Dan Mariano writes on Bullying the business community. Even Philippine Commentary had to take exception to Rightist Poster Boy Enrile on this one. Previously, Tony Abaya said Senator Juan Ponce Enrile’s posturing in the Senate was due to his having an axe to grind with foreign businessmen over their complaints concerning smuggling in Port Irene.
The businessmen incurred the Enrile-Santiago tandem’s ire, because they dared remind the President of her previous policy of coddling them. But foreign businessmen are here only to profit, they don’t really decide the fates of regimes, because whoever is in power they will do business with. The problem, now, for the President, is that her past trump card -The Economy- is proving increasingly a weak one, because of the global situation. The President, for her part, knows as well as any Roman imperial official did in their time, that at all costs, the plebes must be provided bread and circuses. Or else.
The Business Mirror has two parallel reports: locally, Dispute over subsidies widens and regionally, Subsidies worsen food crisis .That this is a question the entire region’s wrestling with is explored Anwar’s False Promise on Fuel Prices . This report, Korea in Crisis, also provides a sobering tale (will it drive more South Koreans to come to the Philippines?).
Two views on these subsidies and policies, one from an official, the other from a citizen.
From Congressman Ruffy Biazon, on the one-time cash gift of the President to electricity consumers:Anyone who has ever spent time in the grassroots will tell you what will happen when you give dole outs in the field, especially if it involves money. Imagine dropping a piece of candy in the middle of an anthill.
From the outset, the government’s distribution plan was obviously a logistical nightmare. While indeed, government will eventually be able to had over the subsidy to the people, the cost of doing so will only highlight the inefficiency of their system and the incompetence of those who thought of it.
In order for the distribution plan to be implemented, government would have to mobilize manpower to do the distribution, secure the distributors and the money, maintain order in the distribution centers, and other measures needed to undertake such an activity. All these translate to expenditures just to carry out the plan.
Never mind if there was no other way to go about it. But as it turns out, there is another way. Common sense will tell you that the easiest way would be to turn over the subsidy to Meralco and have them deduct the amount from the next bill of the consumers. Simple as that. In the age of computerized banking and finance, it will only take minimum effort and a lot of savings to the government instead of what they are doing now.
But it turns out that the government officials handling this are not entirely ignorant to such an idea. In the provinces, where the other 2 million of the 4 million target beneficiaries are located, the government intends to implement the subsidy through the electric cooperatives, so that the subsidies will just be credited to the accounts of the consumers. No distribution centers, no lining up…
…I’m dumbfounded. While they are considering this scheme for the distribution of the subsidies in the provinces, where they will have to deal with dozens of electric cooperatives and private distribution units which service the estimated 2 million electricity consumers in the provinces, they did not think about doing the same with Meralco, the lone distributor of electricity to the estimated 2 million consumers in Metro Manila.
From , a citizen, b[email protected] on joining his mother to buy NFA rice:
When I lined up at the end of the queue, there were about 30 people before me. My mom was two persons before me, and she asked me to move behind her. But there were two persons between me and my mother, so I refused. The two women then told me to go ahead, since they were standing in for others anyway. Fine with me.
After 10 minutes, we saw several people load a tricycle, five persons each carrying five kilos of rice. Another 10 minutes, the same thing happened. My mom was surprised that “mga dayo” (those who came from much farther place) got ahead of us, who lives just across the street from where NFA rice was being sold.
We were lucky enough for the seller to sell maximum of five kilos per person; last Monday, it the limit was only two kilos.
Then we noticed that people ahead of us who got their rice were carrying their load using the same green plastic bag. We were told that the seller required every buyer to get their plastic bags from them for one peso per bag – no exemptions, even if you have a plastic bag with you. Not only it meant more non-biodegrable material to bring home, it also meant that the seller is making a profit out of those bags.
And a kilo of NFA rice costs twenty five pesos; the eighteen-peso is not available. Mom has been buying NFA rice for several weeks now, and she hasn’t bought the cheapest variety ever since.
The Mount Balatucan Monitor puts it very well:
With limited expense on power and fuel, expect government service to deteriorate. How can a government agency effectively deliver the best public service if its official expense is curtailed? Should the public endure sweatshop conditions in government offices because airconditioners are not functioning. Or field work will be hampered because government personnel cannot use their vehicle to serve far flung areas. To reflect it deeper, more money in millions are lost to corruption and other official shenanigans in the government than its actual official expense. They cut public expense but this government does not monitor or check the public money that were lost due to chronic corruption.
As economist Filomeno Sta. Ana III puts it in Populism and being Anti-Business:
The current populist rhetoric and actions are similar to those taken by Mrs. Arroyo before the 2004 elections. Recall that she reduced the Napocor tariffs and set about a spending binge for her to look handsome and secure partisan support before the elections. Which leads some to ask: Is Mrs. Arroyo setting her sights on the 2010 elections?
One adverse consequence of unsound populist measures is the aggravation of the fiscal situation. Thus, after the 2004 elections, the Philippines suffered a fiscal crisis. Government had to cut spending on health, education and infrastructure and impose higher taxes such as increasing the rate of the value-added tax from 10 percent to 12 percent.
The fiscal problem continues to haunt us. Tax effort remains low, and some taxes – those on sin products – are not adjusted to inflation. The brand of populism that Mrs. Arroyo promotes is exacerbating the problem.
Recall what I’d reported here years ago, in The President’s “sweet spot,” in 2005, which is what a Bear Sterns analyst said of the VAT: it was the source for patronage. The long and short of it, Sta. Ana argues, is that,
Arroyo’s populism is thus a disguise for her being anti-business. That this has gone berserk is likewise manifested in how her allies – the three stooges in the Senate, as my colleague Manuel Buencamino calls them – have insulted and bullied the foreign chambers of commerce.
Yes, she has her set of business cronies, but that doesn’t make her pro-business. To be pro-business is to apply the rules fairly to all businessmen, regardless of their political sentiments.
Worse, unlike Hugo Chavez who is seen as anti-business but pro-poor, Mrs. Arroyo is both anti-business and anti-poor.
Unemployment, poverty and inequality have become the trademark of her economic performance despite the growth. Even the subsidies that she is ostensibly offering to the poor are anti-poor. The subsidies do not reach those who deserve most the subsidy. Rice for the poor is scarce in Mindanao where there is a large concentration of poor, while it is abundant in Metro Manila, which has the least number of absolute poor. A power subsidy for small electricity users totaling two billion pesos will not benefit the poor either because in the first place the absolute poor have no access to electricity.
But why should we care for a leadership that is pro-business? Because being pro-business, if properly done, encourages investments and employment and is therefore good for the workers, for the unemployed, and for the poor.
While I’m often ambivalent about him, the grey eminence of the Ramos era, Jose Almonte, recently issued one of his epistles on the need to keep up the momentum for reform (as reproduced in Danton Remoto’s blog):
“Islands of Good Governance” should also seek constantly to spread their influence to neighboring provinces, cities, towns – most easily through economic complementation, economic clustering and administrative example.
So in contrast to the go-for-broke (literally) governance of the present regime, here’s splendid news: 2 governors, mayor share best practices in governance. A reform constituency coming together. According to the report, the three agree on:
[E]nsuring greater transparency and accountability in government dealings, curbing the pervasive illegal numbers game “jueteng” and illegal logging, and fighting for more local autonomy in the maintenance of law and order.
And with less than two years to go before the 2010 national elections, the three officials are now pushing for computerized elections and voters’ education.
Of their reform agenda, the third, is particularly interesting in the light of recent events. The bloated Philippine National Police bureaucracy has proven itself increasingly incapable of clamping down on crime (or extracting accountability from its own people: see Promotion of Lozada ‘kidnapper’ scored).
And crimes are getting increasingly vicious.
I first spotted the news last Tuesday afternoon on TV. Here’s the Inquirer report: Grisly end for 5 QC household members.
NGO circles received (and passed on) an email from the Association of Foundations (AF) asking for prayers for Oman Jiao and his family, and tersely detailing the murders:
At around noontime today, June 10, the house of Oman’s parents in Talayan Village, Quezon City, was robbed. Police suspect it to be the Akyat-Bahay Gang. Oman’s parents, three househelps, and Oman’s daughter, 3-year old Nina (who passed by her grandparent’s house after attending the first day of prep-school), were hogtied, and the house was torched down. Only Oman’s father survived the ordeal and is currently being treated in a hospital.
The gruesome news registered briefly (and hit “too close to home,” for some like village idiot savant), but didn’t gain the traction of say, the RCBC bank heist. Not least because the abduction of Ces Drilon swept all other news aside. The frustration of some local officials is that if they had more control over the local police, they could fight crime more effectively. A national police force is, after all, a recent innovation, dating back only to the martial law years; and as one frustrated citizen recently put it to me, “aside from ideologically-motivated crimes, if you look at all other crimes, sooner or later it brings you to the doorstep of the PNP.” Perhaps we ought to consider that the PNP (successor of the Constabulary) should once more be relegated to crimes that cross provincial boundaries, having SWAT teams, etc.
Although, as my column for today, The Rule of Glo (which took its cue from these articles: What was he thinking?!? in Uniffors, and Planting evidence remark only a joke – PDEA chief )points out, there are other problems, too.
Vergel Santos, veteran newsman and something of a walking conscience for the profession, writes up his objections to the media embargo on the story. Taking a cue from the Duke of Wellington’s famous reply to a blackmailer, Santos titles his piece Publish and be damned:
They may have all been convinced in their hearts that they were doing the right thing, but still they should be able to square it with the basic principle that governs their profession, the very reason indeed for which it exists – the people’s right to know. And if they insist on this case as a moral exception, they will be expected to judge by the same standard every comparable case that comes along.
But what exactly is that standard? So far as I can discern, it’s a variable and ineffable one, set by what feels right in one’s heart at the moment. Journalists are indeed given wide latitudes, but they still have to validate their judgments and actions against certain express rules and principles.
Obviously, a rule covering the entire profession doesn’t exist. As I see it, the problem is that when it comes to kidnappings, embargoes have been put in place more often than the public thinks, and even more often than the media (itself subject to the great shortcoming that afflicts most Philippine institutions, of having a feeble, at best, institutional memory) is aware. The best any individual outfit can do, is point out, off-the-record, that they have obliged victims’ families in this regard in the past; but neither the public or media as a collective knows this or can quantify how often, and so determine if Drilon enjoyed special treatment or not.
Here is a question that has been bothering me for some days now, ever since Driver claims military agent, not Abus seized Drilon team. And ever since Village Idiot Savant bought up The unthinkable.
If things start edging towards convincing proof that what actually took place was the abduction of Drilon by pet bandits of the AFP, then the horrifying conclusion of the whole thing will be her liquidation -as collateral damage in a botched rescue attempt by the military or the PNP. I hope my nervousness over At Midfield’s Howitzer Blasts, Tuesday “Deadline” Raise Tensions In Sulu Abduction Area are unfounded.
In the meantime, noteworthy entries on the abduction can be found in Tingog.com, and The Write Stuff and in Pedestrian Observer. Also, see earlier commentary in khanterbury tales, in AlterNation101, from Manilenyo In Davao and in notes of marichu c. lambino and Tongue In, Anew. In his blog, RG Cruz pens an eloquent, personal, tribute to her. Another one, by Muslim journalist Samira Gutoc, provides an insight into why Drilon was so often in Mindanao:
Throughout her career, I grew to respect her for her sense of commitment in good reportage. But this respect was heightened with how I saw her commitment in the coverage of under-reported stories as the peacetalks and ARMM development . Ces had covered the ARMM elections and the two peace talks spanning three decades – the government (GRP)-MNLF in the 1980s and the current GRP-MILF peace talks .
Yesterday’s Inquirer editorial, Lame-duck Congress, took the current, 14th Congress to task, and today’s Inquirer editorial, Unparliamentary?, focused on a fight within the Left in the House. What is interesting is the insight the intra-Left squabble provides, on the kind of tactical approach that would support landlord-driven opposition to the current agrarian reform program, in order to (consistently, mind you) push forward a party’s alternative proposal for collectivizing lands. As Mon Casiple suggests,
Of course, as in any contentious legislation of a divided body as the Philippine Congress, there will be compromises. However, on balance, if a measure will improve the present situation, then there is a basis for supporting such a measure.
It is in this light that the position taken by those who advocate the so-called “Genuine Agrarian Reform Program” or GARP effectively weakens the interests of the Filipino peasantry. By advocating an extremely radical proposal of giving the peasants “free land”, they seemingly represent their highest interests. However, they well know that this will not get anywhere near a majority support in a landlord-influenced Congress.
What are they then after? The only political logic is a posturing for a “revolutionary” solution to the agrarian reform issue–which is represented by the CPP agrarian revolution proposal. The problem, of course, is that the battleground here is the parliamentary arena, specifically the Philippine Congress, not the “democratic coalition government” or even the “National Democratic Front” led by the CPP. By this position, the GARP advocates try to persuade people of the necessity for their “revolutionary” solution–only attainable, by their own admission, through a protracted “people’s war.”
There is an effective collusion between the landlords and GARP advocates in blocking the extension of CARP, although they come from different motivations. The former wants to hold on to the land; the latter wants to sharpen class contradictions. The former wants to maintain an archaic, feudal and regressive social system which has consigned millions of our peasants to poverty; the latter wants to foist an unrealistic, if seductive, vision in service of a failed strategy.
Tangentially related to the above is a thought-provoking reading from F. Sionil Jose in Rizal, Ninoy and revolution:
Ninoy believed in revolution; he expounded on it before a small group he knew very well but we didn’t know to what extent he had worked to advance it. I saw glimpses of it only after he died. During all those years that he was in prison, he continued reading - but his reading now included books on philosophy and religion. And when he was released on furlough, on my second visit to the Aquino house in Times Street in Quezon City, he took me to one of the rooms where we could be alone. The house was crawling with soldiers in civilian clothes, among them the late Willie Jurado who, Ninoy said, was Marcos’ personal agent.
He assured that the room was not bugged and he said that he still believed in revolution but that we couldn’t afford a million Filipinos killed as was the case with Vietnam.
There must be a way, he said, by which violence could be minimized. A million Filipinos – that is too much. Perhaps just a few hundred will do.
I told him that once violence was unleashed there was no way it could be controlled - I was repeating the old argument that Pepe Diokno used.
Therein lies the problem with regards to social and political change: radical solutions require radical methods, and every instance of radical methods in pursuit of radical change requires unleashing more misery than previously existed under the existing, but unjust, social order.