Two faces of despotism

When Ferdinand Marcos proclaimed martial law on Sept. 21, 1972 (the actual date of implementation was Sept. 23), he had only about a year left before the end of his second and final term. But by declaring a state of emergency, he was able to extend his stay in office indefinitely. First elected in 1965 … Read more

Those other days of September

Before Sept. 11 was abbreviated to “9/11,” to refer to the coordinated terrorist attacks launched by the al-Qaida terror group against the United States of America in 2001, the date had been associated in the Philippines with the birthday of Ferdinand Marcos. Born on Sept. 11, 1917, he had always thought of this day as … Read more

The making of a tyrant

When Rodrigo Duterte was elected to the presidency in 2016, he thereby assumed the powers inherent in the nation’s highest office. Those powers were not granted to him in his personal capacity. They belong to the state, and therefore to the Filipino people. Their exercise is subject to certain rules of procedure and requires the … Read more

Politicking in the midst of a pandemic

There ought to be a proper place and time for partisan political talk. No president in his right mind should use his weekly meetings with his COVID-19 team to talk about his political plans when he finishes his term. But that is exactly what President Duterte did last Thursday in his address to the nation. … Read more

Lessons from Afghanistan

One wonders which is worse for a developing country with no economic or military muscle: to be consigned to the margins of global affairs, or to serve as a recurrent battleground of rival world powers. Throughout its long and fabled history, Afghanistan had known that because of its strategic location in Central and South Asia, … Read more

The return of the Taliban

For almost 50 years now, the concern for the safety of Filipinos working in different parts of the world has been our main reason for keeping an eye on global catastrophes. A video call by a local radio or television network to any of our hardworking compatriots abroad would usually give us a sense of … Read more

Probing OCTA

I’m trying to comprehend the rationale for the resolution filed last week by members of the House of Representatives, seeking to probe “in aid of legislation” the credentials, affiliations, and activities of a group of academics collectively known as OCTA Research. The group has made a name for itself by issuing regular projections of the … Read more

Hidilyn’s battle: Woman vs. machine

In a recent interview with ABS-CBN News, Hidilyn Diaz, the 30-year-old Filipina weightlifter who won the country’s first-ever Olympic gold, summed up her feelings thus: “I couldn’t believe I did it… at last I beat China.” She did not refer by name to her most formidable opponent — Liao Qiuyun, the world’s reigning champion in … Read more

Behind the durability of institutions

Administrations — or governments, as they are called in Europe — may come and go, but even the worst of them do not leave lasting damage on society if the institutions are strong. Institutions are the formed routines of collective living that are protected by society’s system of norms and rules. They are the basic … Read more

The teacher factor

In last week’s column, I focused on the role that language of instruction plays in determining learning outcomes, especially in the early years of formal schooling. Numerous studies have shown that learners are doubly burdened when the language used in teaching, say, math or science, is totally different from what they use at home. If … Read more