Apparently, on Sunday, the Philippine National Construction Corporation ceased to exist. It didn’t get its government franchise renewed after the Senate, alarmed by a deal the PNCC entered into with a foreign hedge fund (Radstock Securities), declined to approve the passage of a new franchise law.
Ricky Carandang yesterday explained what the deal was, and why it alarmed the Senate. PNCC had refused, since 1978, to recognize a debt claim by the Japanese Marubeni Corporation. In 2001, Radstock bought the debt from Marubeni for 100 million pesos. Radstock got interested in the debt after the Asset Privatization Trust ordered PNCC to recognize the debt, which by that time had ballooned to 10 billion pesos. Last year, Radstock and the PNCC agreed to settle the debt according to the following terms:
Under the terms, Radstock would be paid P1 billion in cash, 30 hectares of real estate worth an estimated P6 billion, shares of stock in PNCC with a par value of P2.3 billion, and future cash flows worth P9.38 billion, for a total of P18.68 billion.
Which is, of course, a tidy profit for Radstock, which had acquired the debt for 100 million. Carandang says the order to recognize the debt (which until then, had no hope of being collected) was undertaken during the Estrada administration. The compromise itself was reached under the present administration. The senators who led opposition to the deal, Drilon and Osmeña, pointed out both the recognition of the debt, and its settlement, required Palace approval. Carandang says what’s interesting is, who could have managed to shepherd the process through two different administrations?
So where’s the public interest in a deal like this? Drilon and Osmena argue that the recognition of the debt in 2000, prejudiced PNCC shareholders (which is largely the government) and unfairly favored Radstock over other creditors (which is largely the government). In order to settle the debt PNCC effectively liquidated itself and ensured that the P36 billion it owed the government would never be paid.
Here’s what it looks like to me: Radstock, perhaps for a cut of the profits, enlists the aid of some people influential with the Estrada Adminstrtion to recognize the Marubeni debt. The idea is that once the debt is recognized, it will need to be paid. Marubeni, perhaps for a cut of the profits, agrees to sell the debt at 99.9 percent discount on the face value. But four months later, Estrada is unexpectedly ousted in a coup in February 2001. In order to complete the transaction, Radstock needs to find someone connected with the new government of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who can pull the strings to get a compromise deal approved, perhaps for a cut of the profits. So they bring a few more people into the deal.
Read the whole thing. In any other country, the deal would have become a major campaign issue.
The Palace is all praises for Pulse Asia (the latest senatorial preferences survey pleases it) but vents its spleen against Social Weather Stations. And yet both surveys seem to say the same thing, when it comes to the point the Palace objects to:
Malacañang on Monday said it was not bothered by an opposition-sponsored survey that found 40 percent of voters believed that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo “will cheat in the May 2007 elections for her candidates to win.”
“I believe the other side of the coin is that more people believe that the elections will be clean, honest and credible,” Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said, referring to the 20 percent who disagreed with the statement and 35 percent who were undecided…
…The TU spokesperson, Tourism Secretary Joseph “Ace” Durano, dismissed the SWS survey as opposition propaganda.
Durano said Pulse Asia had a similar survey dated April 3-5 asking respondents “about the quality of elections this year.”
The result, he said, showed that 56 percent expressed the view that the coming elections would be clean and honest.
“Comparing the two surveys, it can be concluded that majority of respondents believe that the upcoming elections will be clean and honest,” Durano said.
There’s another story on which political endorsements have clout. Nikkin Beronilla has an interesting article which looks at the diminishing pull of celebrity candidates; and Joel Rocamora takes a look ahead:
Is the result of the election a foregone conclusion? Because there is no presidential election, the government will remain in power no matter what happens. Because all the races are local except for the Senate and party list races, mostly local issues will be determinant. What cannot yet be determined is how the President’s persistent unpopularity will affect election results. An April 2007 SWS survey shows distinct voter preference for opposition candidates at all levels, but with gaps small enough to be covered by machinery and cheating in local elections. Another, possibly more important development is the intensifying competition between Lakas and Kampi, two pro-administration parties. Whether or not a lame duck president can keep both warring political parties within her camp will determine a lot of what happens in the next three years.
He then looks into what to expect come election day itself:
Coffeeshop scuttlebutt and more and more open accusations show that administration operators are concentrating on the Senate and party list races. Although victory in the Senate race is measured in the millions, approximately 15 million for top slots, the eighth to the fifteenth slots will be determined in the hundreds of thousands. This is where syndicates of current and retired Comelec officials play a role, selling votes, doing “dagdag” (add), “bawas” (subtract) operations. This can be done by pre-stuffing ballot boxes, and/or doctoring result lists at the precinct, municipal and provincial levels in a very sophisticated, highly developed ‘market’. Although the Palace and the Comelec deny that these operations are in place, all politicians, especially senatorial candidates and their campaign staff take this into consideration.
Many news articles,and even the opposition spokesman, Adel Tamano, have been quoting the political mapping that the Institute of Popular Democracy undertook (Rocamora heads it) and he (Rocamora) provides a digest of his group’s findings:
Congressional races provide the bridge between “national” and “local”. The contests for congressional seats at local districts are being watched carefully because these will determine whether the opposition can get the (roughly) 81 votes constituting one third of the 242 district and party list seats (assuming 24 seats will be allocated). It’s going to be difficult. More than half of the races are “no contest”. Incumbents or dominant local clans control as many as 133 out of 219 districts, of which only 25 are opposition. There are another 32 contests where opposition candidates have even chances of winning. The other contests are between parties of the administration, most importantly Lakas and Kampi. It is difficult, at this point, to determine whether there will be enough opposition votes for impeachment.
And so: status quo, after May. An opposition Senate, an administration House, but a brewing war between the two major camps in the administration, which will be faced with more unpopular policies, such as raising taxes, which will affect the administration’s allies as they begin to think of either capturing, or retaining, power in 2010.
In my entry in Inquirer Current, there’s the current political buzz in the blogosphere: will blogs and other websites now be registered, and taxed by the government?
Whispers in the Loggia on an expected upcoming decree from Rome, authorizing the wider use of the old Latin Mass.