Mindanao hitting the fan?

Goodbye and good riddance? Impossible to extend CARP, says Honasan. It might be better to start over with a new law. As it is, the news that the CARL will expire soon has been shrugged off by the public, which will make the politicos assume that the land reform constituency of the 80’s and 90’s has vanished. Anyway, the President has gone through the motions: Arroyo support for CARP extension too late, say solons. So they may just consider not passing any replacement law at all. What will people do? Protest?

Cielito Habito identifies the four areas for “asset reform”: agrarian reform for farmers, urban land reform for squatters, ancestral domain reform for indigenous peoples disadvantaged by the current land laws, and fisheries reform:

The overall report card generally showed that asset reform processes have been woefully slow, participatory and management mechanisms highly inadequate, support services deficient, and threats of reversal persistent. Taken together, our asset reform performance after 20 years of CARP, 16 years of Udha, 11 years of Ipra and 10 years of the Fisheries Code merited a rating of “poor.” Notwithstanding this, the bulk of respondents attested that their families became better off after the asset reform. All these reinforce the desirability and need to sustain our asset reform efforts, while identifying key areas for improvement to further optimize their wide positive benefits.

How’s this for insurance? Joson bill for snap polls endorsed:

The House committee version endorsed for plenary deliberations makes it possible for a virtual referendum to be held on a president’s fitness to remain in office if that president has served at least three years of his or her term.

The committee version may apply both to President Arroyo and her successors.

“The snap election will go like this,” explained Locsin: “The Constitution shall be amended to read as follows: ‘A president shall be elected for a term of six years, provided, however, in the case of the incumbent President, her term will end upon the calling of snap elections, in which she will be qualified to run for the balance of her term. So it’s like a referendum,” Locsin said.

Of course the simpler amendment would have been to restore the 4-year presidential term with one re-election, which would shorten the incumbent’s term to end in 2009. But then, I’m also very much in favor of referendums (and yes, this runs the risk for one side or the other to be disappointed at the results) because I believe that if the President had thrown herself at the mercy of the electorate, she would have had a chance to resolve all the issues against her.

Manilenyo In Davao is happy taxes have been reduced.

Solita Monsod says even if things have slowed, the present growth rates are “nothing to sneeze at,” in comparison to the Ramos years, for example. And she takes a dig at critics of the government statistics. To be sure, the economists among critics of the President haven’t been heard from, but that may simply be a function of their limited resources compared to the government (or Monsod may be right in their being selective). What I want to know, from the economists critical of the President and/or government statistics, is what they think about Monsod’s comparison. After all, one economist, Dr. Michael Alba, had pointed out that there’s a break between past and current ways of computing GDP that makes a point-by-point comparison difficult, which is what the break in the line you see below is about:

GDP.jpg

Meanwhile, Arroyo waives school uniforms to keep poor kids in school and Govt readies P500 subsidy to 4 million poor families. And this is just stupid: Lozada hits MMDA proposal on La Salle traffic. I grew up in that area and yes, La Salle, and Xavier, and ICA, all snarl traffic but the solution, if you’re going to be extreme about it, is to require schools to be located in less densely populated areas or, failing that, to intervene with gated communities to find a way to open their streets to school traffic; and failing that, to encourage the busing-in of students, but this would require local and national authorities to actually guarantee the safety of students.

A vigorous debate on education, inspired by Martin Perez on the problems of the educational system, is taking place: see Rom’s counterpoint and Philippine Commentary’s dissection of our miserable scores in maths and science.

Incidentally, the i Report Online story on the Office of the President and the Commission on Audit seems less shocking than last year’s -in fact, slightly encouraging, considering the glacial pace of change in the bureaucracy. What it does suggest, however, is the slipshod manner in which things are run.

In other news, Boracay’s biggest hotel project seen to destroy wetland. Overseas, In Malaysia, Signs of Government Reform (in his blog, Mahathir has some cranky things to say) while Thailand’s Political Tensions Continue.

I. The perils of political mobilization

The only justification for national self-government is the restoration of the dignity of the people. And this dignity will continue to elude us as abject poverty, rampant corruption, oligarchs and encomienderos remain stark realities of our society.

-Anwar Ibrahim, accepting the conferment of the rank of Knight Grand Cross of the Order by the Knights of Rizal, August 23, 1996

My column for yesterday, The victory of poverty, was inspired by this entry by Mon Casiple, and by this entry by the notorious Benign0 in FilipinoVoices.com as well as New Philippine Revolution on recent crimes. Casiple believes that the 2010 race is off to an early start, because the President’s shown signs she’s giving up on staying on in power:

This is the logical result of a perception (and a conclusion) that president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has at last relinquished her plans to extend her stay in power. No charter change, no martial law, no state of emergency–no supra-constitutional scheme to get around the severe constitutional constraint of one presidential term to end on 12 noon, June 30, 2010.

He says we’re facing the longest presidential campaign in our history, essentially two years. I’m not so sure it will be the longest. It may be more accurate to say that since long incumbencies have been rare, and that there’s a natural fatigue that sets in on the part of the public when presidents are in office for a long time, when presidents have been office for a long time, the campaign naturally gets longer. So it was that the buzz over the elections scheduled for 1941 began in 1938-39; the jockeying for the presidency was in full swing by 1971 ahead of the (as it turned out, aborted) 1973 elections; and since the present Constitution, with its fixed, six year term for the presidency, has been in place for a generation now, there’s a natural, though perhaps subconscious, impatience to kick off the campaign.

Another point: if the public wants the President to step down in 2010, they should understand this also means she will begin her political rehabilitation starting on that date. We would, in a sense, be returning to how it was from 1946 to 1965 and from 1992 to 1998: if an incumbent president stepped down gracefully, the successor would leave the predecessor unmolested, guaranteeing a tranquil retirement for himself in turn, regardless of the political rhetoric of past campaigns. This tradition was broken only twice: with the pursuit of the Marcoses and the imprisonment and trial of Estrada; the President’s pardon of Estrada can be viewed as the first step in restoring the status quo ante.

That being the case, if she steps down in 2010, the message is everything she did during her incumbency has been ratified by the people; in which case the people should leave her alone and give all her successors free rein to undertake every single policy of hers they see fit. This ought to be the true price for “I will wait ’till 2010.”

And so, basic point I was trying to make: it is not in the interest of any of the organized political groups, to really come up with anything beyond cosmetic solutions to the problem of poverty. The Catholic Church is less afraid of poverty than it is of condoms; the political parties, being top-heavy organizations, are concerned with mobilizing leaders and not followers; local and national officials, in turn, are more interested in intervening to subvert institutions than putting themselves at the mercy of independent institutions; a lucrative symbiosis has been created between candidates and the media, when it comes to mass communication with the electorate. And there is no such thing as accountability for executive officials. Give an inch, take a mile: see ‘Too much autonomy’ makes RP cities less business friendly’.

An observation I hear quite often -that nothing really works well, but somehow, things somehow function- reveals why there’s little practical incentive to get things to work properly through innovation. It’s too risky. The pragmatic bean-counters have everything reduced to a science; so why change it? After all, we essentially have a captive market, whether in terms of business or politics.

So anyone trying to take a more holistic approach or break down each of our component problems simply gets swamped by the scale and enormity of the things that need to be fixed.

Another point I (rather abruptly) made was concerning objections to product endorsements by politicians. Last Saturday, Randy David looked into this phenomenon in Politicians as product peddlers, in which he further elaborates on his theme of our ongoing Crisis of Modernity:

The secular democratic state has to create the basis of its own legitimacy and invent its own traditions in order to gain some of the aura of authority that belonged to the sovereign in the traditional world. This transition is not easy, and we find ourselves precisely in the middle of it.

The problem becomes visible as the spaces vacated by the old elite in the upper echelons of government are taken over by the celebrity icons of the voting masses. Looking at the composition of the present Senate, one cannot fail to note the growing number of crossovers from the mass media and entertainment world, clearly a result of mass media dominance in our contemporary society.

Politicians aspiring for the country’s highest office know this only too well. Indeed, the presence of Senators Mar Roxas, Loren Legarda, Panfilo Lacson, Manuel Villar and Francis Escudero on billboards and TV commercials is no more than the flip side of the presence of Lapid, Revilla and Estrada in the Senate hall. What is emerging here is the fusion of the mass media, entertainment and politics into a single horizon.

David goes on to criticize politician-endorsers:

I think of young politicians like Roxas, Legarda and Escudero as harbingers of a modern political system. It is disappointing to see them take the route of the “trapo” [traditional politico] in the age of the mass media. Their appearance on commercial billboards and TV spots as product endorsers may not come under the purview of prohibited premature campaigning. But it is hard not to see it as a cheap attempt at enhancing political visibility.

I’m not so sure this is traditional politics; that kind of politics was premised on the power of the Machine: the master -or mistress- of it being the President, who proved the limitations of mass media politics when it comes not only to soliciting, but “protecting” votes. Instead, it seems to me that these endorsements represents traditional politicians clumsily trying to adapt to the new media environment (following the lead of media creations such as de Castro and Legarda).

But unlike David, I don’t think these product endorsements are going to help anyone’s sales at all -even of the politicians trying to sell themselves to voters. It will take patently political ads to do that. But what these ads represent, to my mind, is an endorsement, not of the product by the candidate, but of the candidate by the product, or to be precise, by the manufacturers of the products being endorsed. Simply put, they’re campaign contributions.

Today’s Inquirer editorial, Circumventing the law, takes a swipe at politician-endorsers and echoes David’s point on modernity, saying that neither prohibitions of law nor tradition seems capable of stopping senators. And the editorial advises potential candidates to hold off campaigning until the formal campaign season starts. But ironically, yesterday, news like this –Lakas-CMD bares tentative senatorial line-up for 2010 – besides giving an excuse for sending the President’s acolytes on a national tour, also shows how easy it is to circumvent the limitations of the law on campaigning. Half of the ruling coalition makes a campaign announcement -and it’s carried in the news, achieving everything the party wanted.

Going back to stuart-santiago’s follow-up to my response to her initial call to boycott all politician-endorsers:

or now we would be a tiny tiny minority at best whose boycott of these politicians would hardly make a dent in the final count. but i have this romantic notion that the impossible, like EDSA, is possible. that one day, a tipping point might be reached and, as in Jose Saramago’s Seeing, the government will hold elections but nobody will come until late afternoon, and only to cast blank ballots.

Except that as the rules are, if the candidate then showed up and voted for himself, then he’d win, all other ballots being considered “spoiled.” The resounding repudiation that blank ballots represent would be lost on the candidates.

For more on politician-endorsers, see the Faily PCIJ’s Political ads up close; see also Splice and Dice’s Philippines’ TV Ads and Political Posturing (First Part) and Philippines’ TV Ads and Political Posturing (Second Part).

But that being said, this still brings us to-

II. Meralco Redux

The point I previously made about the middle class being antagonized along with big business is underlined by this entry in Zone of Solitude. See Iris Cecilia Gonzales for her account of the stockholder’s meeting. And The Meralco Fiasco in FilipinoVoices.com.

John Mangun, a big booster of the stock market, distinguishes the issues from each other in Meralco: What the issue really is:

For shareholders, the issue is clear; and the issue is not GSIS versus Lopez. It is only about having the best possible team run a profitable publicly owned company, which just happens to hold a government-regulated monopoly. However, if Meralco is now going to be operated principally in the “public interest” and not for “shareholder interest,” sell your stock as quickly as possible at any price. If any potential new management can run Meralco more effectively, efficiently and profitably, buy more shares.

Ramblings of a Mad Virus recounts what happened to a friend who bought Merlaco shares:

A friend of mine was so confident that once the Lopezes maintain their hold on power that the stock price would go up. Thinking that he is a such a genius, he buys shares a day before the board meeting. Two days later, newspapers scream the headlines that indeed the Lopez clan has kept control of the power company. But wait, it’s price is not going up! In fact it’s going down! As of this writing, my genius of a friend is losing 33k. Hahahahaha! The unforeseen event that happened? He didn’t expect that GSIS GM Winston Garcia would continue to question the credibility of the meeting and election of board of directors through legal means. He is now worried if he will dispose of it at a 10% loss or hold on till the prices go up again. Problem with holding on to it is that the last time Meralco had problems, the stock price went down from a high of 60 pesos per share to just 10 pesos. Now that’s going to be a very looooooooooong time for your money to be sleeping.

disini, as a GSIS beneficiary, takes exception to Garcia’s gambit:

The attempt (and continuing efforts at take over) negatively affects the stock price because we all know that if he succeeds, a government-run company would probably be less efficient. We don’t have to look further than NAPOCOR to see that this is almost gospel-truth.

But let’s assume the best case scenario for Mr. Garcia. Assume he succeeded in driving down Meralco’s “excessive profits” down. That would also drive the stock price further because stock prices reflect future profits. (Unless, of course, Mr. Garcia can demonstrate that lower prices will not come at the expense of profitabiilty and long-term viability.)

So, if he loses, the stock price goes down. If he wins, the price goes down. What can this mean? The only conclusion is that Mr. Garcia bought the shares with the certain outcome that the price would go down. That must have been his intention.

As a dues-paying member of the GSIS, I’d really like him to explain how this furthers the interests of GSIS members. If he wants to benefit the general public, that’s fine. But does he have to use GSIS funds and affect my future benefits? GSIS is not an agency that promotes public welfare. It’s primary purpose is to promote the welfare of its members. Somehow, this point is lost on Mr. Garcia.

The technically-inclined may be interested in Jcmiras.Net_02, who tackled whether Napocor might be overcharging its customers as well as other power-related issues. Over at The Write Stuff, the blogger looks at electricity and compares it to other utilities, such as water and phone companies. [email protected] says government should focus on quality and reliablity when it comes to providers of services, such as telecoms.

Punzi’s Corner Blog says the “presumption of regularity” attends the SEC’s intervention; Meralco has the burden of proof in this case; the case, then, may end up being a landmark one, determining the limits to the authority of the SEC in the light of recent legislation. Stella Arnaldo’s Blogspot thinks the SEC Commissioners made an artful dodge:

SO my brilliant theory is, the SEC commissioners were probably badgered by Fatty Winston into issuing the CDO (which doesn’t look beneath him with the way he arrogantly carries himself), so the commissioners, not wanting to get caught in this mess, deliberately issued an infirm document to give the Lopezes enough legroom to respond appropriately to it.

The SEC Commissioners know their place, know the law, and know their functions. These are not stupid people. They know the agency can no longer handle intra-corporate disputes, but probably not having any way out, were forced to issue a CDO anyway which everyone says is a first in Philippine SEC and corporate history. Not any other time in history, we are told, has the SEC interfered in a stockholders meeting right before said meeting was to be held.

The administration’s saber-rattling has led to gunboat diplomacy: JFC against Epira changes. The JFC is precisely the constituency the President’s been so careful to cultivate: the Marican Chamber of Commerce; the Australia-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce; the Canadian Chamber of Commerce; the European Chamber of Commerce; the Japanese Chamber of Commerce; the Korean Chamber of Commerce; and the Philippine Association of Multinational Companies. With that shot across the bow, Palace takes wait-and-see stand on EPIRA while its senatorial allies take up the slack.

This is interesting, not only because it brings in a new group, politically (foreign investors) but also suggests that they’re skeptical of the opportunities Winston Garcia’s ultimate aim -to break up the Meralco franchise area into smaller chunks- will give them. Blogger lubikra, for one, looks forward to the breaking up of the Meralco franchise area. Pinoy Observer is skeptical about anything happening, and Too Early thinks this means the public will get irritated with the government.

Ricelander’s Blog joins the ranks of those proposing taking the Bataan Nuclear Plant out of mothballs or building a new one. Pilipinas, you need to work says the government’s dirty little secret -coddling the oil companies- has been exposed by the whole brouhaha. The Red Book of Tolkienreader also advocates focusing on renewable sources of energy. But, good news! According to At Midfield, there’s oil being produced in Palawan, or soon, anyway.

It’s good to see students like student’s life trying to get a grip on the issue, too.

III. Mindanao

A talk over the weekend with my editor over at Inquirer.net helped clarify how to go about distinguishing that blog, from this one. “Why not comment on the day’s headline?” he suggested. Indeed.

And so, my Inquirer Current entry for today is Is Mindanao hitting the fan? Coming at the heels of, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff drops by for a visit even as FBI in Zambo for bomb probe. See Army Command post in Surigao del Sur bombed; 2 seriously hurt. There seems to be a lot of posturing taking place -on the part of the Americans, of our own AFP, on the part of the MILF and MNLF (see Nur Misuari moves to revive Sabah claim: the man has no love lost for Malaysia, it seems, because it allowed him to be apprehended)

On a side note, the other day’s Inquirer editorial views the Arroyo-Bush meeting in Washington as a summit of lame ducks. But perhaps both have found common cause in Mindanao? Erick San Juan suggests this may be the case:

The other day, my friend, veteran columnist, Ellen Tordesillas of Malaya, wrote in her latest article, “Mindanao Simmers Again”, the complete story on the Crisis Group report. The group is worried that Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG), tasked to specifically interdict and isolate kidnap for ransom (KFR) groups and other similar criminal syndicates operating in or near MILF communities, to cite an example the PENTAGON GANG, has been inactive. The AHJAG was reportedly created to facilitate coordination between the GRP, meaning the Philippine government and the MILF is sharing intelligence on terrorists and to avoid accidental clashes while the government forces chase them.

The group correctly analyzed that such coordination will only work if there is progress on the political front through peace negotiations and when the insurgents could find concrete benefits from their cooperation with the government.

The group seems to know “something” will really happen in Mindanao especially now that the Malaysian government withdrew its International Monitoring Team from the truce between the GRP and the MILF.

But too many cooks spoils the broth. With the entry of the U.S., Libya, Australia, etc. as mediators, the problem became international in perspective thus giving the MILF the “Status of Belligerency”.

The Crisis Group as noted by Tordesillas said that the AHJAG has been allowed to wither while the Arroyo administration is distracted by political turmoil in Manila and Washington focuses on economic and military approaches to an essentially political problem in the Philippine South.

What worries me is the finger pointing between the Philippine authorities and the MILF as to who is really behind the Zamboanga bombing. The MILF denied the allegations linking their group to the explosion. Regional PNP Chief, General Jaime Caringal blamed the MILF not only for the Andrews air base incident but also for two bombings last month in Zamboanga City.

The bomb explosion in front of the Edwin Andrews Air Base also hit the AMWSLAI Bldg. across the air base which housed the office of a US funded, Alliance for Mindanao Off-Grid Renewable Energy (AMORE).

Two people died and 22 others were wounded in the incident.

The timing of the bombing became the talk among the conspiracy theorists especially that before the occurrence, newspapers and radio reports were bombarded by travel advisories coming from the U.S., U.K. and Australian government advising their nationals not to go to Mindanao, especially Zamboanga City for an impending terrorist attack. That’s how positive they are despite that our local intelligence agencies have been vigilant enough to deter such terrorism.

The bomb went off as President GMA was on her way to Tawi-Tawi while US Ambassador Kristie Kenney was in Pagadian City.

Is the U.S. intervention in the police investigation of the bombing justifiable? If they have information on hand, they should have informed our authorities especially the NICA, or the NSC to avert such dastardly act.

Unless the Americans think our government’s one of the culprits. If one assumes there is a faction of Hawks in the cabinet, and that they prefer war to peace, and that as they have consolidated their influence in the administration, the peace or Dove faction has been edged out of influence, and if you correlate this with the deterioration in the peace negotiations, then it’s a scary development indeed.

IV. Lozada’s foray into blogging

Jun Lozada Blogs has burst upon the blogosphere. Of course the real question is who will end up with more readers, Lozada or Kitty Go with her new blog, When Chic Hits the Fan…Chic Happens. If I were a betting man, my money would be on Kitty Go. It’s a zeitgeist thing, and one might even be able to argue, she’s the real radical, because she’s less derivative.

Entries such as this one, had their original incarnations as essays for limited, then public, distribution. It is documents like this one: Ang Liga ng Pilipino: The Filipino Ideology of Nationhood, that deserve dissection and discussion. It is essentially a puree of Constantino, Jose Ma. Sison, Recto, Salvador Araneta and Rizal and a dash of Bonifacio and Mabini for flavor and respectability. Are the results palatable? At least now you have a free taste-test. Let me suggest that if you were going to try to identify what kind of political cocktail he’s trying to replicate here at home, it’s this: the People’s Republic of China, as it’s managed under the reforms of Deng.

Note that in the past I suggested that the more people are exposed to Lozada’s thoughts, the more they will come to recognize his radical tendencies. They may even detect a streak of messianism in him: some will like it, others will cringe upon seeing it.

I’ve suggested, too, that if he is a zealot, he’s a particular kind of zealot: the spurned and scorned mid-level bureaucrat-cum-fixer filled with disappointment and disgust over how he will always be a servant in the current scheme of things. Solution? Liquidate the masters, on the assumption it will be welcomed by one’s fellow servants.

This does not take into account that some servants will identify with their masters, or that master and servant can have a unified sense of purpose, or that some servants aspire to be future masters and have no interest in liquidating anyone as it upsets the social order they’ve spent a lifetime adjusting to and mastering.

And, most simply: when people take it upon themselves to start separating the sheep from the goats, others can’t help wondering whether it’s worth it to risk the wholesale slaughter that will inevitably ensue. What is the difference between culling a population for, say, oligarchs, and the liquidation of all urbanites by say, Pol Pot? Only a difference in scale, not of intent; and inevitably, “excesses” will ensue -which might lead one member of the downtrodden, as he kneels to be shot by a fellow member of the downtrodden, to ask, “who appointed you to be God?”

The use of words like “doctrina” is highly revealing: this document is the proposed sacred text for a new orthodoxy. Considering that the present is supposed to be an era that is skeptical of all orthodoxies and doctrines, is this, then, a document doomed from the start? Or by its inherent contradictions?

Take these passages:

Once victory is achieved, the first thing people will feel about the new government is uncertainty. Change will naturally make people uncertain, particularly people who used to hold a certain amount of power and enjoys the pleasure of wealth in the old establishment. The new government must immediately address these concerns or the consequences will be dire.

Fear always breaks down people into their most primal instincts — flee or fight. Those who feel threatened will always either fight the establishment or flee the country. Fighting, either in the form of resistance or rebellion, wastes time and resources better spent rebuilding and strengthening the new society. As for flight, flight of citizens translates to flight of capital and resources, capital that is valuable in acquiring the resources in rebuilding of the country. Such setbacks will only hinder the restoration and growth of the nation.

The first policy statement of any new government must therefore be dedicated in assuaging the fear of the people. They should be made to understand that they have nothing to fear, and the goal of the new government is to restore the rule of law.

But then several paragraphs down, in arguing for a more thorough-going land reform, guess who he quotes?

Land reform is also the most obvious demonstration of social egalitarianism. As Lenin noted in 1905, mere land distribution is not enough. Only those who posses the capital to till the land can do so and therefore “socialization of the land” cannot be effected without “socialization of capital.” This has been the flaw of all the land reform movements in the last hundred years. Even Marcos’s Agrarian Reform project was aimed at social emancipation rather than an economic movement of “socializing capital.”

At which point, those he was trying to reassure, by the time they read this part, would be following their capital abroad. Considering, however, that one of the benefits of putting political documents online is that the public can then weigh in and improve them, perhaps these contradictions will end up resolved. Personally, I find his ideas very interesting: his effort to reconcile private property with social engineering, his aspiring to accomplish the culling of our population without armed revolution, deserves our scrutiny (and yes, Rom, I will respond to your response, too). See The Marocharim Experiment’s Lost In Thought Reading Jun Lozada’s Blog and Pass (On) The Message:

I think that it behooves Mr. Lozada not to speak to the youth, much less to “represent” the youth. He should speak for his generation – those who are twice my age – who regard with suspicion even the most purest and the most sincere of virtues and actions.

To that generation I, a 22-year-old not-a-boy-not-yet-a-middle-aged-man-with-a-prostate-problem, pass a message: fix your mess. Take responsibility. Act with the same idealism that you expect of us. Soon, your generation will pass before the bar of history, and it is your inaction, your selfishness, and your disregard for justice, that will be the better judge of the future you have already passed on to us.

Anyway, the blog made waves from the moment Blogger’s Kapihan unveiled it; Pilipinas, Bayan Ko… appreciates the effort; as does Alleba Politics; journalists like Theanthology noticed it; and on a corollary note on the value of testimony, see The Warrior Lawyer on former Speaker de Venecia’s possible testimony:

It remains to be seem whether he will make good on his promise or if this is just another example of JDV’s penchant for clever dissembling. He explained his reticence by saying he was just recovering from the flu and his apprehension that his testimony might worsen the present food and oil crises and bring down the Arroyo government. He even said that it might prompt Malacañang to impose martial rule just to stay on power.

Congressman and presidential son Mikey Arroyo was quick to warn De Venecia that anything he says might used against him, as a willing participant and beneficiary of many questionable deals in the not-so-distant past. This might be true, but this evades the real issue.

V. Thanks

To The EQualizer Post and The Philippine Experience and Tingog.com for your kind greetings.

103 comments

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    • BrianB on June 3, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    Lokohan lang CARP. Proof ito. All middle-class land owners have been forced to divide their land. The rich? Filipinos, still indios, still slaves. Some of us feel free but Filipinos as a people are not.

    Greenhills traffic: BUS, bussing, school bussing, school bus.

    • cvj on June 3, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    I took your Monday column to be your Let’s Move On piece made in the same spirit as your preference for leaving Erap alone in Greenhills after EDSA Dos.

    • rom on June 3, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    mlq3: looking forward to it, uncle 😀

  1. “The resounding repudiation that blank ballots represent would be lost on the candidates.” – i think this is quite debatable. but how great that it can be imagined.

  2. That quote MLQ3 made from Marocharim Experiment’s blog…

    … kala ko ako lang me ganung sentiment.

    • BrianB on June 3, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    Top Ten priorities for the world according to Nobelists

    http://reason.com/news/show/126753.html

    1. micronutrients
    2. DOHA free trade solution

    • Jeg on June 3, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    Urban land reform? Seriously?

    I can see the logic of agrarian reform. Those lands are productive lands being tilled by the tenants for generations. They have earned the right to the land. But urban land? We can make a case for urban land reform in cases of absentee landowners who have left their land idle and unproductive for years and if the squatters there have added improvements like, i dont know, fruit trees and vegetable farms. But other than that…

    • cvj on June 3, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    Jeg, i think the logic of Urban Land reform is explained in Hernando de Soto’s The Mystery of Capital (although he doesn’t call it that). Singapore is a successful example with its Housing Development Board (HDB) Apartments (ala Imelda’s BLISS) where 85% of the locals live.

    • UP n student on June 3, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    Is “urban land reform” gobblegook for “squatters right” where people with Torrens title to a piece of land (or even a house) suddenly lose their rights when squatters move in because the property was vacant for a month or even a year or two?

    BLISS to me is low-cost government-subsidized housing and quite a big difference from squatters rights.

    • rego on June 3, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    No more CARP? I dont undertstand this. Does this mean landowners dont have to worry aboout land reform anymore?

    • UP n student on June 3, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    to BrianB: that article also had the issues-ranking from the youth point-of-view. And I find it very interesting that while that adults (the PhD economists of that forum) ranked EDUCATION (lowering the price of schooling; increasing girls’ schooling) and support for women’s reproductive roles in the top 10, neither these issues were top-10 concern ofm the Youth.

    Health is the theme of the top10 issues for the Youth (immunization, Vitamin A/zinc fortification, tuberculosis treatment, public sanitation and HIV/AIDS), not pushing for better access to education (lowering the price of schooling, increasing girls’ education).

    • cvj on June 3, 2008 at 8:34 pm

    UPn (at 8:05 pm), it’s all in the packaging. The end result is the same, property rights for the masses.

    • UP n student on June 3, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    rego: Another interesting question is… when will those who are interested in large-scale farming be allowed to acquire larger chunks of agricultural land?

    • UP n student on June 3, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    cvj: I totally disagree. A squatter moving into my parents vacant-land investment property in Las Pinas, then getting the blessing of cvj for squatters to evict my parents…….. way different from that squatter having ownership to a unit in a BLISS-project that the government funded by raising taxes on OFW income.

    • jakcast on June 3, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    I am not anti-poor, but reality is, there are what are called ‘professional squatters.” The Lina law gave these people unfair legal protection.

    • cvj on June 3, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    UPn (at 8:41 pm), as per the Singapore model, the right to property is not absolute. The Singapore Land Acquisition Act gives the government the right to acquire private property for housing.

    http://www.sla.gov.sg/what_we_do/what_we_do_land_acquisition.html

    Over here, the interest of the community takes precedence over the rights of the individual. That’s part of the rights and freedoms the Singaporeans have given up to move their country forward.

    • UP n student on June 3, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    cvj: You glossed over a few key words about the Singapore Land Acquisition Act: …that compensation is appropriately assessed and promptly disbursed to landowners.

    Only AFTER Singapore buys the property does Singapore begin implementing the housing- (or hospital-) project to build on the property.

    • UP n student on June 3, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    As for where Pinas can get funds for urban land reform (or to build more elementary schools)…..

    Is it really true that Imelda Marcos dividend income of USD$200,000 (on the Swiss accounts) or that an Arroyo- or Panfilo Lacson California-real-estate-gain of USD$350,000 generate zero to Pinas tax coffers?

    Contrast that to where a Makati or Davao City employee pays tax along the lines of:
    tax = P8,500+ 20% of the excess over P70,000;

    This actually means tax on OFW-income… but why not amend the Pinas tax code so that salaries/ wages/dividends/investment-gains earned overseas is taxed, say, at:
    –ZERO pesos for income/invesmtnt-gains under P500,000;
    — 2% of the excess over P500,000;
    — P30,000 + 3% of excess over P2,000,000;
    — P60,000 + 5% of excess over P4,000,000;

    • cvj on June 3, 2008 at 11:20 pm

    UPn (at 9:41 pm), that goes without saying. As with agrarian land reform, the property owners who are subject to Urban Land Reform must, of course, be justly compensated. And for sure, the Singapore government, being a benevolent dictatorship, is likewise benevolent in their compensation scheme.

    • UP n student on June 3, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    cvj: Does Singapore tax the income/ financial-gains that their citizens earn overseas? So what do you think of Pinas imposing taxes on overseas wages/salaries/ dividends/real-estate and other financial transactions?

    Bencard or Abe Margallo can affirm, but I think the US taxes income earned by its citizens overseas (but with a higher “exemption-amount”).

    • cvj on June 4, 2008 at 12:18 am

    UPn, i think that would depend on whether Singapore has a Tax Treaty with the country where the Singapore citizen is working. If there is such a treaty, then the answer is no. There usually is. (I think you can google double taxation and tax treaty.)

    As for taxing OFWs, if it means paying income taxes twice (both to Singapore and the Philippines), then that would fall under double taxation which constitutes a restriction to free trade (in labor). However, if the Philippine government can arrive at a Tax Treaty with the Singapore government such that income taxes are remitted to the Philippines, then that idea is worth a look.

    • Bencard on June 4, 2008 at 12:30 am

    upn, i don’t specialize in u.s. taxation but it seems to me that there is an exclusion (up to $80,000) on foreign earned income of qualified u.s. citizens/residents. In lieu of that, there is a foreign tax credit which allow taxes paid to foreign government to be deducted in the itemized deduction schedule.

    • David on June 4, 2008 at 12:59 am

    UP n student, AFAIK, the Philippine tax code makes a distinction: (1) between income earned from sources within the Philippines and income earned from sources not within the Philippines; and (2) between residents and nonresidents.

    As a general principle, a nonresident citizen is taxable only on income derived from sources within the Philippines. Moreover, an overseas contract worker is likewise taxable only on income derived from sources within the Philippines.

    On the other hand, resident citizens (e.g. Imelda, Arroyo and Lacson) are taxable on all income derived from sources within and without, but are allowed either a deduction or a credit for taxes paid to any foreign country. The question is: do these individuals declare these income?

    • TheColdKing on June 4, 2008 at 1:48 am

    Dude, where’s my CARP?

    • Bencard on June 4, 2008 at 2:26 am

    again, speaking of lozada, whatever happened to mar roxas’ ‘project’, verbally launched at the senate floor with all the drama that could be squeezed out of it, to subject lozada and other “witnesses” to polygraph test in connection with their ‘testimonies’?

    it is obvious that the guy is seeking extension of his 10–minute of “fame” (or notoriety)through blogging. concoctions of “motherhood” verbosities, unoriginal truisms, and disgruntled rhetorics will not do it. just another flotsam in cyberspace.

    • UP n student on June 4, 2008 at 2:31 am

    David and Bencard:

    That’s what I was getting at — fairness to me is where OCW’s are taxed like resident citizens are taxed (but where you use a lower marginal tax-rate and you give OCW’s a huge allowance (I thought half-mil peso allowance is large enough) and taxes paid to a foreign country should be non-taxable by Pinas). I am amused to witness a Doc Bautista who professes sweet-love for Pinas (sweet enough to want to earn Senator-salary) yet him be unwilling to pay Pinas taxes on his $60,000 😉 a-year salary from his medical practice. But nothing illegal, so no harm no foul. On the other hand, Pinas taxes on Doc Bautista’s medical-practice income may be annoying enough that Doc gets to decide more quickly if he wants to be a US citizen after all.

    • Bencard on June 4, 2008 at 2:44 am

    does “urban land reform” allow sale or transfer of the property given to “squatters”? in a place where they sell blood and body parts (vital organs) for temporary monetary gain, circumvention of the rules is a cinch. the government should have a permanent priority lien on the proceeds of any such transfer, and the buyer should have the first responsibility to clear it with the government before or during such transfer.

    • leytenian on June 4, 2008 at 7:41 am

    UPn student:
    “This actually means tax on OFW-income… but why not amend the Pinas tax code so that salaries/ wages/dividends/investment-gains earned overseas is taxed, say, at:
    –ZERO pesos for income/invesmtnt-gains under P500,000;
    — 2% of the excess over P500,000;
    — P30,000 + 3% of excess over P2,000,000;
    — P60,000 + 5% of excess over P4,000,000;”

    OFW’s income derived from overseas employment therefore only the country who provides the employment is the only legal country who can impose taxation. however OFW pays balikbayan tax of 1500 pesos(?)everytime they leave the country from a visit.
    I’d rather give my money to my mother than to Philippine IRS. LOL..

    • leytenian on June 4, 2008 at 7:49 am

    David:
    “The question is: do these individuals declare these income”

    they should because they’re residence and income are derived fromthe Philippines but trust me, these people are green card holders. i’m sure they are taxed under US taxation law.

    • leytenian on June 4, 2008 at 7:58 am

    about squatter: to get rid of them is to give them employment away from that land. Giving the land to them may not be a good idea because it will attract more squatters.

    • cvj on June 4, 2008 at 8:17 am

    Bencard (at at 2:44 am), good point. Here in Singapore, there are restrictions to the sale (or even lease) of government housing (HDB’s) by its beneficiary-occupants. If i heard correctly, it used to be 10 years upon receipt, now it’s down to five years (or something along those lines).

    • BrianB on June 4, 2008 at 8:18 am

    “No more CARP? I dont undertstand this. Does this mean landowners dont have to worry aboout land reform anymore?”

    It’s classic dilatory lawyering since CARP was promulgated. Even the intellectuals have been in on the charade. Tsk.

    I think the Ph. Ds are thinking that good education is underpinned by micronutrients. Lots of hungry kids going to school, trouble concentrating.

    It’s a good plan, along with the DOHA Declaration, and doable. World politics, thought, is like Philippine politics. Powerful individuals do not feel accountable. Their “local boundaries” immunize them from the rest of the world and still they are able to make decisions that affect all of us… just like these political families

    • BrianB on June 4, 2008 at 8:19 am

    sorry, 2nd para for UP n

  3. I am not anti-poor, but reality is, there are what are called ‘professional squatters.” The Lina law gave these people unfair legal protection.

    There are professional squatters as there are syndicates that make money from out of squatting.

    They spread the news that big piece of land is available for squatting. Most of the time, they provide the makeshift materials for a small house that they can put up overnight.

    So when you wake up one morning, the land that used to be vacant in the previous night is now occupied not by one or two houses but a community. Most of these squatters have already acquired land titles from another part of the city or municipalty.

    So who’s living in their houses? They rented them out. Some of them have houses outside Metro Manila and those houses become their temporary “hotel” when they’re working in the city.

    Who manages the squatter community? Some enterprising guys who charge them for daily ration of water, illegal electrical connections and some fee for legal assistance.
    They hire high powered attorneys who have clout in the local government, pay some “demonstrators” and work for the issuance of land titles.

    Ibang squatters naman ay thru invitation of the local officials before election.

    Lahat masaya. Yong ibang mga land title holders nandito na sa States. Pinauupahan na lang nila ang nakuha nilang lupa na galing sa pagiisquat nila.

    • baycas on June 4, 2008 at 9:24 am

    “Ramdam ang Kaunlaran”

    gloria’s latest posters strewn in the metro. feel it.

    • cvj on June 4, 2008 at 9:25 am

    about squatter: to get rid of them is to give them employment away from that land. Giving the land to them may not be a good idea because it will attract more squatters. – Leytenian

    You know, that’s what i’ve been saying all along with reference to the Oligarchs. With your permission, let me paraphrase:

    …to get rid of [the Oligarchs] is to give them employment away from land. Leaving the Land with the Oligarchs is not a good idea because it just encourages more rent-seeking.

    Our more successful neighbors compelled their Oligarchs to move away from land as sources of income. They had to produce something useful.

    As to the prevailing Middle class mindset towards the squatter, it has got to change. In the ‘HundredYearsHence’ blog of Urbano de la Cruz, he quoted Megacities expert Janice Perlman who said:

    “…the people who come to the city [and live in squatter developments] are the cream of the crop with the highest ambitions and aspirations…” – Janice Perlman

    http://www.hundredyearshence.blogspot.com/2007/11/something-to-think-about.html#links

    Squatters are no different from OFWs in terms of drive to seek a better life. OFW’s are largely a success in our guest countries because having a place to stay is not an issue. Urban Land Reform is a way to help the squatters realize their potential to contribute to our Society.

    • leytenian on June 4, 2008 at 9:30 am

    about squatters,let’s see if we can find a more solid solution. let’s look on population stat, area ( meters or hectares) and location of this squatters. FYI: we don’t have squatters in the province. people still live on trees… LOL.

    let’s assume one is a senator in that particular location. Given all the datas, one can conlude that the majority can be utilized for manual labor, right? making sure no child labor will be calculated to labor force.

    given the data and their ability to function, what kind of employment their senator can offer for this people that will motivate them to move? what kind of infrastructure must replaced the squatters land? is the land zone for commercial, residential or agricultural?

    manual labor… what are projects or investments that will allow them to become productive?
    here are my thoughts on this:
    1.international: propose a contract/project to provide manual labor force to any brand name products: ex, nike shoes, adidas, and many more .anything about manual labor. a new land for this manufacturing plant must be ready including area to where these people will live.

    2.domestic: propose a project/contract to our local businesses such as t-shirts, weaving, puka shell making and any other types of manuallabor and sell these damn thing globally.
    3. Prominent universities can allow their students to do some kind of study… just do something about it.
    4. to prevent the owner or landlord to collect rent and attract another group of squatters , the government can exercise its power of eminent domain ( do we have that?)
    Or assess the value of the land according to government’s appraisal. am sure it will be cheap… the government can then buy back and convert this land to its highest and best use ( commercial or another entities that will provide professional employment).

    anyway.. just a thought…

    • leytenian on June 4, 2008 at 9:35 am

    hi cvg,

    medyo late ang reply. i posted my thought already… regarding the oligarch…let’s look them up on city record and let’s attack.. LOL

    • leytenian on June 4, 2008 at 9:46 am

    did the urban land reform works or already been implemented. what is the result? where would the extra population go? in my understanding of squatters: one person in every per square meter? or maybe more… but basing from dolphy’s ” da riles something TV show” it’s very tight. over populated..

    • cvj on June 4, 2008 at 9:48 am

    what kind of infrastructure must replaced the squatters land? is the land zone for commercial, residential or agricultural? – Leytenian

    In the link that i provided above, Mega Cities expert Janice Perlman advocates the opposite. Instead of replacing the squatters’ land…

    Perlman advocates integrating squatter developments into the surrounding neighborhoods. Rather than demolishing these self-made communities, she recommends connecting them to the city’s infrastructure by incorporating paved streets, steps, plazas and new facades as well as offering services such as clean water, sewage connections and electricity. If visually they’re more like the surrounding neighborhoods, these needy areas will be more likely to interact with the middle class nearby

    Let’s stop shooing them away.

    I do think that the make work ideas you enumerate are worth looking into. One other form of manual labor that the squatters can participate in is in building their own house. The government (or NGO’s) can also provide training in services such as care giving, data encoding, clerical, call center and computer programming services.

    • Jeg on June 4, 2008 at 9:51 am

    as per the Singapore model, the right to property is not absolute.

    Neither is it here in the Philippines. The State can invoke eminent domain. Anyway, before we can tackle urban land reform, we need agrarian reform first and foremost. Increasing the purchasing power of the agri sector will ‘trickle up’ (sorry, Newton) even to the urban poor. We do agri reform first, then the state might not need to buy up private land anymore. The urban poor can buy their own land through Pag-Ibig and all that.

    • cvj on June 4, 2008 at 9:55 am

    did the urban land reform works or already been implemented. what is the result? – leytenian

    Here in Singapore, it was a success.

    regarding the oligarch…let’s look them up on city record and let’s attack.. LOL – leytenian

    They can be looked up in the Society pages and magazines as well as in Brian Gorrell’s and Kitty Go’s blogs.

    • cvj on June 4, 2008 at 9:57 am

    Jeg (at 9:51 am), not sure about Philippine Laws but in Singapore, the government can invoke eminent domain for the purpose of Public Housing as well.

    • leytenian on June 4, 2008 at 10:13 am

    CVG,
    on your reply:” June 4th, 2008 at 9:48 am ”

    any jobs for these people will work and making sure that these new jobs will motivate them to move. then janice pearlman’s idea will be easily implemented.

    • UP n student on June 4, 2008 at 10:14 am

    cvj: You are nuts sometimes in the way you write your sentences.

    OFW’s are largely a success in the countries that they becomes guests of because they — the OFW’s — were pre-selected and vetted. Not only are the OFW’s ambitious and daring, they — the OFW’s — have skills and have been matched to jobs so the OFW’s earn the money with which they can pay for the place that they stay in.

    Now it will be superbly excellent if those who migrate to urban areas already had a job waiting for them, but life can be cruel. So yes, the STATE should provide them help (including BLISS-housing). And if the STATE has enough money to give streetsweeping or other jobs to these migrants into the city, then so be it, spend the tax-money, then (if the voters agree to such generosity).

    But “no” to illegality. If some homeless from Mindoro moves in uninvited onto Quezon-City property owned by Cath Cath, then the STATE should help Cath Cath even if she is now a US resident. When some couple from Pampanga moves in uninvited onto a house along the Pasig River that they have no property-rights to, surely you’ll agree that particular squatter-couple should be ousted expeditiously.

    • UP n student on June 4, 2008 at 10:16 am

    Or maybe you don’t agree, and you are a supra-liberal with other people’s property.

    • cvj on June 4, 2008 at 10:26 am

    Anyway, before we can tackle urban land reform, we need agrarian reform first and foremost. Increasing the purchasing power of the agri sector will ‘trickle up’ (sorry, Newton) even to the urban poor. We do agri reform first, then the state might not need to buy up private land anymore. – Jeg

    Where that the prevailing attitude. Sad to say, i think the typical middle class mindset is similar to that of the person i recently talked to…

    Over dinner conversation, the topic of the rice crisis was brought up. The person i was discussing with recommended that the urban poor go back to their respective provinces to plant crops. When i said that they would likely have no land of their own to plant on, he cited the example of a person, back in the days of Marcos, who was given an award by Imelda, for being able to grow crops on top of a couple of bancas tied together to form a platform. I suppose the moral of the story that he was trying to convey was that no land was needed.

    • leytenian on June 4, 2008 at 10:56 am

    “Perlman advocates integrating squatter developments into the surrounding neighborhoods. Rather than demolishing these self-made communities, she recommends connecting them to the city’s infrastructure by incorporating paved streets, steps, plazas and new facades as well as offering services such as clean water, sewage connections and electricity”

    sounds like a very short term solution. my thought is: instead of facades, convert this land according to its highest and best use for long term solution like build a new housing subdivision for the incoming middle class, or a new city center or a new commercial area.

    i don’t favor much on subsidies to give poor people housing for free… this is too expensive.it’s like sending my 3 nieces to college.( trust me it’s painful) if the squatters have not died of hunger then they are capable of doing and living. meaning they will accept all kinds of employment just to live. our politicians must teach them how to fish by showing them “where” to fish…”Where” is another location for employment. This will be beneficial for manila residents not to further the overcrowding. i think for me, this is my long term approach to the problem… a thorough study, calculations, business planning and government actions to start its marketing campaign( undisclosed to public) must be the first step to the process of implementation.

    • leytenian on June 4, 2008 at 10:59 am

    “Perlman advocates integrating squatter developments into the surrounding neighborhoods. Rather than demolishing these self-made communities, she recommends connecting them to the city’s infrastructure by incorporating paved streets, steps, plazas and new facades as well as offering services such as clean water, sewage connections and electricity”

    sounds like a very short term solution. my thought is: instead of facades, convert this land according to its highest and best use for long term solution like build a new housing subdivision for the incoming middle class, or a new city center or a new commercial area.

    i don’t favor much on subsidies to give poor people housing for free… this is too expensive. if the squatters have not died of hunger then they are capable of doing and living. meaning they will accept all kinds of employment just to live. our politicians must teach them how to fish by showing them “where” to fish…”Where” is another location for employment. This will be beneficial for manila residents not to further the overcrowding. a thorough study, calculations, business planning and government actions to start its marketing campaign( undisclosed to public) must be the first step to implement the process.

    • cvj on June 4, 2008 at 11:01 am

    UPn (10:14 am), let’s not get bogged down in a chicken and egg argument. The United States recognizes that its success is in no small part due to the drive of its immigrants. Perlman’s message (which i agree with) is that the urban poor have a similar drive and potential which is largely untapped.

    I think we are in agreement that OFW’s are successful because our drive is matched by available opportunity and underlying support infrastructure (e.g. a place to stay). We also agree that the difference in the case of the Urban Poor is that, unlike in the case of OFW’s, the job opportunities and the underlying infrastructure for them to perform are not there.

    Given this situation, you may be content to say ‘life can be cruel’ and leave it at that, but that doesn’t take away the fact that the capabilities of the urban poor are largely untapped resulting in a net loss to Society. So instead of dismissing the issue with a typically snobbish remark, it is in the interest of Society to find ways to (1) provide job opportunities and (2)the necessary infrastructure which necessarily includes housing and utility services.

    ‘Legality’ is a secondary issue in that if the obstacle to the above is because of imbalances in property ownership, then it is in the interest of the State to amend the law accordingly to correct such imbalance. The Singapore Government Land Acquisition Act was structured in a way that confers it eminent domain for the purpose of Public Housing. I see no reason why we should not do the same. As i mentioned above, of course, this is without prejudice to just compensation.

    BTW, if you have some friends in the MILF, maybe you should exchange notes as it sounds that you share similar concerns.

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