Light Pollution and Christmas

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I look around the highway as I make my way home, noticing the twinkling of Christmas lights all around.

Seeing them sparkle, I am reminded of a particular night when I lied awake by the sea underneath the sky full of stars.

There is no comparison between the beauty of nature’s stars and man’s electric imitations. It seems as if like fools, we harnessed light and kept it in bottles that we may be reminded of the beauty of the night sky.

I think it would serve us better if skyscrapers, in observing the holidays, would just turn off their lights instead of spending wastefully on decorative lighting.

All I want for Christmas now is the chance to look up the sky and wonder at the holes of divine light across the black canvas of night.

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Empowerment by Capitalism

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Capitalism also is for gender equality, but for gender equality among consumers. Traditional gender roles mean only men can buy products ‘for men,’ and only women can buy products ‘for women.’ Such norms diminish profit.

However, there still lies the hypocritical contradiction: if some capitalists truly are for gender equality, why even produce ‘gender-exclusive’ products?

It is weird how some magazines cater to women who want to feel ’empowered’ by posting ‘feminists’ doing ‘feminist’ stuff and in the succeeding issue (or perhaps even in the same issue) feature articles promoting the gender roles in question.

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It’s so hard to be passionate about things and find out that they mean little to other people. It feels as if you’re living in an imaginary world, where the hierarchy of importance things have are messed up. And when you’ve little self-esteem, you doubt whether they truly matter in the first place.

Huwag Mo Pa Rin Akong Salingin: Kanser ng Edukasyon Noon at Ngayon

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Sa huling pagsusulit namin sa aming kurso ukol sa buhay at mga akda ni Jose Rizal, kami ay naatasang maglahad ng isang sistemang panlipunan na nabanggit sa nobelang Noli Me Tangere na nagpapatuloy pa rin magpasa-hanggang ngayon. Ang aking napili ay ang problema sa sistema ng edukasyon at sa propesyon ng pagtuturo na nailahad sa kapitulo ika-19 ng Noli na pinamagatang “Mga Kinasapitan ng Isang Maestro sa Escuela.”

Nabanggit sa kabanatang ito ang paghihirap ng isang guro na gampanan ang kanyang bokasyon dala ng mga problemang kanyang kinakaharap sa pagtupad sa kanyang tungkulin. Sinasalamin ng kanyang mga sinapit na problema hindi lamang ang mga kinahaharap na isyu ng sektor ng edukasyon hindi lamang noon, kung hindi magpa-hanggang sa kasalukuyan.

Una, ang pagnanais ng guro na turuan ng wastong paggamit ng wikang Kastila ang mga bata ay hinahadlangan ng impluwensya at pangbubuska ng prayleng si Padre Damaso. Ang klase ng maestro ay isinasagawa sa isang kwarto sa kumbento, katabi ng silid-pahingahan ng paring Pransiskano. Hindi na iba sa pari ang pagalitan ang mga mag-aaral, pati na ang guro kapag naiistorbo ang kanyang paghilik sa kanyang silid. Sa kasalukuyan, maaari itong ihambing sa mga hakbangin ng Simbahan na tutulan at harangin ang mga repormang pang-edukasyon, maging sa mga mga sekular na pampublikong paaralan, kapag ang mga ito ay tumututol sa Kanyang turo, gaya na lamang nang ipanukala ng Reproductive Health Law ang mandatoryong sex education sa mga paaralan. Katulad ng pag-aalala ng maestro sa pagtingin at paggalang sa kanya ng kanyang mga mag-aaral, sa bawat pangmamatang nararanasan niya mula sa pari, nakababahala ring masdan ang integridad at pagiging makabuluhan ng institusyon ng edukasyon na hindi makapiglas sa impluwensyang pulitikal ng Simbahan.

Ipinakikita rin sa kabanata ang dimensyong pulitikal ng paggamit ng wika sa konteksto ng edukasyon. Iminungkahi ni Damaso sa guro na “magkasya na lamang sa sariling wika” nang ito’y nangahas na kausapin ang pari sa wikang Kastila. Makikita rito ang mataas na pagtingin sa wikang dayuhan bilang, ayon nga sa isang kolumnista ay, “wika ng mga aral.” Sa kabila ng sinserong hangarin ng maestong Indio na ituro ang “nakatataas” na linggwahe sa ikagagaling ng kanyang mga kamag-aral, tinapakan ng pari ang kabutihang-loob ng guro sa pagpapahiwatig na tila ilang piling tao lamang ang nararapat na matuto ng wikang mistulang kabanal-banalan. Maihahalintulad ito sa klase ng sistemang pang-edukasyon na nagtatakda na iilang seksyon lamang sa pampublikong paaralan ang nararapat na mag-aral ng mga piling asignatura, samantalang ang iba ay nararapat na lamang magkasya sa nababagay sa kanila.

Bukod rito ay ipinamalas rin ni Rizal kung paanong hawak sa leeg ng mga nasa kapangyarihan ang mga tao sa loob ng institusyon na naghahangad ng reporma mula sa kanilang kinalalagyan. Nang dahil sa pagkapako sa maliit na sahod at hindi kasiguruhan ng tenyur, hindi mailahad ng maestro ang hindi pagsang-ayon sa mga alituntunin at ideyang isinasampal sa kanya ng pari:

 “Anó ang aking magágawâ acóng bahagyâ na magcásiya sa ákin ang áking sueldo, na upang másing̃il co ang sueldong itó’y aking kinacailang̃an ang “visto bueno” ng̃ cura at maglacbay acó sa “cabecera” (pang̃úlong báyan) ng̃ lalawigan; anó ang magágawâ cong laban sa canyá, na siyang pang̃ulong púnò ng̃ calolowa, ng̃ pamamayan at ng̃ pamumuhay sa isáng báyan, linálampihan ng̃ canyáng capisanan, kinatatacutan ng̃ Gobierno, mayaman, macapangyarihan, pinagtatanung̃an, pinakikinggan, pinaniniwalâan at liniling̃ap ng̃ lahát? Cung inaalimura acó’y dapat acóng howág umimíc; cung tumutol aco’y palalayasin acó sa áking pinaghahanapang- búhay at magpacailan ma’y mawawalâ na sa akin ang catungculan co, datapuwa’t hindî dahil sa pagcacágayón co’y mápapacagaling ang pagtúturò…”

Dagdag dito’y hindi lingid sa kaalaman ng maestro na ang klase ng gurong kinalulugdang asal ng Simabahan at Espanya sa mga kaguruan ay ang “matutong magtiís, magpacaalimura, huwág cumilos,” hindi ang pagiging marunong at masipag magturo. Sa kasalukuyang panahon ay matatanaw natin ang kakulangan sa tamang pasahod na laan para sa mga guro, at ang malawakang kontraktwalisasyon sa sektor ng edukasyon na hindi lamang nagpapahirap sa kalagayan ng mga kaguruan, kung hindi pumipigil sa mga ito na tumayo at lumaban para sa makatarungang reporma sa sistema ng pagkatuto. Sa sumunod na pahayag ng maestro, makikitang naisip niya na ring lumisan nang tungkulin at maghanap ng ibang trabaho, katulad na lamang ng mga gurong mas pinipiling tumigil sa pagtuturo at mangibang-bayan upang matustusan ang kanilang pang-araw-araw na pangangailangan.

Tinalakay rin sa kabanata ang ilang mga alituntunin sa pamahalaan na hindi lingid sa kaisipan ng mga mag-aaral at guro ng kasalukyan, kagaya ng isyu ng pagpapataw ng korporal na pagpaparusa, na natutunan ng maestro na imbis na makatulong ay nakahahadlang pa sa pagkatuto ng mag-aaral ay patuloy pa rin na namamasdan sa panahon ngayon sa porma ng pagsatsat ng buhok na hindi ayon sa pamantayan ng paaralan, pagbabayad ng multa sakaling magsalita sa wikang sarili imbis na Ingles at pamamahiya sa mag-aaral. Ang maestro na napiling hindi magpataw ng ganitong uri ng pagdidisiplina dala ng kanyang pag-aaral sa epekto nito sa batang mag-aaral ay ang mismong nakatikim ng panglilibak mula sa Simbahan at sa mga galamay nito. Sa pagtalikod ng sistema ng edukasyon sa progresibo, siyentipiko at epektibong pagtuturong ginagamit ng maestro, hindi lamang pinaghinaan ng loob ang guro, kung hindi pati na rin ang mga mag-aaral.

Ang pagbagsak ng bilang ng mga mag-aaral dulot ng pagbalik sa lumang sistema ng pagtuturo ay maihahalintulad rin sa palaki nang palaking drop-out rates na nararanasan sa kasalukuyan. Ang kahirapan sa pagkatuto, na dinaragdagan pa lalo ng kahirapan ng buhay ay isa sa mga dahilan ng pagdami ng bilang ng mga batang wala sa paaralan sa kasalukuyan. Sa ngayon, dagdag na pasanin sa mga naghihirap na mag-aarala ang hindi maka-estudyanteng polisiya na nagkakait sa kanila ng kanilang karapatang matuto at mapaunlad ang sarili.

Ang nakalulungkot na kawalan ng pagbabago sa sistema ng edukasyon ay makikitang sintomas ng kawalan ng malawakang pagbabago mula pa noong panahon ni Rizal. At kagaya ng iba pang dimensyon ng kalagayan ng lipunan, nag-uugat ito sa paghahari ng iilang interes sa pag-unlad at pamamalakad ng mga institusyon at batas. Nararapat na kung bibigyang lunas ang mga sintomas ng kanser na ito na pumapatay sa edukasyon bilang instrumento ng pagbabago, ay bigyan ng mas mainam na tuon ang sakit sa likod ng sakit, nang sa gayon ay hindi lamang mag-ibang anyo ang mga maliliit na sintomas na nasusupil umano ng reporma.

State Owe-nership: Privatization, PPP and the People

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(c) pulpolitika.wordpress.com

The problem: train cars which barely have enough room to accommodate the 560 thousand commuters it has to cater to everyday, ticket booth lines stretching as long as the rail road tracks themselves, trains unprecedentedly stopping for indefinite periods of time in the middle of nowehere, and dilapidated washrooms and other facilities.

The solution: privatization.

Last March, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) entered into a ten-year concession agreement with the AF Consortium of the conglomerates Metro Pacific Investment Corporations (MPIC) and Ayala Corporation who will build and implement the new single ticketing system for Metro Manila’s MRT and LRT lines. This is in spite of the dissent expressed by people’s organization opposing the privatization and commercialization of yet another one of the Metro Manila commuter’s main venues for transportation. But it seems as if the technocrats and bureacrats of the government have found a cop out in the debate: it’s simply not privatization.

While the relinquishing of duties performed by the government, in this case the MRT and LRT, have been before the Aquino administration justly referred to as privatization, the tide has shifted to referring to it as a form of Public-Private Partnership or PPP. And the distinction between these two terms, like the distinction between the Socialized Tuition Fee and Assistance Program (STFAP) and the new Socialized Tuition Scheme (STS), has been noted with emphasis by its proponents, but not its critics.

The rhetoric employed by the Philippine government in having private institutions running the delivery of basic services, such as water, electricity, health and transportation, is that it is not really privatization. Atty. Sherry Ann N. Austria, Director of Policy Formulation, Evaluation, and Monitoring Service (PFEMS) of the Public-Private Partnership Center, argues that while PPP indeed opens participation of private individuals and corporations, privatization is a matter of ownership. The heart of the argument is that since the government retains overall ownership of institutions subjected to PPP (except, the director notes, “in cases of Build-Own-and-Operate and Rehabilitate-Own-and-Operate contractual arrangements”), institutions are not essentially privatized. In the case of the Modernization of the Philippine Orthopedic Center (POC), one of the 72 hospitals ran by the Department of Health (DOH) to be turned over to private institutions, Austria writes that, “the POC is and will always remain as a government-owned hospital. It will however be built and operated by a private company who will bring in its vast expertise and resources to make POC a more reliable and efficient government hospital.”

(c) http://mambulaoansworldwidebuzz.blogspot.com

Of course, the poor can always go to PGH.

By privatization, of course, advocates against PPP mean the encroachment of private and corporate interests in the exercise of government functions. As there is most often a trade-off between the just delivery of services provided by the government and the desire to maximize profit and minimize cost, the subjugation of public enterprises under the hands of private individuals is often discouraged. The core principle may be demostrated by simply pointing out that it does not matter if the institutions providing water, helath, electricity and transportation do not get profit from the delivery of such services in so far as such services are accessible and are of high quality.

The administration frames the argument as a matter of ownership and ownership alone. They portray the anti-PPP advocates as if they are obsessed by who owns the institutions which provide basic services and attempt to demolish their arguments by ensuring (badly) that the State still owns such institutions. But the problem is not who owns the institutions, but who runs it and for whose interest.

Even if privatization and the PPP is, by some chance on earth, essentialy different, it has been admitted by the people behind PPP is that selling off public institutions to private institutions is included in the PPP. PPP and privatization, by their own definition, are only as different as a genus is different from the species under it, only the government views PPP as the genus and privatization the species and the opposition views it the other way.

Let us pause for a moment from animal science analogies and turn our attention back to the humanity of the matter. In a sad attempt to justify the surrendering of institutional independence of primary institutions to corporate interests, the government is willing to bend over and admit that for the longest time, they have been running State institutions to the ground and only private institutions know how to correct their mess. Whether it is because these institutions are “cash-stripped” as Director Austria described it, or that the quality of its service delivery has deteriorated at the expense of the people relying on it, privatization and/or PPP, whatever one may call it, may be considered an honest attempt to salvage basic services from inefficiency and ineffectiveness. Such an argument is welcome. And considering history, for example, in the case of electricity, privatization has done wonders in terms of efficiency and accessibility.

(c) TV5

MVP’s official mascot for Meralco. Criminals actually fear this guy because he charges them afterwards.

Wait a minute. There’s something wrong with that. Since 1992, state policy which fully privatized electricity has not only led to the highest power rate in Asia and the 5th highest electricity rate in the world, but also has failed to remove allegations of corruption and instances of failure of service delivery from the Filipino experience. And so not only did the public had to pay more in screwing light bulbs to light their homes, they also have been screwed over by the very people who light them. Power hikes are imposed without proper consultation and with devious justifications, as proved by the recent ruling on the attempted power hike, and public dissent is welcomed by threats of rotational brownouts. In the summer.

And so while we are suppressed by threats of hell and retribution, we are made to believe that giving even more power to private corporations and institutions are to our benefit. That it is empowering the people to become more involved in State processes. To that one can easily ask: which people is the government empowering? Surely it is not the anti-privatization activists whom they suppress. It is not even the people who are entitled to services they provide, whom they threaten with brown-outs, higher taxes and poor quality of service. PPP, privatization and overall commercialization of services empowers no one but the very people behind it: the government officials and technocrats obsessed with efficiency and progress in graphs and numbers while lacking regard for social justice, and the corporate lobbyists whom entice them with promises of greater revenue in exchange for political and economic influence, regardless of who reaps the benefits of such revenue.

As Scholars and the Nation’s conscience we are appalled and disgusted by such developments in policy and the practice of power. Yet we are not surprised. For even when we stand, even in our classrooms and in the offices nearby, we find that a similar attitude is honed: private interests before the community’s. Gain regardless of principle, for prestige and influence’s sake. If we are not wary and weary of these kinds of motivations for whatever we do, wherever we are, we may be so easily deceived and enthralled by vague illusions of “efficiency” and “development”, when we are built for more than that. We Scholars, and the People we represent, are meant for and are deserving of honor, excellence, justice and service.

(c) ABS-CBN News

This was actually a candid shot.

Soldiers of Fortune: Should the military be politicized?

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This question requires a simple definition of terms.

What is a State? The State, according the Andrew Heywood, is the highest political entity in a country. It is not to be confused with the government. The State, like the Family or Civil Society, is an abstract concept, while the government is the body employed by the State to carry out the functions of the State. That is why there is a distinction between heads of government and heads of State. They are not, as the Pinoy English expression goes, “the same banana.” I think it is closer to our concept of “Bayan”, whereas the government is closer to our concept of “pamahalaan.”

The military is not supposed to be an agent of the government, but rather the State. For while the priorities of the government may change from term to term, the interests of the State remain the same. This is why there may be just coup de etats or military uprisings: because the government may betray State interests.

The State, as it is the highest political body in the land, should have the monopoly of the legitimate use of violence. This requirement is fulfilled by the military and the police force. But the difference is that the police force serves the State only indirectly, as it is directly the arm of the government. That is why it is weird for a military person to say that he or she enforces “the rule of law.” Such is the job of the police force. The military is supposed to be concerned with balancing those who challenge the State’s sovereignty, internally and externally.

By this definition we can say that the military is indeed political. Its existence is borne out of political necessity. However, when we say “influenced by politics” it is not a question of should the military be political (it is, by its definition). It is a question of whether or not the military should be politicized.

In the context of the Philippines, at least, being “politicized” means to be subject to the influences of a political and economic elite. When the military, for example, massacres farmers expressing dissent against their landlords, that is the military being politicized. When the military is ordered to abduct and kill political opponents by a dictator, that is not serving the interest of the State, but rather the political leader and his or her government. When coup de etats are quelled by the promise of positions in the government for the generals and support for their campaigns as members of the Congress, that is the military being politicized. This is prevalent in our country. This has been the case, especially post-Marcos.

Does this confusion, then, cause conflict? It does. Internally, those who espouse different political views about how the government is running the State are always in the fear of being eliminated. Military personnel, especially the higher-ups feel entitled to bargain with senators and the executive for personal interests, as they have something to offer in return. We end up with a military with an identity crisis: unaware of what is justly required of them. Do they serve the State or the political and economic elite?

Externally, we are left with a military force which stands inferior against external threats. Because the government allots funds largely to the military to fund elite interests (i.e. militarization) rather than interests of the State (e.g. strengthening border defense, in the case of the territorial disputes with China), we end up with a military that is not only laughable, but is more of a threat to its own People, to its own State, rather than to external challengers.

Activists are n…

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Activists are not messiahs who will liberate the people. They are prophets who arouse the progressive spirit inside people, that they may liberate themselves.

True democracy and true freedom is not won for the people. It is won by the people.

Activists and leaders of progressive movements must not deem themselves separate from and above the people they claim to be serving, lest they should become as self-gratifying and power-hungry as the very forces they are trying to overthrow.

Status update, Saturday 12:31 am.