party if you’re inspiring hatred for fellow Democrats among your base? How can you form a diverse coalition when you are so dismissive of moderates and anyone who is less liberal than yourself?

8.) You said there has to be a very rapid response to climate change, even though it would put workers in the oil and gas industry jobless. Even businesses depend on oil for their daily operations. Your plans will close down companies that cannot afford solar panels and it will create monopolies in many industries (because only large businesses can afford solar energy). Inflation will go up as a result. It’s been months since the campaigns began and you have not released any plans of dealing with them. Are you seriously going to risk collapsing the economy in exchange for your reckless activism?

9.) Caucuses are one of the most undemocratic ways of voting because they disenfranchise older voters who cannot wait for long hours standing in a gymnasium. Given that you have depended on caucuses for most of your victories, do you believe that the DNC should eliminate caucuses?

10.) Clinton won by large margins in the Deep South. Yet you dismissed them because they are ‘conservative’ and will most likely go to the Republicans. Some of your supporters said that Hillary won the Confederacy. Many of these Democratic voters in the South, however, are African-American, which was responsible for Obama’s victory in 2008. How can you win this voting bloc if you don’t value their votes? How can you win their trust if you say they’re too conservative for them?

11.) You’ve been attacking the Democrats since the ’80s. You called them ‘no different from the Republicans’, you felt ‘nauseated’ with JFK, and you called for a primary challenger to Barack Obama in 2012. You raised ZERO dollars for the DNC and you even sued them to distract attention from your robbery of Clinton’s campaign data. That’s a clear indication that you do not agree with the views of the party. Are you simply using the party as a fundraising tool or do you honestly believe that its views align with yours?

12.) When asked about your loyalty to the party, you say, in defense, that you have caucused with the Democrats since 2006. Why, then, did you run as an Independent senator in 2012? If you accuse HRC of flip-flopping on many issues, in what area did you flip-flop that made you want to join the Democratic Party now?

13.) As a democratic socialist, shouldn’t you be running for the nomination of socialist parties and not the Democratic Party?

14.) You’ve criticized Clinton for being friends with Henry Kissinger. Yet you yourself have a cozy relationship with dictators in Latin America like Fidel Castro and the leaders of the Sandinistas. You attacked the Cubans for hating Fidel Castro because they ‘forgot he gave them healthcare’ as though it was the only thing that mattered to them. You evaded the question when asked if you would revoke your previous statements. Why would the Latinos trust you if you can’t condemn the very person who oppressed their grandparents?

15.) You’ve been calling to break up the big banks since the start of your campaign. But when asked by NYDN about the details, you couldn’t answer them. Is your campaign really offering workable solutions or are you simply using your campaign for rhetoric?

16.) How can you get a Democratic Congress if you don’t even raise money for members of Congress and you dismiss them as part of the establishment?

17.) Which Senators and Congressmen who have endorsed Clinton are not part of the establishment? If Elizabeth Warren endorsed Clinton tomorrow, will she be part of the establishment too? Are Brian Schatz, Sherrod Brown, and Ron Wyden (3 of the most liberal senators) establishment Senators?

18.) You say you don’t want to eliminate Obamacare. But under your proposal, that is what would legally happen. A single-payer system must be enacted by a NEW law and not by building on the Affordable Care Act. You should know quite well that it was very difficult to convince some Democrats to vote for the ACA. How can you convince them to vote for your new system? People who work for private insurance companies will lose their jobs. Where will you transfer them?

19.) The United States has a very large influence on countries around the world, especially on its trading partners. By rejecting free trade, these countries will lose jobs and their economies will decline. Isn’t it ironic that you want rich people to pay higher taxes, but now that we’re talking of transferring wealth from the richest country to the poorer ones, suddenly you’re protective?

20.) Both you and Secretary Clinton have worked with the same people in Congress. Some of them said that you alienate your natural allies. Why would the DNC nominate a divisive legislator like you?

21.) You called Trump’s abortion comments a ‘distraction’. Why should women trust you if you don’t prioritize their right to get an abortion and make their own reproductive choices?

22.) You received money from the DNC, which partly comes from Wall Street and donations from wealthy people. You said it yourself that people who do that are corrupt. Which part of your voting record was influenced by big money? How many millions did you receive from the NRA in the 90s when you were running for congressman and when you repealed the Brady bill FIVE times?

23.) Clinton consistently points to the shadow banking industry which are not part of the big banks. You don’t have a plan to hold them accountable. How will you ensure that the next crash won’t happen if you keep ignoring the recommendations of Paul Krugman, a guy you said you would appoint to your Cabinet?

24.) Most of the states you won are white states. You lost by big margins in swing states like Ohio, Floria, Georgia, Missouri, Nevada, and Arizona, which will determine the next POTUS. Do you have a realistic strategy that can defeat Donald Trump in these states?

25.) You say you want to save the environment and that you are a friend to Latinos but you dumped nuclear waste from Vermont in a poor Latino community in Texas. How can they trust that you will fight for their rights as minorities?

26.) Why would you want Saudi Arabia and Iran to work together militarily to defeat ISIS in Syria when the presence of Iran near Israel threatens its national security and when these two countries have been responsible for the proxy wars happening in the region?

27.) You said immigrants take away jobs from citizens when you voted against H-1B visas and Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2007. Now you’re saying that deportations will not be your policy. Is this a flip-flop or is that title reserved for your opponent?

28.) You’ve been working in Congress for more than 20 years, yet the only bill that you authored was one that renamed a post office. With that awful record, how will you work with other Democrats to enact your proposals?

29.) It’s fairly easy to get your tax returns. Why would you release only your 2014 returns? How come that you have been the poorest candidate in Congress when your wife was president of a university and you have been in Congress for 20+ years? You obviously have investments in corporations for your retirement. Which corporations are you invested in and do those companies have any issues with unions and shipping jobs overseas?

30.) You entered the Democratic race knowing that superdelegates are part of the 2384 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. Why would you run as a Democrat if you don’t agree with its nomination policies? Shouldn’t you run for DNC Chair if you want to end the superdelegate system?

31.) Lastly, you said in the Brooklyn debate that you would replace Merrick Garland with a justice who would be clear that he/she would overturn Citizens United. Except, that’s not how you evaluate justices in the Senate. You don’t ask them directly about their decision on cases. If it were, all the Republicans and Democrats could ask them about his vote on current issues and then rob him of the nomination if they don’t agree ideologically.
Sorry Senator Sanders, you are a holier-than-thou crook and liar whose popularity rests on promising free things you can’t accomplish. You’re just like any other politician, minus the anger. You don’t have a platform, you have a wish list. And you are in no way qualified to be the Democratic nominee.

(Credits to Plante, Tulsa World for the photo)

Ambivalence Over The DuCay Town Hall

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You know one of those times when the person you’re talking to gives you a wholly different answer and you wonder whether it was you who phrased the question wrongly or it was him/her who simply didn’t understand the question? The CNN town hall with Duterte-Cayetano is a good example. Though it touched many national issues, it oftentimes gave the impression of desperation on Cayetano’s part, lack of presidential luster on Duterte’s, ignorance on Hontiveros’, and ambiguity on the council representatives’.

To be fair, both candidates gave good answers on several questions with a bonus from Duterte, giving a caustic impression of Leila de Lima. And this was also a good start for the USC. If they still plan on delivering their campaign promise of a presidential debate, I hope they will listen to some of my suggestions and how you can make the most out of 1.5 hour town hall.

Duterte on the issues:

HIV PREVALENCE – Use a condom and encourage prostitutes to have weekly screenings. Agreed, but this was his chance of bringing up the 1 billion peso budget cut on the RH Law, and not a word was said about it. It isn’t just prostitutes who get HIV. Teenagers too. Without proper funding for sex education in schools, you can’t have a strong government program against HIV. Without the government giving free weekly tests and counselling, you can’t expect a curb in HIV cases among prostitutes.

Politicians give ambiguous answers if you give them room for ambiguity. It’s not enough that you ask them how they would solve growing HIV rates. It must be in the context of an even bigger problem that keeps us from addressing it. Instead of “How would you address growing HIV rates?”, I would have asked “How would you address HIV, given the huge cuts on funds for reproductive health?”

PROSTITUTION – The police should not be allowed to arrest prostitutes. Very good answer. I’m personally against prostitution, voluntary or forced, because I think there’s a direct link between sexual activity and emotional well-being. But I think we should always make the distinction between the act of hiring prostitutes and the act of prostitution itself. The former should be grounds for arrest in abusive cases, while the latter shouldn’t be.

Only countries with a strong social safety net and high median wages can make sure that those who enter the job aren’t doing it out of desperation. Developing countries have no way of knowing the real intent of the would-be prostitutes, and you’re most likely going to receive a lie if you ask them. The legality of hiring prostitutes in poor countries hence becomes the moral equivalent of the government earning money off the backs of the poor and marginalized.

DRUGS – Be tough on drugs. Another simplistic answer without any regard for the consequences. Everyone agrees that drugs are dangerous, but addressing the epidemic of drug addiction is not done by mere brute force for two reasons.

One, the War on Drugs in the US is widely regarded as a failure by politicians, both Democrat and Republican. Why? Because it led to mass incarceration, filling prisons with NON-VIOLENT people who were caught with small amounts of marijuana. I don’t know if the Philippines has private prisons, but such a reckless measure would be supported by the private prison industry (if they don’t exist yet, they soon will, once our public prisons get even more crowded).

Two, it’s not easy to tell between a drug dealer and a drug user because in many cases, they’re the same guy. They’re probably working for someone more powerful who works for the government. In effect, the government’s harsh measures become an oppressive force against those who live in poverty and can’t find any jobs and those who need immediate mental therapy. Meanwhile, the boss sits comfortably while filling his bank accounts with dark money. Also, rich people like celebrities go to rehab without being arrested–a clear caricature of the two justice systems we have.

There are many ways by which the government can identify those at risk from drug abuse, without resorting to force. It’s a multi-pronged solution, as it should be for many of our society’s ills.

CLIMATE CHANGE – He would choose oil from companies because they’re cleaner than those from less sophisticated oil refineries. Good point. But he distanced himself from solar, citing it as expensive. No mention of the energy secretary he would appoint, of subsidies for solar to lower its costs, and of our response to stronger supertyphoons.

I’m not sure if he ever mentioned the nuclear power plant in Bataan. Although, it would be acceptable, personally, I think we should be moving away from a technology whose waste products take thousands of years to decay.

(Stupidest thing Cayetano said was about addressing hunger to end climate change. Reality check, hunger existed thousands of years before the industrial revolution. Even with a fully-fed population, you’d still have them running their cars with oil.)

FEDERALISM – I love federalism but I don’t like a parliamentary government. You can’t have a parliamentary government if you have a dysfunctional party system. While Cayetano frequently touts federalism as the big solution to all of our problems, he doesn’t have any history of lobbying for its passage in Congress. I agree that imperial Manila has so much power, and that more funds should be allocated for other regions. Unfortunately, this is opposed by our top economists (some are from UP), who say that we would have higher GDP growth if we concentrated our wealth in the nation’s capital.
How is this ludicrous argument any different from trickle-down economics? You can’t end poverty by giving tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires! No, they won’t spend their savings on more jobs. They’ll go on a spending spree buying an island in the Carribean, doubling the sizes of their yachts and mansions, and buying more politicians to vote for more tax cuts.

Metro Manila’s economy faces a huge risk from a powerful earthquake. A force this disruptive can reverberate through our economy and cut thousands of jobs. When you have multiple economic centers, however, you decrease the risk of an economic catastrophe and many people rise from poverty without overpopulating one city. You know, diversifying your portfolio!

POLITICAL DYNASTIES – I wouldn’t expect any of them to support the anti-political dynasty bill because they have their own dynasties back home! You can’t shoot down this bill by simply citing exceptions like the Kennedy’s. For every good dynasty you can name, I can give 10 evil dynasties.

True, it does not fully address corruption but it dilutes the concentration of power among wealthy families, who control majority of our conglomerates. It’s logical to be concerned about those who could continue the dynasty without being directly related (like mistresses or sons/daughters born out of wedlock). But is this really the case in our country or is Cayetano simply looking for a reason not to ban his dynasty in Taguig?

LGBT – I like how he brought up spousal benefits and adoption of kids by gay partners. Great quote, too: “I disagree with your opinion but I will defend your right to say it.” Too bad, he didn’t just agree to disagree with Pacquiao, he also considered him to be part of his Senatorial slate. A good question would have been: “How can you say you support gay rights if you endorse someone who opposes gay rights?”

I would have spent an entire editorial against Manny Pacquiao but I realized how much time I wasted trying to logically argue with someone who doesn’t understand logic. Plus, conservatives are generally stupid, so there’s a near-zero chance that they’ll come to terms with their stupidity. So why bother?

ON RELIGIOUS INFLUENCE – His close relations with the corrupt Catholic priests should be of concern to voters. This is probably one of the few areas where I praise Noynoy Aquino because he distanced himself from the criminals within the CBCP.

AGRICULTURE – Overall good answers, but didn’t address the preeminence of haciendas, minimum wages, and the right of farmers to unionize.

WOMEN’S RIGHTS – I don’t remember the councilor’s name but she asked a really dumb question about women’s rights. “Do you objectify women? And if yes, why?” How would you expect Duterte to respond? Not only did she waste our chance of asking more important women’s issues like reproductive health, divorce, and abortion, this was also a cheap way of making a catchy headline. We know his record of cheating on his wife and many have condemned him for that. But in such a limited democracy, where you’re only given 1.5 hours, do you really think this is the most prudent question to ask?

INTERNET – I can relate to this issue, but why does Pia Hontiveros have to act like it’s the most important issue to us students? I understand that you need internet connectivity to keep up with technological progress, but to make it appear that it’s our top concern is both elitist and insulting. As a moderator, she did not say one word about tuition cuts, funding for research labs and the K-12, which should be of greater concern to students. After all, you can survive UP without internet but you won’t get your diploma if you can’t pay your tuition.

NPA – Civil with the NPA. Will negotiate with them. It would be great if the Communists actually united under one party instead of pretending to be separate from groups like Bayan Muna and Anakbayan. When you choose to work as an outsider who wants to overthrow the government, you’re not only drawing ire from millions of voters who voted for those in office, you’re also moving towards an unsustainable path of governance. You can choose the best leaders to replace the overthrown government, but what happens after that? You still have dumb voters who can’t choose the right candidates.

SCIENCE EDUCATION – DOST is one of the least funded departments and yet it is one of the best performing departments in the cabinet. He cited the need for greater technologies, but didn’t say the kinds of technologies he would prioritize. It’s easy to promise the moon to voters, like Bernie Sanders does, but when you’re faced with a limited budget, reality starts to sink in, and ultimately, you’re forced to admit that you can’t solve all problems at once.

FREE TRADE – He hates free trade, so he’ll probably veto the TPP. Good. But I think free trade can be beneficial when it’s negotiated with the welfare of workers in mind, and isn’t secretly written by huge corporations.

FOREIGN POLICY – Sharing oil with China is a reasonable compromise but he didn’t give enough details about how he would deal with ISIS in Mindanao. He’s right that MILF shouldn’t be classified as a terrorist group.

JUVENILE IMPRISONMENT – Disgusting answer from Duterte. You don’t correct criminal behavior among teens by putting them in jail. Period.

MRT – I am in no position to comment on this fairly technical issue.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE – Cayetano said that they didn’t have any ads. How can someone say a lie so blatantly obvious with a straight face?

ISSUES/QUESTIONS NOT COVERED:
1. Abortion Rights for Women – Nobody seems to care about the thousands who die every year from unsafe abortions. ABORTION IS A HUMAN RIGHT and no woman should ever have to suffer from having an unwanted pregnancy. Our country has a strict ban on abortion in cases of rape and incest.
2. Lumad Killings
3. RH Law
4. How he would address corruption in Government
5. Does capital punishment really deter people from committing crime?
6. Will your administration raise the minimum wage?
7. You attacked KMU in one of your speeches. How can we ensure that union busting laws will be vetoed by President Duterte?
8. Political Turncoatism

Overall, there’s plenty of room for improvement for our next town halls. The CNN moderator should gradually move from domestic issues to foreign policy issues, instead of entertaining a hodge-podge of random questions from the council representatives.

And to the council representatives, when you’re asking a question, always consider how the candidate would answer. You’re not given any time to make a follow-up question and you can’t count on Pia Hontiveros on that since she is clearly an incompetent moderator who knows nothing about the complexity of our national issues.

You’ll realize that one town hall isn’t enough. You need multiple town halls in various regions to discuss your national agenda. Even with that in hand, we’re faced with an even bigger problem of fact-checking our candidate’s statements. We don’t have our own Politifact and we urgently need one. Worse, the media doesn’t make a big deal out of inconsistent statements. In fact, I haven’t heard any media figure call out a candidate for his/her change of political party/change of position. Nobody cares that our party system doesn’t work.

Still, if I were to rank my top 6 choices for the presidency, it would be:

1. Abstain
2. Abstain
3. Abstain
4. Abstain
5. Santiago
6. Duterte

For the next town hall, please choose a more confrontational moderator.