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Oct 03

The maggot strategy

Even as the aftermath of the last typhoon continues to be felt, another menaces the Bicol region. Solar-powered homes did well, though. MMDA has a hare-brained scheme for dead tree trunks and the MMDA decides it should do something about billboards, after all. Splendid typhoon diaries continue to go up on line. Professional Heckler makes a joke of it, but a colleague solemnly assures me it’s true: thousands of people upset they missed the final episode of Majica.

Some nursing students protest the President’s intention to make them retake the portions of the exam that were marred by cheating; general befuddlement in government circles over whether to do so before, or after, the courts render a decision.

Can someone tell me if Second World has a meaning most people are unaware of? Seems to me at the time the President received her training as an economist, “Second World” then meant what it does now. Freudian slip? Jet lag from visiting Socialist Cuba? We’re now a Gulag archipelago, perhaps?

The peso strengthens -but who gains?

Thing is, it seems the Palace is gearing up to face down its critics for a fight to the finish. It’s not as if the Palace’s predilection for brinksmanship ever went away, of course. At the time (September 29, 2005), I wrote,

We have, at most, five months, to get our act together, because this country can no longer “move on.” We are beyond that. The President has made any sort of “moving on” impossible, because within five months she faces two possibilities: the loss of power, or the need to retain it at a cost of so much bloodshed and repression, while lacking either the skills, or means, to effectively use the tools necessary for repression: a compliant or complicit armed forces, a political class engaged as a co-conspirator, and a public that thinks she can be the solution, and is not the problem.

Well, February came, and a collision did occur, and the bloodshed’s taking place and so is the repression -but I overestimated the armed forces, the political class or the public. They’ve so far, bet the farm on the President. So she won that fight and won again with the 2nd impeachment -and is now poised to try to clear the table.

One sign: the headlines, such as Comelec cleared in computer deal: Ombudsman panel makes turnaround and Gutierrez clears poll execs
in P1.3B computer scam: Reverses June finding of graft
.

Which means the public mood’s this: that the Ombudsman fails the ethical challenge but lives up to expectations (of the worst kind). Although Comelec AKO seems to stand by the decision, and jamesjimenez asks that people read the decision:

Another thing that we – in the all-inclusive third-person sense of the word – want to really emphasize is that people should try to read the decision, rather than dismiss it off-hand. I know that for alot of people, the temptation to just chalk this down to some devious ploy to get the COMELEC Commissioners off the hook will be too much to resist. Because of this, I worry that the substance of the decision might be ignored and the decision itself branded a whitewash.

That would, I think, be unfair to the parties who really went to great lengths to explain themselves before an often hostile investigating panel; unfair to the parties who gave their accusers every opportunity to argue the case before the Ombudsman but who – in every single session – found their accusers absent in ‘court,’ but vociferously present in newspapers and television interviews; and unfair to the Ombudsman who has bucked the pressure brought to bear upon her from many quarters and seems to have come out with a finding that is supported by the facts on record.

So I will be posting the full text of this decision here tomorrow. I hope people read it and come to their own informed conclusions, rather than let their pre-conceptions rule the day. Personally, I’ve no problem with people dissing the decision, as long as they do it after they’ve read the whole thing. I can’t argue with differences in informed opinion, but I’ll be damned if I say that it’s ok for people to shoot down something they haven’t taken the pains to truly understand.

I also remember saying that we don’t really know yet what the Ombudsman’s decision will mean. In the short term, I suppose the Supreme Court will have to study the Ombudsman’s submission. Again, I hope that the Justices – just like everyone else – give the decision a fair shake. And if they trash it, I hope they explain exhaustively why. Personally, I worry that if the SC does junk this decision by the Ombudsman, they will do it in cavalier fashion – sneering and patronizingly dismissive. You can’t blame me. Every single utterance of the Court in this issue has been sneering and patronizingly dismissive, so I see scant reason why this one will be any different.

And finally, the Ombudsman’s decision may not mean that we can use the 1,991 automated counting machines for 2007. Even assuming that the SC takes the her word, I don’t think the Ombudsman went so far as to say that the contract shouldn’t have been annulled. Obviously, COMELEC lawyers will be poring over the decision to try to divine every last bit of legal significance from it, but the language of the press release seems to indicate that the Ombudsman may have only cleared the accused of criminal and administrative liability. I haven’t seen the decision in its entirety, so don’t take my word on this.

Nonetheless, there’s shock and disbelief, see An OFW Living in Hong Kong. Also see The Bystander and the question zeroed in on by the media is a legitimate one: first Ombudsman says something’s fishy, then it says, presto, nothing wrong here, folks!

And so, this may be about far more than the merits of the case. If the ultimate effect is not only to give the beleaguered Comelec leadership not only a breather -but a vindication- it will only polarize things further. And if the counting machines end up approved for use on the eve of either a constitutional plebiscite or a national election the Palace shows signs of fearing -well it just raises the ante for everyone.

Better such a decision now, than later, though, tactically-speaking for officialdom, since not everyone is in the mood to follow the news.

Another sign: The House has decided “less talk, less mistake”, as conventional wisdom puts it, so why not simplify and leave ambiguous what has been torn to shreds? Namely, the illusion of unity around constitutional amendments. Significantly, the Speaker’s menu of amendments has been challenged by the President’s pet party. Solution? Hush-hush, ergo, win-win. It can all be debated later -with the President fully involved, but everyone spared the debacle of a national election.

Call it the maggot strategy. What? Oppose constitutional amendments, when so many are rebuilding from the storm? Unpatriotic! Unprincipled! People need the government now, more than ever, and a referendum landslide for the administration just got plausible.

More of the wit and wisdom of Imelda Marcos: I love the PCGG, we’re winning.

Pan de sal continues to shrink.

In Thailand, the US lessens its saber-rattling as an interim PM is appointed and a committee to draft constitutional changes is formed, while Thaksin’s nemesis in terms of zealotry in fighting official corruption, Klanarong Chantik, gets reappointed (for the past two years, the Thai anti-corruption office was basically moribund). Thaksin’s party begins to lose members.

Misspu2.0
Best Thai sign, courtesy of One Man in Bangkok who blogs, “I’m guessing that this word doesn’t have the same meaning in Bangkok as it does in the States.” Or in Manila.

Idiotic corporate penny-pinching, courtesy of Slate, which also has a delicious article on inferior dumplings in America (sounds like many bad Filipino dumplings).

In the punditocracy, Tony Abaya says the authorities were befuddled and media contradictory during the typhoon.

Patricio Diaz warns that peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front are on the verge of collapse:

After experiencing three years of relative peace and progress, people in Muslim Mindanao are apprehensive. The Mindanao People’s Caucus and the Bishop-Ulama Conference have appealed to the GRP and MILF panels to resume the talk. But despite the appeals, there is no sign of softening from either side.

John Mangun says government has to make up its mind on many things: do we need more electric generation capacity, or not? Do we need more hotel rooms, or not? And so on.

In the blogosphere, The Unlawyer points out the military pension system has finally, and officially, collapsed.

Torn & Frayed says the revolution just might be blogged – but not in the Philippines, not just yet.

Howie Severino goes on an itrepid journey to Jolo, parts one, two, and three.

manila, you’re not that ugly has some promotional news for insomniacs.

General exultation among UST students and alumni over the championship match postponed by the typhoon: it was crouching tiger, hammered eagle. Or something. See The Bamboo, Jove Francisco, chizjarkace, and chronicles of a would-be ‘schizo’ for happy Thomasian reactions. Love fun and laughters remembers the last time UST won the championship. In my own perfect world was miffed by the losing team’s reactions. My dad, were he alive, would be tickled pink; and I’m sure my mother’s happy, too (both are Thomasians).

Whispers in the Loggia on how the BBC has gone hammer-and-tongs after the Pope on the issue of pedophile clerics, with the UK hierarchy very upset -but the Church had it coming, in a sense.

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  1. Bokyo

    It is really very easy to understand the Ombudsman’s decision. To put in another example: There was a “sh__” and it was determined to be a “sh__” but it has been found out that this does not came out from anybody’s “a__”.

  2. Joselu

    At least MMDA has more imagination then others can have.Not to mention that those tree trunks & branches can be used as fire wood of bakeries & pizza ovens.I just hope that everything is done for tree that can still be saved.

    I just hope that once & for all those counting machines can be finaly used.
    Seems like as the dust settles on certain issues we will discover that blocking the elction modernization has served certain interest to create more confussion so as to get away w/ certain agendas & add to a confussed democracy.

  3. Joselu

    What do the nurses have to lose by taking the questioned part of the exsam a second time? What will they lose taking the exsam again? I think we should be more concerned of protecting the integrety of the exsam that counts. If they passed it the first time then they will breeze over it the second time. They can no loger be under any shadow of a doubt about their skills qualifications. Or are we going the “pinoy way” of “sige na lang, puwede na yan”?

  4. takesaku

    “… tropical storm Neneng (international codename Bebinca)”

    can anyone explain why we should have local names for typhoons? this is confusing. japan uses numbers, ex. typhoon #7, so simple yet useful (i.e, the 7th typhoon of the year) remember typhoon ‘jolina’? lol

    another suggestion for pagasa is to increase the number of typhoon bulletins from every 4 hours to say, every hour. that will be a true public service. some websites like http://www.typhoon2000.com are updated often but not everyone can access the internet (that is if they still have electricity.)

    sorry if this is off topic.

  5. Carl

    mlq3 said: “The peso strengthens -but who gains?”

    Let’s start with “who loses”?

    1. Exporters. But, on the other hand, imported components of exports (this generally applies to more than 50% of the cost of exports, with labor comprising a large part of the local component) will also decrease in price.
    2. Beneficiaries of OFW remittances. But, if the rates hold for some time, they will also be benefitted by a halt in the rise, if not a slight drop, in the cost of living.
    3. Those with large foreign currency accounts. Many have seen their holdings lose more than 10% in peso value this year alone.

    The effects of an appreciation of the peso may not be immediately felt. It takes time for the effects to filter down. But if the peso continues to remain stable for a long period of time, prices of most essential goods will remain stable, too. There could even be lowering of prices in items like fuel and electicity (provided world-wide conditions do not cause oil prices to skyrocket). Because fertilizers, pesticides and transportation depend on imports, food prices could also stabilize or go down. The caveat here is that imports will most likely flood the market, although it would be welcomed temporarily by consumers.

  6. Joselu

    and when the pesos goes down. who loses? in anything there are always 2 sides. but when the peso strenghtens it has a direct effect on our oil imports down to the fuel we pay for & the movement of goods.
    it will also refelect on your meralco & water bills.
    it will bring more benifits to the simple people.
    in a way our exporters just have to be more creative & efficient but the exchange risk also comes w/ the turf.even exporters have much to do w/ improving their economics of scale. bottom line is we can’t have it all just like you can’t be on top forever.
    manolo those w/ large foriegn currency accounts, who will shed crocodial tears if they lose sometimes.their rich already anyway, they can afford to lose some money too.
    it’s funny, we seem to question more the pesos appreciation. when in a way the pesos strenght speaks better of the countries economic fundamentals of money going in insted of going out because of trouble.let the central bank do the balancing act instead.

  7. manuelbuencamino

    read the ombudsman’s decision? what for? to check spelling and grammar?To appreciate government documents as literature? to learn how to execute a piroutte without falling on one’s ass?

    The document came from the office of merceditas gutierrez. That’s all the information one needs to appreciate the ombudsman’s decision, for crissakes.

    a few months ago gutierrez singled out several comelec officials as criminally culpable. she obviously left out the other players. gutierrez was forced to cast a wider net. she did. and she came up empty?

    gutierrez’ patroness didn’t want certain fish to be caught so gutierrez, in order to protect those comelec officials who helped elect her patroness, decided the best course of action was to throw all the fishes back in the water.

  8. UP student

    You say you got a real solution
    Well, you know
    We’d all love to see the plan
    You ask me for a contribution
    Well, you know
    We’re doing what we can
    But when you want money
    for people with minds that hate
    All I can tell is brother you have to wait
    Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
    Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
    Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
    Ah

    You say you’ll change the constitution
    Well, you know
    We all want to change your head
    You tell me it’s the institution
    Well, you know
    You better free you mind instead
    But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao
    You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow
    Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
    Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
    Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
    Ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah
    all right, all right, all right
    all right, all right, all right
    all right, all right, all right
    Ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah
    all right, all right

  9. Chabeli

    Go to: http://www.google.com
    Type in: pekeng pangulo
    Click On: I’m Feeling Lucky

    Really cool!

  10. Joselu

    As expected the ombudsman report dissapointed those w/ their minds made up a long time ago.
    But is it not that the SC ordered the Ombudsman man to investigate only?
    It was a panel of lawyers who did the investigation, so it’s a product of several people that the conclussion was reached.
    It seems our major problem is that perceptions, noise & scandals & emotions are the bases for rushed judgments.
    Thanks to media that it always floats the negative intriging sides.
    I just hope certain people will not use this issue by driving a wedge between the SC & Ombudsman.

  11. Tessie

    [OFF-TOPIC] Here is a cut-and-paste from an Iranian woman’s blogsite.

    The Road to Baikonur

    A long, long time ago, in a country far, far away… there was a young girl who had her eyes fixed on the twinkling stars of the night skies over Tehran. Back then the air was not so polluted and you could see many stars in the night skies. Summer time, when they would set up the beds outside on the balcony to sleep, she would lay in her bed and look deep into the mysterious darkness of the universe and think to herself, What’s out there? Is someone out there awake in her bed, and gazing at her in the night sky? Will she ever find her… See her… Will she fly out there and float in the wonderful, boundless freedom of space?

    Well, as fate would have it, yes…

    If you had asked that young girl, do you want to fly to space? her answer would have been an Enthusiastic YES! If you had asked her, do you think you will fly, the answer would have also been a Hopeful YES! And now that moment is finally near…

    I was born in Iran and lived there until age 16, then migrated with my family to the U.S. and got an education in Electrical Engineering, and basically was fortunate to live the American Dream. Don’t get me wrong, the Road to Baikonur was not an easy one and had many ups and downs and obstacles. But what is important is that I stuck to my dream and did not lose my way. I hope that my trip becomes an inspiration for all of you to follow your dreams, wherever they take you. I also hope to show you the universe/space through my eyes and help you see how important space exploration is for our species. We need young imaginative minds to gaze at the skies to help us build a future that will not be earthbound.

    ===============
    Anousheh Ansari just completed a 10-day vacation. Vacation’s cost — $20M – twenty million US dollars.

    Anousheh Ansari became the fourth person – and first woman – to travel into space.

    She blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, part of a crew-exchange flight to the International Space Station. Ms Ansari has been wearing both the American and Iranian flags on her space suit in training and during her trip. She says she wanted to recognise both countries’ contributions to her life.

    Her blogsite says:
    (a) Keeping good hygiene in space is not easy.
    (b) Water does not flow down. It floats… Space residents must swallow after brushing their teeth.
    (c) No showers in outer space. If you are in the space station, you bathe by wiping yourself down with a wet towel.
    (d) Jumping around is not recommended. She flipped around in excitement in the space station, and when she stopped, her internal organs were still doing a chacha inside her belly while her feet were firmly planted already.
    (e) She vomited in the space capsule on the way up to the Space station.

  12. cvj

    I read the Ombudsman’s report and the reason used to account for the difference in conclusions with the Supreme Court gives me the impression that Merceditas Guiterrez avidly followed the OJ Simpson trial on TV:

    “Finally, it should be made clear that the conclusions herein arrived at do not in any way run counter to the findings and ruling of the Supreme Court in the Infotech case. In the first place, that case is a civil suit requiring only a preponderance of evidence. On the other hand, the finding of probable cause in a criminal case entails, as well, the determination of sufficient evidence to support a judgment of conviction if one will be filed.” (page 43)

    I’m not a lawyer but i thought that ‘preponderance of evidence’ trumps ‘probable cause’ in the hierarchy of truth being second only to ‘proven beyond reasonable doubt’.

    The reasons used in page 28 to explain the failure in meeting one of the accuracy criteria for the verification are flimsy. They cite that they used ‘generic software’. If, as the vendors claim, the ACM’s have been successfully used in South Korean elections, and all they were after was the accuracy of the hardware, then they should have used the hardware/software combination that was actually deployed for those elections to conclusively demonstrate the machine accuracy rather than make the ‘generic software’ the scapegoat.

    If ever the machines are used in the real world, what is mentioned in page 35 in connection with discrepancies between the automated and manual counts should give us cause to worry:

    “The report shows that the failures on six (6) items, were not defects attributable to the machines. DOST after analyzing the causes of non-conforming accuracy rating using statistical analysis and investigation on the so called assignable causes of variation, concluded that the discrepancy was due to improper shading of ballots resulting to the failed marks obtained by the machines of Mega Pacific. More, in the same report of DOST, it is categorically stated that the results of the verification tests on the machines of Mega Pacific in fact yielded a one hundred percent (100%) accuracy rating for all three environment conditions.”

    ‘Improper shading of ballots’ is bound to happen in the real life and to certify that the ACMS yield 100% accuracy under ideal conditions is meaningless as the US Presidential Elections in Florida back in the year 2000 showed.

  13. UP student

    When the peso strengthens, the following people gain:
    (1) Importers. Since cars/car parts are imported, the new-car prices should drop and the upper-5% of country gains. Oris and Rolex watches should adjust downward, too.
    (2) Importers. Since RP imports butter, beef, even rice and other foodstuff, supermarkets/food distributor should gain and “trickle-down economics” should see prices go down.
    (3) Importers. Oil is imported. Gas prices should adjust downwards, too, as well as power prices.

  14. tbl

    in other words, since rp is basically an importer country from high tech goods to basic ones such as rice and now chickens and eggs…then less peso per dollar exhange will benefit rp?

    i remember the days when i first exchnaged my dollar with seven pesos in a secluded place somewhere in kamuning and edsa.

  15. toots ople

    mlq, this is just to give you a heads-up .. lawyers opposing the PI before the SC will be at the Comelec this morning to examine the documents submitted by The Legion. i’ll join them so i can blog about it later. while the sigawers had their merry, sweet time in getting the election registrars in more than 200 districts to verify their submissions, our lawyers have only today until friday to examine the documents after which they would have to start drafting their memorandums. the opposing counsels wish to point out that the process involved is not verification (that would be up to Comelec central office in case the SC decides in Legion’s favor), but just the chance to finally look at these petitions, certifications, and possibly some of the signatures to see if they meet all the requirements re a genuine people’s initiative. Abangan! 🙂

  16. Carl

    Since we are basically import-dependent, almost everybody gains by a peso appreciation. Actually, more important than appreciation is stability. A stable currency makes it easier to plan and do business. It also causes less anxiety to the consumers. As for luxury items, those who can afford to indulge in them often buy them abroad anyway (just as Rolex Suplico did when he purchased his Rolexes).

  17. melvinsky

    mlq3,
    will you kindly post in your next article a summary and the linkages of the senate, SC and ombudsman decisions with your comments so we can look at the reason and logic of the issues.it is difficult to respond or comment on something that we have not digested.i really appreciate your articles because of the enlightenment you expound on the issues.more power

  18. hvrds

    Relativism and the exchange rate.

    Contrary to popular opinion and belief the peso dollar exchange rate is managed by the BSP to control inflation. (Our inflation is structural)Our modern standard of living is almost entirely import dependent.

    Every budget year the BSP together with the budget department target a foreign exchange rate average. This year the band is between Php 51-53 to the dollar. It is always announced at the start of the budget year.Fixed rates of exchange mean a managed band. The Peoples Bank of China uses a narrow band with stringent controls of capital movement while we use a wider band with interest rate differentials acting as the lever to control the band. The peso is not a fully convertible currency and there are partial exchange controls on the peso. You cannot export more than Php 10,000 per individual. Not that many export it abroad since there is very very very limited demand for it.

    Money traders smuggle physical currency to Hongkong to take advantage of the rate arbitrage of Filipinos who wish to change their dollars into peso or other travelers into HK or traders who require it. You need more dollars to buy pesos in the retail markets in HK. Also with basic metals at a high, people are exporting Philippine coins for their metal content to take advantage of high metal prices. Dont’ you love the free markets when there is a profit to be made.

    Business and governments do not have a day or weeks time frame. For individuals it is a different story.

    Add to this the fact today that Asian Central banks have a cash hoard of $3 trillion and with the dangers of having too much cash infusion in their economies they lend it to the U.S. and to other governments like the Philippines that have higher yields on their debt paper. Short term rates in Japan are still close to zero compared to ours which is closer to 10%. Clearly a no brainer. So the basics of supply and demand take hold in some respects and we have a very good currency trader (former Citi trader Omar Cruz) in charge of the tresury who knows how to time borrowings and payments to cut down on our interest payments. The treasury also did a lot of debt swaps to replace high interest bonds with lower interest ones due to the benign conditions abroad.
    An example of how benign conditions were abroad was when the Thai coup happened their interest rate differentials in the markets did not move at all.
    After the Asian crisis of 1997 the Philippines joined the Chang Mai initiative and signed currency swap agreements with Japan, China and South Korea as a safety net source of hard currency insurance in case of balance of payments problems. In return we granted them special deals. Beggars can’t be choosers. Our international reserves amount to less than 1% ($20B+)of the Asian hoard and we have a dollar or foreign debt exposure of over $60 billion. We have effectively been running on empty since 1997. Our reserves are not our own since it is all composed of borrowed funds.

    Maybe we could trade (ship them overseas) another 10 to 20M people for cash to solve that problem!!!! So far Japan has agreed to only a microspic figure for now. China will have a growing demographic problem in the medium to long term so there is still hope.

    That is why for my clients I always say, go very short on peso assets and always long on the dollar assets, euro assets, Canadian or Australian assets. If you can afford it keep 10% to 20 % in gold for the medium term. It will be rocky hopefully for that period only.

    Unfortunately or fortunately for us Mike and Gloria had nothing to do with what has transpired. Our increased tax payments also helped.

  19. Shaman of Malilipot

    Instead of reading the Casimiro Panel’s decision, read the report of Ma. Olivia Elena Roxas of the Ombudsman’s Field Inspection Office that recommended the filing of criminal, administrative, and civil charges against the Commissioners. Then you will understand why Casimiro’s conclusion, even without reading the entire decision, is absurd.

  20. Amadeo Dela Cruz

    How can everyone be so sure that importers will adjust their prices downwards?

  21. ricelander

    “How can everyone be so sure that importers will adjust their prices downwards?”

    Amadeo, theoretically economic competition will.

    Joselu says, pertaining to the refusal of some nursing graduates to have a retake of the board exam: “… I think we should be more concerned of protecting the integrety of the exsam that counts.”

    Well, Joselu, try substituting your word “EXSAM” with something like… ELECTIONS!

  22. Bokyo

    Although the effect of changes in exchange rate can be both in peso and dollar, the reason has nothing to do with peso strengthening against the dollar. All this is just because of the supply of the dollar and other factors affecting the dollar.

    As to the nursing retake, I just don’t see the reasons why all of the examinees have to have a retake, besides the actions against those responsible against this problem should be taken first ahead of the retake. I would have wanted the leadership of BON and PRC resigned for the subsequent actions made after the controversy. The problem really is about credibility of those institutions and should not be particularly focused on whether the board passers are qualified to pass or not because of the leakage.

  1. Manuel L. Quezon III: The Daily Dose » Blog Archive » A crime but no criminals

    […] As for the Ombudsman’s report to meet the first (September 30) deadline, which has caused all the buzz, I haven’t been able to download the report, but apparenty reader CJV has, and weighs in with his thoughts;  jamesjimenez at the Comelec begins to dissect the report. […]

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