Confessions of a Frustrated Troll

I suspect many of my fellow pro-Duterte commenters on FB are here out of frustration more than anything else. I know that’s why I am here. I don’t think we are here to spread propaganda or sing praises, even if that’s how it appears to the antis (which in itself is frustrating).

No. We defend when we think the logic of the attacks is poor or inaccurate. That is the source of the frustration. That’s why many of us wade into some of the public posts that attack Duterte. (which I tend to do less nowadays because, really, nobody cares to listen anymore. People are so embedded and invested in their positions).

We are also frustrated about the way the opposition is opposing, the manner of which does not offer any alternative pragmatic solution, but seems just to be opposition for opposition’s sake.

We are frustrated that the people who don’t understand the problems are the noisiest. And those that understand the problems resist change out of fear or negativity (“hindi aandar yan. Or “bago yan, eto muna dapat”). And it just stops there. Sometimes the biggest sin in this country is to ask, “What if?”.

We are frustrated that the traditional powers-that-be: the oligarchs, the clergy and the media are always taking the opposite side. There is no respect for democracy and the voice of the people. I am repelled that some people think they know better or their views matter more just because they can get printed in the New York Times.

Stop attacking and we will stop defending. Stop calling pro-Duterte people idiots…because sa totoo lang ang dami ring idiots na anti-Duterte. We see them everyday on social media.

Our Soldiers Saluting the Flag in Butig

I like this photo of our soldiers saluting the flag after retaking the town of Butig in Lanao del Sur. The photo is from mindanaopost.

It is not glossy or stage-lit, like the ones we see where the people look like they were posed by an unseen director. The photographer here did not edit or add drama to the photo in post-production. This is not the New York Times after all.

We see instead just the clean formation of assembled troops. We do not even see the soldiers’ faces. And there is something emotionally gripping with their anonymity, an anonymity that symbolizes and recalls sacrifice. I imagine the faces are stoic, defiant, tough. Perhaps there were a few young men whose eyes welled with bitter tears for fallen comrades.

They are after all saluting the flag. Ang mamatay ng dahil sa iyo. And what a flag it is in this photo. This is not a ceremonial parade flag–clean, large, fluttering from a tall metal flagpole. You know those flags that look good in glossy pictures. This flag looks almost makeshift, small and hanging from what looks like a bamboo pole. It is a battlefield flag.

The next time we meet a soldier, we should thank him for his service to the country.

Charles Englund June 2017

With a Congress Like This, Who Needs Enemies?

One thing again made obvious is how inefficient and ineffective is our current system. The CA process is just one example that shows up how Congress is a den of special interests, oligarchs, and dynasties. 

Switching to a parliamentary system abolishes congress and combines the legislative with the executive. It is a faster, more efficient system.
We would not have a VP who has no job but to play politics for the next election. We would not have to suffer through impeachment processes, as sitting leaders can be replaced overnight by their party. We would not have the Senate as a necessary pool of potential president wanna-be’s, and would instead focus on mayors & governors with executive skills. We would have less of a personality and celebrity-driven politics, and issues would matter more.

At the very least we will be paying less salaries and pork to these families who have ruled us forever. We do not need 321 lawmakers who actually do not give us the reforms we need, but just act as gatekeepers and toll collectors.

PRRD we voted you for drastic change and you yourself recognize these things. Please initiate the shift to change the constitution to adopt a parliamentary and federal system.

Kung hindi, nag-aano-han lang tayo. Parati na lang ma-So-Sotto ang bansa.

Charles Englund – May 2017

Four Points of Depression

This whole ICC business is depressing. First, because it shows that perceptions matter more than actions: it’s not what you do; it’s what people think you did or represent. It’s what you look like and what you say. It’s how you sound and the color of your skin. Boiled down, it’s really all about what the cool, rich kids think and say about you. In other words, we haven’t evolved much from the school playground.

Second, the more I read about the ICC the more I think it’s an unjust, flawed and unfair mechanism that subjects poor countries’ internal issues to the judgement of foreign eyes. Sure the concept of an international super court sounds good on paper but in practice it can be manipulated to serve political ends, as what we are seeing now. It is not surprising that only African leaders have been indicted in the ICC (the ICC’s chief prosecutor is an African woman, Fatou Bensouda of Gambia).

Even the US State Department criticized the ICC, saying there is “insufficient protection against politicized prosecutions or other abuses”. Of course, the US does not recognize the ICC when it comes to its own controversial torture, drone bombing campaigns, nor potential war crimes in a Afghanistan, etc.

Which brings me to depressing point number three. Because the ICC is fighting to rationalize its own existence and to fend off criticism that it has only been going after African leaders, it seems the easy thing for it to do now is to indict a brown leader from Asia. The case is a lousy one, but the coordinated press attacks have primed public opinion. It has all been building up to this.

Finally, depressing point number four: At a time when all Filipinos should be uniting to support the duly-elected president, and vehemently protesting this blatant foreign interference, some (the usual suspects) are clearly smacking their lips with pleasure and anticipation. They don’t know or don’t care that the country has moved closer to the prospect of chaos.

Will history repeat itself? Will the Philippines again shoot itself in the foot, grab defeat from the jaws of victory, due to our consistent penchant of putting political self-interest before the national well-being?

The Problem with Lampooning Mocha

The problem with lampooning Mocha Uson is not only the backlash from her millions of followers. It requires a very fine touch–lampooning skills that are normally beyond the reach of even the best Filipino writers in English. 

In addition, lampooning has to start with self examination. Are you yourself vulnerable to playing a caricature, perhaps a crass cartoon of the simpering, elite effete? This is all the more important when your subject is Mocha, warrior queen of the working class, veritable voice of the masses.

Be ready when Mocha answers back. And she will. Usually, it ends up pretty ugly–her adversaries end up like roadkill or pesky flies swatted with a hefty, rolled up newspaper. Splat.

So many have tried, none have even scratched Mocha’s skin. If anything, they only managed to anger her and push her to be more resolved.
Worse, in their attacks, the attackers are themselves weakened and diminished. Apart from the temporary thrill, their brand is damaged. They are exposed for all to see–for their hang ups, their poor logic, and their latent biases.

Nerdgasm Over Dutertenomics

It is usually not the norm to have a country’s economic team regarded as “rock stars”, but as I listened to the Dutertenomics symposium I was gripped by excitement. (I have a Finance and Eco background, so indulge me).

The massive infrastructure spending program of this administration is going to be the largest ever in the country’s history, amounting to over 1.1 trillion pesos spent in the first year alone and ramping up every year, to the tune of around 5.3% of GDP, on roads, rail, bridges, airports, etc.

Best of all, one gets the impression that finally (!) the Philippine government understands what needs to be done AND has the political will to do it. Probably the best soundbite of the afternoon came from Transport Secretary Art Tugade who said that in the past it was always “talk, talk, talk”. Now it’s going to be “build,build, build”.

Budget secretary Diokno tickled all the Keynesians in the room, confirming that it’s going to be deficit spending for the next few years, pegged at 3%.

NEDA chief Pernia estimates the creation of 1.7 million new jobs until 2022 as a result of the infrastructure spending.

DPWH Secretary Villar gave a sneak peak at the upcoming projects, which include a high-speed spine highway network connecting much of Luzon, enabling transport from Bicol to La Union in 12hrs, for example. A harbor link will be built – from Manila’s ports to points north – eventually to be used by the 40,000 logistics vehicles that now jam edsa and c5.

There were many more sexy projects mentioned such as the buildup of Clark as a commercial airport and the development of a new modern city there to decongest Manila. There is apparently a plan for a subway that will run from Quezon City to Taguig. The Mindanao Rail and Panguil Bay Bridge.

Finance Secretary Dominguez summed it all up emphatically. The plan is to move to an inclusive, investment-led growth fueled by government spending on infrastructure–a rapid catch up on what our neighbor’s have been doing for the past decade. We cannot rely on low interest rates and cheap oil any longer. DOF’s kicker is tax reform to rationalize income and corporate taxes and make us more competitive with our neighboring Asian countries.

Viewed from the perspective of historical austerity measures and underspending of previous administrations, the plan is indeed crazy wild. In Dominguez’s words, it is “audacious”.

Quite fitting for this audacious president, the likes of which we have not seen before.

Charles Englund April 19 2016

Let’s Play Gangnam Time!

Question: Why are Leni and Trillanes in Korea?

Top Six Reasons:

1. Observing socialized housing of North Korea which involves settling people in the demilitarized zone (DMZ), over landmines.

2. Both wanted a stress free vacation, away from Manila traffic and crime, free from the prospect that war could break out at any time and nuclear warheads can rain down on your head.

3. Kim Jong Il has hired Leni and Trillanes as special consultants to train North Korean sleeper agents in destabilization operations.

4. Both are fans of Lee Min Ho and want to get selfie and autograph.

5. On advice of Georgina of OVP, both are doing music video with K-Pop group to improve their public approval ratings. 

6. CIA (realizing they have allied themselves with bumbling idiots) told them to wait in Seoul until further notice for big payload…er, payoff.

Charles Englund – April 16

Newsflash! The Real Reason Lascanas is in Singapore

Now it can be told. Lascanas is in Singapore for a job interview in Universal Studios. Insiders say there is an urgent need to fill an important and high profile position in Shrek’s Castle.
 
Officials say Lascanas is supremely qualified to fill the role of Pinochio, the wooden puppet whose nose is a dead giveaway whenever he lies.
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One Size Fits All?

cesar-gaviria-es-la-nueva-esperanza-de-colombia

Actor Raul Mendez as Cesar Gaviria, former president of Colombia in the popular Netflix TV series, Narcos.

There is too much noise and misunderstanding about the drug war, and the press has made it worse instead of clarifying the many different assumptions. People and politicians are all too willing to jump on the bandwagon, for whatever reason or agenda, and ride this  emotional issue.

As controversial as the war on drugs has been, there is no disagreement that a serious drug problem exists in the Philippines. Even the Church has agreed it is a problem and that something has to be done. There is some debate on whether the real number of drug addicts is 1.8mm or 3 million, but that is a sideshow with no real import. Either way it is a problem. To those who object that Duterte is fudging the number and exaggerating for the purpose of rationalizing, one need only ask if Duterte’s policies or public support would be any different with either number. I think not. Policy does not really change drastically whether drug addicts are 2%, or in fact 3% of the population.That’s why it’s a sideshow, a fringe argument.

What people are arguing about, in fact the core of the controversy, is the conduct of the war, the methods used, and the body count. This argument is unfortunately clouded by a multitude of differing assumptions on either side. One side insists the body count is 7,000 dead, while the other side chooses to look at the official police figures which are closer to 2,500. There is also no agreement on the term “EJK”, or whether the deaths are “state-sanctioned”. (What happened to the national murder statistic; is everything now being lumped into a 7,000 “EJK” number?) There is no agreement on whether the drug cartels themselves are doing the killings, or whether rogue cops are acting as masked vigilantes. Depending on who or what you read, you can even believe that users are being killed along with pushers, that there are quotas, or there is a cull list.

Perhaps an attempt to simplify and whittle down the main sides can be done as follows: a “hardline” stance that includes aggressive police effort vs. a “softer” approach that includes decriminalization. These sides can then serve as polar guides and we can all locate ourselves at the poles or along the spectrum.

The former president of Colombia, Cesar Gaviria, judging by his op-ed piece is for a softer approach. Relatively, the governments of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia are for a harder approach i.e. no decriminalization and the death penalty for drug traffickers. These nations believe that a country should determine for itself what is the correct approach that best suits its unique needs and circumstances.

Once we have agreed there is a problem and have identified the possible approaches, the other debate which should be happening is “how do we define success in the drug war”? Does one million surrenders spell success? How many buy-bust operations and arrests? How many rehabilitated? Does lowering in all other crimes count as one of the factors in determining success? As any manager would tell you, the goals have to be explicit and the results have to be measurable.

This definition of what would constitute a “win”, should also take into consideration, that like poverty, zero drugs is an impossible dream. So what constitutes an acceptable level? That should be part of the measures in determining success.

These are the things that people should bear in mind when discussing the issue. As with all controversial matters, the complexities sometimes get the better of us. An understanding of each other’s assumptions would contribute greatly. Perhaps we should remember that “one size fits all” hardly ever works.

Of Rappler and Harvard MBAs

A certain Harvard MBA who is friends with the folks at Rappler has a rebuttal to my carinderia investment analogy (Galit sa Gulay – A Case Study, Feb 3., 2017). Normally, I would leave it at that; I mean obviously the man feels like he is standing up for his friends and business connections. Fair enough. What irks me though is that he adopts the same tone that underlies most all social media arguments nowadays…anybody who disagrees with me is a troll. Worse, there is the barely disguised arrogance among his set (the Pinoy Harvard Venture Capitalist set) that they have the sole franchise on financial literacy in the Philippines. 

Lo and behold, the man has a blog. There he explains the reason why people might invest in a losing company. His main argument is that Rappler is not really a media company, but can be viewed as a “tech company”. As is common with tech startup investing, you are buying the future potential earnings of the company, not the current losses.

Just for fun, I have composed the below reply:
“So your argument is that Rappler is not a media company but rather a tech company, and should be valued as such. And as a tech company we can supposedly be free and loose with valuations because, hey it’s a GROWTH company. Reminds me of the crazy heydey times during the tech bubble of 2000.  

Did you seriously just compare Rappler to Amazon? I’m sure such “vision” comes in handy when talking to potential investors. So as a tech company, Rappler’s value is in its mood-meter? Its big data analytics? The same big data that predicted a Hillary Clinton win? 

No, thanks. I will invest in the carinderia.”

Charles Englund, Feb 7, 2017