Monday, October 31, 2011

PNoy’s stimulus package

‘If the COA will just apply forensic auditing and reconstructive accounting techniques, such action by COA will provide solution for stopping LGU officials’ abuse.’
IS it only because America is into putting together a stimulus package that the Philippines in putting together funds from expected government savings and is about to spend P72 billion in what is also being heralded as a stimulus package? Gaya-gaya?
In our case, the stimulus package is expected to have a political effect — boost the approval ratings of the local government units, which according to PNoy are improving, as are his own performance ratings.
“At sigurado naman pong aakyat pa ang mga rating na iyan, kung mapupunta sa mga proyektong may kabuluhan ang pondong pinagpawisan ng taumbayan. Naintindihan naman po siguro natin na dahil sa bumabang koleksyon noong 2009, nabawasan po ang IRA ng ating mga LGUs. Pero dahil po alam kong hindi puwedeng pabayaan lang ang mga LGU, na siyang nagbibigay ng agarang lingap lalo na ngayong panahon ng kalamidad, heto po ang good news ko sa inyo: ilalabas po natin ang ating LGU support fund, na nagkakahalagang 6.5 billion pesos,” he said.
The LGUs will receive P273.31 billion in IRA in 2012, lower than their 2011 IRA of P286.94 billion. The P6.5 billion will help fill the gap.
Aquino cites the 2011 Survey on Good Local Governance last September which showed that 76 percent of the respondents are satisfied with their governors, 82 percent with their mayors and 75 percent with their vice mayors.
A reader (who wishes to be anonymous) notes, though, that we all ought to keep a closer watch on our LGU’s finances: “With reference to the CamSur financial analysis particularly the fund sources, there should be a law for mandatory performance appraisal and analyses of actual application of all the funds whether they produced concrete results as targeted/planned and who benefitted.
“This is similar to the rate of Return on Investments (ROI) for the public to know where their taxes were applied and who spent what and where. If the COA will just apply forensic auditing and reconstructive accounting techniques, such action by COA will provide solution for stopping LGU officials’ abuse of the limited financial resources of our country and avoiding a ‘bottomless pit and wangwang’ syndrome from being a going concern.
“This suggestion is just wishful thinking, as most members of our Congress were former local government officials and some if not most of them have mysterious skeletons in their closets, thus making it impossible for the Information/Transparency bill to become a law, at this moment.”
A friend wants to place a friendly bet on whether or not the following can also happen in our country. Here is the news story that he wonders about whether it can happen here:
“Ukraine’s former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison Tuesday on charges of abuse of office in signing a gas deal with Russia, a verdict the European Union and the United States both condemned as politically motivated.
“Tymoshenko, the driving force of the 2004 pro-democracy Orange Revolution and now the nation’s top opposition leader, denounced the trial as rigged by President Viktor Yanukovych to get rid of a political opponent.
“The case has galvanized the opposition. A crowd of several dozen angry Tymoshenko supporters clashed following the verdict with helmeted riot policed who flooded the city center, but they were quickly pushed away and it was unclear if the protests would last.
“Judge Rodion Kireyev declared Tymoshenko, 50, guilty of exceeding her authority as premier when she signed a natural gas imports contract with Russia in 2009. He also banned her from occupying government posts for three years after the completion of her prison term and fined her 1.5 billion hryvna ($190 million or euro140 million) for the damages her actions cost the state.
“Tymoshenko, clad in a beige dress and wearing her trademark blond braid around her head, has called the trial a “lynching.” She appeared unfazed by the verdict and began addressing reporters in the courtroom without waiting for Kireyev to finish reading the lengthy ruling.
“She said Yanukovych wrote the verdict himself and compared it to the show trials and horrific purges by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.
“The year 1937 has returned to Ukraine with this verdict and all the repression of citizens,” she said. “As for me, be sure that I will not stop my fight even for a minute. I will always be with you as long as it is necessary.”
And what’s my friend’s bet? Whether, in the Philippine scenario, the case could even get to a court and whether, here, the case would galvanize anyone into demonstrating against bringing the once all-powerful former leader before the bar of justice to be meted the just punishment for her crimes? Any takers?
Will someone explain to this non-lawyer what difference it makes that a case supposedly assigned to the Supreme Court’s 3rd Division is decided on by the 2nd Division, after the assigned ponente (Spanish for “proposer of a motion.” In this case, the justice assigned to write the decision.) was transferred from the 3rd to the 2nd Division?
It is this non-lawyer’s impression that cases of little import are assigned to the divisions (composed of 5 justices) that do not involve “the constitutionality of a treaty, international or executive agreement, as well as those involving the constitutionality, application, or operation of presidential decrees, proclamations, orders, instructions, ordinances, and other regulations.”
So, why should it matter which division made the decision? Aren’t the five justices of one division equal to the justices of another division? Would five justices, as learned and as steeped in legal lore not be equal to those in another division? Didn’t the ponente know that cases assigned to one division cannot be transferred to another division?
If as the SC says this is their “internal rule.” Why, if this is true, did the ponente not know that “internal rule?” (By the way, these rules have never been published and we don’t really know whether the SC creates these internal rules as needed. LOL)
What would it matter that one or another division heard a particular case?
What the Supreme Court decided – to hear the case again (instead of just insisting that the decision was final) — brings up all kinds of speculations and suspicions that does a Supreme Court that has been changing its mind over and over again in so many cases absolutely no good.
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Sunday, October 30, 2011

South China Sea: It takes two to tangle

By Jarius Bondoc
The Philippine Star
A congressional ally says that former President Gloria Arroyo’s parathyroid disease is worsening her cervical spine ailment. Symptoms of parathyroid: chronic fatigue, depression, osteoporosis and osteopenia, sleeplessness, bone ache, irritability, forgetfulness, gastric acid reflux, high blood pressure, heart palpitations, thinning hair, kidney stones, recurrent headaches.
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Chief Justice Renato Corona told reporters that the case of PAL’s retrenched flight attendants was first assigned to him in 2008, but he inhibited himself. Presumably he continued to do so when the en banc took back Friday a “final” order of last month to reinstate the employees. The recall was made because of a technicality. Allegedly the wrong division issued the ruling, due to inadvertence of the ponente or decision author. But lawyers are asking if there really was such oversight. And if so, why wasn’t it pointed out while the supposedly wrong division was still discussing the case.
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In the eyes of the United States, China is a martial, economic, and environment aggressor in the South China (West Philippine) Sea. Citing ASEAN grumbles, the giant is pictured as a naval bully, oilfield intruder and marine poacher. It’s largely China’s fault, for it says one thing and does another. It proclaims non-violence in facing counterclaimants in the Spratlys, but has gunboats ramming Vietnamese seismic and Filipino fishing vessels. It proposes dialogue but unilaterally asserts ownership of the entire sea. It feigns to desire peace while rushing to build 36 warships to enforce such claim. China employs diplomatic charm, but its foreign minister is not even a member of its ruling party Politburo, while its military, energy, fisheries, oceanographic and maritime commissars are.
It takes two hands to clap, goes a Chinese adage. Maritime policy analyst Dr. Mark J. Valencia stresses that the US is half the problem in the South China Sea. The associate of the National Bureau of Asian Research in Washington says some of China’s aggressions are mere reactions to US acts. Naturally his US government is upset with him.
To Philippine Navy and Foreign Service officers yesterday Valencia recounted near clashes with China that the US incited in the past decade. Foremost was the Hainan Incident of 2001, in which a US reconnaissance plane intruded Chinese air space 70 miles off the southern island-province. The US craft collided mid-air with an intercepting Chinese fighter jet, killing the latter’s pilot and forcing the former to crash-land. Last June two Chinese jets chased away a US spy plane from the Taiwan Strait. In both incidents, observers suspect, the US was monitoring how China would react.
Then there’s the US naval vessel Bowditch that has had several run-ins with Chinese counterparts. In 2008 another US ship, the Impeccable, was shooed away from the Chinese garrison in the Paracels. The US claims that the ships were on oceanographic research. But Valencia said they’re part of a 29-ship special mission in the South China Sea. Among the reported tasks were submarine tracking.
In all incidents the US invoked freedom of navigation under a 1958 international treaty. China, on the other hand, asserted its 200-mile exclusive economic zone under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The US refuses to sign the later (1982) pact. The Philippines recently charged that China’s unilateral “nine-dash line” claim over the South China Sea was a violation of the UNCLOS.
Valencia counseled ASEAN countries to uphold their own interests and not get caught in a potential US-China crossfire. He said that through diplomacy the ASEAN can even get the two powers to stand down.
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It’s the turn of Huawei, China’s largest telecoms firm (three times ZTE Corp.) to get embroiled in corruption charges. The party secretary and general manager of government-owned China Mobile in Chongqing province, and his son were indicted last week for taking 36 million yuan in bribes from Huawei.
The Chongqing office of the giant China Mobile service provider buys from Huawei 100 million yuan worth of cellular phones a year. The party boss’ son was made to look like an employee of Huawei, although he never reported for work at any time. Ericsson too might be implicated.
(See and http://www.bloom
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Yesterday was the centenary of General Miguel Malvar, the last Katipunero of his rank to succumb to superior enemy forces during the Philippine-American War.
Malvar had led the revolution against Spain in his Batangas home-province before the American occupation. After a respite he regrouped his brigade to fight the new colonizers. The fierceness of Batangas’ resistance to US rule provoked the “re-concentration”, the enclosing and isolation of small villages, later adopted as “hamletting” during the Vietnam War.
In 1902, with thousands of Batangueños dead from famine and disease, Malvar and his family surrendered to end the US pacification campaign. He turned to farming until he passed away in 1911.
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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ, (882-AM).

Saturday, October 29, 2011

‘Batchoy’ incident and Tagore’s servant

By Alex P. Vidal
This is a true story I will never forget for a long time.
My friend, a city tourism employee assigned in the old Iloilo airport, and his wife ordered batchoy (hot native noodles and beef soup) inside a giant mall in Iloilo City one Sunday afternoon.
They just came from church so they were bejeweled and dressed decently. I was in another table adjacent to the couple and we were chatting about their niece, a nurse who just left for the United Kingdom, while waiting for the order.
After a few minutes, a scrawny looking waitress arrived to serve the hot meals in three bowls — two La Paz batchoy for the couple and one sotanghon batchoy for me.
As the lady server was preparing to put the order on the table, she slipped and lost her balance. She accidentally dropped one bowl of smoldering batchoy straight to the head of my friend while his wife received one bowl on her body and lap. Several noodles and sprinkles of soup landed on my face like hot rain drops. The couple scampered away from their seats like dancing in the firecrackers screaming and shouting expletives.
The waitress went hysterical and didn’t know what to do. She fought back tears while apologizing in hoarse voice, shaking. Cooler heads prevented the wife, more embarrassed than hurt, from uncorking a slap on the waitress’s face.
The couple took turns in cursing her loudly and violently; they questioned her culture. They threatened to sue the waitress and the management. She broke down while fellow waitresses came to her rescue asking apology and appeasing the angry couple while wiping off noodles and beef from my friend’s face.
“Sir, mam, pasensiaha lang ako indi ko hungod aksidente lang gid to. Malooy kamo wala pako katulog kay nagpulaw ako sa hospital may dengue bata ko (Sir, ma’m, please forgive me it was an accident. I beg for your mercy I didn’t have enough sleep because I attended to my child who is a dengue patient in the hospital last night),” she pleaded.
I managed to convince my friend to convince his angry wife to forgive the waitress and leave the place. They transferred to the adjacent Dunkin’ Donuts.
Here’s another story parallel to the batchoy incident. The great Hindu poet, Rabindranath Tagore, tells us a story in equisite poetry.
His servant did not come in on time. Like so many philosophers and poets, Tagore was helpless when it came to the less important things in life, his personal wants, his clothes, his breakfast, and tidying up the place.
An hour went by and Tagore was getting madder by the minute. He thought of all sorts of punishment for the man. Three hours later Tagore no longer thought of punishment. He’d discharge the man without any further ado, get rid of him, turn him out.
Finally the man showed up. It was middway. Without a word the servant proceeded with his duties as though nothing had happened. He picked up his master’s clothes, set to making breakfast, and started cleaning up.
Tagore watched this performance with mounting rage. Finally he said it: “Drop everything, and get out.”
The man, however, continued sweeping and after another few moments, with quite dignity he said: “My little girl died last.”

Friday, October 28, 2011

RATS in a rat hole

By Marichu A. Villanueva 
The Philippine Star
After being sworn into office last month, Customs Commissioner Rozzano “Ruffy” Biazon got marching orders from President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to strictly implement the provisions of the Customs and Tariff Code. By doing so, the Customs bureau is expected to effectively curb smuggling and, in the process, raise much-needed revenues for the government.
As one of the top five tax-collecting agencies of the government, the Customs bureau was tasked to collect P320 billion in revenues this year. It was bruited about in talk emanating from Malacañang Palace that rampant smuggling and failure to meet revenue collection targets cost the job of Biazon’s immediate predecessor, Angelito Alvarez.
Before he stepped down from his post, Alvarez conceded the agency might only be able to collect P295 billion by the end of this year because of tariff reductions and fluctuations in the peso-dollar exchange rate. Revenue losses due to smuggling and corruption were presumably not included in his calculations.
P-Noy removed Alvarez and placed his own trusted people at the Customs bureau. The Chief Executive installed into office the former Muntinlupa City congressman along with ex-Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim as deputy Customs commissioner.
Biazon and Lim both ran but lost under the Liberal Party (LP) senatorial slate of P-Noy in the May 2010 elections. Biazon is the son of former senator and now Muntinlupa City Rep. Rodolfo Biazon (LP). Lim, one of the accused in the failed “Magdalo” coup during the previous administration, was obviously tapped for his military background that he could apply to improve intelligence operations against smuggling and other fraudulent activities at the Customs bureau.
The tandem of Biazon and Lim need not reinvent the wheels to perform their jobs. All they have to do is continue, or better yet, intensify the Run After the Smugglers (RATS) campaign. Since the Aquino administration took over on June 30 last year, the RATS campaign has aggressively filed cases against suspected smugglers and their cohorts in the government.
Obviously taking to heart P-Noy’s all-out campaign to stamp out corruption in and out of the government, the RATS group reported filing at least 44 smuggling cases as of Sept. 22 this year. Roughly, this means an average of three cases every month.
The total dutiable value involved in these smuggling cases amounted to almost P60 billion. This translates to an average of P1.4 billion in dutiable values collectible in each case. For better appreciation of these figures, this also contributed P551 million in cash to the revenue collection of the agency out of incremental payments from duties and taxes on questionable values and special investigations conducted by the RATS.
Of the 44 cases, one case has been resolved and already filed in court by the Department of Justice (DOJ). This involved the smuggling case filed in August last year against Viking Haulers Inc. for allegedly evading payment of P85.9 million in duties for its importations. On the other hand, 21 cases filed by RATS with the DOJ were already submitted for resolution while seven cases are pending preliminary investigation and 15 others are up for preliminary investigation.
However, there is the specter of these cases going nowhere and efforts to collect unpaid duties being wasted following an unexpected turn of events. Eight Customs officials assigned to RATS literally found themselves in a rat hole.
This, after a Palace official issued a 90-day suspension order against them based on an administrative complaint filed by Sanyo Seiki Stainless Steel Corp. (SSSSC), a company they had charged with smuggling. The RATS filed on Jan. 20 this year a smuggling case against SSSSC president Gregory Uy Chan for his company’s alleged mis-declaring, under-weighing, and undervaluing its various steel and stainless steel importations last year by nearly 90 percent.
RATS established evidence to support accusations against SSSSC of having imported steel coils, steel sheets, steel bars and stainless steel worth P1.3 billion but which it declared as only worth P165.4 million. RATS found SSSSC to have submitted false and spurious invoices that shaved its tax and duty obligations to the government from P179.4 million to only P25.3 million.
While this case is pending at the DOJ, the Office of the Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs (ODESLA), under the Office of the President (OP), acted on the company’s complaint and issued the Palace suspension order. The administrative complaint filed against the RATS team came after a graft case was also lodged against them before the Ombudsman last June 29 by the same complainant.
The complaint against the RATS team stemmed from their alleged attempt to enter and search the SSSSC’s rented warehouse in Meycauayan, Bulacan on July 1 and in Dagat-Dagatan, Caloocan City on July 4 using defective mission orders. The RATS team was also accused of impounding the truck and goods owned by SSSSC on July 9 without any warrant of seizure and detention.
The RATS members charged with grave misconduct, among others, under the ODESLA-OP suspension order were BOC Deputy Commissioner Gregorio Chavez, Atty. Christopher Dy Buco, Edgar Quinones, Francisco Fernandez, Alfredo Adao, Jose Elmer Velarde, Thomas Patric Relucio, and Jim Erick Acosta. They went to the Court of Appeals to seek relief from the Palace suspension order.
But even before the suspension order came, Chavez, as RATS head, already went on leave as early as Sept. 30. While Chavez is on leave, Biazon transferred the functions of RATS temporarily to the deputy commissioner for the revenue collection monitoring group, Peter Manzano.
On a positive note, Biazon obviously intends to continue the operations of RATS. In fact, he has already filed two major smuggling cases since he took office last month. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, as we say.
But the Palace suspension order was unfortunately giving cross-signals on P-Noy’s anti-smuggling campaign. If doing their job at RATS got them into a rat hole in the “matuwid na daan,” what would now stop smugglers from acting like cats out to scare their wits away?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Is Hitler a hero?

By Sara Soliven De Guzman 
The Philippine Star
Whenever I hear the Marcoses speak about martial law in a defense mode, I tell myself, “Ah! That is forced amnesia.”
How can one ever forget the horror stories told by people from all walks of life about the tragedies that besiege us during those dark days? This was such a painful past in our nation’s history that continues to lie within our very spirit, our very soul – and no one can ever erase that!
It is just right for President Aquino to deny the state funeral for Ferdinand Marcos. Yes, the Marcos family will have to wait – and they know it! They will have to wait for a very long time since the torment; the agony and the suffering caused by the late dictator are still vivid in our minds and hearts. As a teenager and during my early adult life, I always saw Marcos as the Hitler of the Philippines. So now I ask myself how can Marcos (like Hitler) ever be a hero? How can we honor a man who caused us many sorrows and pains?
My late father, Maximo V. Soliven was a victim. Ferdinand Marcos crippled our family life. He made my father a social pariah during those years from 1972 to 1983. Before martial law, my father was at his prime. Marcos ruined his life.
In his biography, Max V. Soliven: The Man and the Journalist, Nelson Navarro writes: In his mid-1980’s writings, Max recalls that Lupita Concio asked Max to keep their September 18th show ‘on hold’ because her brother wanted to appear as guest. She was cryptic. “Ninoy has a big surprise,” she said, refusing to elaborate.
That Tuesday night, it was raining hard and Max sat nervously waiting for his guest to appear. “Don’t worry,” Lupita kept saying, reassuring him that Ninoy was on the way. With only a few minutes to spare, Max dreaded a repeat of the nightmare that had compelled him to blabber on for an hour without a script. Luckily, a pre-taped program was on hand; but soon, they found out it had been locked away by the attendant who had left for the day and the key couldn’t be found. Max would really have to do his adlib act all over again.
With just a minute to spare before airtime, Max stood petrified before the camera as Ninoy, dripping wet, stepped in with a naughty smile. “I’m ready,” he said. Max screamed: “But what will we talk about?” “Just ask me, What’s Oplan Sagittarius?”
No sooner had the green light turned on and Max asked that question that Ninoy was off talking about the finest details of this sinister plot that Marcos had supposedly concocted. I couldn’t put a word in edgewise,” the startled host said. “ He did all the talking.”
In the next three days, many people were edgy upon hearing of Ninoy’s expose. But it sounded so much like so many other exposes of those giddy days, many of which had proven to be nothing but mere rumors and disinformation. Even Ninoy Aquino dismissed the thought of imminent martial law. By exposing the plan, he suggested to Max, he had effectively disarmed Marcos. The president wouldn’t dare push through with an evil plan everybody had been told about.
But Ninoy was wrong. Marcos was serious and he had been preparing for months to pull off a surprise that would catch his enemies flatfooted. On the fatal Friday of martial law, Ninoy spoke before worried students at the Asian Institute of Management and assured them nothing would happen that night. He repeated this optimistic message at the University of the Philippines.
Sometime that evening, it was flashed on the radio that Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile’s convoy had been ambushed in Wack-Wack subdivision, Mandaluyong, right next door to Greenhills. One of Ninoy’s friends, Philippine College of Commerce president Nemesio Prudente, immediately called up Ninoy at the Hilton Hotel where he was attending a congressional committee meeting and told him to be ready. “I think this is it,” Prudente said. “I think Marcos has declared martial law.”
Again, Ninoy ignored the warning, confident that he knew better. The meeting went on. Not long after, there was a knock at the door. A military officer Ninoy knew well came in and he tersely said he was “inviting” Ninoy to Camp Crame. Ninoy knew the game was up and voluntarily went with the team.
Variations of the scene were being played out at the same time all over the city as well-coordinated military teams fanned out to gather Marcos’ enemies who had been singled out for immediate arrest.
The team assigned to Max came after midnight. They had evidently kept tight watch over him, knowing exactly where to get him.
That memorable night the soldiers came for Max. He was startled but composed. Precious was fearful for her children. Max’s first instinct was to call up his friend General Ramos. “Eddie,” he said calmly. “Is this for real? Shall I go with them?”
“Yes, Max,” the general said. “It will be better if you do as they say.” It was Ramos, soon announced to be the martial law administrator, who had sent them there.”
Perhaps it was not intended, but Max and Ninoy ended up roommates. “It could be,” says Max, “that they wanted to punish me by locking me up with somebody who could out-talk me or vice-versa.”
It was Max’s first experience with imprisonment. Always a free and active man, the sudden and harsh restrictions at Bonifacio were bound to exact a heavy toll on his patience and self-esteem. Only days ago, he was on top of his profession, a successful man with a beautiful wife and three young children. They had just moved into their new home. He had achieved such a high stature that presidents and captains of industry knew him personally and even catered to his wishes; now he was just another prisoner of Marcos. He had just turned 43 and his career, if not his life, was over.
The rest of this story you can read in my father’s biography soon to be launched on November 10, 2011 published by La Solidaridad.
Like Cito Beltran who wrote about this issue last week, we both endured the hardship our families went through during this very low point in our lives. I hope Bong-Bong, Imee and the rest of the Marcos clan discover and realize in their hearts that it is better to accept what has been done. Instead of defending their father to our deaf ears, show us that lessons have already been learned by their generation. Their inner circle of close friends and families may not have felt the intense physical and mental suffering during the martial law years. They were the fortunate ones, but we weren’t.
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Yesterday, my father’s brother Reggie Soliven passed away in New Jersey, USA. My uncle Reggie was a very quiet man but deep in his spirit you knew that he was a thinker like my late grandfather Benito. The gates of heaven have now opened for you Uncle Reggie – halfway my heart is joyful because I know you will finally be seeing your parents, my dad and your siblings who have gone before us. But halfway my heart is sad because we will miss you so dearly.