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Oct 25

8-7

ANC scooped everyone by reporting the Supreme Court’s reached a decision, 8-7 against the so-called “people’s initiative.”

Round 2 starts today. As news was swirling, the President arrived at the Manila Hotel to talk to the League of Municipalities of the Philippines’ convention. I wonder if they’re feeling droopy or not -perhaps girding for round 2.

It’s far from over, folks. Talk is, the Chief Justice cast the tie-breaking vote. But he wraps up his term in December. Around the time a last-ditch House-led effort would reach the Supreme Court, a new chief justice, and a new justice appointed to replace Justice Panganiban.

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  1. vi massart

    UP student,

    I didn’t know that a congressman is paid fees to attend a congressional hearing or to be part of a quorum.

    There’s also another way of making a little more money on the side: delivering a privilege speech to denounce a person or an entity about to do business with government. The fee to drop a potentially damaging congressional investigation following a privilege speech is between 7 and 10 million pesos.

    Some foreign investors have had to make pay offs to some members of Congress to avoid unpleasant incidents like the one I mentioned.

  2. cvj

    UP Student, Vi, that’s why i believe that Congressmen (and other elected officials) should be paid a salary similar to Board of Directors of a private company, but at the same time, restrictions should be placed on them such that they can no longer use cash (or credit cards) or obtain income from other sources. Here’s a suggestion i made a few weeks back:

    http://www.quezon.ph/?p=1002#comment-35132

  3. Bencard

    vi massart, if that were true (the “fee” to drop what could be a hostile investigation), its no wonder almost everyone would sell their soul and that of their family (including mothers-in law) to gain the “right” to splash venom and dirt against any one with impunity. It also explains why some natural-born “poor boys”, without visible source of extreme wealth, become billionaires after a term or two as legislator.

    I know it’s virtually impossible but what if the much-maligned BIR or some other agency could have the gumption to conduct, without fear or favor, a “lifestyle check” of all past and present congressmen and senators (as all others in government) especially those living in blatant and conspicuous consumption of unexplainable wealth? In that event, I venture to say, plunder would be the most common crime in our justice and prosecutorial systems, and politics would cease to be the number one growth industry in the country.

  4. vi massart

    Bencard,

    I’m sorry to have brought up the “fee” – didn’t mean to sound bombastic. There were two cases in the past that I was made aware of but couldn’t write about them even after the lawyer/s interceeding for one of the parties had admitted the fact to me.

    I think, it – a “lifestyle check” – is a good idea. Clearly, a regular but discreet lifestyle check of congressmen, senators and elected executives by an independent body should be mandatory if only to help clear politics of “polluants.”

  5. vi massart

    CVJ,

    Personally, I would agree that a high or appropriate salary could be a good deterrent.

  6. Bencard

    vi & cvj, not to sound cynical or defeatist, but for most of these characters, no amount is “enough” or “appropriate”. Besides, how much can the country afford to pay? Should it resort to more foreign borrowings?

  7. UP student

    Did you guys know that Hillary and Bill Clinton, were broke — financially bankrupt — when they left office? Their assets were overshadowed by their debts (legal fees they had incurred from lawsuits — Whitewater and Lewinsky).

    Gerald Ford, too, was a regular “upper-middle class” when he left office. Carter the pure-in-spirit was a rich guy when he entered the White House, and rich when he left the White House.

    Government-service does not make you rich in US-of-A; you become rich AFTER you leave office. Cases in point — Bill Cohen, ex-secretary-of-Defense; Henry Kissinger, secretary-of-state who parlayed their rollodex-of-names into consulting contracts.

  8. cvj

    bencard, even if we have to resort to foreign borrowings (or higher taxes), i think it’s worth it. good government does not come cheap. if we want to attract qualified people to these posts, we have to ensure that the compensation scheme is commensurate. the government is in competition with the private sector as well as overseas opportunities. My only condition is that we cut them (and their families) off from the rest of the economy.

    the best investments i can think of as far as government spending is concerned is in the salaries of our public officials, automating elections and funding political parties. anyway, as of now, we’re already paying for these things in terms of money lost through corruption, election fraud and political debts arising from illicit campaign donations.

    UP Student, the US is not exactly the role model i’m thinking of in this matter. One of the defects in the system of government regulation in the US is that the regulators themselves typically look forward to working for the companies in the industries they regulate after they leave government service. This has led to all sorts of conflicts of interest inimical to the welfare of the American public.

    I want our government officials to be managed like the clergy within the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

  9. UP student

    Lifestyle check is a method that on first glance looks all right, but it is wicked. Lifestyle-check perpetrate class warfare. It violates “innocent until proven guilty”. Lifestyle-check says that if a government worker lives better than you, you can assume that he/she is a crook (because that is what the government assumes). You can broadbrush as corrupt… you can make innuendos… you can smear the reputation of that neighbor of yours who lives better than you.
    And if that neighbor of yours has not explained to you or to your baranggay-captain or to the parish priest how come they live extremely well, “….aiguradong nagnanakaw iyan.. at kaya tahimik, may itinatago!!!”
    A reported lifestyle-anomaly should be viewed as an impetus for the government to do work — obtain bank and other records, obtain witness accounts, etcetera. Only when the government has sufficient evidence of malfeasance (bribe, stolen merchandise, drug- or other illegal trade, etc) can your neighbor be looked as “an accused”. And even as an accused, a person can keep quiet to his/her heart’s content because it is the government’s job to prove guilt.

  10. UP student

    And if the government agency is weak — investigators are lazy and not motivated to do their job, investigators are sloppy, untrained and do not know how to do their job, etcetera — the government institutions must be strengthened (and some “bad guys” get away with corruption because this, in fact, is what the 1987 Constitution allows).

  11. vi massart

    Bencard, CVJ,

    In my opinion, most members of Congress have the academic credentials, job qualifications and added to that, I dare say, the moral criteria required to postulate for a seat in the legislature. It may very well be that most of them initially took the path to Congress with the most noble of intentions – to serve their constituents and to serve them well but public service could sap the morale of even of the most well meaning of public servants if they should worry about how to make ends meet.

    Considering the elements in the PCIJ report cited by UP Student, there seems to be enough money to pay for adequate salaries so why not re-examine the operating costs of Congress and see if there’s a way to re-evaluate or re-adjust the salary scale of its members, legally and very officially that is?

  12. UP student

    cvj… is it a “feeling”, or do you know statistics and numbers, regarding “cash management” by the Roman Catholic Church? And GMA just may like that… she plays Pope while “…our government officials to be managed like the clergy within the Roman Catholic hierarchy.”
    But if someone were to ask me to speculate why there are no reported instances in past 5 years of a local parish priest absconding with millions of pesos from the Sunday collection, I’ll suggest (a) there are no opportunities — how much cash is collected during the Sunday collections, anyway? Plus, in same manner that McDonald’s wil require each outlet to deposit (twice-a-day if necessary) cash into the bank, parish priests probably do the same and a parish, at any moment, has little cash on hand; (b) reporting-bias : “what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas”, bishops-and-above are under strict orders not to let the public know of anomalies inside the Church; (c) the population (of priests and nuns) are a special breed; and the fourth (d) possibility is that indeed, the RomCatholic Church have great MBA’s and accountants who excel in cash-management.
    I do want you to know that US-of-A Roman Catholic leaders report that their priests are statistically the equivalent of the American population. A thousand priests chosen at random would have perpetrated pedophilia and “instances” of sexual nature (e.g. seduction by priest of “lonely widows and sexually-curious teenagers”) in the same frequency as a thousand “regular” Americans also chosen at random.

  13. jm

    A couple of filthy rich BIR RDO’s who live in our village were exposed in an investigative tv program and were included in the life-style check line up. A reporter/host tried to blackmail one of the RDO’s asking P3M before the airing but the subject wanted to give only 1M. So the episode was aired but the RDO’s eventually passed the lifestyle check. How could that happen when we know that ‘Buddy’ owns at least one commercial bldg, several classy inside-out showcase houses with pools, travels regularly to Europe and owns pricey cars? Buddy’s drinking buddy said Buddy paid off the lifestyle checkers.

  14. Bencard

    cvj, still the question is: how much money would satisfy a crook? It would be tragic if we raise the salaries substantially and the cost of graft increases proportionaetly.

    UP student, a lifestyle check should not carry an assumption that one is guilty before proven innocent. I think your last paragraph implies this and, therefore, contradicts the rest of your 2:16am comment.

  15. UP student

    another statistic (that may be of special interest to Abe Margallo, Elinca, Amadeo dela Cruz and other Pinoys/now-US citizens). The Washington Post about 6 months ago reported that Federal government employees are now better paid than private-sector employees.
    [The current salary for rank-and-file members of the US-of-A House and Senate is $165,200 per year.]

  16. cvj

    Vi, thanks for the pointer to UP Student’s link above. To me it’s a revelation. It explains why the Speaker is influential. I also don’t understand why they have to be paid extra to vote.

    UP Student, the sense in which i would want the elected officials to be similar to the clergy in the Roman Catholic Church is in terms of how their material needs (not greed) are provided for so that they can concentrate on attending to their ‘flock’ (i.e. constituencies). I agree with your speculation. If you click on the link i provided in my previous comment (at 9:17pm), you would see that we are thinking along the same lines.

    Bencard, i take your point. That’s why they need to be cut off from the rest of the economy. They should not even be able to buy Jollibee without the government knowing about it.

  17. vi massart

    UP Student,

    From Google: monthly salary and allowances of a member of the French Parliament (deputé is congressman rank):

    – 6,857.66 Euros gross salary + 6,192 Euros for office expenses
    – credit of 8,784 Euros for 1 to 5 staff members.

    According to the French website, the ‘deputé’ can claim the unspent difference from the monthly budget of 8,784 for staff

    Other allowances: ceiling is 2,663.17 Euros

    Advantages in kind: free train tickets in first class on SNCF (French national rail company), air travel but limited to a certain quota, free use of government-owned vehicles, when political mandate is over the MP receives ‘unemployment benefits’ for the first 6 months following end of mandate equivalent to basic salary, access to low interest housing loan.

  18. vi massart

    Beg your pardon… a French deputé doesn’t pay for phone bills and use of postal services.

  19. vi massart

    My previous comment was awaiting moderation, MLQ3. Is that normal?

  20. vi massart

    It doesn’t matter. It was not really that important.

    Thank you MLQ3 and everybody for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts with all of you.

  21. mlq3

    vi massart, sometimes the anti spam software will put comments from even the most active members in the moderation bin. but as soon as i discover this, i approve them.

    up student, you may find this article on nixon’s wealth and taxes interesting:

    http://www.taxhistory.org/thp/readings.nsf/cf7c9c870b600b9585256df80075b9dd/f8723e3606cd79ec85256ff6006f82c3?OpenDocument

  22. mlq3

    up student, the question of competitive salaries is something that interests me, too. you may also want to refer to this bit of research i conducted:

    http://www.inq7.net/opi/2004/mar/15/opi_mlquezoncol-1.htm

    the question was, why was it there was a time when civil servants and government officials could both be paid well and thus afford a lifestyle commenserate with their positions? but this period has been roughly dated to the prewar to immediate postwar years. hence the research.

    personally i advocate setting a historical benchmark -say, 1937- and translating it to the present; then subsequently mandating salaries automatically increased to keep up with inflation. but at the same time the elimination of various allowances (particularly congressional ones, instituted in 1945 and amazingly, not even thought of in the pre-war legislature).

  23. jm

    On Increasing government salary:

    One tact or selling point of the admin to government employees to be affected by the plan to streamline the beurocracy via what is called a ‘rationalization’ program is that those who will remain will receive better pay. “Cannibalistic”, is how the union looks at it. Unemployment, under-employment and overseas deployment are in crisis proportions in the labor sector. For many in gov’t a little is a 100x better than nothing. For them ‘rationalization’ sounds like a death sentence. Petty graft and corruption is ‘kapit sa patalim’ for many. Big time corruption and treasonous economic policies determine the macro picture. Rationalization in government (that promises better pay) is reasonabe, viable and just only if it entails a wider rationalization ( like rationalization in the lower house through devolution), a deeper rationalization that addresses root causes and higher rationalization that enhances checks and balances in the formulation of economic and fiscal (debt) policies.

  24. UP student

    mlq3, Thank you for sharing the article “Paying For Honesty”. The numbers in the Mar-2004 article are illustrative, for example, that the salary of the President of the Philippines in 1957 is the equivalent of 6.54 million pesos a year (in 2004). On an approximation that the salary of a congressman is at least 60% of the salary of the president of the country, the salary of a congressman of the Philippines in 1957 is the equivalent of at least 3.92 million pesos a year.
    The salary for both the president of the philippines and the members of legislative branch are determined by Congress, so a congressman has to sponsor the salary revisions. I will agree that the official salary numbers for the elected officials are not commensurate with the responsibilities that they carry. This situation where where the electorate expects its elected officials to “be financially creative” is a serious flaw in the body-politic.

  25. UP student

    Whether or not a Philippine congressman’s “fair” salary should be P4M a year, much less, or much more, can be determined in a reasonably scientific manner using compensation analysis methodology. Sycip-Gorres or foreign-firms (Wyatt is a highly-respected name in this field) should have the expertise to determine the numbers. I doubt, though, that JDV will take on the task of defending a pay raise for Congress or GMA.

  26. UP student

    The proper terminology has to be “compensation package”. There should be no doubt that every congressman should receive a reasonable transportation allowance. The Filipino may consider it acceptable that each congressional district is allocated P5,000 per baranggay per year for fiestas and/or “economic stimulus”. It is the job of the compensation-analyst to determine these budgetary line items and identify which are “pork barrel” items (where financial controls are tighter) and which are salary/wages and allowances.

  27. melvinsky

    somebody asked earlier,”how did President marcos called a snap election?”. What i can remember is that President Marcos was empowered to issue a law equivalent to the Batasang Pambansa. Since the opposition then was clamoring for that snap election nobody objected or conversely everybody welcomed it.

  28. justice league

    I think a problem is that the President isn’t keen on asking for a pay raise for the Presidency since she doesn’t want the Presidency to continue as is anyway. Nor asking for a pay raise for her successor if she fails.

    And if the highest official receives as much, everyone else is not expected a higher pay than the Pres. (Which is probably why the Judiciary has their own JDF)

    There was an issue once where the heads of the GOCC were receiving way higher and someone in government complained and the salaries got slashed.

    Though I believe that government salaries of officials should be higher than they are now, I still believe that it should still be a sacrifice on their part. They shouldn’t make a career of public service anyway. More emphasis should be given on the rank and file because they are supposed to be in service for life.

    Rene Saguisag at least got out of government after doing his time in the Senate.

    But like already stated, the constituency expects this and that.

    But for Fiestas themselves, there was a plan too to institutionalize the fiestas with a plan involving Fiesta Philippines with the Fiestas as tourist attractions all year round. A problem could arise however if the tourism department already gives development money and Congressmen are still expected to fork out.

    Thanks for the info UPS.

    Melvinsky,
    Not that I’m countering your info because I really don’t know how it happened; what you state paints a bad picture of the Constitution as the President/Batasan Pambansa can make a law that runs counter to what the Charter says.

    And if the ones who hold power by the Constitution have no respect for it by flaunting powers against it; why should those who are not in power respect the same? If the opposition didn’t grab the snap elections; the President would still have called his new term via the snap elections as a legitimate one.

  29. UP student

    On snap-elections: Article VII of 1987 constitution will invoke a snap-election if both the offices of the President and Vice-President are vacated:
    Sec 8. In case of death, permanent disability, removal from office, or resignation of the President, the Vice-President shall become the President to serve the unexpired term. In case of death, permanent disability, removal from office, or resignation of both the President and Vice-President, the President of the Senate or, in case of his inability, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, shall then act as President until the President or Vice-President shall have been elected and qualified.
    Section 10. The Congress shall, at ten o’clock in the morning of the third day after the vacancy in the offices of the President and Vice-President occurs, convene in accordance with its rules without need of a call and within seven days, enact a law calling for a special election to elect a President and a Vice-President to be held not earlier than forty-five days nor later than sixty days from the time of such call. The bill calling such special election shall be deemed certified.

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