Friday, March 27, 2009

Ethical Campaigning in Philippine Elections?

How does one conduct an ethical campaign for elective office which, for the reform-minded aspirant who wants to win, has to begin in the form of organizational meetings and informal campaign activities as early as 6-12 months before the official campaign period in our country?

Following the description of "transformational leadership" by James MacGregor Burns (see my Feb. 6 blog entry), the ethical campaign is transformational and not merely transactional, for it raises the candidate and the supporters “to higher levels of motivation and morality.” The unethical campaign dehumanizes the candidate, the supporters and even the opponents.

Examples of unethical acts in campaigns are cheating, fraud, unlawful violence, and deliberate misinformation about the track record, accomplishments, and mistakes of the candidate or the opponent(s). Acts of cheating and deception dehumanize, as they disregard the will and rights of the voters.

What are major reasons for the unethical campaigns of many candidates?

1. Weak campaign finance & political party systems (which make candidates vulnerable to unprincipled businessmen, tax evaders, drug lords, gambling lords & criminal syndicates as campaign donors)

2. Bad role models among “successful” candidates & campaigners

3. Pressure from kith & kin (to win at all costs)

4. Difficulty among candidates & campaigners in defining what is ethical

5. Low risk of punishment for violators of election laws

6. Culture of dependency among the masses (for whom the ideal leader is a parent-like authoritarian figure)

Given these major reasons and conditions that characterize the conduct of elections in our country, how can a reform-minded candidate undertake an ethical campaign and win? Is an ethical campaign self-contradictory or an oxymoron in this case?

Ethics is both a goal and a process with higher levels. “Ethics is Pagpapakatao (Humanization): being true to oneself as a human being, being true to the concept of humanity profoundly held by one’s culture, being true to the human in the widest and most universal sense” (Dionisio Miranda, SVD). Humanization itself is a process that takes a lifetime, as the saying goes: Madali maging tao, mahirap magpakatao (It is easy to be born human; it is difficult to become fully human).

As Fr. Miranda, the University of San Carlos President, reminds us, it is not easy to become a mature person, who uses and develops his or her isip (reason) and bait (sense or intuition of the morally good). Morality can be considered a process with levels of morality, maturity, or wisdom.

Thus, in locales where campaigners have been motivated primarily by their candidate’s offer of money, jobs, or patronage, the reform-minded candidate pursues an ethical campaign when he clearly and persistently raises the motivation of campaigners and supporters to, for example, the expectation of projects that will alleviate poverty and raise the quality of life in the whole community or locale. If possible, the motivation ought to be raised higher to that of a shared vision about the locale or the nation and the firm belief in the capability of the candidate to exercise leadership towards the attainment of the shared vision of, for example, a “progressive,” “happy,” or “globally competitive” community or nation.

In locales where traditional politicians have accustomed the average voter to expect money from the candidates, how should a reform-minded candidate conduct an ethical campaign? By simply rejecting the practice of offering money to voters? By adapting the practice and applying it in a selective and tactical manner especially towards the very poor among the voters? Is it possible to raise this practice to a higher level of meaning before it can be eradicated?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

New Structures for Creativity

In "The Power of Words" (in Magis, ed. Queena Lee-Chua), Fr. Bienvenido Nebres, SJ, has expressed the hope that Philippine literature will develop fully to become the third "jewel" of our poverty-stricken nation, whose two original jewels, according to the late Fr. Horacio de la Costa, SJ, are our music and our faith. A full body of literature can bring forth a people of great works and a strong nation, while poverty in literature makes it much harder to overcome poverty in governance, capital, and technology. Fr. Nebres says, "If we still remain a fragmented people, it is perhaps in part because the words (or Word that is to create us) have not been fully uttered or written."

A new structure to enable Philippine literature to flourish is the new law for authors which was signed at Malacañan last March 5. Republic Act 9521 establishes within one year a Book Development Trust Fund for Philippine Authorship in the amount of one hundred fifty million pesos the interest of which will be distributed as grants to veteran and budding authors in all regions of our country. The Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the law will be formulated by the National Book Development Board. Authors and publishers will be invited to a public consultation on the IRR to be announced through the website

The new law brings us closer to the day when a critical mass of Filipinos will have become full-time authors who can secure for themselves and their families a decent standard of living whether as freelancers or as writers attached to institutions or enterprises. Most veteran and new authors find it too difficult to sharpen constantly their skills or to reach the cutting-edge of their disciplines, while they are preoccupied with earning a living through other means. Many potential writers are discouraged by kith and kin who warn that writers rarely or barely earn enough.

Other structures that can contribute considerably to the growth and improvement of both literary and non-literary works are a sound copyright law and its effective enforcement. Without adequate protection of copyright, authors cannot hope to obtain sufficient and fair remuneration from those who use and reproduce copies of their works.

If every author received fair remuneration for each photocopy and digital reproduction of his or her work from every individual or group that made or obtained the reproduction, there surely would be a great increase in the number of full-time writers who would be able to concentrate on their craft, as they would be able to support themselves and their loved ones primarily through practicing and honing such craft. In Australia, copyright-holders receive two (2) cents (approximately 84 Philippine cents) for every photocopied page. Imagine how rewarding it would be for our writers to receive even 10 cents for every photocopied page. Our literary field would bloom with a thousand flowers.

Unfortunately for our authors, fair remuneration for the reproduction of their works is elusive because the 1998 IPC or Intellectual Property Code (R.A. 8293) lacks specifics in its description of what constitutes "fair use" of copyrighted works. Section 185.1 of the IPC states: "The fair use of a copyrighted work for criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching including multiple copies for classroom use, scholarship, research, and similar purposes is not an infringement of copyright….In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is fair use, the factors to be considered shall include: (a) The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for non-profit education purposes; (b) The nature of the copyrighted work; (c) The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; (d) The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work."

In section 187, the IPC states: "the private reproduction of a published work in a single copy, where the reproduction is made by a natural person exclusively for research and private study, shall be permitted, without the authorization of the owner of copyright" except when, in the case of a book, "an entire book, or a substantial part thereof" is what is reproduced. In other words, for research or private study, one is permitted to reproduce or photocopy only a non-substantial portion of a book.

The IPC is silent on what specifically constitutes a substantial portion of a book. Is a whole chapter such? What if the book is a collection of articles, essays, or poems of one author or several writers? Is a whole article, essay, or poem a substantial portion? What if it is a short poem that occupies only one page?

I agree with those who maintain that a whole chapter is a substantial portion. In an anthology, a whole article, essay, or poem, no matter how short, is a substantial portion. But what if a user photocopies one page less than the entire chapter, article, essay, or poem? What if a user photocopies 50% of the chapter today and 50% tomorrow? These are only some of the difficulties in specifying "fair use" and then enforcing it.

The NBDB has drafted a set of “fair use guidelines” that the agency will circulate to educational institutions in order to encourage them to produce and enforce similar guidelines of their own. The NBDB has also helped organize the Filipinas Copyright Licensing Society (FILCOLS), Inc., to collectively manage the reproduction rights of authors and publishers, to protect these rights, and to ensure fair remuneration for the rights-holders. All authors and publishers whose works are being used fairly or unfairly in the Philippines are strongly urged to join FILCOLS. Visit

With FILCOLS, copyright-holders should discuss the matter of working for the amendment of the copyright section of the IPC in order to specify further the concept of fair use and perhaps to legislate fair remuneration especially through a collective copyright licensing scheme that is similar to what is done in other countries.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Law for Authors

Philippine authors and publishers and the reading public have great reason to celebrate.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has just signed into law the National Book Development Trust Fund To Support Philippine Authorship after both Houses of the 14th Congress have passed Republic Act 9521. A milestone piece of legislation in local book development authored by Iloilo City Rep. Raul T. Gonzalez Jr., Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, Marikina City Rep. Del De Guzman, and co-authored by several members of the House as well as Senators Edgardo Angara, Allan Peter Cayetano, and Jinggoy Estrada, this law will provide authors from all regions of the country a reasonable amount to complete their manuscripts for publication.

This law will benefit veteran and promising authors working or researching on topics in which local books are either few or non-existent. There are many subject areas in which local books are insufficient in number and variety, and most of the books in our libraries and bookstores are foreign publications.

According to data gathered by the National Book Development Board, the United Kingdom exported £2.23 million (around Php 155 million) worth of books to the Philippines in 2007. The United States exported US$18.89 million worth of books to this country in the same year. Total US book export to the Philippines in 2008 (US$19.20M) was bigger than its book exports to New Zealand (US$12M), Malaysia (US$9.95M), Thailand (US$10.10M), Taiwan (US$15.06M) and Hong Kong (US$18.88M).

With its enactment into law, a Trust Fund of Php 150 million will be established within a period of one year, and the interest from the Fund will provide annually at least fifty (50) grants to authors in all regions in order to spur creativity and support the completion of local manuscripts or research works for publication.

The NBDB shall be the administrator of the Fund and shall appoint a government financial institution as portfolio manager, subject to guidelines and decision-making mechanisms promulgated by the NBDB.

The Trust Fund will assist authors to produce books especially on science and technology, local history, indigenous children’s stories, and translations of classic works into local languages. This will motivate and support veteran and budding authors to produce new titles or complete their manuscripts.

The first Book Trust Fund bills were filed by Deputy Speaker Raul M. Gonzalez and Senator Loren Legarda in the 12th Congress in 2003.

We thank the President for her competent and active appointees to the NBDB, viz. Executive Director Atty. Andrea Pasion Flores, Dep. Exec. Dir. Frances Jeanne Sarmiento, and Governing Board members DTI Usec. Elmer Hernandez, NCCA Chair Vilma Labrador, DOST Asec. Malou Orijola, CHED Commissioner Nona Ricafort, UP Vice-President Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, Ateneo Professor Queena Lee Chua, and publishers Alegria Limjoco, Alfredo Ramos, and Roland Robles.

The NBDB hopes that the next President in 2010 will also appoint competent and responsible members of the Governing Board who shall be the ones who shall award the initial grants from the interest of the Trust Fund for Philippine authors.