The ploy to keep the Speaker loyal

My Arab News column for this week, The Ploy to Keep the Speaker Loyal, further refines an earlier blog entry on the revival of the constitutional amendments plan. The point of my column is that while many observers think the revived Federalism scheme is the same old script reused for the same old purposes, a larger purpose may be in the Palace’s mind. Constitutional change is being dangled to entice the Speaker to patch things up with the Palace. The Speaker himself, like the old pro that he is, is non-commital to keep his options open: De Venecia welcomes Charter change talk but not this year. In his blog, Mon Casiple says the Charter Change revival could be all talk -or a sign of darker things to come.

The column was written before I had a chance to interview Speaker Jose de Venecia, Jr. on my show last night. He’d already spent the day sounding fairly belligerent: JdV: End govt corruption: Statements hint at possible split with President. His son was certainly doing his best to foster the impression his father wasn’t in the chirpiest of moods: Arroyo admin won’t change, says Speaker’s son.

On my show, he waved a document at the camera and said, he was preparing a letter to the President, urging her to purge her cabinet of corrupt officials, curb smuggling, and, if the peek I got was correct, somehow reform the pork barrel system. JDV talking of reform and fighting corruption at the very least will probably have people rolling in the aisles, but like most things, there’s an element of self-preservation at work, too. He pointed out that he was quite appalled, during the last election, to see how mercenary both candidates and the electorate had become. And he went into a rather lengthy description of how, unless the spiraling costs of campaigning weren’t reduced, officials would have to raid the public treasury and break rules just to be able to run for, and keep, office.

To be sure, this limited awareness had its origins in his facing an unusual situation, for him, last May. He normally runs unopposed. The Palace is said to have strongly backed the candidacy of his rival who spent oodles and which led to JDV having to spend oodles, too, to be re-elected. And so, the Speaker said, “I have committed my share of sins” but this all getting too much, already. What JDV has come to realize is the same kind of realization the older generation of premartial law politicians came to realize when faced with Ferdinand Marcos. By golly, the guy recognizes no limits. The Speaker, it seems to me, is increasingly frightened by the prospects of a President he strongly supported, giving him the treatment she formerly used to to dish out only to their mutual opponents.

He is a man in search of a mission, because his old career as the Fella Who Gets All Folks to Get Along is obviously facing a dead end. His choice is a stark one: total surrender, which means maintaining his position but without power, in effect becoming a decoration, or fighting it out, and risking it all, when his problem is, he may have lost the means (the numbers) without which he can’t expect to put up a good fight.

The Great Consensus-builder is, I think, ill-equipped to fight it out, mano-a-mano, with a President, much less the present incumbent. Alone of his contemporaries, among his political peers, de Venecia by all accounts, has no personal enemies. His fellow politicians on all sides of the political fence all think he’s a nice guy. And that, precisely, is his problem. Whatever his other defects, having a mean streak is not one of them.

He is not a fighter, by instinct, he’s a consensus-builder and what’s more, in the traditional mold, who lacks the imagination to think that certain political behavior is even possible (a liability many traditional politicians of the old school suffer from, with regards to the President: up to now I keep hearing some of these leaders express shock and horror at the President’s habit of dropping in on the wakes of her deceased critics, which leaves old-fashioned oppositionists at a loss on what to do or say, except, well, express shock and dismay after the fact -I think the President derives a kind of malicious satisfaction from doing such things because it’s a reminder of the residual awe in which even her critics continue hold her office).

So one moment he sounds like he’s fed up, has had enough; the next moment he’s literally pleading for the President to seize the day and become a crusader for good government; then the Speaker’s mood deflates again as he says he has to give her this last chance but… but… What? I don’t think he knows, or to be more precise, he doesn’t want to have to reach the point of no return. Or admit that point was reached last week, when the President showed she had 180 congressmen in her pocket and forced to pick between her and him, JDV’s fellow congressmen would pick her and not him (though being on the whole, not cut out for battle, either, they’d like to keep them both).

John Nery in Inquirer Current, says the Speaker’s headed for a fall. In this light, the above could be his Swan Song.

Meanwhile, is the inoculation in danger of failing? An article in the Inquirer two days ago –House to pursue rules vs bogus impeach rap–majority leader– gives a hint:

Majority Leader Arthur Defensor said on Monday the lower chamber would proceed with key amendments to the impeachment rules, essentially to keep lawmakers from having to deal with apparently bogus complaints.

The changes — which would allow the consolidation of two or more complaints before they reached the committee on rules and included in the order of business — was scheduled for plenary deliberations last week.

But Defensor, the main author of the revision, withdrew the schedule to avoid being accused of trying to influence the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Roel Pulido against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo…

..The amendments created a stir at the plenary hall among legislators loyal to the President on Monday night last week, another senior member of the majority told the Inquirer in a separate interview.

Amid the suspense on whether Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. would refer the Pulido complaint to the House committee on justice, the Arroyo allies asked the majority leadership to withdraw the amendments from the order of business.

“They thought we were going to change the rules so a stronger impeachment complaint could be consolidated with the Pulido complaint,” the congressman said. “They even wanted us to adjourn the session at the height of the budget deliberations.”

This account was confirmed by another administration lawmaker who played a major role during the plenary deliberations on the proposed 2008 national budget. Both lawmakers asked not to be named because of the sensitive nature of their positions.

When the opposition says it will file a new, improved complaint, the odds still favor the original Pulido complaint; but an opposition impeachment complaint would open up the opportunity for the House to amend its rules on impeachment (going beyond what Defensor’s proposed) or the filing of a case in the Supreme Court.

RG Cruz points out the Palace is not helping itself by stonewalling reporter’s questions. The cabinet officials who do speak up aren’t helping matters any more than the President’s Congressional allies: Atienza says ‘cash gifts’ are normal fare in Arroyo Palace.

The Palace’s stonewalling, as RG Cruz puts it, comes at a time when economic developments seem to have slipped under the radar, to emerge as threats to the Palace propaganda line that the economy is super duper and the Peso’s appreciation is fantastic. RP balance of payments slips into deficit in September, comes the news, and there is a concern over the prices of basic commodities: Yap orders SRA to release sugar reserves to stabilize prices so that the administration has had to admit there are problems beyond back-biting within its own coalition (and squabbles that keep requiring presidential intervention). As the news yesterday put it, Cabinet tackles ‘major risks’:

National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) acting Director General Augusto Santos said an emergency Cabinet meeting has been called by the President to discuss the possible measures government may undertake to mitigate the ill effects of these threats.

Santos said three threats–rising oil prices, decreasing value of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) dollar remittances that may crimp the spending of beneficiaries, and reduced exports–may be attributed to the strength of the peso.

Santos said a stronger peso is good for the economy, however, in terms of making imports cheaper, decreasing the amount to be paid for debt service, and increasing investor confidence.

The Neda has already prepared economic simulations and recommendations, but the documents were not yet available to journalists as of press time.

He added that some of these measures may include the reduction of tariffs for oil imports, but the trigger price will still be determined by the Cabinet after today’s meeting.

This news coming during the opening of the Christmas season, is not politically-beneficial for the Palace. In its editorial, the Business Mirror editorial explains why:

As the peso strayed into historic territory last week, reaching seven-year highs and flirting with the 43 level, the exchange continued to dismay even more overseas-based workers: in one case that found echoes in many households, a minor construction project, projected to cost P25,000 two months ago, suddenly became too expensive for an OFW’s $500 remittance, budgeted way back. As a result of the project’s deferment, the worker found his $500 merely stood at over P21,000 when it reached Manila. And so on and on, similar tales of financial woe can be heard from the OFW sector (workers and beneficiaries) as the robust local unit continues to hold its own.

Meanwhile, the other sector hardest-hit by the strong peso, the exporters, have not stopped complaining about how the impact of a steady appreciation has gouged their pocketbooks, forcing dozens to either close shop temporarily in hopes of regaining their bearing after some time, or downscale operations and thus put thousands out of job.

To be sure, the executive has lined up a series of remedial measures to blunt the impact on the badly hit sectors, but still the “massacre” continues. To underscore the gravity of the situation, Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting was set solely on the major economic risks faced by the nation in light of recent developments, and as this paper’s banner story on Tuesday underscored, three of these risks–rising oil prices, declining value of the OFW remittances even as their volumes surge, and export cuts–were all somehow tied to the peso, albeit in varying ways.

A few months back the Bangko Sentral warned exporters to brace for a stronger peso and counseled them to seek shelter in hedge facilities that had long been there, while Malacañang directed state financial institutions to seek ways to prop up their sector.

The situation of exporters could get even more challenging, meanwhile, because as Trade Secretary Peter Favila reminds, they’re bound to come up against stricter regulations in the global markets arising from the creation of exclusive trade blocs.

Certainly there’s no way the “hurting” sectors of the economy, such as the OFWs and the exporters, can be separated by some firewall from the rest. One consequence of OFW families getting less for their dollars is that they will spend less, thus crimping the other productive sectors of the economy. As for exporters closing shop, imagine the impact of that on jobs and on the overall GDP projections.

Of course any administration has to do a balancing act handling the economy; but the timing is bad, if only because the holidays might be a little less cheery and it comes at the heels of a new round of scandals that won’t go away. As Manuel Buencamino points out in his column, one reason the scandals have political traction, is that with 2010 in mind, both politicians and the public aren’t inclined to be left holding the bag. Since Buencamino tackles why China’s government-owned corporations are being courted by the administration, it would do well to keep up to speed with developments in the Middle Kingdom: High stakes for China as party congress begins and Missing the barefoot doctors.

The Inquirer editorial tackles Pampanga Governor Ed Panlilio’s taking the money -and why he should return it, even if no one will accept it.

big mango explains why the revived Charter Change proposal doesn’t leave him thrilled.

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202 comments

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    • watchful eye on October 18, 2007 at 8:33 am

    Proud,

    Is that why some in the US say the only way for GM to catch up with Toyota is for the US Congress to pass a law abolishing labor unions?

    • frombelow on October 18, 2007 at 8:34 am

    This is strange feeling. I got a nightmare last night. All will be over before Christmas. I saw GMA speaking triumphanlty. And the streets werer all dark and gloomy. BELIEVE ME>

    • watchful eye on October 18, 2007 at 8:38 am

    fromB,

    Are you from fromB(urma)too?

    • Proud to be Tsinoy on October 18, 2007 at 8:45 am

    I would just like to play devils’s advocate and ask this question. If one looks at what is going on in the past few months, don’t you think that obviously, somebody is orchestrating all of these so called revelations of shenanigans in the present administration. I am no great fan of GMA but at the same time, I have an eerie feeling that at the end of the day, the Filipino people will still be left holding an empty bag here.

    It seems to me that the people, especially the masses, are being conditioned to have a negative perception of the present administration.

    We always have a romanticized view of the previous administrations’ so called good performance. Or what I refer to as “they were a lot better than it is now” syndrome. Even now, revisionists are saying the Marcos days were a lot better than what the people are now suffering from under the current administration.

    At the end of the day, isn’t it the case that ALL administrations have their skeletons in the closet??? One has to realize that the Philippine politics IS dirty. Why? It is because WE, the people, demand it to be so. What do you think is going on when the politician’s constituents go to them to ask for money. Di ba, the standing joke is that , KBL, yan? (Kasal, Binyag and Libing). kulang na nga lang idagdag ng O (Ospital.)

    One may argue who will the masses turn to in times of need. So it really begs the question then. What should be done? DO the politicians turn them away so that they don’t need to steal money just so they can help the masses? The politics of patronage is a two way street. We always say it’s the politicians who are to blame. Isn’t it time to look and see that BOTH are the to blame for the sorry state of Philippine politics? Isn’t it the case that when a candidate wins, their constituents have EXPECTATIONS that are not exactly congruent to the welfare of the majority, but rather for themselves???

    Just a thought.

    • Proud to be Tsinoy on October 18, 2007 at 8:47 am

    Watchful eye

    To some extent, I agree with that statement. Labor Unions have their place in the world, BUT, is there any point to a labor union if the company their constituents work for is gone??? Who will they be bargaining with then????

    • frombelow on October 18, 2007 at 8:56 am

    so what do you propose Proud to be Pinoy?
    Just move on or do something. As i see it you abhor what you have observed.

    • Proud to be Tsinoy on October 18, 2007 at 8:57 am

    watchful eye

    This is a real case in point of what I am talking about. I was once passing by a manufacturing subsidiary of a major company in the Philippines. Do you know what the workers were striking against? They were striking against the closure of the company! This company has had a long history of animosity between labor and management and so the company decided to just shut down since it has become an unprofitable enterprise and yet, they are not even being allowed to do that. Labor is even DEMANDING that they reopen. I didn’t even know that the investors have less rights on what to do with their capital in our country.

    In the US, because of the economy’s relative strength, they can withstand the closure of major companies and they still won’t miss a beat. Tayo, we can’t afford that. Just have around 100 manufacturing companies shut down and don’t think there won’t be blood in the streets.

    • watchful eye on October 18, 2007 at 8:59 am

    Q: One may argue who will the masses turn to in times of need?

    A: The Saudis?

    Q: Isn’t it time to look and see that BOTH are the to blame for the sorry state of Philippine politics?

    A: No. Just those “proud to be tsinoy.” And I’m not trying to be smart. The taipans think they own the country so they want to govern it.

    Q: Don’t you think that obviously, somebody is orchestrating all of these so called revelations of shenanigans in the present administration?

    A: Who has the power to control public opinion? Not Bencard or cvj, I’m sure?

    Q:Is there any point to a labor union if the company their constituents work for is gone??? Who will they be bargaining with then?

    A: Have you heard too of CAPITAL strike?

    • Proud to be Tsinoy on October 18, 2007 at 9:02 am

    frombelow

    I do abhor what is going on. At the end of the day, it is NOT RIGHT. But can it be changed overnight? We have changed leaders what, twice already, and so what happened? Isn’t it the same old sh*t.

    What we really need in our country is an attitude adjustment. I do agree with a statement made on this commentary by DinaPinoy. What we really need is character change. and I will add to that. It is character change of the Filipino. We have mimicked and internalized the worse characteristics of the Spanish and American influence we have experienced in our country and evolved it into one of our own. A much more savage beast which do not really care for the welfare of the country. All of us really have to do our share to mold the minds of the younger ones. Sila na lang ang pag -asa ng ating bayan. The old faces are still around and the new faces are now being influenced by the old hands. It’s really the system that’s screwed.

    • Proud to be Tsinoy on October 18, 2007 at 9:10 am

    watchful eye

    I agree that some of the taipans are not exactly people I am proud to share lineage with. But at the end of the day, they HAVE provided jobs for people, albeit their pay is measly.

    As regarding your point on them thinking they may be able to govern the country, well, I don’t know. At this point, that may be an option worth considering.

    This is what I can tell you of the chinese mindset. We always want to leave a good legacy so that our descendants can be proud of us. I am sure a lot of thse taipans now have that in mind and if they can help turn the country around by running them, they will be glad to do so. Leaving a good name is the foremost on the minds of these old fogeys. Cheers.

    Public opinions CAN be shaped. Think Nazi. How did Hitler shape the majority of the minds of the people??? Propaganda. Media has been very helpful in this regard in this day and age. Just look at recent history. Ganun din naman ang ginawa kay erap, di ba??

    Yes, there’s such a thing as a lockout. But let me tell you this, what would your opinion of the company be if they go on lockout. Di ba majority will say, di naman sila naawa sa manggagawa??? That’s the state of Philippine management and labor relations in our country, adversarial and confrontational.

    • cvj on October 18, 2007 at 9:14 am

    Proud to be Tsinoy, i don’t think laborers go on strike just for the heck of it. If you take away the ‘liberal’ labor laws, how then do we protect the rights of the worker? And if we take away the rights of the worker, how will their welfare be ensured? Can we count on the Tsinoy businessmen to do this out of the goodness of their hearts?

    You talk about managing the perceptions of your friends, that’s well and good but that perception must be based on underlying reality, because sooner or later, the truth comes out. More importantly, in managing perceptions, we should draw the line when it comes to real people. Man for man, woman for woman, laborers are as much real people as Tsinoy businessmen and businesswomen so we have to give these individuals the respect due to them. Take that to heart and probably the people’s perceptions towards the Tsinoy community would also improve.

    As to whether we can afford democracy, after all that that has been revealed, can we afford not to be one? We live in a country were the elite (in business and government) conspires with foreign governments against the general public. Democracy is government by discussion. Last i saw, that exercise in democracy (however flawed) just saved us 329 Million USD in real money.

    • cvj on October 18, 2007 at 9:26 am

    BTW, if you compare the Chinese-Filipino Taipans with their counterparts in Korea, Taiwan and Japan, you would see that they compare very poorly when it comes to national development. The latter are bonafide industrialists who have created sophisticated products for export to the developed world while the former have just gotten rich via real estate or by extracting revenue from millions of Filipino consumers while paying their employees minimum wage. On the basis of this meager achievement, these Taipans then believe they are entitled to a bigger voice than the common Filipino. Hindi na nahiya.

    • frombelow on October 18, 2007 at 9:30 am

    Proud to be Tsinoy

    “I do abhor what is going on. At the end of the day, it is NOT RIGHT. But can it be changed overnight? We have changed leaders what, twice already, and so what happened? Isn’t it the same old sh*t.
    What we really need in our country is an attitude adjustment”–Proud to be Tsinoy

    I can’t see the logic.It seems that from your point of view it will be easier for the whole nation to change attitude than to kick out corrupt leaders in high places.Those corrupt leaders are few. The whole nation changing its attitude will be a very long process indeed.
    But changing those corrupt leaders overnight? It has been done in three nights. Marcos Erpa. Wanna bet let’s start our vigil tonight in front of EDSA. Millions of us and in three nights, those corrupt leaders (soem of them will remain for sure ) will be gone. If we are luck enough, thue will be kiccked out overnight. So let us start.

    • Proud to be Tsinoy on October 18, 2007 at 9:39 am

    cvj

    Again, I am not saying that liberal labor laws are wrong. I am saying that maybe we should put a moratorium to it until we can really get our economy going. I am also not saying we should get rid of labor laws. Just get rid of labor laws that are too one sided for labor.

    I am also not saying that labor should be given subsistence level pay. All I am saying is strikes have no place right now at this stage of the country’s development. What do you think is going on in China? What did you think went on in Korea and Taiwan and why did they become the rich country they were? Partly because they did not allow any form of strike to hamper production. This allowed the country to grow. Then when they are already stable, then and only then, is labor given ALL their rights and privileges.

    As for the perception issue, I am not sure where it’s coming from. We are able to get where we are because we are careful with how we spend our money. We do not have a consumer mentality. As much as possible, we do not buy on credit. That is how we were able to save some money so that we can buy things in cash. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately for you), I have seen this mentality eroding amongst the younger generation Tsinoys.

    I do agree with your comment that laborers are people too and should be accorded the respect they deserve as partners of investors. But as a side comment, what would you feel if even after all the respect accorded them, they still spit you in the face??? I myself has been a victim of that. There is a running perception (and I know it is partly true) that once you give Philippine labor your hand, they will TAKE your arm. and if you give them your ARM, they will take your shoulder…..). THAT is the perception. ANd you wonder why Tsinoy businessmen tend to be less “generous” from your perspective? Philippine labor right now has the mentality that since they’re the ones who make the goods, they should get more of the profit. They don’t think of it as a partnership.

    BY the way, it’s the same democracy that has given a lot of foreigners the perception that we couldn’t get our act together while the other economies around us zoom by…..

    • Proud to be Tsinoy on October 18, 2007 at 9:42 am

    frombelow

    I guess I am just too tired of kicking every as*h*le politician we have out there and not seeing the desired results from it….and meanwhile the economy suffers in the process.

    Maybe you’re right. I really don’t know anymore what can be done. That’s why people are leaving the country in droves. They really do not know what to do anymore.

    • watchful eye on October 18, 2007 at 9:43 am

    Proud: At the end of the day, they HAVE provided jobs for people, albeit their pay is measly.

    W: The taipans could provide more jobs if they build more, and risk more. The OFWs have taken the plunge. So must they.

    P: As regarding your point on them thinking they may be able to govern the country, well, I don’t know. At this point, that may be an option worth considering.

    W: I’d be glad if they take that option . . . if the consensus is there.

    P: This is what I can tell you of the chinese mindset. We always want to leave a good legacy so that our descendants can be proud of us. I am sure a lot of thse taipans now have that in mind and if they can help turn the country around by running them, they will be glad to do so. Leaving a good name is the foremost on the minds of these old fogeys. Cheers.

    W: There’s the rub. They must talk about the Filipino mindset not any mindset or Chinese mindset. The hyphen, the contraction must go. Then we can ALL be “proud to be pinoy.”

    P: Yes, there’s such a thing as a lockout. But let me tell you this, what would your opinion of the company be if they go on lockout?

    W: I’m actually looking for investments and reinvestments. Not just loans to the government with guaranteed returns.

    • Proud to be Tsinoy on October 18, 2007 at 9:48 am

    cvj

    Again, not every Tsinoy Taipan is bad. You just have to realize the economy were in and see why they’re in those businesses. It really then begs the question: How do we get to the point where these taipans will be building the stuff we all dream about? We go back to my argument. Make the economy strong first.

    And then again, business is really all about profit, it’s not about being a welfare state, you know. So extracting revenue while paying a minimum wage is a natural thing.

    What you should really think about is how to generate enough jobs out there so that the time will REALLY COME that labor becomes a scarce commodity and the highest bidders will win his/her skill set. That’s how a real economy works.

    • Proud to be Tsinoy on October 18, 2007 at 9:51 am

    watchful eye

    I agree with all your comments. Except I did make themistake of saying chinese instead of Tsinoy. You are also right there that the hyphen must go. I have always been proud of my being Filipino of Chinese heritage.

    The taipans ARE adding more investments into the country if you look at the dailies hard enough. They are always looking for opportunities.

    • watchful eye on October 18, 2007 at 9:56 am

    P:The taipans ARE adding more investments into the country if you look at the dailies hard enough. They are always looking for opportunities.

    W: Not enough, per cvj and I agree with him, especially if you take into account their successful counterparts in the region. Juan de la Cruz can only do so much. The taipans must take the lead.

    • Proud to be Tsinoy on October 18, 2007 at 9:58 am

    Hmmm….maybe I should start talking to Lance…..:-) Cheers

    • cvj on October 18, 2007 at 10:04 am

    Proud to be Tsinoy, you are missing a step. It is true that in Korea, Japan and Taiwan, they were able to industrialize by concentrating the means of production to a few wealthy businessmen (via what Alice Amsden calls the reciprocal control mechanisms). They were able to do that because these countries had greater equality in terms of income and in terms of land holdings. This (together with the repressive labor laws) allowed the government-business partnership to industrialize in peace. Same with China (and Vietnam), they first had a communist revolution to get rid of their oligarchs. We havent yet had ours. The Philippines today is a society with stark inequalities that cannot be ignored. If you suppress labor laws unilaterally, then this just fuels further discontent.

    The Tsinoy Taipans got rich by taking advantage of the Filipino people’s consumer mentality so i wouldn’t criticize that too much if i were you.

    If you have a grievance against Philippine labor, then take it to the people and convince them that a moratorium on strikes is in the country’s best interest. That’s part of your ongoing process of Filipinization. If you want to use strong arm tactics, then go back to China and hope that you won’t be on the receiving end. Over here, it is not for you to *give* or *take away* rights or privileges.

    As to your comment…

    BY the way, it’s the same democracy that has given a lot of foreigners the perception that we couldn’t get our act together while the other economies around us zoom by…..

    …i once saw Rico Hizon interviewing John Gokongwei where the latter said the same thing, i.e. that over the past decades, our neighbors have passed us by. I don’t know why Rico did not ask the logical question on why Gokongwei seems not to have done too badly for himself during these same time period.

    As a local who knows the situation on the ground, I would consider those foreigners’ comments as a simple matter of flawed perception fuelled by a Chinese-Filipino elite that has a case of Lee Kuan Yew-envy, undeserved by the way.

    • Proud to be Tsinoy on October 18, 2007 at 10:19 am

    cvj

    You are correct regarding the fact that I did miss one step. We did have that problem of not having equitable distribution of land holdings. I do not know about a more equal distribution of wealth part though.

    As for the consumer mentality, I do want to criticize it because that is one of the main problems of the Filipino psyche..the need to acquire even if they don’t have the means for it yet. That attitude should change. I ahve seen some go to great lengths to get into major debt just to see pawn it back to the sellers.

    I have tried taking it to the department of labor on this issue to no avail of course. Who I am but a small tsinoy businessman..:-)

    Your last comment…it is NOT a flawed perception because I also see it. It’s just having two different points of view…and I do respect your point of view. We just don’t agree that we’re looking at the same thing the same way.

    I suppose if we look at it in micro terms, then you may be correct that democracy has given us the freedom to do what we want to do. But it is also a bane if we do not become responsible citizens for it. I know you’re one. I know most people in this forum are responsible citizens. The question is, are the rest of the Filipino people, responsible? I guess having to survive day to day allows us to become irresponsible citizens (in the Philippine context, at least) right?

    • frombelow on October 18, 2007 at 10:22 am

    The Philippines I think is the only county in the world where businessmen have the habit of blaming politics for thier misfortunes and the politicians blaming business for theirs.
    When the economy is bad, it is due to politics.
    Well, they say you can’t separate politics from economics. But i think the essence of that dictum is that everthiong is political, which all social scientists have agreed.
    But not in a sense that businessmen use blaming game as cover for their lack of business inimagination. Business is your province, you have nothing to blame, not labor, not culture, not politics, not corruption, if you fail. It all falls on you.

    • Proud to be Tsinoy on October 18, 2007 at 11:16 am

    frombelow

    “But not in a sense that businessmen use blaming game as cover for their lack of business inimagination. Business is your province, you have nothing to blame, not labor, not culture, not politics, not corruption, if you fail. It all falls on you.”

    If this si the argument then, should government then get out of the way? (Just playing the devil’s advocate here) and let the chips fall where they may? But then again, bleeding hearts will dictate that rapacious businessmen will take advantage of the situation to the detriment of other people.

    The point is…there is a correlation between culture, politics, labor relations, corruption and the success of an enterprises, because all of them impinges on the ability of the enterprise to do it’s thing. Now this is NOT to say that lack of imagination is also to blame for the failure of an enterprise.

    • ramrod on October 18, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    Most businessmen would rather not have anything to do with government. At a certain degree, they are shielded from the impacts of whatever is going on around here. Businesses will survive even without government help as long as the fundamentals are there. In fact, in some aspects government is hurting the business sector, take for example the money they have to shell out to customs (this is not part of the computed costs), etc. bottomline, corruption impacts business.
    These big businessmen have been cynical when it comes to politics, politicians come and go. It is only lately (perhaps later part of Marcos’ time) that some members of the business community are vocal about certain issues but this I believe is a minority. If they talk about politics, its just a matter of “discussion” or more of the “tsismis” type and laugh or complain about it. They would even prefer not to read the newspapers nowadays because of all the stench, to quote one “pare pareho lang lahat, all corrupt.” If some corrupt officials put pressure on them to pay, they’d rather pay quietly. Arguments, noise, hostility, controversy, do not make good business. In terms of labor issues, it depends really on the businesses we are looking at, family-owned, labor-intensive, mostly Chinese businesses, because of efficiency issues and competition from cheap imported products from China are not that profitable, they’re barely making it year to year.

    • Proud to be Tsinoy on October 18, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    RAMROD

    I agree with your statement

    “In terms of labor issues, it depends really on the businesses we are looking at, family-owned, labor-intensive, mostly Chinese businesses, because of efficiency issues and competition from cheap imported products from China are not that profitable, they’re barely making it year to year.”

    Hanggang ngayon kasi, di naiinintindihan ng mga manggagawa at mga ibang liberal do gooders na iba na ang panahon ngayon. Masyadong maliit na ang kinikita ng mga negosyanteng tsinoy. Minsan nga, mas mabuti pang ilagay na lang sa bangko at mas malaki pa ang kikitain nito ng walang kahihirap hirap.

    The average profit margin, net of taxes, lagay, miscellaneous expenses, etc. is around 3-5% maximum. To get more absolute margins in pesos, you would have to do volume business but not everybody has that kind of money to begin with…to grow the business.

    That’s exactly the reason why it’s hard to take risks in the Philippines, too many unreliable factors. Nagtataka pa tayo kung bakit sa property lang at consumer businesses nag stick ang mga big time tsinoy taipans? It’s hard to build new innovations knowing that there’s no market and that the colonial mentality is still at work. Then they wonder why we have shoddy products to begin with? Eh, kung lagyan mo naman ng kalidad, mahal naman daw????

    Hay….

    • ramrod on October 18, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    tsinoy,

    I have made a career of serving Chinese wholesalers since I graduated from college. If you look at the business through western eyes, it would be better to put all their money in the bank, or speculate on stocks, or sell the business, considering the actual margins. But if you really look closely, these businessmen are not really here for just the money, they employ people that are otherwise non qualified for multinationals, high school level, grade school level, these people can’t avail of BPOs also. At times, I think they’re sticking it out because of their employees and some sentimental reasons that these businesses are legacies.
    Our government can do these people a favor by limiting corruption, extortion, and providing a favorable business climate for all concerned.

    • cvj on October 18, 2007 at 1:29 pm

    Proud to be Tsinoy, that missing step is a crucial one and would spell the difference between a Latin American-type dictatorship that serves only the few, or one that leads to economic takeoff. Also, if you study the example of our rapidly growing neighbors, you will see the the formula of goverment getting out of the way is just the opposite of the actual policies that these countries implemented.

    By “irresponsible citizens“, i suppose you mean those people who engage in smuggling and cheat on their taxes. I agree that we have to be more draconian towards these people but i bet you won’t see these kinds of people in the slums or among Erap or FPJ supporters. Rather, they are more likely to be found among the Arroyo/de Venecia crowd, e.g. in the golf courses of Wack-wack. Some of them might even be complaining that they have given the people “too much democracy” even while they think of ways to saddle more foreign debt on the rest of us Filipinos. Maybe it’s in that sense that we have too much democracy in that we let these people get away with too much. As i mentioned before, i would approve of the jackboot of dictatorship only if it is used on the faces of these characters.

    As a tsinoy small-businessman don’t you have some association that you can go to? Why not form a small employer’s union? Why not use the ways of democracy for your benefit? I can understand that you’re also caught in the middle, between the few big guys and the huge majority of poor folks. However, does that mean you always have to take the side of guys like Lance? Could it be that just like the common folk, you have a stake in having a good government that treats everyone fairly?

    When you say ‘Filipino psyche’ i suppose you are excluding yourself. I’ve been here in Singapore for a couple of years so i can now appreciate that the ‘Chinese psyche’ that is presented to the Philippines is more like the ‘Binondo Chinese psyche’. Over here, shopping is a favorite pastime by the locals (especially the ‘Tai-tai’) and the Chinese have enthusiastically embraced the consumer mentality.

    In macroeconomic terms, i don’t think the Philippine business community would really want the locals to give-up such mentality since that would mean plunging the economy in a liquidity trap like what happened in Japan in the 90’s. That would be bad for business.

    • cvj on October 18, 2007 at 1:39 pm

    That’s exactly the reason why it’s hard to take risks in the Philippines, too many unreliable factors. Nagtataka pa tayo kung bakit sa property lang at consumer businesses nag stick ang mga big time tsinoy taipans? It’s hard to build new innovations knowing that there’s no market and that the colonial mentality is still at work. Then they wonder why we have shoddy products to begin with? Eh, kung lagyan mo naman ng kalidad, mahal naman daw???? – Proud to be Tsinoy

    That’s where the Japanese and Koreans (who are *not* Chinese by the way) and Taiwanese have over the Tsinoy Taipans. Over there, they produce results. Over here they can only give excuses. (Benign0, why don’t you share with our Tsinoy Taipans Nick Joaquin’s essay?) 😉

    • ramrod on October 18, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    “That’s where the Japanese and Koreans (who are *not* Chinese by the way) and Taiwanese have over the Tsinoy Taipans. Over there, they produce results. Over here they can only give excuses. (Benign0, why don’t you share with our Tsinoy Taipans Nick Joaquin’s essay?)”

    Cvj, tsinoy,

    Not all Chinese businesses are still in the Binondo stage, quite a number have graduated to even global competetitiveness. But these small businesses have their role to play in society, as I said they provide jobs for people who are otherwise not qualified for other companies due to educational attainment or age consideratons. (provided their not sweatshops)

    • cvj on October 18, 2007 at 2:20 pm

    Ramrod, i agree and that’s a good thing. No one argues with the enterprising nature of Chinese. Where you have Pinoys like me working as professionals (aka employees) you have the Chinese (from the mainland) going overseas to work as small businessmen. There are thousands of them in Africa right now.

    Where i take issue is that the Binondo crowd do not seem to have put a stake in our democracy. At the same time, they are all too willing to side with the current powers and take from the rest the only equalizer, i.e. their political freedoms. These people would benefit from an attitude change.

    • ramrod on October 18, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    “Where i take issue is that the Binondo crowd do not seem to have put a stake in our democracy. At the same time, they are all too willing to side with the current powers and take from the rest the only equalizer, i.e. their political freedoms. These people would benefit from an attitude change.”

    They have to maintain anonymity or avoid getting attention to themselves for some reasons. 🙂

    • cvj on October 18, 2007 at 2:32 pm

    There you have it then, another excuse for apathy. Valid maybe but an excuse nonetheless. I don’t know if that’s something Tsinoys can be ‘proud’ of.

    • Proud to be Tsinoy on October 18, 2007 at 2:42 pm

    Ramrod

    Ramrod, you are correct. We do have world class pinoy companies like Ayala corp and Jollibee. We also have small businesses whether pinoy or tsinoy owned, struggling to meet the payroll. They do have their roles in society. For me, the main issue has more to do with the economic environment where companies are regulated too much to the point that they break the rules anyway since if they don’t, they might as well close shop.

    It’s really very easy to kibitz when one has not gone through running a business where everyday, expenses are incurred while revenues have not been as good as 20 years ago.

    Well, I suppose cvj is right. All we tsinoy businessmen offer are excuses. Guess what, when the day comes when I can fire inefficient, lazy people (with justification of course) without considering the feelings of the emotional pinoys and the resultant dealings I have to make with the Dept of Labor to justify said firing , then I am sure results will happen. The day when I do not have to deal with leeches in customs who asks for a bribe so that we can release our shipment (even if we pay the proper taxes), then results will happen. The day when we can go deliver our goods in metro manila without someone flagging us down and trying to get some lunch money from our drivers, then results will happen. The day when government, instead of hampering business by putting all sorts of rules only for the selected few to go around these rules , just allow business to do business, then results will happen. In the end, if you realize what I am saying, it’s the people in government, whether it’s GMA, or Ramos, or Erap, or Marcos, and the leeching bureaucracy, that’s the main problem.

    The government in the countries you mentioned, ARE OUT OF THE WAY. They provide businesses with the proper environment for them to grow. There are regulations per se, but these regulations generally do not hamper the flow of business. Unlike in the Philippines where every step means dealing with somebody’s palms out in order to facilitate the process.

    In Hongkong, setting up a business will not take you more than a few days. It’s ministerial in nature. In the Philippines, setting up a business is regulatory in nature. Aside from having to deal with the National Government, you also have to contend with the local government.

    So, CVJ, it’s not about excuses really, it’s about leveling the playing field. and you’re right, the taipans have not leveled the playing field for all businessmen, tsinoys and pinoys alike. That I agree. A lot of my small businessmen friends in many industries are now hurt by the SM juggernaut. I have a relative who used to own like 21 shoes stores all over the province. It’s now down to 9 because of SM. I have a friend who decided to just shut down their factory employing 1000 workers and just import and trade the same goods because it’s cheaper to buy it from abroad and you have less employees (I think around 25) to deal with….

    and these are just a few of the examples I could give you. That is the real world in the Philippines CVJ….not some theoretical mumbo jumbo we all love to talk about.

    • Proud to be Tsinoy on October 18, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    CVJ

    You have to realize something as to why Tsinoys are “apathetic”. We do have a stake in the country but we do not believe in violent immediate changes. Look at CHina, it took them a few years to get to where they are. It wasn’t like Deng Xiao Peng turned on the switch and the next day, CHina became a powerhouse.

    It’s the same argument. We need to make changes. The CHinese are just more circumspect, I suppose. But Let me tell you that a lot of Tsinoys ARE involved in the democratic movement. It’s just that they’re low key. I believe the majority is more inclined towards making small changes. As for the Binondo businessmen, I understand your issues about their apathy. The older generation really have a different view of the Philippines. I can tell you, sir, that I love the Philippines more than China. I guess we just have a different view of how we can change things in our beloved country.

    • Proud to be Tsinoy on October 18, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    CVJ, Ramrod

    I have learned a lot from your discussions with me. I thank you for telling me your point of view and will digest them. Peace brothers!

    • cvj on October 18, 2007 at 3:05 pm

    Proud to be Tsinoy, you’re again missing a step. Before Deng, there was Mao. Remember him? Deng’s reforms would not have been possible if he had the oligarchs and warlords with all their resources to deal with. I’m not saying we should imitate Mao and stage our own communist revolution. However, why do they choose to cooperate with the current powers against the masses?

    As i see it, it’s only when it’s economically convenient that Chinese businessmen come out. I can still remember all those ‘Congratulations President Estrada’ banners outside those Greenhils mansions during the eve of Erap’s election victory back in 1998. I can understand why the masses could have placed false hope in Erap. They’re desperate after all. That’s not the case with those Tsinoy businessmen. It was pure opportunism.

    • cvj on October 18, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    Thanks as well Proud to be Tsinoy. (I was typing my comment before i saw the above.)

    • tonio on October 18, 2007 at 3:51 pm

    the rift between the tsinoys and the rest of the philippines is something which earlier Filipinos, their minds clouded by Spanish (and later American) conditioning imposed on them. in fact there are many instances in other countries where “Chinatowns” were built to supposedly marginalize and seperate the Chinese immigrant populations from the rest of the locals. all perpetuated by Caucasian colonial powers who immediately saw the threat to their power an entrepreneurial Chinese population wields.

    in the Philippines, they did a pretty good job, and it has screwed relations ever since, produced a lot of the stereotypes (which i will not repeat anymore because they really bother me) we have about the tsinoys.

    naturally, in response, over the years the tsinoy community developed reciprocal mechanisms for self-preservation. some of these mechanisms are still there. (anyone who’s tried courting a chinese girl will know what i am saying. 😛 )

    and despite the turning of the years, like it or not, these attitudes still here. tsinoys will more or less stick together in social situations, will more like likely deal with other tsinoys, etc.

    and many filipinos will continue to look on tsinoys with distrust and envy.

    set against this climate, you now expect the tsinoys to the economic messiahs of the country?

    and i agree with some of the opinions expressed here that the small-scale tsinoy entrepreneur hardly makes any profit. their money is better off invested in banks. and yet they are there, risking their capital and providing economic activity. and i also lament, to a certain extent that the many tsinoy youth seem to be just as into the entire consumer mentality as the rest of the country. how’s that for integration, eh?

    i don’t think the same can be said of the elites of other backgrounds, who would much rather funnel the bulk their profits (what we have to be thankful for is just the tip of the iceberg for these elites, methinks) into ostentatious displays of wealth, or in bank accounts and holdings in mi madre patria, or what have you.

    added to that the small percentage of Filipino nouveau riche, who, rich off of illegal activities, influence peddling, and politics are the worst of the lot, those who would gladly feast of the starving corpses of their countrymen just so they can hang out in golf courses and play their little power games.

    and you wonder why this is all going to heck.

    • Proud to be Tsinoy on October 18, 2007 at 3:58 pm

    tonio:

    Your point is interesting. It kind of hits the nail on its head.

    • cvj on October 18, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    set against this climate, you now expect the tsinoys to the economic messiahs of the country? – Tonio

    I didn’t realize the Tsinoys had their own victim mentality. Of course, they are expected to be the economic messiahs. After all, they are already acting as if they were.

    If Tsinoys cannot deploy their capital for the welfare of the country (just like what their mainland and Taiwanese counterparts are doing), then they should turn it over to someone else who can, just like Mao did in the mainland and just like Chiang Kai Shek did against the Taiwanese elite.

    Tsinoys are expected to do their part, not just within their own Tsinoy community but as part of the larger Filipino community, that is if they really want to be Filipino. As a start, the Tsinoys should at least police their own ranks of cronies and would be cronies.

    One thing Lee Kuan Yew did right in Singapore is to force assimilation between the races (Chinese, Malay & Indian). That’s one thing a would be dictator right here would do well to imitate.

    • ramrod on October 18, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    Anyway, there are several big, globally competitive Chinese industrialists as well (my clients) who have companies that are ISO certified (900/1400). These companies are even regional players and they actively contribute to the dynamism of our economy. They are not however, immune to the harassment from customs, especially during December ETAs. Thats whats keeping me busy nowadays, to move shipments from falling in December to January ’08 and its a lot. One time I had to go talk to the customs people who asked for additional fees from my client which is not supposed to be because our mills in Europe arranged all shipments “prepaid,” the nerve of these people, I had to threaten and name drop (good thing some of my mistahs are well known).

    • cvj on October 18, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    Ramrod, i do get the impression that corruption at Customs is equally damaging to the business environment as labor unrest and yet, when asked, the first thing the Tsinoy would want to take away is the rights of the laborer because the latter has too much democracy. Could it be because those who protect Customs are more powerful than the ordinary worker so they choose to pick on the latter?

    • ramrod on October 18, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    Some companies have managed labor unrest through an open line of communication with the top management and the people. I don’t think all Tsinoys have that mentality anymore, a lot have MBAs and even US or European education. There’s some sort of evolution from the pure Chienese family owned business into professionally managed companies, at least for the ones who aspire to be globally competitive and part of the supply contract with customers abroad like Perseco (McDonalds), etc. is corporate responsibility, these send auditors every year to check if their suppliers adhere to ISO, HACCP, GMP, etc. ot include employee welfare. So in effect, exposure to multinationals has helped mold these companies into responsible employers.

    As for customs, before it was linked to Estrada (Jinggoy), but during that time they focused more on getting money from smugglers, etc., now its linked to the first gentleman and this Aduana royalty (Vicky Toh), they have expanded operations as to extort even from legitimate businessmen.

    • cvj on October 18, 2007 at 5:56 pm

    Ramrod, that first hand info from you is good to hear. Hopefully the younger generation of Pinoys and Tsinoys would do better than their elders when it comes to working together for a better Philippines.

    • cvj on October 18, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    I was of course referring to your first paragraph and not the illicit Pinoy-Tsinoy smuggling collaboration in the next one. 😀

  1. My only experience with customs trying to fleece ‘me’, i.e., pay more duties, etc. was some 4 or 5 years ago when a friend and I sent a few dozen Compacq 2nd hand computers that we had promised to an NGO in which my brother was a member.

    Customs wouldn’t release the parcels saying the computers, printers, etc. were brand new and therefore should be levied taxes. My brother had received copies of the documents by mail beforehand (also wired some money in anticipation of duties) proving that my friend and I had purchased the items in an auction house — the docs were properly translated in English and authenticated by Paris city hall translation bureau — and as such were second hand (although almost brand new, some flat screens too, coz they were only a few months old before they were seized by the courts and auctionned off when the company that had used them went bankrupt.)

    The customs broker in Manila or someone like that boldly told my brother that if his organization paid grease money the items would be released and be charged only appropriate tax, i.e., less money.

    The grease money being asked was extortion in my view and so told my brother not to pay, that I’d rather he destroyed the computers right there and then than pay bribe money. Fortunately, one of the members of the NGO was a lawyer friend working for a known law firm in Makati was able to talk to some petty ‘chief’ at customs and prevailed upon customs to tax the items accordingly or correctly.

    The items were released after my brother’s NGO group paid the appropriate customs duties or stamp duties of some kind.

    • Juan Miguel Alonzo on October 19, 2007 at 10:31 am

    I have resigned myself that this fu%^ing administration will survive until 2010 or even beyond. They are so adept in hiding their crimes and short circuiting the legal processes that this administration should be called appropriately as a criminal organization. My blood boils everytime Gloria’s political henchmen try to explain with a straight face the controversies surrounding her criminal organization. The gall of these minions trying to peddle their ludicrous explanations, perhaps assuming that we are all dimwits. Well again perhaps we all are, because we have allowed Gloria to dupe us since 2001. F*%k, how I wish, I’m wrong.

    • Bencard on October 19, 2007 at 10:48 am

    juan miguel, dimwit? you have just proven it yourself. however, speak for yourself. don’t include others in your description, unless you are their designated mouthpiece and have authority to label them the same.

    • Juan Miguel Alonzo on October 19, 2007 at 11:54 am

    bencard,
    ever heard of sarcasm and irony? anyway i’m so sorry wise and infallible one if i have hurt your feelings. come now child coo coo coo.

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