dakdakerong pinoy

A collection of opinions from major newspapers in Manila about anything, everything. I do not claim credit for most of the articles, images and opinions featured here. They’re funny, interesting, irritating, but I can’t claim that I own the rights to all of them or anything. All content is copyrighted to its respectful owners. If you own rights to any of these opinions, articles and images here, and you don’t want them to appear, please contact me for prompt removal. Thank you.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Is Charter change immoral?

The Manila Times
Is Charter change immoral?

Religious leaders normally shun political tussles unless moral principles are at stake. So they seem to be when stalwarts of the Catholic Church and Iglesia Ni Cristo objected to how the majority bloc in the House of Representatives tried to turn Congress into a constituent assembly to propose amendments to the Constitution.

Despite the shelving of the constituent assembly plan, moral questions about Charter change will come up again and again. Three criteria are paramount in assessing whether political acts conform with moral principles.

First: Is it legal? Laws embody moral principles, as well as policies and activities deemed beneficial to the nation by duly authorized lawmaking entities. If Charter change fails to follow constitutionally mandated procedures, it may contravene justice and the common good the ultimate goals of morality.

Second: Is the action democratic? In a democracy, political processes should allow the people’s informed choice to decide national issues. They should also advance democratic rights, including free expression and peaceful assembly, government accountability and suffrage.

Third: Is Charter change beneficial to the nation? To be judged moral and upright, human activity in any field must serve the common good. If it harms people, deprives them of liberty, justice and truth, subjects them to hunger, poverty, ignorance, disease or oppression, then a given act is wrong.

The legal question

There is no shortage of sound, persuasive and fiery legal arguments for and against every mode of Charter change. Thankfully, our legal system has a sure-fire way of peacefully settling such intense verbal jousts. Not by the intelligence or indignation of partisan sides, but by the interpretation of law by the nonpartisan courts. Not everyone will agree with judicial decisions, but all have to abide by them.

Morality, of course, is not just legality. Indeed, what is legal today could be illegal tomorrow, and vice versa. Moreover, what is perfectly legal may not serve democracy or the common good also variables in the moral equation.

Though it may be constitutional, a Senate-less constituent assembly could be seen as undemocratic for excluding legislators with a national mandate. Also deemed undemocratic is the refusal of two-dozen senators to expedite a process favored by about 40 percent of Filipinos, as properly surveyed by Pulse Asia.

The democracy debate

As with legal issues, both sides in the Charter-change debate claim to comply with democracy’s tenets and reflect the people’s will. The Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) and Sigaw ng Bayan brandish the 6.2 million signatures on their people’s initiative. Opponents claim that people were duped or ignorant about what they signed.

Independent surveys show there were more than enough citizens aware and supportive of Charter change to gather the signatures. Pulse Asia reports that 39 percent of voting-age Filipinos want Cha-cha now, while Social Weather Stations (SWS) says 27 percent know of ULAP-Sigaw’s proposals, and one-third would vote for amendments favored by the President all well above the 17.7 percent of voters who signed the people’s initiative.

Citing allegations of poll fraud in 2004, anti-Charter-change groups want no plebiscite conducted until the Comelec is revamped (but they are willing to go ahead with the May elections, plus a referendum on calling a constitution convention). In fact, hard data affirms the assessment of both the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) that the results of the 2004 elections reflected the vote and will of the people.

Less than 1 percent of the 17,717 election races in 2004 are in dispute or in doubt, according to former Comelec Chairman Christian Monsod. There was less than one percentage point difference between the shares of votes obtained by presidential candidates in the Congress and Namfrel counts. And Gloria Arroyo topped all surveys done by Pulse Asia, SWS, ABS-CBN, GMA7, Radio Veritas and DZRH days before or right after the voting. Notably too, her K-4 coalition won almost 90 percent of all governor, congressman and mayor positions.

Strangely, while those against Charter change insist they speak for most Filipinos, they refuse to let those millions speak for themselves in a referendum, the only constitutionally mandated process to ratify or reject proposed amendments. (Instead, some want to spend many millions of pesos asking voters if they favor Charter change, which even the Senate and the Church say they do not oppose.) Who then violates the nation’s democratic right to vote on contentious issues?

The boon and bane of Charter change

The question of whether Charter change is good or bad for the country cannot, of course, be definitively answered by any length of argument, blaze of eloquence, or deluge of data. Only history will tell whether, say, the federal parliamentary system would work better for the Philippines than the unitary presidential.

What’s needed is a full and free public debate and deliberation on proposed amendments, so voters can make informed decisions on them. Opponents contend there is not enough knowledge because Charter change is being rushed. Proponents in turn point out that the nation has considered and discussed the main amendment proposals for years, if not decades.

The current push for constitutional reform was advocated in President Arroyo’s campaign platform in 2004, incorporated in the Medium Term Philippine Development Plan, Chapter 25, that same year, and launched in her State of the Nation Address in July 2005. By comparison, the entire 1987 Constitution was ratified three and a half months after it was finished in October 1986, with the nod of three-fourths of the electorate, most of whom never read even half of the Charter.

Another moral objection to Charter change are the benefits it confers on its advocates, especially locally elected politicians who will gain power in a federal parliamentary system. Hardly reported, however, are its critics’ advantages under the present dispensation, where nationally elected officials reign supreme.

If Charter change fails, it is not the people who benefit most, but those able to harness big names, big money and big media to win big power.

Now, is that moral?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Feeling poor may make you sick

Feeling poor may make you sick

The results of a recent survey on poverty and hunger by the Social Weather Station (SWS) provoked a rancorous debate in the media.

SWS has been doing this survey every quarter since 1998. Respondents are asked to locate themselves on a socioeconomic ladder. They are also asked in the vernacular whether they have experienced moderate or severe hunger in the past three months.

This survey was done between September 24 and October 4, the period when the economy was on the mend. SWS reported that fewer respondents—51 percent—rated themselves mahirap compared to 59 percent in the previous quarter.

But, as usual, columnists and politicians found fault with the self-rating method. They forget that this should not be used as the only measure, but in conjunction with quantitative data to give a fuller picture of the national condition.

I do not intend to join the debate on methods and intentions except to say that I’m convinced that SWS’s method are scientific and its intentions beyond suspicion.Instead I’ll try to point out the effect of prolonged experience of poverty on a person’s health.

The poor, at least statistically, are less healthy than the more fortunate. For obvious reasons. Their food is inadequate, their surroundings are insalubrious and polluted and they do not have enough money for health care.

But feeling poor, or being made to feel poor, is a more insidious threat to a person’s well-being even if he or she has some means to pay for health care.

Let me explain. The human body is superbly adapted to deal with sudden stress. Those who have been in a fight or flight situation experience a surge of energy. In physiologic terms, this is due to the release of glucose from the body’s reserves, an increase in the heart rate to deliver the glucose to the muscles. If the stress persists, functions like digestion, tissue repair, reproduction all shut down. The immune system is put on alert to stop pathogens that might enter the blood stream. All the senses, including memories in the limbic area of the brain, become sharper. But the toll on the body is very high. Exhaustion follows.

There are scientists who think that poverty, especially long-term poverty, is a stressor. The feeling of hopelessness affects the homeostatic balance of the body. This kind of psychosocial stress could bring on respiratory and heart ailment, depression and gastro-intestinal disease, among others.

The best-known study of poverty as a stressor was done at the University of Nottingham in the UK by Richard Wilkinson. His 15-year study showed that income inequality predicted a number of health issues.

The correlation between income disparity and poor health was particularly marked in the US where income inequality is highest in the developed world.

Wilkinson’s hypothesis found some experimental support in the work of David H. Abbott at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center. By putting monkeys in a subordinate position in a hierarchical environment and at the same time withdrawing rewards from them, Abbott was able to approximate roughly the human phenomenon of income inequality. He found that the deprived primates had a higher resting level of a stress hormone, an indicator of deteriorating health.

Wilkinson’s definition of poverty is much broader than just lack of money. Among the working poor, he discovered that being bossed around, made to do repetitive work, travel long hours brought on illnesses that otherwise would have been less frequent.

The other line of investigation into the connection between inequality and health is being carried out in Harvard University by Ichiro Kawachi and Bruce Kennedy.

Their study is built around the concept of social capital. This includes a number of factors but the most important are the levels of trust and support in a community.

Using a complex statistical method called path analysis, Kawachi demonstrated quite persuasively that the route from income inequality to poor health runs through chronic suspicion of other people’s motives, absence of family support and the indifference of neighbors. These predicted self-reported statistically significant bad health.

Studies on psychosocial factors as an explanation of poor health are potentially valuable for national policies.The SWS has amassed considerable information on self-rated poverty. Perhaps one of our universities could begin looking at the nexus between feeling poor and poor health.Instead of giving the SWS results only a political interpretation, economists and public health specialists could collaborate on an investigation of a psychosocial stressor.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Controversial pictures on Filipino blog get mixed reactions

By Erwin OlivaINQ7.net
Posted date: November 03, 2006

Filipino blogger Bryanboy has angered Filipino Catholic Christians this week after posting a controversial photo in his blog on October 30, 2006.
The photos featured a British man doing a pose in Bryanboy fashion beside a statue of Jesus Christ on a cross.

His post generated mixed reactions on the Internet, including an online petition that labeled the gay Filipino blogger an "antichrist." The petition was addressed to the Catholic Church, and it urged Bryanboy to remove offending pictures on his website.

"He is a disgrace to the Filipino catholic community," the online petition read.
Another popular Filipino blogger Abe Olandres was first to break the news on the online petition in reaction to Bryanboy's latest blog posting.

"I have nothing against Bryanboy and I don't know him personally (though we had some email exchanges before and he occasionally leaves comments on my blog ) but I guess the pictures he posted are kinda offensive to the Catholic Church," Olandres added.

Olandres said this is not the first time he got email from people complaining about Bryanboy and the contents of his blog.

"But it's not my blog nor do I have any control over it. We're on thin ice here," he wrote in his blog.

Another blog, called Political Pinoy, also focused on Bryanboy's latest posting.
"From the readers’ reaction, those who mostly condemned the blog entry are Filipinos and those who couldn't care less are foreigners. If this is about Islam, I wonder if Bryanboy can even strut his stuff out even in their neighborhood. My point is that there should be respect for every religion and culture," the blog read.

Some Filpino bloggers have pointed out, however, that there are far more offensive images and photos of Jesus Christ that had been posted on some blogs by Filipinos.

One reaction to Olandres' blog provided a link to Man Blog, which posted a parody on images of Jesus Christ that have been spreading on the Internet.

Another blog, called Captain's Log, also posted a YouTube video of another parody on Jesus Christ but apparently did not get the same reaction.

A search of "Bryanboy" on Technorati will produce other numerous reactions to the Bryanboy blog and the online petition.

One blogger called "Buwayahman" said that the online petition against Bryanboy was short of curtailing his freedom of speech.

The Baratillo@Cubao blog found this recent controversy amusing.
"All Souls Day has always been associated with the dead and things that go bump in the night. It just seems so appropriate that this bit of news should say boo in the Pinoy blogosphere. The Ghouls and Spooks who authored this petition, last time I looked there were eight who signed, seem to be (a) sipping too much witches' brew, or (b) overdid the dancing naked bit before a full moon, or (c) just in it generate interest. And to a moderate degree it has. Whatever the reason - psychotic, demonic possession, mammon (greed), or just plain 'hobgobliness', it was for all intent and purposes entertainment for Halloween. Anyway that is what I think: A case of on-line trick or treat," the blog read.

Monday, October 23, 2006

What does Richard Gomez have to offer Bulacan as Governor?

High Ground : What does Richard Gomez have to offer Bulacan as Governor?
By William EsposoINQ7.net
Posted date: October 09, 2006

THE word is out—Richard “Goma” Gomez of showbiz—plans to run as governor of Bulacan, one of the country’s most progressive provinces. The current governor, Josie de la Cruz has completed her third term, the maximum allowed under the constitution.

The closest I have seen Goma to be involved in politics was when he played the role of now Senator Serge Osmena in the movie “Eskapo”—which depicted the dramatic escape of the late Geny Lopez and Serge from detention under Marcos during martial law. Outside of that movie, I am not aware of Gomez ever holding public office, not even as administrator of a small municipality.

In the same vein, I am also not aware of Goma’s academic credentials that would qualify him to be governor of Bulacan. The best that I’ve heard about Gomez from a common friend is that he seems to run his business well.

Let’s put all these in perspective first by reviewing just what kind of a province Bulacan is. According to the latest available data on Bulacan province, as of 2002, the province of Bulacan has registered very impressive accomplishments.

Bulacan has the highest population growth in the country. Per the official Bulacan provincial
report, “the population growth rate increased to 4.98 percent by year 2000. The continued increase in the province’s population in the past 15 years may not be only attributed to natural increase but also as a result of the influx of migrants from various points of origin. In addition, Bulacan has become a receiver of population from the Northern provinces.” Migration underscores the presence of economic opportunities. “

The same report gave Bulacan the highest ranking in terms of “Human Development Index (HDI), a measure of how a province has performed, not only in terms of real income growth but also in terms of social indicators of the people’s ability to lead a long and healthy life, to acquire knowledge and skills and to have access to the resources needed to afford a decent standard of living. It is the simple average of the life expectancy, educational attainment index and the real per capita income index. In 2000, Bulacan enjoyed the highest HDI at 0.760. It rose to the top rank in 2000 from ranking fourth in 1994 and 1997 and also recorded the biggest growth from 1997 to 2000 at 8.3%.”

The report further records the “Province of Bulacan with the highest employment figure in the region for the period of five years. In 1995, Bulacan had 668,755 employed who were engaged in various income generating activities. As compared with the 1990 employment scenario, the province in 1995 grew by 41 percent also the highest percent increase among the six provinces of Central Luzon. Based on the National Statistics projection, by the year 2007, Bulacan will almost double its employment figure to 1,315,978 or an increase of 647,223. Bulacan’s employment rate was 91.8 percent, which is 2.60 percent higher than that of the region and 2.00 percent higher than that of the country.”

The industry sector of Bulacan consists of manufacturing, construction, electricity, gas and water and mining, accounting for 30% of the province’s labor force. Agriculture is only 10 percent of the total employment in Bulacan—thus showing a wide economic base.
Bulacan has the lowest poverty incidence among the 77 provinces and is ranked third in the national level including the four districts of NCR.

In terms of family income and expenditures, the current price estimates indicate an improvement of income in the region with Bulacan registering more than half percentage increase (51.6%) from 1997. In the region, in terms of inflation adjusted measurement, only Zambales and Bulacan experienced gains in average savings with increases of 48.6% and 27% respectively from 1997 to 2000.

In terms of literacy, the report states that “Bulacan has a high literacy rate of 98.33%, meaning 2.23 million of the population are literate. Large-scale exposure to media enhances communication skills and marketing reach. The province has highly educated, highly trainable workforce, highly skilled craftsmen, designed oriented and entrepreneurial skilled people.”
The language used in the province is predominantly Tagalog. Most of the people in Bulacan can speak English. Other dialects used by the town folks are Waray, Ilocano, Bicolano and Kapampangan.

Obviously, Bulacan Province is no disaster zone that is looking for a “hero” to rescue it. The people of Bulacan have more than the usual reasons than most Filipinos to be considered a happy people. So what exactly is Richard Gomez thinking by running for Bulacan governor?
We can easily see why Quezon City mayor Sonny Belmonte is such a super success—in fact Sonny is my top of the list of who should be our next president—when we check what Sonny has accomplished before he became Quezon City mayor. Outside of Goma’s movies and fencing activities, what does he have to offer by way of credentials and qualifications to be entrusted the governorship of one of the bright spots of the country?

I am willing to give Goma the benefit of the doubt that he may have noble and patriotic intentions in desiring to be Bulacan governor just as I did not question FPJ’s reputation for kindness and humanity when he ran for president. But good intentions are not good enough. There are millions of Filipinos out there also with good intentions but not all of them can be entrusted with the local government leadership of Quezon City or Bulacan Province and expect that they will deliver like a Sonny Belmonte or a Josie de la Cruz.

Joseph Estrada at least had the decency to present credentials to back his aspiration to be president. Estrada became the mayor of San Juan and in fact made a good impression on San Juan residents as mayor which is why he was always re-elected to that post. He then became a Senator and Vice President. It is tragic how Estrada turned out to be a disappointment to the masses that pinned its hopes on him for economic relief.

FPJ had more popularity and current fame at that when he ran for president in 2004. But his presidential campaign did not have the excitement of the Estrada 1998 candidacy because FPJ lacked the bona fides to be considered as fit to be president. Richard Gomez finds himself in the same category as FPJ. He just does not have the qualifications and track record to be seriously considered as replacement for an excellent governor of a performing province like Bulacan.
Goma’s popularity and whatever promise of public service may be acceptable if he is to run for councilor of a major Bulacan town or even mayor of a small Bulacan municipality. But from the movie and television screen to such a high office as Bulacan governor—Goma is way out of his league.

Popularity does not account for qualifications to public office. Popularity as political capital for public office sans qualifications is just another side of the exploitation coin that we associate with our traditional politicians.

You may email William M. Esposo at: macesposo@yahoo.com

Time for decision

Posted date: October 23, 2006

THIS week the Supreme Court will make one of its most momentous decisions in the 60 years since the country regained its independence. It will rule on the people's initiative case that will decide whether there would be a change from the presidential to the parliamentary system of government.

Understandably, there is pressure from both sides: from groups for and against revising the Constitution through a signature campaign or people's initiative. Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban triggered a round of public debate when he disclosed that the Court had received "some pressure," although he said it would not affect the independence of the high court.
Later, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez joined in with his two cents' worth of advice, and urged the Chief Justice to avoid socials where politicians are present and to be wary of nosy reporters. Strange advice, this, coming from a government official who has often given his comment on almost any topic under the sun, including on those subjects where prudence would have dictated that he should keep quiet if he could not say anything that would advance his country's and countrymen's interest.

Speaker Jose de Venecia said that the country's future depends on how the people's initiative case is resolved. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo also fired a parting shot, saying at the gathering of chief justices that "a change in politics must be accompanied by a change in our system of government."

Now that almost everybody has had his or her say, we hope that this week the interested people and groups would keep quiet and allow the Supreme Court to deliberate on the case in peace. The members of the Court are used to receiving pressure, but still, constant badgering can be irritating and disconcerting.

There has been a suggestion that the five most senior justices of the Court recuse themselves from the case. Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan, who made the suggestion, said that by recusing themselves, the justices would be spared the awkward situation where the appointment of the new Chief Justice would be perceived as a reward for taking a stand in favor of the President.

We do not think there is need for this. It is presumed that the senior justices are all persons of strong character and integrity who can resist all kinds of pressures and temptations to rule in a case one way or the other.

We do not believe, either, that the mere fact that 10 of the justices are appointees of the President will affect the way they will rule on the case. Their recent record suggests that they are independent-minded, and will not be pressured to favor one group or the other. They all voted against Malacañang on Presidential Proclamation No. 1017, which placed the country under a state of national emergency; Executive Order No. 464, which barred officials from testifying in Congress without the President's approval; and the calibrated preemptive response policy which prohibited rallies without permits.

Having five (the senior justices) or 10 justices (the President's appointees) recuse themselves could affect the outcome of the voting on a case that has great implications for the future of the country. And having only five or 10 justices voting in a case of such great importance would not look good. We say, let all of the justice participate in the deliberations and the voting. The nation could benefit from their judicial wisdom and statesmanship.

The resolution of this case is the last chance to amend the Constitution and bring about a change in the system of government this year or in the near future. The option of convening Congress as a constituent assembly is already out because the Senate would certainly not want to be legislated out of existence. At this point, it is too late to call a constitutional convention. Besides, it would be expensive and it would take a long time to amend the Constitution.

Now that the smoke of the verbal battle over people's initiative is dissipating, we hope that the justices of the Supreme Court will see their way clear to making a decision that will benefit not just certain persons or groups but the nation.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The rewards dwarf the risks

Commentary: Cebu Daily News
Posted date: October 17, 2006

Losers shy away from doing business in the Philippines because of the risk. Winners rush to get into the Philippines precisely because of the risk that promises extraordinary rewards.

What do the winners see in the Philippines? Consider the following:
  1. The Philippines has a population of 85 million. That means selling a lot of hamburgers, cell phones, sodas, toothpastes, laundry and bath soaps, pizzas, shirts, and trousers.
  2. Statistically-derived predictions had forecasted an economic collapse in 1983, following the economic slowdown that resulted after the assassination of Benigno Aquino Jr. But this did not happen because of native Filipino resiliency and its enterprising outgrowth known as the underground economy.
  3. The Philippines boasts of an enviable combination of manpower and natural resources. Among Asians, Filipinos are one of the most proficient in the English language, and word-class professionals and skilled workers. Mining is just one of the natural resources of the country that is attracting foreign investors. Deuterium, the future of energy, is said to be in enormous quantity in the Mindanao deep.
  4. A long tradition of respect for elders in a culture that is predominantly Christian, combined with the Filipinos’ gentle and warm nature, prime them to be among the world’s best workers in professions that require care and nurturing.
  5. Filipinos like to spend. This does not impact well on the capability of the country to generate domestic savings for investments but it does affirm the viability of Filipinos as a promising consumer market.
  6. The lack of infrastructure is in fact an enormous source of business. In the 1980s, telecommunications was cited as one of the great barriers that discouraged investors. From the 1990s up to today, telecommunications has been the most profitable and consistent moneymaker.
  7. The Muslim and Communist insurgencies are confined to localities far removed from business areas. They do not seek out tourists and businessmen whether they are American or other nationality.
  8. The Filipino has what it takes to be a winner. Before Ferdinand Marcos became president in 1965, the Philippines enjoyed an economy that was second only to Japan in Asia. Greatness is not alien to Filipinos though sadly, this may not be said of its current crop of leaders. To overlook the sheer potential of the Filipino is to overlook the single biggest winning factor in doing business in the Philippines.
  9. The norm of evaluating success by track record or statistical and quantitative analysis will not spot the more important qualitative intangibles that make a whole world of difference in business success. Henry Ford was not backed by a track record when his first automobiles rolled out of Ford Motors. The formula remains unchanged: instincts plus creativity make up the foundation for momentous ventures.

William Esposo, INQ7.net

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Creating more foes

EDITORIAL: The Daily Tribune
Click to enlarge

Any which way it is cut, Gloria and her hawks miserably lost out in the Jojo Binay-Makati city hall fight and lost out too in her moves to eliminate the opposition leaders though her gross abuse of executive power.

Her retreat merely showed her continued fear of being ousted through a people’s revolt, and revealed too, that her military is not as solid as claimed by her and the military leadership.
So the Court of Appeals handed a temporary restraining order (TRO) to resolve the Makati crisis which Gloria herself created by ordering the suspension, not just of Mayor Binay but the entire Makati officialdom, but everyone and his uncle certainly don’t buy the line it was not Gloria herself who got the CA to issue a TRO, as a solution to the crisis, because she knew that not only would Binay fight his illegal suspension out, but also that the political opposition — along with various anti-Gloria groups which have grown in number — was united in this move that Gloria realized would well be the trigger that would finally do her in. There was already detained leader Joseph Estrada, issuing a call to the masses to rally behind Binay and show their collective outrage — and against Gloria.

What Gloria did was to create more enemies through her stupidity and her display of naked power.

What Binay also showed, especially as he was dressed in a Marines outfit — and this display was not lost on the police and military — was that illegal orders are to be fought, and should not be followed blindly.

If Binay’s was the first case of local officials’ wholesale suspension, there would have been doubts that the CA issued a TRO with instructions from Malacañang. But there was the precedent case of Pasay City Mayor Wenceslao “Peewee” Trinidad, his vice-mayor and his councilmen, where the CA junked their TRO petition. It will also be recalled that even as the TRO on the Pasay City vice mayor was lifted, Malacañang quickly issued another suspension order on him, to circumvent the CA ruling.

In the case of the opposition Makati officials whom Gloria knew too late she could not eliminate in the same Trinidad manner, it was evident that the TRO was granted with the blessings of Gloria and her Malacañang.

After all, why should an appellate court take forever to grant the petitioner a TRO, which should be decided on quickly by the court by its very urgent nature? From the start, the Makati crisis was evident, yet it took the CA division sometime, despite a supplemental petition, to issue a ruling. A TRO, it should be pointed out, is a temporary move, to give both sides time and opportunity to argue their cases. Besides, in the case of Binay, it was very evident that the charges of hiring ghost employees were not backed by evidence and worse, the suspension order clearly went against the rules and any justice could see that. Why the delay then, in issuing the TRO?

The speculation was that the CA was waiting for signals from Malacañang on how to handle the Binay petition for the TRO. And when the crisis became a nightmare come to life for Gloria, she and her aides moved to save their political hides through the CA ruling granting Binay the TRO.
That the military leadership feared the soldiers would eventually join in a massive revolt was evident, when the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman announced the military is prohibited to engage in partisan politics and that the AFP should be insulated from politics. In the same breath, however, he said sanctions would be meted out to any soldier who would join the rallies and come to the aid of Binay. He then adds that no one would, because the soldiers condemned Binay’s style of wearing the Marines outfit the wrong way. The spokesman added that Binay could face charges too.

When the spokesman says no soldier should come to the aid of Binay, or that he was being condemned by the soldiery, or that Binay would be facing the military court for his use of the Marines dress wear, that is already engaging in partisan politics.

Why even bring this up when the spokesman could just have said the AFP will be there to augment the police force in Makati and ensure, along with the police, that order rules? For that matter, if he was being honest, soldiers are not even supposed to join up with the police, since the Makati crisis was strictly a police affair — if it came to blows.

The military spokesman’s comments merely showed just how politically partisan the AFP leadership is, and disclosed as well, the military leaders’ fear of their loss of control over the soldiery.

They certainly know that if Gloria is ousted, so will they be.

Missing the boat

Opinion: ABS-CBN News
October 21, 2006
Missing the boat

Friday’s concluding ceremonies of the annual Philippine Business Conference cap two weeks of forums organized by the business community meant to identify issues it believes the government must address to lift the country’s competitiveness.

Over the past two weeks, we have read a slew of proposals from organizations ranging from the Makati Business Club to the Foreign Chambers of Commerce of the Philippines and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Their overarching message is simple: the Philippines is again falling behind its neighbors at a time when Asia has regained its footing and is poised for takeoff.

The signs of an Asian revival have been with us since last year, when key economies in the region posted decent growth rates on the back of a rising China and a resilient US economy. During the recent Asean Economic Ministers’ Meeting, the 10-nation group unveiled a commissioned study showing that foreign direct investments in the region have returned to pre-Asian crisis levels. Key beneficiaries of this renewed foreign interest in Southeast Asian businesses are the tourism, export, medical, infrastructure and business process outsourcing sectors.

Unfortunately, not every country in the region is growing at the same pace, as old unresolved issues have returned to haunt those markets where reform failed to make any headway. The Philippines is one such market, where a huge gap between actual performance and potential still exists. The latest World Bank study on the ease of doing business highlighted again the cost of the Philippines’ inordinate preoccupation with politicking. The bank’s annual review showed that the government failed to institute meaningful reforms to facilitate business in the country, as none of the 10 key bottlenecks identified in the study had been addressed since last year.
Consequently, investors chose to plunk a bigger share of their money in other less-complicated markets. A recent United Nations survey showed that the Philippines’ attractiveness as an investment-destination dropped 12 notches from 103rd place last year to 115th this year. True, renewed investor interest across Asia has lifted all boats in the region, but the Philippine ship remains moored on the rocks of inefficiency.

The key, as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have noted, lies in improving the country’s infrastructure—be it transportation, communication, energy and the like—and its governance structure. The underlying issue is to provide businesses with some measure of predictability, allowing them to earn decent returns on their investments, and in the process generate jobs and other business opportunities that would spread the dividends of investment to all Filipinos.

True to form, participants in the just-concluded 32nd Philippine Business Conference drew up for the nth time a list of must-do measures that the government should pursue to make every Filipinos’ aspirations to a better life a reality. As we suspected, the list, although containing some minor revisions, comprised by and large the same set of issues the business community has been raising every year.

We sympathize with the businessmen who every October, have to troop to the same meeting rooms to air their age-old complaints about how this country is not being run as it should be. The timing cannot be more apt, as growth in the Philippines’ key markets, primarily the US, has been slow in the near term. With expansion set to slow, investors naturally would be pickier on where to spend their scarce resources. In this regard, we cannot overemphasize the need for the government to immediately work on improving the country’s infrastructure and governance systems. Filipinos cannot afford to miss the rising tide of Asian affluence again.

The blight of billboards

SEPARATE OPINIONSeparate Opinion : The blight of billboards
By Isagani CruzColumnistInquirer
Posted date: October 21, 2006

LIKE many other columnists, I also wrote against billboards and asked that they be banned. In fact, I did it twice, the first on March 3, 2003 and the second on Oct. 23, 2004. Nobody listened until Typhoon “Milenyo” howled the message loud and clear. Now everybody is blaming the government for having done nothing. The advertising lobby must have been tremendous.
Somebody even suggested that banning the billboards might violate freedom of expression, which also applies to advertisements. True, but even this precious freedom is subject to the police power. This is briefly defined as the inherent power of the State to promote the public welfare by restraining or regulating the use of liberty and property.

Because of the increasing complexity of the modern society, the reach of the police power has correspondingly expanded. Activities or things regarded before as exclusively private are now considered subject to government regulation as long as they affect the public interest directly or even only indirectly.

In People v. Pomar, 46 Phil. 440, decided in 1924, the Supreme Court held that an employment contract was a private agreement that could not be controlled by the State even for the purpose of protecting the worker. Now such intrusion is allowed and even required under the social justice policy. The compulsions of the police power have practically repealed the prohibition against the impairment of the obligation of contracts also mandated in the Bill of Rights.
The General Welfare Clause so familiar to law students enumerates but not exclusively the matters affecting the public interest and therefore subject to the compulsions of the police power. These include the people’s right to health and safety, peace and order, comfort and convenience, morality, economic prosperity, cultural enrichment, technological and scientific advancement, among many other desiderata of good government.

As early as in the 1915 case of Churchill and Tait v. Rafferty, 32 Phil. 581, our Supreme Court had already held that the promotion of aesthetic values was also within the embrace of the police power. Interestingly, the subject was billboards, and the question was whether or not the government could prohibit them when offensive to the sense of sight. The Court said it could.
To begin with, it held that although billboards were erected on private property, their usefulness depended on their attractiveness to the people on the public highways. “Ostensibly located on private property,” Justice Trent observed, “the real and sole value of the billboard is its proximity to the public thoroughfares. Hence, we conceive that the regulation of billboards and their restriction is not so much a regulation of private property as it is a regulation of the use of the streets and other public thoroughfares.”

On the more serious issue of the purpose of the restriction, the Court had the following to say:
“Without entering into the realm of psychology, we think it quite demonstrable that sight is as valuable to any human being as any of his other senses, and the proper ministration to this sense conduces as much to his contentment as the care bestowed upon the sense of hearing or smell. Objects may be offensive to the eye as well as to the nose or ear. Man’s aesthetic feelings are consistently appealed to through his sense of sight… Why, then, should the Government not interpose to protect from annoyance this most valuable of man’s senses as readily as to protect him from offensive noises and smells?”

The present campaign against billboards affects not only the people’s artistic sensibilities but the hundreds of lives that may again be lost or injured and the millions of pesos of property that may be destroyed by the fury of another typhoon like the recent Milenyo that devastated many parts of Luzon. And let us not forget the natural beauty of the trees and the verdant landscapes concealed from the appreciative eyes of the beholder by the obtrusive billboards.

Praise then to civic-spirited citizens like Consuelo D. Sison who at age 86 still had the energy and resolve to persuade the government of Quezon City to adopt a new ordinance to impose stricter measures against the resurgence of billboards. These nuisances have exposed, at a terrible loss of lives and property, the unctuous obedience of our government to the demands of commercial advertising over the higher interests of the people.

Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chair Bayani Fernando should not be included among his mercenary colleagues because he is the most militant opponent of the blight of billboards. Many if not all of the local officials in Metro Manila, especially those from the cities most uglified by billboards, have not exercised similar concern for their constituents, probably because of the more persuasive inducements of the billboard advertisers.

The removal of the billboards will deprive red-blooded Filipino males of the joy of gawking at the beautiful billboard models selling lingerie and tractors. What I will especially relish is the tearing down of those billboards advertising an insurance company with the commonplace face of a man who probably thinks he has the same magnetism as a seductive young starlet.

Rice and pork

EDITORIALEditorial : Rice and pork
Posted date: October 21, 2006

AFTER years of feasting on pork, lawmakers seem to be making sure there will be rice to go with it this time. Aside from a bigger pork barrel, the Arroyo administration and its allies in the House of Representatives have allocated some P3 billion for a “feeding program” to be carried out in public elementary schools this year. For next year, the amount will be raised to almost P5 billion under the appropriations billed approved by the House. Under this program, instead of the “nutribun,” rice will be rationed to schoolchildren not only to reduce the incidence of malnutrition, but also to encourage class attendance.

Sen. Edgardo Angara had a mouthful to say about the program. He said it would not address the problem of malnutrition among children; it is a “disguised rice importation program using the schoolchildren as a façade,” and favoring importers who support the government; it is another huge pork barrel to be used for buying votes next elections.

Sen. Alfredo Lim agreed: “The long and short of it is, this [feeding program] is for the buying of votes.” It is “electioneering,” in violation of the Omnibus Election Code, he added.
Instead of defending the program, Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya lashed back at Angara. “It’s a program that in its inception Senator Angara put in an amendment. He gave inputs and this program has now become the milk-and-breakfast program. So how can that be a scam?”
It would not be surprising if the suspicions of the two opposition senators are proven right. After all, this is an administration that, after grabbing the reins of power in 2001 under the banner of good governance and transparency, has been most remarkable for “missing” public funds, its aversion to accountability, and its doggedness in blocking investigations of irregularities linking any of its officials. And there are enough grounds to justify Angara’s and Lim’s anxieties. For one, the multibillion-peso feeding program reminds us of, among many other things, the P728-million fertilizer fund and the recovered $683 million (P38 billion) Marcos wealth, most of which reportedly vanished during the 2004 elections. For another, very few congressmen have shown any aversion to dipping their fingers into any project, especially when big sums are involved.
Then, too, the members of the majority coalition of the House of Representatives are known to love playing the “numbers game,” a game they played masterfully in the impeachment case against the President. They continue to flaunt their superior number in their campaign to change the Constitution. The feeding program is another opportunity for them to play the game -- this time to preserve their ranks.

In the budget for 2007 approved by the House, the congressmen have already “restored to their pre-2004 levels” (read: increased) the pork barrel allocations -- from P40 million to P70 million for each House member, and from P120 million to P200 million for each senator. Deputy Speaker Gerry Salapuddin and Rep. Eduardo Veloso of Leyte province justified the increase in a joint statement as “fair, not for election purposes, but for the government to pay back the people … for all their sacrifice to help save the country from its fiscal woes a couple of years ago.”

But were the people really deprived of their “due” when the pork barrel was supposedly slashed by P30 million during the last two years when the huge budget deficit was threatening to sink the economy? Not really, if we go by the unabashed admission of Rep. Joey Salceda of Albay province that pro-administration congressmen got P30 million more from Malacañang during the “lean” years. And it was certainly not just coincidence that those who got the added largesse were the same lawmakers who had closed ranks behind the beleaguered chief executive. In fact, those increased pork-barrel allocations had “payback” written all over them.

Salapuddin and Veloso assured the public that the increase in their pork barrel is “not for election purposes.” But at least Salceda is more honest. “I think the restoration is reasonable, next year being an election year,” he said.

With the larger congressional pork barrel supplemented by the rice distribution program, the outcome of next year’s elections is cooked -- in favor of the incumbent lawmakers, of course.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Gloria’s freakonomics

Editorial: The Daily Tribune

The World Bank (WB) representative in the country expressed amazement and at the same time frustration, which is shared by many, over why the Philippines, with all its attributes, remains an economic underperformer in the Asian region.

The country’s economy had grown six percent at its best for the entire period Gloria was in power and averages five percent from 2002 to 2005. The country’s yearly growth figures fall below par in the entire Southeast Asian region.

The country’s yearly growth, moreover, is largely being aided by dollar transfers from Filipinos whom Gloria is pushing away by the truckloads every day to work abroad.

The policy under the Arroyo administration is to continue depending on remittances for growth, something which is convenient for Gloria since billions of dollars in remittances every year are insulated from her poor economic policies.

Exports and productivity, which are the anchors of growth in other neighboring economies, have slipped progressively during her term to reflect the neglect the domestic economy has fallen into in terms of policies under Gloria’s watch.

In the ongoing Philippine Business Conference (PBC), trade groups would again, as what they do yearly, gather and try to make sense out of the economy which seems to be dragging on its way with heavy feet.

It does not take a bright mind, however, to know what has shackled the economy over the years to make it move below potential, as WB country director Joachim Von Amsberg said during the gathering.

Gloria, who moves about trying to remind everybody that she has a doctorate degree in economics, has been the main obstacle to growth over the years.
Government policies under her term change direction based on where the political wind and personal favor blow.

Von Amsberg said what the economy lacks to move in the same velocity as its Asian neighbors is coherent and consistent implementation of policies.

A prime example of Gloria’s policy inconsistency was the government’s tack on the confirmed oil reserves at the Malampaya natural gas field.

Gloria signed Executive Order 473 on November 2005 that, among others, gave the state firm Philippine National Oil Co. (PNOC) the task to develop the Malampaya oil field.

The executive order gave PNOC the option to employ a partner or a third party for the oil drill. With PNOC already in discussion with a Malaysian group for the project, Gloria issued Executive Order 556 which repealed EO 473 and now ordered all oil contracts involving Malampaya to be auctioned off.

There are a lot of other instances when private firms are thrown off balance by the ever-moving policies under Gloria.

Von Amsberg also cited in his keynote speech before the business conference that consumption spending is mainly fueling the economy and was the highest contributor to an economy in the region, accounting for 86 percent of average growth in 1991 to 2003.

Consumption spending is mainly the result of remittances from overseas Filipino workers.
Investment and net exports, which are the main cogs of development, have made the lowest contribution to growth.

He noted that dollar inflows from migrant workers should not be the main fuel of the economy of the Philippines which has much assets for development.

The output per worker in the Philippines was up by only 50 percent from 1961 to 2003, compared to 450 percent in other East Asian economies.

“This is not due to differences in educational attainment or human capital but to lower physical capital accumulation and productivity growth,” Von Amsberg said. He asked the question nagging all those living or who have been in the country.

With an educated English-speaking people, rich natural resources and strength in dynamic sectors, electronics, business services and remittances, why has the economy failed to fly?
Von Amsberg should have addressed the question to the political and economic aberration who is occupying Malacañang.

Political doctrine resurrected?

Editorial: Malaya

‘The Panganiban court, we would like to believe, is made up of men and women of courage and principle.’

Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban has said the members of the Supreme Court are under pressure on the people’s initiative petition to amend the 1987 Constitution. He said the pressure is understandable because many will be affected whichever way the decision goes. He said, however, the members have learned to live with the pressure that goes with their jobs. He gave the assurance extraneous influences would not affect the decision of the justices.

Panganiban gave no hint as to where the pressure is coming from. But there’s no need to guess. The anti-charter change groups have absolutely no leverage. Only the Palace is in a position to bend the ears of the justices.

Talks are that a close ally of President Arroyo has been approaching senior members of the tribunal, dangling the post of Panganiban who is retiring in December as the prize for delivering the case. The fly in the ointment is that the justices have been exchanging notes and at least five have admitted before their colleagues they had been offered the chief justice post.

We are not surprised. The case of the Cha-cha advocates faces practically insurmountable obstacles. First they have to show that the Commission on Elections committed a grave abuse of discretion in throwing out the people’s initiative petition, an act which is in consonance with an SC prohibition against entertaining such petitions in the absence of an enabling legislation.

Second, they have to show that they have met the requirement that 12 percent of voters nationwide and 3 percent of voters in all legislative districts had signed their petition. Third, they have to convince the Supreme Court to revisit its 1997 decision on Santiago vs Comelec.

And, finally, they have to show that their initiative for a shift to the parliamentary system of government constitutes a simple amendment and not a wholesale revision of the charter.

Lately there has been a perceptible shift in the propaganda of the advocates of people’s initiative. At the start they were insisting on the legality and constitutionality of their campaign. Probably realizing their petition is doomed, their line now is that whatever the jurisprudence, the Supreme Court cannot ignore the purported overwhelming call to change the Constitution.
The issue, they say, is the sovereign power of the people. If they want the Constitution changed, then the high court cannot stand in their way.

Their initiative, they say, is a direct exercise of "People Power," a political act that the court should recognize and uphold.

If we remember right, the last time this "political doctrine" was raised before the Supreme Court was during the challenge mounted to the 1973 Marcos Constitution.

The court bowed to the superior power of the martial law regime. To its eternal shame. The Panganiban court, we would like to believe, is made up of men and women of courage and principle.

Editorial : Pressure on the Court

Posted date: October 20, 2006

BEFORE reporters the other day, Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban admitted that pressure is being applied on his fellow justices of the Supreme Court with regard to Sigaw ng Bayan's petition to conduct a national referendum on amending the Constitution. "Yes, there's pressure from people who are interested . but the Court is used to pressure," Panganiban said. But he assured the public that his fellow justices will not let such pressures "impede the court in deciding the case."

We agree, or perhaps, it would be more accurate to say that we believe, as the public believes, that the justices of the Supreme Court will neither set aside the integrity of the judicial branch of government nor shirk their duty to render a decision. Talk of pressure is exactly that, talk. The only pressure that is clearly there for all to see are columns bypartisan proponents of the Sigaw ng Bayan group's petition. But their persistent call for the Court to give the initiative the go signal is obviously not what the Chief Justice meant when he referred to "pressure."

The Chief Justice was quite reticent about which camp -- whether those for or against the Sigaw petition -- was applying pressure. However, in its online edition (Oct. 13), Newsbreak magazine reported that "people trusted by the President have been lobbying with select magistrates, causing the balance to shift several times the past two weeks." The magazine Newsbreak reported that the pressures ranged from one ally of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo promising a senior justice a future appointment as chief justice to a religious group interceding with a justice close to it (an allegation strongly denied by that group). There has even been renewed focus on the proposed constitutional amendments drafted by the House of Representatives, which would include a provision extending the retirement age of justices from 70 to 75, a naked and tasteless attempt to bribe the members of the high court.

What the public can expect is a series of marathon sessions as the Court comes to grip with the case and makes its decision. "We will have a special en banc session on Oct. 25," Panganiban said. "We will try to finish it by the end of next week because it's an important matter. We would like to end this very important issue."

And this is precisely what the public should be reminded of: that what is before the highest court of the land is a very important issue, an issue that deserves to be resolved one way or another.

Since the first effort to amend the Constitution by means of the people's initiative was attempted during the Ramos administration, the legal community has been divided over how to interpret the Constitution and the people's initiative and referendum law. It would be unhealthy for the Court not to weigh in and finally resolve whether or not the previously declared defects of the law should impede the people's ability to invoke the constitutional right to propose amendments, just as it would be a disservice to leave dangling the ongoing debate on what constitutes revision or amendment of the fundamental law.

Both sides in the people's initiative divide have pointed to Javellana vs Executive Secretary, when the Supreme Court ducked questions on the legitimacy of the martial law regime by saying it accepted a fait accompli, as a clear display of judicial cowardice. That decision has haunted all subsequent Courts, and rightly so.

But neither should the Court be swayed by the advocates of people's initiative who argue that just because in the past it had acted in a cowardly manner, it must now seize the bull by the horns and render a judgment favorable to their side. Or, simply throw the question to the people in a plebiscite.

That would be a calamity-legally and politically. For the Court to totally sidestep the issue, on the basis of the whole controversy being a political question, is to repeat history, and disgracefully at that. Since the Chief Justice has admitted that pressure is being exerted on the members of the Court; and since it has been reported from which side thepressure is coming, it is vital for the Court to confront the legal issues, and not act in the manner of the most notorious magistrate of them all, Pontius Pilate.