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May 27

Corporate drama

I. On Meralco

meralco.tiff

Blogger village idiot savant says the administration’s been “taking a cue from professional wrestling:

In professional wrestling parlance, it’s called “generating heat.” Being the scripted entertainment that it is, wrestlers rely less on their physical prowess than on various gimmicks to stay in the fans’ visibility. And so, if a wrestler wants to rise in popularity, the trick is simple: pick a fight. It doesn’t matter with whom. Anyone will do. Just pick a fight.

That seems to be the overall stratagem of the Arroyo administration of late. In the absence of any issue of substance, it’s resorted to cheap gimmicks to generate heat. Just a few weeks back, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo vowed to go after rice hoarders, and for a while, the front pages were rife with inspections and arrests. Around the same time, Gen. Angelo Reyes called for an energy summit and demanded to know why fuel prices were so high.

And so the public relations offensive continues: GSIS bigwig Winston Garcia is taking Meralco to task for high energy costs and “lack of transparency”; and over in Congress, Prospero Nograles has floated the idea of free text messaging. It’s gearing up to be a big battle royale : the government in one corner and big business — the oil companies, the telcos, and the Lopez utility-media empire — in the other.

In a match like this, there’s little doubt as to who’s the face and who’s the heel. The cards are lined up so that we know who it is we’re supposed to be cheering for. And yet, why do the bleachers seem awfully quiet?

Answer: we’re not marks. We know that, for all the amusing antics, it’s fake. It’s all fake.

A similar view’s expressed by The Philippine Experience. Over at Arbet Loggins @ Multiply, there’s a point-by-point critique of Winston Garcia:

One: Garcia is barking up the wrong tree. Meralco cannot impose rate increases unless it is approved by the Energy Regulatory Commission, which is headed by a Gloria Arroyo ally, Rodolfo Albano. Garcia should instead petition ERC to reduce Meralco’s rates. This regime keeps on asking us to follow the rule of law, yet one of its lackeys keeps on ventilating on the wrong forum. “Bring it to the courts” is a favorite line by this regime, and it should walk the talk.

Two: Garcia’s allegation that the Meralco management is withholding important documents. As a board director, he should know what is happening to the company. And if he thinks the Meralco management is indeed withholding the documents that he needs, he should ask the courts to compel Meralco to produce these documents.

Three: The issue on systems loss is actually not a legal issue, but a moral one. The law allows Meralco to pass to its customers up to 9.5% its system losses. So if Meralco charges us 9.5%, it is not illegal. It can be immoral, but rule of law prevails.

Four: Meralco passing on to its customers its electricity expense. This is allowed by the law; heck, all businesses factor in electricity expense in the pricing of their products and services. Singling out Meralco is unfair, I think.

Five: Knowing that it can actually lower rates by petitioning ERC and removing/reducing VAT on electricity, this regime has chosen to do what it says the opposition does – trial by publicity.

To be sure, there are those rather gleeful about the showdown (see maexstayo; on a related note see Dan Mariano who takes a look at how the p.r. war’s been fought out by the Garcia camp), or actively hostile to it (see Adventures of an Exiled Aristocrat who is overseas, ). But in general, what’s remarkable is the ambivalence of the public. This is something I observed in my column yesterday, Get-rich-quick Garcia .

You may want to read the following: What Meralco has been charging its customers and Meralco swamped with refund claims. Concerning some points raised in my column, you may want to refer to Meralco Refund for the Period 1994 TO 2002 in Bulatlat.com (and how party list representatives have it right: Leftist solons to petition ERC for Meralco refund); the Energy Regulatory Commission website; the Temasek Holdings website; and What is a Corporate Raider?

A more accurate representation of (informed) public opinion might be Pinoy Observer:

In truth, I’m not supporting Meralco. My stand is to carve it out into different franchises to encourage competition. However, I am not supporting government bid to takeover Meralco now since we know for sure that the utility firm will just be given to Gloria’s allies, namely, the Aboitizes, Garcias and the Alcantaras. Surely, this crown jewel of the Lopezes deserve nothing more than a clean bidding process. It should be managed by groups with the national interest at heart. It’s okey for them to recover their investments, yet, there should be more consideration on the public’s consumer rights than business interests. And the Lopezes want nothing of this sort.

Personally, I believe that if any problem exists, then the problem is one of scale. Meralco’s gotten too big. It’s gigantic franchise area happens to include both the most productive parts of the country (commercial areas), some of the most lucrative (residential areas of the middle and upper classes), and extremely large black holes -the areas in which the very poor live- all of whom have to be served but not all of whom are paying customers or who can afford to pay full rates. Comparisons with costs in Cebu, etc., then aren’t fair ones to make because other areas do not have the problem of large swathes of the population living on the border of the poverty line at best. These areas essentially have to be subsidized, both for poor but paying customers and those who derive their electricity from pilferage. The government tried to mobilize public support by basically playing off the middle class against the poor, portraying the systems loss charge as an unfair subsidy.

Tongue In, Anew asks, Should We Pay Meralco’s Systems Loss Charge? and defines systems loss simply:

To make things simple, systems loss is the difference BETWEEN the total power generated by the plants AND the sum of all the power ACCOUNTED FOR in the residential, commercial and industrial electricity bills. Not all is stolen, though.

Someone who manages buildings told me something similar. A systems loss occurs even in buildings, according to the manager. You know, through the building meter, that a certain amount of electricity is brought in; if you meter your tenants and then your common areas, you also know how much electricity your tenants consumed and the common areas used up. But somehow, even if you meter as much as possible, there’s simply a certain amount that simply vanishes, apparently consumed but not by anyone, specifically.

Anyway, Tongue In, Anew goes on to put systems losses in perspective and proposes a novel solution:

It’s standard practice worldwide that distributors are ALLOWED a certain amount of systems loss since there are no perfect machines, so transformers and conductors are not an exemption to this. The amount of energy leaving the power plant will always be bigger than the energy that the distributor will collect based on the meters.

Therefore, technical losses are inherent to the system thus, we can allow Meralco or whoever runs distribution to pass this on to the consumers wholly.

Some may argue that technical losses can be minimized. That’s true but in the case of transformers, oversizing is the only way to improve efficiency, but that will also increase capital machinery cost and the bottom line is it will just be reflected on the Return On Rate Base (RORB)- a percentage of profit the government’s regulating agency like ERC, or a law like EPIRA, may fix for utility companies. No gain there. Conductors? Copper is the cheapest material presently known to man that serves the purpose. Improving systems loss on conductors by installing silver or gold cables will definitely be a bigger headache later.

Pilferage, the last time I checked is already a crime. Going after criminals is whose business, Meralco? Of course Meralco will be needed to identify and prove pilferage, but excuse me, I have yet to see PNP Chief Razon or Sir Raul O. Gonzales who heads NBI ordering their men to investigate wide scale pilferage in many squatters’ areas in the Metropolis. Or a systems loss investigation for whole cities and provinces.

To ensure Meralco will participate in apprehending and prosecuting pilferers, a reward system is necessary even if just to reimburse Meralco for its expenses and effort.

In this case, I say charge systems losses from pilferage to government This government wants to earn taxes without doing its job? By charging it to government, they will be forced to protect the paying consumers and ensure that the distributors will be rewarded. The present system only encourages thieves and punishes honest consumers. Do I hear a lawyer saying it’s unconstitutional?

So back to my view…

The question then is whether, and how, government should go about cutting up the Meralco franchise area? Winston Garcia’s basically proposed to do it by means of a boardroom coup. But his past record, at this point, becomes relevant. He’s a corporate raider, not an entrepreneur. His abilities lie in swooping in on a company and then making a tidy profit from his barging in and breaking its existing ownership structure. This is why he changed tactics mid-way: the perhaps more sensible goal of breaking up Meralco came later, and not initially when he began his attack (note to self: servants of the present dispensation are amazingly selective; what is sauce for the senatorial goose is obviously not sauce for the administration gander; to mix my metaphors even more, no fishing expedition’s reprehensible if undertaken by the government).

Over at ANC I told my producer that personally I felt that it would be healthier for the Lopezes to be made to decide between transmission or generation but not both; better still, for them to divest from energy and focus on media. I have no confidence that forcing a separation between the two interests of the family will serve the public good at this point. I have a hunch -but only a hunch, based in large part from what Maria Ressa’s revealed about tensions within the Lopez family– that this will be the way things will develop eventually, but only after the generation of Oscar and Manolo Lopez passes from the scene. One branch may continue in energy while another focuses on media, but the era of the regimented family corporation will have passed. As much a function of the business scene getting more sophisticated than any actual wisdom on the family’s part.

Meanwhile, as the Business Mirror editorial yesterday counseled, what government can do is go great guns for Open Access:

The National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) explains it this way: Industrial and commercial consumers, including malls, factories and five-star hotels, who use up at least 1 megawatt of power during peak hours can deal directly with independent power producers, or IPPs. The interim open-access scheme, which will be proposed by the IPPs to the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), removes distribution and system-loss charges being charged by power-distribution companies, including Meralco.

The interim open-access scheme, according to Neda, is a stop-gap measure to allow consumers to directly deal with IPPs even if the government has yet to privatize most of its power-generation assets.

The advantages of open access are obvious. One, it will allow end-consumers to choose the electricity supplier that offers lower rates. And two, it will create competition and ensure a level playing field where no dominant player can exercise undue advantage, thereby leading to lower power rates.

Apart from open access, various groups are also calling on the government to remove the value-added taxes on fuel and even on the system losses and royalties on indigenously produced natural gas. These are sound proposals that we think should be seriously considered by the government.

The elimination of royalties for gas and oil used domestically is a subsidy, and apparently one practiced in places like Malaysia and Indonesia.

As for the ongoing drama, the way it’s playing out can only set back efforts to entice investments unless the investors’ idea of a good business environment is being cozy with a particular administration, which means they’re in it only for the short term. On the eve of the meeting, it seemed that GSIS execs concede defeat. But it seems that’s before the SEC was brought in -or the so-called concession was actually a ruse.

If this GMANews.tv report is correct -see Analyst: SEC intervention in company stockholders meet unprecedented – then corporate types are getting nervous. No coincidence that the President has had to make soothing noises: Arroyo vows ‘friendly environment’ for business. She’s skating on pretty thin ice (see last Sunday’s Inquirer editorial).

As it stands, after a truly unedifying exhibition of corporate groupthink (see Boos, pro-Lopez chants greet GSIS chief at Meralco), the stockholder’s meeting quickly stalled (see Reuter’s Fight for control roils Meralco meeting ) but has now resumed: ABS-CBN says Meralco board election to push through after halt and ‘Meralco meet has quorum, election to push through’ . Looks like this may end up in court, as as Marichu Lambino explores in her blog:

Based on the news report, the grounds of the CDO are: the SEC acquired jurisdiction over the complaint filed by board director Winston Garcia and there was a “finding” that the proxy validation process was “fraudulent” or that some of the proxies were “manufactured” (i don’t have a copy of the order, i’m paraphrasing). The grounds of the majority board are: the CDO is invalid for being issued by just one commissioner and not by the Commission en banc and it is undated.

What happens next?

It depends. (And, not having a copy of the order, i won’t give my own opinion, just scenarios). In the face of an “order” from the SEC or an SEC commissioner to cease and desist, the majority board can successfully maintain its defiance if it is able to successfully show it was correct in its theory on the jurisdictional “issues”. Remember the oft-quoted principle, “Jurisdiction is conferred by law”? If the order was issued without jurisdiction, it is void. No amount of words and paper can confer jurisdiction, it is given by law. On the other hand, if the order was issued with jurisdiction, while it cannot retroact once elections are held, or while it cannot turn back the hands of time, to be metaphorical, because the matter had become moot and academic, the SEC can issue ANOTHER CDO preventing or stopping the newly elected board from exercising functions. Then the SEC will hold hearings on the allegations regarding the proxy votes. Pending that, the SEC can appoint a temporary management committee. And then later on, the SEC can nullify the elections held today.

The latter scenario: if the SEC or the SEC commissioner HAD jurisdiction in issuing the order and the majority board defied a valid order: (i will use my Keanu Reeves voice for that): Dude, that scenario is messy. But if the SEC or SEC commissioner did NOT have jurisdiction in issuing the order, then GSIS chair Winston Garcia has to go the long route of litigation and pending that, the newly elected board takes over, that’s temporary smooth-sailing for MERALCO pending litigation, but either way, the value of the stocks might continue to go down because of the uncertainty.

II. On the Lakas-Kampi Merger

EDIPENCE.jpg

(forgot where I looted the screencap above)

In his blog, Mon Casiple says there are signs the administration has decided to throw in the towel, as far as perpetuating itself in power is concerned:

The GMA administration, it seems, has already left behind its obsession to stay in power. It may have failed to get the critical political mass to push it through the various obstacles to such a scenario. Its moves in the past week or so has been to satisfy loyalists, ensure their transition, and blunt opposition. These point to a 2010 election scenario.

Obviously, presidentiables are waiting in the wings for this. We can expect a more active effort on their part to get the Malacañang quiet endorsement without unduly exposing themselves to an anti-GMA voting public. The ruling coalition may not escape unscathed — it will be subjected to severe pressure from all sides and will be hard-pressed to unify behind one candidate. It does not have a viable candidate at the moment.

Casiple points out that all this is taking place without the electorate really figuring in the picture. I’ve heard that various components of what will, hopefully, emerge as a Reform Constituency are starting exploratory talks with each other, even as the Lakas-Kampi merger‘s apparently hit a temporary snag.

A review of an HBO film, “Recount,” about the controversial Florida vote in 2000, brings to mind the kind of argumentation the present administration’s perfected:

In the end, Baker and company best Klain’s team. The film leans in the direction of the Gore camp — they are the underdogs after all — but as Baker points out about the Bush team, “We won every single recount. The system worked. No tanks on the street. Peaceful transfer of power. The strength of the constitution and the rule of law.”

He says this, but in one of the strongest sequences in the film, you see the Miami-Dade canvassing board being intimidated into shutting down the hand recount by a mob that’s allowed to go into the building and storm the hallway. Those protesters were orchestrated and financed by the Bush campaign. Those tactics, including turning the recount atmosphere into a circus with grown men dressed like babies, holding signs that say Gore is whining like a baby, and kids in tee-shirts that said “Gore lies,” undermined the process. It was right out of the Nixon dirty tricks playbook. You don’t see anything like that from the Gore side. The Gore camp is all about strategy, turning the law inside out to get the votes counted. Their cause is not to give Gore the win, but the count the votes. The Bush camp simply wants the win they think they’ve already won…

And as for the votes, in a scene that evokes Raiders of the Lost Ark, Roach shows us the boxes and boxes of ballots in a Florida warehouse. Still there, still uncounted. Who the hell really won that election after all?

Like a chad, the question’s still hanging.

III. On Crispin Beltran

The passing of Rep. Crispin Beltran of Anakpawis, a true patriot according to Uniffors, and whose death had the Justice Secretary commemorating it by pissing on his grave (I agree), has been eloquently marked in two entries by Achieving Happiness, see her Crispin ‘Ka Bel’ Beltran, mahal kong boss at Kasama and Hay naku, Ka Bel! . She also takes the Catholic Church to task in Kato-liko.

Concerning the Catholic Church, the response of the hierarchy in Beltran’s native province points to how the alliance between people of Beltran’s political persuasion and the clergy dating back to martial law, has essentially been abrogated. A new generation of bishops and even priests is on the scene, and their views can no longer be viewed as sympathetic to leaders in Beltran’s mold.

As for me, he was a man loyal to his class, faithful to his principles, and the point is not whether I disagreed with some of those principles, but rather, that he served those principles dutifully and well. I took pride in shaking his hand on the Session Floor of the House after his release; his detention was a scandal and that few so-called democratically-inclined Filipinos took that scandal to heart was a scandal in itself.

He was, through Felixberto Olalia, Sr., his former mentor, directly in the line of true labor leaders like Crisanto Evangelista -and what could be said of Evangelista, and in turn, Olalia, could be said of Beltran. He served incorruptibly and ably.

IV. On the RCBC tragedy

While Touched by an Angel focused on the human dimension of the grisly bank robbery, her husband, The Warrior Lawyer, delved into what was particularly horrifying about the crime, which was the methodical liquidation of witnesses. He says the loot must have been so vast that the robbers could afford to leave behind a small fortune because the banknotes were soiled with the blood of their victims. He also points to the murder, the week before, of Alfred Dy (see Geronimo Sy’s tribute to his murdered friend; Sy says Dy had been held up once before, leaving the same bank branch). The Warrior Lawyer says of the two crimes that,

Both incidents seem to indicate an “inside job”, as a tipster from inside the bank seems to have alerted the robbers in the killing of Atty. Dy, while there was no sign of forcible entry in the RCBC robbery. In fact, probers surmise that the RCBC victims were killed precisely because they knew or could identify some of the perpetrators.

Blogger At Midfield describes the ongoing “investigation” as something like bad movie rerun, and The Warrior Lawyer, so to speak, returned to the scene of the crime: read his review of the cops’ handling of the investigation and why it’s so troubling (either pure bungling or a cover-up, simply and disturbingly put: see The Paradoxical Ley Line, too ), but I’d like to focus on the question Warrior Lawyer raises (see also Don Sausa):

Next, the question on a lot of people’s minds is why the crime was vicious in the extreme. The obvious answer seems to be that the robbers wanted no witnesses. But the diabolical, execution-style killings upped the ante on the lengths criminals are willing to go to escape prosecution. They will kill with impunity and without remorse.

But what could push them to such inhuman ferociousness ? Poverty is often cited as a factor. But that’s only part of the story. The Philippines literally has millions of people living in destitution, but they don’t turn into mass murderers. Otherwise, we’d all be dead.

I think Conrad De Quiros was correct when he wrote that the execution of the RCBC bank employees should be seen in the context of the widespread violence being perpetrated by the present administration all over the country…

Indeed, why would the RCBC robbers have any compunction about killing when the first to break the laws of God and man are those sworn to uphold them in the first place ?

To take Mr. De Quiros’ argument further , it’s not just a question of state violence, but also of unbridled corruption that goes all the way to the top. Why should the Cabuyao killers not steal millions at gunpoint when our national leaders routinely steal twenty, fifty, a hundred times over with the stroke of a pen, after a few secret meetings ?

…I fear that the RCBC robbery has now become the template for future acts of a like nature. Almost surely, we’ll be seeing more bank robberies in the near future, simply because, as bank robber Willie Sutton supposedly answered when asked why he robbed banks, “that’s where the money is”.

Incidentally, the Warrior Lawyer also points to a remarkable follow-up to the crime:

A final note on the gruesome photographs of the RCBC murder victims now circulating on the internet. They could only have been taken by police investigators at the crime scene and it’s reasonable to assume that someone in authority deliberately leaked them. I’m of two minds about it. It would certainly be painful for the victims’ families to have their loved ones’ grisly deaths exhibited in so public a manner. A valid argument for desecration of the dead can also be made. At the same time, the graphic and compelling nature of the images ensures that the crime will not easily be forgotten. Viewing it brings about an almost uncontrollable gut-feeling of deep anger and moral outrage. Owing to its viral nature, it has also reached far more people than what would normally be possible through news reports alone. Maybe it’s just what we need to spur us into action to battle these and other, more insidious, forms of evil so prevalent in Philippine society. No sane person can be neutral about it after seeing the pictures. As a the old adage goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Unlike the Warrior Lawyer, I’m not so sure this is something that can be pinned on a general deterioration of society because of the negative example of the administration. It might be more accurate to say that it reflects the low regard the perpetrators have for a specific institution, the Philippine National Police, and for the specific command holding the reins of command at present: the influence of the administration may be in that it attempted a kidnapping and liquidation and was caught, and police officials were left twisting in the wind when the Senate investigated the Lozada abduction -and the cops accepted the humiliation inflicted upon them by the Palace.

That, and the vulnerability of the civilian population in institutions like banks and in the provinces, which breeds a feeling of impunity on the part of robbers.

Indeed, I think we should be alert to whether we will start seeing more of these sort of crimes. There was an element of terrorism in this crime. The scuttlebutt among bankers, according to a colleague, is that bank robberies spike in May because tuition’s due.

For a background on the rising cost of education -and remember, the rule of thumb is business in general is slow in May, as families scrape together tuition expenses- see Filipino families and government spending less on education. The government’s response? Arroyo halts college tuition hikes. I am skeptical of trying to solve problems by basically decreeing that the law of supply and demand be suspended. A good education costs money. That money can come directly from parents or the state can step in and subsidize education. The President’s solution helps parents short-term, but at the expense of students, long-term.

Returning to the RCBC tragedy, The Unlawyer pointed to the tragedy being part of a series of shocking crimes and how it’s revived the debate on the death penalty.

But there’s something else I’d like to point out. Just a hunch. It’s that the moneybags are building up their reserves. Syndicates are flexing their muscles.

Before elections, there’s a noticeable increase in bank robberies and an escalation in instances of general mayhem, from snatchings to drug deals gone sour, etc. See Sheila Coronel on gambling money and elections. As for drug money, this has been nagging at the back of my mind ever since I encountered what Third Wave blogged about it back in February: it’s a factor no one wants to factor in when it comes to elections. And refer to what Alex Magno told me and which I blogged on March 9, 2007:

The reason businessmen can afford to ignore and actually evade the politicians is that they are no longer at the mercy of the politicians they way they used to be. The era of currency controls is long gone; and the old sugar bloc (divided into the faction of planters and millers) is long gone. Instead, the columnist (Alex Magno) told me, politicians are really in a lose-lose situation: elections are getting even more expensive, but there simply isn’t enough money coming in to finance them. So, he says, the real kingpins in politics are those with illegal funds who now play the role the big businessmen used to play:

!. Drug money

2. Gambling Money

3. Quotas on Customs and the BIR

4. The Philippine National Police

Whether these dots can be connected to RCBC remains to be seen. But think about it.

V. Other matters

Overseas, in the Asia Sentinel, The Dollar’s Dead Cat Bounce has Peter Schiff advising people to dump their US dollars, while Peter Bowring looks at how Asian Fuel Subsidies Distort the Energy Market.

On China’s earthquake, the Economist writes approvingly of how China helps itself.

And Pico Iyer writes of the Dalai Lama that Behind the Saffron Robes, a Savvy Politician.

In the blogosphere, PrOsTiTuTeD_LiBeRaTiOn in Cebu takes a look at whether it’s really the administration’s heartland, and tries to take a nuanced approach to the problem of fighting for accountability while avoiding throwing the baby out with the bath water:

Public dissent in Cebu, however, does not manifest in every means that of Metro Manila does. Rallies are very unpopular here. What is apparent to an observer who is not in Cebu is the disposition of its top politicians, the church- or the head of the church- and the media. They try to speak, and act, in behalf of the people but often, they fail- deliberately or not.

I am convinced that the general sentiment of the Cebuano people over the NBN-ZTE scandal, for example, is disgust. Our politicians, however, continue to proclaim allegiance to the president but I don’t think that it is because the people who voted for Arroyo do not call for accountability and do not see her culpability. I think that we are highly misrepresented.

The cab I was riding on my way to work some time last month was tuned into a local AM radio program, and I was fascinated with the comments sent, thru SMS, by the listeners on the issue of household rice hoarding which they conscientiously lambasted as a big stupidity. This government, they suggested, and I agree, is as thick-faced as to blame the people for the current crisis. One of these days, they said, the same government will accuse us of corruption- of stealing our own, taxpayers’ money. I think that the message of its sarcasm borders on the truth that anything is possible with the government that we have- anyone, and anything, is a potential scapegoat. That explains why the Lozada noise was suppressed by the rice crisis, and why Meralco takeover is cooking. I understand that these two issues deserve the people’s attention but see how nice and dirty the administration plays?

Very little has been said about Cebuanos who feel and think the same way that I do. This is not to claim that I think differently. My point is that I get dismayed with the lack and oftentimes, the absence of mobilisation in the local media. The perceived indifference is one, a failure of the media to get into the bottom of the people’s sentiment and rouse the people from stupor even as necessary; two, a failure of the local government to liberate itself from the shadow of the President and three, the obsession of some Cebuanos to be called “different,” specifically, being different from Metro Manila. I noticed how some people would deliberately ignore issues that call for collective action- Northern Imperialism is overrated.

I am glad that the third factor I proposed invited some friends to speak out. I was told by one that it’s a matter of efficacy- what can a rally in Cebu do to oust Arroyo? Pretty much nothing- just a potential investor who changes his mind about putting up his business in the city. Another friend told me over coffee that, yes, we are naturally regionalistic but that it is just a matter of preserving the momentum our economy has gained in the last five years- are we willing to sacrifice all these?

Being in the BPO industry, I can come from a call center boom perspective. Honestly, I think that outsourcing will still be with us in the next ten years regardless of whose administration we have. I want to think that the economic growth in the past months is not a cancer but a cure. When I come to juxtapose the value of the peso and the pinch of inflation, I start to think again. The abuses of the administration is a very expensive price to pay so I wonder if we can ever concretise what it is that we are sacrificing our moral imperatives for. I gloat, and gleefully, at that, when I scan the paper and see the peso plunging from 40 to 41 or 41 to 42. No, that I have dollars to exchange for pesos but that I see the foreign exchange as the administration’s talisman- like nothing can touch it as long as the peso is strong.

I still beg to disagree, with all due respect, that another People Power revolution is the next bold step to make. I was in Fuente Circle along with the hundreds of students who protested against the suppression of truth in not opening the “second envelope” in the heights of former President Joseph Estrada’s impeachment. I was there and I cheered (aged 19 and oblivious to the dangers of the game) as the names of the generals withdrawing support from the government were being announced. How far have we gone after that? Ours is a vicious cycle- the president we install after the revolution owes the military (and only the military) the debt of gratitude. The same president would only want to keep the military to stay in office. Much has been said about the excesses of the military in Arroyo’s presidency, I am tired of it- a president surely knows whose loyalty he should keep.

This article is not an attempt to justify the perceived indifference. This is an attempt to give voice to the Cebuanos who have given Arroyo a chance but have been disillusioned– the taxi driver who tells me he has always tuned into the NBN-ZTE hearings and believes the truth Neri is hiding is right under our nose, the newspaper vendor who insists it is the president’s husband who is screwing up her office and the officemate who can’t explain how the prices of even non-petroleum products and less-processed foods rocket– I am one of them.

The views expressed above, I think belongs to a significant group which hasn’t had its concerns addressed by the various opposition groups over the past few years. We will see if efforts to ramp up the impeachment in October finally manages to inspire such people to get involved, politically.

And the last word on the debate on The Canon of Philippine Literature, courtesy of ExpectoRants:

I think Sassy’s basic error in her questioning and line of defense is that she was criticizing something she didn’t bother to study in-depth, thus she came off “philistinic,” in the words of Exie Abola. Trouncing a critically acclaimed work just because one didn’t understand it because it’s too hard indeed smacked of something unswallowable. No wonder the academic and literati types were up in arms, what with all that intricately hard work of theirs brushed aside in such a cavalier fashion. As Angela Stuart-Santiago wrote, Sassy would’ve made a better argument had she claimed, for instance, that Amado Hernandez’s work is a piece of leftist propaganda; she could’ve made a more passable argument and spurred a more interesting exchange.

Nod.

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  1. jude

    “Selling GSIS shares and getting out of Meralco first should have been the priority of his decision making.” – leytenian

    Winston Garcia’s priority is to get the most out of GSIS shares in Meralco. And, given his track record, he will. His mandate is to make the most money for GSIS. It isn’t “selling GSIS shares and getting out of Meralco first”.

    Garcia isn’t out to win a popularity contest. Call him a corporate raider or whatever name, but he has always been successful, even as he was underestimated in the past by the likes of the powerful Henry Sy of SM or when he was severely criticized for purchasing an expensive Juan Luna painting. Thus far, he has fulfilled his mandate of making the most money for GSIS.

    Even if Meralco shares have fallen to about P56/ share recently, GSIS is still ahead. Winston Garcia’s average price for GSIS’ Meralco shares is less than P50 per share. But, Garcia knows that the present drop in Meralco share price is temporary. GSIS may even be buying up Meralco shares even as we speak, further adding to GSIS’ considerable holdings in the firm. The motto of the Baron Rothschild, “The best time to buy is when there’s blood in the streets”, holds true to this day.

    If anything, this whole brouhaha about Meralco will only make it leaner and healthier. For stockholders with the stomach and the liquidity to wait it out (give it at least a year), it will result in a big payoff. For one, it has exposed how the Lopezes overcharge Meralco through their family-owned IPP’s and purchasing companies. That alone may result in significant savings for Meralco.

  2. leytenian

    Jude,
    “GSIS may even be buying up Meralco shares even as we speak, further adding to GSIS’ considerable holdings in the firm. The motto of the Baron Rothschild, “The best time to buy is when there’s blood in the streets”, holds true to this day”

    why can’t he diversify and remove that interest from meralco and buy other solid stocks. there are so many stocks out there that’s even safer with guaranteed rate of return even higher than meralco. investing in few stocks is never safe. A combination of over 5-10 stocks ( diversification) can ride the market better in the long term. that money should not just be invested domestically but also internationally. well maybe he is doing that. i don’t know either. but my point is… why be stucked with meralco. yes it is a good time to buy but not meralco’s stock. there’s better ,solid opportunities out there. i’m still not impressed with his strategy.

  3. vic

    bencard, I was not assuring you not to worry about using it, but I was, that there won’t be enough marijuana for everyone as you assume cjv alluded that “everyone” is using it. I clarified that it won’t be even be enough for the 10 % of the users as big part of it is locally consumed as Marijuana Law is a little relax here and was proposed by the former Liberal Government to be dicriminalized, except that it died it the last Parliament when the Liberal lost the last Election and the Conservative, being conservative swiped the issue aside. Hope make myself clear…

  4. jaena

    Winston Garcia showed his ultimate arrogance in asserting ‘his’ privileges (as major stockholder, and not emphasizing the wishes of GSIS members-contributors who actually owns the stake in Meralco)…A spoiled brat of GMA.

  5. jude

    “i’m still not impressed with his strategy.” – leytenian

    Garcia and his bright boys have done their numbers. Obviously Meralco isn’t the only egg in their basket, even if it is one of those they’re hoping will become a golden one in the future.

    As for better, more solid opportunities, it all depends on who’s doing the math. I personally think that there are some good pickings in the stock market at present (Meralco is one of those on my list). However, given Garcia’s excellent track record at picking winners, including San Miguel, where he forced Danding Cojuangco to give better shareholder value which allowed GSIS to walk away with P14 billion, I wouldn’t bet against Garcia’s choices.

  6. The Ca t

    a non expert opinion:just a former paper pusher,just a former call center agent.

    That was not meant to regard the call center agents and the non-managerial personnel as morons.

    When you are a consultant conducting management and systems audit for the purpose of cost reduction, cost minimization or to provide a cost-benefit-analysis for the modernization of a plant, you deal with people who can make decisions and have full knowledge of the operational processes.

    Pag gusto mong ipaayos ang kotse mo at hinaharap mo ang mga decision na bumili ng bagong engine o kaya ipaoverhaul na lang ang engine (na mas mura) kakausapin mo lang ba yong mekaniko? Siguro hindi. Kakausapin mo ang manager sa repair shop na magsasabi saiyo kung ano pa ang kailangan aside from the new engine , saan pwedeng gawin at gaano katagal.

    As to the call center, I do not mean to regard them as morons.

    But let us accept the reality that they are given scripts or instructions to deal with clients.

    So when I complain about my dsl connection here in the US and the CSR asks me to check some cables in the garage, he does not know that garages in the East Coast are separate from the main house. During winter, the snow could pile as high as three feet outside. Simply because one way of trouble shooting a dsl connection is to check the phone lines.

    When I complained about non-delivery of parts specified in my order for Dell computer, the CSR merely gave me the answer that they will look into it. The supervisor that I asked for, gave me the assurance that the parts will be delivered within 24 hours.

    So it is not the brain that I am picking, it is the position of the person and the scope of his responsibility that is my concern.

  7. leytenian

    jude,
    “Garcia and his bright boys have done their numbers”
    you are obviously on one side… bright boys? not to me. sorry. they need to convince me. convincing me is when our people are free.

  8. kg

    The Cat,

    I admit csrs are required as in required to go by the script.
    Kaya di ako tumngal I overanalyze daw,nacocompromise ko daw AHT.(average handling time)

    Madami kami csrs na MBAs at former managers pa iba mga oldies,tapos boss namin mid twenties.

    you will be forced to throw everything that you know in the trash bin.

    sa consulting,good thing you have mentioned it, because right now since my dad is a consultant and I am now his assistant ang dami nga pinapasukan, I am now learning the ropes,so to speak ;and pinagtatawanan nga ako pag me binabanggit akong mba jargon, ganun din sinabi nya throw everything you know in the garbage can; But, of course I will take that with a grain of salt.

  9. kg

    “in every business location location location is very important. competition? the business people will compete. and why it is advantageous? in every new business there’s always “EMPLOYMENT” involve whether they all will form like a cartel type of busines. let them be, it will not last for long term anyway. EMPLOYMENT will drive our economy.”

    Leytenian, I commend your optimism.
    Supremo somehow made me realize that Filipinos are indeed very pessimistic.

  10. The Ca t

    sa consulting,good thing you have mentioned it, because right now since my dad is a consultant and I am now his assistant ang dami nga pinapasukan, I am now learning the ropes,so to speak ;and pinagtatawanan nga ako pag me binabanggit akong mba jargon,

    mba ed helps in the development of organizational and analytical skills of the consultant but at the end of the day, it is still the common sense, resourcefullness and guts that save the day.

    It is the tool of the trade but just like the law license, it is just a decoration to a name if it is not put to use.

    so many have mbas but only in the title because it is a ChED requirement to teach in college and in the graduate level or a prerequisite for a position that requires lots of paper credentials.

    the use of business jargons may not necessarily give a halo of being an expert in the field in the same manner as
    using high sounding words in this forum does not impress to me that the user is highly knowledgeable of a topic.

    if you are a woman in a male-dominated business industry like consulting, either you have the charms or you got the balls to succeed or survive.

    i do not have the first but i think i got the last one. so if you find me intimidating in this forum, wait till you meet me in person snd that’s why i don’t want this eb thing.

  11. leytenian

    KG,
    “Leytenian, I commend your optimism”

    thanks KG. i think it is my background being an employer and managing my own. I have met many optimistic filipinos, actually smarter than the whites and the blacks. Our work ethics with training and exposures are far superior and competitive with any other race, at least in own experience. By nature, we are considered shy but not insecure at the work place. We only need time to excel.

    The Cat:
    “mba ed helps in the development of organizational and analytical skills of the consultant but at the end of the day, it is still the common sense, resourcefullness and guts that save the day.

    agree… no guts no glory.

  12. kg

    Hello the Cat, maybe it’s time to apologize for reacting.
    There is a fine line between fear and respect.
    When it comes to you the Cat, I am leaning towards respect. Sorry for dragging the dean thing in this forum(saw it sa blog mo), nakita ko sa comment ni UPNs sabi ko ako yata yun ah.

    most of what you say when it has nothing to do with poiloitics or kahit may politics, I pay attention to. You sound practical,not too technical and not high sounding .

    No bola!

  13. UP n student

    to the Ca t and leytenian: Unfortunately when it really counts, it takes more than charm and common sense to hold your MBA (or PhD or MS-accounting or legal degree) and claim parity with the best. One has to have indepth understanding of the subject matter — truly in depth. The Ca T’s style of disparaging the audience BEFORE communicating one’s ideas will NOT work, unless, of course, you are just doing bullshit “around-the-coffee-machine” chitchat talking about the price of gasoline and you are overwhelmed by your work and don’t want the challenge of new tasks or assignments.

    When it really counts (like your roundtable discussions or conference call includes your boss’s boss and their peers), you have to have knowledge and smarts, and be able to communicate both in a manner understood by many. If you only have 90-seconds to communicate a financial or a telecom topic, then you better know the many technical jargon that reduces in 5 seconds what needs 2 hours to explain to a 3rd-year college student in the top 10% of his/her class. You must remember that your undergraduate- and MBA-focus is only on 2 or 3 subject matters and you’ll be faced with others who have their own 2 or 3 subject-areas of expertise. And your boss’s boss or his/her peers have work-experience on their side!!!!

    In today’s business environment where lots of people have responsibilities without authority, your value to the discussion is determined by the value that you bring to the discussion, not how crudely you behave in a team environment.

  14. leytenian

    Up N student:
    “your value to the discussion is determined by the value that you bring to the discussion”
    i’m glad you said that.
    in fairness to cat, she does bring value to the discussion or else I won’t be challenged to do my research. i’m exposing myself to a team that i have no idea whom i’m dealing with. now i am able to find my balance. it’s only been 3 weeks.
    the good thing about this blog… everyone will learn to become more rational and fair. it’s a learning process and I hope benigno will be happy that his people will no longer be “vacuous”. LOL
    thanks up n ….

  15. The Ca t

    Sorry for dragging the dean thing in this forum(saw it sa blog mo)

    You do not have to apologize for that. I put that piece of info in my profile when someone accused me that I plagiarized a business article that I wrote in my other website.

    Honestly, I just held the position in a college of a university (not a metro manila college) for one year just to get the title. It is a lifetime privilege to use the title fyi. I do not have the patience to sit down with real educators. I thought it was a waste of time debating how missions and objectives should be formulated to see that they are grammatically correct…”t’s” are crossed and “i’s” are dotted so to speak. That should have been left to the editors who are usually the English professors who can finetune whatever were discussed to revise or design new curricular offerings. I was more for the content…courses that are relevant to business or activities that simulate the actual business environment while the educators wanted to infuse more general education subjects.

    If these educators were your former professors, you cannot afford to break their hearts. Can you?

    If you are after big money, you will not stay long in the academe, full time. Would you?

    thanks for the kind words leytenian and i apologized if I offended you. Force of habit when “terrorizing” my students in the Grad school.

    you have to have knowledge and smarts, and be able to communicate both in a manner understood by many.

    correct. That is being able to speak the language of people at the different levels. When you talk the geek, use their language, when you talk to the rank-and-file use the simplest language that they can understand.

    When a techie tries to explain to you in tehnical terms, tell them to speak English. hohoho.

  16. DevilsAdvc8

    Honestly, I just held the position in a college of a university (not a metro manila college) for one year just to get the title.

    wtf?

  17. grd

    mlq3,

    to you maybe the effect is unnoticeable but to ordinary filipino households, breaking up of pldt’s monopoly was a significant event. with your social stature you have not experienced how difficult it was then to get a telephone service. You must be aware of pldt’s (ineffective) zero backlog campaign way back in the 1990’s. people then have to wait for years before they can have their own telephone lines. some colleagues even mentioned it took them 10 long years to have their own fixed lines and it happened only after the de-monopolization of the local telecom industry. it was not until the onset of competition from new phone companies that threatened the existence of PLDT in providing the basic phone service to every household. the emergence of such company as Bayantel, ETPI, Digitel, and others, forced PLDT to deliver what is long due of their public service despite being one of the most expensive phone service in the world that time. perhaps the best proof of Republic Act 7925 success is the sale of PLDT by the Cuangco family. why would you give away the goose that lays the golden egg?

    and as quoted by KG, “in every new business there’s always “EMPLOYMENT” involve whether they all will form like a cartel type of business. let them be, it will not last for long term anyway. EMPLOYMENT will drive our economy.”

    but I agree with KG… filipinos are indeed very pessimistic.

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