In the news, Lito Atienza new environment head: the public reaction’s been along the lines of Environmentalists shocked over Atienza appointment to DENR. The former DENR chief, Gen. Angie Reyes, not known for his environmentalism, now moves sideways to energy, on which he’s not an expert, either. Note that the portfolio Atienza was widely (and in a political sense, sensibly) assumed to be poised to assume, was that of Secretary of the Interior. Obviously, current DILG chief Ronnie Puno isn’t about to budge, despite attempts to pin the poor showing of the President’s senatorial slate on him. Puno has clearly not outlived his usefulness.
The cherades involving Reyes and Atienza is part of a bunch of cabinet appointments that resulted in Energy Secretary Lotilla either getting his wish to be replaced, or actually being fired (one press account had him reacting to a reporter’s phone call with surprise, not knowing he’d been relieved of his portfolio)
But now she’s hinted she may want to stick around: Arroyo hints at running for Congress in 2010. The cat’s out of the bag:
This is the first time that Arroyo issued a statement on her possible political plans after she steps down in 2010. She has constantly said that she wanted to shy away from politics and would focus on running the economy.
Arroyo will deliver her State of the Nation Address on Monday, her seventh since she took the presidency in 2001.
Even as she slowed down on the push for Charter change because of the May elections, Arroyo had made it clear that she has not abandoned the initiative and stressed that it would be pursued by her administration as a “platform commitment.”
Arroyo’s allies in Congress are expected to make Charter change a priority once sessions open on Monday, which will pave the way for a parliamentary system.
This is the first time she’s been bold enough to even float the idea herself since 2005. Although she has been subliminally floating the idea ever since she talked about the country reaching “First World” status by 2020.
What colleague John Nery calls Arroyo’s insurance policy. What does the President need insurance against? Obviously, ending up like Estrada after her term of office. But the argument goes, whatever her sins, if the economy improves, people will let her retire in 2010.I n the blogosphere, blog@AWBHoldings.com who points out (with a sigh),
And now, as our politicians screw up the mandates given to them, here is where we stand: we do not like Gloria Arroyo, but we cannot agree on what to do about it. Some of us would rather have her and have their stomachs full, despite the fact that some have empty stomachs. We were given all choices, we chose none of them – impeachment, people power, electing an opposition-led Congress (both houses). We wanted more of the same, we wanted comfort, we wanted progress. But at what cost? Changing our values: allowing crooks to win as long as they feed us; allowing liars to move on, as long as they feed us; allowing corrupt officials to run our coffers dry, as long as they feed us. But what if they can no longer feed us?
And the President has gambled on these things helping her, politically: her hand-picked constitutional successor is widely assumed as unfit for the job (the corollary being, while she’s alive, the President can stop worrying about her Veep; and if she dies, then what happens to the country isn’t her problem, anyway); and things like “the stock market is high,” and “the peso is strong,” and “investments are up,” combined with “the deficit’s under control”, means big business, which could finance her ouster, won’t want to rock the boat.
But as I’ve been saying even before the elections, the President’s claims to fame are getting wobbly.
1. News like Gov’t overshoots budget deficit ceiling: January-June gap balloons to P41B. See also, Deficit hits P41B on weak tax take. Still, Unfazed by P41-B deficit, Teves to meet IMF (but I thought we’d graduated from IMF tutelage? So why is an IMF team here? See: IMF visit tied to fiscal woes: Duscussions on Monetary, Fiscal Issues Are Earlier Than Usual.
2. As far as any stock market is concerned, what goes up, must come down. We can’t separate what’s going here at home with developments in the region and elsewhere. John Berthelsen says China Is not the Problem: Extraordinary popular delusions and the US stock market boom. It might be time to seek cover. A meltdown in China, etc. is out of our hands.
3. What happens if the Peso, while psychologically reassuring when strong, is too strong for the economy’s good? And how much of the Peso’s strength is our government’s doing, and not a reflection of the US Dollar’s weakness? See Dollar Near Record Low Against Euro, 26-Year Low Versus Pound and reactions, like A stronger Euro and concerns about excessive real appreciation and competitiveness loss in the Eurozone. See also Won climbs to near 2007 high; baht drops. Then see, Banker cautions gov’t vs. continued rise of peso. However, John Mangun thinks a new dynamic is at work:
In January, a barrel of light crude cost P2,500; in June, the price was P3,150. The reason we are not paying 40 percent is due to the appreciation of the peso.
The same is true for the euro. Without that 10-percent appreciation in the value of the peso against the US dollar, crude oil would now be costing us P3,500.
So what’s the point? World economic patterns change and, unfortunately, too many “experts” do not change with the environment. Previously, a weak dollar would be considered terrible for the world, and the Philippines in particular, because of US-bound exports.
But, like most of the world, we are not dependent on the US export market for our survival. The value of the peso against other currencies has actually depreciated. A weak US dollar has reduced the cost of oil we buy, yet, it also may have helped our export attractiveness to other global markets.
A weak dollar has not derailed the US economy, but might reduce its trade deficit with nations like China. Further, the strong peso-dollar rate has not slowed either dollar-based stock market investments or direct investments in the Philippines.
This is 2007. The Philippine economy is not dependent on either a strong dollar or the US consumer.
4. News like this: Asia’s First Web Casinos Lure Chinese to Philippine Farm Town, and news like this: Now, she’s also Investment Ombudsman, are related, I think:
With Gutierrez at the helm, Favila predicted that prosecuting government officials who give investors illegal headaches will be faster. “Every time I get a complaint, I will just course it directly to her.”
The reactivation of the Office of the Investment Ombudsman was among the initiatives put forward by the public-private National Competitiveness Council to address the problematic government people and processes.
This is a magic wand to make problems with mining investments, for example, go away. Or else. But there’s more. Here’s this bit of scuttlebutt, said to be fresh from within the Palace:
AFter 2010, GMA faces the likely possibility of suits as a result of her ill-governance and ill gotten wealth, if any. Thus, to delay the filing of any criminal case or ensure its denial, Merceditas Gutierrez will not be allowed to finish her term which ends in 2013. Before GMA’s term ends, Gutierrez will be promoted to the Supreme Court and GMA will appoint another “friendly” Ombudsman who will be given a fresh term of 7 years. Effectively therefore, GMA is shielded from suit until 2017.
In other news, Secret ballot for speakership to set bad precedent – JdV. And he’s right (though he’s not right in spooning out the gravy: Congressmen get P1M more for travel). My column for today, Devolution of the House explains why. My Arab News column for this week is The Never-Ending Story of Scams.
2 persons wounded in Tacurong City explosion. Terrorism or extortion? Authorities can’t agree: Ermita: Tacurong blast HSA test; PNP: No, it’s extortion. But oddly enough, the military and rebels seem both inclined to dislike the Anti-Terrorism Law. See Newsbreak’s When Bitter Enemies Talk:
A militant priest says the basic problem is the newly signed anti-terror law – and he recites a litany of its flaws. A general seated at the other end breaks into laughter and declares, “See, we’re on the same side! We are also against this anti-terror law!”
All eyes now turn to the general, who has a reputation for outspokenness. Another lady justice asks: You mean the military is against this law, general? He then cites the law’s several punitive measures against law enforcers, which, he explains, won’t make them effective in the end. “We are surprised that the human rights groups are unhappy with it. Because we ourselves are unhappy with it… everybody seems unhappy with it.”
Meanwhile MILF given one week to surrender ambushers, while 2 ranking Marine officers sacked over Tipo-tipo clash. Also, CHR starts probe into Basilan incident. In his blog, Howie Severino looks into the MILF being armed with weapons and ammo from American aid given to the AFP:
We have been hearing of weapons being sold to the Abu Sayyaf ever since Father Cirilo Nacorda reported seeing boxes of American-made ammunition in his captors’ Basilan camp while he was a hostage in the mid 1990s. The details of those first forays by the Abu Sayyaf are in the excellent book by Joe Torres, Into the Mountain.
While charges of complicity are nothing new, the main difference today is the extra US influence that one presumes comes from a 1,500 percent increase in US military aid since 9/11. The Americans must realize that complicity with an Islamic terrorist/rebel group is a threat to US interests as much as it is to Philippine soldiers and civilians. The Arroyo government is regarded as an important US ally in the fight against terrorism. But if Arroyo’s military officers aid the enemy without ever getting punished, or even seriously probed, one must start to wonder if this is a true ally or simply a weak regime afraid of its own military. If it’s the latter, then Filipino generals will bow down to no one except for their American benefactors…
…The tragic episode in Tipo-Tipo reminded me of another time journalists got caught in the crossfire in Basilan, back in June 2001, at the infamous seige of Lamitan, where newly trained, supposedly elite Army Scout Rangers too were badly outgunned, before the surrounded Abu Sayyaf leadership — Janjalani, Sabaya, and Sulaiman — escaped with most of their hostages, who included the American missionary couple, Gracia and Martin Burnham.
Official probes into that debacle got nowhere, despite investigations in aid of legislation in both house of Congress that pointed to senior military officers having secret transactions with the Abu Sayyaf.
That could easily qualify as among the greatest failures in Philippine military history. Inquirer journalist John Nery did a memorable perspective piece on that incident a couple of years ago that earned him and his newspaper a libel complaint, a piece that has since disappeared from the Inquirer archives. But he has written about it and Gracia’s heroic dignity in his blog.
I cannot help but bring up the Lamitan botched seige again and again because it lies buried under the rug, along with other acts of treason.
When troops fighting and dying in the field cannot be sure of the loyalty of their own superiors, it is no surprise why an army backed by the most powerful nation on earth cannot defeat a bandit group concentrated on a few islands.
In other news, Formalin-laced White Rabbit candy banned; blogger Reyna Elena, who spent a recent trip home eating that candy, asks, “have you been embalmed yet?” Ha! RP coup plot lands ex-Cheney aide with 10 years in jail while Michael Ray Aquino gets lighter 6-year sentence. News like this is always interesting: Competitiveness menu bared, as are the views of a person I very much admire, Federico Macaranas of the AIM: Oligarchs key to breaking into winning circle.
Overseas, freaky news indeed: Explosion rocks Manhattan, revives 9/11 memories. Even as Paddy Ashdown warns, We are failing in Afghanistan and there’s Read It and Weep: Even Bush’s intelligence report says the war in Iraq is making us less safe at home.
Communist Vietnam now has an emerging middle class: Vietnamese people changing their consumption habits: research. On a related note, in Malaysia, Brian Yap: Middle class that’s a force to be reckoned with, while in Indonesia, this opinion piece on Western-style toilets seems full of familiar observations: Sitting up or melting down: Power to the people. My recent enthusiasm for nuclear power brings up this cautionary tale: Japanese nuclear plant may be on quake fault line.
Alex Magno says the National Democrats aren’t interested in peace, period.
Manuel Buencamino on Miguel Zubiri and his “Comelection.”
William Pesek is bothered Imelda Marcos is getting more popular.
In the blogosphere, Smoke on the give-and-take going on in this blog; Manila Bay Watch thinks Davao City Mayor Duterte is a lunatic; Philippine Politics 04 says businessmen have suddenly lost interest in fighting corruption. The Philosophical Bastard on “hermit blogging.”