Saturday, February 28, 2015

A window into his mind

By Manila Standard Today
The general impression is that we have a president who is not only incapable of empathy, but also rude and inappropriate. Worse, he is blissfully unaware that he exhibits these attributes.
The first time he displayed this, we were prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. It was, after all, only a few days after 44 members of the Special Action Force were slain in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. Perhaps he needed a few days of silence and isolation to take in what truly happened, or contain his grief.
When he emerged out of hiding, however, Mr. Aquino, in an address to the nation, showed us he did not get it at all. He attempted to justify the pursuit of terrorists even though there was no quarrel with that in the first place.
Asked whether he knew of the operation to serve the warrant on the terrorists in the “territory” of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, with whom he was talking peace, the President, like a street gangster, said he would not answer a rhetorical question. He went on and on about him not having to know every little detail of the pursuit of criminals.
Days later, he chose to attend a car manufacturer’s social event instead of personally attending a ceremony as the slain policemen’s bodies were brought to the Villamor Air Base.
The following day, his words did little to comfort the grieving families yet again. He talked about his own experiences, the loss of his own father, as if that were supposed to ease the suffering of the bereaved.
More recently, the President spoke with the members of the policemen’s families. He was supposed to assure them that help was coming and that the government would ensure there would be justice for the 44 men.
Instead, the meeting, based on accounts of those who were there, became a surreal encounter where they asked questions and the President replied in cavalier fashion. At many points during the conversation, Mr. Aquino was photographed smiling or smirking, or looking impatient and bored at all the questions from the widows.
There is a Tagalog word for this manner of speaking—“pabalang”—usually reserved for children who talk back to their elders without respect and thinking themselves smart for doing so. Another local word, “pilosopo,” comes to mind—and it has nothing to do with being profound or deep or rational.
They say one’s words betray one’s state of mind. We realize, and with horror, what this says about the mind of the person who is supposed to lead this nation.
Let us brace ourselves for worse. Expect nothing less from a man of phenomenal callousness. So out of it that he might genuinely be wondering why all of us are after him.

In 2016, we should opt for an insurgent-president

I planned to vote for a well-known trapo in 2016, the one accused of high-level corruption. I listed down all his favorables, from the superficial one (he has the color of my skin ) and the substantial one (he promised to take on the most contentious issue of our time—inequality), The other contenders make my skin crawl—they are crooks who love playing holier-than-thou. Better the crook who may take care of the underclass and the vulnerable. . .
I am now having a change of mind.
The change of mind has nothing to do with domestic events and issues as these are too predictable and by-the-book. The reasons are external—the awesome spectacle of three leaderships that have been defying orthodoxy. Bold, unconventional, and not-your-standard-issue-politicians. We do not know how things will turn out, or what will be the final impact of their leadership on their governed. But in this time and place of too much orthodoxy, I think it is about time to elect a president not bound by politician conventions, like these three:
• The belligerent leaders of Greece
• Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan
• Jose Mujica of Uruguay
Maybe it is time for our country of conventional voters with conventional choices to elect an insurgent as president.
You may want to ask this question. Is not Mr. Abe a legacy politician, whose values, beliefs and creed have been shaped by the LDP, Japan’s establishment party which is the equivalent of the Lakas-NUCD then and the Liberal Party now?
When they say “ legacy politician” in the Asian context, the Number 2 example is Mr. Abe, after the princelings who have been ruling China just a generation after Mao and Deng.
The answer to that? True. Very true, rather. But what Mr. Abe is doing now, experimenting with economic policies that are aimed at lifting up Japan from its “Lost Decades” suggest policies that do not belong to the establishment. The mere fact that he appointed Haruhiko Kuroda, the former Manila-based head of the ADB as Bank of Japan governor (and bypassing the establishment candidates in the process) signaled one thing: he is not a prime minister stuck in orthodoxy.
The fiscal and monetary experimentations of Mr. Abe may fail. There are indications that they won’t succeed. But his break from the failed economic timidity of the past decades is not at all the stand of a establishment type. In many ways, Mr. Abe is an economic insurgent, a recycled leader with a new and bolder approach to governance. He would rather fail trying than just stick to same old, same old policies. The resoluteness of Abe and Kuroda in fighting the deflationary trap—despite harsh criticisms from conservatives across the globe—has been inspiring.
Did you hear about his efforts to put more women at the forefront of Japanese leadership and society?
Have you been reading about the amazing belligerency of the Greek leaders in their bailout talks with their Eurozone creditors?
Yanis Varoufakis, the finance minister appointed by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, told the creditors in very firm terms that Greece cannot accept the harsh austerity measures that are at the heart of the creditors’ negotiating terms. The opposition to the current bailout terms, which imposed harsh austerity measures to achieve the harsher repayment terms of Greece loans, was the reason Greek voters rejected the timid leaders and opted for Syriza.
The ruling Syriza coalition has drawn the line: scrap the harsh austerity provisions, pare down the primary surplus condition in the bailout terms and we will sign. And the manner by which they have been standing up to the Eurozone overlords is a profile in courage.
A four-month deal with the creditors was struck. And the financial press called it a defeat, a humbling moment for the Syriza, Tsipras and Varoufakis. But it is not. Greece has avoided a credit cutoff and the harsh primary surplus requirement that is at the heart of the old agreement will be renegotiated after the lapse of the four-month bailout.
Can Greece successfully lower down the primary surplus target of 4.5 percent of GDP that the creditors forced on the Greek leaders who were defeated by austerity-wary Greek voters in favor of Syriza? That we don’t know. But the fight is definitely not over.
The symbolism of tie-less Varoufakis, his shirt also untucked, staring down on the Armani-clad bankers, was a sight to behold. It says: No More Austerity, No More Suffering for the Greeks, No More Runaway Unemployment.
Were the world to erect a real pantheon for our great, modern-day leaders, Jose Mujica of Paraguay would be high up in that pantheon. He shunned the presidential palace in favor of his ramshackle, single-story house in his small landholding, where real farming is taking place. He drives a 25-year-old Beetle, if he does not walk. Mujica’s clothes would make Varoufakis, a shabby dresser in the world of finance ministers and bankers, look like a GQ model.
Mujica, who was once a guerilla leader, has lost none of the idealism of his youth. His dream is to bridge the chasm between the economic classes – which in the first place is not as unequal as in emerging economies such as the Philippines and in large economies such as the US. At the UN and other forums, he has talked bluntly about the pursuit of material things and the destruction of the environment.
He has cut down the poverty rate in Uruguay, has chalked impressive economic growth, legalized cannabis and institutionalized same-sex unions.
Yet, the 79-year old former guerilla, insurgent to the last sinew of his body, keeps on dreaming of better things for his country and his people.
After electing orthodox, timid, uninspiring leaders cut from the same cloth for generations, Filipinos should now elect an insurgent as president. Bold, unpredictable, awesome and inspiring. And there is still time for that insurgent leader to appear and take all our votes.
[If the Smartmatic-PCOS machine will read our ballots correctly and transmit the precinct-results properly.]


GABRIELA Women’s Party (GWP) representatives have on file House Bill No. 4396, titled “An Act Prohibiting Labor-only Contracting and Regulating Job Contracting and Sub-contracting.” For a quarter of a century now, the real value of workers’ wages has decreased, contractualization is more rampant, and strikes cause threat of repression. Contractualization constitutes a comprehensive attack on workers’ rights. This Gabriela bill is to put a stop to the pernicious practice of labor contractualization that has been keeping wages low and denying workplace benefits from long-suffering workers. The bill seeks to stop contractual employment by rendering the contractor a redundant agent. Banning Contractualization will dignify rank’n’file labor while strengthening the relationship between the principal employer and employee.

Called “Herrera Law” after its main sponsor, former Senator Ernesto Herrera, a long-time secretary-general of the pro-capitalist Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, TUCP. Former Sen. Herrera has currently endorsed this bill filed by the two Gabriela Women’s Party solons, Luz Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus to rectify the illegality of Contractualization. The HB 4396, a revised version of an earlier bill authored by former Bayan Muna Reps. Liza Maza, Crispin Beltran, and Satur Ocampo) seeks to end labor contractualization by re-amending the Labor Code. Among the bill’s provisions are those that would prevent employers from terminating any worker except for just cause, setting probationary employment at six-month duration, after which period the worker becomes a regular employee, and prescribing penalties for violations.

Ills of Contractualization: (1) helped press down workers’ wages by banning workers’ strikes over capitalists’ non-compliance with the minimum wage, (2) legalized contractualization by giving the Labor Secretary Baldoz the outstanding power to determine what is labor-only contracting and what is not, and (3) authorized repression of workers’ strikes by legalizing the Labor Secretary’s assumption of jurisdiction over labor disputes he or she deems harmful to the national interest....President Aquino has been using the Herrera Law fully to serve the interests of the big capitalists in the country. He has pressed down workers’ wages by refusing to grant a significant wage hike.”–Roger Soluta, Kilusan Mayo Uno, KMU secretary-general; contact information: 09287215313

It is reported that since 1989, under the amended Labor Code, Contractualization had been most popular with capitalists hiring workers for short-term, non-regular employment without the benefits accorded by law to regular workers. Contractualization has become rampant among business and industrial enterprises in the country. The practice has effectively hobbled the already slow growth of trade unionism. It has depressed wages, while the employers enjoyed higher profits, and curbed the workers’ exercise of their right to strike and undertake other protest actions against management abuses. Worse, it has engendered union-busting schemes among enterprises besieged by labor disputes, not the least by the big domestic and foreign-owned corporations or their subsidiaries.

“Contractual employment egged on capitalists to lay off workers more easily and led the shameful finding by the International Labor Organization, ILO, that the Philippines has the highest unemployment rate in all of Southeast Asia. Unemployment in fact is exploding under the Aquino administration from 4.37 million in 2011 to 4.49 million in 2013 while job generation dropped from 1.2 million in 2011 to a mere 317,000 in the same year.”--GWP Rep. Luz Ilagan

De Jesus said that the rampant scourge of contractualization is not only demeaning and costly for young underemployed job applicants constantly hunting for jobs, but also threatens the life and health of workers. She cited the example of the workers injured and killed in 2011 while working on the Eton building who were refused compensation for injuries and death because they were contracted under many layers of job subcontracting. This Gabriela bill seeks to stop contractual
employment by rendering the contractor a redundant agent, while strengthening the relationship between the principal employer and employee. In case the contractor fails to pay wages, the principal is bound to pay the employees directly. Security of tenure provisions prevent employer from terminating employee except for just causes. Contracts made to fix employment durations to violate the bill’s provisions will be ruled null and void. Probationary employment is fixed at six months, after which period converts to regular employment.

Among House Bill No. 4396 provisions are those that would prevent employers from terminating any worker except for just cause, setting probationary employment at six-month duration, after which period the worker becomes a regular employee, and prescribing penalties for violations. Specifically, amendment is sought for the Labor Code’s Articles 106-109: These pernicious Articles have been empowering the Secretary of Labor to issue orders that will promote the hiring of contractual workers.

In 2011 the Secretary of Labor issued an order providing further guidelines for labor contractualization.

The big winners of Contractualization are the billionaire capitalists/developers, mostly foreigners, hiring thousands of Contractuals at starvation wages Big winners also are the employment agency-owners who rake in up to 20 percent of the impoverished laborers’ daily minimum wage. Check out those owners of Contractual employment agencies... be impressed with their luxurious lifestyles; at how wealthy these owners are from squeezing their commission out of these impoverished Filipino minimum wage.


Status: Complicated to unpopular

MACTAN, Cebu — With Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte giving his support and endorsement for “Federalism” or a federal system of government in the Philippines, the “movement” has gained a media magnet as their champion and is slowly gaining supporters outside Imperial Metro Manila. He may not realize it but if Federalism actually takes off with his support under the next presidency or administration, Duterte would be doing us a lot more good than actually becoming the President of the Philippines.
In his book “Talent Is Not Enough” author John Maxwell stated that 1 is an insignificant number. In terms of the presidency many #1s thought they could change the Philippines but ended up being miserably changed by the experience often for the worse. If Duterte wants to be “generational” in terms of action and legacy, the promotion and realization of federalism in the Philippines will be a true legacy that will bring greater good for the greater number more than becoming #1.
*      *      *
The Philippines is now closer to the reality of Federalism in principle or in fact. We already have the Cordillera Autonomous Region or CAR. While they make no noise or declaration, Ilocandia particularly Northern Ilocos has concentrated on a development program “with or without” assistance from the national government. The province of Cebu has proudly and historically disdained Imperial Metro Manila and could very well go on being “An Island in the Pacific” as they promoted Cebu in the ’80s. Not many people realize it but the province of Davao could qualify as the birthplace of federalism as a real political movement and not just as a suggestion. Even ten years ago political leaders in Davao have pushed for Federalism to be free of too much politics and mismanagement by Imperial Manila.
After their experience with the absence or lack of support from the national government during Typhoon Yolanda, Tacloban City and many parts of Eastern Samar can be easily convinced to support and become a federal state and determine their own destiny. There is also the group from the province of Pampanga pushing for the decongestion of Metro Manila by shifting the national economic network and dependency on Imperial Metro Manila.
If and when the Bangsamoro Basic Law leads to the creation of the Bangsamoro government, it is unlikely that Imperial Metro Manila will be able to stop the Federalist movement. Perhaps the “federalists” should spend more time looking for champions, educating people and last but not the least helping provinces and regions to organize themselves into “proposed federal states” in fact or in principle. Instead of waiting for the BBL to happen or blocking the BBL, we should all consider “Federalism” as an alternative. The regions, provinces and ethnic communities still have a right to manage their affairs with greater independence and can still exercise a form of self-determination without radical or separatists threats or fears.
*      *      *
The current status of President Noynoy Aquino has gone from “complicated” to “unpopular.” His status also rekindles the issue of how long is long enough for a presidency. Before the Cory Constitution was written in stone Philippine Presidents had a term limit of 4 years and if he did well and if he behaved, he could run for re-election for another four years. Unfortunately Ferdinand Marcos Sr. liked being president so much that he decided to become president for life.
In reaction to this extended stay, the Cory crew thought that the best solution would be to limit the presidency to 6 years with no re-election. We are now realizing or discovering that this decision was not as brilliant as first thought of. Both the Arroyo and Aquino presidency have taught us that 6 years is too long under a bad or incompetent presidency. Re-election for another four years would certainly be a bum deal under a bad President but he or she would not easily be re-elected unless he or she had at least given a good first run in their first term or cheated like hell, which is what happens under dictatorships or absolute corruption or because we really pissed off GOD!
The current six-year term seriously needs to be rewritten because six years with no option to terminate, revoke or invalidate except via revolt or takeover, does more damage than good, is susceptible to destabilization and discontent and is simply too long. It almost feels as if you’re finishing a jail term for a crime you did not commit and the only consolation is that you are in “jail” with 100 million other Filipinos.
*      *      *
In modern Philippine history, yesterday’s “Hero Presidents” are today’s villains. The outcome is generally determined by failed expectations or contracts entered into by those administrations that have ultimately come back to bite the citizenry or left them having to foot the bill. We conveniently forget the situations back then especially the public discontent and outcry over lack of electricity, horrible traffic jams and threats of drought and water rationing.
We have short memories and even lower levels of gratitude concerning the political decisions made by yesterday’s heroes. Back then we wanted electricity at all costs so a president took our sentiments literally and said let there be light at whatever cost. The riding public wanted faster mobility and no traffic jams that trapped us for 10 to 12 hours on the NLEX and in Metro Manila streets one Friday evening. So a president said let the good times roll along with good deals, and we all said it was good. Twenty plus years and three presidents later we are kicking and screaming about the deals conveniently forgetting we were all part of why those bum deals were entered into. The irony being in normal times anything abnormal becomes illegal or corrupt and yesterday’s hero today’s villain.

Credibility of 2016 elections in PNoy’s hands

There is no question that the use of Smartmatic’s PCOS (Precinct Count Optical Scan) and Consolidation and Canvassing System (CCS) in the 2016 elections will again cast doubts on the integrity of the results. Consider the following:
1. In the 2010 and 2013 elections, the Election Returns data (ERs show the results of precinct-counting) were not shown in the Comelec public website. The Statements of Votes (SOVs show the votes garnered by each candidate on a precinct-by-precinct basis), generated at the Municipal Boards of Canvassers (MBOCs), were not made public either. This means that there was no way the candidates’ watchers could have verified the accuracy of the transmissions. Had they been made available, then watchers would have been able to compare the data received at the MBOCs with the data in their copies of the ERs.
2. This unavailability of data was also true at the Provincial Boards of Canvassers (PBOC) level.
3. Worse, even the Certificates of Canvass (COCs show the total votes garnered by each candidate per municipality, or in the next level, per province), generated at the MBOCs and PBOCs, were incomplete, which led to the speculation that Comelec was, in fact, not able to complete the canvassing at all. What data then did they use to proclaim the winners of the senatorial contest?
4. This lack of data and control figures is totally unacceptable even in a half-decent automated system. Banks, for instance, will never use this kind of half-baked system! Experienced Filipino IT practitioners will never design systems without proper controls.
5. In light of the above, the 60:30:10 phenomenon becomes very believable, because in a system which is non-transparent and lacking controls, it would be easy to hide programmed results.
6. Could this be the reason why Comelec did not want to use the CCS that was developed by its own staff at almost 1/100th of the cost of Smartmatic’s CCS?
7. In 2013, 23 percent of the PCOS units failed to electronically transmit the results to the MBOCs, which means the PCOS units and/or their corresponding CF cards had to be transported physically for canvassing. Those small CF cards could easily have been substituted with pre-loaded cards. (The CF cards are the equivalent of the ballot boxes.)
8. Smartmatic, Comelec, and some Congressmen say that in all the protest cases, the PCOS counts and the manual counts always matched, thus proving that PCOS counted accurately. This is not true.
9. In Nueva Ecija, the protestants proved that the difference between the two counts were significant. This revelation led former Comelec Chairman Brillantes to accuse the protestants from Nueva Ecija that they must have tampered with the contents of the ballot boxes. Brillantes therefore unwittingly admitted that tampering with the contents of the boxes can be done. It is therefore possible that the reason the counts matched in the other protest cases, is that the contents of the ballot boxes were replaced with matching ballots. The boxes were opened more than one year after the elections! Enough time to execute this dirty operation.
10. There are photographs of a roomful of ballots that were presumably printed AFTER the 2013 elections. Two reporters of tabloid newspapers wrote about it. Unfortunately, they were both shot to death soon after, while they were drinking beer in a small sari-sari store. Could those be the matching ballots for the other protest cases?
11. Sure wins were being peddled as early as Jan 2013, by election operators presumably with the assistance of former Smartmatic technicians.
With all of these serious system infirmities, it follows that we should never use Smartmatic’s PCOS and CCS ever again. And before somebody says that there are no other alternatives, let me say right away that that definitely is a big lie! We have recommended a more appropriate and more transparent system, which we are passing on to the Comelec free of charge, but which system, unfortunately, has been demonized by Smartmatic, Comelec, and some Congressmen, perhaps because it is a real threat to the PCOS system that they so love.
But there’s a little problem. The Brillantes Commission decided to use the Smartmatic PCOS and CCS in the 2016 elections again. Only the next Comelec Chairman, with the concurrence of majority of the other Commissioners, can undo that.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the key issue today: if the President wants a non-transparent system like Smartmatic’s PCOS and CCS in order that the ruling party can control the results of elections, then it is likely that he will appoint a Comelec Chairman who will espouse that system. If that’s what will happen, then goodbye, 2016 elections.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have committees on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms. All their efforts will be for naught if they don’t concern themselves now with scrutinizing the appointment of the new Chairman and two Comelec Commissioners. We need an independent Commission which will not just follow the bidding of Malaca├▒ang or any other political pressure group.

Friday, February 27, 2015

No justice, no accountability

By Emil Jurado
It’s exactly one month today when 44 police commandos were slaughtered at Mamasapano, Maguindanao by a combined force of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the breakaway group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and armed Moro villagers. And after a month, we are not nearer the truth. Justice and accountability seem so remote.
What can you expect from a President who refuses to accept responsibility? What can you also expect from from the MILF which insists that the clash was a misencounter?
The MILF insist that the police commandos did not ask the Moro rebels permission to enter its “territory”.
It was a matter of self-defense on our part, the Moro rebels keep on saying. Santa Banana, that’s baloney! The MILF had been coddling Marwan and Usman for years!
So how in the world can the grieving wives and relatives seek justice when the perpetrators of the slaughter refuse to accept responsibility and blame?
And how can the nation, in pain and anguish over the Fallen 44, expect justice from a President who refuses to accept accountability as the head of the nation? From Day One, he was aware of so-called Oplan Exodus.
All along, President Aquino had his former bodyguard, suspended and resigned police chief Alan Purisima, on top of the operation.
We have no less than eight investigations going on the same time to find the truth and seek justice and accountability, but at the rate they are going, we may never find out the truth.
There’s the PNP Board of Inquiry. But, my gulay, will the President ever be held accountable since the PNP is under him? He broke the chain of command.
There are also the Senate and the House of Representatives conducting investigations. The latter has since suspended hearing because it was getting to be a circus. The Senate on the other hand, has found out that there was no coordination at all between the police commandos and the armed forces that was stationed not far away despite frantic calls from the SAF who were being slaughtered.
My gulay, and to think that the firefight lasted 10 hours! That means that the Armed Forces is to blame for the slaughter when it could have been minimized.
Santa Banana, even the President was found to be misinformed when Purisima, who was at his mansion in Nueva Ecija at that time and resting, texted the President that artillery and mechanized reinforcement had already been sent to Mamasapano. My gulay, that’s unforgivable. And where in the would you find police commandos and armed forces relying on mere text messages? How Jurassic can we be?
With President Aquino so insensitive, scolding the widows who were only seeking justice, we should not expect too much.
No wonder civil society, the clergy, academicians, students and even the President’s uncle, Peping Cojuangco and aunt-in-law Tingting Cojuangco are getting restive. While all these may not amount to a coup, this should prompt Mr. Aquino to think and reflect -- that is, if he is even capable of doing so.
The big question now is: What will the MILF, which considers itself still a “revolutionary organization” until the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, do if the Bangsamoro Basic Law, is not enacted into law before President Aquino steps down?
MILF negotiator Mohagher Iqbal answered the question when he said “we are ready for it,” meaning that the Moro rebels will continue to be at war with government. In fact, the MILF has been preparing for war with its continued recruitment and training of its 10,000 fully-armed rebels. My gulay, the MILF even has its own factory of high-powered firearms, although reports say that Malaysia keeps on shipping arms to the MILF through Sabah.
This just shows you the duplicity of the MILF. While talking peace with the government, they are in fact gearing for war.
What I am worried about, however, is that government peace negotiators like Miriam Coronel Ferrer and Teresita Deles have become MILF spokesperson to the extent of coming out with statements that they are willing to compromise with the MILF just to have the BBL enacted by Congress.
The bottom line here is sincerity and trust. Can we still trust the Moro rebels that slaughtered 44 police commandos who were simply sent on a mission to serve arrest warrants on two terrorists?
So, what will government do if the BBL is not enacted? Analysts say that it must exert all efforts to have all stakeholders, not only the MILF, enter a peace agreement. It was a mistake for President Aquino in the first place to talk only with the MILF when there are so many other stakeholders that are crying out for peace.
This may take some time, but it’s worth all the effort. We have seen how untrustworthy the MILF has become.
While the nation’s focus is on the pursuit of  justice and accountability for the Fallen 44, let us not be diverted from other critical problems which are mounting.
There’s far instance, the report of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency that of the 1,706 barangays in Metro Manila, just over 130 may now be considered drug-free.
About 92 percent of the villages in the National Capital Region are “drug-affected” or found to have drug-users, manufacturers, peddlers or “cultivators” in their areas. Metro Manila remains the worst among the regions, followed by Calabarzon where 33.78 percent of the barangays were declared drug-affected. But, nationwide, only 20.51 percent of the country’s 42,065 barangays is considered significantly affected by the drug menace. The drug of choice or the most used narcotic remains to be shabu and marijuana, which are still considered affordable.
I am alarmed at this. Aren’t you?

Why can’t the Senate ask the question?

This is not a demand for every fighter or member of the Moro Islamic liberation Front (MILF) to be fingerprinted, as seems to be the worry of President Aquino.
This is simply a basic point of query that is bugging the public and the relatives of the slain SAF commandos?
I skipped the broadcast of the Oscar awards yesterday morning in order to watch the resumption of the televised Senate hearing, and to find out whether Senate chief prober Sen. Grace Poe or some other senator would finally pop the question on who did the shooting and who killed the commandos.
But sadly, the question was not asked.
For an inquiry ostensibly called to investigate the Mamasapano incident and the death of over 60 Filipinos (44 commandos, 18 rebels, some civilians), it is inexplicable why the Senate has studiously avoided asking about who exactly died and who did what. If as has been suggested in media reports, certain groups did the killing, who are these groups? Who is finding out?
After four public hearings and two executive sessions, the Senate inquiry remains absent-minded and unfocused. With so many generals, police officers and civilian officials on hand as resource persons, no one asked and no one was asked to make a report on the killings.
The public has been led into so many directions, many citizens now sometimes forget what question the inquiry is really trying to answer.
Among these distractions are:
What is President Aquino’s accountability in this incident? Did he authorize the SAF operation? Why did he not order reinforcements?
Which general refused the request or order to provide relief and rescue?
What was suspended PNP Chief Alan Purisima doing in this operation? Who gave him the authority to be involved?
Did the United States have a role in the incident? Did it suffer casualties?
All these questions are important, but some concerned citizens are so confused they believe it’s time to turn to Sen. Lito Lapid to conduct the inquisition, because he used to make the bad guys squirm and pay in his movies.
In the afternoon session, Sen. Ralph Recto indirectly asked about the killings in questioning peace adviser Teresita Deles and Justice secretary Leila de lima about whether the MILF will submit the names of its combatants. But the exchange was timid and roundabout.
Inquiry needs no-nonsense investigators
This shortcoming of the Senate inquiry underlines why an independent, bipartisan commission of inquiry, empowered by Congress, would have been the better mechanism for investigating Mamasapano. As long as the houses of Congress are doing the inquiring themselves, this affair of state will not get anywhere.
Here are some key reasons why, based on my reading on how independent commissions – like the Kennedy assassination commission and the 9/11 commission –have functioned in US history (there are fat books on the commission reports):
1. The Senate inquiry is nursing the illusion that it can establish facts and obtain disclosures by having senators throw clever questions at resource persons. Whenever the witness clams up or invokes executive privilege, it stymies the method.
2. An impartial inquiry will employ topnotch investigators and lawyers to conduct investigations of leads and question witnesses. They will be under obligation to establish facts and secure relevant documents.
3. An impartial inquiry can still be open to the public, but it need not have intrusive TV cameras intimidating witnesses and encouraging senators to grandstand.
4. An impartial inquiry would not summon the President to testify in open court. It will conduct the questioning or interview in private.
5. An impartial inquiry can delve in a more holistic way into big topics like: the nature of the government’s deal with the MILF, its impact on the incident, the nature of US engagement in the anti-terrorism campaign in Mindanao and Sulu.
It can also address in a more coherent way how the Bangsamoro project impacted the incident.
A high standard of acceptability
The writing of the commission report and findings will become the highlight of the inquiry.
The report will be thorough, detailed and clear. It will leave little room for doubt or interpretation.
Once the report is submitted, Congress must either accept or reject it. In the traditional congressional inquiry, either house must take it or leave it.
Not so with a independent commission report. Congress must decide as a matter of public responsibility. The public will also judge whether the commission has done right by the dead in Mamasapano.
As things are, there is little chance that the Senate inquiry can produce a report that will satisfy this high standard of acceptability.


It is not the fact of spending less foreign exchange when merchandise imports occasionally fall like they did by more than 10 percent in December last year. 

The declines which happen a bit more often than increases indicate the country’s growing ability to produce what it wants. I have not seen the numbers but I find the increasing use of substitutes for fossil fuel as one of the best indicators of the economy’s ability to be closer to economic independence.  

It must be admitted however coal seems to be taking over crude oil as the main fuel.  

Hence the private sector should be encouraged to develop more coal mines.  We have huge coal deposits in Malangas but mineral is said to be of low BTU.  

There is a community in Batangas, small as it is, completely dependent on solar power. 

The truth as a layman like me sees it is that  solar  power can be developed anywhere where the sun shines.

There are other smaller sources of power like biomass.

The trend towards developing renewable energy appears to be unstoppable.  But its contribution to total power generation remains small. Again it is not the fact that foreign exchange disbursements for crude oil will decline if renewable sources are fully developed.

The country has amassed gross international reserves of around $80 billion.

Crude oil is the single biggest important expense.  There is enough supply of dollars for imported crude or coal.

The reduction of reliance on imported materials by developing other alternative sources redeems the ability of the Filipino to stand on his own two feet.  That is the whole point.

Slow development of solar power and other indigenous sources is a manifestation of the possibility- in fact a reality- that when the Filipino is pushed to the corner he will stand up and fight and win.

This is the most important in how we will live  under the environment of the Asean Union.  Tariffs will be erased among the members. That means each of the group will try hard to  produce what it can to export to neighbors that do not have the product encouraged by the fact that a material  can be produced and exported at a lower costs if the country buying it does not collect tariff.

Having a bloated population of 100 million people living in a comparatively small piece of territory or 300,000 square kilometers makes self sufficiency in food difficult to attain.

But look at Taiwan. It is not just self-sufficient in food. It exports eggs, pork and vegetables to Japan and the Philippines. Its territory is probably less than half of the Philippines.

But Taiwan’s  population is only one-fourth that of the Philippines. It feeds its own people and is left with more to export.

Developments that have been happening since   Benigno   Aquino III took power in  2010 seem to indicate that under a trusted leader, the Filipino can help himself survive if he gets assistance from the business sector and the state.

I will not tire repeating that for the first time in history of this country, the banks and other financial institutions are going out of their way to help the small man eke out a living starting with small cheap loans.

Unable to push industrialization to higher planes because the economy failed to establish base material such as iron and steel and wood, the market- driven economy found itself pushing the service industry as a main driver of growth.

Thus we have an ever growing business process outsourcing industry that earns huge foreign exchange. Call centers are nearly everywhere. There is one in my city of Lipa.

We do not have the actual count of warm foreign bodies coming to the Philippines as tourists  but the number is definitely increasing as higher occupancy of rooms in five star and lesser hotels shows.

Try going to the casinos. Chinese, Koreans, Malaysians are in all kinds of gaming tables. The high rollers mostly from China, as repeatedly asserted on this space come with their families to enjoy the numerous tourist destinations while the father is  burning  – or winning -- money at the gaming table.

 The service industry appears to be the best hope for economic growth. Information obtained from the Philippine Stock Exchange shows that companies in the service sector paid the highest cash dividends. 

The economy may have discovered what it is good at – the service industry. The country has failed in manufacturing or industrialization. It failed more miserably in agriculture as proven by the fact that the Philippines is now the biggest rice importer. 

Thailand, on the other hand, is the world’s biggest exporter of the cereal 

The service sector and the recognition of the ability of the small man to get lift himself by his boot straps with financial help form the government and private sector are the brightest  spots in the economy.

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We do not know where that sanctuary is, that place, actual or figurative, into which President Aquino disappears when the going gets tough.
Not a few have noticed this disturbing pattern in Aquino’s behavior, his propensity to drop out of public view for days or weeks coinciding with stressful times. Sometimes, the absence is metaphorical: he is physically there but politically absent.
It took nearly four days after the Mamasapano calamity before Aquino materialized to discuss the matter with the people. That address, given full primetime play on television, was dull and evasive. It raised so much more questions about what really happened that a second address to the nation was booked the week after – to no avail.
Every year, the President of the Republic personally hands out the Ten Outstanding Young Filipinos award. This year, Aquino did not show face at the ceremony, which was held at the Palace for his convenience.
The backlash to his handling of the Mamasapano incident was massive, although it appears Aquino did not understand that until it was too late. It could be his work cycle or his personal habits: Aquino seemed to be responding in slow motion to a conflagration in the streets.
The same work cycle or personal habits might explain why scores of appointive positions, including dozens of senior posts at the PNP, remain unfilled. Among the most visible are three seats at the Comelec, the chair of the CSC, the head of the COA, the Secretary of Health, the chief of the PNP and several other sub-Cabinet posts.
Many of the appointive posts have been vacant for months. The adverse effect on the work of the national bureaucracy cannot be overstated. The Comelec will soon be preparing for next year’s polls. The OIC at the PNP, an organization now in the throes of demoralization, could not promote or transfer senior staff.
It does seem the national bureaucracy is in limbo. If the President will not do work, the bureaucracy will not move. Citizens will be short-changed.
The only time Aquino ventured out after Indonesian President Widodo’s state visit was when he popped up at Camp Crame, where relatives of the slain SAF commandos were processing their papers. The unscheduled visit dragged on for hours, a repeat of Aquino’s appearance at the Camp Bagong Diwa necro services.
It appears that Aquino was trying to compensate for missing the Villamor arrival honors by simply lingering too long in the company of the grief-stricken. It also appears the visit was a great chore for the President.  Soon enough he was arguing with the widows and allowing himself to say insensitive things that hurt rather than help the grieving.
After that, Aquino disappeared once more.
If the President is not functioning as he should, can the presidency be functional?


Two months ago, the arbitration tribunal hearing the case of Maynilad against the MWSS ruled clearly in favor of the former. The MWSS, in defying the ruling, puts itself above the law. The government agency is behaving in a manner that will scare away even more investors.
Each month the ruling is not implemented, the concessionaire loses hundreds of millions of pesos. This is not at all the rules-based regime investors want to be assured off when they bring capital into our economy.
The MWSS offers a nonsensical excuse for not acting on the ruling of the arbitration panel. It might confuse consumers, they say, if the forthcoming ruling on a parallel case filed by Manila Water against the agency favors MWSS.
MWSS has no right to use the Manila Water case as an excuse for not acting immediately on the ruling favoring Maynilad. While the two cases filed by the water utilities involve the same issues, they are two separate legal procedures. Obeying the ruling on the case involving Maynilad cannot possibly be contingent on the ruling on the case involving Manila Water.
MWSS’ logic is simply bizarre. It is also whimsical, imperious, arbitrary and possible criminal.
The two concessionaires sought arbitration when MWSS arbitrarily junked provisions in the contracts meant to protect the interests of the private investors who put in good money to modernize the NCR’s water distribution system. When the two utilities asked for the rate increases due them by the provisions of existing contracts, the MWSS instead despotically ordered them to bring down rates.
MWSS might be playing to the gallery, pandering to the populist crowd, trying to win political brownie points. That is not its role, however. Its role is to ensure long-term development of the water distribution system by ensuring a rules-based regime guaranteeing predictability and transparency.
If it cannot do that, MWSS betrays its mandate. If it politicizes everything, then everything will become uncertain. If everything becomes uncertain, no investments will flow into precisely those sectors crying out for modernization.
True, it is MWSS’ duty to protect consumer interest. It accomplishes that duty by ensuring ample and high-quality water for all consumers at a fair price.
It is not MWSS’ mandate to play the populist clown, to bring down water rates to unsustainable levels that might make consumers happy in the short-term but miserable in the long-term if no new investments are made in the distribution and bulk water system.
There is a fine line between adept regulation and populist pandering. That fine line must be observed, even if at certain points short-term populist demands might lose sight of long-term policy requirements. Utilities involve long-term investments. Those investments will come only if regulatory institutions govern with wisdom rather than myopic politicking.

On human trafficking

THE Philippine government was recognized as the top country in Asia in terms of government response in the 2014 Global Slavery Index (GSI), earning a BB rating, which means that “the government has introduced a response to modern slavery, which includes short-term victim support services, a criminal justice framework that criminalizes some forms of modern slavery, a body to coordinate the response and protections for those vulnerable to modern slavery.”
The GSI is an annual report released by the Walkfree Foundation, an Australia-based human rights organization dedicated to ending modern-day slavery. It has been dubbed as the most accurate and comprehensive measure of modern slavery, which includes trafficking in persons and forced labor.
However, the Philippines also retained its Tier 2 status in the United States Department of State’s annual Global Trafficking in Persons (GTIP) Report, a rank it has held since 2011.
Countries in Tier 2 status are those that do not meet the minimum requirements of the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) but are making significant efforts to do so, while those in Tier 1 status are fully compliant with the TVPA.
We in the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines are well aware of the challenges in implementing the Anti-Trafficking (ATIP) Law and in strengthening our country’s actions to combat human trafficking, one of the fastest growing crimes in the world, if not the fastest, and certainly the most atrocious.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of people fall prey to what many refer to as the modern day slave trade. They are transported, bought and sold like livestock for the purpose of sexual exploitation, forced labor, even organ harvesting.
Human trafficking is not only a crime but an assault on our very humanity and the inherent humanity of each and every person, regardless of his or her personal circumstance, regardless of whether he or she has been personally touched by this tragedy or remains an unengaged spectator.
As a society we should not be silent amid the rampant human trafficking that is happening all over the world. As a society, we should do everything in our power to bring about the harshest moral, political and juridical sanctions to the perpetrators of this pervasive assault on human dignity and human rights.
It has been reassuring to see so many people and organizations from various sectors sharing their strong personal and organizational commitment to the anti-human trafficking advocacy. As I said, we need no reminder of the cause that brings us together, of the enormity of the challenge we are facing, and the importance of our responsibilities as individuals and as leaders and actors in our own organizations.
The Philippine government acknowledges that human trafficking is not only a Philippine problem but also a global problem that needs the cross commitments of all countries for its resolution. It is aware of the urgent need to take immediate action against human trafficking and it has taken an active part in international and bilateral collaboration geared toward abolishing the global slave trade.
The Philippine is one of only 38 countries to have ratified the United Nations’ Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons—one of only six in Asia, in fact, the others being India, Thailand, Bangladesh, Nepal and Cambodia.
We have 14 government agencies and more than 30 non-government organizations involved in anti-trafficking endeavors, a healthy constituency of efforts by any standards.
Understanding the need to reform the legal framework to address human trafficking in all its complexity, the Philippine government enacted in March 2003 a comprehensive anti-trafficking law, the ATIP LAW or Republic Act 9208.
Identifying the best ways to ensure the implementation of this law represents an important investment that needs the adequate expertise of various members of the community. Because what we are doing about human trafficking in our country today is not enough to eliminate it altogether.
There are many Filipino women and children who are still victims of human trafficking. Every day, it seems, we encounter stories of them being bought and sold, forced into prostitution, or forced into domestic labor to work as servants, or forced into sham marriages where they are held as prisoners so they could provide children to their so-called husbands.
Various reports and stories confirm that despite the ATIP law, the Philippines remains to be a source, transit, and destination country for human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor.
These reports say the enforcement of the ATIP law is still weak; that out of all the human trafficking cases investigated only a few are successfully prosecuted under the ATIP law.
To be fair, the Office of the Vice President (OVP) reported that in 2014, the Philippines secured the highest number of convictions of human traffickers through the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), which Vice President Jojo Binay heads as chairman emeritus.
Binay said 52 persons were convicted in 49 cases, up from last year’s 37 convictions.
Drafting a legal instrument like R.A. 9208 is much more than investing an intellectual or diplomatic exercise. We must link the law to objective realities. We must ensure its implementation to prevent crimes that, as I said, qualify as slavery or sometimes even torture. We must be relentless in pursuing compliance and cooperation among all the government and non-government actors involved in human trafficking resolution with the end in mind of bringing the perpetrators to justice.
Each of us in the public and private sectors or the organizations we work for, just by sharing our insights, experience, information and expertise can help develop the comprehensive approach we need to ensure not just the success of the law’s implementation but also the success of all our concerted efforts towards stopping human trafficking altogether.
Because human trafficking is more than just a crime problem, it is more than just a law enforcement problem, or an economic problem or an immigration problem. It is each and all of these.

Thursday, February 26, 2015


ASIDE from the lively exchanges in Facebook (never mind the moronic posts- you have the choice to ignore them or better to unfriend the source), there’s a feature in this social media that is oftentimes hilarious, it makes FB surfing fun.

It’s the translation feature.

Like this translation of a post by business entrepreneur Jaime Gachitorena on a Lifestyle Inquirer article about the real father of Sen. Grace Poe (she was found abandoned in Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral in Iloilo): “ So Bongbong Marcos and Grace Poe are magkapatid?”

FB translation: “So Bongbong Mark and Grace Poe are brothers?

Now, this story has a gender angle!

The Mamasapano tragedy has spawned a lot of comments, angry comments (FB has become a shock absorber of the people’s rage). Read the translations and you will have a good laugh.

Like this comment by Paul S. Galutera: “Kapag kausap mo ay mga sinungaling tulad ng Pangulo na sinungaling din.. naku napakahirap talaga!”

Translation: “When are you talking to liars such as president false too.. Oh really terrible! “

Last Wednesday during the afternoon protest rally, Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. posted this comparison to the police actions against rallyists and the messy Jan. 25 Oplan Exodus that cost the lives of 44 members of the Special Action Force, 18 members of Moro Islamic Liberation Front and six civilians including an eight- year- old child:

“Kapag kailangan nang protektahan si Aquino laban sa mga nagra-rally:

“Meron nang chain of command

“Meron nang coordination

“Marami ang reinforcement

“Hindi na time-on-target.”

FB just translated the first sentence : “In case of need when jesus protect aquino against the nagra-rally.

Nato’s friend, Michelle Gcf remarked: “Pinakialaman ni Bro. Eli yang translation. Jesus will protect Noynoy raw. “

The translation of Obet de Castro’s post, also on the human chain rally last Wednesday, is one for the books:

Here’s the Castro post:

“Nagpapaliwanag sa DZMM si NCRPO chief Gen. Carmelo Valmoria na kahit daw nag-usap para sa human chain need ng approval ng higher ups at pag pinayagan na mag-ipon sa Crame baka magsewll at mabablock ang south bound.

“Gunggong! Nuknukan ka ng sinungaling.

“Nasarado ang south bound dahil hinarangan ng pulis at bumbero ang buong kalsada. Ang human chain ay single file at isang lane lang ang masasakop.

“Ikaw ang tumawag at nagrequest ng meeting kay Renato Reyes Jr.. In your behalf pumunta si Gen. Valerozo dahil nasa command conference ka. Kung di nyo kayang pangatawanan ang pagiging heneral nyo sa isang dialogue wag kayong makipag-usap sa susunod.”

Translation: “Leaflet in the chief is dzmm ncrpo gen. Carmel valmoria whatsoever she asked talked to in the chain of human need approval of higher ups and having allowed to muster in crame magsewll mabablock ox and the south bound.

“Closed the south bound because the police have erected and fire all the road. The human chain is single lane and a file only cover.

“And thou shalt call a meeting requested to Renato Reyes Jr.. In your behalf gen is come. Valerozo because in conference command you. If you can’t pangatawanan being in a general dialogue you not to talk to you soon.”

FB did not translate “Gunggong! Nuknukan ka ng sinungaling.” Hindi kinaya.
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