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AsiaGlobal Voices

Trending Opinions From Across the Region

AsiaGlobal Voices is a curated feed of summaries of opinion articles, columns and editorials published in local languages in media from across Asia.

The publication of AsiaGlobal Voices summaries does not indicate any endorsement by the Asia Global Institute or AsiaGlobal Online of the opinions expressed in them.
Time To Move On From Martial Law?
Thursday, September 23, 2021
Time To Move On From Martial Law?

John Leo C Algo, climate advocate and environment researcher, in Rappler (September 21, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes

Time To Move On From Martial Law?

Nearly five decades have passed since then-president Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law. While he claimed this was done to suppress civil unrest and communist threats, it became glaringly obvious that he simply took advantage of the chaos to create a dictatorship that plundered this nation for the next 14 years.

The impact of martial law was so devastating that we are still feeling the consequences today. By the time Marcos was kicked out, the economy was in bad shape from the corruption and heavy borrowing from other countries. Poverty rates drastically increased, the value of the peso went down, and the country's reputation crashed. Truth be told, all of us are still paying for the trillions worth of debt today.

No matter how hard the Marcoses try to make us forget, we remember that thousands were killed or tortured during this time. Their human rights were undoubtedly violated, their families suffered. The dictator's family does not even have the decency to apologize and admit to the crimes.

Nevertheless, arguably the most important fallout from the martial law era is our newfound appreciation of freedom. The restoration of democracy in 1986 gave hope for Filipinos to reverse the wrongs of Marcos, his family, and his cronies, and finally place our country on the right path.

Current President Rodrigo Duterte is implementing the Covid version of martial law right now. Lockdowns, military personnel in places where they should not be, extrajudicial killings, the economy in recession, his cronies getting rich too fast to be hidden.

The fallout from martial law is an issue of national significance. This means that we all are stakeholders, and we have the right to resolve this for good. There is no neutral anymore. Moving on is not an option, not until justice is served.


The US Withdrawal From Afghanistan Signals Rush Into A World of Disorder
Monday, September 6, 2021
The US Withdrawal From Afghanistan Signals Rush Into A World of Disorder

Alex Magno, political scientist and professor at the University of the Philippines Diliman, in The Philippine Star (August 31, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: @AfghanUpdates on Twitter)

The US Withdrawal From Afghanistan Signals Rush Into A World of Disorder

Two-thirds of Afghanistan’s population is aged 25 and under. This large demographic segment has no memory of the last time the Taliban was in power. They grew up in the relative freedom of US occupation.

A Taliban spokesman shortly after the capture of Kabul tried to assuage the world by saying the new rulers will respect the rights of women within the framework of Sharia law. What that meant was never clear. Few believed the Taliban promise.

All the world’s powers and all the international organizations can only watch in horror as the Taliban begins exercising its gory power over an unwilling society. This is, after all, a movement driven by a primitive ideology trying to drag the rest of society back to the Stone Age.

All the secular powers of the world enjoy no leverage over a mindless movement such as the Taliban. But the Taliban, too, holds no leverage against the secular powers of the modern world. This situation will be harmful to the Afghan people most of all. Cut off from the rest of humanity, they cannot access humanitarian help.

To top it all, most of the world’s countries are busy fighting the pandemic. They have every excuse to ignore the plight of Afghans trying to survive a fanatical regime. Most of the countries around Afghanistan have closed off their frontiers, mainly to discourage a flood of migrants they could not possibly sustain.

The revival of US unilateralism and isolationism will imply huge costs for the rest of humanity. Unfortunately for the Afghans and the other countries threatened with terrorism, no other power is willing to step into the abandoned US role. Enough talk of a values-based global order. We are rushing headlong, not into a multipolar world, but into a basically ungoverned international (dis)order.


Relishing Our Feat At The Tokyo Olympics
Friday, August 13, 2021
Relishing Our Feat At The Tokyo Olympics

Joey D Lina, attorney and former government minister and senator, in Manila Bulletin (August 10, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Hidilyn Diaz on Facebook)

Relishing Our Feat At The Tokyo Olympics

The Tokyo Olympics was unlike any other, mainly due to the great uncertainty caused by the pandemic and the amazing performance of Team Philippines.

The host country Japan and all the participants deserve all the accolades for the tremendous efforts to ensure the success of the Summer Games amid fears of another postponement and the Covid-19 restrictions imposed.

Filipinos are thankful the Tokyo Olympics finally pushed through, primarily because of the unprecedented result. The Philippines finally earned its first-ever gold medal, along with two silvers and a bronze.

Our country’s medal haul in Tokyo that surpassed the three-bronze record set in 1932 at the Los Angeles Olympics will certainly go a long way in boosting national pride. Our achievements would undoubtedly inspire the Filipino youth to engage in sports and physical activities. Engaging in sports undoubtedly develops character, self-confidence, discipline, respect for rules, sense of accomplishment, willingness to go through sacrifices. It even helps fight depression and boosts mental health.

There is no dispute about the importance of sport and physical activity. So important indeed that the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) stressed in its International Charter of Physical Education and Sport, adopted in1978: “The practice of physical education and sport is a fundamental right for all.” It also said that “it is clearly evident that physical education and sport are not confined to physical well-being and health but also contribute to the full and well-balanced development of the human being.”

To add more meaning to the Philippines’ achievements in Tokyo, it certainly would make sense for all able-bodied Filipinos to engage in sports and physical activities as soon as the situation permits.


A Depressing State-of-the-Nation Address – then Olympic Gold-Medal Joy
Tuesday, July 27, 2021
A Depressing State-of-the-Nation Address – then Olympic Gold-Medal Joy

Jan Carlo Punongbayan, PhD candidate and teaching fellow at the School of Economics of the University of the Philippines, in Rappler (July 27, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Presidential Communications Operations Office)

A Depressing State-of-the-Nation Address – then Olympic Gold-Medal Joy

As poor as President Rodrigo Duterte's Covid-19 response has been, so was his last state-of-the-nation address (SONA). A sensible president would have started the speech with the pandemic, the most important issue facing the country. But two hours in, Duterte had still not discussed it. He covered benefits and pensions for soldiers and police, the fight against drugs, and his battle with oligarchs and communists. Same, same.

He did not pay much attention to our economic crisis. He did not mention that the economy is collapsing and that we are again the “sick man of Asia”. He did not mention that nearly 4 million are unemployed. He did not mention that inflation is still above 4 percent. He did not mention that millions are hungry. Instead, he boasted about statistics from before the pandemic such as the drop in the unemployment rate, the increase in government revenue, and improved credit ratings. In the minds of Duterte and his economic managers, our timeline is divided into pre- and post-pandemic. They know their record is dismal. They have nothing to be proud of.

Is it obvious that Duterte does not care about the suffering of Filipinos? The address was empty, with no focus – as if the pandemic and economic crisis have passed.

But there will probably still be a pandemic in 2022, or even longer. So if we want the country to get better, let us all vote right in May next year . 

As depressing as Duterte's last SONA was, the mood rebounded with news of the country’s first-ever Olympic gold medal won by Hidilyn Diaz at Tokyo. I cried, to be honest. Faith in humanity was restored. Hidilyn carried not only the barbell, but also the people in a way that Duterte failed to do.


In the 2022 Election, Choose an Education President
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
In the 2022 Election, Choose an Education President

Feliece Yeban, professor of human rights education at Philippine Normal University, in Rappler (July 18, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Nigel Goodman)

In the 2022 Election, Choose an Education President

The World Bank (WB) report on the dismal state of Philippine education triggered Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis-Briones to demand a public apology from the WB for shaming the country. In the absence of national performance metrics data that say otherwise, it is more prudent to take the World Bank report on Philippine education as an opportunity to examine what we need to improve and use lessons and insights from it to frame our expectations of the next president come 2022. We badly need an education president!

The world is talking about the emergence of Society 5.0, or the Imagination Society, where digital transformation and innovation in science and technology combine with the creativity and values of people to solve societal problems, promote wellbeing, and achieve economic development. This emerging society and economy require a pool of human capital with different skill sets that are future-proof, disruption-ready, and innovation-oriented.

The election season is about to start. Candidates must be able to offer concrete education programs that will transition the country’s education system to something that will focus on developing the country’s human capital for Philippine Society 5.0.

The emergency remote learning that the country implemented due to the Covid-19 pandemic gave us a glimpse into the education revolution that is already underway in many parts of the world. We need school leaders who are imaginative and creative, with enough understanding of the new mindset required to transition our system to be future-ready, data-driven, and innovation-oriented. We cannot afford to have school leaders who will do more of the same things.

But first things first, in 2022, we should choose an education president. Everything else will flow from there. We cannot afford to miss the ongoing education revolution.


Never Again Should We Have An Oligarchs' President
Tuesday, July 6, 2021
Never Again Should We Have An Oligarchs' President

Rigoberto Tiglao, columnist and former presidential spokesman, press secretary and chief of staff, in The Manila Times (June 30, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: International Rice Research Institute)

Never Again Should We Have An Oligarchs' President

The death of former president Benigno Aquino III is an occasion for us to learn from history. There were four attributes of his administration that were seriously detrimental to us as a nation.

First, Aquino had a tight hold on media, whose influence on people's minds was even stronger than during Ferdinand Marcos's strongman rule because of its expertise in clothing lies as truths. This was not because this media believed in Aquino, but because they not only were owned by oligarchs who saw Aquino as their own but were managed by Yellow cultists who saw him as the son of their saint.

Second, the Philippine Catholic Church had been Aquino's prime defender and supporter. Never again should we have a president that the Catholic Church fanatically supports. This is the only country in the world where the Catholic Church insists on being a kingmaker that meddles in politics. That should be ended if we are to usher in a modern state.

Third, the US solidly backed the Aquino presidency. US strategists after all love unquestioning puppets, as they are most easily fooled. The big reason the US supported Aquino so much is that exactly at the start of his presidency in 2010, the Obama administration launched its so-called "Pivot to Asia" program, a thinly veiled campaign to reassert its hegemony in Asia, contain the rise of its adversary China, and drive a wedge between it and Southeast Asia.

And fourth, Aquino was the quintessential oligarchs' president. Aquino was even so much the elite's puppet that he adopted a belligerent stance against China to force it to give up its claims so the enterprise of three of the biggest oligarchs could continue its extraction of hydrocarbons there. Never again should we have an oligarchs' president.


The President Must Welcome Full Investigation For Crimes Against Humanity
Tuesday, June 22, 2021
The President Must Welcome Full Investigation For Crimes Against Humanity

Mel Sta. Maria, Dean of the Far Eastern University (FEU) Institute of Law, in Rappler (June 17, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Greger Ravik)

The President Must Welcome Full Investigation For Crimes Against Humanity

The report of the International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda “that there is a reasonable basis to believe that the crime against humanity of murder was committed” in the conduct of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, prompting her to finally ask the ICC to conduct a full investigation, is news in many parts of the world.

If ever it proceeds, President Duterte and all those named in the request for full investigation will be given due process. As the president’s followers would say, “You have nothing to fear, if you have nothing to hide.”

President Duterte must welcome this full investigation not only for the sake of his own name but for the country. Because if he is truly innocent, he will be rightfully vindicated and the country’s tarnished reputation corrected. He should not evade the process utilizing technical grounds. The investigation is good for the country.

There is a saying that justice must be done though the heavens fall. The case of a Philippine president as the subject of a request by an international prosecutor for full investigation for crimes against humanity is historic. Whether or not you are for it, let us all monitor this unprecedented development.


How Many More Body Bags Can We Take?
Tuesday, May 25, 2021
How Many More Body Bags Can We Take?

Beatrice Louise Gabon Santillan, 18-year-old high-school senior, in Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 25, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Robinson Niñal/Presidential Communications Operations Office)

How Many More Body Bags Can We Take?

After my mom had fully recovered from Covid-19, I thought the storm had passed. It turned out the worst was yet to come. On the night of Jan. 18, Covid-19 took the life of my beloved grandmother.

From the moment I saw my grandmother in a body bag carried by a vehicle meant for water deliveries with no memorial service, I knew that more could have been done to save her, and that so many others have undergone the same loss due to our country’s poor health care system and governance. It became clear to me that many people did not have a fighting chance to begin with. I realized that there is a bigger issue at hand.

The other viruses our nation is facing include an administration that is not proactive in dealing with the pandemic, politicians that “help” Filipinos but are really just documenting their actions to kickstart their campaign for the 2022 elections, and individuals who were given priority status in hospitals while other patients died out in the cold. The system has been broken for so long. This pandemic just shed even more light on its complete dilapidation. The leaders we placed into power have not done us any good, nor do they plan to. Their empty promises and selfish actions have only managed to push our nation further into decay.

People often tell me that I am young, and that I have much to understand about the system and how it is virtually impossible to change, but I beg to disagree. I am eligible to vote in the upcoming elections. Although casting my ballot will create merely the smallest change, if at all, it is a good place to start.


Manila Can Be Part of the Solution in Myanmar
Thursday, April 8, 2021
Manila Can Be Part of the Solution in Myanmar

Walden Bello, academic, social worker and member of the House of Representatives of the Philippines from 2007 to 2015, in Philippine Daily Inquirer (April 8, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: King Rodriguez/Presidential Communications Operations Office)

Manila Can Be Part of the Solution in Myanmar

Every day since the February 1 military coup, ‍the people have been taking to the streets in protest in all parts of Myanmar. Over 400 people have been killed by police and soldiers firing indiscriminately on crowds of protestors, or murdered randomly in dragnets carried out by day or under cover of darkness.

The Myanmar coup has placed the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the spot. In a region where the lives of 650 million people are indissolubly linked politically and economically, the old principle of “non-intervention in the internal affairs” of other member countries that has long governed inter-state relations is anachronistic. The governments of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore have recognized this in their historic call for a regional summit on recent developments in Myanmar.

Manila has not yet joined this call, which is really disappointing and ironic given that the democratic political system we have owes its existence to a people’s uprising in 1986.

Apparently, the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte is still hesitant to fully break with its previous policy of refraining from any criticism of the Myanmar government, even of the latter’s inhuman policy of genocide toward the Rohingya people.

Myanmar is at a crossroads. The coup was not a show of strength. It was an act of desperation. A decade of liberalization had given the people a taste of what full freedom would be after decades of stifling military rule, and they will not give up their dream. The Philippine government likewise is at a crossroads in its diplomacy toward Myanmar. It can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. Let it be the latter.


The Tragedy in Myanmar: Where Is It Heading?
Wednesday, March 31, 2021
The Tragedy in Myanmar: Where Is It Heading?

Roberto R Romulo, Chairman, Philippine Foundation for Global Concerns, and Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines (1992-1995), in his column Filipino Worldview in The Philippine Star (March 12, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Prachatai)

The Tragedy in Myanmar: Where Is It Heading?

The desired end game of the Myanmar military coup would be a sham election where the junta’s party wins and strongman Min Aung Hlaing is made president. What the general did not expect was the determined opposition of the brave Burmese people. The junta has increasingly been violent and brutal in suppressing protests.

The US and other countries have imposed sanctions aimed at denying junta members access to their personal fortune deposited overseas and to prohibit doing business with the military-owned companies. Although China has stayed neutral and is watching developments before it commits itself, it has said that it is not happy with what has transpired.

All ASEAN came out with is a bland statement urging “all parties” to refrain from instigating violence and to seek a peaceful solution. Aside from falling on deaf ears in the junta, this was also not well received by the protesters.

The key is the heroism of the Burmese people opposing the junta. They want no less than a regime change. That can only happen two ways: either the world, including ASEAN and with China playing a key role, acts more purposefully to force the junta to back down, or senior government and military officials arise and side with the people.

We must keep supporting the Burmese people to stand fast and we must get our government to act and rouse ASEAN to action, which to date has reinforced the belief that it has been inutile when it comes to human rights and oppression. Taking the unprecedented, but legal expulsion of Burma from ASEAN would give a dramatic message to the junta and to the people, and swing the balance in favor of the latter. They could, of course, always be readmitted subsequently.


No To Misogynists: What We Women Can Do
Wednesday, March 10, 2021
No To Misogynists: What We Women Can Do

Solita Collas-Monsod, broadcaster, economist, writer and minister of economic planning of the Philippines (1986-1989), in her Get Real column in Philippine Daily Inquirer (March 6, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: AlanMotus/UN Women)

No To Misogynists: What We Women Can Do

Let us look at how President Rodrigo Duterte affected the pace of advancement of women. Let us look at his speeches and actions toward women. In this age of information and communication technology, where every little word or action is recorded, you have a damning picture of a man who thinks of women as lower class, or that deserve less equal treatment than men, or just objectifies them.

Let us talk about his remarks in the past four or five years. The worst in my opinion is when he talked to the graduating class of the Philippine Military Academy and made what his spokesperson called “mischievous” remarks about rape. A joke? About rape? To the military? In a commencement address?

As if that were not bad enough, his remarks about women not belonging in the political arena strongly call to mind what the dictator Ferdinand Marcos said, referring to Cory Aquino, that women belonged in the bedroom. The man is in a time warp. He is an anachronism.

The worst of all, though, is his ability to make up any story that he wants about the women he fears or hates the most. Look at the untruths he has spread about Vice President Leni Robredo, Senator Leila de Lima, former chief justice Meilou Sereno, and journalist Maria Ressa – untruths that his underlings took as gospel and fight to present as gospel.

Women have complained bitterly about this treatment. We have talked the talk. Now we have an opportunity to walk the walk. Will we take it? Or are we Filipino women content to accept those who lie, cheat, are misogynists and anachronisms, and cheapen their office and their country with their bad manners and worse conduct as leaders? No? Then start working on next year’s elections.


President Duterte’s Drug War is a Failure
Friday, March 5, 2021
President Duterte’s Drug War is a Failure

Ramon T Tulfo, TV host, radio broadcaster and columnist, in The Manila Times (March 4, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: VOCAL-NY)

President Duterte’s Drug War is a Failure

President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs is an utter failure. The president made wrong choices of officials. The appointments give credence to the truism that close relatives or friends make lousy subordinates or business partners. Had they carried Mr Duterte’s marching orders to rid the country of the drug menace by catching or eliminating the big fish, there would have been no need to eliminate the small fry or pushers in the streets. The big fish have not been caught and are laughing all the way to the bank.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra seems to go against the Duterte administration’s mindset when he told the United Nations Human Rights Council that more than half of thousands of anti-drug operations under the present administration failed to comply with rules of engagement and protocol. That statement was shocking but true.

Had Guevarra been appointed justice secretary earlier, he could have guided the President in the war on drugs. The Philippines would not have become a pariah in the free world had he appointed Guevarra in the early part of his administration.

Duterte was too preoccupied with his job as president to notice the vulgar ways of the police in exterminating heinous criminals. The president should have realized that what was once good and accepted in Davao City where he was mayor can no longer be applied in the whole country.

But all is not lost. The president can still appoint people in key positions who were not his friends when he was mayor of Davao.


Everything Must Be Done To Facilitate the Vaccine Rollout
Tuesday, February 16, 2021
Everything Must Be Done To Facilitate the Vaccine Rollout

Alex Magno, political scientist, in his First Person column in The Philippine Star (February 16, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Minette Rimando/ILO)

Everything Must Be Done To Facilitate the Vaccine Rollout

The first doses the country is receiving from the COVAX facility are due to arrive. A small rollout of our vaccination program has been rehearsed and is ready to execute.

However, according to a government survey, only three in ten residents of the National Capital Region are ready and willing to accept inoculation. Vaccine hesitancy may be the largest hurdle confronting our effort to achieve herd immunity in some form.

There are many reasons for the high degree of vaccine hesitancy. One major reason is anxiety about the economic costs of dealing with possible side effects. Recall that when we began testing in scale, some infected persons sought to avoid testing because if they were found positive, they could lose work days. A few even escaped from isolation facilities and needed to be tracked down by law enforcement agencies.

The national government, local governments and private enterprises have agreed to procure the vaccines and make them available for free. If we charged real costs for buying and deploying the vaccines, too many will seek to avoid inoculation. On top of providing the vaccines for free, it now appears some coverage for contingent costs needs to assured. Everything must be done to ensure a soft landing for the vaccination program.

The fewer hurdles, physical and financial, to accessing the vaccines, the better. Those in charge of the vaccine rollout should not want in creativity to assure access to the vaccines will be as painless as possible. The vaccination program can be trickier than it seems at first glance. We are working with a limited cold chain and we have never before had to inoculate so many people in so short a time. Expect some mishaps here and there. What is important is that we perfect the system as we go along.


A Populist Revolt in the Stock Market
Tuesday, February 2, 2021
A Populist Revolt in the Stock Market

Randy David, sociologist and journalist, in his Public Lives column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (January 31, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Stephan Mosel)

A Populist Revolt in the Stock Market

It has been a crazy week in Wall Street, where the entire financial services industry of the United States, including the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, is located. The place has become the epicenter of a populist revolt being waged by small “amateur” retail investors against those they perceive to be the grand manipulators of the financial markets – hedge fund managers, brokerage firms, gigantic investment houses, and their enablers in the mainstream media.

These insurrectionists of the stock market are mobilizing an army that is driven not mainly by profit but by a passionate resentment against the rapacious few that make money at the expense of everyone else. Their most hated targets are the so-called “short-sellers” – professional investors that make their money from driving down the value of certain stocks by dumping them and then buying them back at a lower price.

Mostly young people who have basically known no other reality but that of the digital world, the stock markets’ new warriors are leveraging their mastery of the internet to challenge the power of the entrenched financial oligarchy. It is easy to mock this development as nothing but the fanciful protest of a digital generation that is out to remake the global order using the virtual weapons at their disposal. 

I am not so sure. If one can imagine a global anarchist movement rising up against entrenched hierarchies – brought together and empowered by an online communication system, and able to operate synchronously across time zones, geographic boundaries, and functional domains – it’s not difficult to see in this stock market revolt a portent of something more encompassing and radical than the “reset” of the capitalist system that the Davos thinkers have in mind.


The US Capitol Siege: Lessons From An Embattled Democracy
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
The US Capitol Siege: Lessons From An Embattled Democracy

Leila de Lima, lawyer, human-rights activist and Senator in police detention since 2017, in Rappler (January 18, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Blink O’fanaye)

The US Capitol Siege: Lessons From An Embattled Democracy

For those who idealized the United States, including Americans themselves who truly believed that America is the greatest nation in the world, the events of January 6 were shockingly unimaginable.

For those who see through the facade of “America the Great” and see the brewing discontent underneath that has gone unaddressed for decades and even centuries, this is but the culmination of the hypocrisy behind American domestic and foreign policies. But this is more than a case of a nation getting its comeuppance. The truth is that every nation – no matter how prosperous or destitute it is – would be built upon the different experiences of different peoples. In the case of the United States, for every millionaire, there are a million who do not have the same economic and social security.

I, for one, am rooting for the United States as always. It may not be as united or as great as it projects itself to be, but it is nonetheless closer to greatness than authoritarian regimes for one simple reason: it has created a space for people to be able to live with dignity. That it is not yet perfect, or not as inclusive as it could be at the moment, is no reason to throw away the ideals it fights and stands for: Democracy, Rule of Law, and Human Rights. In fact, it is more reason to keep striving for improvement and inclusiveness.

I will not make the mistake of counting the United States out. If there is a democratic country that has the capacity to restore balance and become truly great in the truest sense of the word, in the face of so many challenges both within and without, it would be the United States. And the free world would be in a better place for it.