Sifting through the wreck: Should Carandang take the blame?

Political commentator William M. Esposo, who is not known to mince words, took up his metaphorical chair of rage in order to wreck it against Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Secretary Ricky Carandang in the September 7 edition of his The Philippine Star column, tagging Carandang as “terribly wanting” and ultimately liable for the “substandard flow of communications during and after the hostage crisis”. Did the facts justify the energy and space involved in the destruction of (imaginary) furniture?

Esposo ticked off a list of issues that he believed Carandang had mishandled, which follows verbatim below:

  1. The “Where was P-Noy?” issue was raised on the day after the hostage incident and Carandang failed to immediately quash this mistaken notion. It took a full week for Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda to disclose on ANC Talkback what P-Noy was doing during the crisis. That time gap is unacceptable. This issue could have been easily dispelled on the day when it surfaced by narrating the president’s hour by hour activities during the crisis.
  2. The issue of Hong Kong Administrator Donald Tsang’s call to P-Noy was not properly addressed and it made the president look like he was not in charge. Carandang did not even cite that the call to P-Noy was a violation of protocol and therefore we have nothing to be defensive about for not taking it.
  3. The issue of draping the flag on the casket of the hostage taker was not immediately and properly addressed—thereby adding to the bad impression which reflected on the president. The Messaging Secretary should have immediately clarified that this was neither inspired nor committed by the government and that people here freely place the flag on the caskets of those who have been public servants.
  4. Again, the issue which was raised by the Journalist Association of Hong Kong that P-Noy should not blame the media for the bungled rescue was not immediately and properly addressed. Clearly, P-Noy merely cited media for having added to the problems but never did he attempt to put the blame solely on media. Carandang should have taken the Hong Kong journalists to task for raising a falsely premised issue.

Esposo then went on to say that, in spite of the toll that the mismanaged hostage crisis took on the “prestige and public confidence” of the Aquino administration, it nevertheless represented an opportunity for the President to surround himself solely with faithful appointees and rid himself of the company and the service of “stray dogs”, a rhetorical maneuver that conflates incompetence with disloyalty,  and insinuates that Carandang, among other people, is guilty of both. Unless Esposo knows more than he is telling, and can back it up with proof—in which case, he ought to be more explicit, for the sake of the citizenry—the conflation appears to be illogical and unfair.

There can be no denying that great lapses in communication occurred during and after the crisis, and those accountable for such lapses should be dealt with accordingly. A pertinent question, however, would seem to be this: Among the issues that Esposo raised against Carandang, which actually fall under the jurisdiction of the latter as Secretary of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO)?

According to Executive Order No. 4, which took effect on July 30, 2010, the functions of the PCDSPO are as follows:

a. Coordinate the crafting, formulation, development and enhancement of the messaging system under the Office of the President;
b. Design and recommend responses to issues that arise on a daily basis.
c. Ensure consistency in the messages issued by the Executive Department;
d. Assist in the formulation and implementation of new media strategies for the Office of the President;
e. Assist in research and development of new media instruments;
f. Liaise with the Malacañang Records Office;
g. Control and supervise the conduct of market research, monitoring public opinion, and gathering, use and analysis of other relevant data as may be necessary;
h. Formulate editorial guidelines and policies for state media;
i. Ensure consistency in the implementation of the corporate identity of the Executive Department;
j. Act as custodian of the institutional memory of the Office of the President, which includes the supervision and control of the Presidential Museum and Library, and liaison with the Malacañang Records Office;
k. Perform editorial functions for the Official Gazette; and
l. Perform such other functions as may be directed by the President.

These, on the other hand, are the functions of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), which is headed by Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma:

a. Develop and implement necessary guidelines and mechanisms pertaining to the delivery and dissemination of information relating to the policies, programs, official activities and achievements of the President and the Executive Branch;
b. Develop, manage and operate viable government-owned or controlled information dissemination structure / facilities to provide the Office of the President in particular, and the Executive Branch in general, access to the people as an alternative to the private mass media entities;
c. Set up and maintain local and international field offices, where necessary, to ensure that accurate information from the President and the Executive Branch is promptly and efficiently relayed, delivered and disseminated to intended target audiences;
d. Manage, control or supervise, as may be necessary, the various government agencies and offices involved in information gathering and dissemination;
e. Coordinate and cultivate relations with private media;
f. Manage and administer the OP Website and the Web Development Office; and
g. Perform such other functions as the President may assign from time to time.

In view of the language of the Executive Order, the two communications offices, their different responsibilities notwithstanding, are intimately, even inextricably, bound up with one another, as the PCDSPO crafts the material that the PCOO circulates. At the risk of oversimplification, one might put it this way: Carandang creates the message, after which Coloma sends the message.

How, then, can Esposo assign blame wholly to Carandang, while avowing that Coloma was the “least accountable” for any communication problems that arose during the crisis?

A source with the presidential communications group, who spoke on the condition of anonymity owing to lack of authority to comment on the matter, had a different story for The Pro Pinoy Project, saying that the PCDSPO had fulfilled its role and prepared the necessary messages, but the PCOO, which is specifically tasked with media relations, had been unable to disseminate such.

The Pro Pinoy Project was only able to make preliminary contact with Coloma via e-mail and text message, and he has not made any statement as of posting time.

It is worth noting that the elevation of Carandang to his current post had previously prompted Esposo to write a piece questioning the former broadcast journalist’s fitness for the rank—a scathing article that exceeded, both in tone and in apparent intent, other publicly expressed apprehensions about the viability of the presidential communications group: Amando Dornila’s invocation of the image of the Lernaean Hydra, for instance, could be interpreted as a compliment, albeit a rather backhanded one, attesting to the efficacy of people involved in the group, as the hydra is, if nothing else, a powerful creature.

Why, one is moved to ask, is there no love lost between Esposo and Carandang? What motivates all this chair-wrecking? How much of it is driven by national concerns, and how much by parochial ones? Is the fact that Esposo’s column saw print on the same day that Carandang took his oath of office merely a coincidence?

It is no secret, after all, that Esposo is, at the very least, associated with one of two contending factions within the Aquino camp that have been at war since the presidential campaign kicked off last year—the so-called “Samar” faction that reportedly includes Maria Montelibano, a cousin of the President who handled media relations during his campaign, not to mention Coloma himself.

Of course, these factions no longer officially exist, and ought to stop existing unofficially too, as is proper, because infighting only wastes time and resources that could be used productively elsewhere.

[This also appears in The Pro Pinoy Project.]

The dangers of no-sweat journalism

What Domini Torrevillas wrote for today’s edition of The Philippine Star is, by any measure, a rather pitiful excuse for a column, consisting as it does of text practically lifted wholesale from three separate e-mail messages that her friends had forwarded to her. This is not a practice exclusive to Torrevillas, of course—one columnist in another major daily did this so frequently that the paper had to ask that person to leave. In all fairness—and the defensive self-importance of some writers notwithstanding—writing is difficult work, and cranking out anywhere between 3,000 to 5,000 characters for a coherent, compelling column at least once a week is not a task to scoff at.

To make such a concession, however, is not to excuse the writer from accountability. While the writer may not have to come up with anything especially original—whatever this might mean in the 21st century—it behooves him/her to ensure that the information he/she is disseminating is accurate and reliable, a notion that unfortunately does not seem to occur to or is dismissed by many journalists because of laziness, ignorance, or both. (A recent demonstration of these vices occurred during the furor over President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s lavish dinner at Le Cirque: a theoretical bill posted by Manuel L. Quezon III in his blog became reported as the actual bill by several media outfits.)

In the third section of her column, Torrevillas cites an e-mail from a friend—hardly a credible source—on the supposed dangers of using antiperspirants: antiperspirants are allegedly “the leading cause of breast cancer” among women. This claim is based on the following premises: first, that sweating allows one to purge toxins; and second, that an antiperspirant prevents one from sweating, and therefore from purging toxins.

In addition, men are supposedly less prone to cancer from antiperspirant use because the antiperspirant chemicals “are caught in their hair and are not directly applied to the skin”, while women who apply antiperspirants right after shaving increase their risk “because shaving causes almost imperceptible nicks in the skin which give the chemicals entrance into the body from the armpit area”.

That antiperspirant use leads to cancer has been floating around the Internet at least as far back as 1999, but no causality between the two has been firmly established up to this time. A fact sheet on antiperspirants and deodarants by the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) identifies three separate studies on the presumed relationship:

  • A 2002 study by Dana K. Mirick, Scott Davis, and David B. Thomas did not show any increased risk for breast cancer in women who reported using an underarm antiperspirant or deodorant. Nor was there  increased breast cancer risk for women who reported using a blade (nonelectric) razor and an underarm antiperspirant or deodorant, or for women who reported using an underarm antiperspirant or deodorant within one hour of shaving with a blade razor.
  • A 2003 study by Kris McGrath [PDF] suggested that underarm shaving with the use of antiperspirants/deodorants may be related to breast cancer, but failed to demonstrate a conclusive link between these underarm hygiene habits and breast cancer. (The McGrath study was used as a reference in a 2006 CBS news investigation [streaming video].)
  • A 2006 study by S. Fakri, A. Al-Azzawi, and N. Al-Tawil found that the use of antiperspirants had no association with the risk of breast cancer, while family history and oral contraceptives use were found to be associated.

According to the NCI, “additional research is needed to investigate this relationship and other factors that may be involved”. A 2003 monograph by the U.S. Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), which established conditions under which over-the-counter (OTC) antiperspirant drug products are generally recognized as safe and effective and not misbranded, did not rule out the possibility of a link between antiperspirants and cancer—or indeed other diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease—but generally found that data pointing to the link was, at best, inconclusive.

Torrevillas does say that her readers should check with their respective doctors regarding these claims, but if she had bothered to do even the most perfunctory online research after checking her e-mail, she could have provided much better information and raised actual awareness instead of stoking unwarranted fear among women. She did not even have to wade through highly technical literature—all she had to do was review the entry on perspiration in Wikipedia, a resource that her colleague Carmen N. Pedrosa so loves. She would then have found out that sweat does not contain “toxins”, that oft-abused term of pseudo-medicine, at all. If toxins enter the body, it is the job of the kidneys and the liver to get rid of them—one cannot sweat them out. (On a related note, those popular “detoxifying” foot patches do not work, because such a manner of detoxification would involve what is thus far only fit for science fiction: turning one’s feet into a pair of auxiliary livers.)

My impression—which I wish were wrong—is that articles on beauty, health, and wellness tend to be particularly soaked in sloppiness, which is certainly the case here. Whatever the merits of scaring people into taking care of themselves may be, that journalists, especially lifestyle writers, settle for what is essentially paranoia-mongering instead of public enlightenment is irresponsible, unethical, and thoroughly deplorable.

A road yet untaken

Trite though the image may be, to say that the promise of change has been gathering strength and is blowing more mightily about us with each passing day would not be inaccurate. The void that ripped open within the heart of the nation upon the death of former President Corazon C. Aquino was also a window on the past, and the initial breeze that wafted in brought with it reminders of a time when the people of the Philippines toppled a dictatorship and regained their freedom: a time more hopeful and more exultant, a time full of possibility and a sense of community—a time, it must be emphasized, that will not repeat itself (one would be foolish, nay, downright insane, to think otherwise, as the incumbent head of state continues to prove EDSA II a debacle rather than a triumph), but whose spirit can nevertheless be revived, intensified, and deployed in the decidedly appalling present.

At this point, it seems widely believed that the avatar of this spirit is Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, who is, after all, a descendant of two heroes—his mother, Cory, the reluctant president, and his father, Ninoy, the fiery senator—and a presumed legatee of the principles that they held dearly, the values that they lived and died for. Few accidents of birth have ever been or will ever be as onerous, particularly in view—or perhaps I should say within earshot—of the growing clamor for Noynoy to run for the highest office in the land in the 2010 national elections. How popular this clamor really is cannot be determined until the next round of surveys—that in any case may not be entirely reliable—is completed, but the idea of Noynoy entering the race has certainly soared from the moment William M. Esposo of The Philippine Star and Conrado de Quiros of Philippine Daily Inquirer gave it wings and flung it into the air of public consciousness, over which it currently dominates, in their respective columns—Esposo last August 9, and De Quiros last August 10.

True to Filipino cultural form, the notion has begun to acquire a mystical dimension: the presidency is not a competition among flesh-and-blood candidates standing firm upon specific platforms and pursuing concrete agendas, but an all-out war between the cosmic, contentious, capital-letter forces of Good and Evil. If Cory, the queen of the people and the saint of democracy, has followed her husband to a higher plane of existence, then it falls to her son to take up rosary and yellow ribbon in order to do battle with the ignoble, ignominious, inglorious Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her maleficent minions—as well as with some of her opponents, who are as odious as she is.

Consider, for instance, what happened at Club Filipino yesterday, on the 31st of August, a day dedicated to the memory of all our national heroes. Sonia Roco, widow of former Senator Raul Roco and chair of the Aksyon Demokratiko party, had this to say to Noynoy: “You are this Chosen One, the Anointed to run for president of this ailing country. It is very clear. See the hand of God in the events that have transpired recently.” Nostalgia for EDSA, grief for Cory, and the concept of filial duty—these elements have converged and delineated an economy of enchantment that will remain robust at least until the end of this month, although Noynoy is likely to announce what he has decided about his political future very shortly after the 9th of September, the 40th day following the death of his mother.

Should Senator Noynoy declare himself Presidential Candidate Noynoy, the game, as so many have already pointed out, will change significantly. Even now the landscape is in a state of flux, unsettling and resettling and unsettling again, for no one could have foreseen that these weeks leading up to the start of the campaign period in November would be anything other than predictable. Coalitions are being re-cobbled, slates are being reshuffled, and press statements are being re-worded, all because of a heretofore unassuming man. An oddity among the avaricious, grandstanding, scandal-ridden specimens of officialdom, Noynoy, armed with integrity, an indisposition to grab for power, and illustrious parents whose cause he must not betray, could well be the president that the country needs to redeem itself. As for the deficiencies identified by his critics—inexperience, say, or lack of charisma—he can overcome them with a sufficiently united, organized, and massive base of backers.

And yet, and yet—if the winds of change are indeed upon us in our yellow neck of the woods, more than one road diverges here, and at least one other is just as fair as the road that may lead Noynoy to what will doubtless be the most difficult job in the Philippines. It must be acknowledged, however grudgingly, that the entry of Noynoy into the game has the potential to set in motion one more truly horrific sequel to the People Power Revolution, rather like a film franchise that refuses to put itself out of its own misery simply because the original performed well at the box office. The temptation is to cast Noynoy as Cory, Macapagal-Arroyo as Marcos, Mar Roxas as Doy Laurel, and so on, but that would be lazy and dangerous, not to mention ominous, for then Noynoy should expect to face a coup d’état or two—or seven.

Much has been made, and will continue to be made, of the prospect of Noynoy as king. What about the prospect of Noynoy as king-maker of the Liberal Party? In some respects, this is the more difficult choice for Noynoy, especially given the calls that have been made for him to run, and his familial past offers no good portents: Cory’s anointed successor, Fidel Ramos, did not win by a majority vote. But joining the presidential race buoyed by a tide of public support is not the only move that can bring about change. If Noynoy situates himself at a remove from the political arena—for which his personality may be better suited anyway—he gains the capacity to critique buttressed by (relatively) untarnished moral authority, with which he can keep the new administration in check, particularly if his chosen candidate is victorious. This is no small thing: with the Catholic Church brought to heel by the Arroyo administration, and with the opposition perpetually divided by internecine struggles even as its members claim to be united, there is much that Noynoy can accomplish outside Malacañang—it is not only in the palace of power that power can be found and used to make a difference.

Should Pedrosa be fired?

Eric Tomas of Daily Musings apparently wrote to The Philippine Star when he caught Carmen N. Pedrosa plagiarizing Dave Berman back in 2006, but to no avail. He also believes that Pedrosa should leave the Star, comparing her case to that Hilarion “Larry” M. Henares, Jr., whom Philippine Daily Inquirer sacked back in 1990 when he was caught plagiarizing from the International Herald Tribune. (Funnily enough, Manila Standard, now Manila Standard Today, praised Inquirer for “upholding the standards of professional journalism“, then hired Henares shortly afterwards. Would it be a stretch to say that this move presaged the reinstatement of Malu Fernandez?)

I posted my entry on Pedrosa primarily out of pique, not realizing the extent to which the problem of plagiarism pervades Philippine journalism. (Consider, just as an example, this article by Hector Bryant L. Macale of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility). That it is apparently rampant should be disturbing, at the very least, because, as pointed out on Eye on Ethics: Asia Media Forum, “The practice of journalism involves the use of power: the power to influence the way people look at themselves, their societies, and the world; the power to help shape the attitudes and values of others; and the power to help liberate men and women from the shackles of ignorance so they may exercise their sovereign human right to decide their destinies.”

I suppose it would be trite to quote Ben Parker, but great responsibility does come with great power. And the journalist who plagiarizes, as David Plotz of Slate puts it, “is the cop who frames innocents, the doctor who kills his patients. The plagiarist violates the essential rule of his trade. He steals the lifeblood of a colleague”.

On a lighter note, I found some indescribably lovely photos of Carmen Pedrosa, courtesy of Joe Galvez.

Carmen N. Pedrosa, serial plagiarist?

As I suspected, given that plagiarism all too easily develops into a bad habit, Carmen N. Pedrosa’s plagiarism of a Wikipedia article in her 20 June column is by no means an isolated incident.

A Google search led me to the blog Daily Musings, whose author, Eric Tomas, reads Pedrosa’s column regularly in order to “see what counter-arguments can be readied against her [pro–charter change] assertions”. (There are, in fact, several posts that specifically mention Pedrosa.) In a post entitled “Postnote to Pedrosa Article“, Tomas points out that Pedrosa’s 5 November 2006 column lifts a sentence directly from “Advocacy Journalism, The Least You Can Do, and The No Confidence Movement“, an article by Dave Berman, without any acknowledgement.

It may be observed that the same article–the same sentence–is properly quoted by the Wikipedia page on advocacy journalism. (The 16 October 2006 version, a copy of which I have uploaded to Scribd and included below, would have been the latest Pedrosa could have–and probably did–read prior to the publication of her column.)

Tomas, toward the end of his post, asks, “How can she rail about the lack of integrity that she perceives in the Supreme Court for trashing the Sigaw ng Bayan petition, when she herself doesn’t practice integrity in her writing, in this case, giving credit where credit is due?

How, indeed? Does she think that she is somehow magically exempt from acknowledging her sources–akin, perhaps, to how she seems to think that the parliamentary system is a magic bullet against the problems of the country?

Citations needed, or: Plagiarism and Carmen N. Pedrosa

This post was initially conceived as an attempt to respond to Carmen N. Pedrosa, who of late has been again advocating charter change toward a parliamentary form of government in “From A Distance”, her column in the The Philippine Star.

Yesterday’s installment caught my attention because she began by characterizing the choice between charter change now or presidential elections in 2010 as a catch-22. That she subsequently spoke of charter change as the better option—as the way out of this supposed double bind—seems to speak of a turn of mind that is rather strange, to say the least, considering that a catch-22 is supposed to be irresoluble.

Even stranger to me was this statement: “Changing persons without changing the system means more of the same in our flawed presidential system.” After all, are not the persons in any given system, political or otherwise, themselves the causes and/or perpetuators of flaws? Can a system and the persons that animate it and circulate within it indeed be separated, not merely for theoretical purposes, but for pragmatic ones? And simply appalling to me was this: “The question boils down to this. Who should be followed? It is not about rightness or wrongness.”

Bearing these thoughts in mind, I decided to review Pedrosa’s earlier columns [registration required] in order to better understand her position. I also decided to consult a few online sources regarding the presidential and parliamentary systems of government, among them Wikipedia.

Notwithstanding the criticism against the community-generated encyclopedia—which, naturally, is documented in a Wikipedia page of its own (a page that, also naturally, has been flagged for questionable neutrality)—I have found it to be a valuable resource. I would not set much store by its reliability or its appropriateness for research, but it serves very well as a primer to the veritable swamp of information that is the Internet. It is even gaining slow acceptance in journalistic circles. It was also here that I found the actual subject matter of this post: plagiarism.

Plagiarism, derived from the Latin plagiarus (literally, “kidnapper”)—which in turn is derived from plagium (literally, “kidnapping”)—may be defined as follows: an act or instance of stealing and passing off the ideas or words of another as one’s won; using a created production without crediting the source; committing literary theft; or presenting as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.

Plagiarism, as far as I am concerned, is the kidnapping—and mutilation—of ideas. It is akin to kidnapping the child of another, hacking off its limbs, and sewing these limbs onto one’s own already horribly deformed infant, creating an even worse monster than what one had to begin with.

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The Wikipedia page on the presidential system was last edited on 15 June 2009, 11:14 AM, by user Reub2000. (Below is a copy of the aforementioned version of the Wikipedia page uploaded to Scribd.)

One will find it interesting to juxtapose the section discussing criticism of the presidential system to Pedrosa’s 20 June article, which is entitled “Gridlock rears its ugly head“.

(1) THE DISADVANTAGES OF THE PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEM

Wikipedia

Critics generally claim three basic disadvantages for presidential systems:

  • Tendency towards authoritarianism — some political scientists say that presidentialism is not constitutionally stable. According to some political scientists, such as Fred Riggs, presidentialism has fallen into authoritarianism in nearly every country it has been attempted.
  • Separation of powers — a presidential system establishes the presidency and the legislature as two parallel structures. Critics argue that this creates undesirable gridlock, and that it reduces accountability by allowing the president and the legislature to shift blame to each other.
  • Impediments to leadership change — it is claimed that the difficulty in removing an unsuitable president from office before his or her term has expired represents a significant problem.

Pedrosa

Political scientists agree that gridlock is a major disadvantage of the presidential system. There are others — the tendency towards authoritarianism. Because the presidential system is not constitutionally stable it easily deteriorates into authoritarianism. According to Fred Riggs, a political scientist, presidentialism has fallen into authoritarianism in every country it has been attempted, except the United States.

(2) THE PRESIDENT V. THE PRIME MINISTER

Wikipedia

Winning the presidency is a winner-take-all, zero-sum prize. A prime minister who does not enjoy a majority in the legislature will have to either form a coalition or, if he is able to lead a minority government, govern in a manner acceptable to at least some of the opposition parties. Even if the prime minister leads a majority government, he must still govern within (perhaps unwritten) constraints as determined by the members of his party—a premier in this situation is often at greater risk of losing his party leadership than his party is at risk of losing the next election. On the other hand, once elected a president can not only marginalize the influence of other parties, but can exclude rival factions in his own party as well, or even leave the party whose ticket he was elected under. The president can thus rule without any allies for the duration of one or possibly multiple terms, a worrisome situation for many interest groups.

Pedrosa

The presidency by the nature of the system is “a winner-take-all, zero-sum prize — unlike a prime minister, who may have to form a coalition. The president and her/his party can rule without any allies for up to six years. That becomes a threat for other interest groups.

(3) THE SEPARATION OF POWERS

Wikipedia

Presidential systems are said by critics not to offer voters the kind of accountability seen in parliamentary systems. It is easy for either the president or Congress to escape blame by blaming the other.

Pedrosa

As mentioned earlier the separation of powers in a presidential system is a disadvantage rather than an advantage. The presidency and the Congress as two parallel structures inevitably create gridlock and make it often impossible to govern. Worse it reduces accountability because the president and Congress end up blaming each other for perceived wrongs.

(4) THE ARGUMENT OF JUAN LINZ, POLITICAL SCIENTIST

Wikipedia

Juan Linz argues, “The danger that zero-sum presidential elections pose is compounded by the rigidity of the president’s fixed term in office. Winners and losers are sharply defined for the entire period of the presidential mandate… losers must wait four or five years without any access to executive power and patronage. The zero-sum game in presidential regimes raises the stakes of presidential elections and inevitably exacerbates their attendant tension and polarization.

Pedrosa

“Winners and losers are sharply defined for the entire period of the presidential mandate. . . losers must wait four or five years without any access to executive power and patronage. The zero-sum game in presidential regimes raises the stakes of presidential elections and inevitably exacerbates their attendant tension and polarization,” argues Juan Linz.

(5) THE CASE OF ECUADOR

Wikipedia

Ecuador is sometimes presented as a case study of democratic failures over the past quarter-century. Presidents have ignored the legislature or bypassed it altogether. One president had the National Assembly teargassed, while another was kidnapped by paratroopers until he agreed to certain congressional demands. From 1979 through 1988, Ecuador staggered through a succession of executive-legislative confrontations that created a near permanent crisis atmosphere in the policy.

Pedrosa

Ecuador is cited as a good example of democratic failures with a presidential system. Often, presidents ignore the legislature. Things got so bad that one president was driven to teargas the National Assembly.

The country went through a succession of executive-legislative confrontations from 1979 to 1988.

(6) LEADERSHIP CHANGE

Wikipedia

In parliamentary systems, unpopular leaders can be quickly removed by a vote of no confidence, a procedure which is reckoned to be a “pressure release valve” for political tension.

Pedrosa

This would not have been necessary in a parliamentary system when an unpopular leader could be removed by a vote of no confidence. This is a device comparable to a “pressure release valve” in a country besieged by political tension.

(7) SLOWNESS OF RESPONSE TO THE NEEDS OF CITIZENS

Wikipedia

Finally, many have criticized presidential systems for their alleged slowness in responding to their citizens’ needs. Often, the checks and balances make action extremely difficult. Walter Bagehot said of the American system “the executive is crippled by not getting the law it needs, and the legislature is spoiled by having to act without responsibility: the executive becomes unfit for its name, since it cannot execute what it decides on; the legislature is demoralized by liberty, by taking decisions of others [and not itself] will suffer the effects”.

Pedrosa

Finally, the presidential system by its nature is slow to respond to citizens’ needs. Often, the “checks and balances” make action extremely difficult.

Since the Philippines followed the American presidential system, let us hear what one constitutionalist said of the American system: “the executive is crippled by not getting the law it needs, and the legislature is spoiled by having to act without responsibility: the executive becomes unfit for its name, since it cannot execute what it decides on; the legislature is demoralized by liberty, by taking decisions of others will suffer the effects.”

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The sixth provision of the Journalist’s Code of Ethics as adopted by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines is, “I shall not commit any act of plagiarism.” The necessity of this provision should be obvious enough. How can a journalist be considered credible when he or she steals ideas from others? Or, as in this case, when she lifts and paraphrases, without proper citations, entire sections of a text that is governed by a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License?

More significantly for Pedrosa, how can she endorse a form of government that she believes is more accountable and more transparent to its citizens, when she herself is evidently unwilling or unable to be accountable and transparent to her reading public? Perhaps she ought to ask herself the question that she posed last 17 May: When is change real change?

For the record, I am not wholly or fanatically against amending the Constitution or shifting to a parliamentary system. And yet I think it is fair to expect that a person who supports a cause for ostensibly moral reasons, the tack that Pedrosa seems to have taken in beating the drum for charter change, ought to be himself or herself beyond most, if not all, reproach.

Taxes on book imports lifted!

From The Philippine Star: “President Arroyo ordered yesterday the Department of Finance to scrap the taxes imposed on imported books and reading material.

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Manuel L. Quezon III: “New Media has (again) proven its political and social clout with the breaking of the book blockade.”