IN A FIELD of restored and restricted democracies, and repressive regimes, the Philippines’ so-so score in the 2010 Open Budget Survey is cause enough to celebrate. One of Southeast Asia’s economic laggards, the Philippines did one better: it tops 10 other countries in the region in terms of budget transparency.
This is even as the Philippines scored a measly 55 out of a possible 100.
JAKARTA, INDONESIA AND DILI, EAST TIMOR — With intermittent applause and encouraging laughter, it was almost easy to forget that the imposing figure who had the floor was testifying about his alleged involvement in atrocities committed in East Timor in 1999. The speaker, after all, was the former commander of the Indonesian armed forces, and he was supposed to be a giving a public, factual testimony to the Indonesia and East Timor Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF). Yet given his audience’s nearly jocular mood and his easy manner, he may as well have been recounting his experiences in the 2004 presidential campaign trail.
BANDA ACEH, Indonesia — Rahmi is about 14, but has already lost the world she knew. One can see it in her sad, soulful eyes, and in her inability to smile. And the reason is evident just by surveying what surrounds her here in this northwestern Sumatran city. Nearly a year after the powerful Dec. 26 earthquake struck and triggered tsunamis in several parts of Asia, this once bustling coastal city remains desolate. In many areas, piles of rubble are the only proof that there were once houses and buildings there while in others, muddy boats scattered willy-nilly far from the shore show just how strong the waves that swept into Banda Aceh were. There are also places where the stench of death still hangs in the air, even as a few men sort through the debris.
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