Thursday, January 25, 2018

Duterte’s War on Media

By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:
Commentary of an Academic 
(Copyright @ 2018 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).

A week after Rappler Inc., a Filipino online news outlet was shut down, Philippines’ Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) finds probable breaches of nationality restrictions to the organization. Philippine media has long been touted as the “fourth estate” or the “fourth power” that juxtaposes a symmetrical power to President Rodrigo Duterte as the vox populi, vox Dei.

The current episode propelled a Pandora’s Box that questions power relations of the executive branch over the fourth branch of the government. How come that foreign ownership is pressed against a manufacturer of information like Rappler when most netizens across the globe paved way by critical infrastructures for news distribution remains borderless? How come that Rappler’s almost decade-long existence since 2011, no government administration has condemned its critical narratives and up-to-date news content, nonetheless, the reputable news outlet has even become steadfast and truth worthy source of information shared in the superhighway information. Is Rappler a threat to national security?

President Duterte’s trust and mistrust with media has been described in his roller-coaster journey’s ascent to power. His appeal to the masses massively constructed or deconstructed both by the traditional and new media are intermittently displaced whenever he disliked misinformation about his power projection. His upper hand denial to compromises and closure of media outfits in the Philippines are countered by ambiguously scrutinizing at flaws of family media owners despite robust contributions and legacy of these institutions to the country’s nation-building, using threats and fear as bold resolutions for submission to solidify his draconian rule. 

Last year, he vowed to block the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise – the country’s largest network, and retaliated based from his rants when the media giant failed to air his political ad when he ran for presidency. He also singled out the country’s most read print media – the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) for alleged slanted reportage about him and on his banner policy against the war on drugs.

Patterns of belligerence of the government against the manufacturers of information during the Marcosian years and to the present have seen astute and brave media in pursuit of press freedom; nevertheless, these select agents of change revolutionized Philippine society that spurred people power. The difference of media today than before, now there are quiet emergence of censored and uncensored websites, that cling to rampant disinformation that may entice millions of netizens. The appalling side of the information superhighway, it trespasses a country’s sovereignty, and that the absence of regulation on the internet, citizen journalists and traditional media practitioner may mete out wide-scale reparations and malicious information damaging the integrity of the complex political culture.     

The daunting tasks of democratizing journalism in the Philippines, regarded supposedly as the freest in Asia, away from the social ills of political innuendos could spur a Cultural Revolution paved way by the advent of the dotcom era. The frequency of social media substantiated by the new media can become a constant catalyst of change to bridge the wall between elites and the masses subdued by stronger political patronage of mass media that manipulates the objectivity of information and obstructs the reliance of scoops to monopolize the subjectivity of truthfulness.

Ethical issues can escalate as to the extent of the president’s power to shut down institutions, particularly guardians of the right to communicate that have the capacity to expose abuses and inefficiency of leaders. The dichotomy between professional news and government propaganda exude discursive constructs of news gathering and news reportage under the mantle of trust and reliability despite that everything in the post-truth world are now deconstructed. People need critical thinking to absorb truths and realities; but if a leader is petrified of veracities, then he is not a wiser president. 

Reality bites, Duterte’s media warfare has become asymmetrical with the emergence of non-state actors and individuals as truth in information has become subjective. Nationality restrictions sought to be justified on the ground of national security issue but not on political shenanigans that can become legitimate if the genuine purpose is only to protect national interests and not solely personal interest to consolidate power and perpetuate political survival.  

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Philippines’ Quest for Federalism

Photo from PhilStar
By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:
Commentary of an Academic 
(Copyright @ 2018 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).

The idea of a full federal system of “coming together” or shared sovereignty and “holding together” or shared governmental powers presumes symmetric and asymmetric balance of power in the electoral process.  But Filipino policymakers and scholars talk about decentralization but not federalism paramount to issues on fragmentation and secessionism. In this context, decentralization was perceived to be an effective means of diffusing power from the center that would effectively prevent an authoritarian regime. Hence the shift to federalism removes the restrictions to the martial law powers of the president as enshrined in the 1987 Constitution.   

Federalism can be taken advantage to deepen the discourse of devolution that flexes opportunity to implement reforms on amalgamation highlighting inter-local cooperation. Since 1967, Republic Act No. 5185 or the Decentralization Act was enacted to increase the financial resources and powers of local governments.

On the other hand, the Republic Act No. 7160 or the Local Government Code of the Philippines institutionalized a systemic allocation of powers and responsibilities between national and local governments. The Local Government Code assures that powers and structures of cities, municipalities, and barangays shall remain. However, not all regions are equal in terms of opportunities and resources; but proposed federal government shall be created to provide more funding support to depressed regions in order to accelerate development to equalize with other progressive regions, in which effect regions shall acquire more power to control over their funds and resources in pursuit of subsidiarity and solidarity.

Whether or not the fiscal decentralization succeeded or failed in the span of almost three decades, there have been no sharp improvements in local public service delivery. Fiscal autonomy becomes inutile when more local government units depend on the Internal Revenue Allotment from the Philippines national coffers. This will result to massive accountability from the central government where people will demand more services if they are paying their taxes properly. The dilemma also rises with the mismatch of the assignments of revenues and expenditures; on the contrary, local governments have not fully exploited their local taxing powers. In the end, the fiscal social contract should therefore feed accountability in all local levels. If national government refuses to be true to decentralization then policy implementation becomes the biggest challenge.

The current discourse on federalism catches the contours of the form rather on the substance of the subject that bespeaks accountability, transparency, democracy or autocracy. If the common denominator in the parlance of federalism in the Philippines calls for accountability and political participation, in spite of the form of the government, these values should have been the bases of founding a stronger government even before.

Benchmarking from the experiences of other countries on how federalism had worked on to their advantage is conceived as cultural expressions of their political aspirations and synergy to commit to innovative calls of their security environments. The Philippines should breed its own indigenous form of federalism as a prescription to alter the mindset and perspective of Filipino civil servants to assume proactive roles to stand with the aphorisms of the basic local governance as building blocks of robust nationhood.

Rhetoric on demystifying the spoiled Philippine political structures of overconcentration of central power in Imperial Manila, corruption, patronage politics, political dynasty, secessionism and terrorism can be addressed with the promising face of federalism. The devil is in the detail when political ambitions can be launched for an extension of power of leaders characterized by desynchronized or suspended local and national elections. This opens up a judicialization of politics which vest enough powers to key positions in the government.   

To counter such scenario, the Philippines’ emancipation from oligarchical system of clientelistic politics, political reforms must not be limited to relational dynamics between the balance of power of the central and local governments. Federalism must pave way for electoral and party reforms, debate on anti-political dynasty provision in the Constitution, amalgamation of fragmented local government units, restructuring of tax system, reconfiguration of the presidential system, and professionalizing the civil service.

The assurance that Filipinos shall fully enjoy the benefits of democracy by uplifting their lives espouses the campaign of a semi-parliamentary system with a strong presidential system, directly voted in tandem with the vice president. The president nominates the prime minister who will act as the chief executive officer of the country. However, this precludes a condition of a stronger party dynamics for which the president’s political survival relies on the strength of political parties supporting him that contradicts the nonexistence of strong parties in the Philippines.

More so, the promise of political participation insinuates the greater respect for ethnic diversity and political culture change which spans for intergeneration. The centuries-old reality of Philippine regionalism debunks the pitch that through federalism and decentralization, devolution of regional financial and political powers will wield good governance, peace and order, and competitiveness.  

Friday, January 19, 2018

Chill Baguio City

Photographs by CBCabalza. Copyright © 2017 by Chester B. Cabalza. All Rights Reserved.

#Brotherhood­čĺ¬ #Family❤️ #Bonding­čÖů‍♂️

Monday, December 11, 2017

Banawe - Batad Adventures (Cordillera Region)

          Photographs by CBCabalza. Copyright © 2017 by Chester B. Cabalza. All Rights Reserved.

The ethnographic fieldwork with my security anthropology class had a wonderful blast to the stairway to heaven in Banawe and Batad, Ifugao! This is in celebration of the centennial of the Anthropology in the Philippines! UP @ 100 


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The 'ASEAN Way' in Resolving Security Issues

By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:
Commentary of an Academic 
(Copyright @ 2017 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).

Manila formally played host to the two-day Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and related summits last November 13-14, 2017 as part of the annual gathering of regional and global world leaders. Concurrently ASEAN under the Philippines’ chairmanship celebrates its golden anniversary as it aspires or struggles to achieve cohesion and unity in diversity in spite of implied syndetic secretariat function, fostered by a culturally-sensitive principle of ASEAN Way, cultivating a collegial spirit as core existence in one of the oldest regional organizations in the world.                                                                                 

The uniqueness of the ASEAN Way collectively streamlined from the ethos of the five foreign ministers capped from their habitus in playing golf to becoming the founding fathers, extremely emphasizes the iota of national sovereignty and the commitment to non-intervention into the affairs of the member-countries. Glorifying an historical achievement at fifty years old, the Philippines takes the center stage of chairing the ASEAN this year, setting the agenda for the fourth time as the host in five decades.

Five decades after the founding of ASEAN, three decades after the ASEAN summit in Manila, and a decade after the adoption of the ASEAN Charter, did ASEAN take a lead as a catalyst of change to progress or regress to survive a vision of prosperity and stability in Southeast Asia?

            The absence of armed conflict among member-states in the regional bloc perhaps affirms its first key success; this feat could be its long-standing contribution to the region and the world despite the intermittent establishments of formidable three pillars in political/security, economic, and socio-cultural to create holistic ASEAN Community.           

The ‘ASEAN Way’ as a traditional instrument to run the organization is a way too slow that aims to accelerate a certain velocity in making decisions and conventions. A long-held principle based on consultation and consensus-based decision while establishing a more concrete, systematic and productive mechanism for addressing conflicts and security threats in the region has not been fully modified and reinvented.

ASEAN Way as a bedrock emphasizes the importance of having one common language for all ASEAN member-states with unified perception of threat in political, social and economic security outlook, as well as the importance of social view on democracy and human rights.      The establishment for whose commission was recommended during the drafting of the ASEAN Vision 2025. The fallacy on becoming a stumbling block presumes consensus on the peaceful resolution of disputes, respect for international laws, and non-use of force.

The “geo-economic” capitalism subsumed in the trading system within the region deconstructs few myths about the ASEAN Way that symbolizes its being; rather, the regional organization’s fifty years of existence can be reduced to a debutant’s party that has less capacity as a dispute-solving organization. This embodies ASEAN’s failure as a model for regional cooperation in which European Union (EU) has sophisticatedly led for decades.

Hence it must be deemed that the ‘ASEAN Way’ is the heart of ASEAN itself. The view that ASEAN can either become bedrock or a stumbling block can be leaned to the belief that the organization should be used as a platform to prepare for the future. The purpose of ASEAN is for posterity delivering economic wealth for the region in the thrust of seamless connectivity as One ASEAN Community; having beauty among diversity, and the importance of the people-to-people agenda by promoting the quality of life of the people in the region as it goes beyond its three pillars of community.

The effectiveness of community-building in achieving the common goal of “One ASEAN, One Community” puts the Philippines and the entire region in a gargantuan task of “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World”. Furthermore by strengthening ASEAN, this can be a continuing and lingering desire among many decision makers in the region. There is a greater recognition that the group’s regional body and its institutions need to be empowered in line with the ASEAN Community.

ASEAN’s progressive atmosphere has maintained peace by socializing its member-states into principles and norms of non-interference in internal affairs, respect for sovereignty, and renunciation of threat and use of force all encapsulated in its ‘ASEAN Way” as enshrined in the 1976 Treaty of Amity and Cooperation.

Engagement with the civilized world has been the organization’s hallmark with its dialogue partnership system that goes beyond the Dialogue Partners. But ASEAN should utilize conscientiously its external relations to socialize other countries to the same norms and principles toward an inclusive, open, and rules-based region. Quantity of partnerships created by ASEAN should not become the success indicator; rather it should put premium on how these partnerships contribute to the regional community-building. All in all, the preservation of peace for the past five decades has been ASEAN’s greatest achievement to date.

 On the other hand, regressive acts will continuously proliferate if and all ASEAN member-states subside to maintain peace efforts in the region on its centennial. The leniency in addressing gaps pronounced in the three ASEAN’s community-building pillars will alienate the promises of the future and dynamism of the next generations in the region. Building consensus and socialization through regional integration along the process of globalization should not lose a momentum in the ASEAN. In a preferable view, economic inequity, political disenfranchisement, and people-to-people disengagement should be addressed properly consistent with the strategic aims of the ASEAN founding fathers.         

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Lessons Learned from the Liberation of Marawi

photo from PBA
By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:
Commentary of an Academic 
(Copyright @ 2017 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).

The death of Maute group leader Omar Maute who was shot in the head and Abu Sayyaf cum Southeast Asia’s ISIS emir Isnilon Hapilon whose gunshots to the chest ambiguously pacified fear in Mindanao as President Rodrigo Duterte announced yesterday the liberation of the besieged Marawi City since May 23.

Almost five months before these top two Filipino terrorist leaders accidentally crumbled from the hands of snipers while rescuing local hostages, Philippine authorities was able to bring down Malaysian terrorist trailblazer Dr. Mahmud Ahmad who joined the ISIS-inspired Maute group before the real emancipation of the Marawi ends; two more months within the prescribed Martial Law in Mindanao expires.

As the Marawi conundrum draws near to an end, what are the important lessons learned that the security sector, particularly the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Association of Southeast Asia Nations, in general, should consider?

The underlying factor here comes with the reality that terrorism is the biggest security challenge in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. This pandemonium threat forms a multi-faceted phenomenon that resembles an iceberg constituting the tip of shocking attacks with wide base founding substantial concerns on the persistence of religious radicalization and poverty.  To annihilate and wipe out an iceberg, it has to be destroyed from the base. Similarly, terrorism should be treated properly to conscientiously address the socio-economic issues that support the tip.

Failure of intelligence sharing and government interoperability could be attributed to the weakness of the military to instantaneously contain terrorist cells in Mindanao. Terrorism in Marawi has changed the rules of war gaming as Filipino soldiers struggled to win the conflict at its own backyard. A backward military doctrine did not cope with the hybrid and urban warfare simulated by jihadi terrorists in a well-planned crucible. Terrorism comes broad in nature and counterterrorism needs holistic approaches to prevent terrorism. Incorporation of practice, military tactical operations, government strategies, strict law enforcement, treatises and intelligence sharing to combat a transborder crime are precursors in addressing the causes of radicalism and religious extremism in the region.

Retaliation from terrorist sympathizers will surely attack the crusaders and antiterrorists whose objective is to bring down the government and sow more terror to the civilians. This traditional act of vendetta killing to avenge a perceived affront or injustice has been widely practiced in Mindanao through clan feuds and ethnic tensions popularly called rido, rooted in the local culture of the dominant Muslim groups in southern Philippines.  Given a centuries old practice, the Philippine security sector must find effective counterterrorism measures to deflate the high pressure out of this customary tradition.

The apparent flaw of Philippine judicial system to implement and consider landmark cases for the decade-old antiterrorism act proves the legal downside of the unsound statute. But more than the enactment of crafted laws against terrorism, the key to prescribe remedies on the social ills of terror acts lies in addressing the holistic socioeconomic conditions in Mindanao and Southeast Asia as a whole, paramount to delivering basic services to the marginalized sector including the victims of terrorism should be handedly prioritized.

Sovereignty issues and disparities in internal security apparatuses among the defenses of member-countries around the region are among the handicaps to foster further cooperation in line with large intelligence sharing and the prohibition of foreign forces from directly engaging in actual combat on respective sovereign territories. This despite that Southeast Asia houses indigenous Islamic militant groups and terrorists. The convergence and divergence of these groupings depend on the intensity of cooperation through the strict application of punitive and preventive law enforcement measures based from the factual root causes of terrorism either ideological or socioeconomic.

Rebuilding and rehabilitation of Marawi need not solely a political act from the government but a synergy of efforts from the international community, civil society and Filipino citizens. The Philippines must learn from its mistakes during the recovery from the Haiyan supertyphoon, though considered a natural disaster, templates on best practices must be gauged to consider the impact of rebuilding a city, that is a daunting task ahead and as massive and substantial as to what the Marawi siege has gone so far, becoming one of the largest and longest human-induced hazards in the country.  Finally, development and education become the medium and long term solutions to cease the operation of terrorism in poverty-laden and ideologically misguided archipelago.     

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Can ASEAN Learn from EU on Counterterrorism or Vice Versa?

Photo from ABC News
By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:
Commentary of an Academic 
(Copyright @ 2017 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).

While jihadi terrorists are still counting their days in Marawi City as Filipino soldiers and policemen intensify firefights against Abu Sayyaf top leader Isnilon Hapilon and Maute group leader Abdullah Maute, the Armed Forces of the Philippines firmly believes that clashes will end even before the expiration of ASEAN Chair and Filipino President Duterte’s extended martial law on December. The pervading security situation in Marawi needs to be evaluated carefully reviewing the past and current campaigns against terrorists. The popularity of local bandits who evolved to jihadi radicals is what emboldened them against the intensive and extensive military campaigns of the security sector.

On the hand, the Barcelona terror attack last August 17 reminded Spain of the devaju Madrid suffered more than a decade ago. As Europe faces again strings of international terrorism, the evolved transnational crime carries a clear shift in Islamic State’s strategy as well as the growing number of foreign terrorist fighters to sow an ambiguous ideology.

Spain and the Philippines share common historical experiences as colonizer-colony states but both countries, geographically distant from each other and affiliated with two of the oldest regional blocs – Madrid joined the European Union in 1986 while Manila is a founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 1967, are vulnerable to jihadi terrorism. Given the situation, can ASEAN learn from EU on counterterrorism or vice versa?

Terrorism is broad in nature and counterterrorism needs holistic approaches to prevent terrorism. It incorporates practice, military tactical operations, government strategies, law enforcement, treatises and intelligence sharing to combat a transborder crime; hence, it also attempts to counter financing of terrorism that gives lifeblood to its existence and success. All terrorists may become extremists but not all extremists necessarily end up as terrorists. Transformation to terrorism starts by passing through the journey of religious extremism and radicalism that have social dimension in which terrorism has none. And since extremism is a precursor to terrorism, addressing the causes of radicalism is just like preventing terrorism to take place.

In the desire to benchmark counterterrorism policies and laws, there are general and optimistic views where ASEAN and EU can learn from each other including the need to expand areas of cooperation to more information exchange especially on terrorism and religious extremism. Integration of efforts versus terrorism at the operational level; and safeguarding trade and transport systems from being taken advantage of by terrorist networks to transport illegal goods. The ASEAN-EU defense cooperation is necessary to achieve common interests considering that the two oldest regional blocs drive against transnational crimes, cybercrimes and terrorism. Both organizations also condemned terrorism in all its forms and call on the international community to work together to fight this scourge to mankind.

On the other hand, there are cultural handicaps at the organizational level that may weaken the cooperation of crafting policies and implementing treatises on counterterrorism. A case in point is the crafting of policy for International Defense and Security Engagements in the two regions that obviously are influenced by external and internal forces in shaping the defense cooperation relationships with other countries. External factors such as those connected with foreign policy as well as internal factors such as capability development requirements are but some drivers that impact how the defense ministries conduct its foreign engagements. Collectively as a region, it is premature for Southeast Asian member-states to see the effects of the impending implementation of the ASEAN Community by 2015 with the expected influx of ASEAN military engagements and its attendant consequences of regional integration on defense and military procurements.

A key element in defense cooperation is building the capacity of partner nations’ defense organization through security cooperation and assistance programs to support defense institution building. In this regard, more and better coordination mechanisms are needed to avoid the implementation of redundant security cooperation programs. Translating security cooperation goals into effective action given the multitude of stakeholders, changing political and security environments, and resource limitations, defense cooperation must be properly directed for greatest effects.

Among the most important policies of the defense is strengthening alliances. In leveraging alliances against international terrorism, there are rules and methods to maximize growth in building lasting relations. But acknowledging that ASEAN and EU have entered a dynamic and future-oriented era in the development of defense relations, both regional organizations are committed to maintain partnerships in counterterrorism efforts.