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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How Not To Be A Party Guest

July 31, 2012
by

I don’t understand why someone who has a history of having no history of competence or even simple activity on his own job would lecture media on how to do their job. The media is there to report news and not just the news the way the president sees it. One day the media will report some good news. That Noynoy BS Aquino had an original thought. Unfortunately that may not come till a decade after his term is over. Noynoy seems to always insist those around him convey good news. That’s not the way it works. Give them good news that will appeal to an audience that advertisers want and they will broadcast it. He wants everyone to be like Grace Lee and proclaim his brilliance. It is my opinion Grace Lee was never his girlfriend. She was a paid employee hired as P.R./ Smokescreen/ decoy. Either that or she is certifiably insane for calling Noynoy brilliant. One defender of BS Aquino in the GRP forums said these exact words “He (BS Aquino) is his own man.”. To that I say “what have you been smoking?? And can you give me some?”

Our President will always be a perplexing creature to me. His father was jailed. He surely read all the things said about Ninoy in the seventies. Let’s just say Manila Bulletin and Daily Express had ties with the palace that rival what PDI experiences now. His mother was president and Noynoy got to witness all the criticism that one is vulnerable to in that position. Yet most days he acts like he dropped in from Mars.

He seems to really think that a head of state should not have to experience criticism the same way the Queen of England should not have to be exposed to professional wrestling. Philippines there you have it. The leader we so gladly elected makes Pollyanna look like Amy Winehouse.

Teddy Locsin in his Twitter account says the blame lies with the organizers. He says media should only invite media. Let’s put it into context. It was a party and celebs/ politicians (they are one and the same in this culture) were among the guests. Guests normally do not take shots at the host or give work tips during an anniversary party. If for some reason you feel like giving work tips and it takes the form of a sermon, try not to do it with cameras rolling. But Noy will be Noy. Which is a euphemism that he is socially inept no matter what situation he is in.

Why is this guy so shocked when he gets criticized? Wind blows strongest at the top of the mountain. This is what he signed up for. Or what Tito Danding signed him up for. Noynoy’s increasing annoyance with the realities of being the highest elected servant in the land just proves how much he was pushed into running for president as opposed to wanting to be president. Which totally explains his odd behavior in the Corona case.

I don’t know about you but I have yet to see the President ever be accountable for anything. Not for the current condition, not for his current staff and not for his friends. Yet GMA and Renato Corona seem to be the embodiment of all the ills of this country for him.

Noynoy seems to have a trouble with the concept of arm’s length. Which is weird for a guy who continuously accuses GMA of election fixing. He pretty much told 188 Congressmen how to do their job. That is not arm’s length. He enforced his will on the impeachment trial itself the same way Anthony Hopkins enforced his will on the movie Silence of the Lambs. I don’t pick that analogy by accident. He only had 16 minutes of screen time in the whole movie (118 minutes) yet hardly anyone remembers Jodie Foster or Scott Glenn . Nobody quotes Clarice Starling’s lines. It always goes back to Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

I hate to break it you but media is not there to report the good news. They are there to get ratings. Just as media was there when Noynoy does his witch hunts they will also be there when he stumbles. You didn’t see him complain when media covered the CJ Trial as long as he is the “bida” not the kontra bida. Typical double standard move. Show me someone with double standards and I will show you a wimp with no integrity.

A while back I wrote about how we take our freedom for granted in terms of our Internet access. We have no idea how good we have it compared to how other countries restrict what the Internet can and can’t do. Not sure about other countries but we celebrate that liberty in the Philippines by spreading show biz rumors, basketball scores and pics of last night’s dinner. Pinoy websites like Get Real Philippines have been the antithesis of that pettiness long before I wrote for this site. I always thought this is what the Internet was meant to be. People getting together and collectively cutting through the BS the government would want you to believe. Pardon the pun. Sorry the government is meant to be questioned critically. We fund them with our taxes.

Josef

There are some baseless statements out there comparing Noynoy Aquino to Hitler.That’s not going to fly. Hitler was a brilliant leader. He may have lead people down the wrong path yet he got people to buy into his vision. Noynoy is neither brilliant nor a leader. All Noynoy ever did was copy and invoke his parents at any given opportunity and demonize Gloria. He claims he has the country in mind but his actions seem to declare he has his family self-interest in mind. Not exactly my definition of a leader.

Galactus Silver Surfer

Noynoy may not be Hitler but he does indeed have his own Joseph Goebbels. Ricky Carandang is the Silver Surfer to Noynoy’s Galactus. He preps the mere mortals of the approach of the Supreme Being. Like he did that night Noynoy turned a 25th anniversary party into his own Sunday sermon.

Altaeir

Speaking of taxes, Capt. Willard was asked in Apocalypse Now if he did a job that involved killing a tax collector. There have been claims that there exists a group within Malacanang devoted to lash out at websites that don’t agree with the President’s perception of himself and his “work”. I really don’t know if that exists but: 1) Noynoy is the balsa wood kind of guy to do such a thing. 2) Some of the characters that give polar opposite views in GRP seem to be more out of blind obedience than any kind of basis of rationale. I can imagine somehow bringing in Ricky Carandang for questioning to the truth behind the Benigno Aquino Defense Against cyber Space Sickos (B.A.D.A.S.S) answering like the aforementioned Capt. Willard

“Sir, I am unaware of any such activity or operation… nor would I be disposed to discuss such an operation if it did in fact exist, sir. “

Let’s say Ricky Carandang or anybody else there who seem so loyal to that airhead that they are willing to take a metaphorical bullet for him was in charge of such a cyber goon squad. Wouldn’t that be supported by taxpayer money? The labor, the hardware and the maintenance all tax payer funded if such an operation did in fact exist sir. We are essentially paying the government to stifle us. Not that they do a good job in anything they attempt that is organic to the Noynoy reign.

Our taxes go towards security for the President and I get that. We as citizens do not have the right to go into Malacanang brandishing a Glock and aim it towards the President’s PS3. We do however have the right to free discourse in this society. For one centavo of tax payer money to go towards stamping out critical discussion would just be so wrong in so many levels. Forget Lupang Hinirang and let’s all sing Gosudarstvenny Gimn Rossiyskoy Federatsii. Like I said in my blog about oppression back the Philippines has never declared itself to be like the countries on that list. Yet if Noynoy’s Cyber Space Stormtroopers exist then we are well on our way to being on that list. No wonder the human rights advocates have their beef with Noynoy.

Ideally, a leader should have the destination of where he is taking his followers so burned into his brain that the effort exerted to manifest that vision should drown out any background noise. Just remember I said ideally. It is my own opinion that Noynoy believes that things will work themselves out simply because he is not Gloria. It is also my own opinion that Noynoy feels justified in everything he has done so far because deep down inside he knows he is not what is required of a real president: A leader, a facilitator, a commander, a manager, a decision maker, a visionary. All these things you would like in a leader and of course a president. Noynoy Aquino is none of these things and he knows it. In his head “The people picked me so whatever I do must be right”. That thought though does not account for the people being emo. People who voted Noynoy in based on some envisioned glorious past that had nothing to do with him.

Spiderman

Noynoy Aquino became president much like Peter Parker became Spiderman. He did not work for it, it all came out of the blue and it will take him a while to realize what he has and how to use it properly if ever. A radioactive spider bit Peter Parker on the day of his class field trip. Everything just aligned properly. Noynoy had the right famous mom who died four months before an election year. Both formulas could not be duplicated if you tried. Somebody wake Noynoy up and tell him the easy part was over. He did once say that it was his destiny to be president. He never said it was his destiny to do well. Somebody also tell him the saying does not go “With great power comes great arrogance”

I said before that Noynoy has never had to compete for anything. On the contrary in the case of the Chief Justice hearing, he likes to stack the deck instead of letting the system play itself out. Mainstream media is supposed to be a watchdog. With the performances of ABS CBN and Philippine Daily Inquirer the last three years, replace “watch” with “lap”. Noynoy Aquino’s relationship with individual media organizations is in direct proportion to their lack of critical analysis. So I guess none of GRP’s writers will be breaking bread with His Excellency anytime soon.

It takes somebody as slow witted as BS Aquino to forget that he would not be where he is without ABS CBN. This is a network during his 2010 campaign stepped over the usual Holy Week protocol of showing Holy Week programming and showed the movie of his parents. To repay them, Noynoy pulls that stunt on what was supposed to be a celebration? This is how he treats his friends. So his lambasting of GMA and former CJ Corona to the point of playground pettiness all makes sense now. The man has all the grace of a drunken elephant in a crystal exhibit.

You do your job and let the media do their job. I realize Noynoy that it must be weird for you. You know, having a job where you are actually evaluated.

De Lima’s possible exclusion: is karma finally catching up?

July 30, 2012

Personally, I am not that big on superstitions. Some people tell me not to put my school bag on the floor, or else I’ll become dumb or something, but I hardly pay attention. After all, my school bag is always on the floor during classes, anyway. Occasionally, some folks will warn me against trimming my nails in the evening or I’ll attract bad luck, but I still do anyway. Sometimes, they will warn me against leaving the house at Friday the 13th, but I see the date as nothing more than an ordinary day. I’ve encountered lots of superstitions from different people in the course of my existence, but the most striking one must be the so-called Law of Karma.

No offense to those who fully believe in the law (and I have no problems with those who believe it), but I’ve yet to encounter a foolproof scientific study that confirms the existence of such a law. Sure, every now and then bad people eventually receive what they deserve, but the results favorable to the Law of Karma are offset by bad things unfairly happening to good people or good things happening to jerks. And in order for a scientific theory to remain accepted, a counter-instance that defies the said theory must not exist.

Still, despite my skepticism regarding the scientific validity of karma, I adapt it as a major component of my moral compass; some sort of a motivation to do good stuff to others. And it often works for me and other people, so I’m quite fine with the way things are.

For another person though, it would seem nature’s justice system isn’t treating her well. Look no further than the embattled Justice Secretary Leila de Lima facing the possibility of exclusion from the Chief Justice selection process. For lack of a better word (or perhaps, this is the best word), it would seem that karma has finally caught on Malacañang’s most prominent brats.

You might remember de Lima as one of president Noynoy Aquino’s most trusted cronies, whining and complaining like a spoiled child about the prospects of working as the chief magistrate of the Supreme Court. Recalling some of her past statements:

Justice Secretary Leila De Lima said she was not “personally interested” in the Chief Justice position but said she would have to think on her options.

“Although, I can always adjust to any environment or atmosphere. I can be professional. Pero doon ako nag-aalangan and whether at this point I’m ready to head such a crucial institution such as the Supreme Court,” she said, but added that she would also talk to President Aquino about it.

And so the days passed when de Lima’s refusal to become Chief Justice, and then it was as if the world turned upside-down.

Following the controversies generated by Corona’s removal from office last month, De Lima said “what the judiciary needs is an effective and trusted leader capable of transforming the institution into a citadel of hope.”

“That, to me, is the call of the times,” she said. “I sincerely believe that, at the minimum, I have my character and resolve as a person, and my track record and passion as a public servant, to offer for such a crucial and revered post.”

Like magic, de Lima is suddenly craving for the top job, which would make you really doubt the sincerity of her past sentiments about being Chief Justice. But wait—do I see this particular phrase in her speech?

“I have my character and resolve as a person, and my track record—”

Hold it right there. As it turns out, de Lima’s track record isn’t as clean and brag-worthy as it seems. And this might cost her the coveted SC position.

The ghost of ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona haunts the reputed front-runner for the vacant position.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has told the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) it will be unfair to exclude her from the short list of three candidates for the next Chief Justice on the basis of a disbarment case against her.

(Source: Link)

As some people would say, you can never outrun the past. She’s had her fill of persecuting the ex-Chief Justice Renato Corona behind and in front of the cameras. She’s had her share of publicity and image-building. But now, it would seem, is her turn to take some of the heat and take responsibility for her actions like a man… figuratively.

Apparently, one of the guidelines of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) in selecting the short list for the Chief Justice candidates (to be chosen by your beloved president) is that the lucky aspirants should have zero pending or regular administrative cases filed against them in the time of their nomination.

Sec. 5. Disqualification.- The following are disqualified from being nominated for appointment to any judicial post or as Ombudsman or Deputy Ombudsman:

1. Those with pending criminal or regular administrative cases;

2. Those with pending criminal cases in foreign courts or tribunals; and 3. Those who have been convicted in any criminal case; or in an administrative case, where the penalty imposed is at least a fine of more than P10,000, unless he has been granted judicial clemency.

(Source: Link)

De Lima has fallen short of this requirement.

The Justice Secretary, as of this writing, is accused of violating the lawyers’ code of conduct when she bashed Renato Corona here and there during his impeachment trial, putting her at risk of losing her chance of nabbing the job of Chief Justice. Now with a major change of heart, de Lima swiftly proceeded to contesting the judgment of the JBC.

During her interview before the JBC last Tuesday, De Lima disagreed with Peralta’s view that in accordance with “practice,” the preliminary determination of merit by the IBP applies only to disbarment complaints filed directly with it and not cases referred to it by the Court.

“With all due respect, legal action cannot be based on mere ‘practice,’ as such does not satisfy the demands of justice and fair play; it can only be based on law and rules,” she said.

I must admit that what de Lima said about legal action only being based on law and rules is rich, coming from her. Anyway, de Lima expounded on her counter-argument, raising the issue of whether her case is already deemed meritorious and so, eligible to be called a legit case against her.

De Lima explained that the mere referral of her case to the IBP did not mean that the Court had already found the complaint meritorious. She noted that the cases against her were filed by other persons.

Since the complaint was referred to the IBP, De Lima said the Court only ruled that the case was “meritorious for further proceedings” but left it to the IBP to determine if the complaint itself was meritorious. This meant there was no pending complaint against her to speak of since the IBP has not initiated any proceedings on the case, she added.”

To add, she also emphasized the supposedly political nature of the administrative complaint filed against her.

The Secretary reiterated her earlier stand that the complaints against her pertained to the performance of her official duty as an alter ego of the President and enjoyed a “strong” presumption of regularity. Thus, she added, the complaints were political in nature.

Finally, de Lima used the classic blame game to shift the sin to the justice system for solving things too long.

De Lima also repeated that it was not her fault the disbarment complaints against her have not been resolved by the time the JBC comes out with a shortlist. She said it was nearly half a year later that the complaint against her was referred to the IBP.

I do not claim to be an expert on law, but I admit I have a couple of problems with de Lima’s soporifically lengthy argument. First, while the intention behind the complaint filed against de Lima is beyond me, I do know that issues about lawyer conduct aren’t exactly political.

CANON 8 – A LAWYER SHALL CONDUCT HIMSELF WITH COURTESY, FAIRNESS AND CANDOR TOWARDS HIS PROFESSIONAL COLLEAGUES, AND SHALL AVOID HARASSING TACTICS AGAINST OPPOSING COUNSEL.

Rule 8.01 – A lawyer shall not, in his professional dealings, use language which is abusive, offensive or otherwise improper.

(Source: Link)

And we all know about those snide remarks de Lima issued against the embattled Corona during his biggest ordeal. As far as the code of conduct is concerned, this particular complaint against de Lima is not totally devoid of merit.

And now that we are on the topic of merit, I find it highly suspicious that de Lima only talks about the merit of the said complaint. She keeps explaining that just because the Court ruled that the case is “meritorious for further proceedings” doesn’t make the case itself meritorious. Of course, this is assuming that what de Lima said is true. But even if you assume such thing, there is the issue of the existence of a pending complaint that can invalidate an aspirant’s eligibility for the position of Chief Justice. What does “pending” mean?

If something such as a legal procedure is pending, it is waiting to be dealt with or settled.

(Source: Link)

De Lima said that since the IBP allegedly hasn’t begun proceedings for the complaint, then there is no pending complaint to begin with. But what becomes of the existence of the said administrative complaint when its nature is also “waiting for judgment?” What do you call it; a pre-pending complaint? Following de Lima’s logic, it would appear that filing a complaint might not be a legal procedure after all, since it is not covered by any legal proceedings.

But then, according to her, the Court ruled that the case is “meritorious forfurther proceedings.” Does this mean that the proceedings for the case as a whole have already begun, and that the case is eligible for further scrutiny? Then, won’t that mean that the complaint is already pending by her own line of reasoning?

Finally, suppose that the IBP has ruled the complaint itself as “meritorious.” Would it still be a pending complaint, or a regular complaint? Remember that a pending complaint is an unresolved case. Does this mean that there is a pending pending complaint? De Lima has not explained this part quite clearly, which is weird for someone avidly defending her privilege of being a nominee for Chief Justice.

In any case, this argument of hers might spark a little debate on how complaints really work. Also, in any case, de Lima has finally had a taste of what it feels like to have a hard time with the law, which she so nonchalantly defied all these years, defying TROs and all.

Then again, maybe through PNoy, or even divine intervention, de Lima will still get the job in the end. Maybe, according to GRP writer Ben Kritz, de Lima being elected as Chief Justice might even be the lesser evil, given how screwed up the judicial elections are already.

But still, it’s times like this that I wish the Law of Karma is absolutely real.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Is Pasay Regional Trial Court Judge Jesus Mupas next on President Noynoy Aquino’s hit list?

July 26, 2012

It seems President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III can no longer restrain himself from breathing down the neck of the Philippines’ judicial branch of government. Perhaps the President is newly-emboldened by his personal victory over the judiciary when he and his minions in Congress succeeded at unseating former Chief Justice Renato Corona on trumped-up charges this year.

Last Wednesday, Pasay Judge Jesus Mupas allowed former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) who is currently being charged for “electoral sabotage” (a non-bailable offense supposedly) to be released on bail on grounds that the prosecution had provided weak evidence to support their case against her. But then

Aquino on Thursday said he found the requirements of Judge Jesus Mupas for the disapproval of the bail petition “too high.”

“Based on my understanding, Judge Mupas said there was no corroborative testimony in his decision to grant the bail petition. But if we can recall the accusation, there were only three persons talking – Mrs. Arroyo, (former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Sr.) Ampatuan, and (former Maguindanao administrator Norie) Unas who was listening,” the President said.

“Are we to think that they (Arroyo and Ampatuan) will give damaging testimonies against each other? So there can really be only one witness (Unas). How can we have corroborative testimony?”

And here is the punchline…

“The test (being used by Mupas) is a bit too high which makes it almost impossible to attain because no one else heard the conversation on the issue of electoral fraud,” Aquino added.

And that, President BS Aquino, is why the Judge Mupas ruled that the case is weak. If no one but a suspected genocidal maniac can corroborate the accusation against GMA — a former head of state of this wretched republic — then the prosecution’s case stands on the testimony of said maniac. The Judge merely ruled on the basis of that fact.

[Photo courtesy Reuters.]

It is quite possible that Malacañang is currently gearing up for another war versus the Philippine judiciary. Anything is possible after all — even the impeachment of no less than the Chief Justice of the Philippine court on grounds of what, on second look, are really non-impeachable offenses. Indeed, Lawyer Katrina Legarda in her interview with the Judicial Bar Council as candidate for the post of Chief Justice recounts

“What they brought up against Corona was not really an impeachable offense. The courts became scared that when they displease a higher authority, they will have problems in the future..”

According to Legarda, morale in the ranks of the Philippine judiciary has “plunged” since the start of President BS Aquino’s vendetta versus Corona late last year. Since then have staff have been feeling “like lost sheep”.

Should Judge Jesus Mupas be worried?

Perhaps. Some netizens are speculating that he may currently be in President BS Aquino’s Most Wanted list. The Inquirer.net was earlier speaking for “the rest of the country” when it stated how everyone was “taken aback” by Mupas’s ruling in its “report” on the granting of GMA’s petition for bail. That a major Philippine broadsheet would presume to speak on behalf of “the rest of the country” is an ominous sign that Malacañang may already be marshaling all available resources at its disposal to crush GMA.

Indeed, the President is undeterred. His henchmen are already in the process of carrying out their Plan B with Aquino’s personal Ombudsman filing a request with the Sandiganbayan to issue an arrest warrant versus GMA, this time for the crime of “plunder”. The charge of “plunder” is “non-bailable” and this one is on grounds of GMA’s “alleged misuse of multimillion-peso intelligence fund of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO)”.

The charge sheet alleged that the respondents “conspired…in withdrawing, amassing, accumulating public funds worth P391.9 million from July 2007 to January 2010…[and] by circumventing and/or violating the subject COA circulars relative…to the liquidation of complainant PCSO’s intelligence/confidential funds,” the information for plunder stated.

Sound like a plot from Game of Thrones? That’s because the Philippines remains mired in the results of 12th-Century thinking.

Abangan ang susunod na kabanata.

The 2012 SONA of President B.S. Aquino III: Highlights from the Technical Report

(Manila) – Philippine President B.S. Aquino III delivered his much-anticipated State of the Nation address to a joint session of Congress on Monday, reciting a litany of achievements in his first two years in office, but disappointing business and political interests with a lack of clear objectives for his government in the coming year.

The one-and-a-half-hour speech, Aquino’s third since taking office – a factoid he helpfully reminded his audience about by beginning his address with “This is my third SONA” – was said to have been the longest by a Philippine president since the overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. As in his first two SONA presentations, Aquino devoted a considerable proportion of it to condemning the administration of his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, although perhaps less directly than in his previous SONA addresses. Somewhat oddly, Aquino repeated an error he committed in his first SONA two years ago, complaining early on in his speech that “we were bequeathed, at the start of our term, 6.5 percent of the entire budget for the remaining six months of 2010,” a “shocking revelation” in his 2010 speech that his own budget managers later had to retract after the President was ridiculed for his lack of understanding of basic government financing. Only about one-third of the speech (which is slightly over 9,000 words in its English translation) highlighted specific achievements of Aquino’s administration, while his agenda for the remainder of his term was limited to a mere 850 words, drawing sharp criticism from backers of several key political initiatives – among them a pending bill on Reproductive Health, the Freedom of Information Act, development of ICT, and proposed changes to the economic provisions of the country’s Constitution – that were noticeably omitted from the speech.

As in 2011, Aquino’s office released a Technical Report along with the Tagalog and English transcripts of the speech, which provides somewhat richer detail about his Administration’s claimed achievements and the short list of key initiatives proposed by the President:

1. Outstanding Performance of the Philippine Stock Exchange Index (PSEi) and Strong GDP Growth:President Aquino cited the excellent performance of the Philippines’ stock market as proof of the effectiveness of his economic and investment policies, and while the PSEi has been among the best-performing indexes in the world, there is little to suggest that Aquino is not simply confusing correlation with causation. According to PSE expert and Business Mirror columnist John Mangun, a likely explanation for the strong performance of the local market – and corresponding strong corporate revenues over the past 18 months or so – is that the Philippines has become a “hyena economy,” benefitting from comparatively moribund business environments elsewhere in the world. And there are other indications that the big numbers being put up by PSEi traders are not really evidence that the Philippine economy has caught up to the rest of the region. Since the beginning of 2011, the PSE has only registered 10 IPOs; Indonesia’s IDX, by contrast, has seen 38 in the same period. Ironically, the PSEi ended Monday down 1.37%, joining the rest of the Asian markets in an off day despite the praise of the President.

There is likewise an air of unreality about the unexpected 6.4% GDP growth in the 1st Quarter of this year, which Aquino is all too happy to take credit for after six quarters of weaker-than-forecast growth. The positive growth rate may be a matter of using a favorable yardstick, in this case, Year 2000 constant prices – which happen to be the baseline for his predecessor’s nine years in office. In her first full year as president (2001), Gloria Arroyo eked out a 1.8% GDP growth; not impressive, but several orders of magnitude ahead of what Aquino has achieved from his baseline, a negative growth rate of roughly 9.6% – a serious recession by any definition, last quarter’s good news notwithstanding.

2. The “Four P’s” Conditional Cash Transfer Program: As expected, Aquino highlighted what he has described as one of his favorite programs, the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (“Four P’s”), which provides up to Php 1,500 ($35) cash per month per family. Surprisingly, however, neither the speech nor its Technical Report provide many details about the program, which will see its budget climb from Php 39.44 billion this year to Php 45 billion next, or nearly two-thirds of the entire budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

It is entirely possible, however, that whatever Aquino had planned to say about the CCT program was preempted by the recent controversy over the “Four P’s” that has erupted in the wake of allegations of widespread embezzlement by DSWD personnel and a scathing report by the Commission on Audit that revealed, among other things, several billion pesos’ worth of misallocated funds and potentially thousands of ineligible recipients.

3. Improvements in Health Care: This is another area in which the Aquino Administration’s achievements are highly debatable and fraught with controversy. According to the Technical Report, 81.63 million people, or about 85% of the country’s population, are now covered by the government-managed PhilHealth insurance program, and that all 5.2 “identified” poor families have now been enrolled, a necessary precursor to the Administration’s plans to privatize some government hospitals and eliminate charity wards in the remainder. Critics of the health care plan have charged that both the PhilHealth enrollment rates and the count of poor families are inaccurate, and just last week an association of 900 private hospitals announced they would no longer accept PhilHealth-covered patients due to non-payment of bills by the agency, a move that would force an even greater number of patients into the Philippines’ already grossly inadequate public hospital system.

One comparative bright spot, however, is the apparent success of the RNHeals rural nursing program, which began in February 2011 with the objective of providing trained medical personnel to underserved areas of the country. The program aims to deploy a total of 31,500 nurses by the end of this year, and has so far deployed 30,801; an achievement that not only improves health care coverage, but also helps to reduce the country’s considerable surplus of nursing program graduates. However, the Technical Report does note that the one-year commitment of 9,518 nurses in the first of three groups recruited has expired, reducing the actual number of working nurses to 21,283; neither the Technical Report nor Aquino’s speech indicated whether the program will be continued beyond the end of this year.

4. Education Funding: Aquino’s proposed 2013 budget will increase the allocation for the Department of Education from Php 238.8 billion to Php 292.7 billion, an increase of 22.6%. The education expenditure in 2012 represented 2.57% of GDP, but despite the President’s self-congratulations for the increase, according to IMF projections for the Philippine economy, the percentage – which is only slightly more than half the 5% global benchmark for education spending – will actually decline slightly to 2.56%.

5. Infrastructure Improvements: Obviously responding to two years’ worth of sharp criticism about Aquino’s lack of ambition to develop the Philippines’ creaky infrastructure, the Technical Report devotes a considerable amount of space to details of completed and planned projects. On closer examination, however, the flurry of positive-sounding statistics are not particularly impressive:

  • 14.75% increase in air traffic year-on-year (January-June 2011/2012) as a result of the Pocket Open Skies Policy (EO 29) – Executive Order 29, which provided for Open Skies Agreements with foreign carriers, was in fact one of Aquino’s decisively positive acts early on in his term, and it has encouraged some new entrants in the sector, such as AirAsia Philippines, All Nippon Airways, and Tiger Airways. On the other hand, the opening up of the Philippines’ air market has, if anything, simply exposed how woefully unprepared the country is, and how apparently hapless former Aquino running mate and now Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas is at trying to deal with it. As a result of severe overcrowding at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila – the country’s primary international hub – Roxas has resorted to ordering airlines to cut the number of flights by 30%, while exempting the bulk of general aviation traffic, so-called “fish runs” and private jets, from similar restrictions.
  • Airport construction – The Administration has planned an upgrade of Puerto Princesa Airport in Palawan, the construction of a new airport at Panglao on the island of Bohol, and construction of new domestic and international terminal buildings at Cebu’s Mactan International Airport. According to the Technical Report, the bidding process is underway for the Puerto Princesa project, which is expected to begin construction in the 3rd Quarter of next year; the Panglao airport project is currently under review by NEDA; and the Mactan project is still undergoing “project structuring”, technically making it behind schedule as it was supposed to be submitted to NEDA this month. Thus, none of the three projects are “off the drawing board” as of yet, which is not necessarily bad or unexpected; it remains to be seen, however, if the thus far non-performing public-private partnership initiative will be able to meet the unequivocal promise made that all three will be operational by the end of Aquino’s term in mid-2016.
  • School construction – Bidding is ongoing for the construction of 9,301 classrooms in Regions I, III, and IV-A on Luzon, intended to make a dent in the estimated 66,800 shortfall in classrooms throughout the country. While Aquino confidently promised these would be completed by the end of his term, a single shovelful of dirt has yet to be turned for them. The school construction is being managed through the PPP as well, but since it is not – unlike other projects, such as airports, ports, or toll roads – a particularly attractive revenue-generating proposition for investors, seems to be encountering a lack of enthusiasm. In addition, the projection of 418,545 students to be housed by the new classrooms is based on a class size of 45, still crowded by most any judgment.
  • LRT-1 light rail extension to Bacoor, Cavite – A planned 11.7-kilometer extension from the existing end of LRT-1 in Baclaran to the southern suburb of Bacoor seems to have better prospects for success, having attracted a great deal of attention by potential bidders. While traffic-challenged commuters in the southern part of the metro area (in the interest of full disclosure, present company included) are keenly anticipating the new light rail, the project will face some significant challenges; it will be operated separately from the existing LRT-1, an awkward arrangement at best, and will be feeding several thousand commuters into a system which is already showing its age and is grossly over capacity, issues that have yet to be addressed in any substantial way.

As one commentator has observed, President B.S. Aquino’s third SONA was a “citing [of] disembodied statistics out of context and stringing them together into a litany of little ‘wins’ to tell a story of ‘achievement’,”and looking at it from the background perspective of the Technical Report, that is probably a fair assessment. Although there has been some progress, there is little sense of continuity or an overall plan. It is reactive rather than proactive, which may simply be reflective of the personality of the leader for whose benefit the report was written – one who continues to focus on the perceived misdeeds of his long-departed predecessor, yet who seems to be unable to break away from the Philippine tradition of a rhetorical, short-term, and piecemeal approach to governance.

Ben Kritz

Ben is a veteran of the automotive industry with over 10 years' experience in logistics and fixed operations management, and has moonlighted as an occasional news correspondent in the US and abroad for the past 25 years. Now an independent management consultant, Ben advises a diverse group of clients across Asia in sectors as varied as air transport, auto sales and marketing, and small- and medium-enterprise development.

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Is Noynoy’s house of cards about to collapse?

July 29, 2012

If you’ve ever tried building a house of cards, perhaps even challenging yourself to use the entire deck of fifty-two (52), then you’ve probably realized how frustrating and exasperating it is. Even the slightest movement will cause the entire structure to collapse. You’ve got to have a very steady hand to make sure that the upper layers don’t upset the base. You pray and hope that no wind comes in, and that certainly no big bad wolf huffs and puffs at it in one way or another.

Simply put, a house of cards is a structure that is considered unstable, and is in danger of collapsing or falling. The cards, because of their flat shape, cannot stand on their own. Adding more cards to the structure without strengthening the base makes it more liable to collapse; the cards are not designed to support a very large amount of mass and withstand its corresponding pressure.

That in a nutshell describes the Philippines and what its society has evolved to today – a house of cards.

President Aquino’s case against former president Gloria Arroyo is flimsy

Let’s start by magnifying our microscope and zooming in to the entity currently at the helm of Philippine society. For lack of better words, President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino (PNoy) is most likely going ape shit ballistic now that former President and “big evil” Gloria Arroyo (GMA) has been released on bail. Apparently, the evidence of electoral sabotage against her was insufficient to keep her in jail. His government has another set of chargesthough. This time they are charging her with plunder from the PCSO along with nine (9) other heads. As of this writing, the arrest and all other proceedings related to this case are suspended.

PNoy has built his anti-entire corruption upon the tagline ”kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap. If corruption goes away, poverty will. Thus we get two (2) primary assumptions on why PNoy is obsessed with putting GMA behind bars:

1) Gloria and associates are the biggest practitioners of corruption, and;
2) Corruption and poverty will go away if Gloria and her associates are put away.

The first assumption is by itself hard to prove. The electoral fraud charges didn’t stand up to the scrutiny of Pasay Regional Trial Court Judge Jesus Mupas in the first place because Norie Unas’ testimony couldn’t be corroborated, yet PNoy Aquino insists that the testimony by and of itself is absolutely reliable. It is an educated guess that the electoral fraud charge is the Aquino government’s strongest case against GMA. Nonetheless, since the entire case hinged on Unas’ “overhearing” GMA command a 12-0 in Maguindanao without anyone to corroborate it, then it is valid to say that this case was a house of cards waiting to collapse. Mupas blew the house down like the big bad wolf, and to BS Aquino, that is absolutely unacceptable. Is Mupas perhaps the next judge to be on PNoy’s chopping block?

Why focus on the nine year term of Arroyo as president, when perhaps we can take a step back and actually think, just exactly how big Arroyo’s alleged “corruption” is compared to other government officials of eras past? Is PNoy conveniently forgetting that corruption in government had already existed before Arroyo’s time? Yes, that includes even the tenure of his dead mother Cory. That includes the time of Marcos, Ramos, Erap, Roxas, Quirino, Magsaysay, Macapagal, Quezon, Laurel, Osmeña, and Garcia. How many other people have been corrupt, and to what degree? How does it compare with Arroyo’s alleged “corruption”? Exactly how many corruption cases have ever even resulted in a conviction with convincing evidence? And how exactly do you measure corruption in an individual objectively, anyway? One needs to come up with irrefutable proof, not just hearsay. It’s not what you feel or know, it’s what you can prove in court. And no, it’s not guilty until proven innocent; it’s the other way around.

If PNoy’s band of merry men can’t answer even these basic questions, then their first assumption has already been pulled out from under them.

Ever since the jailing of Gloria, did corruption and poverty indeed go away? No, there are still people who bloat project costs, who pocket government funds for their own, and there are still people living in unfavorable conditions not only all over the metro, but in other parts of the country. So much for the second assumption.

You don’t even have to have a highfaluting degree to figure out that even if you take the phrase ”kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” by itself, you can deduce that the reverse actually makes more sense. “Kung walang mahirap, walang corrupt.” People become corrupt because they are desperate to uplift their status in life by any means necessary. They see the need to do undesirable things, such as steal, embezzle, and extort, because they need the money, and benefits that come with it. Screw the law, screw the government, they haven’t been able to help me. Only then does PNoy’s slogan make more sense, because by then it becomes a vicious cycle of people taking advantage of each other. And boy, are Pinoys ever good at looking for the “one-up” that they can use over their own countrymen. Once again, I emphasize, that PNoy’s “guiding philosophy” of anti-poverty cannot stand on its own. All that time that Gloria was in jail and poverty and corruption are still did not go away, and every day that goes by and Arroyo is out of jail: there are gusts of wind that blow Aquino’s anti-corruption and anti-poverty house of cards down.

President Aquino’s government is inherently unstable

When we zoom out a bit from how the Aquino government handled GMA’s case, we zero in on PNoy’s government from the time he became President. We find that we are looking at yet another house of cards. Two years into his term, and his anti-corruption and anti-poverty “platform” has yet to have any real impact. Aquino took credit for any and all work started by his predecessor yet he continued to blame her for “leaving his government nothing to work with.” He gave undeserved praise to his loyal constituents. He trumpeted small accomplishments without painting a bigger, brighter road map of the future for us. He continued to cancel projects simply because they were started by his predecessor. He has been leading us into a possible armed conflict scenario with China, all because he has not shown adequate diplomatic skills.

In other words, he continues to do nationally non-beneficial things, to find every excuse not to do something of his own accord and to parade as his own all successes not attributable to him. It’s all in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) 2012. As an accompaniment, try reading this excellent dissection of the accompanying technical report, done by Ben Kritz.

Presidents, as representatives of the people, are faced with the enormous task of bringing his/her countrymen, even those who don’t agree with him/her, together towards one single purpose and vision of the future. To make it sound more formal, it’s like building a house with a strong foundation. PNoy would have a much easier time doing this if he had statesman and leadership skills. Has PNoy been doing well? I didn’t see him do that well with GMA or with former Chief Justice Renato Corona. Instead of respecting the Judiciary as a co-equal branch of government he sneers and throws tantrums every time they make a decision he does not agree with. How does he deal with his critics? Does he give them the time of day in answering and allaying their concerns? He pretends he doesn’t even hear them, or worse, he humiliates them in public! Keeping mum about Budget Secretary Butch Abad’s statement of denial of pork barrel to non-allies is not exactly something a leader should be doing, too.

A recent example of how he deals with “unfavorable people” showed him delivering harsh words about Noli de Castro on TV Patrol’s 25th anniversary. Mr. President, giving your critics the finger and generally acting in a manner unbecoming of a statesman will not unite your people. Worse, it serves to shake the foundation of your term, where it must be built on good leadership and a uniting vision for the future. Is that too much to ask?

Recall the words of Abraham Lincoln: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” BS Aquino is merely accelerating and reinforcing the process which Pinoys are naturals at: being disunited, usually over the smallest and most trivial of things.

Filipino society rests on a shaky foundation

The Philippine economy, despite PNoy’s claims that it is doing well, continues to be dependent on overseas foreign worker (OFW) remittances. What will happen to our economy if the conditions of where they are currently employed change? What will happen if they suddenly get up and one day and are asked to go home? Is our economy ready to support them? Our economy, and society, would crash. There is not enough work for all the citizens based here, much less for the sudden influx of kababayans coming home.

Is Filipino society an inherently unfair one? We expect the minority who are well-off to support the majority who are not. Remember the characteristic of a single playing card: it is thin, and cannot stand on its own. Our society encourages a sense of entitlement in its people. Pinoys like to believe that they deserve all the help that they can get because they are always a victim of circumstances. Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has put it best: Malays are prone to take the easy way out. Remember that the native Bumiputra of Malaysia and Filipinos descend from the same people.

Pinoy pride is one of the biggest and flimsiest houses of cards I have ever seen. It is held up by the flimsy premise that something is great just because it is Filipino. Ah basta! We continue to brandish Charice, Manny, Lea, and Jessica, to name a few, as symbols of Pinoy Pride, yet we continuously fail and forget to do anything to apply the secrets behind their success to our own lives. Once Pinoy pride becomes exposed as hollow (and more often than not, it is), the whole structure, and not to mention the face of the Pinoy, has just fallen apart.

Even if we build a house of cards, we as Pinoys are still bound by the limitations of the playing card. If there is too much weight and pressure on the people who support the top layers, then certainly the entire structure would come crashing down!

How do we overcome all this? How do you convince a Filipino that teaching him how to fish is much better than continuously giving him food? How do we make the transition from being a house of cards to a house of bricks that even the big bad wolf will not be able to huff and puff at and blow down?

Real change begins at the bottom of the Filipino society. The inherent cultural character has to evolve, and Filipinos have to learn from the mistakes of the past. Are we ready to undertake the arduous task of rebuilding a nation that has been neck deep in dirt for so long? Are we ready to work together as a nation to build up the cultural substance so that we will no longer be flat and thin like playing cards? Or are we still obsessed with our celebrities and with gambling our live away in card games?

And that is why we as a society have to reemphasize the thinking part in ourselves. Why waste the time to build a house of cards which is flimsy, and is frankly, all for show? Why not instead design a house of a sturdy material,with substance, and then build it up with your own hands? That way we can be truly proud of what we will build.

Noynoy Aquino happens to be the ultimate embodiment of everything wrong with the Pinoy, yet ultimately presidents matter little in the grand scheme of things. He’s not the cure all to our ills in society; we ourselves are. Forget about Noynoy and allow him to fiddle while Rome burns; we should be busy putting the fire out ourselves.

Bizarre

FIRST PERSON
Bizarre
By Alex Magno

Somewhere along the way, we took the wrong turn. Now we are walking into a quagmire.

The last policy suggestion for the problems we are encountering in the South China Sea descends from the pathetic to the comical. One veteran legislator suggests we go to the UN and ask for the deployment of a peacekeeping force to patrol the contested islets and shoals in what has eventually become a very crowded sea.

Assuming the proposal will be seriously advanced by our diplomats, and seriously entertained by other nations, such a force will be very expensive to deploy. It will require a small multinational navy deployed for an indefinite period, with a very long logistical line. Even if the UN decides to deploy such a force, it is doubtful any country would volunteer scarce naval assets to the area for an open-ended tour.

UN bureaucrats must have rolled their eyes before slumping into their seats on hearing the latest brilliant proposal coming from Filipino politicians.

As things stand, the UN has its hands full trying to avert a bloodbath in Syria. Over the past year and a half, Russia and China vetoed several Security Council resolutions aimed at applying pressure on the Assad regime.

The international body is now in one of its most humiliating moments of helplessness. As the carnage escalates, all the UN has in Syria is a tiny unarmed observer mission confined to their hotel.

There is great reluctance for the European Union to deploy the same forces they did in Libya last year, and in Kosovo and Bosnia many years before, to prevent a genocide from progressing. The Europeans are consumed by a debilitating financial crisis that will likely require a generation to sort out. They are trying their damn best to pull out their forces from that interminable war in Afghanistan as fast as they could without losing too much face.

Meanwhile, Somalia remains a failed state. War looms between Sudan and South Sudan. The clouds of military conflict are gathering in central Africa. Civil war could escalate in Nigeria. On top of it all, there is widening famine in the Sub-Sahara that strains the resources of all UN agencies.

There is more than enough on the UN’s plate at this time. The member-countries will not even think of underwriting a costly naval deployment in the South China Sea. The proposal to do so is simply absurd.

Even if Filipino diplomats, displaying the same degree of diplomatic Asperger Syndrome we put on display at the ASEAN meeting, push and nag the funny proposal to the meeting room of the Security Council, China will simply wave its veto power at it. The funny proposal will instantly dissipate.

The world’s second largest economy enjoys a permanent seat in the Security Council. Beijing’s expects the same sort of unwavering diplomatic support from Moscow as much as China unwaveringly supported Russia’s position in the Syrian question.

We may stretch our imagination insanely to the maximum: maybe the Russian and Chinese ambassadors might be absent in a Security Council vote on the Philippine proposal, thus failing to cast their vetoes. Consequently, a puny “peace-keeping” naval force is assembled in the South China Sea. All Russia and China have to do is to muster a blue ocean fleet from Hainan and Vladivostok, bringing that to bear on whatever is there around Pagasa Island.

In a word, the proposal to request a UN force be deployed in the South China Sea is even worse than that earlier proposal to unilaterally bring the Scarborough issue to international arbitration. That earlier proposal, now dead, grossly overlooked the prerequisite for international arbitration: that both parties first agree to submit to the process.

Before making all such bizarre policy proposals in the open media, it should be better for our politicians to first convene a competent policy think tank that will think through all such newfangled ideas. The main reason we find ourselves in the diplomatic predicament we are now in is a distinct propensity on the part of this administration to talk more than we work.

As a case in point, President Aquino in his last SONA made it sound like we are on the brink of becoming a naval power in the region just because we will acquire another old frigate once destined for the junkyard. It is twin to the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, the ship that single-handedly militarized the situation at the Scarborough Shoal.

The President oversold our unimpressive acquisitions. As a result, it now appears the Philippines embarks on an arms race to compel China to bow to our territorial claims.

Not surprisingly, one reporter pointedly asked the President the other day if we are ready for war with China. That is the peril of allowing boastfulness to overpower a clear sense of proportion.

There is no question our armed forces need an upgrade rather direly. Every care ought to have been exerted, however, to separate our meager equipment upgrade from the burning South China Sea issues. Every care must have been exercised to dispel any suggestion we are trying to match the Chinese fleet in strength — for the simple reason we can never afford to do that.

The truth is we can barely afford the equipment upgrade just to enable our military to accomplish its routine missions. War can never be on the agenda — although the President’s boasting blurs that point.

Consequently, he fuels a jingoistic hysteria that narrows the space for creative diplomacy even more.