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Category archive for: Asia and Pacific

Philippines 2016: Democracy for the Bobotante

Written by Carmina Yu Untalan.

Spend just 30 minutes reading commentaries on Philippine presidential elections online, and there is a 99 percent chance that you will come across the word bobotante. You may guess that it is a derogatory term from the context in which it appears: we have four candidates and each have weaknesses: Mar Roxas, member of one of the country’s oldest dynasties; Jejomar Binay, the incumbent vice president being tried for graft and corruption; Rodrigo Duterte, an iron fist with a dirty tongue; and, Grace Poe, a novice facing disqualification due to her ‘dual’ citizenship. But what is spectacular about this election discourse is that we not only see commentaries lambasting the candidates but also their supporters in public space. Bobotante and its “derivatives” are the choice words to strike the ultimate affront to the other. Continue reading Philippines 2016: Democracy for the Bobotante

Philippines 2016: We Need to Talk About Manny

Written by Pauline Eadie.

Political aspirants in the Philippines routinely trot out religious piety, devotion to family and humble origins as mechanisms to appeal to the masses. These humble origins often turn out to be somewhat exaggerated as in the case of Manny Villar.  If a claim to humble origins is simply not credible then a love of or affinity with the poor will do. This worked well in the case of former President, and now Mayor of Manila, Joseph Estrada who capitalized on his former career as a movie star where he often played the role of defender of the poor.

However one man whose humble origins cannot be disputed is Manny Pacquiao. Pacquiao was born in Mindanao in 1978 and dropped out of school aged 12 to support his mother and siblings after his father left the family home for another woman. In due course he travelled the 500 miles to Manila as a stowaway on a boat. Once there he moved from manual labour and living on the streets to professional boxing. Pacquiao went on to win ten different world titles in eight different weight divisions. Manny Pacquaio is the stuff of legends. It is reported that when he fights there is virtually no crime in the Philippines as everything stops for the match. Pacquiao’s appeal is so great that the Philippine Marines and the Moro National Liberation Front were able to put their differences aside and watch the fight against Ricky Hatton together. He is courted by politicians and celebrities, in the hope that some of his magic might rub off on them. Continue reading Philippines 2016: We Need to Talk About Manny

2016 Philippine Presidential Elections: Turning Point for Internal Conflicts?

Written by Joseph Franco.

The 9th February 2016 marks the official start of 90-day campaign period for the Philippine presidential elections. Boisterous and even bordeline slanderous remarks are par for the course as with prior presidential races. Beyond the day-to-day flurry of campaigning lies potential turning points for the different internal conflicts raging across the Philippines.

Political cadres versus fighters: Communists at the crossroads?

The Philippines has played host to one of the longest-running insurgencies in the world—led by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA). Figures from the Philippine militaryestimate that the NPA is down to 3900 armed fighters in 2016 far below its peak strength of around 26000 during the late President Corazon Aquino’s administration. Continue reading 2016 Philippine Presidential Elections: Turning Point for Internal Conflicts?

What the Philippines 2016 Elections Mean for the Mindanao Peace Process

Written by Pauleen Gorospe.

It has been decades since the armed conflict in Mindanao erupted. Almost 50 years later, the Government of the Philippines (GOP) was able to enter into peace agreements with two secessionist groups: in 1996, with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and, in 2014, with its breakaway group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). However, recent developments could be undone by a change in leadership, which makes the May 2016 general elections a critical juncture in the peace process.

The peace process so far

The 1996 final peace agreement between the GOP and the MNLF enabled the expansion of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), an autonomous political entity created in 1989 in accordance with a constitutional amendment. Former combatant and MNLF founder Nur Misuari was elected as the ARMM’s third governor. Amidst all this, the armed conflict continued, as breakaway groups, such as the MILF, did not recognize Misuari’s leadership and found anything short of independence unacceptable. In addition, for many years after its establishment, the ARMM remained one of the poorest regions in the country, fueling allegations of corruption against MNLF leadership. The armed conflict also disrupted long-term development, and the lack of progress served as one of the impetuses for the MILF’s campaign. Continue reading What the Philippines 2016 Elections Mean for the Mindanao Peace Process

Philippines 2016 at the Institute of Asia and Pacific Studies

Written by Pauline Eadie and Francis Domingo.

Thirty years ago in February 1986 the Philippines saw a bloodless revolution that ousted President Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda Marcos from Malacañang Palace. This revolution was known as the EDSA Revolution and the non-violent tactics of the masses became known as ‘People Power’. These events are embedded in the political psyche of the Philippines. The Philippines has a vibrant civil society and elections are a time of celebration but also violence. The stakes are high as political office at all levels equates to power and control over a chaotic and deeply unequal society. Philippine politics runs on a bicameral system, an arrangement that is hardly surprising given its history as an American tutelage (and a Spanish colony before that). Philippine politics also tends to lack ideology (notwithstanding leftwing or feminist parties such as Bayan Muna or Gabriela respectively) and politicians frequently defect to other parties for personal gain as opposed to ideological commitment.     Continue reading Philippines 2016 at the Institute of Asia and Pacific Studies

The cost of caste in India’s universities

Written by Diego Maiorano.

Last week I was supposed to give a couple of lectures at the University of Hyderabad, India. However, the students there – some of whom are on ‘indefinite’ hunger strike – had locked most university buildings and were not in the mood to let normal academic activity to be restored.

A few days before, on 17 January 2016, Rohith Vemula, a Ph.D. student, had hanged himself to the ceiling of one of his friends’ room, sparking off the students’ protest. In India, between 2007 and 2013, 25 students ended their lives on campus; 23 of them were Dalits (former untouchable castes) like Rohith himself. Indeed, his caste identity – which relegated him at the very bottom of India’s social order – is what brought him to kill himself. “The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity”, Rohith wrote in a very poetic suicide note. A few weeks before, in a letter to the Vice Chancellor, Prof. P. Appa Rao, Rohith had suggested to equip all Dalits students’ rooms with “a nice rope” and to provide them with poison “at the time of admission itself”. Continue reading The cost of caste in India’s universities

On Disasters and the Yolanda/Haiyan Experience

Written by Jan Robert R Go.

Since 2000, natural disasters, it seems, have become a commonplace in the Philippines more than ever—not simply in terms of numbers, but also in terms of magnitude. Many studies and reports, both national and international, have already highlighted the geographical exposure of the Philippines, which makes it a disaster-prone country. A recent report of Harvard Humanitarian Initiative Resilient Communities Program notes the frequent calamities in the Philippines due to typhoons and floodings, as well as volcanic activities and earthquakes. Meanwhile the Deutsche Welle news agency has called the Philippines ‘a country prone to natural disasters’.

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and the Belgian-based Centre on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) identified the Philippines as the fourth most disaster-prone country in the world with 274 natural disasters recorded from 1995 to 2015. In 2014 alone, Typhoons Rammasun (locally named Glenda) and Hagupit (locally named Ruby) displaced around 2.99 million and 1.82 million people, respectively. Given these figures and situation, it becomes imperative that the Philippine government, including the local levels, must have disaster prevention, preparation, mitigation, and response mechanisms. Continue reading On Disasters and the Yolanda/Haiyan Experience

Real or not, North Korea’s ‘h-bomb’ is part of a well-planned agenda

Written by Robert Winstanley-Chesters.

North Korea’s announcement that it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb was met with shock and surprise around the world – but there have been months of indications that something in just this vein was on the way.

Kim Jong-Un’s visit to Phyongchon Revolutionary Site near Pyongyang in December 2015 would have passed with little comment were it not for the young leader’s passing mention that his state was ready to detonate a hydrogen bomb. North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, what it calls its “treasured swords”, has only briefly and tenuously been demonstrated, and when Kim made this unexpected announcement, the outside world was sceptical that Pyongyang had really mastered this complicated and demanding technology. Continue reading Real or not, North Korea’s ‘h-bomb’ is part of a well-planned agenda

Japan’s government has politicised a generation with its constitutional reforms

Written by Oana Burcu.

As the Japanese government continues to press ahead with controversial changes to its “peaceful constitution”, it continues to fuel domestic protests and fails to get full endorsement from the members of its own ruling party. Prioritising foreign policy while dismissing domestic opposition is hardly a wise course, and Shinzo Abe’s government seems not to have fully anticipated the political risks.

Trouble has been brewing for a while, but rose to a new level in the summer of 2014 when a man self-immolated in Tokyo in June 2014 to protest the reinterpretation of Article 9, which was intended to renounce war permanently. Continue reading Japan’s government has politicised a generation with its constitutional reforms

Religious Orthodoxy v. Secularism: Bangladesh’s Tug of War

Written by Bahzad H. Joarder.

Bangladesh’s development trajectory since 1990, especially after democratic practices were reinstated has been a unique success story. It is widely regarded as a model country for development on social indicators. It remains one of the few developing countries that is on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and is already well ahead of many countries including economic behemoths like India. With China ceding its market leader position in the RMG sector, Bangladesh, already a big player, is increasingly viewed as a potential leader in the sector. For a country once referred to as ‘bottomless basket’ by Henry Kissinger, one which has seen years of suffering, famine, poverty and political strife, the 21st century heralded new promises. Yet, those promises may remain unfulfilled potential, if Bangladesh fails in tackling a new adversary, one which threatens the very fabric of the post independent society- the rise of militant Islam. Continue reading Religious Orthodoxy v. Secularism: Bangladesh’s Tug of War