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Dec 13

Press statements instead of news

I had to cancel my class (Copy Editing and Proofreading) today, because about a third of my students said they wouldn’t be able to make it to Makati (where we were due to interview an editor) because of the transport strike. So far, little actual news and lots of posturing from both sides: MMDA chair says strikers just after media mileage, while NCRPO says Metro Manila situation still normal as transport strike starts and Miitant drivers claim 75% success in Davao – report. But what about actual testimony from the ground (or pictures, even)? Well, there are my students, and there’s this Twitter:

My brother sent me an SMS telling me that the transport strike hit Laguna hard. So many stranded people, he says.

Another Twitter message says:

Cancelling mtgs in Makati. My shirts won’t get washed/ironed today – no housekeeper that comes Tue/Thur.

Another Twitter:

Transport Strike strongly felt here in UPD. No Ikot, Toki, Katip, Philcoa, etc. I had to freaking walk to school arrrgghhh!!!

Yet another Twitter:

Doing an audit in Clark. Still saw PUVs at the entrance, although I also noticed unusually high number of tricycles on the roads from Subic.

Update: Parts of Metro affected by transport strike .

On a related note, see Philippines Without Borders, who takers a look at the MRT, overcrowding, and what he calls “the pain of success.” And recall the chilling observations of [email protected] from some time back (and his rejoinder to himself).

Wrangling over the survey. Jab from one fist: Palace in denial mode on Arroyo corruption: ‘Presidency is not a popularity contest’. Jab from the other: Palace: Pulse survey part of anti-GMA plot. Counterjab: Serge: So what if I paid for poll? From overseas, a cautionary blog entry at The Economist: The tyranny of polls.

An interesting article: ‘Charter change dead’ say administration factotums. What’s interesting is the seemingly seductive logic of spokesmen like the Executive Secretary:

At the palace, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said efforts to amend the Constitution were not a priority of President Arroyo.

Ermita said though Charter change has been the subject of meetings at Malacañang in the past months, he said it would be too early to talk about such issues since the country just underwent two nationwide elections this year.

“The focus of the President is on correct governance and delivery of basic services to the people rather than talk of politics,” Ermita said. “You can’t say it’s totally out but it’s not a priority as of the moment.”

So it’s not a priority, but they’ve been having meetings. So what this is, then, is a little backpedaling to defuse the issue, but keeping it on the back burner to simmer.

A man’s word is his bond? No way. Esperon: Oakwood pact not binding; gov’t coerced.

Happy day for Enrique Razon and friends: Philippine-Chinese group tops Transco bidding. For an analysis of the deal, see Asian Energy Advisors:

What was interesting, I thought, is that Metro Pacific decided not to participate. I’m wondering if they smell a law suit; but I don’t know jack about this.

What I do know is that the numbers we looked at earlier are not reflective of what the bidder’s saw. Because the bid went for $3.95 billion, not the $4.5 billion I mentioned.

This is simple math. The following three assumptions drive a $4.5 billion price:

1. Transco business results in a $500 million annual EBITDA, roughly
2. $170 million in Capex is required over the next five years
3. The owner’s want to achieve an 18% return on equity

One – or more – of those assumptions are incorrect. Perhaps the expected EBITDA is less than $500 million; perhaps more than $170 million is required in Capex. But I’m betting (and remember, I don’t know jack) that the risk adjusted discount rate went way up above 18%. Was it, perhaps, the late breaking issues regarding Ibazeta and the pre-qualification process? The statements by certain Senators? We need to let this play out a little, first.

As Peso defies regional decline, hits 41.31:$1, there’s news that Too-rapid peso appreciation derails business plans. In response, Palace takes up proposal to shift to peso loans.

Overseas, Food prices: Cheap no more and India’s Classrooms Without Borders:

Thus India, already a powerhouse in business process outsourcing and manufacturing centers, is benefiting once again from the death of distance at the hands of the Internet. It is rising as a hub for online education, providing supplemental academic help at any time of the day or night from Indian tutors to students on a raft of subjects – math, English, science, geography and history, among others.

“India is fast emerging as a global online tutoring hub for quality teaching at down-to-earth rates,” opines Dr Prakash Sharma, previously a physics professor at Chennai University and now a tutor at Knowledge Edge, an education portal in Delhi. According to Sharma, what gives India an edge in this market are its untapped pool of English-conversant math, science and engineering graduates, its relatively low office rentals, and tuition fees that are a fraction of what online tutorial companies charge in North America, the United Kingdom, or continental Europe.

This is also an industry in which we have begun to compete.

My column for today is A limited and limiting consensus, which I originally rehearsed here. The office of Miriam Defensor Santiago takes exception to one of my recent columns.

Two columnists buck the conventional wisdom. Lito Banayo says land reform has to be reexamined, and Jaime Garchitorena says ditto in terms of the minimum wage.

Uniffors annotates a fellow Atenean’s (but generations apart) letter; Manila Bay Watch says the annotations can stand on their own as a counter-letter. I agree. Strung together, the annotations make for a cohesive whole:

YOU are suffering from a moral discrepancy. You have placed material well-being above all else. Is that the value you are taught in the Ateneo these days? Economic news was good in the first half dozen years or so of martial law but that did not stop Ateneans like Raul Manglapus, Soc Rodrigo, and Edgar Jopson. Their struggle was not about economic management, it was about justice and freedom. They were fighting for ideals. Ideals don’t fill the stomach but they nurture the spirit. That is what they and we learned as students of the Jesuits, of the Ateneo.

Yes, rule of law should prevail and that’s why those we entrusted to enforce it should not be the first to pervert it. And it is your right and your duty as a citizen to do something about it. How many Garci tapes have to be played, how many times does CBCP head Bishop Lagdameo have to tell you that bishops were given envelop[e]s by Malacanan in July 2006 when the CBCP was deliberating its stand on the second impeachment complaint, how many times do you have be told by Fr Ed Panlilio and Congresswoman Villarosa of Kampi that money was distributed in Malacanan on the eve of the filing of this year’s sham impeachment complaint, how many UN rapporteurs have to report that the military is responsible for many of the reported extrajudicial killings and disappearances and a “climate of impunity” exists, how many corruption scandals, starting from IMPSA to the Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard to the smuggling of race horses to jueteng pay-offs to ZTE do you need to hear about before you start thinking someone is mocking the rule of law? Pull your head out of your ass, young man.

Mrs. Arroyo has avoided, evaded, and obstructed legitimate congressional investigations of allegations of cheating, plunder, money laundering, and human rights violations by hiding and intimidating witnesses, making baseless claims of executive privilege, filing sham impeachment complaints, and doling out bribes, how many brain cells do you need to figure out something is wrong and something has to be done about it right away? Why wait until 2010? Why default? Marcos was terminally ill when Ninoy Aquino decided to come home, should he have waited for Marcos to die, it was only a few years away anyway, before coming home to “act on the needs of Filipinos”? “Carpe Diem” is what we were taught when we were students at the Ateneo, is “Sleep on it” what they teach you now?

If the example of Ateneans from Rizal to Jopson have not taught you anything or inspired you in any way, nothing anybody can do will inspire you except of course good economic news.

In Torn and Frayed, a brisk run-through of some Filipino characteristics:

I have worked in Philippine offices for over 10 years now and the simple act of connecting with another person as you pass in the corridor (up go those eyebrows) is one of the pleasures of working with Pinoys. The negative adult baggage that many people from other countries carry with them (“I am too stressed/busy/important/miserable to acknowledge you”) is rarely on view here and in that sense I am forever grateful that Filipinos retain a certain childlike naiveté in their interpersonal relations.

I know you can see a “but” coming, so let me quickly run through a few other aspects of the adult Filipino psyche, not necessarily positive or negative, that seem to have childlike elements: a love of starting but not of finishing; an ability to lose oneself in “the moment”; enjoyment of life; a mania for parties; friendships quickly made and easily dissolved; staring at anyone who looks slightly unusual; adaptability; skill at conflict resolution; an addiction to rumour and gossip; a certain plasticity with the truth; deference to seniors; dependence on the womb of the family; a capacity for empathy; fanatical loyalty to your nearest and dearest, even if they are in the wrong (pakikasama); lack of seriousness; fear of loneliness; an inability to plan; irresponsibility with money; a focus on appearances rather than substance; an infatuation with games and dressing up; quick learning; brilliance at mimicry; a reluctance to admit wrong …

And a stimulating discussion of possible sources:

…I want to make some rough guesses as to why things have turned out this way.

Many “national characteristics” start with patterns of rearing. It is noticeable to me that Philippine children are carried for longer than those in other countries, either by their parents or by yayas. The kids themselves do very little carrying, a habit they are keen to continue into adulthood. By contrast, I notice that even quite small European children in my building are expected to drag their stroller bags on the way to school–I probably wouldn’t have noticed this if I were still in Europe, but this small way of teaching young children self-reliance is not often seen in Filipino families. When it comes to the elite or even middle-class child, there is the maid to make the lunch, the driver to take master or miss to school, the maid to clean up the room, the yaya or parent to help with the homework — in short, a million ways of preventing a child from doing simple everyday tasks for itself.

Into adolescence and early adulthood and we encounter the over-protective Filipino mother. “Call me as soon as you arrive at the restaurant and when you leave. Make sure you take X, Y, and Z with you”, oh Filipino mom, what a boon the cell phone has been to the web you weave.

Into adulthood proper, many children carry on living with their parents long, long after they have flown the coop in other countries. Lacking a decisive push from their parents, master and miss linger in the parental home into their thirties, forties, or fifties–quite a few never leave. Even if children do physically escape their parents, many even to jobs and lives abroad, there remains an emotional dependence that strikes most foreigners as unusual. In fact “dependence” is a word that often appears in discussions of Philippine families.

All this has a positive side. Coming from a society characterized by fractured familial set-ups and mutual alienation, I am struck by the warmth, closeness, and durability of the Philippine family. Yet the world is not a great big family–modern economies have little use for men who cannot tie their shoelaces and women unable to leave home because their driver is sick.

Having said all that, I feel that there is more to be said. Other Asian societies have strong family structures yet they have developed in different ways. My observations have mainly been of middle-class families because that is the world I know–it seems to me that similar patterns can be seen in other socio-economic groups, but I might be wrong in that. Catholicism and the rigid class structure also have a role to play in all this…

Sassy Lawyer on successful food entrepreneurs. the Philosophical Bastard on the kinds of bloggers he’s encountered.

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59 comments

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  1. Madonna

    Hmmm. It’s thinking like this — inward looking and dismissive of outside influence — that had always and will be ultimately the reason why Pinoy society will remain a an intellectually-stunted, superstition-ravaged medieval society. — Benigno

    Not inward-looking dear, just smart. Who do you think would look after our own good — if not us? And hehe, the us doesn’t include you.

  2. benign0

    “Not inward-looking dear, just smart. Who do you think would look after our own good — if not us? And hehe, the us doesn’t include you.”

    Except that if I recall right, we were doing pretty well until we became an “independent nation” in 1946. So I wonder now… if it is a track record for ‘look[ing] after our own good’ we are looking for, I think most of us will be left scratching our heads.

    Then 1986 came along and we thought – gee, now that Marcos has been ousted and we are now a “democratic” country, everything will be all peachy henceforth!

    20 years hence, it seems a lot of people beg to differ on this rather hasty prognosis.

    “Smart” you say?

    – 😀

  3. Madonna

    “We” ka diyan. Wehehehehe…. Benigs, you are funny pala.

  4. grd

    “and somebody needs to have his head examined, if not a full lobotomy.” – bencard

    hahaha.

  5. Bencard

    cvj, property is not the be-all and end-all of law. law in the u.s. encompasses every, and i mean, every facet of human existence from birth to even after death (wills & succession). of course property rights, including acquisition, preservation, use and disposition are governed by laws embodied in the basic principle that the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are inviolable.

    u.s. economy had its basic foundation on the principle of laissez fair or free enterprise which, in turn, had its roots on individual freedom. the constitution of the u.s does not allow governmental interference with its citizen’s property rights except to protect it, and balance it against other basic inalienable rights.

    that, in essence, is the role of law in u.s. economy. freedom is what sets it apart from communists’ idea of which, i believe, you are knowledgeable if not an expert.

  6. BrianB

    Bencard, I just thought THAT wasn’t what you said. Anyway, so your point was nothing at all? You were just humoring me? My bad, bencard.

    Benig0

    I wonder how OFW can live with 25% loss of their buying power here back home. Are they tightening their belts abroad. Savings must be going down, too.

  7. Bencard

    no, brianB, i was pointing out your subtle attempt at double-talk – talking from both sides of the mouth. you cannot have absolute authoritarianism, a/k/a totalitarianism, under a democratic rule of law. specifically, you cannot disregard equality before the law to forcibly re-structure a society that will suite you.

  8. Bencard

    i mean SUIT you.

  9. Silent Waters

    That’s exactly what I keep hearing here Bencard…popular dictatorship….

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