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.

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.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

'Poor women are good credit risk'

Human Face : Yunus: 'Poor women are good credit risk'
By Ma. Ceres P. DoyoColumnist / WriterInquirer
Posted date: October 19, 2006

THE Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF) is on Cloud 9 because its 1984 awardee for Community Leadership, Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh, is this year's Nobel Peace Prize winner. The RMAF was 22 years ahead of the Nobel in recognizing Yunus' work among the poor.

The Dalai Lama received his RM award (Asia's Nobel, so-called) in 1959, 30 years before his Nobel in 1989. Mother Teresa got her RM award in 1962, 17 years earlier than her Nobel.
This means that Asia, the RMAF of the Philippines in particular, is not behind -- it is in fact way ahead -- in recognizing its own home-grown heroes and, yes, long before these names have become familiar to the world.

Yunus was only 44 when he received his RM award in 1984, one of the youngest in RMAF's roster of laureates. Now there is an RM award for Emergent Leadership for those below or on the threshold of 40. Yunus was quite surprised that he was chosen at that time because Grameen banking (microfinance) for the poor was not yet a byword. This is what Yunus said in 1984:

"I still cannot make out how the trustees of this prestigious foundation could notice a small effort such as ours, which has reached only some 100,000 in a population of more than 90 million. (As of July 2006, the population is 147.3 million-Inquirer Research Department) I can only admire the foundation for taking a big risk in choosing me."

Because of the Nobel Peace Prize, Yunus will surely be quoted very often these days, listened to, queried. His words and work will be dissected.

Let's listen some more to what this economist, said in 1984. Do we recognize a glimmer of the grand possibilities?

"As a student of social science, I could not feel comfortable with what I learned. When it came to applying this knowledge in solving real problems, it appeared toothless. I continued to get a feeling that the knowledge that we present in the discipline of social science is replete with pretensions and make-believe stories..

"Social scientists enjoy being up above in the sky and having a panoramic bird's-eye view over a wide horizon . The view from the sky without the supportive close-up view from the ground merely encourages you to take recourse to daydreaming.

"Not all people have access to a bird's-eye view. Poor people don't. They are too busy eking out a survival for themselves with their worm's-eye view ... Poverty can be better understood if we look at it from the ground level at a very close range. Then, instead of generating billions of words about it, we can find ways to cope with it.

"Poverty is not caused by a person's unwillingness to work hard or lack of skill. As a matter of fact, a poor person may work very hard -- even harder than others -- and he has more skill and time than he can use. He languishes in poverty because he does not receive the full worth of his work. Under the existing social and economic institutional arrangements, someone else always comes in between and skims off the income that was due to him. The existing economic machinery is designed in such a way that it allows this process of grabbing to continue and gather strength every day, so that the earnings of others can make a handful of people richer and turn a large number of people into paupers.

"A poor person cannot arrange a larger share or return for his work because his economic base is paper-thin. If he can gradually build up an asset-base, he can command a better share. Land to the landless will help build up this base. There are other forms of assets that will improve his economic situation. Credit, for example; it is a liquid asset. The recipient of credit can decide which particular tangible form he will convert this asset into . With financial resources at his disposal, an individual is free to build his own fate with his own labor. Nothing can match the spirit of a free human being..

"Removal of poverty must be a continuing process of creation of assets by the poor at a steady rate. Poor people know what they must do to get out of the rut. But the people who make decisions refuse to put faith in their ability.."

For more on Asia's greats like Yunus, read RMAF's series of books on the RM awardees, "Great Men and Women of Asia." I found writing some of the stories in the books very inspiring because many of these great men and women were just like you and me when they set off.
I had the chance of listening to Yunus when he was here in 2001 to address "Grameen replicators." He mentioned then that the RMAF award helped boost the microfinance movement that he started in the 1970s in a small village in Bangladesh, through small loans to the poor, especially women. The Grameen way has since taken root in many parts of the world.
When asked why Grameen has a bias for women, Yunus replied: "Because women are good people. Poor women are a good credit risk, even in the most difficult economic times. They are the best judge of their own situation and they know best how to use credit when it is available, especially when supervised and encouraged by their peers. Small business loans pave the way to breaking their poverty cycle. In just one program operating in Southern Luzon, over 1,000 women and their families crossed the poverty line between 1997 and 2000."

The Grameen-style microfinance movement is growing in the Philippines. In 2001, repayment rate was at 93 percent. Interested in mocrofinancing? Contact Philnet at philnet@mozcom.com.
Microfinance is not in the curriculum of business schools. Maybe, it is learned first and best in the school of the heart. And on the ground, like Yunus did.

* * *

Send feedback to cerespd@info.com.ph.

PINOY KASIPinoy Kasi : 'Utang' to finance

By Michael TanColumnistInquirer
Posted date: October 20, 2006

"UTANG" is more than just a debt. During the precolonial period, one became an "alipin" (loosely translated as slave) to pay off a debt. A copper plate found in Laguna, and dated back to the 10th century, certified that someone named Namrawan had paid off his debts and that he and his descendants had been freed of obligation.

"Utang" still has negative connotations today, almost as if we have some collective memories of that precolonial system of debt peonage, where we run the risk of a life of debt and destitution, passed on to succeeding generations.

"Utang" consists of endless cycles of lending and borrowing, one which is still played out daily in all aspects of the Filipino's life, from our $53.9-billion national debt, down to the mortgages we pay on homes, to the "5-6" usury (P5 becomes P6 in a week) and pawnshops charging 1.0 percent for a one-day loan.

Which is why this year's Nobel Peace Prize should take on special meaning for us. The prize went to a Bangladeshi economist, Muhammad Yunus, and his Grameen Bank, known for pioneering micro-finance (or microcredit) programs that have transformed the lives of millions of poor Bangladeshi. As early as 1984, our own Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation already recognized Yunus' work, giving him the award for community leadership. The Nobel committee, in awarding Yunus the peace prize, pointed out how poverty alleviation is linked to peace.
I thought of sharing some of my observations of micro-finance projects in the Philippines, many of which I saw -- successes as well as failures -- while working with NGOs. There are many lessons to pick up from Yunus' program, but we also need to be careful as we try to evolve our own versions for the Philippines, whether we work in a bank, an NGO, or an employer looking for ways to help the staff.

From $27 to $5 billion

It's worth recounting the story of Yunus' program. Back in 1974, Yunus was a professor of economics, a field where you're supposed to think macro, think big. But Yunus had been intrigued by women in a nearby village who were trying to make a living by making bamboo stools. The women were having difficulties because they were getting their credit from usurers.
He learned that all it took was $27 to start a business going, but when that money came from usurers, it would plunge the borrower into lifetime debt. The women could not borrow from the banks because, like the poor everywhere, the banks considered them to be too risky, unlikely to pay back their loans and unable to put up any kind of collateral.

Yunus is known to be adamantly against charity doles, and will not respond to beggars. Instead of alms, he developed his microcredit scheme, with very low interest, plus a support program to help the women sell their products directly, without middlemen. Within a year, the women had paid him back, and he continued to give out these small loans, almost all of which were paid back on time.

In 1983, he set up Grameen Bank, specializing in microcredit. The bank has loaned out $5.7 billion and the program has been copied throughout the world, including the United States.

Think small, dream big

Governments as well as NGOs throughout the world, including the Philippines, have since launched similar programs. The chances of the programs succeeding depend pretty much on the same principle, which can be summarized as thinking small, dreaming big. Here are some of those principles, plus some specific points for the Philippines.

First, the loans are small, as we saw with the initial $27 loan Yunus made. In the Philippines, loans have generally been a few thousand pesos, although lately it has become more difficult to think small, mainly because of the high overhead costs, mainly rent. In Metro Manila today, a loan of P50,000 may not even be enough to start a "sari-sari store" [neighborhood variety store].

Second, while the loans are given out to individuals, the borrowers must belong to a group, the members guaranteeing one another's loans. One person's failure to repay may mean the entire group being penalized.

Third, and this relates to the second point, the finance program is often tied to a community project, which helps to identify the organizations that might be worth "investing" in. The projects may be in such areas as agriculture, health or even environmental conservation.
Finally, the loans go mainly to women. The Grameen Bank currently has some 6.5 million borrowers, 97 percent of whom are women. Throughout the world, it seems women are better at handling micro-finance and this seems to tie in to traditional gender roles. Women handle domestic affairs, and are very conscious about budgets being stretched for the family's survival.

For poor women, money earned is money to be saved, and invested in small income-generating ventures. Men are more "political" animals, more concerned about keeping smooth relations with peers and the outside world -- which means, too, that money earned is all too easily spent for peers.

A caveat here: In societies where men dominate, as in the Philippines, women are still vulnerable to pressure from their spouses or boyfriends, so it's not surprising to hear of cases where women are ready to pay back a loan, but default because the husband gets his hands on the money.

Political threats

Microcredit is really more than a loan program, which is why I prefer the term micro-finance, a kind of bootstrap to help the poor help themselves. It is a tool for community organizing and -- pardon the cliché -- empowerment.

The micro-finance institution not only provides money but support services, for example, conducting a market study, or helping to source supplies at low cost. Some of the micro-finance programs, not surprisingly, are part of gender projects, where women learn to assert their rights, which is so important if they are to say no to a husband's pleas for a conjugal "utang."
Ultimately, micro-finance depends on the group or organization that takes in the "loan." It is this group that helps to ensure repayment and to find ways to keep the money circulating, converted into productive capital.

The main threat, then, to micro-finance is when it is used as a political tool. Micro-finance then becomes a fancier term for a dole, the politician more interested in creating political debts and garnering more votes. Patronage and dependence are reinforced, defeating the purpose of micro-finance.

I think micro-finance is best left to private banks and NGOs, with government stepping in as a regulator, and creating conditions for it to work, for example, by putting up low-cost spaces for vendors.

With Yunus' Nobel Peace Prize, I hope we'll begin to hear more success stories about micro-finance in the Philippines, where people are finally able to break the vicious cycles of "utang."

Peewee, Binay; is JV’s head next to roll?

WILLIE NG, Manila Bulletin
Peewee, Binay; is JV’s head next to roll?
Wednesday, October 18, 2006

MAKATI City Mayor Jojo Binay, the implacable critic of the administration and the opposition’s firstrank leader, finally got what he had expected, a 60-day suspension.

The charge was that he employed ghost employees. But as one of his defenders, former President Corazon Aquino said, they have not named the ghost employees.

The other thing was the speed with which the administration acted on the charge. Within weeks, the suspension order was signed and served. On the other hand, dozens of cases involving the big fish and huge amounts of cash have gathered dust for years.

* * *

Binay knew when the Department of Interior and Local Governments suspended Pasay City Mayor Peewee Trinidad that he would be the next to go.

His, however, was a special case. Whereas, the DILG announced it was suspending Trinidad, Local Governments Secretary Ronnie Puno said that the order to suspend Binay came directly from the Palace.

Undaunted, Binay is holding on. He believes that the suspension order is illegal.

* * *

Sen. Ed Angara cited the other day the really terrible scandals that the administration has yet to touch.

He recalls the R728-million fertilizer scam of former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn "Jocjoc" Bolante who has yet to be investigated by the powers that be, much less charged.
Worse than that, says Angara, is the projected R3.5-billion rice importation for the school feeding program. It does not do away with malnutrition.

Sen. Alfredo Lim calls it "electioneering." The child gets his one kilo of rice and takes it home to his parents, "and if they are poor, that would be a good thing. In the election, that will be converted into votes."

Meanwhile, the betting is that the next target will be San Juan Mayor J.V. Ejercito, who like Binay, attacks the Palace and blocks its people’s initiative signature campaign.

Running amuck: Borgy running for Mayor in Manila?

Editorial, The Malaya

Until the close of business hours on Monday, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita was playing coy about reports that Malacañang was poised to suspend Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay. Ermita said that as far as he understood it, the interior department was investigating Binay on allegations the city has ghost employes on its rolls. He made it appear the case had not reached his level.

It turned out that Ermita had already signed the order to suspend Binay for 60 days. Hours before dawn yesterday, policemen surrounded the Makati city hall. At the opening of business hours, interior department officials were on hand to serve the order on Binay.

Binay, whose information about his imminent suspicion proved to be A-1, however, had barricaded himself at the city hall.

The Palace yesterday said the suspension had nothing to do with politics. It said it was all part of due process. It can tell that to the Marines, including Binay who had donned the uniform of a full colonel in the reserves to show he meant business.

Lying is now part of due process?

That Binay’s suspension is politically motivated is pretty clear. He is the president of the United Opposition. No evidence has been presented to prove the charges filed against him by perennial mayoralty race loser Roberto Brillante. In fact, no hearing has been conducted by Malacañang on the charges.

The specific charge was that the Makati city government had hired 600 ghost employees. Binay, in answer, submitted a list of all city employees with their specific jobs. He asked that his accuser name the employees in the list who were receiving salaries without doing service.

Mere allegation, without a bill of particulars, is now considered strong evidence? And why suspend Binay’s vice mayor and 16 members of the city council too?

This administration is running amuck. It would not let the niceties of the law stand in the way of crushing its perceived enemies. In the case of Binay, not even at the risk of scaring businesses located in Makati, the country’s financial center.

A recent UN Conference on Trade and Development report showed that foreign direct investments into the Philippines rose from $688 million in 2004 to $1.1 billion in 2005. The figure, however, represents only 3.5 percent of investment flows into Southeast Asia and 0.6 percent into Asia.

Suspending the chief local executive of the country’s No. 1 business center on the flimsiest of reasons is certainly not the way to attract these investments.

Sheer stupidity

Editorial, The Daily Tribune

For someone who once claimed to be intellectually superior to popularly and democratically elected President Joseph Estrada, Gloria Arroyo and her aides are proving to be grossly stupid in misusing government power to unseat democratically elected opposition mayors on clearly baseless grounds.

That Gloria wants to eliminate all opposition to her fraudulent rule was already clearly established when she ordered the suspension of Pasay City Mayor Wenceslao “Peewee” Trinidad, his vice mayor and 10 councilors. And worse, when the Apellate Court ruled for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) in favor of the mayor, Gloria slapped him with another suspension.

But she and her aides were not done yet, since it was Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay who was her target, as she definitely wants him, along with his vice mayor and councilors, out of position before the local polls, to ensure not only widescale Makati cheating by Gloria’s cheats, Inc., but also to get her pet, Lito Lapid, Makati’s premiere post.

She is also after Binay’s scalp because he has made it more difficult for Gloria’s Charter change to move, with the Makati mayor baring all these fraudulent activities of Gloria’s front, the Sigaw ng Bayan-Ulap group, in gathering the claimed Makati signatories.

Talk about ghost employees being charged by Gloria and her goons against Binay, and one sees clearly it is Gloria and her Sigaw that have utilized ghost signatories.

But then again, when it comes to cheating and massive fraud, Gloria and her cheats are tops, as proved during the 2004 polls.

But if Gloria and her aides think that the Filipinos—as well as the foreign community — can’t see through her evil designs, they should have another think coming to them.

Binay is a fighter and he will certainly fight this out, and with the law on his side. But if the judges are once again willing to become Gloria’s prostitutes, whatever force Gloria and her goons employ may be met with Makati-wide protests—and Gloria should take note: Binay does have massive Makati mass support, because all these years, Binay has improved the lives of the poor and impoverished Makati residents. Think about it: Free schooling and free hospitalization, to name a few benefits. And even the benefits given the Makati senior citizens are the envy of other Metro Manila mayors.

The elite in Makati may not be enamored with Binay, but there is grave doubt that they would want him replaced this way, and by a no brainer such as Lito Lapid, who is not even from Makati. And to think that Binay is being ordered suspended by Gloria on the strength of an ex-councilor (who can’t even legitimately win a seat) Bobby Brilliantes’ complaint of ghost employees who have not even been identified!

In other words, on the basis of a complaint by Brilliantes charging Binay with having hired ghost employees, he promptly gets suspended, and in the meantime, the administration goes into an investigation to the charges.

If such is the manner by which a duly elected mayor gets suspended, then anyone can file any trumped-up charge against him and expect him to be suspended. Is this what is called probable cause, or is it all a matter of a prostituted cause that Gloria again wants to force through?
It should be very easy for Gloria and her cheats to get individuals to come up with complaints, which would just as easily be upheld by the prostituted Office of the Ombudsman, known to acquit the guilty because they are allies of Gloria, and cohorts in cheating for her, and known to persecute Gloria’s political foes, such as detained President Estrada and Jojo Binay, by slapping him with graft charges.

It is being said that with the suspension of Binay, which Gloria officials claimed has no political color but which is clearly splashed with political color that screams vindictiveness, there will be a Department of Interior and Local Government officer who will take on the job of the mayor, evidently, to make it easier to plant evidence against Binay during the suspension period.

How utterly stupid they are. Makati is the financial district in the country and will surely get the attention of the foreign community.

If Binay decides to fight it out and stands his ground, instability in Makati will be highlighted, which will impact negatively on Gloria and her administration.

Gloria created this criris and this may well be Gloria’s waterloo.

The silly vaudeville war over control of MakatiBY

By Max V. Soliven
The Philippine Star 10/18/2006

One doesn’t know whether to laugh, or cry – or both – over what’s happening in Makati. Rejecting a six-months’ suspension order issued by the Department of Interior and Local Government, and declaring it illegal, Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay yesterday holed up in his City Hall and refused to budge. To emphasize his defiance, he even donned the uniform blouse of a colonel of the Marines (he’s a reservist) but he was definitely "out of uniform" since he wore it like a jacket over a red shirt while yelling "political persecution."

What will the national government do next to eject Jojo, who’s long been a thorn in the side of our Presidenta GMA, gleefully issuing rally permits for every demonstration against La Gloria? In the past year he jammed up Ayala avenue in the financial district, our virtual Wall Street, by mustering rallies and opposition gabfests under the statue of Ninoy Aquino.

Of course it smacks of "political persecution," but – while the Chief Executive, of which her DILG Secretary Ronnie Puno is an extension is in a propaganda no-win situation – the law is the law. Was there enough evidence to make the charges of maintaining ghost employees on a ghost payroll stick? What further complicated matters is that the Palace named Rodolfo Ferraren, DILG National Capital Region Director, "caretaker" OIC of Makati to run the city government. As such, isn’t Ferraren then one of Ronnie Puno’s men? Sus, what a situation.

Ferraren was forced yesterday, since Jojo simply wouldn’t yield, to occupy the old City Hall building and issue statements and directives from there. "Ferraren, who?" a lot of people asked. What’s sad is that, with the new and current City Hall under "siege," and the old City Hall not yet capable of opening for business, with whom will the public deal? What about those with urgent business or other matters to conduct with the "Makati government"? It reminds me of divided Berlin before the fall of the Berlin Wall, when we had to cross from "free" West Berlin through Checkpoint Charlie to Communist East Berlin. Today, Berliners refer to the former City Hall in the Communist East (city halls in Germany are referred to as the Rathaus, no insult intended) as the Red Rathaus – or at least they did when I last went there some years ago.

In Makati, which Rathaus will the citizens recognize? That is the question. Ronnie Puno went on television to try to explain that pro-administration mayors have also been suspended, not just an opposition stalwart like Jojo B. He cited a string of names of pro-GMA mayors suspended, including that of the mayor of Lemery, Batangas. Alas, the Makati vaudeville show was disheartening, not amusing. Whatever happens, the bets are that Binay will "win" reelection in May next year, or his son whom he has been grooming to succeed him in his Dynasty.

The joke is that – despite Lito Lapid studying English studiously in order to prove he’s competent in language, and other matters, not just action star method-acting and the quarrying business – Jojo has a political hold (some say stranglehold) on Makati which simply can’t be broken. A MABINI lawyer close to Tita Cory in the anti-Marcos fight, Binay was appointed Officer-in-Charge (OIC) in Makati after People Power deposed Macoy and Corazon C. Aquino became President. Jojo never left the post of Mayor of Makati, except for a brief period in which he let his wife, a doctora, take over to hurdle term limits objections.

In short, the Jojo Binay Dynasty has been uninterrupted since 1986. Kids have grown up to manhood and womanhood, never knowing what it was not to have a Binay as Mayor – and, naturally, Jojo’s relentlessly loyal and pugnacious "yellow army" to enforce everything. When Jojo was interviewed last night by TV, he had switched to a dark blue shirt from red shirt but, by golly, he still had on his Marine camouflage jacket. One cheeky announcer asked him if he was entitled to wear that Marine uniform, and Jojo toothily replied he’s a reservist. (Looked less like a Marine colonel than a Boy Scout, if I may comment – and Binay is no Boy Scout.) Oh well, Jojo smiled into the camera and declared: "There’s a saying a Marine never runs from a fight!" On hearing this, someone I know remarked that Binay is not a Marine, "but a Submarine."

* * *

As for the 2007 election, whose "fix" . .er, I mean, ballot will prevail? Binay’s or Puno’s. There was a lot of pious talk yesterday to the effect that "nobody is above the law." The trouble is that we hear that over-used legal maxim too frequently from political outlaws who believe that the law applies to everybody except themselves. It would have been more credible on the part of GMA to have named somebody with proven integrity like MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando as Makati "caretaker" instead of the unknown and untested (Puno boy?) Ferraren. This move would have irritated Binay more since he hates Bayani. But this wasn’t done, probably to Fernando’s relief. There are those who’re saying that in a face-off between two devils, "better the devil we know."

In any event, Puno was interviewed on TV in a side-by-side, line down the middle sort of thing. It turned out that apparently the government’s case against Binay still hadn’t been fully documented, but Puno while not a lawyer but a shrewed political analyst and election wizard – silkily replied that if Binay, as he threatened, contested the suspension order in the Court of Appeals, he would immediately abide by the Court of Appeals decision. Puno smoothly assured Jojo and the public there would be no police or any armed move to eject him bodily from City Hall, and he could camp out there forever. Except that any checks or licenses, or documents he signed wouldn’t be recognized by the government. Where does this leave Makati? In a state of paralysis. And the "outside" world, when it deigns to glance at our Liliputian struggles and dramas, will shrug and scoff: "There go those Filipinos again." Then go back to North Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, terrorism, and the other concerns which are more global.

They didn’t even notice that former President Cory briefly weighed in to express her sympathy for Binay because he’s "an old friend." My gosh, she’s beginning to speak and sound like her daughter Kris Aquino.

Our democracy Pinoy-style is, I confess, increasingly surreal. For example, only last Monday, Ilocos Norte Congresswoman Imee Marcos announced that instead of her mom, former First Lady and ex-Superma’am Imelda R. Marcos, her son Fernando Martin "Borgy" Manotoc would be running next year for Mayor of Manila. "Borgy", Imee pointed out, has "lots to offer the people of Manila, particularly the youth." After all, his father Tommy Manotoc, she noted, comes from Tondo. Gee whiz. What is "Borgy’s" work experience which qualifies him for Mayor? He’s a fashion ramp model, and a commercial model. One time, gossip goes, Imeldific watched one of Borgy’s fashion shows in which he was modeling men’s shorts, bare-chested. Grandma Imelda remarked later to him: "Anak, anong minu-model mo? Bakit ka naka-hubad?" (What are you modeling that you’re . . . uh, half-naked?) There’s a generation gap there, surely. Only recently, handsome Borgy was involved in a bout of fisticuffs in the "Embassy" (no, no, not the US Embassy but a disco club) at The Fort. He allegedly clashed with GMA-7 singer, Jay R. Imee said afterwards she would spank him if it turned out he had done this and was in the wrong. What will Manila do with a Mayor whom Mama will spank?

Perhaps Borgy’s qualification for mayor will be boxing, in the same manner that our Boxing Champ Manny Pacquiao is running for Vice-Mayor on the Atienza ticket. Our politics, indeed, has more variety than Noah’s Ark. And yet, when all is said and done, it may be amusing to laugh at ourselves and our political comedy – but there is a time we must stop laughing. It’s time for us to get serious and tear away the hyperbolic cobwebs of our political hypocrisy.


EDITORIAL — Persecution?
The Philippine Star 10/18/2006

In a country where every executive action is given political color, the administration needs to work doubly hard to avoid being accused of political persecution when imposing disciplinary action.

In the case of Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, the administration appears to be begging for a formal indictment for harassment. Binay, his vice mayor and all the councilors of Makati were suspended yesterday for 60 days in connection with a complaint filed by the city’s former vice mayor Roberto Brillante with the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

Brillante accused the city officials of collecting P113.1 million for the salaries of 1,235 ghost employees from Jan. 1, 2005 until June 30 this year. Brillante also filed a graft complaint against Binay with the Office of the Ombudsman, accusing the mayor of overpricing furniture to refurbish City Hall.

This case awaits resolution and is likely to take longer than the one resolved by the DILG within just two months from the filing of the complaint. The speed was unusual in a land notorious for snail-paced administration of justice. The DILG ruling was widely expected and even the timing was anticipated in the wake of the six-month suspension of another opposition mayor, Pasay City’s Wenceslao Trinidad, for graft by the Ombudsman.

No politician is lily-white in this country, and it is not improbable that the two mayors are liable for corruption. But because of events in the past months, their complaints about political persecution also cannot be easily dismissed. There is one way for the administration to show that the two suspension orders are simply part of a no-nonsense campaign to stamp out graft: by resolving similar complaints against pro-administration politicians with the same speed and serving suspension orders with the same decisiveness. The speed of resolving graft cases, applied equally, would be refreshing in a country where every anti-corruption campaign has never gone beyond political rhetoric. Justice, when applied blindly, leaves no room for accusations of persecution.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

'Underclass' Filipino-Americans' conditions not dismal

Posted date: October 18, 2006

MANY Filipinos in the Philippines are showing resentment toward fellow Filipinos who have had the choice and luck of going out of the country and living overseas. The "animosity" was further exacerbated when a topnotcher of a medical board exam decided to work as a nurse in the United States; and when the well-known artist-singer Jim Paredes decided to emigrate to Australia.

Michael Tan articulated this resentment in his Sept. 15 column. While the figures he cited were based on an extensive research, Tan's depiction of the situation of Filipinos in America as "dismal and grim" is not reflective of what Filipinos here actually experience, at least based on the economic status of the many Filipino-Americans whom I know well. Not unless owning a beautiful home in upper middle-class communities, or several real estate property, businesses; or sending kids to good schools of their choice, or looking forward to a comfortable life of retirement can be described as "dismal."

Through the United States' orderly electoral process, Filipinos, as Americans here, have the power to influence the promulgation of rules and laws on how their tax money may be used, on how the government may be run and who may run it. Many are in the mainstream holding important political positions in the city, county, state and federal governments. Even as private "Americans," they are mostly employed as engineers or technical experts or health care professionals in big multinational corporations; or they run their own businesses.
It is the Filipinos who came here as "illegal undocumented residents" that, sadly, are helpless, abused and exploited, some by fellow Filipinos themselves.

If Tan's column was meant to paint a "grim" picture of the life here to discourage others from coming, then he might have done a good job. But as far as Filipino-Americans are concerned, Tan and the rest of the "first-class Filipino citizens" in the Philippines should work very hard to change the perception that "in America there is a better chance."

I hope Tan will also take time to write about the positive contributions of the Filipino-Americans to the Philippines and their commitment to share what they have with fellow Filipinos in the Philippines. We, the "underclass" of America, are here for all the "first-class citizens" of the Philippines. Wish us well and give us the chance to share the goodside of our experiences as "underclass" citizens of America. We all have the common yearning that things will get better for the Philippines.

And, by the way, working as a "utilities person" anywhere in the world is a far more decent and dignified job than making a living as a senator or congressman in the Philippines.

ELIZABETH S. DEL ROSARIO, San Ramon, California, USA

'Retake' will not redeem PRC

Inquirer Posted date: October 18, 2006

RETAKE or no retake -- the question lingers.

The controversy has boiled down to two major issues: the ability of the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) to conduct a credible licensure exam and the capability of the nursing students to pass a nursing licensure exam (not their competence as nursing professionals since it will take many more trainings, other exams and more than a couple of years of actual performance to determine this).

Obviously, a retake will not resolve the issue on the PRC's competence to conduct a credible exam, given the fact that a human factor caused the exam's flaw. The system and conduct of the exam itself were almost perfect. The problem was in having people in the nursing exam board who were either gravely dishonest or grossly negligent. (A retake would probably cost the government another P42 million.)

What then is our guarantee that a retake will not be attended by another leakage? But what will stop dishonest and negligent examiners, who are determined to cheat for whatever reason, from writing down and leaking again test questions to interested parties?
The PRC's credibility has been tainted. Only having honest and responsible people will take that taint away-and "redeem the image of the Filipino nurses here and abroad." Until then, no retake can do that.

FR. JESUS V. DUMAUL, MSC, Sacred Heart Parish, Bantug, Science City of Muñoz