Finalist-PhilBlogAwards 2010

Finalist-PhilBlogAwards 2010
Finalist for society, politics, history blogs

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Saturday, June 13, 2015

PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENCE: ASIA’S BEACON OF HOPE

PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENCE: ASIA’S BEACON OF HOPE

Erle Frayne Argonza
Philippine solidarity to all Fellows on Planet Earth!
On the 12th of June 1896, as the sun was rising, the Philippine Flag was raised for the first time in Kawit, Cavite. The Philippine National Anthem was also played, in the genre of classical marches, putting it alongside the French Republic’s anthem. Emilio Aguinaldo, first president of the new republic, declared the independence of the Philippines from Spain and the official birthing of the Philippine nation-state.
That moment of victory, no matter how short-lived it was as the American forces soon snapped off the flame of liberty in the islands, was of gigantic significance to all Asia. For the first time, a modern republic was born, forged from out of the struggles and blood of the Filipino people, who fought arduously against the mighty empire of the Spanish Crown. Over three (3) centuries of Western imperial cruelties, demonic calumnies and abominable barbarities were officially ended that day.
All of Asia watched the unfolding events in the islands then. The young patriarch of the nation, Dr. Jose Rizal, was terminated by the Spaniards in 1896 yet, but his ideas of nationhood spread like wildfire across the archipelago after that infamous moment of his execution. With the founding of a new republic, the Asians realized that nationhood ideas, typified by the thoughts of Rizal, were viable. No matter how mighty an evil empire would be against a colonized people of Asia, the latter will be able to forge collective might and will, terminate imperial rule and build a new sovereign nation-state.
Thus were our fellow Asians emboldened to study the path of national liberation, build the patriotic ideas and revolutionary movements that will serve as their executor vehicles, and wage libertarian campaigns to the finish, even if it will take thousands to millions of martyrs to conclude the national liberation project. Gandhi, Aung San, Sukarno, Sun Yat Sen and leading patriots from fellow Asian lands, who read and digested Rizal’s writings well, stood out among our great leaders in Asia, and the rest was history.
Modern nationhood in Asia started in my beloved country. This is an established fact, though seemingly ignored and forgotten. Because it started here, let it be the duty and obligation of all fellow patriotic Filipino to continue to spread goodwill and good faith unto all the peoples of Earth, whether from developing or developed states. For in today’s context, there are those powerful predatory forces that aspire no end to snuff out the nation-states in the name of their ignominious greed, lust for power, and tyrannical might.
Back home, here, we nationalist patriots continue our struggle against the pro-colonial forces in all spheres of life. Rizal’s dream here hasn’t completely galvanized yet, as the pro-colonials and the oligarchs they serve are ensconced in all terrains of social, cultural, political and economic life. We nationalists are in the margins, while the pro-colonials and pro-oligarchs are hegemonic, and so we will continue with our struggles until the destructive dragons of colonialism and oligarchism will be effectively slaughtered here.
Let the world remember this heraldry, that on the 12th of June 1896, nationhood and the values that underpin it (sovereignty, liberty, brotherhood, patriotism, prosperity) were born and planted in the Philippines as the first instance of nationhood in all of Asia. This being the sublime narrative, we patriotic Filipinos shall continue to bear with us the flame of liberty, and will defend the values that forged nationhood to the last instance of our breaths and energies. That which was first will be the last to fall, and will, with the blessing of Divine Hierarchy, never fall in spirit and wisdom to pursue the grand mission of helping other nations build their own narratives and practices of nationhood.
Hail the Philippine nation! Glory, genius, grandeur!
[12  June 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

NEO-NATIONALISM TAKES CENTER STAGE

NEO-NATIONALISM TAKES CENTER STAGE


Erle Frayne D. Argonza


This paper now ends with a note on the prospects of neo-nationalism making waves. Note that Old Nationalism is the dominant discourse within the nationalist streams, and this fact is fully recognized in this paper. Old Nationalists will definitely have a hard time digesting the premises and contentions presented in this article. Being anchored on Western discourses, secular and materialistic to the extremes, the said articulators will have none of neo-nationalism save for viewing it as another exotic fad that will soon fade away. This is understandable. “Old dogs can’t learn new tricks!” goes the idiom, and this holds true in every sphere of human endeavor.

But one thing is sure at this juncture: New Nationalism is germinating right at the very center of state power, as the President herself expressed her subscription to and advancement of the new discourse. Surely, a coterie of like minds are gravitating around her, who are looking for an alternative to the neo-liberal frameworks that sorely failed, but who nonetheless find the extremist dirigism of Old Nationalism passé and repulsive. GMA’s reaching the helm of power signifies that nationalism has finally won amid over a century of struggle, as patriots of diverse ideological orientation won the previous electoral rounds nationwide. But a new phase of nationhood is coming into being, an evolving context that demands a corresponding new discourse to defend it and root it firmly.

Being one among those who strongly desire for an alternative framework, I am inclined to think that many potential articulators are waiting in the watersheds of civil society, political parties and state bureaucracy for the new discourse. Many of them began with the Old Nationalist frame but now find the old frame dilapidated and requiring gross recasting or replacement. My forecast is that it will take just about a minimal work to concur a synergy of efforts among these stakeholders. The moment that the synergy commences and gains momentum, neo-nationalism will quickly move into the mainstream, engulfing civil society, political parties and the state like wildfire. It may even serve as the new inspirational light of the business sector. And, who knows, maybe even church stakeholders, notably the bishops, would regard neo-nationalism as life-giving elixir-in-a-bottle floating amid wild seas intoxicated with every kind of antiquated ideological frames that have become inimical to national growth.

Such is the enormous prospect of neo-nationalist discourse gaining centerfold, that even the neo-liberal advocates might follow suit, taking its cue from the bandwagon effect of the new discourse that may take place in just about a couple of years from its inception. The neo-liberals are under fierce attack from everywhere, and are on the retreat, and the only graceful retreat for them is to find common grounds with the new discourse, even if they may not embrace the discourse entirely. After all, the (new) discourse does not seek to destroy the market, that it is inclusive as it appreciates the role of various stakeholders in the development game, from paupers and vagabonds to gentry and capitalists. The strength of the discourse lies precisely in this inclusiveness, a strength that makes it worth applying in the practical world.


[From: Erle Frayne D. Argonza, “New Nationalism: Grandeur and Glory at Work!”. August 2004.  For the Office of External Affairs – Political Cabinet Cluster, Office of the President, Malacaňan Palace.]


Friday, May 15, 2015

THE OLIGARCHY QUESTION



THE OLIGARCHY QUESTION


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

What should the nation do to the oligarchs? Remember that the constitution and strengthening of the nation-state, as clearly indicated by historical accounts, involved the class factor, to wit: the various middle and lower classes forged a united front to overthrow the trilateral alliance of the monarch-nobility-priesthood. Nationhood was and will always be a struggle against predatory oligarchs, as exemplified by the violent overthrow of the gentry (monarchy, priesthood/Church, nobility) to be able to advance the gains of the French Revolution. Likewise did the socialist revolutions in various countries resulted to the strengthening of the nation-state, a strengthening that was achieved precisely through the institutional decapitation of the oligarchy, the physical elimination of many of its members and the seizure of their assets.

In the Philippine case, the oligarchy is represented by (a) the landlord-capitalist oligarchs  and (b) the Catholic Church. The landlord-capitalists were the products of the commercial era of the 19th century up through the industrializing era of 20th centry, while the oligarchic Church exists as a carry-over from the feudal Hispanic era. On the one hand, the landlord-capitalists have begun to preach ‘corporate social responsibility’ coupled with Santa Claus dole-outs handed over to ‘shirtless folks’, many of whom are shanty residents. On the other hand, the Church has been preaching a ‘preferential option for the poor’ as mandated by the post-Vatican II doctrines, coupled with ‘basic ecclesial organizing’ among communities aimed at contributing to ‘social capital’ and empowerment. The question is, do such sets of actions coming from the oligarchy suffice to redistribute wealth and contribute to poverty alleviation?

The maximalist solution is the one offered by Old Nationalism as a response to the question. The domestic Bolsheviks, whom we count among nationalists in the Philippine setting, are particularly hot on seizing the assets of the landlord-capitalists (‘comprador class’ as the Maoists labeled them collectively) and declaring these under state control. But the same (old) nationalists are silent about Church wealth, which is so enormous it is clear that Church oligarchism is a factor contributing to the ailments of our society. Is it because the Church had contributed immensely to the growth of the Left, by way of the politicization of many bishops, clergy, religious and ministers along the Maoist/Marxist way, and by the utilization of Church convents for such purposes? So now it seems that a Left seizure of power, if ever, is a surefire guarantee for perpetuating Church oligarchism, while landlord-capitalist wealth gets seized and declared as state assets, if not as Communist Party assets.

Neo-nationalism may very well consider the minimalist solution to the question. Sequestering assets by the large-scale and jailing/exterminating oligarchs may only be fruitful in the short-run. But if the value-base of possessive individualism, greed and predatory practices, including usury and rent-seeking, are not eradicated, oligarchs will again appear in the future, thus returning us all to where we were before, as billionaire oligarchs are now appearing by the dozens in post-Bolshevik Russia. “If you can’t beat them, join them!” is likewise unsound, as this is tantamount to capitulation to oligarchism. The minimalist way begins by declaring that oligarchs, when presented with sound options, can participate in the development game. With the strengthening of institutions, they will also begin to exhibit more accountability and responsibility, by first exhibiting truthfulness in their tax declarations and payments, henceforth fattening the public purse no end.

The structural landscape is now changing, and oligarchs are compelled by the exigencies of the times to recognize the winds of change. Gone were the days when oligarchs were as powerful as Zeus and His Olympian Entourage who can never be prosecuted for their crimes, inclusive of crimes of extracting unjust rent from people’s purses without public consent. As the Meralco case demonstrates, erring oligarchs do go punished, or at least the erring firm cannot just engage in criminal acts without being penalized. When civil society is strong and every kind of public interest group vigilantly watches the oligarchs’ acts with zeal, the Olympian stance of greedy oligarchs receive stunning blows by way of court litigations. Meanwhile, oligarchs in localities who commit heinous crimes, such as that of a former mayor in Southern Luzon, got jailed for such crimes, something that was unimaginable in the past. Institutions of justice are now galvanizing, thanks in part to a vigilant civil society and the synergy concurred by the state with it.

I would now boldly declare a forecast that in the long run, transcendent values would permeate the private sphere so greatly, resulting to greater compassion and the return to simple lifestyles. Eventually, the oligarchs will voluntarily share an immense portion of their wealth to the people, through stock sharing schemes, donating large stockholdings to social enterprises, and funding the equity components or even the working capital of social enterprise ventures. Other more exemplary acts will be in the offing too, benign acts that are truly redistributive and not just rhetorical clichés of ‘corporate citizenship’.

Correspondingly, a more radical organizational culture will crystallize, such that, during times of crisis, Big Business will no longer have to downsize in order to continue to gain profits and declare dividends. Rather, the remedial step will be to cut down on the working hours and temporarily cut down on wages and pay scales, so that no one gets unemployed in the process. That is because the personnel are also co-owners of the physical assets. Furthermore, as already suggested earlier, new accounting systems will arise that will more than highlight human assets as the most important assets in the agency, thus eradicating notions of downsizing or expelling people during crisis periods. The ‘corporate citizen’ will therefore become a living organism, unlike today when the concept is simply a strategy to evade taxes by diverting profits to corporate foundations.

Should we follow the Bolshevik way, it means that eventually the local Bolsheviks would become the new oligarchs. The Communist Party becomes the all-powerful economic Santa Claus owning vast assets, while the branches of government controlled by the Party, such as the army and parliament, will also respectively own vast assets, utilized for earning profits that will fatten the purses not only of the said organizations but of their CEOs’ as well. And when market reforms will be undertaken as Bolshevik dirigism can no longer be sustained, new capitalist-landlord oligarchs will emerge, blessed by the all-powerful partocrats with the mandate to “let a thousand millionaires bloom!” As the party oligarchy and the new landlord-capitalists enrich their purses, multitudes will continue to live the lives of paupers, homeless and jobless, cared by no one other than by howling winds of uncertainties and stray dogs who keep them company. Surely, this maximalist route is not the most pro-active route to counterveil against oligarchism, but is in fact a most reactionary route, the stuff of outdated Victorian-era vampire formulas of sucking rent from out of the toiling folks. 

As to the Church assets, which will be luckily retained in the advent of a delusional Bolshevik victory, the key is the Bishopric. Bishops are the power-wielders of the Church, and are necessarily the biggest obstacles to change within the Church. “In the long run, we shall all be dead!” declared Keynes than, and such will be the state of the bishops: the Old World bishops will be dead soon, as new generation bishops take their place. Not only are the same Old World bishops—due precisely to their feudalistic, sexist and Victorian-era prudish (pretending) mindsets—the stewards of the vast assets of the Church, their ranks are also replete with narratives of sexual misconduct, corruption and every type of scandalous misconducts from cryptic figures. Hopefully, the new generation bishops will go beyond mouthing ‘preferential option’ discourses to uplift the poor, and move soon enough to redistribute the vast Church assets by proclaiming their utilization for developmental purposes. Such assets can be used to collateralize credit as well as for loans that should be offered at very low interest rates, thus converting the Church into a ‘white knight’ at last.

Meanwhile, the Old Nationalists who are still waving the insurrectionary flag can still recoup by joining the legal stream, as some entrenched leaders of communist front organizations are now doing. Their party groups can join political society, while their mass movements and NGOs will continue to operate as civil society groups, and become part, hopefully, of those forces that will popularize to our people the ‘rule of law’ and ‘rule of reason’, in other words become authentic modernizing forces. Such is a very welcome move by the insurrectos, and is in fact the forecast pathway for the concerned rebel forces.


[From: Erle Frayne D. Argonza, “New Nationalism: Grandeur and Glory at Work!”. August 2004.  For the Office of External Affairs – Political Cabinet Cluster, Office of the President, Malacaňan Palace.]

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / Reform the international financial system

NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / Reform the international financial system

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

The global financial system is indubitably a homestead of predatory financiers. Usury and global speculation, the masterpieces of financiers, are the enemies of nations. Usury in international finance is at an all-time high, raising questions about the legality and moral propriety of   current lending practices. Incidentally, the said financiers are the ones who exercise the clout within the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, whose chiefs have always been CEOs from the bank headquarters of the financiers. The said banks have always acted out as the marketing agents of financial cartels, even as many nations that have followed the austere ‘structural adjustments’ imposed by them have been reduced to paupers.

It is high time for ‘white knights’ to appear in global finance, lending money accordingly for developmental and investment purposes at very low interest rates (lower than 1.5% annually) and at very long-term payments (25-50 years). Such institutions are now beginning to appear, but creditors remain cautious about their moves. Such institutions are autonomous from the power orbits of the Western financial cartels, are well niched in Asia (e.g. China), and appear to be creditor-friendly.

The reform though should go beyond the ‘white knight’ route. We must actively participate in Asia’s establishment of its own monetary fund and a single-currency regime, and take a leading role if opportunities allow. It may prove beneficial yet to re-institute a regime of gold reserve standard, which should back up the Asian currency. This same monetary fund will then serve as the regional ‘white knight’ that will provide credit to nations in need in the region and continent. The actions will also accelerate the economic cum political integration of the ASEAN and the economic integration for the entire East Asia, steps that will further stabilize the national economies and continuously sustain their respective growth. Meanwhile, a regional currency can stabilize soon enough upon its launching, that it would be a difficult job for criminal financiers to manipulate it, such as the success of the ‘Euro’ now exhibits to the globe.

Still another key intervention measure is the control of predatory speculation through a ‘Tobin tax’ on cross-border currency and related purchases (J. Tobin’s proposal in the early 70s). A tax of 0.75% alone on the current cross-border exchanges, which amounts to $300 Trillions annually, would generate $2.25 Trillions. The said money will then be used to fund the operations of international organizations such as the United Nations, UNDP and authentic international NGOs for social development purposes. The money can also be used by ‘white knight’ financing institutions of international scale. This set of actions will then induce reforms in the other institutions, with chain reaction effects leading to declining speculation in the long run, as the oligarchic  bankers/financiers adjust their rates to more competitive rates in the face of challenges coming from global ‘white knights’.


[From: Erle Frayne D. Argonza, “New Nationalism: Grandeur and Glory at Work!”. August 2004.  For the Office of External Affairs – Political Cabinet Cluster, Office of the President, Malacaňan Palace.]


Saturday, April 25, 2015

NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / Strengthen national banking and the monetary system



NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / Strengthen national banking and the monetary system

Erle Frayne D. Argonza


Economic stability at all levels demands the strengthening of a national banking system, and concomitantly the strengthening of monetary system with sovereignty-backed parameters and rules. First and foremost of monetary missions is the re-assertion of the powers of the Constitution of the Republic over the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. Needless to say, the country today faces a weak national bank, and necessarily a weak monetary system engendered by it. Sovereignty questions impede the effective operations of national banking in the country, as indicated by the excessive meddling of the International Monetary Fund, acting as agent of the global financial cartels, in the Bangko Sentral’s operations. The first step should be a thorough investigation by the Congress of the Republic to determine precisely who owns and controls the Bangko Sentral, and conduct related oversight functions to assess the entire consolidated assets of the said bank inclusive of unaccounted precious metals.

Should there be a need to institute maximum monetary controls, the national bank should be mandated by the Congress precisely to exercise such controls through a regime of currency controls, where found warranted. In no way should our national currency be subjected to attacks by predatory financier speculators, as what the latter have been doing from the mid-1997 onwards. Money is the lifeblood of the economy, and rendering our money under a regime of free exchange rates and free trade leaves us extremely vulnerable to the machinations of such greedy forces, further weakening our national economy. Monetary controls are the best antidotes to the ailment of a weak currency. Were it possible to revive a system of gold reserve standard, then let such a strategy be studied and enforced, to ensure stability in monetary concerns and the currency markets.

The interest rate controls should likewise continue, but the state must see to it that the rate regimes are within the bounds of sovereignty parameters, representing thereof the national interest and the subsidiary interests of the various social sectors. And, should conditions warrant, our national bank should be among the key initiators for constituting new supra-national institutions, such as an Asian Monetary Fund, thus signaling our participation in reforming the entire financial & monetary system (see below). Our involvement in an Asian Monetary Fund could be a fitful strategy to finally exit from the International Monetary Fund, further strengthening our national banking and monetary system.


[From: Erle Frayne D. Argonza, “New Nationalism: Grandeur and Glory at Work!”. August 2004.  For the Office of External Affairs – Political Cabinet Cluster, Office of the President, Malacaňan Palace.]

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / Concur co-stewardships with communities affected by extractive industries




NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / Concur co-stewardships with communities affected by extractive industries

Erle Frayne D. Argonza


Our mining sector had been in the doldrums for quite some time now. The production levels of both (a) base metals and (b) precious metals have surely been at lackluster levels. Meantime, logging has been totally banned to arrest further deforestration and its accompanying desertification and soil erosion. It is only in the energy sector where extraction has been impressively high, and the sector is appreciably a very dynamic one even in terms of R&D considerations. We are now at the crossroads concerning such sectors as mining and forest resources, where a revivified extraction is in the pipelines but couldn’t move because of constitutional and/or statutory constraints.

Note that most of the country’s natural resources for extraction are habituated by (a) tribal peoples and (b) migratory slash & burn peasants. Such populations have long ‘guarded’ the resource-rich habitats. It would surely be a faulty policy to drive them away—hidden under the euphemism of ‘relocation’—in order to give way to a mining concessionaire. Likewise would it be unsound to merely integrate some of their members as wage laborers for the extraction operations. Such actions, derived from regarding the people as ‘high disutility’ entities, are plain reactionary, even as they push the populations to the limits, leading to the folks to constitute hostile millennial movements and rebel separatists. The moves are reactionary as they contribute to the weakening of the nation, to the fragmentation of the national community.

The most pro-active path to address the concerned issue is to design and concur stewardship arrangements with the said populations. Three things are addressed by the stewardship: (1) the people will stay in the area, with better housing and amenities, who in turn will monitor and safeguard the entire operational sites; (2) where necessary, the same folks will be employed in the operations and administrative jobs where applicable, on a first priority basis; and, (3) the people will be co-owners of the firm, with equity/stock participation derived through a calibration of their productivity potency, historical role in stewardship of the area, and other variables. It is argued that this stewardship path is the win/win formula for the state, investors (market), and the communities concerned (‘social capital’/civil society). Consequently, the contribution to the GDP through resource extraction jumps up to a historic high level.


[From: Erle Frayne D. Argonza, “New Nationalism: Grandeur and Glory at Work!”. August 2004.  For the Office of External Affairs – Political Cabinet Cluster, Office of the President, Malacaňan Palace.]

Sunday, April 05, 2015

NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / Continuously open the market to external investors



NEO-NATIONALISM’S PREMISES & CONTENTIONS / Continuously open the market to external investors

Erle Frayne D. Argonza


National savings continue to hover at a pathetically low rate of seventeen percent (17%), which is significant but is way below the minimum of thirty percent (30%) to render it as ‘critical mass’, like that of our neighbors’. The problem cannot be addressed sufficiently than through a continuing inflow of capital from external investors. Note that in today’s global context, the term ‘foreign capital’ has already lost its meaning, as the boundary between ‘domestic’ and ‘foreign’ has been effectively erased. The cross-country partnering cum out-sourcing arrangements among diverse firms have become the norm of today’s business, rendering obsolete the previously sacrosanct notions of ‘domestic’ capital and ‘foreign’ direct investments. Not only that. Latest researches have verified that transnational corporations or TNCs now tend to create more values within their host countries and reinvest the profits locally than remit them back to their ‘home country’ (a term that has also begun to lost meaning).

This doesn’t mean though that such investors should be served ‘free lunch’, through very long regimes of tax havens or through spurious ‘strike-free zones’ (read: haven for wage freeze) which makes our laborers appear like wild jackals who need to be perpetually gagged. Some forms of valves (capital controls) should also be instituted, so that the capital investments and profits wouldn’t just flow out like hemorrhage the moment that the economy hits cyclical crisis. Surely, pro-active measures can be devised to let the said investors stay, more so for those that truly re-invest their ROI for their original and diversified business concerns, as well as to those that conduct dynamic R&D and truly transfer technology.

In today’s globalizing context, corporate ‘national champions’ have become obsolete. The  bygone era of ‘national champions’ can still be observed in the names of certain firms, such as in the names Philippine Airlines, Philippine Long Distance Telephone, or in Bank of America, American Express. Asset re-structuring is the norm, and large corporations are becoming rapidly globalized. Mergers and de-mergers are happening at rapidly ‘chaotic’ paces. The circumstances challenge investors/stockholders to quickly grasp the lesson of   ‘thriving on chaos’ or else their ventures would face bankruptcies and foreclosures as what befell many former large ventures, inclusive of former ‘national champions’.

The thought that “foreign capital might harm national interest” is simply passé and out-of-context, in as much as the term ‘foreign’ has lost its meaning save for the antiquarian Old Nationalists who regard foreign things as essentially dangerous (but are they not using foreign frameworks in their perceptions of foreign things?). Let the investors come in, recombine their assets with our domestic investors’, extend their stock participation beyond the forty percent (40%) constitutional limit. Note that “our very own” big corporations are participating in ‘foreign’ countries, and their levels of investment participation go beyond forty percent (40%). It is high time that we readjust our thinking about the matter.


[From: Erle Frayne D. Argonza, “New Nationalism: Grandeur and Glory at Work!”. August 2004.  For the Office of External Affairs – Political Cabinet Cluster, Office of the President, Malacaňan Palace.]