Will someone explain to me what the Meralco brouhaha is all about? There’sÃ‚Â Firms go after Meralco:Conversion of debt into equity demanded and then there’s Meralco downgraded to ‘hold’ from ‘long-term buy’-ATR. Does the government really have a case, and consumers? Or is this just a great corporate raid?
Instinctively, I assumed it was about 168, that multi-story emporium of everything low-priced that merchants claim is killing sales in the malls of Makati and Manila. There has been rejoicing among consumers and great depression among merchants because of 168. A typical story is the fellow who went there, saw a flashlight, saw a sign saying fifty Pesos, and said, “I’ll take it,” only to be promptly handed a box of flashlights. The fellow insisted, “only one,” and the Chinese merchant said, “fifty peso, one box.”
The vicious rumor which is unprovable and unprintable, is that someone intimately tied to the President has given his protection to 168, which places it off limits to the Bureaus of Immigration and Internal Revenue. One particularly awful bit of scuttlebutt insists that 168 is merely a dumping ground for cheap goods from China, that are placed in containers half-filled with crystal meth. The cheap goods are in front, so a cursory customs inspection shows the contents are harmless; the drugs are sold, and the goods sold at prices, customers insist, cheaper than on mainland China.
No newspaper has formally written up these rumors or, as far as I know, been able to prove they’re true (or perhaps even bothered to ask in the first place). A colleague in media, when I asked whether the Xinhua report did in fact have something to do with 168, was unable to verify the report.
…Bureau of Customs officer-in-charge Alexander Arevalo was quoted as saying that “the goods coming from China, Taiwan, and South Korea would still end up cheaper compared to locally made products even if the government slaps a 100 percent tax on the imports.” As an example, he “cited a 20-piece pack of double AA batteries selling for only P40 or P2 each while a four-pack double AA batteries made in the Philippines costs close to P45 or about P11 each.”
First of all, would anyone import anything that is available locally at comparable prices and quality?…Question is, why should Philippine-made goods turn out to be more expensive? Is it because Filipino businessmen are more greedy that the mark-up on prices is so high while, on the other hand, their counterparts in China choose to earn only a small profit from every sale but make up in terms of volume? Is it because we import raw materials and raw parts at exorbitant prices in compliance with legal niceties like WTO policies?
See, the issue of smuggling has a dimension we rarely look into. We need to look into our own laws, policies and practices to understand why it becomes more profitable to sell imported goods locally. Smuggling cannot be eliminated unless we remove its inherent profitability. And that means locally producing and selling the same goods with comparable quality at comparable prices. Enforcement of antismuggling laws should only be a support mechanism.
Related to the above is Connie Veneracion,Ã‚Â who, in her column for today, tackles the question of taxes, tax evaders, and intellectual property law.
Big Mango ruminates on my column in yesterday’s Inquirer. He approaches the controversial proposals for amending the constitution with an open mind. I myself am open to parliamentary government and Federalism but I am absolutely insistent on the bicameral system for whatever legislature emerges, though I am unconvinced that the presidential system has to go. As the Philippines Free Press blog, which reproduces an editorial from 1994, Their baby? observed,
Abolishing the Senate will leave only the House of Turon to meet the problems of the nation. With what? A piece of the delicacy? The Constitution vests legislative power in the Senate and the House. Without the Senate, the people will be at the mercy of the House and its voracious appetite. The senate makes them more secure.
What are the problems of the nation? Mass poverty and unemployment; graft and corruption in the government; continuing violation of human rights; widespread rebellion; massive deforestation, which threatens to turn the country into a desert; mockery of justice: the rich few get away with robbery and murder while the poor feels its lash. And other evils too many to enumerate here. None of them is to be blamed on the Constitution.
If the senators were to agree to the scrapping of the Senate, they would become and insignificant minority of 24 against 180 and could do nothing to improve the performance of whatever the House would be called. They would be called the same as the company they kept. Good for nothing, if not crooks.
The Business Mirror begins a series: Mayhem before midnight: ConCom’s last few hours. A fine read.Ã‚Â Incidentally, the Daily Tribune says, apropos of the proposed charter report, that a switcheroo took place! Because of the switcheroo, Tony Abaya won’t support parliamentary government under the present circumstances (great column: best explanation of what I think, too, that the President won by a whisker, but that was voided by a conspiracy to pad the results):
By and large, the four sets of numbers validated each other. President Arroyo won, but by a slim majority. Using more or less the same methodology, Inquirer columnist Solita Monsod came to the same conclusion last October 2005.
Roberto Verzola, who also analyzed the incomplete Namfrel data, disregarding the tallies during the first six days of tabulation (when Namfrel deliberately tallied the votes from known GMA bailiwicks early on, to give the impression that she was enjoying a wide lead), focused on the tallies from Day 7 to Day 26 of Namfrel and came up with 18 scenarios on how the uncounted votes would have affected the final outcome.
In 17 of these 18 scenarios, GMA won, with margins ranging from as big as 351,661 and as small as 74,894 votes. In only one of these 18 scenarios did FPJ win, by only 19,990 votes.
Certainly PGMA won, but not by 1.2 million votes. That margin was manufactured in the certificates of canvass prepared in the municipal and provincial treasurersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ offices before being submitted to Comelec national headquarters. There was indeed massive cheating, to pad the winning margin from 250,000-300,000 to 1.2 million votes, but she would have won even if the count were honest, though by a thin margin.
It is possible that margin would have been shaved even thinner if four million voters had not been disenfranchised which, I suspect, was done deliberately by person or persons inside the Comelec who had access to the master list of voters. But there is no paper trail to expose this fraud, as there is for the election returns and the certificates of canvass.
Massive cheating is massive cheating, whether or not it materially affected the final outcome. With such a blatantly partisan management of the 2004 elections, the Abalos Comelec and the Concepcion-Luz Namfrel have lost all moral right to supervise and scrutinize, respectively, another electoral exercise.
In provincial news, recall my column on Palawan. Good news: courts rule the gas income is theirs!
Carlos Conde writes of the costs of having a remittance society, while The Unlawyer writes about where the big overseas bucks are going: land. This reminds me of cocktail chatter I had with some people recently. They were discussing the real estate market and the findings of some companies: 1. growth is being spurred by money from abroad, not money here at home; 2. Most overseas Filipino money comes from the USA, and not from Filipinos elsewhere, the disparity in income is massive; 3. Overseas Filipinos are not investing in their provinces of origin, but in swankier places or nearer Metro Manila, in part to avoid hordes of relatives descending on their vacation or retirement homes; 4. The Baby Boomer generation of Filipino migrants to the USA are retiring and have decided it’s more affordable to retire in the Philippines, and thus they’re buying property. Others in the conversation pointed out that this would have a trickle-down effect (hiring house help, for example), but was a sterile kind of business boom: after the condos and townhouses, built extensively from imported materials, are built, what then?
Pajamas Media focuses on the potential public transport strike in New York City; Washington Note tackles George W. Bush’s latest Iraq speech; BuzzMachine begins a new series on how to remake newspapers in the era of the blog and online news (this series should make for interesting reading for anyone working for a newspaper).
Freakin’ Amazin’ department: From Carlos Celdran news that motel king Angelo King has begun closing down motels because, well, apparently, he thinks God doesn’t love ’em.