Thursday, September 24, 2015

Heneral Luna and Philippine National Security

Photo courtesy of ArtikuloUno
By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:

Commentary of an Academic 
(Copyright @ 2015 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).

The historical biopic film Heneral Luna is a masterpiece that resembles the current state of Philippine national security.

Terrorization on the inadequacy of National Security Strategy has paralyzed Asia’s First Republic, defacing the ‘should-be’ strengths of strong institutions, organization, leadership, doctrines, strategic culture and military capability against an emerging superpower, the Unites States, during the twentieth century. For sure, the ghost of the past still lingers in our present weak defense posture against a rising ‘other’ superpower, China, in the twenty-first century.

Everyone from the defense and security sector must watch this intelligent narrative, coated with cinematic license by a versatile filmmaker Jerrold Tarog, to witness Antonio Luna’s suggested military strategy on guerilla warfare that influenced rogue states like Cuba and Vietnam in their struggle for independence against bullies and colonizers.

Poor strategic culture emanates from weak leadership and organization corrupted by greed, self-interest, lack of vision, and citizens’ bogus nationalism and fake patriotism of many political elites.

In the same manner, the sins of our forefather, the scheming opportunist, General Emilio Aguinaldo, whose formidable statue stands still in a sprawling military camp in Quezon City, the largest city within Metro Manila named after his political successor as president, alleged by historians as the person liable for the murder and political butchery of Andres Bonifacio and Antonio Luna, should be demystified.

Aguinaldo's follies and tendencies to heinous crimes, nascent dictatorial streak, and engagement in political mudslinging are demerits in demoting him in history. He should be stripped of his title as the first president of the Republic; but instead, the great plebian, Supremo Andres Bonifacio should be elevated to where he is rightfully placed in our historical consciousness.  

At the same time, Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo should be renamed as Camp General Antonio Luna in reverence to a mad genius and grand strategist that have drawn the attention of American military thinkers based from their first-hand accounts tagging him our greatest general during the Philippines-American War which took more lives of American soldiers than during the American-Spanish War.  

The centuries-old regionalistic character of Filipinos, keenly shown in the film, still presently manifested on how we nurture our political culture during elections and appointments of national leaders in every administration, shows our immaturity and shallow governance that impedes our growth to achieve our elusive ‘national identity’. Pluralism is healthy in any society, regardless of ethnicity, political principles, and economic class. However, patriotism and cohesiveness as a nation-state should never be compromised based from one’s own status, rank or position.

The national security threats on poor governance, poverty, graft and corruption, greed and grievance, and oligarchy are peripheral issues profound in the Heneral Luna film. It exposes our genetic and protracted weaknesses as Filipinos that are ‘uncured’ and ‘unhealed’ despite creative prescriptions to ‘cure and heal’ our society’s conscience using Jose Rizal’s revolutionary novels or today’s numerous well-crafted laws.

Our best talents as great people in this part of the world, oftentimes, cause us to stumble over and over again because the enemy is within our own self, reiterated by Renaissance man General Antonio Luna whose commanding presence, credible defense leadership by walking the talk, and cognition of poetry, weaved his colorful life and career as uniformed officer of his time.  

Furthermore, nurtured unrighteous Filipino values and ethics vivid in the film are continuously practiced intergenarationally by many of us have become a vicious cycle in our political and societal systems.

The ghost of weak implementation and enforcement of laws embedded in Filipino culture are footprints of our ancestors even before the time of General Luna that strums his bewilderment and insanity that still haunt us.

In his sane and rightful perspective, no one should be above the law even if one holds the highest position in the land. A simple anecdote of ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. In realistic parlance, leadership by example means that no one is indispensable above the law, and that culture of impunity should be halted.     
In my paper on the Anthropology of National Security, I deem that to achieve a robust national security, Filipinos must acquire a culture of respected national character and national morale that are fundamental to metaphysically build an infrastructure to nationhood propounded by our great ancestors. This vision which was adequately foreseen by revolutionary generals in our history is slowly laying a golden map to fortify our socio-cultural imaginings away from persistent colonial mentality. This vision of greatness must be executed in a grand manner based on the vintage designs of our great ancestors to generally inculcate sense of pride of Filipinos today and tomorrow. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Asean’s shared cultural destiny with India

Photo courtesy of ISIS Malaysia/RIS India
By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:

Commentary of an Academic 
(Copyright @ 2015 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).

Last month, I was invited by ISIS Malaysia and RIS India to attend the Fourth ASEAN-India Network of Think Thanks in the beautiful city of Kula Lumpur. I talked about Asean-India’s shared destiny and rebuilding cross-cultural exchanges and future ties.

But before sharing important insights about my topic, I would like to commend the organizers for the job well done. More substantive ideas were exchanged in just a two-day high-level dialogue. During the short visit, my appreciation extends to the Malaysian government for having an Asean lane in their immigration, making it convenient for many travelers around the region. This tangible action shows Malaysia’s serious take on the Asean integration that will commence by end of the year.

I would also like to thank few Malaysian colonels who were my former students at the National Defense College of the Philippines for hosting my visit to Malaysia’s seat of power in Putrajaya.   

Going back to the successful conference, the organizers gathered together distinguished scholars, seasoned diplomats, and respected practitioners from Asean and India to share their expertise on various dimensions including non-traditional security threats, regional security architecture, economic partnership, cultural links, and way forward.  

Shared destiny

‘Shared destiny’ is a fluid concept to describe the relationship of the regional group Asean and subcontinental India. The undeniable provocation of shared destiny is an overstatement of the overflowing cultural and historical ties. Such dramatization of strengthened partnerships has been embroidered and cemented by rich traditional heritage in the past and current cultural commonalities of our peoples and societies to continuously rebuild cross-cultural exchanges by laying the ground and carving possible niches for future ties. 

Historical narratives describe that Indian influences continued to operate on Southeast Asia until the present. But countries in the region retained its own recognizable social and cultural forms, preserved and evolved from their separate origins before the coming of Indian elements.

It seems like that the favored camaraderie is viewed as a major breakthrough for this lasting partnership molded by a rich history of regional resilience and understanding with respect to the presence of multitude heterogeneous languages, cultures, and religions in the spirit of shared common values empowered by unity in diversity to adapt/adopt to present realities and future discourses of cultural cooperation.


‘Indianized’ is also a heavy concept to describe India’s past link with Southeast Asia. Historical connection calls it the Indianization of the region since the beginning of anno domini (A.D.) until western colonialism.

But the connection between Southeast Asia and India is an anthropological approach to our centuries-old historical and cultural links. These are formed through inevitable diffusion of cultures since antedated maritime traditions and terrestrial explorations, as evidenced by the rise of civilizations along the great rivers and its tributaries around these nations, enriched by the presence of important archaeological excavations, linguistic expressions, and philosophical manifestations embedded in our shared heritage.

Undoubtedly, classical India was an ancient geocultural power in South Asia that cultivated a deep respect for learning and for education, beginning with literacy, mathematics described by Arabs as India’s art, medical sciences and philosophy.

With the confluence of maritime trade and high culture, Indians began to transmit their wide knowledge, religious practices, traditions and customs to peoples in other geographical regions.

India secured intermittently naval posts and commanding cultural influence to the vastness of islands in the south of India and east of China that would later become today as the geographical and geocultural region of Southeast Asia.

Meanwhile, Islam’s lasting footprint to insular Southeast Asia, a patchwork of sprouting Muslim sultanates at the beginning had advanced for dominion and control over the Malacca Strait at the heart of the region due to its strategic location as a great center of commerce, following the Islamic conquest of northern India and setting its stronghold through Delhi Sultanate by thirteenth century.

This newfound religion was farther carried out to Southeast Asia by Indian traders who received favorable approval to spread Islam. These and other aspects of Indian civilization were overlaid on a well-developed preexisting base whose character was distinctly different. Islam was transmitted eastward along the sea routes while earlier Indian merchants did the other way to stretch the influences of Hinduism and Buddhism westward at India’s backdoor.

Compared with India, full colonialism came late to most of Southeast Asia. It took time for smaller kingdoms and sultanates to develop a national response to colonialism. Under these circumstances, it is not surprising that modern nationalism and common effort were late and slow to grow.

As in India, some Southeast Asians found the colonial system attractive and personally rewarding, but generally it gained wider resistance among local political elites. In most of Southeast Asia’s colonial rule, it left very few educated people to form a stable political base and too few with any political experience. Simply stated, both Southeast Asia and India suffered the same fate of western colonialism.

Indian scholar Prakash thinks that Indian culture was believed to have been transmitted in three phases. (1) the establishment of the stations and emporia of Indian traders and mariners along the coastal region; (2) foundation of colonies and settlements of Indian people, Brahmans and Buddhists, in some localities; and, (3) setting of fully Indianized states, characterized by purely Indian civilizations, in the islands and peninsulas.

But Filipino Indologist Joefe Santarita deems that the culture of early Southeast Asians were neither eliminated nor cornered. It implied effective commingling and cooperation with the natives and their consequent conversion and merger in the complex of an Indo-Asian civilization.

Recent studies on Indian contact to prehistorical Southeast Asia are mushrooming now, with increasing number of scholars specializing in the region. New studies should give new fresh perspectives and interpretations on such grand engagements between India and Southeast Asia.

Again Santarita’s research shows that the naming of the Philippines as Panyupayana clearly gives a clue that the archipelagic Philippines has been in the radar of Indians for millennia.

Filipino archaeologist Eric Casino believes that archaeological discovery of material cultures like large ocean-going balangay in Butuan, Agusan del Norte based from carbon-14 dated artifacts unearthed in different locations in 320 AD, 1250 AD, and 900 AD; the discovery of the Golden Tara of Agusan conceived as a female Boddhisattva of the Buddhist pantheon – a counterpart of the Hindu goddess Saki as a Tara, or wife of a Buddhist god dated around the 13th or 14th century; and the presence of the Silver Paleograph, a strip of silver metal inscribed with ancient ideograms of Indic writings, are indications of Indian mediation through the Indianized states of Indonesia and Indochina.

These prognostic views based from archaeological and cultural case studies in some important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia, although less expounded in my research, should ignite more production of knowledge that would usher to numerous local studies and new interpretations of ancient engagements to be written and reviewed by Southeast Asian and Indian contemporary scholars to emphasize the value of past relations.    

Rebuilding cross-cultural exchanges

Southeast Asia lies between two great economic powers and cultural influences of India and China in the region. They combine shipping and land crossings. Cultural bearers from the two giant nations had to wait for the change of winds during monsoon season in the past to transmit and receive hybrid customs and traditions.

But the central dynamics in Southeast Asian and Indian rich history and close-knitted cultural links are products of interaction between and amongst peoples, primarily through trade in the down rivers, along the coasts, across the seas and oceans, networks of transnational trains, sophisticated land transport networks, and to more open skies.

Given the context of cross-cultural exchanges, imperative social and cultural problems are scrutinized to understand its effects to Southeast Asia in particular, or Asean and India as a whole.

This broader picture seen at the complex social and cultural landscapes in Asean shows that diversity does provide opportunities but challenges as well. The region alone is a plural regional bloc that may test its intact integration. The discrepancy in beliefs could potentially hinder programs because unanimous decision will be hard to get, although there may be mechanisms to contain it.

In relation to prospects of elevating Asean-India social and cultural cooperation, we have seen today elevated cultural links embarked by past connections and future ties expanded in higher education level.

This sector of education should be tackled seriously since the skills embodied in the new generation are honed over the years inside the education system. The task is to sense future needs for skills so that the supply of skills matches the demand of skills.

Creativity is the driver for society to turn out new products. It is more of a societal competitive parameter than an economic one considering that traditional economic instruments and economic policies will not do much to enhance creativity.

Over the years, Asean-India’s socio-cultural collaborations increased to include human resource development, science and technology, people-to-people contacts, health and pharmaceuticals, transport and infrastructure, small and medium enterprises, tourism, information and communication technology, agriculture, energy and Initiative for ASEAN Integration.

Although, each member-state in the Asean vary on their bilateral engagement with India, based from the core political interests and past cultural dependency with India, covering the extent of holistic foreign policies using soft power approach based on cultural and historical ties. Soft power approach may consist of soft power strategies emphasizing common political values, peaceful means for conflict management, and economic cooperation in order to achieve common solutions.

Future ties

Communication and dialogues are important elements for successful interregional ties. The historical and cultural links of Asean and India are affirmations of continuous intensification of regional cooperation to enhance national and strengthen regional capacities without impinging on competitiveness of common but differentiated responsibility, respective capabilities as well as reflecting on different social and economic conditions of different stakeholders.

However, the most immediate concern that has to be addressed in narrowing the development gap in two regional blocs is also the most basic agreement on the definition of development and provision of milestones. It is difficult to measure development gap and whether the government and other member-states have been successful in narrowing down the gaps if no clear metrics or measures as well as mechanisms are in place. For sure culture-bound measurements can be used to address social-based problems to cultivate stronger regional ties between Asean and India.

Together, Asean and India should hand in hand and equally engage each other in many fronts. Its cultural ties and historical links could cement this mutual relationship. Given all the confidence and potential each country has in the region and its cultural relations with India, they must continue to gauge assistance and learn best practices from each other in education, people-to-people contacts, and other artistic and cultural avenues to strongly forge this bond. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Will the Philippines bandwagon on the US led Trans-Pacific Partnership?

Photo courtesy of  
By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:

Commentary of an Academic 
(Copyright @ 2015 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).

The alliance of the Philippines with the United States is cemented not only militarily but also economically. This robust economic relationship, apparently seen on how the Philippines gives support to the grand plan of the lone superpower in the world in crafting a “Trans-Pacific Partnership” or TPP, is undeniable and unprecedented, despite the country’s non-membership in the newest US-led economic agreement.  

It is however noted that the TPP is a multinational trade agreement proposed by the Philippines’ oldest ally. But in contextualizing the current economic global landscape, China is rising as well as the “other superpower” and stands tall as the second largest economy worldwide after the US.

China recently proposed for the creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to relive the ‘Maritime Silk Road’ and counter Japan’s Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the United States’ World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF). This is in time when member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are on the verge of economic regional integration this year.

The game-changing economic landscape are pushing major global powers to boost its financial assets and trading clout, thereby, creating transnational and multinational financial institutions robed under trans-border agreements that would increase their economic influence worldwide.

Definitely, there are two faces of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). On the positive note, the United States through the TPPA, is guiding member economies to higher standards of production by either reducing or eliminating tariffs. On the other hand, it would bring menace to the restrictive intellectual property (IP) laws across the globe and rewriting international rules on its enforcement, according to activist Rick Esguerra.

It is deemed that in the intellectual property issue, there found leaked draft texts of the agreement showing extensive ramifications for users of freedom of speech, right to privacy and due process, and hindering peoples’ right to innovate.

Given the binary oppositions of opportunities and challenges that the TPPA may inject on our economic policies, this will give us a leverage to rethink our negotiating membership in the said agreement, as it would require the Philippines to implement domestic reforms in trade and industry, realign our objectives in international trade, increase external demand for domestic products and labor, and renew our economic engagement with the United States.   

Deal or No Deal

The Philippines has remained the darling of investments today by continuously positioning itself as the economic leader in Southeast Asia. This perceptible notion is evident in the country’s economic environment propounded by a relatively good business climate and sturdy government fiscal expenditures, solidifying several market fundamentals.

These, however, are good signs of economic recovery inspired by the Philippines’ continuous rating upgrade from reputable global credit rating organizations, affirming the current administration’s structural reforms demonstrated by the significant economic reforms by improving transparency and accountability in line with the goal of promoting economic growth and poverty reduction.

It should be noted that the past GPH-US economic relations have declined over the years after the Americans withdrew its largest bases in the Philippines. As a result of the changing conditions in the world market and increasing regional integration and global competition, trade agreements have become part of any economic and development strategies of every nation-state.

Filipino economist Erlinda Medalla thinks that like many other countries, the Philippines was characterized in the past by a heavily protectionist trade regime. Starting in the 1980s, it embarked on unilateral trade liberalization reforms, even before joining the World Trade Organization (WTO). It has been a firm supporter of the WTO principles, and continues to place primary importance on multilateralism.

Therefore, there is a need for the Philippines to renew its bilateral economic relations with the United States by engaging in a pluralistic approach. On this case, since the TPP is a multilateral agreement, twelve nations have already signified interests, including the US, Japan, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Canada, Mexico, and Brunei Darussalam, in which the Philippines may opt to bandwagon, weighing strategic preferential treatment from the agreement.

To have a holistic view of the newest US-led trans-regional trade agreement, it should be viewed that the Asia-Pacific, in which the Philippines is strategically located in the most important region, is experiencing very vibrant vignettes, and it is in the unique position of moving the global economy forward and bringing regional relations to a whole new level of cooperation and peace.

According to Monica Liempo, the potential for strategic and economic collaboration within the region is enormous, thus, realizing these opportunities and seizing the moment to usher in the age of Trans-Pacific peace and prosperity is a must. 

Then what would be the benefits, in case the Philippines specifically and Asia generally, would bandwagon on this lucrative agreement with the United Sates as the original signatory? 

In the purview of economic security, this is a way for the United States’ commitment to Asia as part of its “pivot” or rebalancing act to the most populous and important continent on earth; a way to strengthen US ties with Japan; stronger and closer ties between the US and alliances, such as Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore; and lastly, this is a desire to see US continued presence in the region fully committed in its policing role in the regional security and apparently a shift to strengthening its economic ties in the region through the TPPA.  

Singaporean legalist Ravindran thinks that on the regional context, seven (7) probable negotiating members that are also members of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnerships (RCEP) economies are in TPP negotiations. Four (4) more RCEP economies including Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea, and Thailand are potentials in the ‘second tranche’ of the TPP.

He deems that these countries are attracted to TPP participation because of the benefits from TPP-inspired regulatory reforms and deeper liberalization, as well as fear of trade diversion from non-participation. Some would argue that TPP has always been declared open to potential new members while some TPP architects have put forward the prospect of building eventual free trade agreements from the foundations of the TPP. 

Thus, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies could gradually join the TPP when it is already prepared as a process analogous to the WTO accession. TPP negotiations are on parallel tracks towards the ASEAN and APEC visions of economic integration leading towards broader free trade agreements.

What’s stopping others?

With a ‘new age’ regionalism which appears to be a viable option and possible support to waning multilateralism, any further erosion of the multilateral trading system could dissolve their complementary interface.

There are doubts about the eventual form of the mega-blocs currently under negotiation – particularly the US-led TPP involving the United States and the other Asia-Pacific countries. There is also a brewing United States-European Union (US-EU) Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that would definitely affect the global economic and political landscape, according to Medalla. 

In this sense, the United States’ concoction of the TPP and TTIP compact could become as a ‘free-trade charades’ whose goal is “managed trade regime – managed to serve the special interests that have long dominated trade policy in the West,” as opined by Joseph Stiglitz.

Ibon International reports that the TPP aims to achieve smooth economic integration in the Asia-Pacific region through intensified trade liberalization. Grounded on the rebalancing strategy of the United States in the Asia-Pacific, the US will utilize the TPPA to counter China’s expanding influence.

One major contending issue in TPP, intently contained in a chapter on intellectual property covers copyright, trademarks, and patents. Based from the leaked information from the ‘May 2014 draft of the TPP Intellectual Property Chapter [PDF]’, the US negotiators are pushing for the adoption of copyright measures far from restrictive than currently required international treaties, including the controversial ‘Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)’.

From the document of Secret TPP Treaty: Intellectual Property Chapter working document for all 12 nations with negotiating positions based from WikiLeaks released last 16 October 2014, it described that the revised version of the confidential draft treaty chapter from the intellectual property group of the TPP talks, negotiated in secret by delegations from each of these 12 countries, who together account for 40 percent of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP). 

The chapter covers agreements of facilitations, restrictions and enforcement of regulations of copyright, trademark, patent, pharmaceuticals, counterfeit and piracy issues between the signatories of the agreement. The document was produced and distributed after the 20th Round of Negotiations at Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam.

Based from the report of Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the leaked US IP chapter includes many detailed requirements that are more restrictive than current international standards that would require significant changes to other countries’ copyright laws. These entail obligations for member-countries to: (1) place greater liability on internet intermediaries, (2) escalate protection for digital locks, (3) create new threats for journalists and whistleblowers; (4) extend copyright terms; (4) enact a “three-step-test” language that puts restrictions on fair use; and, (5) adopt criminal sanctions.Given the loopholes on the intellectual property, in effect countries joining the TPPA will have to surrender big chunk of their national sovereignty to the trade pact’s imperialist masterminds, according to Ibon International.  

Wider participation

The rapid transformations on the global economic landscapes are fast and deterritorializing. Inclusive growth must be felt by creating new rules of engagements by crafting transnational and multinational agreements. 

The TPP, despite legal flaws should be considered seriously by the Philippines to beat its economic momentum and renew its economic interest and ties with the United States. In a larger scale, we are weaving efforts of reconciliation of our APEC commitments with much faster movement it may acquire in greater regional significance. In TPP, the RCEP member countries alone are the most dynamic countries with high growth potential in the region.

In the end, appropriate laws must be protected that are aligned to the objectives of the TPPA to affirm existing rights and obligations of potential member-countries. Notwithstanding that there are severe and chronic issues ahead its implementation on the intellectual property rights and pharmaceutical products and medical devices which must be given emphasis and weight based from the intent and spirit of the well-crafted international agreements and treatises.