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Dec 14

Wrangling over public opinion

Economic news: ADB ups RP GDP growth forecast to 7% while Peso rises to 7 1/2-yr high. A cautionary note: Vietnam close to overtaking RP in shipping–UN.

Postmortem on the transport strike: Transport strike fizzles out.

For several years now, transport organizations have generally been pandered to by, and thus, cooperative with, government. the Left thus had to prove it still had clout with transport operators, never mind if public opinion sided with them or not.

Arroyo seeks return of subversion law while Esperon wouldn’t mind extension as AFP chief (for purposes of comparison, see Esperon: I’m ready to go with clear conscience, which also has Esperon not minding an extension; perhaps a trial balloon, but by whom? Definitely, the President’s decision come the expiration of Esperon’s present term, will be seen as significant).

Good or bad for the Republic? Libyan govt pitches into bring peace to South:

Saif Al-Islam Al-Qaddafi, eldest son of Qaddafi, is on a state visit to the Philippines, where he met with President Gloria Arroyo on Thursday.

He aims to ask the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to reconcile with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) from which it split in 1978, Libyan diplomats said. He was expected to have met with representatives of both the MNLF and the MILF later Thursday.

Wrangling over the survey continues: Malacañang on warpath, tags Serge Osmeña:

Osmeña explained how the survey results became public.

“Last Tuesday when I was in Bacolod to visit my 94-year-old mother in the hospital, I got a text from Pulse Asia’s Ana Tabunda. She was briefing ABS-CBN on the regular periodic survey findings of Pulse. That survey had included questions on corruption. I did not know that and I commissioned a handful of rider questions on trust ratings of some leaders and the most corrupt and most honest President,” Osmeña said in a text message.

“Ana asked if I could lift my embargo so that she could disclose my data to ABS… When I agreed, ABS later called me up to ask if they could announce my poll findings on their newscast and ABS inquired why I had commissioned the poll. I replied that the opposition office takes regular surveys to feel the pulse of the citizenry. We have alternated between using Pulse and SWS. Our cost for this rider was in the low six figures,” he said.

Two editorials try to dissect the administration reaction to the survey.

In the Inquirer editorial, they slice and dice through the administration’s objections:

Cabinet Secretary Ricardo Saludo said in a statement written in Filipino, “is the President’s unceasing service to the millions of Filipinos, not her rating in surveys of 1,500 people.”

The implication is that the universe of survey respondents is too small as to be representative. This comes as news to us, because Malacañang has in fact depended on similar surveys, conducted by the same polling organizations, when they meet its objectives. The President’s election victory over main rival Fernando Poe Jr. was predicted by the surveys, and Arroyo officials used that very trend in the last several weeks of the 2004 campaign to defend Malacañang, in 2005, against accusations of election fraud raised by the “Hello, Garci” tapes. Those surveys had more or less the same sample size, but did we hear any Malacañang official whining about its unrepresentativeness then?

In his blog, Newsstand, John Nery, who has taken pains to dissect many a survey and the process, for those who continue to be skeptical of statistics.

In the Business Mirror editorial, the bottom line, it says, is the issue of trust. It first catalogs the virtues of the President:

It truly is tragic that a President under whose watch macroeconomic stability was achieved under the most challenging conditions, and who has displayed a keen devotion to her work, following a punishing schedule despite her own health risks, is now seen as “most corrupt” even though no court has found her to have stolen a centavo from the republic. Viewed from this angle, it’s easy to understand Malacañang’s deep-seated frustration at the survey.

Then asks, despite these virtues, why is she still being hammered in terms of negative public opinion?

Critics of the Trillanes-Lim group wonder aloud why the “destabilizers” never seem to tire of raising the same old issues against her presidency. Simple: the “same old issues” remain “same old issues” because there was never any satisfactory resolution, in the public mind, to them. In short, no closure.

Worse, in every case, the president was often perceived as being too protective of the parties named in each controversy, whether a relative, political supporter or patron, or a subordinate official. Thus, it has come to pass that at the end of the day, the blame was put at her doorstep.

To every congressional inquiry, her legal advisers have thrown all conceivable means to block efforts to ferret out the truth: Executive Order 464 is a classic, mocking the very principle of checks and balances in a democracy…

There are many more controversies without closure: the Venable contract, the Joc-joc Bolante fertilizer scam, “Hello Garci,” and the alleged corruption in the military even as soldiers die in the field partly from substandard materiel and gear.

And finally, it asks, why does the President get a raw deal compared to say, Fidel V. Ramos?

At the end of the day, some people have raised the question of how come Mrs. Arroyo received a lower score than Fidel V. Ramos, whom critics say seems to have a “Teflon” ability to brush off such megacontroversies as the Centennial Expo, PEA-Amari, the onerous independent power producer contracts, and the multibillion-peso tax-credit scam that happened during his administration.

We hazard a guess: Mr. Ramos has not been perceived to be eager to use every available stratagem–when he was president and after–to block official inquiries or efforts to ferret out the truth. He had the patience to explain himself well, would personally prepare position papers and documents, and would tell his accusers, in and out of Congress, that he did a judgment call each time, and if he were to be made liable for his acts, so be it. He was seen on national TV attending several congressional hearings, facing his accusers. So whether or not people have evidence of any direct participation by Mr. Ramos in any of these controversies, perhaps–just perhaps–people see him as someone not going out of his way to cover up or block the efforts of truth-seekers. After all, the Pulse survey was admittedly tracking perception from the very start: and unfortunately for her, the perception she and her minions have tried so hard to block all inquiries has reinforced the suspicion she had committed something wrong.

Anyone intent on prosecuting a case is convinced they are right and will win; anyone defending themselves in a case is convinced they are innocent and will prevail. Foregone conclusions in any sort of trial is dangerous thing because it means it’s not a trial but a kangaroo court. Part of the brinkmanship of the administration is to completely ignore the majority of her critics who pointed out that subjecting her to accountability procedures also meant she had the opportunity to vindicate herself fully.

In his column, Amando Doronila tackles the survey results, too:

There are valid issues that can be raised about the survey. The first is the time context of the comparison of records of the five presidents. The second, which is less important than the first, is the timing of the survey. Osmeña has said that he had wanted to test political awareness of the public in relation to the 2010 election, which is still far off, making me conclude that the survey is a wasted effort at this stage in terms of immediate political impact.

For the first time, someone has tried to quantify corruption in the case of the President. Newsbreak breaks it down to $164.7 million, a bit over $1 million for every centimeter of the President’s height (150 cm. is the President’s height):

Newsbreak estimates the amounts involved in the alleged major corruption cases under the Arroyo administration. (In US dollars; based on a US$1=42 pesos exchange rate)

IMPSA deal $ 2 million
Diosdado Macapagal Blvd. 14 million
Piatco 20 million
Jose Pidal account 7.6 million
US properties 7.1 million
Fertilizer scam 17.3 million
North Rail project 50 million
NBN-ZTE deal 32.9 million
Jueteng collections 10 million
Palace cash handouts 3.8 million
TOTAL $ 164.7 million

Why aren’t the law-and-order types demanding two things, I wonder: the prosecution of policemen accused of looting the Manila Peninsula, and the Makati Shangri-La for refusing permission to post snipers on its roof? See the Newsbreak story:

The Marines and the Philippine National Police’s Special Action Force (SAF), who led the assault, were working with limited information.

They did not have prior intelligence information on the plan of Antonio Trillanes IV and Danilo Lim to take over the hotel. They were in the dark on exactly how many armed followers were with Trillanes and Lim–and their positions inside the Manila Pen. All they had was a map of the lobby of the hotel which they got from the Makati police.

The situation was so frenzied at the Pen that the soldiers were unable to coordinate with the hotel staff regarding the map and positions of rebels.

The Marines planned on posting some of their men at the Makati Shangrila–for possible sniper shots but the hotel disagreed and refused to cooperate.

Also, Charges vs Guingona, other civilians at Manila Pen dismissed. On a related note, quarter of people surveyed said they were willing to go out in the streets. To me, this is huge, but of course what remains to be asked is what would the other three quarters do in a situation that would bring the one quarter into the streets?

Incidentally, an interesting Newsbreak story on group dynamics:

In fact, the same October survey shows that 25 percent of the respondents will “do whatever is necessary to have a president resign or be removed from office.”

Here’s the statistical analysis, provided by Pulse Asia executive director Ana Tabunda. While 25 percent of Filipinos may be willing to do whatever is necessary to remove a corrupt president from office, there is one presumption in the survey question. That they are “convinced that the President should resign.” The question is: were they convinced on November 29?

Newsbreak recalls what analysts and historians have shared to us about failed revolutions in the past. That is, no revolution launched during the holidays nor in the rainy season ever succeeded in the Philippines. Filipinos, the analysts said, never like anything to go in the way of a happy Christmas celebration. They, too, don’t want the hassle of getting wet in the rain.

On November 29, the holiday spirit was in the air, primarily due to early Christmas carols and decorations in malls and giving of the 13th month pay. It was also raining.

Overseas, Whither Malaysia?

Will dissent increase? Is Abdullah Badawi in electoral trouble? Will unrest spread outside of the opposition parties to the populace at large? What do the demonstrations mean for investors?

The answers are mixed. Despite a general feeling of malaise over the economy, it actually grew at the fastest pace since 2005 - 6.7 percent in the third quarter - on rising domestic demand and investment as well as commodity exports, although manufactured exports declined somewhat. So far, unrest appears to have been contained largely within the opposition despite widespread grumbling, particularly on the Internet, and does not appear to be concerning investors. The Japan External Trade Organisation (Jetro) said in its 2008 Economic Outlook for East Asia, released this week, that reduced corporate taxes are expected to continue to lure foreign investment. Nobody is particularly nervous about the protests.

Unless there is a dramatic change, it is inconceivable that the Barisan Nasional, the collection of ethnically-based political parties that make up the national ruling coalition, would lose an election when it is called, expected to be sometime next year. But by Malaysian standards the electorate may deliver a blow to the Barisan, which has ruled the country since independence in 1957. Ethnic Chinese, who make up 23.7 percent of the population according to the CIA World Factbook, have been disenchanted by rising Malay bellicosity and widespread reports of corruption.

Rural Malays can largely be expected to continue to support the Barisan and the United Malays National Organisation, the leading ethnic party in the coalition because of the benefits delivered to them by the National Development Plan, the successor to the New Economic Policy or NEP in the form of schooling, redistribution of wealth and other assistance. Commodity prices, because of China’s voracious appetite, are up, particularly for palm oil and rubber.

Although urban professional Malays in Kuala Lumpur and other cities appear to be increasingly unhappy with what they regard as the hijacking of the NEP by rent-seeking cronies and a series of events involving local corruption, nothing has galvanized them into real action against the Barisan. For one thing, their options are relatively limited. The jeans-wearing BMW drivers and their companions in the urban areas who have forsaken strict Islamic dress have little in common with the ascetic Islamic foundations of Parti Sa-Islam Malaysia, the biggest Malay opposition party outside the coalition.

In the blogosphere, an interesting account of meeting, and working, with Trillanes in Iloilo City Boy. And a list of winner and losers in The Warrior Lawyer. In Katataspulong, a catalog of lost opportunities for a province. Mongster’s Nest provides a political lexicon for the concluding year. Ped Xing on land reform.

Uniffors takes a look at the ongoing Transco bidding.

And Going Through a (Phase)Book just made me laugh very hard indeed!

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173 comments

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  1. benign0

    “For something coming from Albert Einstein one would give much weight, but coming from Benign0? Oh well. Hahaha!”

    Well, too bad you see it that way.

    Then again, the Philippines was run down to its pathetic state today by some of the most be-credentialled and “respected” men and women in the country. 😉

  2. benign0

    “Im assuming nothing of the sort, as in my example of China. They went out, saw the world, and decided they didnt want it. The Western powers on the other hand went out, saw the world, and decided they wanted everything. Because they thought BIG. Now have to help clean up their mess. I wouldnt mind us cleaning our own mess, but come on…”

    So what’s your point then? Are you therefore saying it is pointless to aim to think big?

  3. cool

    The so-called science of economics is, to a large extent, a con-job created by the Rockefellers and their clan of robber barons. In reality it is a camouflaged system for extracting tribute payments from the masses. To understand this, think of the U.S. economy (and many other economies) as an ancient Babylonian or Egyptian kingdom. Replace control over the central bank with control over grain reserves and think of workers who are not in primary industries as slaves who receive their grain reserves from the god king. Then imagine the god king wants to spend as much money for his own glory and as little for his slaves as possible. The king decides to set everyone to the job of building a pyramid. So, he tells his subjects that the key to their happiness is something called Gross National Pyramid. The king wants his pyramid finished quickly so he decides that both males and females should be set to work on its construction. He also decreed that workers must work 10 or 12 hours a day instead of the previous 8. Furthermore, he orders rations cut for workers who do not meet their quota. To keep the workers from protesting, he restricts their access to information, forces them to attend thousands of hours of brainwashing sessions and uses a large portion of his grain reserves to hire an army of mercenaries to keep watch over the slaves. The news bulletins the masses are permitted to see announce that everybody is happier now because the pyramid is bigger and better than ever before and the aristocracy is leading ever more decadent lifestyles. Somehow, the masses know there is something wrong with the situation but they are not quite sure what it is because it has been so cleverly disguised. This essentially, is how the U.S. economy really works. Just remember that GNP really means Gross National Pyramid, not Product. The Rockefellers have forced middle-class incomes down and forced both men and women to work in order to finance some giant secret project. They have also artificially jacked up the price of oil and put people into debt in order to extract even more from everybody. Americans and Japanese are being impoverished to finance their long-term goal is to enslave all of humanity. To make economics work for the people instead of for the robber barons, it is essential that the government shift its priority economic goal away from increasing GNP. A new standard should use mean income (the level at which half of all people are either above or below) and overall happiness as the goal of economic policy makers.

  4. Jeg

    So what’s your point then? Are you therefore saying it is pointless to aim to think big?

    Think big, by all means. But it’s not a panacea. And frankly, right now it sounds like a platitude.

    Remember how this exchange started:
    “IF that is indeed the case, then how would you suggest we parlay this ’smallness’ into economic progress? How would you work with this ’smallness’ for long-term prosperity and progress?”

    Im asking you to exercise your creativity to come up with suggestions on how what you call smallness could be used to achieve greatness. Prof. Yunus achieved it with the grameen bank for his native Bangladesh. Would it work here? Or perhaps you can think of highly original scheme that would work since you claim to know about the Filipino mentality.

  5. benign0

    Well, for one thing, the jeepney and all the small-mindedness behind its design was quite a tourist attraction in its day; though I think the novelty had since majorly worn thin.

    Seriously, though, I think the only way one can win by thinking small is in the mobile devices business. But give me some time and I may yet think of something.

  6. Jon Mariano

    It commend Benign0 for not losing his cool even to crash criticism. Cool man.

  7. Jon Mariano

    “I commend”, sorry…

  8. ramrod

    After all the “lofty” ideals, we may need some practical tools to deal with everyday life in the road, this is for all those who drive.

    TOOLS AGAINST MMDA OFFICERS
    (from Ramil Valiente)

    I just reached my limit last weekend, and decided to take action against the abusive MMDA enforcers. I basically called up the MMDA head office and inquired from the Personnel Officer, Antonio Pagulayan, to clarify their policies. Here is what I got.

    If any of these abuses seem familiar to you, Mr. Pagulayan has asked that you call either the MMDA hotline (136) or call the Metro Base at 0920-9389861 or 0920-9389875 and ask for an Inspectorate. They will send inspectors to the place where these MMDA officers are extorting, even while you are arguing out of your apprehension.

    1. MMDA officers are not allowed to group together in order to apprehend. They are not even allowed to stand together in groups of 2 or more. The only time they are allowed to work together is for special operations (probably when they apprehend groups of buses for smoke belching).

    2. Swerving IS NOT a traffic violation. Moving one lane to the left or right is not swerving, no matter where on the road you do it. And it is even less of a violation when you do it with a signal. Swerving is defined as shifting 2 or more lanes very quickly. So you can argue your way out of this, and call the Metro Base for help.

    3. Sadly, using the yellow lane is a traffic violation and will get you a ticket. However, buses are really not allowed to go out of the yellow lane, so if you see selective apprehension of private cars only, you may complain.

    4. MMDA has confirmed that your license MAY NOT BE CONFISCATED at a traffic apprehension. The only time they can do so is if you are part of an accident, or if it is your third violation and you have not settled your fines yet. They are only allowed to give you a ticket, which you can contest. He recommends actually receiving the ticket in some instances, so that you can report the officer who did it.

    5. Also, you are free to ask any of these officers for their “mission order”, which is written by their supervisor. If they apprehend you for a violation that is not in their mission order for the day, you can report them and they will receive disciplinary action.

    So go out and fight for your rights if and when the occasion arises!

    TIP: Print and keep a copy of this email in your car for future reference

  9. bw

    Too much of coup de etat thoughts can harm our brains. Another EDSA would be utterly embarrasing. Besides, who the f*** can be a sane replacement for GMA?

  10. Jon Mariano

    I’ve always said that Bayani Fernando can replace GMA.

  11. jonphil

    “Do you issue certification of good character?” Nice one cat. Erap & romeo J can obtain one then.

    If SWS & Pulse Manila will make a noon-time survey:

    1. what is the most entertaining and worthwhile TV show on earth

    2. who would you vote for in the next presidential election
    a. wowowie
    b. miriam
    c. jinggoy
    d. dick

    Guess what the results will be.

    And guess what the headlines will be on print and TV.

  12. vic

    just as a sidetrack, in the Philippines, anyone, short of claiming the Second Coming can produce any certificate, whether, from Recto Street, or from the Office of the President. so what’s surprising?

  13. ay_naku

    Gawd, I hate Bayani Fernando. I think he has become some of of a i-will-not-listen-to-suggestions/criticisms and i-ll-do-whatever-the-hell-i-want maniac at MMDA. Many of the MMDA schemes plainly suck and have time and again been proven hazardous, but it seems that the MMDA has been unwilling to make adjustments or even just add/enhance safety measures. Either they’re so arrogant and don’t care much for human lives, or they’re just really incompetent.

  14. Jon Mariano

    At least he tries to solve the problems. His solutions (even though unloved by some) are unconventional but if you were on his shoes, what would you do? For example, how would you solve the traffic and garbage problems?

  15. tonio

    ay_naku:

    Bayani’s an unstable megalomaniac. I think GMA keeps him at the MMDA to remind us that there are far worse people than her. hahaha

  16. tonio

    ramrod:

    thank you for this great info!

  17. mlq3

    while vaguely fascistic, the fernandos’ regime in marikina seems both effective and popular.

    bayani’s been put in a place where he has to try harebrained schemes because he has no real authority. metro manila really should be a supercity, marcos was on the right track, if you can’t merge all the cities into one then have a governor for metro manila. or, find a diplomat instead of fernando to charm all the mayors into cooperating with each other.

  18. inodoro ni emilie

    how would you solve the traffic and garbage problems?-jon

    solution: throw the traffic into the garbage dump, and then clean up the garbage?

  19. Jon Mariano

    Given the current Metro Manila situation, I would think that Bayani Fernando is doing his job well. He however doesn’t have national exposure and his chance of winning is slim. If he runs, I won’t have second thoughts of “wasting” my vote on him.

  20. ay_naku

    At least he tries to solve the problems. His solutions (even though unloved by some) are unconventional but if you were on his shoes, what would you do? For example, how would you solve the traffic and garbage problems?

    Yes, some credit goes to Bayani Fernando for his willingness to try new things to solve long-festering problems. But when some of these new schemes turn out to be ineffective or even downright dangerous in practice, then instead of arrogantly and stubbornly sticking with them, the MMDA should be willing to make adjustments or even scrap its implementation and go back to the drawing board. Especially since human lives are at stake. Ang dami-dami ko ng taxi drivers na nakakakwentuhan who complain about some of these hazardous schemes, at lagi silang may kwento ng mga aksidente na na-witness nila because of such schemes. Pati sa evening news, halos gabi-gabi na lang na may news item tungkol sa mga akisdente brought about by some of the MMDA “innovations.” And apparently the standard response from the MMDA is to just blame those involved in such accidents, and stop at that. It seems they’re not even willing to add/enhance safety measures.

    It’s perfectly ok to be innovative and pro-active, but when things are proven to be wrong, they should have the willingness to re-evaluate things and make adjustments, instead of megalomaniacally insisting that they are right all the time, even if evidence from the ground show otherwise.

  21. Jon Mariano

    I think that Bayani has done some backing-off already. Given time and some discipline on drivers’ part, the problems that you point out will be resolved. Traffic problems will not be solved by just letting the situation be.

  22. Mita

    i read somewhere Fernando wants a chance to fix the roadways going north…can’t he do that as MMDA chair? The roads to Baguio are ridiculously clogged where it shouldn’t be (Tarlac…arrgh!) and it doesn’t take a genius to know if only someone had the political will…there shouldn’t be any traffic.

    Far as I know, Fernando did great for Metro Manila but a lot still needs to be done – with the cooperation of everyone of course, including the public.

  23. laya

    “6) Gloria will find ways to replace Joe De Venecia as Speaker. Prospero Nograles will do “a Brutus”. “The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in ourselves. ””

    Equalizer, you were right. Which of your other “predictions” will also come true?

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