Insulating higher education from politics

There is a medieval view of politics that unfortunately persists in societies like ours: that the winner takes all; that, following the election of a new president, all the key positions in government must be vacated to give way to the appointment of those most loyal to the president, irrespective of merit. Nothing does more … Read more

The production of impunity

The word “impunity” simply means “without punishment,” or exempted from penalty—in reference to acts that normally require accountability and punishment.  In the vocabulary of human rights advocacy, however, the term has a more textured meaning, reflecting the complex challenges that human rights activists have had to face over the years in societies wracked by political … Read more

Handbook for dictators

My good friend, Dodong Nemenzo, professor emeritus of politics and former president of the University of the Philippines, recently gave me an intriguing book. The title alone, “The Dictator’s Handbook” (2011), is sufficiently beguiling, and I couldn’t wait to read it.  But, halfway through the book, I realized it is not just about tyrannical regimes; … Read more

Do lawmakers have a sexual life?

Do lawmakers have a sexual life? Presumably, they do, and they ought to know that this is a private matter.  If so, why would they inquire into the details of another person’s sexual life in the course of the performance of their legislative function?  I suppose the quick answer would be: Because if that person … Read more

The struggle against forgetting

I don’t know which is worse: President Duterte’s statement that the opposition to the burial of Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani is merely a continuation of the personal war between the Marcoses and the Aquinos, or the wording of the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the President’s right to order the dictator’s burial … Read more

The populist backlash against globalization

The globalization of economies and of mass media, climate change, mass migration, terrorism, pandemics, the global trade in narcotics, failed states—these are only some of the most intractable problems we face in today’s world.  Many of them are interconnected, thus creating greater complexity. But, all over the world, nation-states can deal with these only according … Read more

The chilling rationality of the war on drugs

People sometimes think that President Duterte is crazy to be making enemies on various fronts. In the four months since he was sworn into office, he has antagonized the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, the local and foreign media, the Catholic Church, sections of the business community, human rights organizations, and many … Read more

The magnetism of cemeteries

In the early 1990s, long before thoughts of mortality began to cast a shadow on our active lives, my wife and I bought a memorial plan. It was cheap. We basically paid only for a wake and a cremation, instead of a whole package that typically includes a coffin and a patch of graveyard space … Read more

Method in the madness?

In his public appearances here and abroad, President Duterte has been using a form of speech that may be likened to a dialect. He is not talking the way most heads of state talk. Too often, he has employed taboo language not usually heard in public discourse. That is why his official spokespersons—people designated to … Read more

When cops turn into masked killers

We don’t know if Philippine National Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa realizes it. But no other event since the Duterte administration came to power has dealt a greater blow to the credibility of the police in the war on drugs than the treacherous killing last Sunday of anticrime crusader Zenaida Luz in Oriental Mindoro. … Read more