Posted tagged ‘democracy’


March 1, 2011

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Good evening from this side of the planet!

It is the 25th anniversary of the EDSA Revolution—the people power revolution that overthrew the dictator Ferdinand Edralin Marcos—as I write this note. Completely attuned to the celebratory mood of this special event, I hereby greet my fellow Filipinos a Happy Anniversary to our People Power Revolution!

As I’ve been saying these couples of years in my blog articles, I was among those youth who constituted the generation of political activists at the time that Martial Law was enforced throughout the Philippines archipelago c. 1972-‘86. Though never incarcerated for my political convictions, I suffered nevertheless from the military-police brutalities during protest rallies and the paranoia caused by constant surveillance by military intelligence operatives.

I still recall well how many of my own fellow activists—those with whom I directly associated with and/or worked with—were detained, with some of them mercilessly tortured. Some advanced level activist cadres decided to join the insurgent New People’s Army, inclusive of couples of my Brothers in my campus fraternity.

In my campus theatre group U.P. Repertory Company, our very own theatre director Prof. Behn Cervantes would be in and out of prison for his political beliefs. Being among his disciple thespians who were advocates of social realist theatre, I and my fellow actors were politicized along a Left radical bent. Every now and then, couples of our leaders and members in the UP Rep would land in detention cells for their political convictions.

In September 1977 did we activists launch the Batas Militar Ibagsak or BMI Rally at the Avenida in old Manila. From then on, series of protest actions were protractedly launched and sustained, each time reaping for us new advocates and recruits. On the 1st semester of school year 1978-‘79, a close core activist whom I worked directly with was detained, forcing me to go into hiding for fear that I would be next in line for detention. I was compelled to take a leave from studies that semester just to stave off potential arrest.

Along the way, many of my fellow activists died in the hands of torturers. Some others who joined the insurgents were killed during encounters with army troops, inclusive of a fraternity brethren who decided to get active in the Manila-based urban guerilla unit. A fellow thespian in the UP Rep, Bong Medina, was summarily executed, his body later found floating in the polluted Pasig River in the early ‘80s.

If there was any great thing that Martial Law did for us, it was its eventual politicization of many Filipinos along distinct ideological lines. The same politicized compatriots swelled the ranks of mass movements, thus helping to form base formations for direct action that would become the forefront of an autonomous civil society.

The forging of a strong civil society was the hallmark of Philippine political life altogether since the heydays of the dictator Marcos. It was the terrain where dissent gelled, enabling bolder moves to overthrow the dictatorship. Special events such as the martyrdom of Ninoy Aquino did catalyze the swelling of ranks of dissenters, but such events do not make strong civil society.

With democracy re-established right after Marcos’ overthrow, civil society continued to strengthen all the more. The Philippines thus became a model for democracy across the globe due to its strong civil society. State-society synergy (to use the lingo of neo-Weberians) found greater avenues for expression, and civil society compensated for democratic governance amid a weak state.

A full quarter of a century hence, governance institutions in this country remains to be weak, a situation that factors in the wide income gaps between rich and poor, large poverty incidence, and endemic graft & corruption. Yet civil society remains strong, and this world of volitional associations provides the foundations of mutual trust that can get people together to dialogue with state and market players for the sake of threshing out issues and solving problems.

The continuous reconstruction of democracy and a strong civil society are the granite-rock legacies of EDSA Revolution to the whole world. Many other 3rd world dictatorships closed shop due to mass risings that followed the ‘Philippine way’, thanks to a new legacy of strong civil society. This legacy is available for the young generation of the day who aspire to build better world via democratic governance, notably the Arab youth.

Still carrying the flame of the EDSA Revolution with me, I do hereby commiserate with my fellow Filipinos who wish to build a strong state, and to the Arab young ones who clamor to overthrow their perpetual presidencies and archaic royalties in order to build a better world via democracy and respect for civil liberties.

Mabuhay ang Filipino! Mabuhay ang Inangbayan!

[Philippines, 25 February 2011]


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February 22, 2011

Erle Frayne D. Argonza


Good day to you fellow global citizens!


Political turbulence is manifestly the most featured template of the day for Arab republics. The bone of contention by polarized forces is whether to extend incumbent presidents’ terms. So let me share some reflective notes about the intriguing subject.


As a keen observer of political economic events, I can verily see that Arab republics have the penchant for electing presidents who would be chief execs for life. In the Vatican they do the same: elect a Pope for life. Albeit, the Vatican is no republic but a theocracy that has evolved its own structures, processes and culture through time, and so the Vatican’s chief exec can sit prettily for life unhampered by possible protests that would see His Holiness’ overthrow.


Republics are modern forms of states, and Arab republics chose democratic governance as the process for choosing leaders and/or policy-makers. Expectedly, republics must show exemplary behavior by changing national leaders periodically and give way to others who are perceived as responsible and capable of meeting the job expectations of a chief exec.


Even the Peoples Republic of China follows the norms of governance for choosing leaders. True, the Communist Party has a monopoly of governance in the rising star of Asia, but Chinese do choose the leaders from among qualified Communist cadres. Since after Deng Shao Ping, no one has ever become president or prime minister for life, so nobody can ever satirically remark a “Pope Hu Jintao” to denigrate China’s very capable president.


Unfortunately, the Arab presidencies haven’t been complying with the accepted norms of republican leadership. Take the case of Iraq that was for a long time governed by “Pope Saddam” as chief exec. “Pope Saddam” seems to be the model of the presidents of Syria, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Sudan, Syria, and other Arab states that traversed the republican trajectory of statehood.


Had it been clearly stipulated in the charters of the republican states that their respective presidents will be chief execs for life, the constituents will not begrudge the nation’s echelon whatsoever. But that isn’t the case, as charters do clearly stipulate the fixed terms for chief execs, and that is where tensions can arise in the course of tenures of over-staying presidents.


Grand deceptions can indeed be cooked and cooked well so as to be digested by obedient herds of constituents, as the Arab presidencies have perpetually flaunted on their folks. But no one can fool all the people all the time, and sooner or later there will be outbursts of detractions coming from a diversity of oppositionist forces.


The Arab republics’ Permanent President (with capital letters to stress the point) had already come full circle, and can no longer be recycled in an unending vicious circle. The phenomenon of ‘rising expectations’ has finally caught up with the system of national governance of perpetuity, thus causing huge explosions of public outrage across the said states.


Regime change’ is now the most urgent task falling upon the shoulders of responsible constituents. Relentless protests are waged, akin to the protests waged versus military dictatorships in developing states in Latin America and Asia in the 1980s and ‘90s.


Portugal’s parallel overthrow of its long-term dictatorship took place much earlier in the 1970s. Dubbed as the ‘velvet revolution’, it was followed a bit later by the Philippine ‘people power’ revolution that overthrew the dictator Marcos. The same phenomenon of massive, relentless protests marked the political landscape in these countries and others that was capped by the overthrow of the existing permanent presidents.


Arabs are latecomers in the matter of people empowerment, but it is “better late than never.” The die has been cast on the side of people power, and so one by one shall the permanent presidents be taken down. Arab republics’ constituencies are showing courage and audacity in fomenting change, risking lives and limbs to achieve the goal of reforms, and they are inspired by the recent precedents of Tunisia and Egypt.


The momentum of change through people power has already picked up. Arab presidents should better heed the demands for their graceful exits now, or else they face the option of a full-scale civil war of which no one will be winner in the long-run.


[Philippines, 18 February 2011]




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December 4, 2010

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Pleasant day to you all!

The Maoists in Manila have just released the update news that an activist (Left-leaning) is killed every week during the incumbency of President Aquino. Maoists constitute the largest Left group in the country, with an organized force large enough to participate in electoral contests and win legislative posts.

That report is surely a very revealing fact. Not only activists, but media men are also the target of summary executions and assassinations in this country, supposedly a bastion of free press in Asia.

Just recently, a topnotch botanist, Leonardo Co, was sprayed with automatic rifle bullets while conducting research on field, killing him and two of his associates. The army unit that is subject of investigation as culprits claimed that the research team was caught in a crossfire between state and rebel forces.

Human rights constitute a totality of entitlements that we have won after so many hard struggles. So much blood has been sacrificed just to make our world a livable one, blood poured to erect the edifices of prosperity, good working environments, balanced ecology, and exercise of our basic freedoms.

During the regime of the previous president Arroyo, an economist with a doctorate among her credentials, hundreds of human rights-related deaths, largely through summary executions by army and police forces, were recorded. No less than the United Nations Commission on Human Rights sent a team to investigate the human rights situation here, with the findings clearly indicating a bad situation for human rights.

Just recently, another team of experts, this time from the Human Rights Watch, did the investigations about the same theme, with focus on those committed in Mindanao. The feudal-fascistic Ampatuan family became the most focal subject of the research, with findings of gory stories of murders committed by Ampatuan politicians blindly intoxicated with power, using state paramilitary forces to commit heinous crimes.

It surely takes time for civility to take shape everywhere else in our planet. Even the bastions of democracy such as the Philippines fail in the tests of indicating successes in building human rights. In the USA, martial law was almost declared during the Bush era, a cryptic act that could have seen millions of Americans jailed and hundreds of thousands exterminated in concentration camps.

In Europe we are witness to the massive prejudices against immigrants, with Muslims appearing to be the key target of slanders and employment discriminations. Sarkozy expelled Romanian Gypsies just a few months ago, and he seems to watch with glee as his economy burns down like hell.

Power assymetries that we though would disappear with the advent of modernity, keep on being recycled in new forms. Rationality—authentic reason characteristic of authentic persons—is fading and giving way to Madness, as lamented by the contemporary philosophers.

Human right is synonymous to civilization, and the full respect of human rights can only happen in a society of rationality, wisdom, and universal love. Such a society operates on the culture of dialogue, the respect for differences, recognition of talents and competencies, and the essential respect for one’s humanity.

Sadly, such a society is not around yet, even as we need to do colossal spade works to build it. I still recall the likes of Jurgen Habermas, Erich Fromm, and Herbert Marcuse pontificate about the ‘sane society’, the ideal society that is rational, full of compassion (loving behavior), and productive. I resonate well with the minds of these thinkers who contended that no matter how bad the situation is, hope is there in building that culture of civility in a ‘sane society’.

Such a dream of building a future world can be done in a non-exclusionary way. Let us not tire in doing our spade works to build it.

[Philippines, 02 December 2010]







July 28, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Let us continue our reflections about wonderful news that brighten up our day.

Going back to Chile, as it continues to celebrate the air of freedom beyond the Dark Age of the Pinochet regime, we have another news item concerning the boosting of S&T funding in the said emerging market.

Chile is proving itself as a model of development that is worth watching. See what’s going on in this exemplar country through its S&T prioritization as indicated by funds boosting.

Happy reading!

[23 July 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to the SciDev database news.]


Chile crea un fondo para becas en ciencia y tecnología

Paula Leighton

25 may 2008 | ES

La presidenta Michelle Bachelet durante su cuenta anual al país

Presidencia de la República de Chile

[SANTIAGO] Aumento en las becas para estudios de posgrado, fondos para equipamiento científico e incentivos para atraer a investigadores extranjeros son algunos de los anuncios que hizo la presidenta de Chile, Michelle Bachelet, en su cuenta pública anual (21 de mayo).

La mandataria destacó que su gobierno creará un fondo con US$6 mil millones para financiar un ambicioso programa de becas de posgrado y de formación en oficios tecnológicos de alta especialización, tanto en Chile como en el extranjero.

Dicho fondo permitirá que las mil becas de formación en universidades extranjeras destinadas para 2008 aumenten a 2.500 en 2009 y a 6.500 en 2012, anunció Bachelet.

Además, el próximo año 150 técnicos que se desempeñen en áreas prioritarias para el país accederán por primera vez a becas de perfeccionamiento en el extranjero, las que en 2010 aumentarán a 2.000.

Bachelet dijo que en 2009 también aumentarán las becas para maestrías y doctorados que se dictan en Chile y se entregarán 35 mil becas para estudios técnicos superiores. 

Otro anuncio fue un programa para atraer en dos años a al menos 100 científicos extranjeros, los que se desempeñarán en universidades regionales “en áreas donde aún no contamos con suficientes expertos nacionales”, señaló.

“Todos estos anuncios que contribuyen a que en Chile haya personas con mayor formación son muy bienvenidos, porque le dan valor agregado al país. Al mismo tiempo, es muy positivo que científicos extranjeros vengan y contribuyan a formar estudiantes y nuevos investigadores”, dijo a SciDev.Net Servet Martínez, presidente de la Academia Chilena de Ciencias.    

Para fortalecer los centros de investigación científica, Bachelet anunció también que  “durante los próximos dos años estableceremos un programa de equipamiento científico al que destinaremos US$30 millones”.

Finalmente, la mandataria se comprometió a entregar en 2009 treinta mil computadores de uso personal a escolares pobres académicamente destacados, implementar laboratorios móviles de computación para niños de educación primaria y apoyar la conectividad digital en 35 comunas del país.

Texto completo del mensaje presidencial de Michelle Bachelet


April 28, 2008

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

[Writ. 16 March 2008, Quezon City, Metropolitan Manila]

Good evening!


It’s a Sunday evening, and right now the turbulence in the country brought about by protests against huge government anomalous transactions is the hottest agenda.


In this country, please note that bad governance has been responsible for so much political turmoil since the 1960s yet. The Marcos and Estrada administrations were overthrown via the ‘people power way’ precisely due to people’s widespread dissent against corruption and the erosive effects of the social ailment on development efforts and poverty alleviation.


Today the Arroyo administration is coming under hot fire due to the same malady. The difference between the Arroyo administrations and the previous ones is that this regime had arrived at a time when urban population had outstripped rural population. The middle class enjoys not only a clear edge in opinion making, it also enjoys a predominance of the population today.


Thus, with the middle class pointing to a political wind of turbulence, an upsurge of mass movement and potential upheavals is again around. Unless there are clear resolutions to the ailments currently coming under hot fire, there will be turbulence and possible armed conflicts in the urban centers in the coming months.


In closing this briefer reflection, let me enclose my own public statement about the matter.




[25 February 2008, Quezon City, Manila]


This gentleman, who was Spokesman of the PRO-GLORIA Multisectoral Coalition, hereby pronounces the most urgent need to save the nation from political deterioration and degeneration into the hovels of anarchy, by urging the President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to resign her post.


To recall, together with many patriots then, we PROGLORIA Advocates joined the coalition in early 2004 with the values of good governance and competence among our top criteria for choosing leaders. Such values were to intersect with the advocacy for fair trade, to which GMA affirmatively supported via her line of “no to unbridled free trade.” And, hopefully, the benefits from public policies and programs would galvanize as greater social services for our marginal sectors. In the end, everybody wins from a GMA electoral victory.


After almost four (4) years of governing, the political-cultural terrain has become tragically murky. Civil liberties are openly violated by military & police functionaries, incompetence is endemic as the appointment of unqualified officials has been rampant,  corruption is more marked and brazenly committed, electoral reforms remain elusive while GMA herself is accountable for electoral fraud charges, and ‘free trade’ ensues with impunity while treaties that have onerous terms are being negotiated to the detriment of the national interest. It is true that the fiscal environment had been stabilized and credit standing had improved during GMA’s watch, but given the situation where her administration has become the main source of instability, it is not a remote possibility that such gains will be wiped out before the end of this year 2008. This present regime had clearly lost its moral moorings, credibility, and trustworthiness.


To save the nation from an impending system collapse, GMA and her team of state managers should resign en masse. This will then pave the way for constitutional processes to re-grow our most cherished values of good governance, strong institutions, greater democracy and equitable distribution of economic development gains. Public trust will then be regained, and political stability will fuel back our economic boom.





National Spokesman – PROGLORIA (2004)


Quezon City, MetroManila, 19 February 2008