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Jul 26

Auntie Fussbudget and Uncle Sam

That word –fussbudget– was used by a congressman I talked to yesterday, to confirm if I was right in stating the President’s never submitted her proposed budget right after delivering the Sona, as tradition used to warrant. I also used our conversation to sound out my ideas (which I presented in yesterday’s entry) on the President and the budget. The congressman said I was correct in saying the President had failed to submit the budget on Sona day, and had been the first president to break with tradition. But as for the reasons behind it, the representative said I wrong. So why, I asked, has the President failed to submit a budget in keeping with tradition?

“She’s a fussbudget, can’t stop fiddling, and letting well enough alone,” the congressman said, with an exasperated snort (and the congressman is an ally of the President, most of the time). He says the President goes over the proposed budget line by line -debating each line, he says, up to an hour and a half for each line- to a degree that’s frankly, disturbing. She apparently views each line entry as a battle of the will between herself and the bureaucracy and Congress.

He gave the example of a small village road. The President would ask, why was there no appropriation? The Secretary of Public Works would say, the road had been built. The President would make phone calls, to interrogate other officials, to confirm whether the road had been built, and if so, how many kilometers, and what was the width: meanwhile forestalling any movement on overall budgetary priorities.

Just when I was talking about the Philippine budget, another government budget hits the headlines: the proposed US Budget for 2008. A few weeks ago, these was what the administration was saying: Palace thanks U.S. Congress for $30-M foreign military funding to RP:

Malacanang expressed today its thanks to both houses of the US Congress and Executive Branch for appropriating a $30-million foreign military funding to the Philippines to fight terrorism and bring lasting peace and progress in Mindanao.

Press Secretary Ignacio R. Bunye said both Houses of the US Congress have approved and even increased by almost three-fold to $30 million the military funding for the Philippines from the Executive Department proposal of only $11 million.

In a statement, Bunye said the increased amount was appropriated under the 2008 Foreign Military Funding bill by both Houses of the US Congress even after several Philippine groups “have tried to stop the US funding for reasons of political expediency.”…

…Bunye added that the US Senate Committee on Appropriations also increased to $30 million from $26 million the Economic Support Fund for the Philippines and urged the Executive Branch to request for more once there is a peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

A flurry of local headlines began with ABS-CBN’s north American Bureau claiming appropriations for military assistance, etc. to the country had been reduced in the proposed budget. This triggered statements such as US slashes military aid, and then a series of reactions, Malacañang denies reported cut in US aid to RP military, police, and US Embassy on aid cut: Don’t look at the numbers. The story, as carried by the Xinxua News Agency says it best: Philippines says U.S. aid reduction not to affect military modernization program. Filipinos were in a panic, and generating news.

Eventually, according to Report of US aid cut triggers uproar, the initial report turned to be false. Or was it?

US Embassy spokesperson Matthew Lussenhop said the story got ahead of the US appropriations process.

“I think it’s misleading to say that assistance has been cut,” Lussenhop told the Inquirer by phone. “The US federal government’s budget for fiscal year 2008 hasn’t been passed yet…It would be premature to say that aid has been cut.”

In the proposed US budget for foreign operations, posted at the US state department website, the department requested a total 2008 funding of $84.7 million.

This is $28.5 million less than the actual total assistance given to the Philippines in 2006 at $113.2 million.

Among the big decreases sought are for foreign military financing and international military education.

There are, however, proposed increases, such as for Economic Support Fund (from $24.7 million to $26 million). Also sought to be increased are funding for infrastructure, private sector competitiveness and human rights….

More specifically, the state department’s per-country proposal for foreign military aid, as posted on its website, showed a cut in figures for the Philippines, from actual appropriations in 2006 of around $30 million to $17.6 million in 2007 and $11.1 million in 2008.

The latter number carried the heading “proposed.”

Proposed 2008 appropriations for countries across Africa, Asia and the Pacific and the Middle East also showed a general downtrend.

The US Senate, in a report, recommended a $30-million appropriation for foreign military financing for the Philippines, or more than double the state department’s recommendation.

You can actually track the progress of any Congressional bill online, including the votes in each house: see GovTrack.us and for scrutiny of the spending bills propose, see Washingtonwatch.com. You can try searching within the proposed budget itself. We can only dream of being able to do the same, here at home. Anyway, the process, so far, the President of the United States has proposed a 2008 Budget (see summaries for the departments of State and Defense) that the US Congress has yet to pass.

So what happened? What was all the panic about?
Take a look at this report,
81951
Titled, Abu Sayyaf: Target of Philippine-U.S. Anti-Terrorism Cooperation Updated January 24, 2007.
And the concluding statement from the report:

The Bush Administration has considered placing the MILF on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations. However, the Arroyo Administration has opposed such a move as potentially jeopardizing the peace negotiations.

As of the beginning of 2006, the Bush Administration has voiced support for the Philippine-MILF peace negotiations as the best means of de-linking the MILF from JI and Abu Sayyaf.

This support boosts the Arroyo Administration against the AFP’s advocacy of a militarily-aggressive strategy toward the MILF. Nevertheless, thenew U.S. military role in western Mindanao increases the risk of a clash involving U.S. military personnel with the MILF. In January 2006, 60 U.S. military personnel conducted training for several hundred AFP personnel near Cotobato Cityin the heart of MILF territory. The U.S. contingent also was to carry out civic action projects (medical, dental, and veterinary services) in nearby Muslim villages. The U.S. military presence drew a protest march by Muslim civilian groups allied with the MILF and a warning from an MILF central committee official over the increasing presence of U.S. military forces in the Muslim areas of Mindanao.

The report says that basically, there’s a policy division between civilian and military officials in our government. The US, for its part, wanted to play a more aggressive role in Mindanao, whether against the Abu Sayyaf or the MILF. But the Philippine government, with regards to the MILF at least, wanted to keep the peace process going.

Now recent events in Mindanao, have put the peace process on hold. The AFP is gearing up for an offensive against the MILF. This report to the US Congress had explored the possibilities raised by a breakdown in the peace process:

Moreover, a breakdown of the negotiations and the cease-fire likely would confront the Bush Administration with policy decisions regarding a U.S. role in a wider war. The AFP could be expected to propose increased supplies of U.S. arms and military equipment; and it likely would argue for a more direct U.S. military role. The Philippine government might change its previous policy of opposition to a U.S. military role against the MILF and encourage U.S. actions against the MILF at least in a role similar to that in the joint operations against Abu Sayyaf.

If significant elements of the MILF opposed a peace agreement and moved closer to JI and Abu Sayyaf, and if they were able to continue or expand terrorist operations, the Bush Administration would be faced with a different kind of challenge but one that could include similar pressures for greater U.S. military involvement. That, too, would be the case if a peace agreement were not followed by effective measures against JI on Mindanao. There also would be the challenge of proceeding with implementing projects financed by $260 million in U.S. aid to Mindanao since 2001 (including $25 million in FY2006). This commitment, too, could confront the Administration with a policydecision of whether or not to employ U.S. pressure on the Philippine government to implement faithfully its obligations under a peace agreement. This scenario is plausible, given the reputed poor performance of Philippine governments in implementing the 1977 and 1996 agreements with the MNLF.

Now, the real news may be here: US sending Negroponte to ASEAN meetings (not sending the US Secretary of State is going to revive the complaint of Asean countries that the region ranks low in the US list of priorities, a long-standing complaint, despite a face-saving effort to shrug off Rice’s non-attendance) Canadian Foreign Minister not going, either, and Amb. Paynor, speaking for our government, says the Rice no-show doesn’t imply anything serious -certainly, by no means, a lack of US interest in Asean Oh really? John Brandon of the Asia Foundation suggests Asean, at least, thinks otherwise:

The Bush Administration recently announced that it will cancel this September’s U.S. —Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) summit. ASEAN is celebrating its 40th year, and the U.S.-ASEAN dialogue is celebrating its 30th. The cancellation of this landmark summit was due to the upcoming release of the report card on the American surge in Iraq to the U.S. Congress, slated for the same time. Although Iraq is the U.S.’s principal foreign policy issue, to Southeast Asians, this summit cancellation validates the perception that the U.S. views Southeast Asia with benign neglect and lacks a long-term strategy toward the region.

Anyway, back to Negroponte. He will be spending a day talking to Philippine officials prior to the Asean talks. The last time he was here, the discussion was reportedly about martial law. This time around, it seems logical that American policy vis-a-vis the Abu Sayaff, the MILF, and what course the government should pursue in the wake of the Lamitan massacre, will be Number One on the agenda. When news like this is presented: MILF official says its talking with gov’t to avert Basilan battle, compare it with the American briefing paper above. Is there a divergence in policy? Military stands down, delays Basilan push: who is holding the AFP back, is it the President? And if so, was the story from the ABS-CBN Bureau in the States a leak from US government sources, to pressure the Philippine government? Or the opposite?

In other news, DOF asked for asset-sale plan.

Water, power shortage: Arroyo orders agencies to prepare for the worst, although Napocor assures end to brownouts in Luzon. But within a year or two, Mindanao will not have enough power; the Visayas is already suffering a power crunch, too.
No Jonas Burgos when AFP goes to SC. An email I got recounted this:

Ricky Carandang (ANC) asked an AFP official this question in regard to their saying Jonas Burgos’ disappearance may be part of an NPA purge – how could the NPA have acquired the AFP impounded vehicle which was used to abduct Jonas? The AFP official offered no explanation.

My Arab News column for the week is Conflicting Definitions of Poverty, while my column for today is Back to basics. Other columnists’ views on the Sona from Conrado de Quiros, who compares the speech to the ones Marcos used to deliver, from Bong Austero, who interpreted the speech from a Human Resources professional’s point of view, and Connie Veneracion, who has a very interesting discussion on bonds and the VAT in Taiwan. The most humorous take on the speech was provided by Manuel Buencamino.

smoke says the new law on moveable holidays got her goat.

Seems to me the whole thing was simply meant to jolt the Philippine government into consulting with the USA on what it intends to do in Mindanao.

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41 comments

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  1. Devilsadvc8

    fussbudget as an excuse?

    or is it just plain inefficiency?

    hey, we do need a leader who can inspire us, not bore us to death with self-praise. and among the 2010 presidentiable wannabes, none fit the bill. i thought Manny Villar at least had that statesman-like quality every leader needs, but i may have been wrong.

    US aid cut or no, that money is still wasted as none or just a little of it is spent on what the Philippines promises the US it will spend it on. and not just military aid, but all foreign financial aid in general. in corrupt countries like the Phils, all that aid is siphoned away into the pockets of those waiting in the disbursement gates.

  2. cvj

    Conrado de Quiros missed one other parallel with Marcos. GMA’s “…a president is always as strong as she wants to be” is an updated version of FM’s “I do not intend to die” quip, also much applauded at that time.

  3. manuelbuencamino

    On Foreign Ops Funding

    Basically the allocation of funding for foreign operations is discretionary on the part of the US president, unless Congress earmarks X amounts for X recipient.

    In effect, the proposed funding submitted by the State Dept to Congress is just a wish list and the corresponding appropriation from Congress simply sets limits on the wish list (total foreign funding).

    Total foreign ops funding is divided into Foreign Military Financing, Economic Support Funds, Development Assistance, PL480 (Food Aid) and a couple of other minor categories. Each category is given its own funding. Each category may or may not have earmarked amounts. Every earmark leaves less for the rest of the world to divide.

    For non-earmarked countries like the Philippines, their funding is entirely dependent on whether or not they are the White House’s flavor of the day, week, month, or year, as the case may be.

    So how much can we possibly hope to get in foreign aid?

    Total foreign funding less earmarked amounts equals what’s available for the rest of the world. We can get all, part, or none of it.

    During the bases era, there was more or less x amount, say $200M, “set-aside”, not earmarked, for the Philippines. That amount was distributed over the different programs – ESF,DA,FMF,PL480 etc – and the levels rose or fell depending on what the State Dept thought we needed more of.

    How do you get funding?

    If the White House does not like you then you have to court Congress and get them to earmark money for you.

    If the White House likes you but Congress does not, then you sit tight, hope Congress does not prohibit spending on you, and then just wait for the White House to send money from non-earmarked funds over to you.

    If both the White House and Congress like you, as it did Cory after the downfall of Marcos, then you’re one lucky sonovabitch.

    If you are universally disliked, like Iran or North Korea, then you’re fucked; unless you have some kind of deliverable weapon of mass destruction that you can use to extort money from everybody.

    Right now the opposition and the administration are arguing over nothing.It’s just a propaganda war.

    The only thing we’re sure of , as of today, is there are no earmarks in the works for us. So, unless Congress earmarks money for us, we won’t know what we’re going to get until we get it.

  4. The Ca t

    Just to correct about the treasury bonds. They are guaranteed by the government. They are more secured compared to savings.

  5. The Ca t

    I do not see anything wrong about being fuzzy with the budget. That means to say, she knows what it is, unlike the previous president who knew nothing but played mahjong with the midnight cabinet members.

  6. Shaman of Malilipot

    Cat, I believe the word is “fussy”, not “fuzzy”. Fuzzy means lacking in clarity. But then again, you may be right. Fuzzy might be the more apt word.

  7. Jon Mariano

    I agree that there’s nothing wrong with being fussy with the budget. There’s something wrong however if the budget’s approval is always late. Now if the reason for it being late is the president’s being fussy, that’s the time that I would say she’s the cause and her being fussy as the problem. Once is ok, but if it happens every year then there’s something wrong!

  8. DJB

    OH! You must not have heard the NEWS: the Democrats won the US Midterm elections last year. Now they are doing in 2007 what they did in 1911 in the Philippines, in anticipation of what they are going to do in 2008, just as they did in 1912. They could abandon both the First Iraq and the Second Philippines and inaugurate a new era of Wilsonian Isolationism (which was followed by Wilsonian League-of-Nationalism that got about as far as the United Nations before imploding).

    But, really, we don’t need their AID. We only need their FRIENDSHIP.

    OFW-aid dwarfs anything the Dems would deign to give its allies, anyway.

    Besides, we are not mercenaries Manolo. They are engaged with us and helping us because it is in the interests of their own survival and national peace of mind to do so.

    We are not vassals. We are an independent nation under more severe attack than they. And we are all in the same cross hairs.

  9. DJB

    When the US gives aid, it is accused of imperialism and pushing its war on terrorism.

    When the US cuts back on aid, there is the suggestion that our alliance with her does not benefit us any more.

    It doesn’t matter what its TRUE POLICY is towards the Philippines, she cannot do anything right because she is damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t.

    The root of this problem is that we ARE independent but we don’t actually believe it. We ARE responsible for our own fate, but we refuse to give up our favorite excuse and alibi for failure: America.

    Having come to believe that the war on terrorism is an AMERICAN war, some Liberals and Leftists actually blame her for the fact that we are being attacked.

    The stupidest of all is Jess Dureza and his precious peace process. I’ve got news for him. The passage of the HSA 2007 into law DECOUPLES the peace process from the imperatives of LAW enforcement.

    He can pursue the peace process as much as he wants, as can anyone who believes there is benefit in them. But the Law stands above all men,high or low, and the duty to enforce it has nothing to do with the current policy of whoever is the tenant of the offices of govt. Police and military must enforce these laws no matter what the politicians are saying or doing.

    That is the way it works and soon more and more people will realize this reality.

    The existence of the Law has MEMETIC power. It puts a stake in the ground and says, here we draw a line beyond which you commit crime and are liable to prosecution.

    Perhaps the “context” today is not to our liking. But the Law survives us all and sooner or later civilizastion and the rule of law dawns. Or we return to being Basilan.

  10. DJB

    Regarding the “joint investigation” of the Basilan incident by the Govt and the MILF:::this is insane and illegal and gives the MILF a legitimacy it does not deserve.

    Many on this thread have clung to the argument that we don’t NEED the HSA because all the possible component crimes are already covered by the Revised Penal Code.

    Yet, if a bunch of rapists gang-bang some nuns in a convent, do the Pundits and Cabinet Secretaries cry that we should have “peace talks” with the dickheads? Of course not!

    Yet isn’t that exactly what is happening with the Basilan Beheadings? Why are the decapitators and their harborers ON the investigating committee at all?

    What do the PEACE TALKS have to do with the crime that befell the Marines?

    I suppose this just par for the course in the ungawa capital of the world.

  11. hvrds

    Wow!!!! the American Jihadist sounding off. Woodrow Wilson an isolationist? In point of fact he was the first U.S. President that made international intervention America’s primary role in the world to spread democracy. In essence the first American Jihadist. How could history become so distorted? He is also responsible for the creation of the War Industries Board that consolidated and standardized U.S. industrial power that served as the model for the military industrial complex. He did that to benefit U.S. industry during the war. Don’t forget the creation of the Federal Reserve.

    As for Iraq why is the U.S. not able to do anything about it’s main ally in the region Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are also responsible for the ongoing strife between Sunni and Shia in Iraq. They are contributing their fair share of mujaheeds to the carnage. Why can’t “Mad Dog Cheney bomb Riyadh? Instead he wants to bomb Iran.

    As for the Philippines being free, if the country wanted to become free it could happen. But it is expensive. Unfortunately not too many want to pay the price.

    U.S. Officials Voice Frustrations with Saudis, citing role in Iraq.

    http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/07/27/africa/27saudi-web.php

  12. Rom

    The root of this problem is that we ARE independent but we don’t actually believe it. We ARE responsible for our own fate, but we refuse to give up our favorite excuse and alibi for failure: America.

    right on, daddy-o

  13. manuelbuencamino

    “Son, when you see someone ranting and raving, arguing his case against straw men, make sure you avoid eye contact. Just nod your head and go on your way.”

    A high five to OnlyCertainKindsOfTerrorismAllowedMan from the ooglymooglies.

  14. DJB

    HVRDS,
    Well, which Dems should we talk about? 1912 or 2008?

    It WAS Wilson who pulled out of the Philippines and abetted Quezon’s dreams. But only because the Democrats wanted out of the First Iraq. Too much Republican-led US imperialism and democracy-founding between 1898 and 1912. Too much money spent on those dark brown indios, teaching them English, building roads, bridges, giving them government, civilization, turning them into lil Brown Americans. Better to give them Independence. Their leaders are always agitating for it. Well no more of that. In 1912 Filipinization began. I haven’t heard the Dems use the word yet, but I expect it…IRAQIZATION.

  15. DJB

    And whatever happened to “the rape of Philippine sovereignty” by those five US Marines.

    You would think the same people ranting and raving about that would be moved to at least as much emotion over the rape of Philippine sovereignty in the beheading of those ten RP Marines!

    But nooooh! that would be “only a certain kind of terrorism” , eh MB?

  16. DJB

    oh yes, and PUBLIC SANITATION. mustn’t forget that from colonial days.

  17. DJB

    How blithely abscbn news blurts it out: those harboring the decapitators are ON the investigating committee for the Basilan incident.

    I smell a nice lil whitewash in the air with Jess Dureza laundering Isnilon Hapilon’s blood-stained clothing.

    Tipo tipo to me is a crime scene. The Peace Talkers should go to Norway or Kuala Lumpur and have their tete a tetes there.

  18. hvrds

    A lot of financial analysts now are unanimous in declaring that the cycle of low interest rates in the world has come to an end. What will our very own Junk Bond Queen of Asia do now?

    This increase of risk premium will almost assuredly raise borrowing costs across the board over the very same period that the government will trying to raise revenues to first to cut budget deficits let alone increase allotments for capital outlay. Most of the growth sectors of the narrow base economy are in a low tax or tax exempt regime. Before even the real economy could start to benefit from the low interest rate regime things are changing already.

    Now with reduced funding for military aid probably in the offing who is going to pay for increased military action down South.

    Our favorite American Jihadist categorical imperative for warfare requires logistics. Anyone who is familiar with U.S. military aid knows fully well that before the U.S. will allow a single bullet to be used in armed conflict they have to approve it. That means Uncle Sam must approve actions vs. the MILF. Communists have always had U.S. gun-sights on them since liberation.

    Maybe the American Jihadist could arrange a meeting with Negroponte and convince him of the need to bring America’s jihad vs. the MILF. Maybe this could ignite a real Muslim insurgency in Mindanao across the board so the HSA can be put to use. Bush and company need more examples of so called Muslim terrorism to continue the pretext of the so called War on Terror. Accordingly the First Iraq could see its end in the elimination or extermination of the Muslim threat from Mindanao.

    The financial markets could prove to be merciless to our favorite junk bond queen who may have borrowed a bit too much on our behalf to pay our creditors to enable us to keep on borrowing.

    My goodness the World Bank telling us to be cautious about going to war.

    Yup, independence is expensive. Maybe we could float war bonds amongst the OFW’s.

  19. manuelbuencamino

    There was the arms for hostages deal with Iran;
    funding for the Contras;
    arrangements between Mafia and CIA to knock off Castro,
    overthrow of governments spanning the globe from Africa to the Midde East ro Southeast Asia to Cebtral America to South America;
    training and arming of mujahadeens in Afghanistan,
    weapons, economic, and political support for Saddam;
    weapons, economic and political support for Musharaff;
    bail for the Venezuelan airline bomber;
    partnerships with Southeast Asian, Sicilian, Colombian drug dealers;
    torture in Vietnam, Girmo, Abu Ghraib;
    rendition of syspected terrorists;
    and the beat goes on,,,

    And terrorism, the war on terror, is about which side you’re on not about right or wrong.

    Anyway Papa told me to walk away so I’m just humming this tune to muself

  20. cvj

    The passage of the HSA 2007 into law DECOUPLES the peace process from the imperatives of LAW enforcement. – DJB

    Tell that to the GESTAPO.

  21. grd

    Gma blinked. “Arroyo holds military offensive vs MILF”. She’s not so tough after all. Al it takes is for foreign AID donors to threaten her with AID pull-outs. So, what happened to that “justice for our 14 brave soldiers” that she’s been ranting these past few days?

  22. grd

    Gma blinked. “Arroyo holds military offensive vs MILF”. So, she’s not so tough afterall. All it takes is for foreign Aid donors to threaten her w/ AID pull-outs. What happened to “justice for our 14 brave soldiers” that she’s been ranting these past few days?

  23. grd

    Gma blinked. “Arroyo holds military offensive vs MILF”. So, she’s not so tough afterall. All it takes is for foreign Aid donors to threaten her w/ AID pull-outs. What happened to “justice to our 14 brave soldiers” that she’s been ranting these past few days?

  24. frombelow

    blinked on milf attack. or just accepting political reality. even those extra juidical killings will serve her no purpose. not even the HRA. all those will be reduced to irrelevance by the juggernaut of globalization and market economy. in the end, there will still be communists, but will be working within the parameters market economy. and the governemnt will not need that HSA to decapitate terrorist targets. time will catch up with them

  25. Bencard

    whether or not it’s true that the u.s. cut its military aid to the philippines, i could just hear the celebrations and see the high-fives given by the forces of hate to each other. these are the same naysayers who jump with joy to any bad economic news that befall the philippines (regardless of accuracy), and belittle any improvement in the nation’s economy.

    these reminds me of some member of the left who would exhort ofws not to remit their earnings to their families because it would help the philippine foreign exchange. it’s a good thing, these people are so disingenuous and inept, otherwise they would really be a serious danger to the state.

  26. DJB

    cvj,
    if a murder or rape occurs on tipo tipo, do we say that the international monitoring committee for the peace process must get involved in it?

    Of course not.

    It’s the same with terrorism now, which is a crime under the law.

    So yeah, tell that to the Islamo Gestapo!

  27. DJB

    The Abu Sayyaf have no legal personality even under the peace talks. Under HSA they are terrorist criminals. We WILL hunt them down like the savages that they are and bring them to properly to justice to prove that

  28. DJB

    cvj,
    what you want to do is to continue to legitimize their secessionism and violent tendencies. What you want is to continue war (although you will call it peace talks).

    I call for law enforcement against heinous terrorist criminals.

  29. rego

    So Manolo what’s wrong with being fussy with the budget.?

  30. mlq3

    rego, there’s nothing wrong with being fussy. one of the president’s strengths is she’s fussy, but being overfussy is the problem. recall the congressman’s comment:

    “She’s a fussbudget, can’t stop fiddling, and letting well enough alone.”

    there comes a point when you have to let go of something, because while scrutiny is good, over-scrutiny can start becoming counterproductive. remember, the budgetary process is a kind of collegial process. the president proposes, but congress disposes.

    what the president proposes is the product of a lot of work, involving many offices in the executive branch. there are budgeted expenses for things that don’t really change -salaries, etc. that will always be there- and budgeted items for new projects and so on. a president has the most impact on determining budgetary proposals for new things, while of course, hopefully always looking for ways to trim the fat.

    but the main criticism of her, i think, concerns her habits as an executive. an effective executive has to delegate: you have the appointing power precisely to put together a good team, and trust that team to pull its weight instead of leaving everything up to you. the secretary of budget and management, the head of neda, the head of the presidential management staff, etc., etc., are supposed to be capable enough to put together a budget, and none of them has what any president has: the authority to call the shots, determine policy, etc.

    now if a president is more interested in going through a national budget (if i recall correctly it’s about a foot thick) line by line, personally, debating each and every line, then a criticism could be made, that’s it’s not only a waste of presidential energy, it’s counterproductive to building a strong, functioning team. writing a budget is not supposed to be like checking reaction papers in a classroom setting.

    also, if a president agonizes over a budget line by line, it’s a waste of energy because the president has no guarantee congress won’t mess around with the text. ultimately, the president herself or her trusted aides have to perpetually lobby congress to protect not specific line item expenses, but the overall priorities: the budgetary process involves give-and-take, horsetrading, etc.

    i’m sure you’ve encountered effective executives in the private sector. the way the president handles the national budget is not, i’d argue, the way an effective executive would handle a budget in a rational, company setting.

  31. cvj

    DJB, you are attributing to me an argument that is structured all within your head and conducting a dialogue with a strawman version of my position. I am tempted to take the advice of MB’s Dad.

  32. rego

    Manolo ,

    Your main point is actually delegation. Which is one my weaker points too when I was started working with Intel. But once you realized the ineffectiveness of this this weakness you will easilly be motivated to work and learn how to delegate.

    I dont think Gloria with all her work experience prior to becoming president would be so dumbed no to realize the unproductiveness of such weakness. I dont thin she will be able to last that long if she doe’sn’t how to delegate. For all we know, she may just be doing some spot check or sampling. Just like everybody who encounter such a thick document.

    Then you have mentioned that your source just mention one or two or three instances against the whole budget items. Im am having an impression that you are overreacting again. Do you really have to devote a column for this and even choose childish title for it? What positive things we can get from this kind of write up? That we should stop Gloria from checking the budget?. Or teach Gloria how to delegate like she doesn’t have that skill?

    Gloria has a team , we all know that. Of course, the Haytt 10 resignation hurt may have hurt her image as far a a teamplayer and manager. But there are more than 10 who stayed with her. This people woudl have been a good source to judge her of being a team player and delagtion skills.

    I believe it would have been more credible if you based this write up on your expereince while working with her in the past. Not on a short conversation with your source who actually had a very limited picture of the whole.

    I just don’t believe that its fair to use the very little information you got from a source to judge Gloria. Its just too little really.

  33. mlq3

    rego, my source has participated in the formulation of the budget and then the congressional deliberations on it, during the whole of the arroyo presidency. compared to the information -pithily presented- from my source, my personal experience from working for the president is much, much less.

    but what i saw and what others see, is quite similar. the president most definitely does not do sampling. again, go over what the source said. she goes over the budget line by line. literally.

    as for whether the president by now would have realized this is inefficient or not, obviously, for her, it works. and no one who wants to keep their job will question it -or be tolerated in the government very long. this goes for the work methods of all presidents, not just her, of course.

    of course we differ on whether this is important. i think it is, because it helps explain why a lot of energy is being expended, but the country isn’t getting its bang for the buck, so to speak.

  34. hvrds

    Prior to becoming the chief executive of the country GMA’s only executive position was at an agency attached to the DTI.

    It is interesting to note that notable persons who had to do business with that particular agency are her closest business supporters. They rose to prominence together with her. It is like she simply transferred from the DTI to the office of the chief executive of the country. Now from the business constituency her constituency is at present the legislature and local governments who she depends on for political support.

    For those who have had personal dealings with her I can say this. She is hard working and really drives to get to understand the details of her work. She does not spend time on the rationale for the process. She tries desperately to master the process. When it comes to the Big Picture she is almost clueless. In our very first meeting we clashed over her ignorance of the rationale for the process she was involved in. She did not realize that she was causing delays. I was under the impression she was a public servant. She is extremely sensitive about what you think of her capabilities.

    Even though she had majored in economics she has never practiced the craft of equilibrium economics and is not even involved in the theoretical discipline of the craft.

    She is deathly fearful of being in a room with some of the real practicing equilibrium economists of the country. I personally know some of them and do not have their permission to name them but the group that came out with that paper that raised the ruckus about the need for new taxes otherwise our favorite junk bond queen would have pushed debt payments to cover almost the entire budget of the country and would have pushed the country into a major crisis. Finance is a critical issue as it dwells with abstracts such as competence, confidence and certitude. Uncertainty can be deadly.

    Joey Salceda used his knowledge of the language of the group to establish himself as the Presidents savior and led the PR campaign to raise the rates of NAPOCOR and the e-VAT.

    Remember the alarm was not raised by any branch of the executive department or legislative department but a few equilibrium economists from U.P. Once again the system of checks and balances were not working or were almost non-existent.

    She and Big Mike were busy thinking of ways to ensure her hold on the Presidency.

    Hence even a small slippage in tax revenues and it is small in relative terms reverberates with the financial community that has seen numerous times when government has failed to keep up with it’s commitments.

    For all of that the chief executive bears the responsibility. That is why she is well known also as the flip flop queen. She bends to which ever strong wind blows.

  35. grd

    Being overfussy simply means she does not trust her people at all. Imagine in the middle of a budget deliberation making that phone call just to check about a small village road that was already built (even inquiring about the size? wtf!). That must be pretty embarrassing for the official. Or maybe she just wanted to show(boat) her immense knowledge being a brilliant economist? I say she should fire all her cabinet officials and form a special group inside malacanang where she can directly supervise it. She can also appoint Angelo Reyes (the polymath) as her assistant.

  36. grd

    hvrds,

    That’s the best description of GMA, the flip flop queen. The latest proof is her flip flopping on her previous order about the military offensive against the barbaric MILF right after being cautioned by foreign aid donors.

  37. Ipe5520

    Re: delayed budget…reaction to GMA calling if a barangay road was indeed built.

    This is an example of why we should have Regional Governments with a direct share of taxes generated from within their citizens consumption and production. Its called “subsidiarity”. Why should the goddam president have to worry about a godforsaken road???

    Federalism (not the same as what we have under the Local Government code) is the only remaining political arrangement that the Philippines has not tried. If we can’t change the constitution due the risk the gma will hijack the process towards a parliamentary system, then we can live with a pseudo form that accomplishes the same thing..change the way the tax money flows. Make it direct tax share for LGUs, make them more locally accountable and for christsake make them plan those barangay roads.

  38. cvj

    I agree with Ipe5520, in Deng’s post-reform China, they implemented fiscal federalism which along with township village enterprises (tve’s) that ensured that local governments are able to both encourage the growth of local businesses and collect taxes that were due from their businesses. These institutional structures contributed a great deal to China’s post-1978 economic takeoff.

  39. rego

    “She is deathly fearful of being in a room with some of the real practicing equilibrium economists of the country. ”

    deathly fearful? definitely this is a over over over exageration. This is one reason that makes Gloria critics less credible top me. Sobrang OA pare!

    just the same, hvrds, the things that you write is not really a first hand account. sabi sabi lang. would have been better if that group that you mention would be the one to publish something and questioning Gloria’s economic/academics credentials.

    bakit ba takot sila? ano ba ang kinakatakot nila?

  40. hvrds

    GMA has had problems in policy debates keeping her emotions in check. She has broken down and sobbed uncontrollably in front of people when cornered in debate. Product of her childhood as a spoiled brat. This happened while she was in the Senate.

    In cabinet meetings she has been known to throw things at her cabinet secretaries.

    The one thing she learned from her father was the fact that while DM was Vice President he spent the entire four years traveling to every nook and cranny of the archipelago exposing himself to the voters in preparation for his running for President. That together with the fiscal crisis towards the end of Garcia’s regime helped propel DM to the Presidency. She can speak several major dialects fluently.

    It was DM who had to run to the IMF-WB that brought the country into the economic management and control of the IMF-WB till today.

    Please note that this is not about her person but about her ability as a leader. In that regard she is inadequate.

    It was Hobbes and Adam Smith who first defined wealth as the power to command labor. The role of government is simply to mitigate and arbitrate that power for the common good. Taking over that power is not the proper role of the administrators of the state.

    In that regard the President and her government has failed like her previous counterparts as she not only has failed to stem the influence of the wealthy but has singly distorted and debased institutions of governance and has made government dependent on the few to the detriment of the many.

  41. justice league

    Ipe5520,

    I am posting part of an article I made a long long time ago when the government was considering dancing the ChaCha. I posted it in some of the forums I participate.

    “…..
    What can local executives achieve in a federal government that cannot be attained in our present Constitution? I can’t fathom what could hinder their actions given the amount of autonomy given them.

    The Mayor of Manila can defy the National Historical Institute, an arm of the National Government and get away with it. The mayor uprooted Mehan Garden.

    While the parties were locked in legal combat, the destruction of Mehan Garden was underhandedly continued till there was nothing left to preserve.

    The good Mayor also decided to close permanently a portion of a road (Rizal Avenida) against the will of the MMDA and the DPWH.

    There are times when I commute through that area so I know for a fact that that area is now permanently closed. A real living breathing local official can collide against the arms of the National Government and the National Government tucks its tail and runs away faster than a speeding bullet. WOW!!! THAT IS POWER!!! Maybe on a local level but power nonetheless!!!

    The President is going for a shift to a federal government to empower the local officials more. Does this mean that the closure of that portion of Rizal Avenue would not have been possible without her consent or support?

    The mayor closed of a major road towards the south (2 side roads/now major roads are accorded the route to the north) and access is now afforded through a narrower one when that one just used to be a side road. So that single side road is now the major road!!! And he has a fondness of doing that left and right!

    I have to admit that there are times when pressed under the traffic in that area, I curse our local mayor from the highest of heaven to the lowest of hell. I just can’t help it. If PGMA did have a hand in that road closure; I SHOULD HAVE INCLUDED HER NAME IN ALL MY CURSES TOO!!!

    And now the mayor is setting his sights on the Arroceros park.

    Read more about the Cebu City mayor in what he does. Closing roads and denying access to certain people, shooing his hated people away, etc….

    A local mayor can perform such vindictive and childish acts and not be afraid of anyone! The National Government is already seemingly inutile against such a local official and they are supposed to be granted more powers in a federal form of government??? …… ”

    ———

    Update for the Manila road: The new mayor of Manila has decided to re-open to traffic the concerned part of the Avenida road with or without the blessings of the President.

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