Thursday, September 27, 2012

China and Japan Territorial Dispute in East China Sea: a Flash Point in the Pacific

Photo credit: Wikipedia

The uninhabited islets of East China Sea are another flash point east of the Pacific Ocean. China, Japan and Taiwan are involved in dispute over conflicting claims on chain of islands called Senkaku by the Japanese and Diaoyu by the Chinese.  China also claims ownership and sovereignty over Spratly’s group of islands at the South China Sea which is also contested by the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.

Early in August 2012, a group of 14 residents from Hong Kong and mainland China travelled by fishing boat and landed in one of the islands at Diaoyu. Japanese authorities then arrested and deported them. Later, a group of Japanese activists on a flotilla of 150 people went to the Japanese controlled Diaoyu group of islands. Ten of them swam ashore and raised the Japanese flag on one of the Islands on August 19. 2012. Although that move was not sanctioned by the Japanese government, it nevertheless sparked a nationwide protest in China.

The tense situation came to a head when Japan announced that it bought some of the islands at Diaoyu from their private owner at 26 million dollars. This infuriated China and President Hu Jintao warned that the move was invalid and illegal. In relation to the Japanese action, the Chinese took to the streets in the cities of Guanzhou, Wenzhou, Shanghai and other cities, and attacked some Japanese-owned business establishments. The protesters also threatened to boycott Japanese-made products and establishments. The situation forced the Japanese companies such as Panasonic, Toyota and others to temporarily suspend their operations.  

Taiwan joined the fray by sending 50 fishing vessels escorted by patrol ships to Diaoyu Islands. They were intercepted by Japanese coast guard ships which fired water cannon into the vessels. The Taiwanese patrol ships retaliated by also firing their water cannon into the Japanese ships. It was fortunate that the drama ended with neither side firing real ammunition.

Lately, China bought from Ukraine and put into service its first ever aircraft carrier joining the exclusive clubs of ten countries with active aircraft carriers. Christened Liaoning, the aircraft carrier can hold 30 fixed wing fighters which is way below the capacity of the much larger Nimitz class aircraft carrier of the US that can carry around 90 aircrafts. China is adding to its fleet six more aircraft carriers that are still in the process of construction.  From all indications, China aims to become the most dominant military power in the region.

Engaging in armed confrontation with Japan and even with the weaker countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines is not the best way for China to project itself as an emerging world power because it owes its prosperity with its trading with the west, Japan and other countries that are allied to the United States. Moreover, Japan like the Philippines has an outstanding mutual defense treaty with the United States. The treaties call for mutual military assistance in the event of an attack by another country. The United States confirmed that the islands disputed by Japan and China are covered by its security treaty with Japan.                                               

For China, Japan, unlike any other claimants of the disputed groups of island east of the Pacific is no pushover. Japan was once a world military power with a history of occupying China, and its economy at present is one of the largest and the strongest in the world. It is also one of the leading countries in the world with access to most advanced and sophisticated technologies that may include weapons. An armed confrontation between Japan and China may probably end in stalemate with Japan gaining the political advantage.

Despite their differences, Japan and China need each other to sustain their economic growth. China, a prosperous country with a very large population is a very big market for the Japanese to ignore. On the part of China, Japan is one of its largest trading partners.

Most of the Islands and islets in the disputed seas are barren.  However, the seas have great economic and strategic significance. The South and East China seas are trade route of about 5 trillion dollars worth of goods. They are a rich fishing area and are also believed to sit in huge deposits of oil and natural gas.

Barring substantial find of oil and natural gas deposits on or at the disputed group of islands; China, Japan, Taiwan and especially the weaker countries would not initiate move that would start a full blown war because their economic interest and well being would be adversely affected. Claimant countries may have a distrust or animosity to one another.  And isolated cases of armed clashes may arise from their dispute, but they may avoid resorting to war to settle their differences.

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Latin, the Eternal Language

The ancient Romans were disciplined and hard working people who created one of the greatest empires the world has ever known. Their Empire that spanned Europe and some parts of Asia and Africa made an imprint on the history and culture of peoples in many places around the world.                               

Latin, the tongue of the ancient Romans, is an ancient language of the Italic branch of the Indo-European Language family that is closely related to Sanskrit, Greek, Germanic and Celtic. Latin which was the language of communication in the empire helped enhance the propagation of knowledge in commerce, law, medicine and other fields of science. The conversion of Roman Emperor Constantine to Christianity brought about the spread of that religion throughout the empire.  Latin was the Language of letters in Western Europe in the Middle Ages.  It was also the language of scholarship and diplomacy until the 18th century and of the Roman Catholic liturgy until the 20th century.                                                                    

The fall of the Roman Empire made no need for peoples across the empire to have a common language. And peoples in different places in the empire carved their own nations and brought with them their own distinct culture, ethnicities and beliefs. Slowly, the use of Latin as the medium of communication began to decline until it became a dead language.

However, Latin was deeply ingrained in the tongue of peoples especially at places near Rome so that several languages that are derivatives of Latin called Romance Languages evolved. Therefore, the use of Latin in modified form lives on. Some of the Romance Languages are the Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Romanian, Catalan and Provencal. The colonization of the American continent by the Europeans of such places as Brazil, Mexico and others made the Romance Language such as Spanish and Portuguese as some of the most widely spoken languages of the world.

Great Britain was once a part of the Roman Empire. Its ancient inhabitants spoke an Indo-European Germanic Language. Roman occupation of Britain had a far reaching influence on the culture and language of the English people. Although English is a Germanic Language, It has borrowed many words from Greek and Latin. The English vocabulary contains words that have about 60% Latin roots,  

Following are 13 Latin nouns and their equivalent in English and their derived words. The examples are just some of the many words with Latin roots that have found their way in the English vocabulary. They help illustrate in some ways the impact made by Latin in the development of the English Language.

Latin roots
Basic meaning
Example words
amiable, amity, amicable
aquatic, aquarium, aqueduct, aqueous, aquifer, aquanaut
avian, aviary, aviator, aviate, aviation, aviatrix, aviculture
cavalry, chivalry, cavalier, cavalcade,
accord, discord, cordial, concord
dental, dentist, dentate, denticle, dentifrice, dentin, dentition, denture
ignite, ignition, igneous, ignescent
lactate, lactation, lacteal, lactic, lactose
manual, maneuver. manage, manacle, manufacture, manicure
marine, maritime, marina, mariner
oval, ovate, ovary, ovarian, ovule, ovulation
salary, salami, salad, saline, salinity, salinize, saltine, salinometer, salsa
terrain, terrestrial, extra-terrestrial, terrace, territory

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sutukil: Grilled, Stewed Seafood and Fish Salad

Sutukil is the acronym for sugba, tula and kilaw, theSouthern and Central Philippines’ native words regarding the ways on which fish and other seafood are cooked or prepared. Sugba means to grill, tula means to stew and kilaw means to eat a raw food. Sutukil  is a local slang and rhymes with “shoot to kill”.  The person who coined that word might have done so as to put amusing effect on it.                                                 

The Philippines is an archipelago and most of its population centers are located along the shore. For this reason seafood is one of the main diets of the locals. And most of the seafood or sutukil restaurants are located along the shore or by the sea. The open-air style construction of a building makes the refreshing sea air and the scenes at the sea an ideal ambiance while dining on these dishes.                                                                 

The simplest way in the region to cook or prepare the seafood is to stew, to grill or to make it a salad. Sutukil is three dishes but it does not always follow that that the three of them are cooked or served for one meal.  In most cases a restaurant patron may order just one of them together with other non-seafood dishes or drink as additions.

In Mactan, Cebu, fresh raw fish and other seafood are displayed right in the eatery for a customer to order his desired dishes. He may buy a big fish so that it is prepared into three dishes. He may have the lower portion grilled, the mid portion made as kinilaw and the head portion stewed.                                                                                                                                           

Some people prefer seafood to meat because they think that it contains less bad cholesterol and it is therefore healthier. Grilled fish is one of the favorites in a seafood restaurant. Some customers like the jaw of the tuna or the belly of broadbill swordfish. Others go for grilled squids and other seafood.

Tinola is a truly indigenous dish of Southern Philippines. Its simplicity of preparation makes it a dish for common people. The fish is boiled along with other ingredients such as tomatoes, ginger, bell pepper, bulb onion, green leafy onion, and green leafy vegetables such as cabbage or as an alternative Chinese pichay or the most available lowly but highly nutritious malunggay or horse radish. The tinola is seasoned with salt and and vitsen.  Fish is usually the primary ingredient of the tinola but sometimes it is substituted with shrimp, and seashell or a combination of fish and other seafood maybe prepared.

The kinilaw or fish salad is the Filipino version of the Latin American dish cevichi. It is also somewhat similar to the Japanese sashimi in a sense that the fish is not cooked and is served cold. Most marine fish will do for the dish as long as it is fresh. They include tuna, broadbill sword fish, the seer fish or the tanigue, milkfish, sardines and even squid and shrimp.

In the vizayas region people prepare the kinilaw with coconut milk.  But such practice is unusual in Cagayan de Oro where people usually prepare the dish with the fish soaked in tuba or coconut toddy and coconut vinegar. In addition the tabon-tabon and the suwa or the native lime are added. The trees of those fruits only grow in the region and this make the taste of the dish distinct from that in the other regions of the Philippines. Other ingredients include bulb onion, green leafy onion, minced ginger, cucumber and extract of native lime juice. It is then seasoned with vitsen and salt. The taste is made hot by adding crushed bird’s eye chili pepper which is called siling labuyo by the locals.                                                                                                                                                                 

Because kinilaw is eaten raw only the freshest of the fish will do as an ingredient and that utmost sanitary procedures must be observed in its preparation to avoid food poisoning. The dish is usually served with rice or on other occasion such as in picnic it is complemented with a boiled green plantain, a type of cooking banana called saba.

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The Delectable Lechon
Plantain (Saba), the Delightful Cooking Banana
Tuba, a Coconut Toddy Drink                                                                                                                                                      

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Middle East Situation 11 Years after the 9/11 Attack: from Arab Spring into Autumn of Disappointment

Pres. Barack Obama (a public domain image from Wikimedia Commons)

People the world over were euphoric over the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of US Navy SEALS on May 2, 2011. Many people especially the Americans were gratified that justice was served to one of the most notorious terrorists of the world who was responsible for the death of thousands of innocent lives during the 9/11 attack in 2001. Although the death of bin Laden has not totally eliminated Al Qaeda, his terror group, its activities are significantly reduced and some of its top leaders are either neutralized or killed.

Then there was the Arab Spring in December 2010 that started in Tunisia where Prime Minister Ali was forced out from power by his own people. The movement spread to other Arab countries such as Libya and Egypt and others where long reigning and well entrenched dictators like Muammar Khadaffy and Hosni Mubarak were swept from power by people’s uprising. At present the leader of Syria is under threat of being overthrown too.

What is significant about the incidents is that it was the western countries which are instrumental in the ouster of the dictators. In Egypt the administration of US President Barack Obama played an important role to have the former Egyptian president resigned from office. France took the lead in helping the rebels fight the dictator Muammar Khadaffy.  Later, the participation of the US enabled the allied forces to target strategic areas with precision aerial bombs which weakened the dictator’s forces. Khaddafy was later killed as he tried to escape from Libya.

As soon as Mubarak was out from office it appeared that groups who are perceived as hostile to the west such as the Muslim Brotherhood loomed as the force that would come to power in the country. They won the majority of seats in the parliament, and Muhammad Morsi, a leading member of the group was elected as president. The west considers the Muslim Brotherhood as an extremist group whose agenda is not compatible with its ideals.

The 2012 anniversary of the 9/11 attack was marred with violence in the fledgling governments in the Middle East. Some people there were up in arms against a video that is offensive to the sensitivities of the Muslims. In Egypt the walls of the US embassy were scaled by protesters. It seemed that during that time, the military and the police were not around to quell the demonstration. That sight was in contrast to the previous demonstration leading to the ouster of Mubarak where security forces were always around to be on top of the situation.

In Libya, also during the 9/11 anniversary, the insurgents stormed the US consulate in Benghazi . Later, news broke out that US Ambassador  J. Christopher Stevens’ along with 3 American consulate staff was killed  in the attack.

Mitt Romney
Relative to the incident, President Barack Obama came under fire by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for allegedly issuing statements apologizing to the protesters for that offensive video rather than condemning their attack of the US embassies in Egypt and Libya.                                                

In a press conference on the incidents, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton issued statement expressing disapproval of the inflammatory video but also emphasized her country’s respect of the rights of its citizens to freedom of expression. She also said that the act of violence is not a justifiable reaction to the offensive video. She also condemned the attack of the American embassies and their personnel, and stated that it was only carried out by small armed group, and it was not caused by the Libyan government or its people.                               

White House also issued statement distancing itself from a previous one that triggered Romney’s remark. President Obama blasted Romney for politicizing the incident in the Middle East. He found allies in the mainstream US media who grilled Romney during his own press conference for his remark that was critical to Obama.  However, Romney stood by his statements and said that the United States should not apologize for its values.

Some observers thought that the protest over the video was only a pretext for a planned and coordinated attack on American interest in the Middle East in the 9/11 anniversary. Many videos, articles, blogs and even websites that are critical to Islam have been in the internet for over a long time. And it is only now that a wide spread protest over that single video is staged when other posts are equally or more offensive. What is conspicuously significant is that the timing of the protest and attack in Egypt and Libya coincided with the anniversary of 9/11. With the incident, the world can only surmise that extremist groups such as Al Qaeda, which aims to dominate the world with its distorted interpretation of Islam is still around and is still capable of wreaking havoc around the world.

At present the situation in the Middle East is filled with uncertainty. It comes just about only two months before the presidential election on November 6, 2012. It will certainly become one of the main issues that will be exploited by both contending parties to get the nod of the voters. US voters are likely to give more weight to the economy than to foreign affairs in making their choice for a candidate. However, the incidents in Middle East are too remarkable to notice. Obama’s handling of it can make a significant impact on the result of 2012 US presidential election.                                                                       

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Eleven Qualities of Effective Leadership

Any organization or group needs a person to guide its members to achieve their common goals. The leader is given the authority to make decisions or take actions in the organization’s behalf. Material and human resources of the organization are also made available at his disposal and use in order for him to accomplish his mission. The leader is the most important person in the organization because its affairs revolve around him. He is the embodiment of the organization that he represents, and he is held primarily responsible for its performance.    

In their adult life most persons exercise leadership in one way or another as they go about their livelihood activities. A person who establishes a business has some employees to exercise leadership on.  Military officers and public or private individuals by virtue of their educational attainment and positions have also to exercise leadership to get their jobs done. There are people who because of their personality are natural leaders. But other people can learn the art of leadership through formal education and application of its principles while on the job.     

People who exercise leadership have different degree of effectiveness. Some leaders are good. Others can be rated as passable while still others are ineffective. With my observation of different people such as military officers, businessmen and even professionals, I have noticed some common qualities that have made them effective leaders who made valuable contributions to the success of their organization.                                                                                                                                                        

Those effective leaders are: 

1.       Honest. This characteristic is necessary not only for the leader but also for his followers. People gauge one’s character on his honesty. The leader’s lack of it means a loss of trust and confidence on him. He cannot work effectively once his credibility is lost.

2.       Knowledgeable.  Subordinates have a high regard for a leader whom they perceived as very knowledgeable in the field he is in. In addition he cannot effectively lead his men to do a job in which he has insufficient knowledge of. In this regard, a leader should always strive to improve himself.  He should continuously update and increase his knowledge through formal and self education.  

3.       Positive thinking. All successful leaders are positive thinkers. Positivity of a leader also creates an atmosphere of high spirit in the organization.

4.       Proactive. A leader should make thing happens for the good of the organization and to accomplish its goals. He should also take measures to preclude the happening of unfavorable situation or to mitigate its effects if it ever comes at all.

5.       A team person. A leader should make an effort to make his men a cohesive group that can work together as one. He should not allow mutual animosity between them to stand in the way in the accomplishment of tasks. He should foster a spirit of camaraderie and cooperation in the group so that team work could be achieved.

6.       Devoted to the well being of his men. Human resources are the leader’s greatest asset.  People unlike machines have emotions and feelings.  Too lenient dealing with them may create an impression that the leader is soft.  Strict handling of them may make subordinates resentful and even rebellious. A leader can be authoritarian or democratic when situation demands it or he may adapt a leadership style that is effective to him because it suits his personality. The well being of the men should be one of the leader’s utmost concerns to keep their morale high. Motivated employees are responsive to the leader’s desire to accomplish his mission.

7.       Energetic. A good leader is relentless pursuer of achievements. He is a man of action, and he is full of physical energy. However, he need not be the busiest man in the organization. He can carry out his task through his subordinates. The task that he is expected to do most in the organization is supervision.

8.       Taking full responsibility for his actions. In his organization, the buck stops at the leader. He is the one primarily responsible for what his organization has done or failed to do. He may delegate his authority to a subordinate but doing so will not relieve him of his responsibility as the leader of the organization.

9.       Taking calculated risks when opportunity presents itself. In a certain situation in business, military or other endeavors a leader should take daring steps to advance the interest of his business or organization when there is opportunity to do so. Failure to act means a lost opportunity. Failures are undesirable experience, but doing nothing will also result to nothing.

1     Establishing a network of good working relationship with other people or organization. Some leaders work in a large company so that his organization is under another bigger organization. In that case, a good leader has the ability to be always in the good graces of his superiors to make the accomplishment of his mission easier. If need be, he should also connect with people outside the organization if doing so will help him do his job better. His network of people whom he has working relationship with will make it easier for him to accomplish his missions.

1     Charismatic. There are people whose personality is like a magic so that people like them. Charisma is definitely a boost to one’s leadership ability. And a leader is lucky if he has it. Some people have less or lack that attribute. Fortunately, the art of effective leadership can be developed. Just being charismatic is not an assurance of successful leadership because other qualities of leadership are also equally or more important.   

Application of leadership principles has the same effect whether a leader is in a big or in a small organization, in the civilian or in the military establishments or in a non-profit or in a business organization.  Leaders who displayed those above mentioned qualities have proven to be successful in the accomplishment of their mission.

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

The United States-Philippine Defense and Security Cooperation in Asia-Pacific

The rise of the Marxist Soviet Union after the Second World War put it in collision course with the United States the world’s another super power. Their competition for global leadership brought about the Cold War. The fall of China to the communist under Mao Zedong in 1949 made the United States to be more concerned of the spread of communism to other parts of the world. In connection with the global political and security concerns that were prevailing at that time, the United States and the Philippines signed a Mutual Defense Treaty on August 31, 1951 at Washington D.C. which called for the two nations to help each other if either of them is attacked by an external enemy within its territory. The term of the treaty is indefinite and ends one year after one of the parties notified the other of its desire to terminate the agreement.                                                 

During the Cold War, the US and the USSR fortunately did not engage each other physically which would have been catastrophic for the world. However, they did compete utilizing their client states and at times sent their own forces to participate in battles such as the war in Viet Nam and Afghanistan. The war in Korea ended in a stale mate. And the conflict in Cuba and the war in Viet Nam ended in communist victory. The support of the US of corrupt and repressive anti-communist dictators like Anastasio Somoza and Ferdinand Marcos made the US unpopular to the people where those leaders reigned. The dumping of hated dictators by the US when they were no longer useful to it had created an image of the US as untrustworthy ally.
Anti-US sentiment and distrust to the US were manifested in the Philippines in 1997 when the expiring US Bases Agreement of 1947 was to be renewed by the Philippine Senate. Despite US President’s George Herbert Walker Bush’s support of it and Philippine President’s Corazon Aquino’s intimate campaign to have it renewed, the Senators nevertheless rejected the agreement on September 13, 1991. The last American troops left the Philippines on November 24, 1992.

The incident on 9/11 in USA on the bombing of Twin Towers of New York precipitated to the US War on Terrorism. The threat posed by Abu Sayyaf which is linked with the Jemaah Islamiyah, an international terrorist organization, has rekindled military cooperation between the US and the Philippines in dealing with mutual security concern. Pestered by kidnappings and other terroristic activities perpetrated by the Abu Sayyaf, the Philippines welcomed the presence of limited number of US troops whose operations and conduct are regulated by the Visiting Forces Agreement between the US and the Philippines. The United States considers VFA as executive agreement that does not need the approval of the US Senate.                                                                                                                                                     

Despite the constitutional provision banning foreign forces in the Philippines, the government recognized its legitimacy. Former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo invoked the 1951 RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty to justify presence of US troops. They are in the Philippines as advisers and trainers to the Armed Forces of the Philippines on counter-terrorism. They are also involved in civic action to help depressed communities in the south. So far, the partnership of US and Filipino troops has resulted to the killing of top Abbu-Sayaff leaders and the rescue of American kidnap victim Gracia Burnham on June 7, 2002.

Another matter that is of mutual security concern to the Philippines and the United States is the situation at South China Sea. At present the administration of President Benigno Aquino III is faced with the problem of conflicting claims of neighboring countries on shoals and islets in the South China Sea. A case in point is the Scarborough Shoal which is 198 kilometers off Subic Bay in the Philippine province of Zambales, and it is therefore within the Philippines’ 200 nautical kilometers exclusive economic zone (EEZ). However, it is also claimed by China. The situation becomes volatile for both countries, and the Philippines is in no position to uphold its claim militarily because of the economic strength and the influence of China in the global community.

The Philippines’ quest for the resolution of dispute on territorial boundary with China got a big boost when US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton aboard USS Fitzgerald signed the Manila Declaration on November 16, 2011, reaffirming US commitment to honor the Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines. The declaration was signed in the presence of her Filipino counterpart Foreign affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario.

Furthermore, the US Senate passed Resolution 481 on June 5, 2012, calling for increased defense and security cooperation between the United States and the Philippines. President Aquino visited the White House to talk with US President Barack Obama in the second week of June 2012 on bilateral issues concerning economic, security and defense in the Asia-Pacific region.

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has announced in Singapore that the US will position 60% of its naval ships in the Asia-Pacific region before the end 2020. That figure is an increase by 10% of the current  deployment of 50%. His pronouncement emphasized the importance of Asia Pacific in the US’s future economic and defense plans. The region is the home of the world’s second and third largest economies by GDP like China, and Japan plus the economic power houses such as South Korea, India, Singapore and Taiwan.

China’s economy is predicted to improve even more in the years to come and that it will even surpass that of the United States. China’s military power is also growing and it is modernizing its Peoples’ Liberation Army. Its military might and its aggressive stance in the South China Sea relative to its claims on the disputed areas are cause of concern to its neighbors.                                                                

The defense and security cooperation between the United States and the Philippines is highly beneficial not only to the national interest of both countries but also to the other countries in the region. The increased presence of the US Navy will maintain the balance of power in the South China Sea. It will make the waters in it accessible to international vessels for economic and other productive purposes. The Philippines with its strategic location is a valuable partner of the US in that endeavor. The Philippines also needs the US to protect its interest in the disputed Scarborough Shoal because its Armed Forces is poorly equipped. It needs a credible defense, and cooperative and friendly relations with other countries to sustain its economic growth. The Philippines at present is a new industrializing country which is the 45th largest economy in the world by GDP. It is projected by HSBC to become the 16th world largest economy by 2050.

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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Martial Law in the Philippines: Marcos' Coup to Cling to Power

Sterling Scholastic Records

Ferdinand Marcos had innate personal qualities that make an effective leader. He was a highly intelligent man with a photographic memory, charismatic and possessed the gift of gab. He graduated cum laude in the prestigious University of the Philippines College of Law, and topped the bar exam in 1939 even while in detention in his cell. Ferdinand Marcos, together with his father, brother and brother-in-law was accused of murdering Julio Nalundasan, the opponent of his father in an election. Ferdinand Marcos was tagged as the trigger man by the witnesses. The lower court convicted him and his brother-in-law to death. However, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the lower court and acquitted them of all charge except the contempt of court charge which was imposed on Ferdinand’s father and brother. Ferdinand’s venture in the world of politics later made him as one of the most known but controversial figures in Philippine history.

The President

Ferdinand Marcos became a congressman from 1949 to 1959. He topped the senatorial election in 1959, and became senate president from 1963 to 1965. In 1965 he succeeded in getting the Nacionalista Party’s nomination to become its standard bearer in the 1965 presidential election and beat incumbent President Diosdado Macapagal, the father of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Marcos performance as president in his first term in office might have earned the approval of the voters to reelect him in 1969 for an unprecedented second and last four-year term of office. His opponent was Senator Sergio Osmeña Jr., the son of an illustrious Commonwealth era Philippine president. Although Marcos won by a wide margin of votes over his opponent, the election was marred with violence. His detractors accused him of vote buying, cheating and using government resources to ensure his re-election.

The Constitutional Convention

On November 20, 1970, the Philippines held election for the members of Constitutional Convention in implementation of a Republic Act that was approved in 1967 by congress. The convention would pave the way for the replacement of American occupation era constitution with a Philippine constitution that was truly conducive to aspirations of the Filipinos. The 1935 constitution which was then in effect banned the incumbent Marcos to run for another third and last term. Marcos, the astute lawyer and politician might have seen a way to get around the constitutional ban to extend his term for many more years. Wary of Marcos, anti Marcos delegates made moves that would ban Marcos, his wife and his immediate family to serve in a new constitution as chief executive. It was found out later that Marcos indeed tried to manipulate the goings on in the convention from an exposé of one delegate, Eduardo Quintero, who claimed that Marcos bribed some of the delegates into crafting  a constitution that was suited to his desires.                                                                                                         

Protests, Demonstrations and the Bombing of Opposition Political Rally

The second term of Marcos was marred by anti-government protest and demonstration in the streets. The economy was in bad shape because of government overspending in the last election. The communist inspired League of Filipino Students and other student groups’ demonstrations became a fixture in the streets. The new generation of communists led by Jose Maria Sison organized the New people’s Army (NPA), the military component of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Over in the South the Muslims waged their armed rebellion.

On August 21, 1971, the proclamation rally of opposition Liberal Party senatorial candidates were bombed at Plaza Miranda in Manila. Several persons died. Many of the senatorial candidates along with the local candidates of Manila were seriously injured. People put the blame on Marcos for the incident. And Marcos Suspended the Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus. That move only aggravated Marcos’ growing unpopularity to the people as shown in the election when all but two of the opposition senatorial candidates won. The attribution of the bombing to Marcos was later found out to be unfair since reliable evidences surfaced many years later that the violent incident was the handiwork of the then nascent NPA.

Marcos’ Likely Successor

The attacks of the media on Marcos and the people’s desire for change made Marcos an unpopular lame duck president as Marcos was drawing near the end of his term.  His archrival, Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., became the darling of the media. The popular senator had garnered the second highest number of votes despite the fact that his young age was questioned and that all opposition senatorial candidates but him won the senatorial election in 1967. He was poised as the most likely successor to Marcos when the later would end his term of office, and that he would also become the youngest person ever to be elected as president of the Philippines.

Martial Law

Bombings in Manila sowed fear and confusion to the people. There was also report on the ambush of Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile. He admitted years later that the incident was framed by the government. On September 21, 1972, the radios went off the air.  Newspapers were not in circulation. And only few vehicles were seen in the streets. It was an eerie sight that signified that a sinister event was to come. Those who have short wave radio, a rarity during those days, tuned in to international news to know what was going on. Then suddenly, on September 22, 1972, a TV station was on the air announcing a surprising if not a shocking news that confirmed what the people had heard in international media: Marcos issued Proclamation 1081 placing the entire country under the state of Martial Law.

Relative to the proclamation, radio stations and newspaper publications except those authorized by the government were closed. The congress was also padlocked and prominent opposition lawmakers such as Senators Aquino, Diokno, Salonga and many others and critical media men were incarcerated. Known communist leaders and student activist leaders were also rounded up and imprisoned.  

With the military in control, order was established. The streets were clean. Criminal elements were driven off the streets and put to jail and drug dealers were arrested. Obedience to law which redounded to the good of the community was the order of the day during the early stage of martial law. People’s worry and apprehension of martial law were replaced with optimism. And people began to tolerate or accept Martial law and see it in a positive light.

Approval and Ratification of the 1973 Constitution by the Citizens’ Assembly

The delegates finished and approved the draft of the constitution on November 29, 1972. The atmosphere of Martial Law might have influenced its final outcome. Some anti-Marcos delegates were detained, others went into hiding or exile. Marcos then issued a decree setting the date of the plebiscite on January 15, 1973. On January 7 of that year he issued order postponing the election indefinitely. In the absence of congress, Marcos exercise legislative powers by issuing decrees.

On January 15, 1973, the citizens’ assembly voted for ratification of the 1973 constitution. It also voted for the suspension for the convening of National Assembly, the continuation of Martial law and a moratorium on election for at least 7 years. On September 22, 1976, Marcos through the Citizen’s assembly made following amendments to the constitution: the Interim Batasan Pambansa (IBP) would replace the national assembly and that the president (Marcos) should also be the prime minister and would continue to exercise legislative power until martial law was lifted.

The IBP Election

On April 7, 1978, Marcos held the election of the members of the Interim Batasan Pambansa (IBP). In Metro Manila, the national capital, Benigno Aquino in his detention cell ran as one of the 21 opposition candidates. He was up against the group of Imelda Marcos, wife of President Marcos, of the Kilusan Bagong Lipunan (KBL). Aquino ran against the advice of Liberal Party which opted to Boycott the election. As expected, Imelda Marcos and his group won all of Metro Manila’s seats in the Batasan with the last ranked administration party candidate winner beating Aquino by more than a million votes. However, many people did not believe the result and suspected that the party of the administration cheated.

Marcos, the Dictator and the Flaws and Problems of His regime

Slowly but surely, the real ugly nature of Martial law begun to show. Although Marcos built infrastructures which were bigger than what his predecessors did combined, the economy took turn for the worst because of perceived and real institutionalized corruption of the Marcos regime. The National debts began to balloon to an unprecedented level. Marcos, his family and his cronies took over establishments of prominent businessmen opposed to the regime. And men in uniforms were accused of human rights abuses.                                                                                                                                           

Although the IBP already functioned, most people viewed it as just a mere rubber stamp of Marcos who would do all his bidding. Despite its existence, Marcos could still exercise legislative powers. Marcos’ executive and legislative powers plus his influence on the judiciary and his control over the military and the police made him an extremely strong executive who can determine the fate of all government agencies and their personnel whether civilian or military. They were afraid of him because of the absence of credible check and balance in the government. Marcos was eventually dubbed by his critics as a dictator. The repressive government of Marcos swelled the number of armed insurgents. The rebel groups even jokingly tagged Marcos as their biggest recruiter for new members.

The Lifting of Martial Law and the First Presidential Election under the 1973 Constitution

Marcos lifted Martial Law on January 17, 1981. His critics said that it was a move to draw his administration closer to that of US President Ronald Reagan, and to sanitize his image for the coming of Pope John Paul II to the country in February that year. On April 1981, the IBP made amendments to the constitution making it semi-presidential with the president restored from being mere symbolic head into the head of the government and the chief executive.                                                                                                                

In June 16, 1981, the first presidential election under the 1973 constitution was to be held. Marcos wanted that election to shore up his image and to restore his credibility abroad. However, the oppositions refused to participate in the election fearing that Marcos would cheat them again as he did in the 1978 IBP election. They were also uncomfortable with Marcos’ inaction to cleanse the Commission on Election’s voters’ list. No credible candidate showed up until Alejo Santos declared his candidacy. People suspected Santos to have been bribed by Marcos to run against him to show a semblance of democratic electoral process. Santos did not make a serious campaign for the election and the result was a lopsided win by Marcos.

The Assassination of Sen. Benigno Aquino and Its Disastrous Consequences

In 1983, Benigno Aquino Jr., who had been allowed by Marcos to have a medical surgery in the United States, returned to the Philippines. Upon his arrival at the Manila International Airport, he was whisked by military men and assassinated at the tarmac. Filipinos suspected Marcos to be behind the incident to get rid of his political archrival, and were incensed with it. In Manila, the national capital, the intellectuals, the middle class and the Catholic clergies led by Jaime Cardinal Sin initiated the call for Marcos’ resignation. The turmoil had taken its toll on the economy. Investors refused to invest in the Philippines and the international financial institutions too were reluctant to lend money to the government.                                                                                                   

The Parliamentary Election and the Worsening Problems

The assassination of Aquino changed the attitude of the Filipino from apathetic citizens unassertive of their rights into ones who were seekers of truth and justice. The strong demand of Marcos’ ouster encouraged the opposition group to participate in the parliamentary election of 1984. Although KBL, the party of Marcos still got the most number of seats in the parliament, a significant number of opposition candidates managed to get through.                                                                                                                      

The election and its result did not help any to lessen the protest and disaffection of the people against Marcos. Aggravating the situation was the rumor of Marcos’ ill health. People were apprehensive of what was to take place and who would replace him if he was suddenly gone. Some people speculated that Marcos was no longer in control of the situation and that he was not his former self anymore because of his sickness. Meanwhile, the economic situation worsened, and the communist insurgency grew stronger than ever. The Philippines became the sick man of Asia.

The Snap Election and the People Power Revolution

In an effort to prove to the international community that the Filipinos were still behind him, Marcos called for a snap Presidential election which was to be held on February 7, 1986. His opponent was Corazon Aquino, the widow of Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. Although Marcos, was proclaimed winner by the Batasan Pambansa and the Commission on Election, his political opponents and some of the people claimed that he and his allies tampered with the election result.

The series of events that followed brought about more protests and call for Marcos resignation. Marcos’ moment of truth came when his defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile and the Philippine Constabulary Chief General Fidel Ramos announced their resignation from office and holed themselves up in Camp Crame to protect themselves from possible assault by Marcos’ military loyalists. Cardinal Sin’s call to the people to rally behind Ramos and Enrile prevented Marcos’ troops to get them because of the throng of people that surrounded and protected them. Soldiers sympathetic to Ramos and Enrile also joined them.                                                                           

On the morning of February 25, 1986, amidst the turmoil that took place, Corazon Aquino was inaugurated as President of the Philippines by her supporters in a simple ceremony at Green Hills near Camp Crame. An hour later, in Malacañang, Marcos, not to be outdone, inaugurated himself too as the duly elected president. Mass of people attempted to storm Malacañang but was stopped by loyalist troops. Marcos could not order his troops to deal with the rebel soldiers and the civilian protesters because of the possibility that it would result to huge bloodshed. Marcos called on the United States to ask for advice. “Cut and cut cleanly,” Sen. Paul Laxalt told him. It was a strong statement from the US government for Marcos to go. Marcos and his family were rescued with four Sikorsky helicopters on February 25 and landed them in Clark Air Base where US air force planes transported them to Guam en route to Marcos’ exile in Hawaii. Marcos died in Honolulu, Hawaii on September 28, 1989, of kidney, heart and lung diseases.

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Monday, September 3, 2012

Quezon City Adopts Measures to Protect the Environment by Banning the Use of Plastic Bags

Quezon City made a move that would be likely replicated by other cities and towns in the Philippines. It is in connection with its desire to protect the environment by taking up measures against improper disposal of used materials especially plastic bags.

On September 1, 2012, Quezon City started the implementation of its ordinances banning the use of plastic bags by shoppers and business establishments. An ordinance requires a shopper to present an old plastic bag that will be replaced with a new thicker one when he purchases something. A discount will be given to customers who bring their own bag whether plastic or not. A shopper who does not bring any will be charge 2 pesos for every plastic bag that he may use. Similar measures are also passed in the cities of Pasay, Muntinlupa, Pasig, Marikina, Las Piñas, and Manila.

Business establishments are strictly required to comply with the ordinance. A first violation of it will be fined 1,000 pesos, a second violation- 3000 pesos and third violation- 5,000 pesos or revocation of a business license.

Reacting to the ban, 14 large business groups which included the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Federation of Philippine Industry, Philippine Exports Confederation, Employers confederation of the Philippines, Pollution Control Association of the Philippines and others protested the ban saying that it will do more harm than good to the environment.                                                  

The group contended that 70 trees need to be cut off to produce a ton of paper bags, and that it needs a gallon of water to produce a paper bag while a similar volume of water can make 116 plastic bags.  They added that a typical paper bag is 6 times heavier than a plastic bag and because of it there will be more amounts of trashes thrown to the landfills, and that the manufacture of paper needs 200% percent more power than the manufacture of paper bags thus resulting to more carbon dioxide emission. Above all, the implementation of plastic bag ban nationwide will result to 200,000 workers of the plastic bag industry losing their job. The business group asserted that climate change and improper waste disposal are the causes of floods and that the implementation of the “Waste Segregation Law” would be a more viable option of protecting the environment instead of banning outright the use of plastic bags.

Despite the argument of the business group, it is a fact that the use of plastic bags has aggravated the effect of climate change. Unlike other discarded materials such as leftover foods, papers and others wastes which decays in the ground after several days or months, plastic bags take decades or even hundreds of years to disintegrate. Biodegradable and non-toxic waste if used properly can even enrich the soil. Plastic bags on the other hand contaminate it. Because it is light and non biodegradable, plastic bags are easily blown by the wind or carried away by waters every which way during rains. Some of them ended up in the waterways. They clog a city’s drainage system. They also pollute the river and the sea. And marine animals get sick when they eat them. In the landfills the plastic bags and other plastic products are the most obnoxious wastes because they do not easily decay unlike other trashes. Burning plastic results to emission of toxic smokes and gasses that are hazardous to the health of the people living near the landfills or the place where those plastics are.

Recycling and segregation are important in proper waste disposal. Biodegradable materials should be segregated from non biodegradable and the toxic from the non-toxic too. Some plastic products like bottles and other plastic containers can be recycled. Recycling can help minimize the production and use of plastic products, and by doing it, we have made and effort in protecting our environment.

In relation to the use of plastic bags, the government of President Aquino has expressed its support on the measures of using recyclable bags in lieu of paper bags.

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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Free Radicals and Antioxidants

All states of matter such as solid, liquid and gas are made up of minute particles called atom which is made up of a nucleus and electrons in its inner and outer shells. In the nucleus are the neutrons which is a particle with no charge and protons which are positively charged. The electrons are the negative charged particles. An element is a substance made up of only one type of atom. Example is hydrogen. A molecule is a group of two or more atoms of one or more types of an element that stick together to form a bond.  For example, a molecule of water is composed of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom that are connected by covalent bond. All chemical reactions involve the transfer of electrons and a substance is oxidized when the electrons from its atoms or molecules are transferred or removed.                                                                                                                                

Our body is composed of billions of cells which are its building block. A cell contains countless of atoms of one or more elements. Atoms or molecules that lose electrons become unstable and interacts with other atoms to gain electrons. They are called free radicals. They need to “steal” or share electrons from other atoms or molecules to become stable. Affected molecules losing electrons will become free radicals too and interact to still other atoms or molecules. As a result there is a chain of reaction in the cells by molecules which strive to gain electrons. The actions of the molecules with unpaired electrons inside the cell will eventually cause damage to the DNA or the cellular membrane. It would be better to remove or kill affected cell to prevent it from affecting healthy cells. In the main, the accumulation of abnormal cells caused by free radicals will wreak havoc to the health of a person.

Some free radicals are produced by the body in its metabolism process. The body needs them for its immune system to kill harmful viruses and bacteria. However, when free radicals become excessive they caused the cells to become abnormal so that it will affect the well being of an individual. Overtime, the damage done to the DNA by free radicals will cause the cell to die and will hasten the ageing process of a person.

Some of the activities or conditions that cause the buildup of free radicals in the body include smoking of cigarettes, exposure to sunlight, pollution, pesticide, ageing and even excessive exercise. Ageing is a natural process whereby a person has more free radicals in the cells of his body as he gets older. Heart disease, cancer, macular degeneration, arthritis and diabetes are some of the many illnesses that are related to oxidative damage to the cells caused by free radicals.

Antioxidants are chemical substance that can contain free radical molecules before they can do vital damage to a cell. Antioxidants are free radicals scavengers. They can prevent and repair damages to a cell that are caused by free radicals. What makes antioxidants important is their ability to neutralize free radicals by donating electrons from its molecules to free radical molecules without their molecules becoming reactive.                                                      

There are enzymes of the body that are antioxidants, and there are substances or nutrients in our foods that are antioxidants too. Foods such as fruits and vegetables have antioxidant properties that can prevent or slow the oxidative damage to the cells of our body. Antioxidant properties of fruits are manifested by the bright color of its skin or flesh like orange, yellow, red or blue. For example, there is the yellow pigment of lutein in cantaloupe, squash and mangoes, and there is the red pigment of lycopene in tomatoes and watermelon.  

Known antioxidants are Vitamins A, C, E, carotenoid and selenium. Other antioxidants are flavanoids/polyphenols, lycopene, lutein and lignan. It is better to get antioxidants from foods rather than in supplements because the body can easily absorb them. Too much of vitamins like A and C if taken in excess will do more harm than good to the body.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

The types of anti oxidants are the water soluble and fat soluble. Water soluble antioxidants are not stored in the body like Vitamin C.  The fat soluble needs to be taken with small amount of fat in order to be absorbed by the body. Examples are Vitamins A and E which are stored in the liver.

Following is list of foods rich in vitamins, minerals and nutrients that are antioxidants. The list includes but is not limited to the following foods:

Vitamin A:  liver, sweet potato, mango, carrot, spinach, cantaloupe, squash, milk and egg yolk

Vitamin C: red and green chili pepper, guava, bell pepper, dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, kiwi fruit, papaya, oranges and strawberry.

Vitamin E: sunflower seeds, paprika and red chili powder, almond, peanut, pine nut, taro roots, spinach and pickled green olives.

Beta carotene: paprika, sweet potato, carrots, kale spinach

Selenium: fish and shellfish, red meat, grains, egg, chicken and garlic

Flavanoid/polyphenol: blueberry, cranberry, banana, oranges, apple, onion, eggplant, tomato, beer, red wine, nuts and beans, dark chocolate, red grapes, and tea.

Lycopene: tomato, guava, watermelon, grapefruit, basil, persimmon, asparagus, liver, chili powder and red cabbage

Lutein: kale, spinach, parsley, okra, red pepper, celery, broccoli, leeks, pumpkin, corn

Lignan: flax seeds, sesame seeds, curly kale, broccoli, apricots, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, strawberry, tofu

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