Malakas at mahina

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Blogger Imperfect Hush makes a unique comparison: says Winston Garcia’s like cartoon supervillain The Red Skull! o_O

While the corporate drama that played out last Tuesday was quite riveting (leaving reporters like Iris Cecila Gonzalez exhausted; for reportage, see When smallest to biggest owners become electric), it was the following blog entries were responsible for my column for today, which is ‘Malakas pa si Lopez‘. Blogger myclique, who works for a Lopez company, and LeNdl VicENciO’s UseLEss MuLtipLy , who features an extremely detailed rebuttal from his elder sister, a Meralco employee, got me thinking about how more than the big players are invested, emotionally and even financially, in the Meralco fight: there are the employees, each of which has a family, and most of whom constitutes part of our shrinking middle class; and there are also the stockholders.

Blogger Vicoyski’s Eye (a shareholder) gave an eyewitness account of the proxy battle at the Meralco Theater:

I saw firsthand, corporate drama in real life. Obvious, but savvy, corporate raiding moves, that some would interpret as an underhanded attempt to subvert the proxy nominations under the name of recognized Meralco management representatives. A director from the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) coveniently coming out with an order to remove the Asst. Corporate Secretary, Atty. Tony Rosete, and invalidate all proxies under Meralco management supportive directors, at the exact moment that Mr. Garcia made a signal by pulling-out a manila envelope and flashing its content. An order that was subsequently junked by a majority of the board on the grounds that it was undated, was signed only by a SEC Officer-In-Charge, didn’t have the official seal of SEC, and doesn’t even have the necessary docket number to be considered a legal order.

What I believe is the funniest (others would say scariest) part of the whole proceeding was when Mr. Garcia began losing his composure due to the heckling of a number of Meralco employee-stockholders. He began stating, as I remember it, “…I have more shares than all the (Meralco) employees here combined!” It is indeed something that is true… However, his seemingly childish outburst showed great arrogance, considering that he doesn’t own, but only represent the shares of government employees who have very little say as to where he invests their GSIS retirement money.

Fernando G. Gagelonia in his blog At Midfield quantifies the cost of the government campaign and Garcia’s bravura performance as follows: for all shareholders in Meralco, the stock’s value has shrunk by 24 percent; and for the government itself, book losses for state institutions that “now exceed 6 billion pesos.”

Returning to the Meralco stockholder’s impressions of the proxy battle, something New Philippine Revolution said in his postmortem of the proxy fight-

That scene showing Garcia standing up and shouting at all those stockholders show you how a member of Gloria’s mafia gang thinks about himself as an overlord of this country.

Suggests to me that something interesting is going on that hasn’t been widely commented on. And that is, the posturing wasn’t aimed at one specific audience, but many audiences. You would think the Lopezes, having encountered Garcia up close and personal in the boardroom, would have known his propensity to come across as a boor, and welcomed the opportunity to have him do their work for them.
But perhaps they knew as well as Garcia does, that his bluster wasn’t meant to impress serious stockholders, much less potential foreign investors, but rather, the broader public. And that is what separates the present management of Meralco from Garcia’s gang: the management had specific shareholders and investors to keep happy, while Garcia and the President are playing to the gallery (which is not to pass judgment on either side: businessmen will obsess over calming investor and shareholders’ nerves while politicians can and must play to the gallery). [email protected] says that prior to the proxy showdown, other kinds of political proxies were being solicited by the government:

Last Sunday, I came from church, and my mother reported that a barangay kagawad (councilor) was making the rounds, asking people to sign a piece of paper. It was supposed to be a petition calling for lower electricity rates. But when my mom scanned the document, she found a list of reasons, and number one referred to the Lopez family. My mom refused to sign, knowing it was political in nature, most likely concocted by a local official allied with the current regime. My mom refused to be used by this regime for its political games.

Which brings me to one final extract from New Philippine Revolution’s entry:

This gambit of Gloria backfired. First, it showed how powerful the Lopezes are compared with the Garcias, the Aboitizes, the Alcantaras, and the Arroyos of this land. Second, it showed how teethless the SEC is. And third, it shows how inept and foolish government becomes when the people allow it to continually perpetuate its proto-dictatorial powers especially on businesses.

Pinoy Observer had a similar reaction:

At around 2 pm, GSIS President and “coup plotter” Winston Garcia went out of the Meralco building with his tail between his legs. He has been heckled and jeered at by Meralco employees. Last minute dilatory tactics by the government through the SEC has been rebuffed…

Garcia should blame his publicist for this image fiasco. He lost twice today. He lost his power because Meralco stockholders rebuffed him and he lost his dignity.

Or, as you might have heard from people following the news, “Ay, mahina pala si Garcia!”
This was the main theme of my column: the public posturing of both camps to prove to the public that one was more malakas than the other. This was a concept Filipino historian Mina Roces introduced in her book, Kinship Politics In Postwar Philippines: The Lopez Family 1946-2000.In many ways an effort that arose out of dissatisfaction with the anthology An Anarchy of Families: State and Family in the Philippines and Phoenix: The saga of the Lopez family, Roces puts forward two highly useful ideas for understanding politics and business:

One persistent theme in Philippine postwar political history had been the continuous charges of graft and corruption against an administration, foreshadowing its demise at the next election contest. Such fluctuations in Philippine politics have been an established pattern since independence was granted in 1946..How can one explain such “cycles” in Philippine postwar history?

This book proposes a framework for such an analysis. It argues that a contest between two competing discourses -traditional social idioms embedded in kinship politics or politica de famila and Western values (here interchangeably used with the term “modern”) inculcated in the colonial period- accounts for these political oscillations. Traditional, or pre-European, political organization is seen as being based on the politica de familia or kinship politics. This concept is used here to mean political process wherein kinship groups operate for their own interests interacting with other kinship groups as rivals or allies. Politica de famila thrives in a setting where elite family groups and their supporters compete with each other for political power. Once political power is gained by one family alliance, it is used relentlessly to accumulate family wealth and prominence, pragmatically bending the rules of the law to gain access to special privileges.

She then goes on to specify what these “Western idioms” are:

The colonial period introduced a number of Western idioms (the term Western idioms or Western institutions is used for lack of a better term to refer to non-indigenous influences introduced externally into the society from the West from the 16th century onwards) which were eventually incorporated into the cultural milieu and thus of political behavior. Some of these values were in direct conflict with the traditional elements of kinship politics. The set of Western idioms which penetrated and influenced Philippine political culture may be classified into three categories. First, a new set of ethics and morals, introduced in the Spanish period through the vehicle of Catholicism, provided a novel standard with which to conduct and judge behavior, often intruding into the established methods of comport. (This does not imply that there was no “morality” before the Spaniards arrived in the 16th century). Secondly, bureaucratic professionalism inculcated in the American colonial period emphasized a different method of participating in politics and business -that of utilizing impersonal norms, the assessment of people on the basis of achievement, and maintaining objectivity in major decisions involving personalities. Finally, the concept of loyalty to a nation-state, an entity far surpassing the specific confines of the family or village, began to emerge as nationalist ideas spread throughout the archipelago from about the second half of the 19th century to the movement for independence in the 20th century…

And then, how it comes together:

With independence, Filipinos assumed full political leadership and the tensions between these two opposing discursive practices surfaced. This unreconciled tension explains the peculiar behavior of postwar politics that saw the cyclical rise and fall of governments as each administration was voted out of office for graft and corruption. Families who operated in the traditional style found themselves exposed and criticized in the free press by rivals who used the rhetoric of Western values to attack those families in power. Having been shown to have neglected the national interest in favor of familial concerns, these families failed to retain their power beyond one administration. In this framework, the Marcos regime (1972-1986) represents the epitome of pure kinship politics as one family alliance alone had monopoly of political power and owning most of the country’s major corporations…

This book argues that this unresolved tension was responsible for the ambivalent behavior exhibited by Filipino families who have used political power for familial ends. On the one hand, these individuals families sincerely believe the rhetoric they imbibed from their education -that corruption is bad, that the modern discourses of professionalism, ethics, and morals, and the concern for the national interest should override the familial interests in the political sphere. While these families use the modern idioms to criticize other families who in their eyes use political power to build a business empire, at the same time they remain blind to the same faults in themselves -almost oblivious to their own practice of kinship politics. In this manner they continue to apply one set of values (Western/modern) to their rival families, and one set of discourses (kinship politics) to themselves.

Another concept Mina Roces puts forward as deserving of further exploration, is that of palakasan:

Another Tagalog concept also used as in idiom in the discourse of kinship politics yet unexplored by social scientists is palakasan. The word malakas literally means “strong” and the word mahina designates the opposite -“weak.” In a political sense, a person who is malakas is one who is in a position of power and uses that power unscrupulously to benefit his/her kinship group…

One who does not want to his/her position or power to help his/her kin group is “mahina.” And to be branded “mahina ka” (you are weak) is pejorative. In the cultural value system, “malakas” is a virtue. One who is malakas is looked at with awe and it would enhance once’s position to work for such a “malakas” person. Thus, one’s being malakas or mahina becomes a culturally-defined yardstick of a person’s prestige, power, or influence. If a family is malakas, many would want to work for it or desire an alliance with it. The unabashed ability to display how malakas one is by using one’s power to give one’s family special privileges and concessions in business is received with great admiration.

Palakasan is a system wherein those in power compete with each other in obtaining special privileges and exemptions from regulations and beding the rules of law for their kinship group. For the palakasan system to function, there must be various groups of family rivals all attempting to exercise power in the pursuit of family wealth and privilege. Each family then tries to outdo the other in being “malakas.”

And the assumptions on which such a system is based? A fundamental inequality among the people:

Malakas implies special status, blatantly stressing the inequalities in the social structure between those in power and those out of power. But malakas status is not dependent on social or economic class (although one could argue it represents the current political class, a position far from being static, as family alliances constantly move in and out of political office). Since the criterion for malakas status is solely political power, a wealthy person can lose out to a relatively poor but more influential family alliance. A group of squatters in a Manila slum area may be malakas because they have close ties with the mayor and therefore feel no threat of eviction. The person who owns the land illegally occupied by the squatters though wealthy, has no hope of retrieving his/her land or of evicting the squatters as long as these squatters maintain their malakas status vis-a-vis the mayor…

It is true that, generally, wealthy families have more chances of attaining malakas status: politicians are willing to receive financial assistance from a wealthy family at election time in exchange for ties of utang na loob. Wealthy families are also financially capable of employing someone who is malakas in order to speak in their favor. For example, rich families can pay influential malakas lawyers, or malakas judges to favor them in court. A poor person who is mahina would not have the financial materiel to approach a malakas person for help. But it is important to note that even families from low social classes, the poor peasants, may be malakas if they are close to the powers that be. Don Aflonso may be wealthy but he could be mahina in the municipality of Pasay City, whereas, Mang Pedro who is the bodyguard of Mayor Pablo Cuneta of Pasay City could be malakas in that municipality.

Because of this, Roces argues that being malakas isn’t always about the wallop of one’s wallet:

Malakas highlights inequalities not along socio-economic class lines but distinguishes between those who are exempted from all laws and rules that govern the rest of society (malakas) and those who have to follow the rules (mahina)… Those that follow the rules disadvantage themselves by sublimating themselves in a lower status while those who blatantly bend or break the rules of law gain prestige because they reveal their special status (they can break the rules without punishment, or they do not have to follow the rules that everyone else has to follow). And it is usually those who are in political positions who can exercise the malakas prerogative. An interesting point is that in order to show malakas status, one has to break the rules deliberately; one has to exercise status to show status.

Which brings me to suggest that Roces’s book provides a keen insight into what took place at the Meralco proxy battle. She pointed out that when it comes to powerful blocs duking it out, Western notions of the “rule of law” become a benchmark of success when one bloc manages to prove itself better at legal manipulation, in other words, malakas.
At the start, both the Lopezes and Winston Garcia had a default malakas position, the Lopezes by being the incumbent controlling interests and Garcia by being backed by the chief executive and having access to a big warchest; Blogger The Write Stuff zeroes in on what the potential political benefits for the President (and Garcia) going into the battle, were:

As a political move, this is probably the best time for Gloria’s administration to take over a highly unpopular power utility firm, or at least take it away from the Lopez family and earn pogi points from the public. Mind you, any Presidentiable making a statement of support to the Meralco Group right now would be taking a political suicide.

The showdown was in many ways reminiscent of the way datus retained or lost their authority by means of challenges from contending datu-wannabees. It seemed as if the fight -highly political because of the nature of both rivals as keen players of the power game (literally and figuratively)- would be old fashioned (think “politics is addition”).

The Inquirer editorial today says Garcia gets points for personal courage but zeroes in on the SEC’s attempt to stop the voting:

Above all, it depended on a master stroke and the element of surprise: an order from the Securities and Exchange Commission to exclude certain proxy votes solicited by the Lopezes from being counted.

The order, read before a stunned assembly by Hubert Guevara, director of compliance and enforcement at the SEC, could have handed Garcia either a strategic or a tactical victory: Either the Lopez proxy votes would have been invalidated or excluded, negating the Lopez family’s advantage, or the stockholders’ meeting would have been postponed, allowing Garcia more time to get more proxies.

Instead, after the board recessed and Meralco management consulted its battery of lawyers, the Lopezes and their business allies decided to ignore the SEC order. They gave a total of 10 reasons why they considered the order legally infirm – only one of which, the charge that GSIS was merely forum-shopping, could be considered invalid. (The GSIS petition for a temporary restraining order had already been withdrawn before the start of the meeting.) Not least, Meralco officer Monico Jacob, a former chairman of the SEC, emerged to explain to the public that intra-corporate disputes were not in fact within the jurisdiction of the SEC.

Indeed, of the many events that transpired Tuesday, it is the SEC order that provokes the most curiosity.

Was the order only the latest confirmation that the Arroyo administration was behind the GSIS attempt to shake up Meralco management? The timing of the order is suspect; it seems part of a script directed by someone in control of government resources.

But why was the order transparently flawed? Only one commissioner’s signature, no official seal of the SEC, no notice given: The list of errors goes on. It is as if the document was designed to be ignored.

It was after the board’s decision to ignore the order and resume the meeting that Garcia, a controversial man at the best of times, objected loudly and confronted members of the pro-Lopez audience.

Ricky Carandang on TV mentioned that one issue was that GSIS had accepted the validity of a quorum and so questioning the validity of proxies made no sense (if they were valid for determining a quorum, why would they suddenly be invalidated for the purpose of voting? Yet the Lopezes too, said Carandang, had contemplated postponing the election early on; it seems perhaps both sides were engaged in a real nail-biter as far as the proxy war was concerned), but like many observers steeped in Western idioms perhaps missed the point (something the editorial came closer to pointing out). The SEC order had nothing to do with law, or the rule of it; it had to do with palakasan and it was meant to be a coup de theatre for Garcia. See GSIS plan to lie low, spring surprise fails:

The Plan called for the GSIS to lie low and feign weakness in the days leading to the annual meeting, hoping that the Lopez family and its allies would lower their guard.

An official, who had knowledge of the plan to shake up the board of the country’s largest power distributor, said the “diversion” was important because the Lopez family was expecting a full frontal attack from the government led by the GSIS.

The plan coincided with recent pronouncements by Malacañang distancing itself from the boardroom brawl, and by leading industry observers that Garcia would back down without public Palace backing.

Also part of the plan was to float the idea that the GSIS would ask the courts to issue an injunction on Tuesday’s annual stockholders meeting, ostensibly because it had failed to gain access to “proxy votes” records…

The GSIS filed a motion to that effect on Friday in the Pasay City Regional Trial Court, but immediately withdrew it.

GSIS legal counsel Estrella Elamparo said the strategy was to divert the attention of the Lopezes away from guarding against requests for temporary restraining orders (TROs).

The Lopezes need not have looked far as the GSIS filed a complaint on Monday morning in the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) – only a few hundred meters from Meralco’s headquarters.

Despite filing the complaint earlier in the day, the GSIS called a press conference in the afternoon, where Elamparo denied having filed a petition for a TRO…

That very same day, SEC Commissioner Jesus Martinez signed the order favoring the GSIS motion to “set aside” the counting of all proxies gathered by the Lopez group. The order would be delivered by SEC representatives as a surprise during the Meralco stockholders’ meeting…

When SEC director Hubert Guevara read the “cease-and-desist order” on the floor, the entire assembly fell silent. The audience was clearly confused by its implications, and the Lopezes and their directors were stunned by Garcia’s deft maneuver.

“Without the Lopezes’ proxies, they would have only 33 percent [or Meralco’s total outstanding stock].” said another business ally of Garcia. “Winston has about 40 percent, including proxies. He will win.”

The plan – had it been successful – called for the GSIS to elect five board members, plus nominate one independent director who would be sympathetic to their side…

As it turned out, however, the Lopezes’ lawyers saved the day for the influential family, finding “infirmities” in the SEC order, including several technicalities like the absence of a docket number, date and official seal on the written order.

What looked like the SEC’s technical errors gave the Lopez group the courage to disregard the order and proceed with the stockholders’ meeting.

And so, the coup de theatre that failed added to the malakas reputation of the Lopezes -and again, let’s recognize that neither side was operating from the basis of subordinating themselves to the rule of law, but rather, tried to outfox each other in applying the law in as wily a manner as possible. What Garcia had hoped would produce shock and awe -the SEC order, incidentally widely-understood as being something of an unprecedented development- was blunted when the Lopezes survived the initial bombardment and sallied forth from their bunker.

So, if there’s one sector that’s unquestionably benefited from this fight, it’s corporate lawyers.

On to the point I first raised and the final point in my column. The administration’s skating on thin ice in playing the populist card but going after big businesses that have a reputation for cultivating their employees.

Think of the middle class, which has felt besieged for some time: subjected to the predations of politicians, and hostile to the masses because they’re viewed as land-grabbers, etc. When a government whips up mass sentiments, the instinct of the middle class is to throw its support behind the upper class, on which its own status is intertwined. the President, after reformist elements proved themselves powerless during Edsa Tres, realized that a combination of military support (generals, often having a subtantial net worth, have no real incentive to throw caution to the winds if regime change introduces more, and not fewer, variables into the political equation, for examply by possibly putting in power a fragmented opposition), and consolidating middle and upper class support by reassuring them the might of the state would mobilized to protect property, peace and order, etc: anyway, they’re “prepared to sacrifice their freedoms to move the country forward”, economically, etc.

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But the President can’t ignore the broader public, which meant they had to be reassured things were really trickling down (“Ramdam na ramdam ko ang asenso!”) and if they didn’t feel it, well, tough luck, they would be denied avenues to express their dissatisfaction while those with a gift for organizing the discontented would be liquidated one by one. Meanwhile, those from the middle and upper classes inclined to show common cause with the broader public would be portrayed as hopelessly naive, dangerous class traitors -or simply, and most effectively, as possibly sincere but on the whole, mahina.

Much as the middle and upper classes express themselves in Western terms, in their breasts beat hearts that still palpitate to traditional notions. Hence the admiration for the President’s survival instincts and cat-like-grip on power. Hence the derision that greets her critics when they fail to dislodge her (after, mind you, initiial posturing when it seems they might just pull it off!). Hence the satisfaction with the arrests of anybody but themselves. Hence the relative tranquility with which big business greeted the events of 2005.

This only began to change when the President showed signs of wanting to stay in power, and of sending her cabinet to gun after certain corporations (remember Favila and his threats to the Makati Business Club), and how she’s gone beyond the usual saber-rattling all presidents indulge in: the attack on Meralco and possibly Smart, Globe and Sun (Pangilinan gave some cryptic criticisms of the President; the Palace mistrusts the Zobels; administration allies the Gokongweis have to wonder how they’ll wriggle out of this one) inspires the sort of instinctive panic that gets businessmen to mobilize faster than you can say “People Power.” As I mentioned in my column, Garcia’s saber-rattling against SGV might also antagonize another powerful bloc. And all these blocs have a big chunk of the middle class working for them, and in a sense, identifying with their bosses.

Meanwhile, as the news stories keep coming out, see Meralco shares face protracted beating and SEC intervention may scare away foreign investors and Garcia discloses gameplan when he takes over utility, there have been postmortems in the blogosphere:

Pilipinas, you need to work says if things drag out in court, it won’t help consumers. blackshama’s blog makes an interesting comparison to the dissolution of the monasteries in England:

It is not the first time that the King or in our case the Queen has tried to take over a private enterprise. Like Henry VIII who dissolved the Monasteries, Gloria I tried to “dissolve” Meralco by bringing up the spectre of high energy costs. While Henry had his Cromwell, Gloria has her Winston. The only similarities between them is that both royal subalterns are in their faces! But her Winston is no Churchill.

In a globalized economy, doing a Ferdinand I on the Lopezes is nigh impossible unless Gloria I declares martial law (which requires Congressional assent). So she had to do it by proxy. The stockholders saw through this and trooped to the meeting. When Winston queried if the people in the theatre were employees,not a few responded “I’m not an employee!”

And Ricelander’s Blog takes a karmic approach to the whole thing:

GMA’s decision to pick a fight with the Lopezes to score points from the public reeling from high power rates would be popular, but for her own past sins, it calls attention to herself. Like a mirror, it reflects. Take the issue of transparency. When Malacañang seconded Winston Garcia’s call for the Meralco management to be transparent with its records and transactions, it got sneered at instead: “look who’s talking?”. Look, indeed, who’s talking? The many scandals that have become her government’s trademark are known not just for their gravity but also for the groundbreaking lessons in naked cover ups and stonewalling that followed each. When Meralco management points its finger to ERC to justify corporate practices that at first glance appear unethical and immoral saying “hey guys, it’s legal says ERC”, you are at once reminded of the legalistic barrage popularized by Malacañang mostly by the frequency of their employment: “Respect the institutions!” “Go to the courts!” When the Lopez group went after proxy votes in a manner seemingly dubious, the Palace could have raised a howl in the name of fairness and goodness but how, without calling back to memory “Hello, Garci” and all the parallel backroom operations during the heat of her own series of crises.

She’s looking at a mirror; it’s herself she sees and it is ugly. Question is: is there any chance she’ll recognize the reflection?

As for the Lopezes, what’s the stuff this family made of exactly? Thanks to this ongoing power struggle, they’re out in the open finally for all to see, while being undressed. This family had successfully parlayed its “good guy” image as a victim of “bad guy” Marcos to earn sympathy and to get into the good side of society. It paid well; the Lopezes got their business empire back free, a compensation for the wrong done to the family by a “rapacious” dictator, supposedly. But now, it’s all coming back and people want to see documents to crosscheck with their claims of grieveous wrongs and if indeed sympathies were well-placed. Because if the Lopezes were/are indeed the “good guys”, some things here are in serious disconnect. Good guys don’t get this sneaky on people and their costumers. Good guys do not behave this way!

Review Roces’s book for a more detailed look at some of these allegations. But on a minor point, I don’t know that the younger are ever better than their elders, as Ricelander suggests; often the opposite; but the real point is, at a certain point one generation can’t be -or should be- held accountable for what their kids do. Parents, I think, should always get credit for whatever good things their kids do, but the blame, if they don’t do good, should stay with the kids, who are individuals and not clones.

And Pinoy Potter’s Chronicles reproduces a effort to trace back the Arroyo-Lopez konfrontasi to the 1920’s, but the real bad blood, if any, dates back to the Macapagal administration, but politicians on all sides are more pragmatic than to bear in mind old fights; it’s the new fights that interest them.

118 comments

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    • cvj on May 29, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    Excellent and accurate observations on the Filipino middle class behavior especially this passage…

    Much as the middle and upper classes express themselves in Western terms, in their breasts beat hearts that still palpitate to traditional notions. Hence the admiration for the President’s survival instincts and cat-like-grip on power. Hence the derision that greets her critics when they fail to dislodge her (after, mind you, initiial posturing when it seems they might just pull it off!). – mlq3

    The good thing about your blog is that i actually get to meet and interact with these kind of people.

    • Edge on May 29, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    My regards for this comprehensive and decisive discourse.In acting out his ‘courageous’and vested arrogance before that meeting entailed so much meanings in asserting his stake, or rather GSIS members’ stake in the company. It seems to me, as beneficiary of GSIS and soon to be member, that his persistence was beyond the bounds of his intentions of investing GSIS money in Meralco and earning from it, when he is in the guise of promising Meralco consumers of lowering electric bills in the event that they are in control Meralco’s Board. Ironic to say, that the DOE led Energy Sector Forum (attended by Meralco, NAPOCOR, TRANSCO,Consumer groups, BIR, IPPs, distributors)ended in a deadlock, with no clear signal of arriving into a viable recourse. Giving false hopes to the public is tantamount to genocide, if only to serve ‘his’ vested interests and dictates from higher ups.
    Abolish E-VAT! Nationalize the Electric Industry!

    • vic on May 29, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    And also Modernize the Utility Facilities..Right now, between 10 PM to 7 Am the Energy Board Web site say that the kWh rate is only 2.7 cents and this time I’m doing my laundry and drying. That is with the installation of the New Smart Meter that will measure the time and the rate of Usage at the High and Low Rate..The highest Rate is 7AM and also Evening to 10 PM 9.3 cents delivered . so anything that can be postponed til “Cheap” time is a huge savings..

    • vic on May 29, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Also weekends and holidays is a “cheap” time…because most businesses, the volume users are closed..

  1. This entire “fiasco” of power rates and the political atmosphere merely highlight the very problems of the doing business in the Philippines. It shows the inability of the SEC to step in when matters of public interest are in the hands of a “private” company. Family grudges are brought out in the open that affect everyone else. Everyone who is not part of “that” society realize that only few families really control this country and not the people. I wonder what will happen next as we inch closer to 2010.

    • Jeg on May 29, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    Nationalize the Electric Industry!

    Edge, Im sure you realize that when you ‘nationalize the electric industry’ youre giving control of all of it over to you-know-who, right?

  2. what strikes me most in this corporate drama is the “intensely wince inducing” situation where a winston garcia is passing himself off as a crusading advocate for ethics and delicadeza in business and government. puhlease…

  3. EQ POLL:”Pagkaraan ng pitong taon ramdam nila ang pag asenso!” Sabi ng mga TV ads ng Gloria Arroyo administration ay ramdam na ramdam daw ang pag-asenso ng ating mga kababayan. Agree or disagree? Kayo – ramdam ba ninyo ang pag-asenso?

    Results to-date:

    OO naman! 5%

    Ano ‘yun? 9%

    Pwede iyan sa joke of the day!84%

    No comment na lang!2%

    votes cast so far:279

  4. what is it about this saying… if you’re in trouble on the domestic front, “start a war”?

    this admin has no intention of taking over MERALCO. the recent power play by arroyo stooge winston garcia is an just attempt to shift the blame to another entity for the spiraling costs of electricity. and it is meant to show the public that that her admin “is doing something” and “fighting for us” the consumers.

    whether her admin gets the MERALCO is not the point. The point is that her crooked admin is fighting the evil lopezes.

    so winston garcia “lost” on his bid for MERALCO. big deal. for the admin, it was “mission accomplished” because the public has focused their attention on the LOPEZES instead of blaming the admin for an increasingly shaky economy and rising costs of living.

    this is like the cha cha distraction. that too was a successful operation to confuse the public and allowed the CBCP admin loyalists “oppose the admin” and look good.

    she won’t stay in power, manuel. she’s going to “cash out” in 2010. she’s appointed enough people at the SC and other institutions to guarantee her freedom from accountability. and i don’t think villar and roxas will go after her family (one of them will probably even seek her admin’s support discreetly in 2010.)

  5. edit: this is like the cha cha distraction. that too was a successful operation to confuse and divert the public’s attention from GLORIAGATE while allowing CBCP loyalists to “oppose the admin” on cha cha and look good.

    • mlq3 on May 29, 2008 at 11:04 pm
      Author

    john, i’ve heard the cashing in theory, but even if that were so, then meralco’s needed. if power remains the last frontier for fabled riches -pretty quickly gained and so complicated as to be basically impregnable- then it’s all part and parcel of an effort to sink their money into an ipp-transco-etc. combine. and they’re far from achieving that yet and they’re running out of time.

    • kg on May 29, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    “and they’re far from achieving that yet and they’re running out of time.”

    let us not forget Mikey Dato and even Luli.

    somehow I think we will not just be out of the picture.

    malaki na nainvest sa kanila mga chinese: one word…

    transco

    with that they can forget nbn cybered,north rail/southrail….for now.

    • kg on May 29, 2008 at 11:55 pm

    edit:

    somehow I think we will not just be out of the picture

    to
    somehow I think they would not just be out of the picture.

  6. First, I’d like to greet you a very Happy Birthday.

    The GSIS now claims that it would lie to exhaust all venues (due process kuno) and would lodge a complaint at the SEC. We all know that Fe Barin, the wife of NAPOCOR’s Alejandro Barin is a relative of Gloria. The SEC is definitely a palace stooge.

    On shifting the blame of the skyrocketing cost of living to that of someone else, Gloria has been doing this for years. Her incompetence and greed is what got us to were we are.

  7. Edit: where we are.

    • supremo on May 30, 2008 at 1:48 am

    What is the role of Bunye in the Monetary Board in this cashing in theory?

  8. mlq3 :
    “john, i’ve heard the cashing in theory, but even if that were so, then meralco’s needed. if power remains the last frontier for fabled riches -pretty quickly gained and so complicated as to be basically impregnable- then it’s all part and parcel of an effort to sink their money into an ipp-transco-etc. combine. and they’re far from achieving that yet and they’re running out of time”.

    Select:
    1. A compromise deal with the Lopezes takes them in quietly. Winston shuts his trap.
    2. Meralco agrees to cooperate in a cartel with the “other” distributor. They will be Meralco’s friendly competitors.
    3. Government throws its weight and displaces the Lopezes.

    The drama may also have been lifted right off a “Quality-Control Testing Manual” to see how deep future regulators and investigators could actually penetrate into the company’s vaunted tight and secure systems in a worst-case scenario. I see impregnability as it refers specifically to Meralco, you may be looking at it as the industry as a whole.

    Prospective investors used to practice extreme due diligence, but this group is known for its creativity nothing surprises me. Passing this test merits their investment.

    They need all the power they could get to run the washing machines for this gi-mongous laundry job. I have also asked the same question : Can they do it in a year and a half?

  9. Is it true, what Schumey said? Then Happy Birthday!

  10. cv of winston garcia.

    http://www.philssa.org/officer-garcia.html

  11. i forgot to write. duh.

    • hawaiianguy on May 30, 2008 at 2:21 am

    “Without the Lopezes’ proxies, they would have only 33 percent [or Meralco’s total outstanding stock],” said another business ally of Garcia. “Winston has about 40 percent, including proxies. He will win.”

    That’s the long and short of it. If others use proxies, it’s illegal, but not my own proxies – so the the saying goes. Garcia is in for a long, drawn-out battle with the Lopezes.

    How long can Malacanan say, “we have nothing to do with it?”

    • hawaiianguy on May 30, 2008 at 2:35 am

    John, (re your post of May 29th, 2008 at 10:05 pm)

    All this bugaboo is meant to distract public opinion away from the other, more critical issues that pull down GMA into deeper shit.

    Question is: Why only now? They could have done it in 2001, or 2004. And Winston has been sitting in the Meralco board for so long. What the f***k did he do? He could not even straighten up GSIS, with all the stinking mess that makes its members complain about.

    Yeah, he thinks he is “malakas” (using Roces’s conceptual scheme) up there, little realizing that he is causing more trouble for everybody. In the end, it’s all the fat that he has – not muscle – that rocks the boat.

    • Nick on May 30, 2008 at 4:03 am

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY MANOLO!!!

    • Jeric on May 30, 2008 at 4:31 am

    Happy Birthday, MLQ3!

    • cvj on May 30, 2008 at 5:24 am

    Edge, Im sure you realize that when you ‘nationalize the electric industry’ youre giving control of all of it over to you-know-who, right? – Jeg

    Sad, right? What if there are really situations when nationalization is really the best alternative (for example because industry because of its structure is prone to market failures?) Just because we have a government that cannot be trusted to do right by the people, this policy option is no longer on the menu.

    My guess is that a lot of the free market fundamentalism, pro-privatization/deregulation sentiments is driven by the complete loss of faith in what government can do, so the people have no choice but to adopt an ideology where government is accorded a minimal role.

    None of our neighbors prospered without the active participation of their governments (yes, even in business). We, on the other hand, are rightly wary of putting business in the hands of our government so unlike our neighbors, we are unable to fire on all cylinders.

    • John Christian Canda on May 30, 2008 at 6:20 am

    Hindi na po mahalaga kung mananatili pa sa kamay ng pamilya López o hindi ang Meralco. Ang mahalaga ay bumaba ang singil sa kuryente.

    By the way, I strongly encourage you all to watch “Radyo Bandido sa TV” at NBN-4 every Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 p.m. to 12 midnight. Hosted by Carmen Ignacio and Johnny Midnight and Attys. Roger “Waray” Evasco and Rolando Síbal. Everybody, regardless of political affiliation, is invited to voice out their opinion.

    • kg on May 30, 2008 at 6:57 am

    happy birthday, Manolo!!!

    • leytenian on May 30, 2008 at 7:19 am

    “Mr. Garcia made a signal by pulling-out a manila envelope and flashing its content. An order that was subsequently junked by a majority of the board on the grounds that it was undated, was signed only by a SEC Officer-In-Charge, didn’t have the official seal of SEC, and doesn’t even have the necessary docket number to be considered a legal order.”

    this is too funny… and he is lawyer. he should know better. taga cebu pa naman… hay naku.. i’m embarassed being a Visayans…LOL ( i cannot be serious anymore, I still love my people. sense of humor is always in the air).

    “However, his seemingly childish outburst showed great arrogance, considering that he doesn’t own, but only represent the shares of government employees who have very little say as to where he invests their GSIS retirement money”

    unacceptable and unprofessional manner. might be the end of his career..

    • Bencard on May 30, 2008 at 9:52 am

    speaking of the “derision” that the oust-gloria mobs (of different hues and persuasions, and united only by one common obsession), are deservedly subjected to, how can one not be amused by the antics of these poor souls? the comedy is such that it isn’t even funny anymore. endlessly licking their chops in anticipation of a sumptuous banquet, these unholy crusaders get stymied again and again, not for lack of trying, but for sheer failure to capture the heart and mind of sufficient number of the population.

    i suggest several reasons for such continuing failure: (a) lack of unity, (2) lack of trust and believability, (3) lack of a better alternative,i.e., same banana, more of the same or worst, (4) failure to articulate persuasive reason why the president should not be allowed to continue in office until the end of her constitutional tenure, and (5) “edsa”- fatigue, or the general feeling of having had enough of it.

  12. Dear Manolo,

    Because time itself is like a spiral, something special happens on your birthday each year: The same energy that God invested in you at birth is present once again.

    EQ

  13. john, i’ve heard the cashing in theory, but even if that were so, then meralco’s needed. if power remains the last frontier for fabled riches -pretty quickly gained and so complicated as to be basically impregnable- then it’s all part and parcel of an effort to sink their money into an ipp-transco-etc. combine. and they’re far from achieving that yet and they’re running out of time.

    manuel, I was refering to your statement below re arroyo staying in power

    This only began to change when the President showed signs of wanting to stay in power…

    and btw, happy birthday.

    • Jeg on May 30, 2008 at 11:11 am

    Haberdey, MLQ3.

    cvj: None of our neighbors prospered without the active participation of their governments… We, on the other hand, are rightly wary of putting business in the hands of our government so unlike our neighbors, we are unable to fire on all cylinders.

    What you said is so true. We tried ubiquitous government and it failed. What we havent tried is minimal government. We are in a good position to achieve an Asian balance between market and State, what Abe Margallo called bayanihan.

    The example of our neighbors shows that a role for government is indeed an Asian thing, something we need to explore and embrace. The thing is we’re so enamored with western representative democracy and its emphasis on elections and electioneering. It might be a good idea to rethink this path and de-emphasize regular popular elections. Ive always maintained that the people’s power is not in choosing their leaders anyway; we are more likely to choose the wrong one. The power of the people is in kicking them out. Of course this idea of Asian balance isnt fully formed in my head yet. Maybe political thinkers smarter than I could give it a go.

    • BrianB on May 30, 2008 at 11:33 am

    Test

    • BrianB on May 30, 2008 at 11:38 am

    Jeq, don’t be such a libertarian. Minimal government? With all the insurgencies we have? Culturally, we need a government. A big government are better than having a “siga” in every kanto. Hm, I suppose if you were American, you’d vote Republican.

  14. But on a minor point, I don’t know that the younger are ever better than their elders, as Ricelander suggests; often the opposite; but the real point is, at a certain point one generation can’t be -or should be- held accountable for what their kids do. Parents, I think, should always get credit for whatever good things their kids do, but the blame, if they don’t do good, should stay with the kids, who are individuals and not clones.

    Haha i think I might have oversimplified the matter I wanted to convey.

    On a serious note, let us look at the implications of the discovery of present-day corporate practices prevailing in Meralco. I suppose it is safe to say, today is an improvement of the past. But if this is all one could see for improvement or progress, hey, how then were they running Meralco before, to include the pre-Martial Law years?

    Now, if we say the present is not necessarily better, and that in fact it may have all deteriorated, what an adverse
    commentary of the present-day management team? What a shame.

    See, either way, it’s unflattering.

    Thanks for the ping, btw, it spikes traffic.

    • Jeg on May 30, 2008 at 11:47 am

    Brian: Hm, I suppose if you were American, you’d vote Republican.

    Are you kidding? The Republicans are as much big government guys as the Democrats. If I were American, I wouldnt vote at all.

    A big government are better than having a “siga” in every kanto.

    Id prefer a siga in every kanto to one gigantic mega-siga with an armed force and a police force. I could deal with the siga. If we had minimal government, do you think we’d have all these insurgencies in the first place?

    • mlq3 on May 30, 2008 at 11:58 am
      Author

    many thanks for the greetings!

  15. Youth has no age. – Pablo Picasso.Happy birthday Manolo!

    Manolo is brilliant, measured, clear and thoughtful.

    His political columns are crisp and incisive.”He can say the driest, most cutting things in the quietest of tones” Charlotte Brontë.

    His sincere moderation and ability to put “steak commando”/ armchair critics in his blog in the corner lend him unmatched credibility among other political commentators in Pinoy blogsphere.

    Manolo should have his own political talk show.His talents are underutilized. His current show, THE EXPLAINER, seems to be more like a “classroom- on-air” show for students.

    I would rather watch Manolo rather than others who are just probably reading scripts written by Manolo himself.

    Manolo is top shelf,no question there.

    Great interviewer.Much more intelligible than some commentators now.

    • cvj on May 30, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    What you said is so true. We tried ubiquitous government and it failed. What we havent tried is minimal government. – Jeg

    What we haven’t tried is a government not controlled by the Oligarchs. (Marcos advertised himself as anti-Oligarch but that’s as far as it went.)

    On the desirability of a minimal government, i agree with this comment over at Dani Rodrik’s blog:

    It is important to realize that even the most minimalistic nightwatch state imaginable is already by definition the most powerful organization in its reach, with the potential to hurt freedoms in almost anyway possible. So, when one is trying to increase freedom, the first step is not to minimalize the power of the state, but to make sure the state itself is under control….

    …This seems to me the error in the ‘moral’ arguments of libertarians who claim that a smaller state means more freedom. They ignore that most freedom is derived from power over the state itself. The mere fact they can imagine ways to make the state smaller is because they can imagine influencing it. – Marius, June 21, 2007 at 06:46 AM

    rodrik.typepad.com/dani_rodriks_weblog/2007/06/markets_without.html

    Besides, if not through government, what is the alternative to coordination on a national scale? A network of NGO’s?

    The example of our neighbors shows that a role for government is indeed an Asian thing, something we need to explore and embrace. – Jeg

    By ‘Asian’, do you include India?

    Ive always maintained that the people’s power is not in choosing their leaders anyway; we are more likely to choose the wrong one. The power of the people is in kicking them out. Of course this idea of Asian balance isnt fully formed in my head yet. Maybe political thinkers smarter than I could give it a go. – Jeg

    One model to consider is South Korea’s. After twenty years of public service, they shot Park Chung Hee once he started to outlive his usefulness. That way, they got the benefits of the economic miracle without the baggage of overstaying leaders and political dynasties. Bummer for him but as they say, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

    • vic on May 30, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    Happy Bithday, Manolo and many, many more happy birthdays to come!!!

    • BrianB on May 30, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    “many thanks for the greetings!”

    Meh, I’ve stopped celebrating after I turned 25.

    • BrianB on May 30, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    “Id prefer a siga in every kanto to one gigantic mega-siga”

    I like this statement. It’s like listening to those late-night girls at 94.7.

    JEQ, the little siga is a daily, even hourly problem. The tyrant will only be a problem if you are important enough to get in his way. US republicans are libertarians. That’s what you were arguing for, right? Libertarianism, a minimalist government that will keep its hands off our taxes alone – heck there probably won’t be any taxes, just cooperatives for infrastructure (with tolls for the public) and charity.

    … and the closest we will come to a libertarian state is a Federalist state, which only minimizes the central government and ironically maximize the government as seen and felt by the people. Problem is, Filipinos are as far from Libertarianism (we’re closer in our native culture to communism) as the Vatican is to Carrie Bradshaw’s lifestyle.

    • BrianB on May 30, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    “Bummer for him but as they say, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

    Some people (Manolo, perhaps?) would argue that with that kind of culture, it would be impossible to find good leaders.

    • BrianB on May 30, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    CVJ, we are so like-minded, man!

    • BrianB on May 30, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    shouldn’t have used like-minded as adjective. Learn from my mistakes, young ‘uns.

    • cvj on May 30, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    Brianb, one way of modeling the behavior of a typical political leader is that of a drug addict turned hostage taker. I say drug addict because power has the same effects on the brain as a drug and it has been shown that Filipino leaders (except maybe for Cory) don’t have the self-discipline to resist the effects or wean themselves away from that drug. I consider them Hostage taker because as the example of Gloria has shown, a Filipino leader is willing to bring down the country [aka the the ‘hostage’] along with him/her just to hang on to power. So the question is, how do we handle these drug addicts/hostage takers?

    • UP n student on May 30, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    cvj: are you espousing the Park Chung Hee government model (Many Koreans look back with dismay at the Park Chung Hee rein —- widespread human rights abuses in South Korea during his rule; thousands arrested and imprisoned for many years merely for criticizing Park; culture of corruption; bribery was common, and often powerful figures in Park’s administration confiscated private businesses and other properties)? The Park Chung Hee government model included creation of the KCIA (Korea CIA) and big-government on steroids where Constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and the press meant little. The Park Chung Hee at his peak was a Ferdinand Marcos and his government model also included a Cha-Cha/Con-con amendment to their Constitution (with assistance of the KCIA and Park’s allies in the legislature) for extra years in power for Park.

    Or maybe “assasination” is your thing.

    ————
    cvj: I know you write with passion about it, but somehow you also leave me the impression that care less about the government model (corrupt or not, human rights abuser or not, rule-of-law/Constitutional process or not) and more about the economics that results from the 8 or 12 or 20 years reign of that government. And sometimes, I do not know if you want people to rise (rising-economic-tide to include bottom-40%) or if your passion is more in seeing some people to fall (enemies that you label “oligarchs”).

    • BrianB on May 30, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    Scape goating a leader is better than scape goating the entire race (what we’re doing now with all these anti-Filipino criticisms from the intellectuals). Agree.

    But, then again, it is in our culture to give our leaders more freedom as opposed to less freedom (Koreans). Why our democracy is failing: Filipinos do not think they have a right to take control of their lives and leave others to take charge over their fates. Every time you hear a person in power complain about complainers think about this: complaining is the first step in taking over the fate of this nation.

    • Jeg on May 30, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    cvj: What we haven’t tried is a government not controlled by the Oligarchs. (Marcos advertised himself as anti-Oligarch but that’s as far as it went.)

    True. The State is just one of the enemies of the freedom. The monopoly-seeking oligarchs are the other, and they usually get their monopoly by partnering with the government. Meralco for instance. Im all for Abe Margallo’s bayanihan partnership but how to achieve this between the government and the oligarchs is the problem. We need a lucky break to break out of the circularity: a powerful state to enforce the bayanihan and then on its own decreases its own power afterwards. But as you have argued for the corrupting influence of power, this scenario doesnt look too good.

    So, when one is trying to increase freedom, the first step is not to minimalize the power of the state, but to make sure the state itself is under control…

    Looks circular to me, too: To increase freedom, you dont minimize the power of the state but make sure the state is under control. How? By minimizing the power of the state. Maybe you can untangle the circularity of the statement by proposing a way to make sure the state is under control without minimizing its power.

    Besides, if not through government, what is the alternative to coordination on a national scale? A network of NGO’s?

    Minimal government and a network of NGO’s might work.

    By ‘Asian’, do you include India?

    Im afraid Im not too familiar with India. Is it an exception to my Asian rule?

    Brian: Problem is, Filipinos are as far from Libertarianism (we’re closer in our native culture to communism) as the Vatican is to Carrie Bradshaw’s lifestyle.

    Yes. That’s what Ive observed too. That’s why I said it’s probably an Asian thing since our neighbors have ubiquitous ‘maxi’ states. The Asian balance then is bayanihan where State and private sector are partners. But good luck with that. We’ll need it.

    The tyrant will only be a problem if you are important enough to get in his way.

    Correct me if Im wrong, Brian, but are you honestly arguing, like Socrates, for tyrants? ‘We are willing to give up our rights to move this country forward’ sort of thing? And if Im an ordinary schmoe, the tyrant will not cause me problems? I dont think that’s what you mean. (And as for US republicans being libertarians, the US libertarians will probably disagree with you.)

    • cvj on May 30, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    UPn, not sure if you are aware but eventually it was the head of the KCIA that shot Park. No, assasination is not ‘my thing’. I’m against the death penalty even for the Arroyo couple for the practical reason that it is better to study them in the lab to get an insight into their pathological mindsets. However, there is nothing to stop us from studying other countries’ experiences.

    Another model we can study is that of Malaysia where after a similar two decades of exemplary public service, Mahathir was put to pasture and has now become a fellow blogger.

    As ordinary citizens who are on the receiving end of their abuses, we should seriously think about how to manage our ‘leaders’.

    As to my preference of government models, i’ve blogged about this before:

    http://www.cvjugo.blogspot.com/2007/04/authoritarianism-what-is-it-good-for.html

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