Rain-related news: Despite heavy rains, water supply remains a concern.Put another way, 3 days of rain cooled Metro, but still not enough. Meanwhile, Palace wants P500m released for drought. News like this aimed at justifying such requests: Dry spell impacts on poverty; cost to rice up to P1B.
On the economic front, 38 Cebu firms close, lay off 13,000 (effect of the appreciation of the Peso). Inflation rate inched up to 2.6% in July, the World Bank to double loans to RP, and our Forex reserves hit $27.9b.
The Rich getting richer faster than the poor. A ray of hope is this: Migrant philanthropy slowly transforming provinces, study shows. In his column, Tony Lopez says the auto industry is almost back to 1997 levels.
Palace goings-on: Palace bares new gov’t appointments, including Senator Santiago’s husband joins Arroyo Cabinet. Moves include Palace replaces insurance chief. More executive tinkering: GMA transfers Toll Body to DPWH.
New DND head bares plans: speaks in tough terms about the Abu Sayaff, and says he’ll continue Nonong Cruz’s reforms. Meanwhile, Three rebels, 1 soldier dead in fighting. Read Patricio Diaz’s suggestion that there’s confusion in Basilan.
As for the continuing investigation of the massacre of the Marines: Esperon debunks ‘miscom’ report. So what happened? And now, pilots get blame for not firing a shot in Basilan.
In the Senate, Villar faces yet another sticky issue.
The Speaker soothes his erstwhile foes: Garcia, other solons assigned House committees: Cynthia Villar, for one, is officially out of the doghouse, returning as chairman of the committee (education) she’d be deprived of when she signed on to the impeachment complaints against the President.
Speaking of the Speaker, he reminds everyone that his party doesn’t intend to die (to quote Marcos): De Venecia to LP, NP: It’s romantic but get real. John Nery had pointed to an embargoed survey on who the public really considers the presidential frontrunners. The results are still embargoed, but this might be a sign of news concerning that survey, to come: Legarda leads 2010 hopefuls in survey . The Speaker may be on to something.
UNO: Impeach poll execs but Bedol offers help to reform polls. Comelec seems more interested in punishing those that exposed its goings-on: Comelec eyes electoral sabotage raps vs 2 media personalities. Much speculation who the two are. Everyone assumes Ricky Carandang is one. He says he isn’t one of those mentioned.
Newsbreak explains why the Estrada camp has lost its oomph.
Overseas: why hasn’t the US Attorney-General not been impeached yet? Dahlia Lithwick takes a look. Roger Simon ponders the weaknesses of debating as a means of figuring out if a candidate will be a good president or not. In History Unfolding, an update and analysis of the situation in Iraq:
The experience of Anbar province suggests something very important: that an American withdrawal will not, as the Administration argues, mean the ascendancy of Al Queda, whom Iraqi tribesmen have no reason to love. But meanwhile, there has been no rapprochement between Sunnis and Shi’ites. Our strategy appears to be to try to fight the extremists among both groups while supporting the moderates, and it is angering the Shi’ite government while failing to please the Sunnis, who just withdrew their ministers. The need for some kind of partition seems to get more obvious every day, but we are not moving in that direction yet.
An interesting article: Japan’s Democracy Comes of Age:
Last week the opposition Democratic Party of Japan returned the favor, handing the LDP an historic defeat in the election for half of the House of Councilors, Japan’s senate.
To understand what has happened, it is necessary to look back to the situation that prevailed from the founding of the LDP in 1955 to the 1990s. Japan’s Diet was essentially gerrymandered to ensure that the LDP maintained a firm grip on government. Parliamentarians were chosen from large, multi-member districts. That meant that successful candidates often won with only about 10 per cent of the vote, or less. This system put a premium on local connections and pork barrel politics. Issues? Who needs issues?
In Indonesia, the public proves the pollsters wrong, by enthusiastically participating in the country’s first-ever direct gubernatorial elections. In Asia has Jeremy Gross saying the Indonesians are proving to have a strong civic sense. And, is there a Malay malaise? Rot and More Rot in Malaysia’s Judicial System. The Thais are engaged in debating the pros and cons of their new constitution: August 19 referendum: key issue is ‘legitimacy’.
My column for today is Sandbagged opposition (unedifying headlines like this don’t help: Cayetano-Lacson feud erupts over Blue Ribbon). The move by Francis Pangilinan to block Adel Tamano’s designation as counsel for the Blue Ribbon committee’s reported here: Tamano blocked in Senate, tapped for PLM presidency. Incidentally, this makes for interesting reading: Senators of 13th Congress: Far too many hearings, very few reports. I agree that at the very least, the public is owed a report after hearings have been concluded.
An interesting column by Emil Jurado on “Operation Big Bird.” Jurado refers to a recent interview on Ricky Carandang’s show: the original’s disappeared, but the interview’s been cached. Fascinating reading:
Carandang: And how many accounts did you manage to release?
Almonte: I think at that time initial I think eight or ten with a total of 213 million US dollars.
Carandang: Was there more?
Carandang: How do you know?
Almonte: Because at that time there were already so much cooperation from the people there. I hope I’ll just say it this way because I don’t want to jeopardize them.
Carandang: So you had informants in the Swiss banking system?
Almonte: Of course and they are the ones who know.
Carandang: So they were feeding you this information?
Carandang: And in effect, the Swiss government was confirming it by releasing the money.
Almonte: yes. They release it if they confirmed that what we are saying is in their document.
Carandang: So why did you stop at $213 million?
Almonte: We did not stop, that was the initial release. After that, because we have to present the other accounts that we like to release, we have to present it when we already have the complete documentation. Now we don’t have the documentation of all the accounts. That is why after this $213 million what came in later was about $3.8 billion and this we have the documentation.
Carandang: So you had the knowledge of an additional $3.8 billion in the Swiss bank accounts.
Almonte: Yes after the $213 million…and after that we had more information and our people there were working on another $4 billion. That is why by that time we had about all in all 3.8 plus 4 plus 3 we had about 8 billion immediately although of course the 4 billion is identification is being… The documentation it means is being worked on.
Carandang: But this whole time Marcos and Mrs. Marcos still thought that the money was being transferred to another account of theirs?
Almonte: Ah no more. By this time I cannot recall anymore. But I think it was July, it’s in the records. But the following day, because I think it was Friday. Saturday…Sunday…Monday is supposed to be the release of the $213 million nothing happen, Ordoñez disappeared. We cannot locate him. Later we’re able to confirm that he left Manila by himself.
Carandang: This was before you actually had the money released?
Almonte: No, after the money was released, the 213 million was released by the Swiss government but they transfer actually to export is what we were waiting for. Before they transfer there, Ordoñez disappeared and he is the only one according to the arrangement and the Swiss law as a constitutional officer who can receive this money in behalf of the Philippine government not me or anybody else.
Carandang: So without Ordoñez’ signature the money could be transferred out of Marcoses account but could not be transferred to the Philippine government.
Almonte: Without the signature of Ordoñez.
Carandang: And Ordoñez signed for the $213 million but he disappeared after that.
Almonte: No he did not sign yet. He just left without receiving the $213 million because what happened was this, when the$213 million must release and this is in the record, Ordoñez and of course Salvione and for Salonga that this going to be released, in fact we didn’t know because they kept it from us already. Anyway what happened is when Ordoñez disappeared we came home. I decided to leave immediately for manila.
Carandang: And what the money was left in an escrow account?
Almonte: Not yet. The money was.. You know the order was there but there is no execution. There was a decision but the actual execution of the decision was held.
Carandang: Pending the signature…
Almonte: Well pending the receipt…because what happened was this, Salvione and Salonga approved it and this in the annex, in the document… That he believed, Salvione, this money will be lost to the Philippine government. The implication is that Mike and myself will run away with the money, that’s the implication.
So he was telling Salonga that they should not be transferred to the export financier’s bank but it should remain in Credit Suisse and the fellow who suppose to take care of this…ironically was the man of Marcos but anyway it’s under their control. Now because of this the Credit Suisse informed Marcos that they have…they are helpless that this money, his money in the bank will be returned to the Philippine government. Because of his authority to de Guzman to withdraw his money…
Carandang: And that is when Marcos knew that he had been scammed.
Almonte: Yes that was the time. Soon after they decide to release this money, so Marcos claimed that “I don’t know of any de Guzman,” “I did not give anybody authority to withdraw the money” and he did not have any account in Switzerland this is Marcos letter to the Swiss. However if there is a money under his name and there is such I think as de Guzman who is withdrawing on his authority, he is revoking all of that.
Carandang: In other words Marcos was trying to tell the banks that he had revoke the authority of Mike de Guzman to withdraw the money but he is also trying to say that you cannot claim that I own the money.
Almonte: That’s what he’s trying to say.
Carandang: In other words Mike can’t withdraw but I don’t own it.
Almonte: Yes, that’s what his trying to say. “I don’t have anything but in the event there is something there in my name I am in control, Mike has no authority.”
Carandang ends by pointing out Almonte & Co. managed to get $213 million which was duly given to the government. By 2001, the money had grown to $680 million:
Under the law, all money recovered from the Marcos family is to be spent on agrarian reform.
In September 2005, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism reported that a portion of that $680 million was diverted to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s 2004 presidential campaign.
In March 2006, a Joint Senate Committee concluded that President Arroyo “be held accountable in the mismanagement of the fertilizer fund.”
Former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante, who authorized the release of the fertilizer funds, is seeking political asylum in the United States.
In Inquirer Current, John Nery “impeaches” Francis Escudero. Gets a swarm of replies!
All those who want to reform the Philippine politics and economy should therefore strive to remove the nexus between politics and the economy. This policy reform objective could be achieved through measures including low and neutral tariff rates (to discourage smuggling as well as the incentive to make deals with Customs officials), the removal of the pork barrel system, opening up entry and exit of all businesses including utilities and telecommunications without having to acquire franchise from Congress, and lowering of corporate taxes coupled with the removal of fiscal incentives, among many others. The central idea is to prevent political motivations to encroach in people’s economic decisions, subject to certain limited criteria such as environmental regulations and national security.
We should adopt the concept that doing business or engaging in entrepreneurship is an inalienable right on par with our freedom of assembly and speech as well as of pursuit of happiness. That way mayors, governors, and bureaucrats will not have any power to put barriers against people’s entrepreneurial energies. You remove political intervention in economic decisions and you can see that “public service” will only attract two types of persons, either statesmen or masochists, and that will be for the good of the country.