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Philippine Interest in the US President

So, President Barack Obama has defeated his challenger, Governor Mitt Romney.

Outside the sheer excitement over the neck-and-neck race, what exactly is at stake for us Filipinos in this US electoral exercise?

I say plenty. To begin with, it’s the fact that the US elections are taking place. We have patterned our representative democracy after the US’. We see that the system works. Perhaps, we could learn more from this latest exercise in terms of how the elections were actually conducted. While it has been bitterly fought, note that both parties stuck it out on the basis of issues.

There was no personal mudslinging and no vote buying as well. Note, too, how the political parties operate. For many Americans, they are often born into their political party.  They may cross-political lines later in their lives – but the point is that they have strong political parties owing to the fact that politics in the US is still issue-based. How I wish our politicians could learn from this.

Then, there are the few issues that divide the two presidential candidates. Here, I disagree with columnist Billie Esposo who emphatically wrote that there is a divide between Obama and Romney on the issue of Iran. Truth to tell, on the basis of public pronouncements, both candidates said the same thing about Iran – they would heighten efforts to isolate Iran in order to compel it  to drop its ambitions to be a nuclear state.  BOTH, though, have declared that a military strike is still an option. If there will be the use of force against Iran that could drag the world into a third world war, it is not because of differences between the two candidates but because of the consistent American policy – that the US will not hesitate to resort to unilateral force against what it perceives as threats to international peace. Unfortunately, the folly in this policy is that it goes against the UN Charter which provides that use of force can only be resorted to by way of self-defense or when authorized by the UN Security Council.

Where the few policy differences relevant to us here in the Philippines lie are in the fields of immigration, human rights, reproductive health, and yes, China.

President Obama has already issued an executive order halting the deportation of children of illegal aliens who have not been convicted of any crimes and have not attained the age of 30. Romney has pledged to make life hell for illegal aliens. Full stop. Obviously, this is the single most important issue for us because we are today the second largest ethnic group in the US, with presumably the second largest number of illegal aliens in the US. Here, a Romney presidency would have caused sleepless nights to many Filipinos in the US and here. Now we can all sleep soundly.

Next is the role of human rights in US foreign policy. Here, President Obama has denied us American military assistance until such time that the Aquino administration has addressed the culture of impunity brought about by thousands of cases of extralegal killings and enforced disappearances. Here, I’m sure the PNoy administration would prefer a Romney presidency because either way you look at it, Aquino needs the military assistance divorced from the issue of human rights. Aquino has referred to the issue of human rights violations as “left propaganda”.

Then there’s reproductive health. Here, the Philippine Catholic Church and their devotees would like to see a Romney presidency since he has vowed to put an end to all federal funding to artificial birth control, including abortions.  In fact, he has gone on to state that he would want the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs, Wade, the landmark case that legitimized abortions in the US. Here, I am so sure that the CBCP, Tita De Villa and Jo Imbong are still praying for a miracle to bring about a Romney victory.

Finally, there is the issue of China. Obama has consistently said that the US interest in the West Philippine Sea is to safeguard freedom of navigation in area. This is why he has frustrated PNoy since he has said that he will not get involved with our intramurals with China. Romney, on the other hand, would probably be the friend that PNoy wants against China. The latter views China’s recent economic and military rise as a threat to the United States. A Romney presidency would have been  more aggressive against China. Let us hope now that a more aggressive stance is unnecessary with a new Chinese leader, as well.

Raging Legal issues in the United States

WASHINGTON DC — Americans too have been focused on at least two court proceedings. The first is a challenge to President Barack Obama’s flagship initiative on heath care reforms, which 26 states argue is unconstitutional.  The second is the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in a gated community in Florida.

The first is a challenge to President Obama’s primary election promise: To reform the US health care system. This initiative could perhaps be compared to President Noynoy Aquino’s Truth Commission – Pnoy’s flagship promise while he was campaigning for the presidency.

The urgency of health care reforms is well known to almost all Americans. Because health care here is privatized and is run as a private business, the cost of medical care has now proven to be beyond the reach of ordinary people. We’re dealing with two symbiotic industries which are now on the verge of collapse: Health providers that have raked in profits from a profession that was not intended to be run as a business and a medical insurance industry that has thrived as a guarantee against a contingency that otherwise would be beyond the reach of normal people.  The result is the current state of health care in the US: technologically sound but in a state of financial collapse.

The dilemma now is this: With health care so expensive, what happens to those who do not have the insurance coverage required to pay for these sky-high costs?

Obama’s proposal is simple. Because those who do not have medical insurance have opted to pay the cost of their health care themselves or to pass them on to be paid by hospitals, other patients, or the government; they are actually engaged in an economic activity which Congress can legislate on. This is the so-called inter-commerce clause of the US Constitution.  Opponents of the initiative, mostly conservative Republics, argue that those who do not have insurance do not participate in any economic activity and hence, should not be the subject of legislation. They argue that Congress cannot compel individuals to buy coverage so that they can participate in an economic activity that Congress can regulate.

Under Obama’s proposal, all Americans must procure medical insurance by 2014. Otherwise, they are liable to pay a penalty in their 2015 income tax return.

The US Supreme Court has scheduled this issue for a two-hour argument today. It is expected that the US Solicitor-General will argue that the initiative is a legitimate exercise of police power to uphold the public good. With health care expenditure amounting to 18 percent of the entire American economy, the Obama administration argued in its pleading that “as a class, the uninsured shift tens of billions of dollars of costs for the uncompensated care they receive to other market participants annually x x x That cost shifting drives up insurance premiums, which, in turn, makes insurance unaffordable to even more people.”


The case of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin has also caught the attention of the American public. Trayvon was allegedly killed by a white community volunteer, George Zimmerman. Trayvon’s family claimed he was killed simply because he happened to be black. Zimmerman, though, claims that it was an act of self-defense after Trayvon punched and slammed him into the sidewalk.

A month after Trayvon’s killing, Zimmerman has not been apprehended nor charged for the killing. This has led to widespread protest in the US. The debate has culminated recently with no less than President Barrack Obama declaring: “My main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. You know, if I had a son he’d look like Trayvon. And I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves and get to the bottom of exactly what happened.”

Conservatives have of course pounced on the opportunity to hit at Obama with former US Speaker Newt Gingrich declaring that the President’s remark was “disgraceful.” He added: “Is the president suggesting that if it had been a white who had been shot, that would be ok because it didn’t look like him?”

These two cases highlight what we do not have in common with the US despite having the same constitutional tradition. One, there is the trust here that the Supreme Court, despite the fact that majority of its members were appointed by Republic presidents, will resolve constitutional issues according to the letter and intent of the fundamental law of the land.

Furthermore, the outrage stirred by Trayvon’s killing, one which we no longer find in the Philippines with more than a thousand Trayvons in our midst, show a belief, now lacking in the Philippines, that a society under a rule of law should not countenance these killings.