12.31.2009

Dramatic December

I am very thankful to be allowed to come home for a month-long and spend this Christmas with my family in the Philippines.

All possible opportunities knocked on my door: the favorable permission from my IIE/Humphrey Fellowship program and Maxwell campus coordinators; the 50% roundtrip airfare discount from Cathay Pacific; the university apartment rental fee waiver (which I used to augment my airfare); and the compelling need to conduct additional fieldwork research and clarify some data for my Humphrey Fellowship work in the US. I was also able to consult with my Philippine panel (Ehem anticorruption group) on the direction of my research on anticorruption and citizenship.

Nobody knew I was coming home, not even my wife and kids. I went together with my sister-in-law and her family. The goal was to surprise everyone, and make this vacation a meaningful one. Thanks to my NY-based sister-in-law and her husband -- Ate Rissa and Bong Asuelo, for the gleeful conspiracy.

It was a very dramatic and romantic arrival in the Philippines. My family and friends were at the airport to pick up my sister-in-law and her family. That was the cover; it was previously planned out that everyone had to be at the airport for the pick-up.

Then I was the last person out of the plane! Everybody was stunned and surprised when I got out and entered the Arrival Area. All of them couldn't move. My wife and kids cried; They all cried when they saw me. All were shouting inside the airport. My son kept hugging and smelling me. I was in tears!

It was indeed a blessing to be allowed home to get the much-needed rest and break the cycle of homesickness.

I think I was also sent home just to be around when, in the middle of this month, my mother was rushed to the hospital for her mild heart attack (for the first time) triggered by stress and infections. And just a few days before Christmas, my son was also confined briefly due to some gastro-infection and threat of dehydration. These were all scary and humbling episodes this December.

I could not imagine and fathom the combined effects of homesickness and the intervening events at home had I stayed in the US!

Thank you, Dear Lord for the great opportunity and humbling experience this Christmas. I just pray deeply that You strengthen each one of us to be able to hold and keep on and not fall apart, and stabilize us so that we will be able to help our family and those who are in need in times like these.

Thank you for the renewed energy and fresh outlook as I go back to the US. Coming home, I was able to see and assess my Fellowship at the Maxwell School from a distance. Coming home, I was able to see and feel my own flaws and limitations nearby. This December revealed, challenged, tried and shaped my mortal character! We surrender totally, because we are never in full control.

Thank you very much for my wife and kids! I have never deeply felt before how important they are to me and how they give meaning and strength to my life.

As we thank You for all the blessings in our family, it is our fervent prayer to allow us the good chance to face and hurdle our life's challenges and trials. I offer you my Fellowship, and the future that it holds for me and my family.

In Proverbs 3:5-6 we take refuge:"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make your paths straight!"

12.24.2009

Polls closed

Several online public polling surveys in various Ehem networks from the periods of August-October and August-December now closed. The following survey questions were asked to determine the psychographic views of those who participated in the online polls:
  1. The Philippines ranked as one of the 12th most corrupt countries in the world in 2008. Do you think the country will improve its standing for 2009?
  2. Who should be the next President of the Philippines?
  3. What do you want Sen. NoyNoy Aquino to run for in 2010?
  4. Are you in favor of Erap running again for president in the upcoming 2010 elections?
  5. Are you in favor of GMA running again for any elective post in the upcoming 2010 elections?
  6. Is it worth it for Prof. Randy David to run for a Congressional seat in Pampanga against GMA?
  7. Are you in favor of World Boxing Champion Manny Pacquiao running for Congress in the upcoming 2010 elections?
  8. Are you in favor of bishops, priests, nuns or brothers running for any elective position?
  9. Is it time to amend the Philippine Constitution?
  10. When is the best time to amend the Philippine Constitution?
  11. What mode do you prefer to amend the Philippine Constitution?
In summary, the results of the random online surveys revealed the following among various Ehem networks:
  1. The networks are divided in their thoughts that the country will improve or worsen its corruption levels in 2009 (NOTE: the country actually improved; see the poll analysis).
  2. The networks are divided on who they think should be the next president (NOTE: this poll was made before Sen. NoyNoy Aquino decided to run for president).
  3. Majority wanted Sen. NoyNoy Aquino to run for president of the Philippines in the 2010 elections.
  4. A resounding majority does not favor the former President Erap Estrada to run again for the presidency.
  5. A resounding majority does not favor President GMA to run again for any elective post in the upcoming 2010 elections.
  6. Majority support Prof. Randy David to run for a Congressional seat in Pampanga against President GMA (NOTE: Prof. David decided to withdraw his plan, citing delicadeza and logistical problems).
  7. A resounding majority does not favor World Boxing Champion Manny Pacquiao to run for a Congressional seat in the 2010 elections.
  8. A resounding majority believe that bishops, priests, nuns or brothers should not run for any elective position in government.
  9. A resounding majority believe that it is time to amend the Philippine Constitution but only after the 2010 elections and only through the mode of Constitutional Convention.
The Polls

Are you in favor of GMA running again for any elective post in the upcoming 2010 elections?
  • Yes, it is ok - 5 votes (5%)
  • No, not anymore - 92 votes (93%)
  • Not sure - 2 votes (2%)
  • Total Votes: 99 (100%)
-----------------------------------------
Is it worth it for Prof. Randy David to run for a Congresional seat in Pampanga against GMA?
  • Yes, it's worth it - 55 votes (63%)
  • No, not worth it - 21 votes (24%)
  • Not sure - 11 votes (13%)
  • Total Votes: 87 (100%)
-----------------------------------------
Are you in favor of Erap running again for president in the upcoming 2010 elections?
  • Yes, it is ok - 3 votes (3%)
  • No, not anymore - 91 votes (95%)
  • Not sure - 2 votes (2%)
  • Total Votes: 96 (100%)
-----------------------------------------
Are you in favor of World Boxing Champion Manny Pacquiao running for Congress in the upcoming 2010 elections?
  • Yes, he's qualified - 8 votes (9%)
  • No, he's not qualified - 83 votes (88%)
  • Not sure - 3 votes (3%)
  • Total Votes: 94 (100%)
-----------------------------------------
Are you in favor of bishops, priests, nuns or brothers running for any elective position?
  • Yes, it's alright - 26 votes (32%)
  • No, they're not trained - 50 votes (62%)
  • Not sure - 5 votes (6%)
  • Total Votes: 81 (100%)
-----------------------------------------
Is it time to amend the Philippine Constitution?
  • Yes - 32 votes (33%)
  • No - 56 votes (58%)
  • Not Sure - 9 votes (9%)
  • Total Votes: 97 (100%)
-----------------------------------------
When is the best time to amend the Philippine Constitution?
  • Before 2010 elections - 6 votes (7%)
  • After 2010 elections - 76 votes (84%)
  • Not Sure - 3 votes (3%)
  • Others - 6 votes (7%)
  • Total Votes: 91 (100%)
-----------------------------------------
What mode do you prefer to amend the Philippine Constitution?
  • Con-Ass - 10 votes (12%)
  • Con-Con - 50 votes (60%)
  • Not Sure - 16 votes (19%)
  • Others - 8 votes (10%)
  • Total Votes: 84 (100%)
Previously, the following polls conducted for the period August-October 2009:

The Philippines ranked as one of the 12th most corrupt countries in the world in 2008. Do you think the country will improve its standing for 2009?

Check the results at these following links:
Hold on, Philippines
ASEAN connection
From fascination to conviction

-----------------------------------------
Who should be the next President of the Philippines?
Check results here.

-----------------------------------------
What do you want Sen. NoyNoy Aquino to run for in 2010? Check results here.

12.11.2009

Hold on, Philippines

Click image to enlarge!
Read full article here and here!

12.01.2009

An act of disgrace!

(photo courtesy of http://www.inquirer.net)

This is unprecedented!

No Philippine president has done this in our country's history, at least not in our modern days' past. She may be legally allowed to run for a lower post, but this really leaves a very very bad taste.

How can now the president oversee a peaceful and credible election in 2010? How can she now ensure a proper transition and turnover of government? How can she exercise political will and ascendancy if she is so tied with partisan political campaign? This is not a good presidential act!

Two schools of thought are emerging on why President GMA wants to run for a Congressional seat in the 2010 elections: (1) her lust for power and (2) her lawsuit shield.

A third reason -- a future agenda towards a parliamentary form of government -- is not anymore far-fetched! She can easily become the House Speaker in the short term. And most probably, a Prime Minister in the long term.

President GMA committed a dishonor in her position as president, and maybe for the country! She just blundered by this disdainful act of disgrace! She missed a very good opportunity (probably her last) to become a great president. I gave my unsolicited advise on how President GMA can still become a great president, but she just again lost my vote.

In various Ehem networks, we have been running this online poll for the past three months:

"Are you in favor of GMA running again for any elective post in the upcoming 2010 elections?"

95 voters participated, and they responded overwhelmingly into:

Yes, it is ok -- 5 votes (5%)
No, not anymore -- 88 votes (93%)
Not sure -- 2 votes (2%)
TOTAL votes -- 95 (100%)

Let us all remember, fellow countrymen -- Hello Garci in 2004, 12-0 in 2007. And now, the Pampangga connection for 2010!

Sayang GMA, sayang!

May God bless this country!

11.24.2009

Holding on!

(click image to enlarge)

THE Berlin-based Transparency International (TI) just recently released the annual survey results of the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for 2009. The country's CPI level for this year is 2.4, holding the 139th position out of the 180 countries which participated in this year's survey.

Thus with this standing, the Philippines is part of the 13th most corrupt countries in the world for this year, joining Pakistan, Belarus and Bangladesh.

Somalia came out as the most corrupt country in the world for this year, with a score of 1.1 and rank of 180th. Not surprisingly, New Zealand came out as the least corrupt country this year with a score of 9.4 at the 1st rank.

A CPI score near 10 is categorized as least corrupt, and a score near 1 is more corrupt.

IN 2008 the Philippines scored 2.3 at the 141st rank, making it as one of the 12th most corrupt countries out of 180, joining Cameroon, Iran and Yemen.

Does this mean that the Philippines is making improvements, albeit slightly (or faintly), in its efforts to curb corruption in the country?

An online nationwide polling survey among various Ehem anticorruption networks from the period mid-August to mid-November revealed some mixed views. The poll question was: "The Philippines ranked as one of the 12th most corrupt countries in the world in 2008. Do you think the country will improve its standing for 2009?"

94 online voters participated in the poll, and their responses were distributed into:
  • 35 votes (37%) - Yes, it will improve
  • 40 votes (43%) - No, it will worsen
  • 19 votes (20%) - Not Sure
  • 94 votes (100%) - FINAL RESULT
The survey results showed mixed feelings of hopelessness (that it will worsen) and hopefulness (that it will improve), with a noticeable margin of uncertainty (not sure). The slight (and faint) positive and negative changes in its CPI score and ranking could also reveal that the country might just be holding on.

This is not the first time that the country exhibited a holding-on pattern, despite all the unresolved national scandals in the government. From the years 2002-2004, the Philippines registered 2.6-2.5-2.6 CPI behavior. This is a critical period because of the infamous Hello Garci Scandal that rocked the election of President GMA in 2004. And in the 2005-2007 period, the country maintained a three-year 2.5 score, despite its being one of the 10 most corrupt countries in the world during this time. Thus, with the 2.3-2.4 CPI improvement and from being one of the 12th most corrupt countries to becoming one of the 13th most corrupt nations in 2008-2009, who can object?

Yes, we all aspire for a better world standing. But with all the corruption scandals and the certainty of electoral frauds towards the national and local elections in 2010, our CPI standing could have been worse!

This could be resilience showing among Filipino people. Just like in natural disasters and man-made catastrophes in the country, Filipinos hold on rather than completely fall apart.

With all the tragedy of government scandals and the impunity of corruption, all the more that the Filipino people need to summon resilience and hold on!

11.23.2009

ASEAN connection

(click image to enlarge)

THE Berlin-based Transparency International (TI) just recently released the annual survey results of the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for 2009. How do members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) fare in their performance graphs for this year?

Singapore continues to maintain its rank as the only Southeast Asian country to be part of the top 10 least corrupt countries in the world. With a score of 9.2, it is the 3rd least corrupt among 180 countries in this year's CPI survey, next only to Denmark (9.4) and New Zealand (9.3).

Beside Singapore, three other countries are maintaining their 2008 CPI scores in the 2009 survey: Laos (2.0); Vietnam (2.7); and Timor Leste (2.2). Laos' over-all performance graph has revealed a drastic drop since its participation in 2005 with a CPI of 3.3.

Malaysia is experiencing a sharp drop in its CPI score of 4.5 in 2009 from a high 5.1 in 2008. For a long time, Malaysia is enjoying consistent fair ratings in CPI performance (5.0 and above), but this year's survey threatens the country's unassailable status. Its ranking is the lowest in the history of the country's anticorruption levels in 15 years. More than 70% of the Malaysian population have grown dissatisfied with the government's performance in curbing public sector corruption.

Thailand is experiencing only a slight deterioration with its 3.4 CPI score in 2009 from 3.5 in 2008. The survey turnout is somewhat unexpected for many anticorruption researchers and observers given Thailand's domestic troubles involving a prominent member of the Royal Family and the political turmoil in the Parliament (change of prime ministers in less than a year).

Experiencing slight improvements (1 to 2 points variances) are the Philippines (2.4 in 2009 from 2.3 in 2008); Indonesia (2.8 in 2009 from 2.6 in 2008); and Myanmar (1.4 in 2009 from 1.3 in 2008).

With the lowest CPI score, Myanmar (1.4) nevertheless appears as the most corrupt country in Southeast Asia, followed by Laos (2.0), Timor Leste (2.2), the Philippines (2.4), and then Indonesia (2.8).

Both the Philippines and Indonesia used to compete for the rank of the most corrupt in Southeast Asia but for these past two to three years, both have also shown steady rise, though still volatile, in their CPI performance.

Indonesia's improvements can be attributed to President Susilo Yudhoyono's unprecedented efforts to crack down on government corruption.

For its part, the Philippine's slight improvement is attributable to the Filipino people's resilience and vibrant broad-based anticorruption initiatives in the private sector despite the many unresolved national scandals in government.

Over-all, Southeast Asian countries have maintained their momentum in their CPI performance graphs (+/- 1 to 2 points variances only) with the striking exception of Malaysia (6-point variance).

From fascination to conviction

(click image to enlarge)

About five months since August, 11 proud international Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows (2009-2010) of the Fulbright Exchange Program are undertaking their Fellowship programs in the top-rank Maxwell school of Citizenship and Public Affairs in NY's Syracuse University. The Fellows represent 10 countries from all over the globe: India, Tunisia, Liberia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Moldova, South Korea and Israel.

The Fellows are chosen through a globally competitive screening and qualification system through the auspices of their respective Fulbright country commissions and the Institute of International Education (IIE) with grants from the US Department of State.

Each Fellow is expected to make good use of their professional expertise, experiences and dexterity through an exchange program with fellow counterparts from various participating countries. As Fellows, they will be attending special seminars, academic courses, site visits, agency visits and dialogs, professional development activities and professional affiliation activities that are all geared towards attaining their individual program plans for their country re-entry application.

Coming from a diversity of professions, academic credentials, unassailable experiences, fields of interest and expertise, personal advocacies and convictions, the Fellows are connected and bonded in the universal principles of effective leadership, good governance, networking and collaboration, conflict management and resolution, crisis management, citizenship and civil society initiatives among others. One of the perennial issues that keep cropping up is CORRUPTION.

For some, investigating and curbing corruption is a fascination. For others it is a passion. A few more press on as a matter of conviction.

In the interest of fascination, passion and conviction, it is worth looking deeper at the state of corruption among the Fellow's countries.

THE Berlin-based Transparency International (TI) just recently released the annual survey results of the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for 2009. A CPI score near 10 is categorized as least corrupt, and a score near 1 is more corrupt. A median score of 5 is considered as fair.

The ranking of Maxwell-Humphrey Fellows' Countries in CPI-2009 survey showed the following:

1. Israel (6.1)
2. South Korea (5.5)
3. Tunisia (4.2)
4. India (3.4)
5. Moldova (3.3)
6. Liberia (3.1)
7. Dominican Republic (3.0)
8. Philippines (2.4)
9. Ecuador (2.2)
10. Sierra Leone (2.2)

Israel is taking the lead as the least corrupt, with a CPI score of 6.1 which is above the fair median ranking. This is followed by South Korea at 5.5 in CPI. The rest of the Fellow's countries have serious problems of corruption with a collective CPI scores ranging from 2.2 to 4.2, which are below the fair median ranking.

Ecuador and Sierra Leone have the lowest survey rating with a 2.2 CPI level, making them the most corrupt among the Fellows' countries this year.

The USA - the Fellows' host - garnered a CPI of 7.5, making it as one of the 20 least corrupt countries in the world.

With 180 countries participating in this year's survey, the top 10 countries perceived as least corrupt are:

1. New Zealand (9.4)
2. Denmark (9.3)
3. Singapore (9.2), Sweden (9.2)
5. Switzerland (9.0)
6. Finland (8.9), Netherlands (8.9)
8. Australia (8.7), Canada (8.7), Iceland (8.7)

On the other hand, the top 10 countries perceived as most corrupt are:

1. Somalia (1.1)
2. Afghanistan (1.3)
3. Myanmar (1.4)
4. Sudan (1.5), Iraq (1.5)
5. Chad (1.6)
6. Uzbekistan (1.7)
7. Turkmenistan (1.8), Iran (1.8), Haiti (1.8)

Somalia came out as the most corrupt country in the world for this year, with a score of 1.1 and rank of 180th. Not surprisingly, New Zealand came out as the least corrupt country this year with a score of 9.4 at the 1st rank.

Progression, deterioration

A closer look at the Fellows' countries' performance in the CPI using a 5-year comparative interval growth rates show some interesting patterns.

Four Fellows' countries are consistently deteriorating since 2000: Israel, Ecuador, Sierra Leone and Tunisia.

Israel, Ecuador and Sierra Leone have been deteriorating by 2-3 points in the years preceding 2009. Interestingly, Tunisia is showing sharp deterioration over the years beginning 2000. From a CPI score of 5.2 in 2000, it declined into 4.9 in 2005 and further dropped to 4.2 in 2009.

On the other hand, four other Fellows' countries are showing consistent improvements: India, Moldova, South Korea and Liberia.

Both India and Moldova scaled up by 4-5 points from 2008 to 2009. Liberia showed upward leap by almost 10 points, when its CPI of 2.2 in 2005 jumped to 3.1 in 2009. South Korea also exhibited sharp improvements for the past decade, with CPI progression of 4.0, 5.0 and 5.5 in 2000, 2005 and 2009 respectively.

The Philippines, like USA, displayed a holding-on pattern for the past five years with 1-2 points of variances thereby maintaining its momentum since 1995. The Dominican Republic just participated this year in the annual corruption survey, starting with a 3.0 CPI score.

For more analysis on Philippine and ASEAN corruption levels,
please click on these links:
http://cyberron.blogspot.com/2009/11/holding-on.html and
http://cyberron.blogspot.com/2009/11/asean-connection.html.

11.15.2009

Poll closed

The Philippines ranked as one of the 12th most corrupt countries in the world in 2008. Do you think the country will improve its standing for 2009?

35 votes (37%) - Yes, it will improve
40 votes (43%) - No, it will worsen
19 votes (20%) - Not Sure
94 votes (100%) - FINAL RESULT

11.01.2009

GMA can still be a great president!


Some local officials and Congressmen are moving for a formal resolution to call on Pres. GMA to run again for public office, this time as Pampanga Representative. She will most probably win, considering the incumbency machinery of a sitting president (and she will most probably become the Speaker of the House, given all her resources).

As a citizen of this country, I beg to register my opposition to this move.

I wish to offer the President this simple formula of Ogunlela Olu: SELFLESSNESS = GREATNESS!

It will be the ultimate act of greatness if President GMA will not succumb to the temptations and pressures to run again for public post!

I am sharing again my unsolicited analysis and propositions for Pres. GMA. These were culled out from what I wrote in my earlier blog at this link.

GMA can still be a great President

I would like to strike a middle ground. We can spark an explosion of collective purification that should be led by no less than President Arroyo and all her Cabinet members.

This can be achieved by heeding the simple formula of Ogunlela Olu: selflessness = greatness!

For President GMA, the purification process should begin with undertaking the following concrete steps of selflessness, which I believe would really leave a significant mark towards her greatness:

1. Finish your term and swear by your ancestors not to run again for the next election, in whatever form and mode. Speak in categorical and sincere terms that you will step down peacefully and honorably in 2010; no teasing, no ambiguities, no obscurities! If you are sincere and categorical, all your people, especially in Congress, will heed your wish!

2. Ensure that there will be no cheating in the 2010 elections. Please do not allow another Hello Garci and another 12-0! They really divided the country; they really caused miscalculated damage to your administration.

3. Convene a governance transition team now, which will plot a proper and orderly system of turn-over to the next elected president. No political talk, just be professional. Be transparent in your modest gains and be candid of what you have not achieved. The next president should be able to address this lacuna.

4. Make Constitutional change a priority for the next administration, and you can explore the process for including the election of the members for a Constitutional Convention (ConCon) during the 2010 elections. Constitutional Assembly (ConAss) is really not popular, since
Congress does not enjoy popular people's trust. Surveys speak!

5. Take more proactive measures to solve at least the major corruption issues that scandalized your administration. You can use all the powers of the presidency to solve at least the NBN-ZTE broadband overpricing and bribery scam as well as the fertilizer fund scam. I believe you have all the powers to help solve these scams because the parties involved are your own officials. And they take cues from you!

6. Stop all political appointments. The 2009 Philippine Human Development Report revealed that you have already exceeded the allowable presidential appointments for Cabinet USec and ASec positions (and many of them are not even qualified). If you decide to take back their appointments, you win the votes of meritocracy!

7. Make radical reforms on two other very important issues in the country: (a) flooding and climate change and (b) the Mindanao peace talk.

We Filipinos have a soft heart for conciliation and healing. As you endeavor to end your term properly and to leave a significant mark to be great, you can reach out to your ardent critics and detractors -- even those who hurt you -- and make good peace and reconcile. This is the greatest mark of humility!

These are my unsolicited propositions for the President, which I believe will regain or win greatness for the incumbent leadership. We have 7 months before the next elections.

Madam President, you have 7 crucial months to make history for the Filipino people and be great as well!

10.31.2009

For a change! 2010 now!

10.25.2009

Philippine Humphrey Fellows

Historic rendezvous with Philippine Embassy and Filipino Humphrey Fellows
L-R: Monette Singh, Robert Borje, Ronnie Amorado and Reggie Junio


The great Vice Consul and Third Secretary Robert Borje works with the Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC. Vice Consul Borje comes from Mindanao, Philippines. He used to be with the giant network of the ABS-CBN News and the Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo) before joining the Department of Foreign Affairs and got assigned in the Washington Embassy. It was a very pleasant experience to meet the very young, promising and awe-inspiring Vice Consul during the State Department Reception Dinner hosted by the Department of State for all the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows for 2009-2010 last October 20, 2009 in Washington, DC.

Mabuhay si Robert! Hail Robert!
Keep up the good work, Vice Consul!
The country is proud of you!

The Philippine Fellows

Maria Filomena Singh is a Fellow at the Washington University's College of Law in Washington, DC. She is a presiding judge in the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City in the Philippines. She is also a professor of law at the Ateneo de Manila University School of Law and at the Philippine Judicial Academy in Manila. She specializes in the field of law and human rights with focus on more efficient court management, alternative dispute resolution, and programs which could unclog the local court's heavy dockets. During her Humphrey year, she hopes to gain new knowledge and skills that will help her advocate for a more efficient case management system, and a more independent judiciary to help perpetuate better Philippine internal and international stability. Judge Singh holds a Juris Doctor degree (Doctor of Law) and a recipient of the Judicial Excellence Award. In 2007, the Society of Judicial Excellence named Judge Singh as one of the Top First Level Court Judge in the Philippines.

Regina Junio is a Fellow at the Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in Ithaca, New York. She is a professor at the Ateneo de Zamboanga University back in the Philippines. She handles natural science courses, leads the various university social development programs and conducts research on solid waste management, natural resources management and minerals development. She mentors development programs with partner communities on natural resources management in the Philippines. Her Fellowship program is focusing on conflict management for communities in conflict over natural resource use, best practices for sustainable development and environmental economics. Prof. Junio holds a Master of Science in Chemistry Education.

Ronnie Amorado is a Fellow at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs of the Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York. As a Humphrey Fellow, he is working on his post-doctorate research on anticorruption and citizenship with special focus on policy analysis and evaluation especially as it relates to good governance and anti-corruption reforms. His research interest revolves around the dark side of social capital, notions of integrity and betrayal theory among others. He has been working for numerous years with government agencies and private sector organizations on discourse formation, conducting anticorruption research, providing training and public lectures on management, good governance and corruption issues. Currently, he is the Country Coordinator of the Ehem Anticorruption Group, a major anticorruption movement run by the Society of Jesus in the Philippines. He holds a doctorate degree in development studies specializing in governance and anticorruption studies. He is author of Fixing Society: The Inside World of Fixers in the Philippines (2007), which won a National Book Award/Outstanding Book Award for 2008 given by the prestigious Philippine National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST).

Click on this link for more photos of the Filipino Humphrey Fellows.

Click on this link for more photos of the 2009 Humphrey Global Leadership Forum Opening Tour in Washington, DC.

Click on this link for more photos of the State Department Reception Dinner.

I also visited the Smithsonian Space Museum (click here) and the Natural History Museum (click here).

As they say, pictures speak a thousand words. And museums make a great country's national identity greater!

10.14.2009

Of good character

Good character is not formed in a week or a month.
It is created little by little, day by day.
Protracted and patient effort is needed
to develop good character!
- Greek philosopher Heraclitus (c.535 BC - 475 BC)

The Gospel of Wealth


The Gospel of Wealth

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) was a Scottish immigrant who became one of America's pioneering philanthropists, and a popular baron and business oligarch in the 19th and 20th centuries. In his time, he used to be regarded as the second richest man in history after John D. Rockefeller.

In early 1908, he commissioned a survey of the top 500 wealthy achievers in the US to find out their secrets for success. The findings came out in a published book in 1928 (about a decade after Carnegie's death) entitled, "The Law of Success."

Carnegie was a turning point in the Spanish-era Philippines. He opposed the acquisition of the colony by the US. After the Spanish American War, Carnegie offered Spain the amount of US$20 million (more than what the US government offered) in order to give the Filipinos their independence. He failed.

As a leading and very influential philanthropist (he established the major charities, foundations, museums, schools and libraries in the US and Europe), he came out with the so-called Carnegie's Dictum, which became the foundation of his Gospel of Wealth. These documents influenced the evolution and growth of the philanthropic movements in the US and the whole world.

The Carnegie Dictum

I
To spend the first third of one's life
getting all the education one can.

II
To spend the next third
making all the money one can.

III
To spend the last third
giving it all away for worthwhile causes.


The Gospel of Wealth

1. All personal wealth beyond that required to supply the needs of one's family should be regarded as a trust fund to be administered for the benefit of the community.

2. Much better this great irregularity than universal squalor.

3. The Socialist or Anarchist who seeks to overturn present conditions is to be regarded as attacking the foundation upon which civilization itself rests.

4. The highest result of human experience: individualism, private property, the law of accumulation of Wealth, the law of competition.

5. There are but three modes in which surplus wealth can be disposed of. It can be left to the families of the decedents; or it can be bequeathed for public purposes; or finally, it can be administered by its possessors during their lives.

6. It were better for mankind that the millions of the rich were thrown into the sea than so spent as to encourage the slothful, the drunken, the unworthy.

7. Of every thousand dollars spent in so-called charity today, it is probable that nine hundred and fifty dollars is unwisely spent -- so spent, indeed, as to produce the very evils which it hopes to mitigate or cure.

8. Neither the individual nor the race is improved by almsgiving. Those worthy of assistance, except in rare cases, seldom require assistance. The really valuable men of the race never do, except in case of accident or sudden change.

9. The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced.

INSIGHTS: The dictum provides an excellent basis for entrepreneurialism, education and philanthropy. The first, seventh and eight gospels are very striking and indisputable. The third, fourth and ninth gospels are debatable.

The first, second and sixth gospels are good arguments against society's corruption, as well as for advancing the virtue of integrity. In this regard, I would re-state the ninth gospel: the man who dies thus rich and filthy dies disgraced!


References

Carnegie, Andrew. 1900. The Gospel of Wealth and Other Timely Essays. New York: The Century Co.

Andrew Carnegie @
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Carnegie#Controversies.

Andrew Carnegie @
http://www.answers.com/topic/andrew-carnegie

10.03.2009

Devastation

Devastation!

The country was struck by a devastation brought by Typhoon Ondoy (international codename Ketsana) at the close of September. About 20-25 tropical typhoons pass the country every year, but Ondoy was a wrath. It was the first of its kind since the Great Flood of 1972. Ondoy's rainfall in about 6 hours was good for a 6-month volume. It caused massive flooding. 20 feet of flood waters (about 6 m). About half a million displaced, and more than 200 died. Cost of damage to properties and infrastructure pegged at 5 billion pesos (US$106 million). And while the figures are increasing by the day as official reports continue to come in, the country is again in peril with the coming of stronger typhoons. Environmental officials report of expected massive mudslides and landslides, while health officials warn of disease outbreaks. As a sorrowful reality in disasters, the aftermath is always said to be "disastrous" than the disaster. Catholic leaders are invoking the highest prayer for divine intercession - Oratio Imperata - to shield the country from further destruction.

It is climate change and global warming taking revenge against mankind's utter disregard of environment. No doubt, as Al Gore warned in An Inconvenient Truth, natural disasters are getting worse and ruthless in the 21st century. This crisis, however, is compounded and exacerbated further by systematic inaction of world's governments, including the Philippines.

Resilience among Filipinos is already tried and tested in times of disasters and calamities. It is a reliable Filipino virtue. But the country has to be warned against wasting this virtue into nonchalance, especially among the government officials and leaders of the land.

In its September 29 issue, Time Magazine has appropriately described Ondoy's aftermath. The country has never really did enough preparation, especially long-term mitigation. This is the province of the government, given all its mandate and resources. Click here for the Time report.

We need more calamity and disaster management and preparedness programs in government offices, business and schools. Expand and increase the drills (fire, earthquake, typhoon, flooding, landslides, etc) and clean-up operations. Make it mandatory through school curriculum. Conduct more regular public drill activities done by the military, Red Cross and Boy Scouts. Legislate dedicated appropriations through affirmative laws and ordinances. Improve the drainage systems and waterway facilities. Curb illegal logging and regulate golf courses and posh subdivision construction. Solve the garbage problem. Explore and develop bystander rescue programs, as we also enhance the regular rescue agencies. Most of all, it is of utmost urgency to seriously build the forecasting capacity and resources of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Service Administration.

The agency's acronym, PAG-ASA, is crying out loud! It means HOPE in Filipino language. The Philippine government should not rob the Filipinos of the much-needed hope for implementing the necessary reforms in disaster mitigation and management.

The upcoming 2010 elections should be an opportunity for the Filipino people to make the government accountable and press the candidates for categorical disaster programs to defend and promote the people's hope!

Resilience does not lose the hope!
Government's ineptness does!

10.01.2009

Loafing

What is loafing?


In the past months, several Ehem anticorruption seminar and anti-fixing workshops discussed at length with much debate the issue of loafing which is becoming a very prevalent malpractice in many government agencies and private sector offices. 

What is really loafing?

Loafing comes from a colloquial English noun "loafer," to mean as someone who spends time idly. This is known from about 1830s, and most probably in the US. While its exact origin cannot be established, many believed that it emanated from an old German reference to a tramp, also known as "landlaufer."

In the modern times, loafing is the equivalent of loitering. But it is more of a bureaucratic behavior (behavior in the bureaucratic or organizational context). Thus, loafing can also mean bureaucratic loitering.

Loafing is generally defined also as the continued and deliberate idleness during work periods that results in the employee's failure to perform assigned tasks manifested by wasting time, slowing down at work, engaging in idle talk or gossip, or conducting personal business during work periods. 

Loafing results in a lot of undesirable consequences that distort the bureaucratic systems as well as the personal and collective virtues of integrity. The most immediate consequence is the delay or slow-down of public transactions, thereby undermining public service. Loafing is thus directly correlated to bureaucratic red-tapes and fixing problems. There are several forms of loafing, which many are not aware of. These include but are not limited to:
  1. Gossiping or chatting while working  (the distracting ones)
  2. Habitual tardiness
  3. Frequently going out of the office for private transactions
  4. Manicure/pedicure in the office
  5. Texting (the unofficial type)
  6. Gambling in the office; the most common form is 'tong-its', 'patad' or 'last-two'
  7. Telebabad (5 hours in the telephone)
  8. Reading newspapers (usually taking more than one hour)
  9. Longer periods of time in the comfort rooms
  10. Cyberloafing (internetting or emailing for private matters; or even gaming)
  11. Longer snack breaks or longer coffee breaks (the 15-min becomes 30-min or 45-min)
  12. Table hopping (related to #1)
  13. Selling goods in the office (Avon Ladies are aplenty in government offices)
  14. Selling insurance in the office (many employees are insurance underwriters) 
Loafing also leads to many complications or other anomalies. For example, loafers resort to OT (over-time work) in order to finish the job. Without loafing, the OT option might not be necessary anymore. 

Another example: when superior officers sell goods or insurance to their subordinates or staff, the latter are compelled to buy since it is difficult to say no to bosses. And remember 'pakikisama'  at 'utang na loob' and even 'pagtingin sa kapangyarihan.' These have a way to creep into our bureaucratic relationship. 

INSIGHTS: In Fixing Society (2007), loafing is also considered a form of stationary banditry; a practice of passive theft or looting by delaying or slowing down the transactions in government, thereby forcing the public to seek out the assistance of fixers. Forms of loafing among frontline employees include spending much time drinking coffee, reading newspapers, fixing the hair and face inside the comfort room, texting in cell phones, or responding to telephone calls. Loafers are considered as stationary bandits. In the Ehem anticorruption networks, what we are saying during our seminars is for people to be sensitive about our vulnerabilities. And part of this is sensitivity to our tendency to loaf. Most especially, loafing becomes more anomalous when we loaf in front of customers or our clients. Imagine reading newspaper, chatting or gossiping in front of a long queue of clients!  So, be aware of loafing!  Beware of loafers! Beware of stationary bandits!

References:

Amorado, Ronnie V. 2007. Fixing Society: The Insider World of Fixers in the Philippines. Davao City: Ateneo de Davao University-Research and Publication Office. 

Social loafing at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_loafing.

9.28.2009

For a change, 2010 now!

9.25.2009

Filipinos Syracuse

It is always nice to see compatriots in a foreign land! This is the first meeting of Filipino Fellows and Scholars in Syracuse, NY. From R-L: Atty. Rene Pacaldo from the Fortress City of Iligan; Mr. Ryan Villar from the Salt Province of Pangasinan; Ms. Jaclaine Mercado of Pampanga, the Land of the Beauty; Lt. Col. Al Jaji of the River City of Cagayan de Oro and Sultanate Province of Sulu; and Dr. Ronnie Amorado of the Durian City of Davao. Rene is faculty of the MSU-Marawi City while Al works with the Intelligence Division of the Philippine Army. Both Rene and Al are Fulbright Scholars finishing their PhDs on environment with the State University of New York (SUNY). Al specializes on environment and conflict, while Rene studies carbon sequestration of willow shrubs as alternative source of energy; he is also studying US environmental laws. Ryan is a Central Bank Fellow taking up instructional designs, while Jac is a Moynihan Scholar taking up international studies. Both Ryan and Jac are taking up their second MA degrees in Syracuse University; both respectively earned their first MA degrees on government administration and political science from the Ateneo de Manila University. Ryan works with the HR Group of the Philippine Central Bank, and Jac a full time scholar. Ronnie is a Hubert Humphrey-Fulbright Fellow doing his anticorruption research at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs in Syracuse University.

The meeting was sponsored by Al in celebration of Eid'l Fitr last September 20, 2009 at the Fuji Asian Buffet Restaurant in Syracuse. As of last account, there are about 13 Filipinos studying in Syracuse.

What is good with meeting compatriots in a foreign land is the joy of a lifeline -- we all easily connect like we have known one another back home. We can also speak our home-grown language, and discuss current events and issues affecting the country. The lifeline actually provides sanity. In the words of Al -- "
magaling ka nga, sige'ng aral, basa at sulat, palaging English, pero para ka na rin namang sirang ulo!"

We plan to hold a monthly Filipino Day, just an informal fellowship day among Filipino compatriots, to provide lifeline and sanity!

Mabuhay ang mga Pilipino!
Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!

9.18.2009

Common good, common greed

Leaders train for the lofty aim of the common good
and then act out in life on the basis of common greed!

- Saul Alinsky (1909-1972)

9.17.2009

Kakistocracy

Kakistocracy

The Italian philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) saw it coming as early as the 1500s, when he declared: “what are we in power for!” This was not a question, but a pragmatic pronouncement about the skill of acquisition and utilization of power that leaders ought to learn, perpetuate and protect. Profoundly, Machiavelli’s evocation depicts the downfall of many great leaders across the globe – among governments, corporations and even cause-oriented social movements. More than 400 years later, the English Baron Lord Acton (1834-1902) unleashed his popular dictum against Machiavellian pragmatism: “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely!

The use of cunning and deceitful tactics in politics and society in general, aimed at protecting and propagating vested interests (can be personal interests, class interests, party interests, business interests), has become a major source of tension as management and leadership theories evolve. The basic tension arises from the lacuna of an operational ethical framework that could have served as one of the firm foundations of effective managerial and leadership styles. This lacuna explains the many controversies and scandals that hound the world’s leaders. Thus, there is a need to privilege ethical leadership as an urgent theoretical and practical tool – a kind of ethical leadership philosophy that promotes integrity, credibility and ascendancy, and that which provides a meaningful normative function for effective managerial and leadership skills. In resonance, Lee Bolman and Terence Deal (Reframing Organizations, 2008) fittingly espoused: “If we choose to banish moral discourse and leave managers to face ethical issues alone, we invite dreary and brutish political dynamics. An organization can and should take a moral stance. It can make its values clear, hold employees accountable, and validate the need for dialog about ethical choices. Positive politics without an ethical framework and moral dialogue is as unlikely as bountiful harvests without sunlight or water!"

I adhere to the belief that intelligence without integrity will result in impunity. Without integrity, intelligence and competence will just become effective instruments for undesirable conduct of managers and leaders. On the other hand, integrity without intelligence will simply yield to mediocrity. Mediocre people cannot serve as good and inspiring leaders. Integrity flourishes best when it works with the other ingredients for effective managerial functions and leadership skills.

Leadership without intelligence or integrity gives rise to kakistocracy – a government or organization that is ruled by the most unprincipled, unethical and unqualified managers and leaders. Kakistocracy comes from the Greek kakistos (to mean worst) or kakos (to mean bad) + kracia (to mean rule, power, government). If unchecked, kakistocracy results in kleptocracy . Kleptocracy comes from the Greek kleptos (to mean theft) + kratos (to mean rule).

Kakistocratic and kleptocratic leadership behavior explains the world’s woes in government corruption, corporate scandals, desecration of rule of law, and even the persistence of illegitimate authoritarian states and despotic rulers.

Kenneth Shaw (The Intentional Leader, 2005) was unequivocal: “Make no mistake about it – ethical leaders are good leaders... most sought after and admired leaders around the world were honest, forward-looking, confident, and inspiring. In most international surveys conducted over the past thirty years, honesty is valued first... because we don’t want to be lied to; we want to be told the truth. We want a leader who knows right from wrong...when we follow someone we believe to be dishonest, we come to realize that we’ve compromised our own integrity. In time, we not only lose respect for the leader, we lose respect for ourselves!"

(Photo courtesy of Irregular Times; visit the site for socially-oriented t-shirts and stickers).

9.14.2009

2 polls closed

Two polls are now closed at this blog's polling station. The first poll has to do with the presidentiables for 2010, and the second poll is about Sen. NoyNoy Aquino. We are completing and closing these polls because of the new political realignments in the Philippines as well as the formal decision of Sen. Aquino to run for the presidency.

We will monitor the coming weeks as new configurations will emerge. Let's watch out for the tandems; this could be our next poll on the 2010 elections.

The first poll is: Who should be the next President of the Philippines?

We have been running this poll for about 2 months, and 64 voters participated in the poll. How did these 64 voters vote?

  • Sen. Manny Villar - 17 votes (27%)
  • Sen. Mar Roxas - 13 votes (20%)
  • Sen. Dick Gordon - 8 votes (13%)
  • Bro. Eddie Villanueva - 5 votes (8%)
  • Metro Manila Chair Bayani Fernando - 4 votes (6%)
  • Fr. Ed Panlilio - 3 votes (5%)
  • Chief Justice Reynato Puno - 2 votes (3%)
  • Gov. Grace Padaca - 2 votes (3%)
1 vote each (1%):
  • Vice President Noli de Castro
  • Sen. Loren Legarda
  • Sen. Ping Lacson
  • Civil Society Activist Nick Perlas
0 vote each (0%)
  • Sec. Gibo Teodoro
  • Councilor JC de los Reyes
Others - 6 votes (9%)

Mar Roxas, Ed Panlilio and Grace Padaca all withdrew their plans in favor of Sen. NoyNoy. Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno is very unequivocal in his position not to run since the very beginning. And other potential candidates are expected to re-align in the coming weeks.

The second poll is: What do you want Sen. NoyNoy Aquino to run for in 2010?

We run this poll for 2 weeks only, and there were 23 voters who participated, 23 souls who believe that Sen. NoyNoy Aquino should:

  • Run as President - 12 votes (52%)
  • Run as Vice President - 4 votes (17%)
  • Not Run - 4 votes (17%)
  • Not Sure - 2 votes (9%)
  • Others - 1 vote (4%)

So these two polls are now officially CLOSED. The other polling questions are still open (we will close a polling question when there is a major change in directions). Just go to the polling station in this blog!

9.03.2009

Laughing Money, Crying Money

For these past years I have been conducting integrity development and anticorruption seminar workshops, this phenomenon of laughing money and crying money keeps cropping up. This is especially pervasive in almost all government offices and has been identified as an important element of the whole gamut of graft and corruption issue in the Philippines.

For anticorruption research, this phenomenon can also serve as a very useful analytical tool. The challenge now is really to conduct more empirical studies and conceptual scrutiny of how laughing money and crying money really pervades and reinforces widespread corruption in the Philippine bureaucracy in particular, and the Philippine society in general.

What is laughing money and crying money? One needs to first understand the latter to appreciate the former.

Crying money, also known as blood money, is understood to cover all and any resource that is due to government, and if somebody steals the resource it results in government loss. Some examples of crying money are:
  1. Public funds, government loans and grants
  2. Taxes, fees, collections, levies, permits, duties, tariffs, excises, tolls, duties
  3. Government time (officials and employees paid by government)
  4. Government supplies, equipment, vehicles
  5. Government facilities, buildings and infrastructure
  6. Government services
On the other hand, laughing money refers to any resource that is not due to government, and if somebody steals the resource, there is no loss to government. Some examples of laughing money are:
  1. Gifts from contractors or private individuals
  2. Tips, commissions and other perks (in kind)
  3. Donations and contributions
  4. Free travels, free club memberships, gift certificates
It is important to note that stealing in both cases are taken liberally, and could also mean in the broader sense. Stealing may imply diverting, undermining, withholding (in the case of public service), loafing (in the case of government time), sneaking, accepting for personal use, embezzling or pocketing among others.

How does this phenomenon of crying money and laughing money relate to or reinforce widespread graft and corruption?

There seems to be a general acknowledgment that crying money directly correlates with graft and corruption since the resource is really owned by government. There is no debate that those who steal crying money are committing acts of graft and corruption, and by so doing they taint their hands with blood (that is why crying money is also called as blood money).

What is more contentious is the phenomenon of laughing money. And many are using laughing money to justify their anomalies and rationalize stealing in various forms and names. But imagine the effect of laughing money in many of these actual cases and everyday experiences of many government officials and employees:
  1. Developing a special treatment to a bidder who gives cash commissions or gifts in kind to the members of Bids and Awards Committees.
  2. Coming up with favored decisions or actions for suppliers whose companies give perks like free plane fares, free hotel accommodations, all-expense paid travels to conferences and vacations, sponsorships to parties and other public gatherings.
  3. Or a favored court judgment in exchange for a big retirement mansion.
  4. A purchaser who benefits from gaining extra appliances for patronizing a supplier; the purchaser's house is fully filled up with all the free appliances from bread toasters to computers to sala sets to washing machines to air conditioning units.
  5. A regulator who gives priority to approve license applications given by fixers, who give additional commissions paid by their clients. Or approves application papers even if they lack documentary requirements.
  6. Favored clients who give gifts and all other goods during Christmas season.
While these and many other similar examples do not imply immediate loss to government, laughing money undermines the government and the public in the long term. People's decisions and actions are affected (or corrupted) by these resources, even if they are owned by private individuals. Private corruption has a way of permeating into public corruption. The blurring effect is as dirty as it can get!

To the extent possible that laughing money involves public transactions, it is still part of graft and corruption. Even if there is no financial and immediate loss to government, laughing money has the capacity to corrupt people's behavior and distort systems. In the end, the same blood that taints the hands of the crying money also stains the face of the laughing money!


See also the Sutton's Law of the Impunity of Profit.

(Photo courtesy of http://www.cerebromente.org.br/n16/mente/mask.jpg)

9.02.2009

War and politics

In war, you can only be killed once,
but in politics, many times
!
- Winston Churchill

Bemused, be amused!

The recent action of Sen. Mar Roxas to give way to Sen. NoyNoy Aquino to be the presidential standard bearer of the Liberal Party is an act of political sacrifice that should earn him some important sympathy votes. It must have been very painful for Sen. Mar, who has invested a lot for the upcoming 2010 elections.

The political value for the emerging tandem of a NoyNoy-Mar candidacy in 2010 remains to be seen from the point of view of reforms and genuine alternative politics. It is also wanting of whether or not the tandem can really unite the opposition (if the opposition is divided, it is the administration that continues to benefit).

But using the lens of analyzing transactional party machinery, the tandem can be a formidable force. Why is that?

Consider the following: the NoyNoy-Mar tandem also means Kris-Korina support. Imagine how showbiz machinery can enhance political machinery by leaps and bounds. And Sen. Kiko Pangilinan already announced to support Sen. NoyNoy, so bring into the equation the Megastar factor, his popular wife-actress Sharon Cuneta. And if the Megastar is added into the equation, rest assured you can also count on the active support of Juday Santos, another popular actress who has stated to join a Pangilinan campaign come the 2010 elections (Juday's campaign in 2007 for another senator was a poor taste, a classical TRAPO!).

The problem is, will Sen. Pangilinan give way to Sen. Mar for the Vice Presidency? If yes, what will happen to Sen. Mar Roxas? Giving up the presidency is already painful; yielding up the vice presidency might be losing face too much. Sen. Roxas is one who will not simply give in to the prospect of obscurity!

So will this be a NoyNoy-Mar versus NoyNoy-Kiko? These are very challenging times for the Liberal Party. The administration party and the Nacionalistas must be delighted, while the other political movements -- reformists included -- continue to bemuse and perplex in their (our) search for the right candidate!

The great Winston Churchill was not kidding when he uttered: “In war, you can only be killed once,
but in politics, many times
!"
(photo courtesy of Inquirer.net)

8.31.2009

New Poll

What do you want Sen. Aquino to run for in 2010?

As President? Vice President? Or you don't want him to run at all? Not sure? Let us see how our compatriots feel and think about the only son of former President Cory Aquino. This is a new online public poll. Go to the polling station (scroll down, left side) and register your votes. There are also other polling survey questions; you might also want to participate if you have not yet registered your votes. Invite your friends, colleagues, family members and relatives, teachers, students and your other networks.

8.30.2009

Niagara

It's awesome! Majestic. Spectacular. Powerful. Blissful. Lovely. The Niagara Falls on one good Saturday on August 22. No words can fully capture the enormity and immensity of this natural resource. An enduring creation! No wonder the first French, Swedish and Belgian explorers in as early as 1600s were all enchanted in their memoirs and chronicles of the Falls located very intimately between Canada and New York. On why they are referred to as Niagara is mostly allegorical, most probably coming from the 17th century inhabitants known as the Niagagaregans. Tourism and hydro-power industry began to boom in Niagara in 1800s, while a series of preservation programs from both countries were implemented in the mid-1800s to early 1900s. Niagara Falls has since become a huge tourist attraction and favorite spot for wedding ceremonies and among honeymooners. I glimpsed on two wedding ceremonies held against the backdrop of the Falls and raging river flows! Very romantic! A popular 19th century romantic story claims that Napoleon Bonaparte's brother Jérôme and his bride came to the Niagara Falls for their honeymoon.

Click on my album here to see more photos of my Niagara experience with my in-laws and family friends. The wallpaper-quality photos are courtesy of Bong Asuelo.

Lovers, honeymooners, poets, painters, photographers, chroniclers, geologists, and plain sightseers from all over the world come to Niagara Falls to experience its awe and magic. Like this poem written by J.S. Buckingham in 1837, it's indeed a gift from the Great Creator!

To NIAGARA

Thy diadem's an emerald, of the clearest, purest hue,
Set round with waves of snow-white foam,
and spray of feathery dew;

While tresses of the brightest pearls float
o'er thine ample sheet,

And the rainbow lays its gorgeous gems
in tribute at thy feet!


And from that hour to this,
in which I gaze upon thy stream,

From age to age, in Winter's frost
or Summer's sultry beam,

By day, by night, without a pause,
thy waves, with loud acclaim,

In ceaseless sounds have still proclaim'd
the Great Eternal's name!

8.28.2009

The Fellows

The proud international Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows (2009-2010) of the Fulbright Exchange Program in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs in Syracuse University, New York. First row: Anita Sarmah (India), Simpson Snoh (Liberia), Addys Then Marte (Dominican Republic), Emma Silva (Ecuador). Second row: Jamel M’Hedhbi (Tunisia), Alexei Ionasco (Moldova), Ronald Amorado (Philippines). Third row: Dong Seok Lee (South Korea), Nimrod Goren (Israel), Joseph Bangura (Sierra Leone), Shouvik Mitra (India).

The Fellows are chosen through a globally competitive screening and qualification system through the auspices of their respective Fulbright country commissions. Each Fellow is expected to make good use of their professional expertise, experiences and dexterity through an exchange program with fellow counterparts from various participating countries. As Fellows, they will be attending special seminars, academic courses, site visits, agency visits and dialogs, professional development activities and professional affiliation activities that are all geared towards attaining their individual program plans for their country re-entry application.

Click here for the bio-sketches of the Fellows and their respective country representation and areas of specialization.

The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs of the Syracuse University in New York is also the premiere public affairs and public administration school in the United States. Maxwell School is the first and oldest public administration program in the country and prides itself of a long-standing tradition of academic excellence in the areas of citizenship, public affairs and public administration. For many years already, the Maxwell School of the Syracuse University has been ranked by the US News and World Report as the No. 1 Graduate School for Public Affairs in the US (and most probably in the world). Top public affairs and public administration practitioners from around the globe come to the Maxwell School for academic degree or professional development.

For 2008-2009, the top 24 Graduate Schools for Public Affairs ranked by the US News and World Report are:

1. Maxwell School, Syracuse
2. Harvard (tied with another school)
2. IU Bloomington
4. Princeton (tied with another school)
4. U of Georgia
6. UC Berkeley
7. U of Kansas (tied with two others)
7. UMichigan
7. USC
10. Carnegie Mellon (tied with 3 others)
10. Duke
10. NYU
10. UChicago
14. American University (tied with 11 others)
14. Columbia
14. Georgetown
14. GWU
14. SUNY Albany
14. UCLA
14. U of Minnesota - Twin Cities
14. UNC Chapel Hill
14. UT Austin
14. U of Washington
14. U of Wisconsin Madison

Click here and here for the reports on the graduate school ranking in the US.

Go forth Fellows! Go forth towards a better world order! Make your country proud of you!

8.22.2009

The Athenian Oath

I have always been fascinated and drawn into oaths and what they dearly hold and represent. An oath is more than just a promise or a commitment. It has some sacredness involved in it. A person making an oath unleashes all his or her honor and dignity. A person who violates his or her oath is a shameful dishonor and a disgrace, unworthy of his or her person (or degree or profession, or accomplishment, or family and religion, or name and reputation). So it really struck me immediately when I encountered the Athenian Oath -- the philosophic oath of all free governments and public bureaucracies, of all visionaries, leaders, managers, planners and administrators from around the globe.

In a nutshell, the Athenian Oath swears to "leave this community better than when we found it!"

The Athenian Oath has become a very inspiring philosophical foundation of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs of the Syracuse University in New York. Being the first and oldest public administration program in the world, and ranked as the No. 1 graduate school of public affairs and public administration in the United States, Maxwell School prides itself of shaping the evolution of public administration theory and practice in democratic societies worldwide. At the crux of this pride lies a very strong influence from the Athenian philosophers in the ancient Greeks from over 2,000 years ago.

The Athenian Oath of the City-State is thus proudly inscribed right at the giant wall by the entrance foyer of the Maxwell Hall just beneath the statue of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), political philosopher and one of the most influential American Founding Fathers (also the 3rd President of the United States) and who wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776:

"We will never bring disgrace on this our City
by an act of dishonesty or cowardice.
We will fight for the ideals and Sacred Things
of the City both alone and with many.
We will revere and obey the City's laws,
and will do our best to incite a like reverence
and respect in those above us who are prone
to annul them or set them at naught.
We will strive increasingly to quicken
the public's sense of civic duty.
Thus in all these ways we will transmit this City,
not only not less, but greater and more beautiful
than it was transmitted to us!"

In the ancient Greece, Athenian men were obliged to make this oath when they reach the age of seventeen. A derivative of this oath -- known as the Oath of the Young Men of Athens and inscribed on a bronze plaque in the Thacher School in California -- also reads:

"I will not disgrace these sacred arms,
nor ever desert a comrade in the ranks.
I will guard the Temples and
the Centers of Civic Life,
and uphold the ideals of my Country,
both alone and in concert with others.
I will at all times obey the Magistrates
and observe the Laws
as well those at present in force
as those the Majority may hereafter enact.
Should any one seek to subvert those laws
or set them aside,
Him I will oppose
either in common with others or alone.
In these ways it shall be my constant aim
not only to preserve the things of worth
in my Native Land,
but to make them of still greater worth."


An earlier version of this oath, known as the Athenian Ephebic Oath (because they made the oath in the Ephebic College in Athens) reads more in elaboration:

"I will not disgrace my sacred arms
Nor desert my comrade, wherever I am stationed.
I will fight for things sacred
And things profane.
And both alone and with all to help me.
I will transmit my fatherland not diminished
But greater and better than before.
I will obey the ruling magistrates
Who rule reasonably
And I will observe the established laws
And whatever laws in the future
May be reasonably established.
If any person seek to overturn the laws,
Both alone and with all to help me,
I will oppose him.
I will honor the religion of my fathers.
I call to witness the Gods …
The borders of my fatherland,
The wheat, the barley, the vines,
And the trees of the olive and the fig."

Long live the Athenian Oath!