A game pitch

We would like to use this opportunity to pitch an idea: a political simulation game where players are given the chance to run the Philippines through different scenarios, either during the Philippine Revolution, Philippine-American War, Commonwealth era, Japanese occupation, the post-war period, the Marcos years, and the post-EDSA administrations.

The players will also have the chance to play one of either the historical figures (like Bonifacio, Aguinaldo, Quezon, Magsaysay, Marcos, Aquino, etc.) or represent political parties as fictional figures (with the Nacionalistas, Liberals, Lakas-CMD, the old Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas-1930 or the more prominent Maoist CPP, and the like).

Players will also have the chance to navigate through economic and domestic policy as well as foreign policy and chart the course for our country’s development.

I am making this case because of my apparent craving for political simulation games and the disappointment that I don’t have the chance to play my own country, as well as other simulation games which requires you to pay, and in this case I would like the game to be free.

To our developers out there, I do hope you to consider this game pitch, not just for myself, but for everybody else.

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With 72% of MM homes with DTT, it’s time to expand

A recent ABS-CBN News reports shows that as much as 72% of homes in Metro Manila have digitally-enabled TVs, i.e. those with set-top boxes or built-in tuners. With those figures, maybe it’s time to consider a massive expansion to the regions? 

Source: http://news.abs-cbn.com/business/10/04/17/72-in-metro-manila-watch-digitally-enabled-tv
In this article published by ABS-CBN News linked above, it shows that as much as 55% of homes without cable TVs have used their product ABS-CBN TVplus.

With these figures in mind, and with ABS-CBN hitting their targets (with 3.6 million boxes sold), ABS-CBN should probably start to consider setting up more markets for their TVplus, with the Metro Manila market becoming more saturated and other markets with digital TV presence (like Cebu, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Bacolod, Iloilo, Baguio, surrounding provinces of Metro Manila) deserving more program choices.

The networks should set up in meeting the five-year period the NTC has given them to complete the transition, as more and more viewers being more aware and more regions waiting for their areas to be finally served, as digital TV offers clearer quality at par with cable or DTH compared with analog.

In this year alone, many developments have happened in Metro Manila. Light Network has  shut down its analog signal, Solar Entertainment increasing it power output, the MCGI launching their Truth Channel, a mystery channel appearing at channel 35, and the Iglesia ni Cristo-owned Net 25 and INC TV finally restarting digital broadcasts, while the regions are still stuck with ABS-CBN channels. 

In light of these developments, we should now start focusing in other markets and increasing coverage, it is much preferable if we meet targets in completing the transition ahead of schedule. 

On Donald Trump’s comments regarding General Pershing

With US President Donald Trump still reeling from the effects of his comments on the events in Charlottesville, Virginia and amid the most recent terror incident, this time in Barcelona, he once again entered himself to controversy when he tweeted on a long-debunked urban legend that dates back to the early years of American rule in the Philippines.

He talked about this particular story while he was campaigning, it was where General Pershing was said to have bullets dipped on pig’s blood, ostensibly to “fight” against “radical Islamic terrorism”.

It was immediately fact-checked by mainstream media, saying it never happened. But there must be another fact check, this time by us Filipinos.

At a time where our country is still reeling from the effects of the Marawi crisis which broke out on May 23, amid our long-standing efforts at rectifying the historic wrongs committed against the Moro people, this should be an outrage, as it is insensitive.

This is not about what Donald Trump says is about “radical Islamic terrorism”. This is about the Moro people’s efforts to resist American rule, at a time when the Americans came when Christian Filipinos have already declared independence from Spain and are already at the first steps of nation-building. When the Americans have mostly pacified the rest of the archipelago by 1901, the Moro people have continued their resistance until 1913.

We are at a time where we are correcting this historic injustice by arriving at constitutional reform, shifting from a unitary to a federal form of government. At a time we are trying to build a lasting peace, we are also encouraging economic development in Mindanao after decades-long conflict, to discourage people from resorting to extremist ideology espoused by groups such as ISIS.

Donald Trump should have been circumspect before speaking, as he would risk alienating an ally, as he has offered support for the Philippines to combat the Maute group in Marawi.

The Philippines has already been at odds with the United States since President Rodrigo Duterte took office on June 2016, over the controversial war on drugs which Trump has praised. In his 2017 State of the Nation Address, Duterte asked for the return of the Balangiga bells stolen since the 1899 Philippine-American War. This would further complicate efforts to resolve long-standing issues haunting US-Philippines relations.

In light of these historical backgrounds on what has transpired, Donald Trump has once again opened himself to controversy with these remarks. At a time when both the Philippines and the United States having populist leaders known for controversial statements, this may risk a diplomatic incident, or a war on words.

Sidenotes: With the terror attacks in Spain and the events in Charlottesville, may we stand united together against hate.

US drone strikes in the Philippines? How about no?

Source of this entry: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/u-s-may-begin-airstrikes-against-isis-philippines-n790271

The Marawi crisis is far from over, with our soldiers engaging in fierce room-to-room combat aided by airstrikes using the new FA-50s bought from South Korea, with occasional assistance by foreign countries. Our traditional allies (United States, Australia, Japan) as well as non-traditional allies (China and Russia) are providing us military and non-military assistance, to combat the threat of extremism and for reconstruction and rehabilitation.

However, there is one thing that could potentially be worrisome, that is the US planning to use the Philippines a staging ground for drone strikes, which they have been doing to Yemen and Pakistan, ostensibly to eliminate the threat from extremist groups such as ISIS and affiliated groups.

The Pentagon is proposing such plan, subject to approval. Yet we have the consider the potential backlash and backfiring of said plan, as US intervention in Iraq, Libya, and Syria among others have only worsened the situation. The traditional left (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan) has already spoken out against this proposal, and so I do.

This proposal could violate constitutional provisions prohibiting the maintenance of foreign military bases on Philippine soil and the inevitability of ethical implications, such as civilian casualties, not to mention the potential interference in the domestic affairs of another sovereign state, and further fanning the flames of extremism, prompting terror groups to stage more attacks.

Combating this kind of terrorism entails efforts of all nations in the world, but with the present-day realities there has to be a more systematic approach, where cooperation is necessary but still allows individual nations take different approaches in solving this common problem. Intelligence sharing, combat training, and weapons assistance will be enough. But at the same time implementing long-term policies such as education and integration, as well as mutual respect which will help in making sure future generations will not be tempted in resorting to extremism, as well as policies aimed at eradicating prejudices and fosters understanding, hence the dream of being able to live side-by-side in peace and harmony becomes a reality.

Our Cebu experience

(My screen capture of Metro Cebu skyline from Harolds Hotel’s 12th floor.)

We spent a total of six days in Cebu from May 4-9, and I must say with no second thoughts, Cebu is way better than Manila. The ambiance in Metro Cebu is very much like Metro Manila (where I was born, raised, and where I study), but more orderly, no usok, no kaskaseros. The streets are clean. There’s also traffic, but absolutely no unahan or overtaking typical of a Manila gridlock.

At the same time, I have seen for myself how unequal development is with respect to areas outside of Luzon. For example, it takes four hours from Cebu City to Bogo City in the north (when you can build an expressway when it’s roughly the same distance as Manila and Clark Freeport Zone) and another hour to Bantayan Island by ferry (when you can build a bridge). No matter why people down south always refer to Metro Manila as Imperial Manila.

I have spotted no tricycles unlike in Metro Manila though the use of Grab is prominent, despite relatively near distances (we stayed in Harolds Hotel in Gorordo and Grabbed through La Vie Parisienne, Vibo Place, the Iglesia ni Cristo chapel in Gen. Maxilom), though in some cases distances could be very far like going to SM Seaside Cebu, SM City Cebu, the Mactan-Cebu International Airport. Which explains why Metro Cebu also needs an LRT system. (I’d prefer a tranvia-like system or subway so as not to destroy the city landscape. And by the way, MCIA is better than NAIA.)

I was not able to see most of the sights in Metro Cebu and going south to Oslob after spending an overnight in Bantayan Island though I was able to see the following:

  • The Taoist Temple in Lahug
  • Fort San Pedro
  • Plaza Independencia
  • Magellan’s Cross

Also some sights which captured my attention:

  • Marcelo Fernan Bridge
  • Maayo Medical in Mandaue City
  • A parked DOST bus in Mandaue City
  • The abandoned Cebu International Convention Center
  • Colon Street
  • SM Seaside Cebu
  • Cebu IT Park
  • and much more

The food selection is also wide. I tried a teriyaki burger over at Patty Pie in SM Seaside Cebu, Jonie’s and Zubuchon in SM City Cebu, and of course Lantaw and 10,000 Roses over at Cordova where you could see a good view of the skyline of Metro Cebu.

While eating at Lantaw, I saw a beautiful girl (there are many in Cebu). I initially wanted to initiate small talk with her but she was with her whole family, so I held back. She was soft spoken but heard her curse loud when what she was eating fell on the ground. I could have practiced Cebuano but I held back. I may not have been able to talk to her but at least I knew my limits. But I’m certain, if I’ll ever marry in the future I’d prefer a Cebuana (the other ethnicities in my list are Kapampangan, Ilocano, Ilonggo, and Bikol).

And oh, I’m already starting to learn Bisaya, after a friend told me that I once I return back to Manila, which I am now doing, hehe. I even bought myself a Visayan dictionary to help me and started practicing my Cebuano, though I’m stil having difficulties and I have to ask some friends what to say and what the person I’m talking to meant. I remember having to ask the hotel staff and salesladies what to respond. I also remember having to ask “naa ba’y wifi diri” (Is there WiFi here?) or “unsa man og password” (What’s the password?) whenever in a public space. Despite having some difficulty I do hope I get fluent in Cebuano (also other Philippine languages as well. It’s not a dialect, okay? Let’s get rid of that Imperial Manila thinking.)

That said, my convictions for federalism and multiculturalism, as well as equal development in this country were strengthened by this experience. I also came to think to myself how Cebu is faring in comparison to Metro Manila, which has become in such a sorry and cancerous state. And now I knew where the Cebuanos are coming from whenever they refer to Imperial Manila. All development is brought to Metro Manila at the expense of the regions and then wondering why overcrowding is such a problem.

I look forward to repeating this experience, returning to Cebu to travel and probably live a life there. I also look forward to visiting more places in this country, study their languages, and to further widen my view. That I can safely say I’m truly for federalism, because if you want it for the country, start with yourself. Learn their languages, explore their places, acquaint with people.

And in my opinion, maybe the Spaniards shouldn’t have moved the capital to Manila and perhaps stayed in Cebu. It’s much more livelier than Manila.

Next stop, Batanes, Davao, Zamboanga, Ilocos, etc.

Daghang salamat kaayo!

War on drugs: Learning from experience

In an editorial piece published in the New York Times, former Colombian president Cesar Gaviria had some words for Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, that is avoiding the mistakes he committed in leading his country’s war on illegal drugs which the Philippines has done since Duterte took office in June last year.

It is noted that during Gaviria’s time drug lord Pablo Escobar was put to jail (inside a facility built in his specifications) and jailing numerous suspected drug users, which of course has led to numerous casualties and suspected human rights violations.

Days after this was published, in a televised address, Duterte who is known to shrug off any form of criticism against the war on drugs, called Gaviria “an idiot”, and said that “he will not commit mistakes” because “he is not stupid as him”. In most cases he has also noticed the contrasts between Latin America and the Philippines, with Colombia as well as Mexico and other countries in the region being flooded by cocaine (with some help from the US because the of huge consumption in the US market and supplies coming from these countries), while the top drug of choice in the Philippines being shabu (or methamphetamine hydrochloride), being sold by Chinese syndicates.

With the drug war enjoying popular support in the Philippines despite the growing international criticism, and the growing casualties (both from legitimate operations by police and vigilante killings), it is yet to be seen whether Duterte’s administration will change tack in his approach in this campaign.

The police force’s participation has already been tainted by scandal, with the death of Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo in the hands of rogue policemen, as a result the duties of overseeing the drug war transferred to the military.

In the course of this campaign, we have seen (from official data from the PNP) the crime rate cut down 49% (with the murder rate going up), almost 1 million users and pushers surrendering to authorities, and the vigilante killings being blamed to syndicates trying to turn in on each other and rogue policemen trying to cover up their tracks.

In light of these criticisms, it really is hard to explain the Philippine war on drugs to the international audience, as the experience in Latin America and Thailand have shown were entirely different in what the authorities intends to do.

Coupled with the black-and-white mentality prevailing now, it really is hard to speak up on these issues. What we should do is that we focus more on rehabilitation efforts and treating drug abuse as more of a public health and poverty issue, and instead of running after the low-level users and sellers, we must focus our energies in running after the large-scale syndicates and their sources of finances. Otherwise, we will achieve nothing in this campaign.

Again, things are easier said than done and we never know what happens next, so we just wait for things to unfold.

Clarifications: The author supports the present campaign against illegal drugs although with the growing number of casualties and the prevailing corruption in our police force we must instead change tactics and focus our energies towards rehabilitation. I do not want to be tagged as some sort of a fanatic by both the “yellows” and the supporters of the administration, as I have my own set of principles and political beliefs. For our international audiences,  I know it’s difficult to justify the conduct of this campaign but we’d like to present as much as possible a full picture. We will encourage everybody to rely on research and form your own conclusions and not relying on everything we read, from news media to blogs like these.

Trump’s foreign policy, its consistencies, and how it might affect the world

Have you noticed how inconsistent the Trump administration is when it comes to foreign policy? In much of his speeches and policy, Donald Trump has been promoting cooperation with Russia in issues like terrorism (and the war in Syria) and how “he would like to get along with President Vladimir Putin” but at the same time has advocated a hawkish stance on countries where Russia has built up strong relations like Cuba, Iran, China, and others.

Trump has advocated a hawkish stance on the South China Sea at a time when the claimant states like Vietnam and the Philippines has adopted policies setting aside their differences in exchange of economic cooperation.

Trump has threatened to reverse the progress made since the Iran deal was signed and appears to be heading to a position of war, again contradicting Trump’s promises of not heading into another war and instead focus on domestic issues.

In Israel, despite criticisms over its settlement program, Trump as well as Republicans are turning a blind eye.

When it comes to the wall, Trump has proudly stated that Mexico will “pay for the wall” (Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has said many times Mexico will not pay for a wall)  when in fact should a import tariff be imposed on Mexican imports American taxpayers will pay for the wall.

Across Europe, there is widespread concern on whatever course Trump might be taking as the continent reels on an economic slowdown, migration crisis, and wave of terror attacks. In the Eastern part of the continent, the Baltic states, Poland, and Ukraine are concerned that Trump’s plans to improve ties with Russia will jeopardize their security interests, especially in Ukraine which has been embroiled in political turmoil and civil war since 2014 and renewed violence in the Donbass. On the other hand, far-right parties are taking cues from Trump’s victory and fears of a domino effect which will put an end to the European Union.

The recent immigration ban in seven countries in the Middle East (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, Syria) has provoked backlash. Interestingly and coincidentally, Middle Eastern countries with Trump businesses were not included (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, etc.).

When it comes to North Korea, which has been quiet for some time and with its southern neighbor embroiled in political crisis, and has stubbornly refused to give up its nuclear ambitions, it is yet to be seen what Trump will do.

With these contradictions and inconsistencies in mind, it appears we’re heading for the worst and possibly head to war. But let us hope we can do something to reverse whatever damage it will bring to the world.