The Liturgy of the Hours

. . . is the topic of my latest Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld. Excerpts:

"One thing that immediately becomes obvious when praying the Liturgy of the Hours is that each of the 'Hours' has its own 'personality.' The morning prayers tend to have a bright, cheerful tone, the daytime prayers are more contemplative and focusing on trust in the Lord, and the evening prayers, as we’ve seen from above, a bit reflective of what has gone in the day and leads to a reminder of our need to surrender ourselves to His care.

In addition to the daily rhythm provided in its four-week Psalter, the Liturgy of the Hours, like the Mass, changes according to the seasons contained in the liturgical year and the calendar of the Saints. As I said, it’s complicated. But definitely never boring."


Of drinking and national treatment

. . . is the topic of my latest Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld. Excerpts:

"Interestingly, in a communiqué dated Aug. 12, 2009, our largest trading partner declared that it is 'the desire of the United States to be joined in these consultations .... As a leading producer and exporter of spirits, the United States has a substantial trade interest in these consultations. Over the period 2004-2008, US exports of spirits worldwide averaged over $970 million, making the United States one of the world’s largest exporters of spirits.'

It would be fascinating to see how this case turns out. As BusinessWorld reported — correctly — last Monday, the 'EU and US have jointly filed cases against three other WTO members over liquor taxes — Chile, Japan and Korea — all of which were decided in favor of the two major exporters, dispute archives show. In the Korea case, for instance, arbiters decided that soju, an indigenous beverage which enjoyed lower tax rates than its foreign counterparts, was ’directly competitive and substitutable with imported distilled alcoholic beverages’. Korea had to comply with the WTO ruling in 1999, amending its tax laws to instead require flat rates on all liquor products.' To the foregoing is added recent research findings, most notably Andrew Guzman’s of the University of California, Berkeley, in his paper The Political Economy of Litigation and Settlement at the WTO (corroborated in recent empirical analysis by Juscelino Colares of Syracuse University), which showed that complainant countries in WTO disputes win their cases almost 90% of the time.

People might need to go for a drink after this."


Who I won't vote for

. . . is the topic of my latest Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld:

"People have expressed so much emotion over a recent 'sacrifice' that it’s annoying. They seem to refuse to realize that our history is one long series of missed chances and unlearned lessons. For example: an unexamined politician arouses public support for the presidency merely because of the perceived unpopularity in the National Capital Region of the sitting president.

Or an inexperienced and unexamined individual from an old political family suddenly thrust into the limelight and asked to run for president due to sentimental momentum generated upon the death of a revered family member (including the withdrawal from the race of a better trained politician in favor of party unity). Haven’t we seen all that before?

But the first time around, what happened in terms of governance, corruption, and national security? Didn’t daylong blackouts occur, our streets dug up and left looking like war zones, shipping vessels sunk with thousands dead, our finances dwindling to nothing, investors fleeing to other countries, farmers killed in Mendiola or ejected from their lands, our educational system continuing to deteriorate, saw our own president rallying to keep US bases here, and respect for our public institutions further dwindled? What makes people think that by doing the same thing all over again with regard to choosing our leaders different results will happen.

Rereading Sandra Burton’s Impossible Dream over the weekend, I was struck by how those in power are so related or linked to each other. If Burton’s account is accurate: it was a Laurel who acquitted Ferdinand Marcos of murder, a Roxas who liberated him from a US army brig, a Quezon who urged him to be in public life, a Macapagal who awarded him half of his war medals, and a Magsaysay who served as godfather to his wedding. Marcos had Ninoy Aquino as a fraternity brother. And before Aquino married Cory, he was actually dating, guess who? Imelda Romualdez.

Which again reiterates what I’ve long been saying: any reading of our history would show that the same names in government and business appear over and over and over again. The same names or families that would side with the Spanish against the Katipunan, whisper to Aguinaldo against Mabini, collaborate with the Americans or the Japanese (then see their kind give pardon to the collaborators), preside over increasing corruption and stagnation in the Third Republic, and then exploit (either in government or in opposition) the Marcos era, People Power, and Edsa Dos. And now still the same names in Congress, Malacañang, and the business elite. In the 100 or so years of our nation, these same people — by their corruption, decadence, incompetence, and hypocrisy — have pushed our country into ever lower depths.

So even though it’s quite bizarre that a mere 23 years after people emotionally threw out the Marcoses from Malacañang, it perhaps becomes understandable why they are again appearing in the Tatler and other society glossies, why people are eager to have them as guests or be their guests at parties, and why BongBong Marcos is slated to run for high office (for president even, if Imelda Marcos has her way). It also becomes understandable why Estrada is presently topping the presidential polls. People in power now are just all part of one exclusive club so that it doesn’t matter anymore if you have principles or merit. What matters is that the club accepts you.

However, it is simply crazy to keep relying on the same people and methods (or lack of it) and expect different results. For me, I’ll never vote or support any politician who or (whose family) benefited from betraying the Katipunan, collaborated with the Japanese during World War II, or took advantage of martial law, People Power, or Edsa Dos. People should be made accountable for the harm they did to our country. I won’t vote for or support anybody who is part of or has a relationship with the oligarchy, certainly not somebody whose family blew so many chances to do good for the country. Definitely not somebody from an old political family who sees his town or province mired in poverty. If he can’t improve his backyard, what more the country? I will not vote for somebody who does not follow the doctrines of his faith (whether it be Islam, Christianity, etc.). If he’s Catholic, he’s lost my vote if he’s in favor of contraception. I shall never vote for or support any politician who doesn’t uphold a consistent principle. And, finally, I’ll never vote or support somebody who hasn’t worked for a living and can run for office just because he had the dumb luck of having a family member for a politician.

This probably disqualifies most of those running but that’s fine by me. I’ve compromised too long. Real change has got to start no matter how futile it presently seems. At 80 million people, I’m sure we can find better leaders."


Our President and theirs

Reading this article from the Inquirer (This is not your average presidential bet), it would be interesting to see how Noynoy Aquino matches up against other country leaders assuming he's no longer a bet but actually is the president (remember, he'd be leading and representing our country):

First, from the original ASEAN members - -

Abhisit Vejjajiva, prime minister of Thailand - educated at Eton, with degrees in economics from Oxford (with First Class Honors). Taught economics at Thammasat University. Member of parliament since 1992, leader of party 2005.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, president of Indonesia - educated at Magelang Military Academy, US Army Command and General Staff College, and Webster University. A retired general, he was a member of the military since 1973, led troops as commander in the 330th Airborne Battalion, a lecturer at the Army Staff College, and known as the "thinking general"

Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak, prime minister of Malaysia - educated at Malvern College, Worcestershire, England, and University of Nottingham, with degree in industrial economics. Worked in banking and petroleum industries. Member of parliament since 1976. First held cabinet position at the age of 25, becoming youngest deputy prime minister, and minister for defense, education, finance, and culture.

Lee Hsien Loong, prime minister of Singapore - studied mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge (with First Class Honors) and Master of Public Administration in Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. Member of the military since 1971 and became Brigadier General. Served as minister for trade, finance, and defense, and deputy prime minister.

(*to complete the ASEAN 5, we include somebody born to the job) Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah, sultan of Brunei - attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, with honorary degrees from Oxford, the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, Chulalongkorn University of Thailand, and National University of Singapore.

Then our main trading partners - -

Hu Jintao, president of China - graduated with a degree in hydraulic engineering, Tsinghua University. Worked as an engineer and for a hydro-power station while also managing Party affairs for the local branch of the Ministry of Water Resources and Electric Power. Held various governmental posts, some in impoverished areas of China.

Yukio Hatoyama, prime minister of Japan - educated at University of Tokyo and received a Ph.D. in managerial engineering from Stanford University. Worked as a research assistant at the Tokyo Institute of Technology and Senshu University and was promoted to assistant professor. Long time party leader, he is a member of parliament since 1986.

Nicolas Sarkozy, president of France - practicing business lawyer, graduate of Paris X University Nanterre. In public office since the age of 22, he was formerly minister of the interior and finance.

Gordon Brown, prime minister of UK - an academic graduating with honors (and a Ph.D) from Edinburgh University, television journalist, member of parliament since 1983, and was for many years the chancellor of the exchequer.

Angela Dorothea Merkel, chancellor of Germany - academic, studying physics at University of Leipzig, worked and studied (and getting a doctorate) at the Central Institute for Physical Chemistry of the Academy of Sciences in Berlin-Adlershof. Held leadership positions in opposition and was cabinet minister.

Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev, president of Russia - graduated from the Law Department of Leningrad State University and in 1990 received a Ph.D in private law. Worked in various positions in government and the private sector (as well as academe, publishing several articles) as legal expert, became Putin's Presidential Chief of Staff and then First Deputy Prime Minister.

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, president of Brazil - working since the age of 12, a union leader since 1978, and held public office since 1986.

Manmohan Singh, prime minister of India - completed D.Phil, studied at Punjab University, Cambridge, and Oxford, and worked for UNCTAD. Taught at the University of Delhi and worked for the Ministry of Foreign Trade. Was Governor of the Reserve Bank of India and deputy chairman of the Planning Commission of India. Was also finance minister and member of parliament since 1991.

and, finally,

Barack Obama, president of the US - graduate of Columbia University and a Harvard lawyer, Chicago constitutional law professor and community organizer, former senator, and best selling author.

Waiting in the wings, randomly selected, are Anwar Ibrahim (Malaysia), David Cameron or David Miliband (UK), and Mitt Romney, Bobby Jindal, Hillary Clinton, Evan Bayh, Rob Portman (US).

And we have Noynoy, son of Cory and Ninoy Aquino.


Work, prayer, and the bar exams

. . . is the topic of my latest Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld. Excerpts:

"But the best reason to work one’s best (particularly if you’re Catholic) is that a) whatever it is you’re doing comes with the fact that you’re there because God meant you to be there, and b) as we’ve been constantly taught during our school days — work is indeed prayer. Your work is a gift you offer to God (if you’re a student, your study is your work). Indeed, since you’d never offer a sloppy gift, in an ungracious and uncheerful manner, to your spouse, parents, children, or friends, why would you do so to God?

And note that Jesus, unlike most of our politicians, didn’t only just talk, He worked. He actually worked for a living. He worked rather than preached for most of His adult life. He wasn’t just some loquacious rich kid running for office merely because he had the dumb luck of having a father (or mother) for a politician. Before He taught, He worked. And He did great work, whether it be carpentry or preaching. Thus, it was said of Jesus: 'bene omnia fecit' ('He did all things well'; Mk 7:37). Remember that Jesus even got pissed off at the fruitless fig tree."