Defanged

Alice Poon pens an essay on the Anatomy of Greed, which closes with:

Perhaps what we really need in this age of unrestrained greed is to somehow find a way to rebuilding the moral foundation in our societies, even if it means, in part, putting in place more stringent, preventive regulations. While I keep an open mind on free-market principles, I do tend to agree with Eichengreen’s point that you cannot eliminate greed as it is human nature. The answer to this problem may lie in the saying of Martin Luther King Jr.: “Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless.”

Last week in The hidden agenda, I proposed that the ruling coalition is interested in taking amending the Constitution as far as it will take them, and that furthermore, they have begun to pay off the political debts of 2007 and started investing in whatever 2010 brings, by passing a 2008 budget even more bloated by patronage than the 2007 budget was; and they are well on their way to passing the 2009 budget which will be a campaign budget, too. In They’ve never had it so good, I’d pointed to Manuel Buencamino’s satirical column which contains a basic truth: surrounding the President is a large coalition which has it good and wants to keep it that way.

My column today is Declawed but still impressive. Ellen Tordesillas in an SMS disputes my assertion that Hairy Roque jumped the gun and by so doing, tipped off the Palace:

Harry did not leak the impeachment story. Besides, there was no need or agreement to keep the plan to file a secret. Ito ang nangyari. Joey de Venecia had his own media contacts. Apparently they were told abt it. Harry and I were together whole morning friday in the court martial hearing of lt raymundo, the officer who is being detained for sharing wd other officers erap and 2004 fraud dvds.

I learned abt the impeachment when gil cabacungan and anthony taberna called harry abt it. I think they learned abt it fr joey’s camp. When I learned abt it, I called up na rin our office…

This may be so and to be sure, it’s also quite possible that Joey de Venecia did his own leaking to the press (to create his own drama). It’s equally likely that both sides did their leaking. But if you look at how the story broke -see Impeach raps set vs Arroyo, again: Complaint to be filed Saturday, Sunday, Monday– it was Hairy Roque who went on the record. So at the very least he tried to beat JDV3 to capturing prime time. To my mind the operating principle ought to have been, don’t do the Palace any favors. Even if they obviously knew when the deadline was, no sense in telegraphing moves. Keeping a discreet silence opens up opportunities for them to do something dumb.

As it was, it seems Oliver Lozano tried to mail in an impeachment complaint, but even a normally accomodating House couldn’t let that through as a way to beat the complainants to the starting line.

As it is, the House will have to go through the motions of killing the complaint, and that can open up opportunities for mischief on the part of the President’s ruling coalition. If the Palace and the House leadership can kill it quickly, it has time on its side. The energies of both the opposition and the administration are focused on passing the budget, and with it, being able to fund a campaign for amending the Constitution.

Passing the budget means the House and Senate will then be embarking on vacations due to the November holidays and then soon enough, it will be Christmas, another long break. This leaves little time or room for anything else except ensuring the Supreme Court adopts the House’s argument that the Senate has to vote jointly with it on proposed amendments -which then triggers a plebiscite next year, defusing, too, the momentum for the presidential campaign for 2010.

The game plan was there for all to see: pretending to engage the Senate in friendly talks on amendments in May; floating “consultations” and posturing over the need to “bite the bullet” in August; floating the President might get a new lease on political life in September while asserting the the effort, boosted by “consultations,” was economics-oriented and moving forward, etc., etc.

And the game plan remains, its three-pronged approach remaining the same, too:

1. Get the Supreme Court to authorize the House swamping the Senate by means of everyone from both chambers voting together;

2. Possibly sweeten the deal by having the President step down, somehow, prior to 2010 so as to avoid being too obvious a beneficiary and boost the chances of a plebiscite win;

3. If all else fails, and foreign governments are too distracted and the armed forces, no longer having the generally-respected and professional current Chief of Staff in charge (he was one of the few generals who returned the President’s proferred cash gifts), remain easy to command, then emergency rule.

The only imponderable here is whether the President’s allies consider it a safer bet to keep the President at the helm or try something riskier in these economically uncertain times. Sniffing around leads them to impeachment, of course, as the best means to change the dynamics of the game without totally wrecking the system.

Here’s where the impeachment charges could have helped but now, because of what they contain, won’t help.

You can find a summary of the charges in Ralph Guzman and Tonyo Cruz. Here is the impeachment complaint against the President of the Philippines:

Let me say that I consider the charges meritorious as they stand. However, since impeachment is primarily a political, and not a judicial, process, the impeachment complaint lacks the two charges that would have given it a fighting chance in the House.

First, taking the President to task over her handling of the BJE-MOA, although the lawyers seem to think it would be hard to do so. But charging her with irresponsibility and deceit, and in a sense, the political and diplomatic equivalent of reckless endangerment, would certainly have sparked interest with a public generally offended and alarmed by the deal. It would have put the deal’s critics in the House on the spot, including members of her coalition. The President certainly showed an awareness of how combustile things had become, at the height of public panic over the BJE-MOA.

The problem is that while public opinion was -and remains- hostile to the deal, the deal itself, in its particulars and objectives, enjoys the support of Bayan and Akbayan. So neither party, out of loyalty to their party programs, would support BJE-MOA-based charges. A large chunk of Civil Society feels the same way, that the deal itself has merit and should remain a fundamental basis for peace in Mindanao.

Adel Tamano, for his part, agrees with my point on the BJE-MOA but insists on a distinction about the President’s use of her pardoning power:

great article toay esp on the point of the moa advocates. just a slight correction though, i have been interviewed on the teehankee pardon and i have categorically condemned it. some may disagree but the pardon power was properly used in the erap case and utterly misused with teehankee.

Which brings me to what I believe should have been the second main charge in the impeachment complaint, charging the President with betraying the public trust by the manner in which she has exercised her pardoning power. Both the Warrior Lawyer and The Philippine Experience make the case for this charge.

Stripped of these two charges, the impeachment complaint remains sound but unexciting. Not in terms of people not thinking the charges are without merit, but rather, their knowing the charges don’t have a ghost of a chance in the House.

And yet from unexpected quarters comes support for the current incarnation of the charges.

Christian Monsod (skeptics will say perhaps having had a “conversion experience” of his own due to Meralco’s recent bruising battle with the government) issues an appeal not to give up on impeachment, and I must say I’m glad he said what he did.

His point of view is motivated by a desire to avoid People Power, speaking to, and for, a constituency that has begrudgingly tolerated the President not out of support for her, but fear over the institutional damage People Power might cause; but along the way he brings up some intriguing possibilities:

“For me, it’s not necessarily true that impeachment is impossible because during the time of President Estrada, all the numbers were in his favor but he was still impeached because many congressmen had a conversion experience and they voted for impeachment,” Monsod said in a radio dzMM interview.

He said that another option would be if a majority of Cabinet members would declare that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of her office, which would then allow the vice-president to take over the presidency.

Under Article VII, Section 11 of the 1987 Constitution, the vice-president could take over the presidency if the two houses of Congress, voting separately, would affirm the Cabinet’s declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of her position.

Monsod, however, said this option would be much harder than impeachment, which requires only a third of the votes in the lower house.

The former COMELEC chairman rejected calls to oust the President through another bloodless revolt, which he said could weaken the democratic institutions in the country.

“For me, we must work within the framework of the Constitution. Otherwise, it will lose its effectivity. As I said, democracy is about institution-building of the right kind of institution, but if we keep removing our presidents, and this would be the third if we do it, I believe it weakens our democracy. It does not strengthen it,” he said.

He suggests the President try feeding her husband to the dogs. Hope springs eternal.

I do happen to think that Monsod reads public opinion correctly, in that dismay over the results (not the actual removals, though) of Presidents Marcos and Estrada has cooled the ardor of many for People Power; and that the public has, for various reasons depending on the sector one belongs to, adopted a more institutional approach to things. But Monsod obviously thinks the public mood is turning sour and that sourness will once more make some sort of direct action against the President and her people a tempting option.

The cause for the curdling of public opinion? The economy, stupid.

The President loved taking credit for the economy even if some of the problems she took credit for fixing were of her own making, or some of the thing considered positive (like BPO) was more due to serendipity and entrepreneurial success than her actual leadership. But that being said, I’m skeptical of those who are already suggesting she is going to face problems if the global economic situation starts confronting us with the situation we’d all dearly never wanted to see: Filipinos overseas having to go home, and our overseas umbilical cord pumping in less financial nutrients into the body politic.

The reason can be seen in the surveys, which showed a slight improvement in the President’s unpopularity. Keeping things pretty quiet has a way of taking the edge off a not very nice present.

This craving for calm, or at least, more of the usual instead of adding to life’s uncertainties, will, for a time, actually strengthen the President’s position. The middle class, disenchanted with People Power, won’t want a taste of what’s been happening in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. The upper class will start thanking God for an armed forces and police in the President’s pocket if it starts hearing rumors of an increase in violent crimes and starving, desperate people running amok. The poor will happy, and for good reason, for anything from anyone that helps put food on the table and keep the more predatory among their peers in check. Everyone with the smallest bit of property to protect will batten down the hatches and think dark thoughts of marauding gangs of their fellow citizens.

And of course the more nakedly ambitious will want a maximum of opportunity to take the current leadership to task while minimizing the chances that they will have to -prematurely- take over the reins of government. In Demolition derby I did suggest that the clearest and most present danger to the President isn’t in terms of the opposition per se, but disgruntled former and ambitious current allies.

But as I pointed out in my column today, the bull run, so to speak, the President enjoyed in terms of e-VAT funding her patronage (remember the observations of the now laid-off, as it turns out, Bear Sterns analyst I quoted three years ago?) is over. She’d previously avoided Marcos’s cardinal error of muscling in on private enterprise; but in the end neither she nor the coalition that supports her could avoid it. Today utilities, tomorrow the world!

Even if the President’s ambitions have been limited to stepping down in 2010, proving her critics wrong, and then staying out of jail to avoid going down in history on par with Marcos and Estrada (dear old dad’s and her own nemeses, respectively), keeping things together until then requires lots of cash. And the sources of that cash show signs of drying up. But the cupidity isn’t decreasing in official circles, as the Inquirer editorial Predatory budgeting recently pointed out.

So you must muscle in and what provides your muscle is a combination of thuggery and financial wizardry: you create a Department of Energy police on one hand and start floating combining the investment funds of the GSIS and SSS on the other. This is potentially, a political bonanza while troubling to the more responsible and sober in the government (if it’s true the BIR Commissioner was ultimately eliminated because of the Finance Secretary’s ire, then DOF sends query to GFIs bodes ill for both Romulo Neri Jr. and Winston Garcia: it will be another intramural the President will have to referee; not to mention others like the DBP, said to have an exposure of $100 million to Lehman Bros. collapse).

And you hope that you can continue to wing it.

Meanwhile, see Salve Duplito’s Money Smarts blog for how OFWs are coping with the global economic crisis.

Overseas:

As the world waits to see what happens today in stock markets and the banks (so far, markets pulled back from the brink, cheered by the British and European government’s bank support plans), here’s what Nouriel Roubini had to say over the weekend:

The New Yorker publishes an eloquent editorial endorsing Obama. Meanwhile, see Chris Weigant who does the electoral math and proposes the possibility of an Obama landslide. This Electoral College graph and the Real Clear Politics electoral vote map are handy, too.

Let me close with this magnificent special commentary by the great Kieth Olbermann:

65 comments

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    • not hairy on October 13, 2008 at 11:45 pm

    Is this why Hairy Roque always loses on a technicality?

    • BrianB on October 13, 2008 at 11:58 pm

    The female anchor interviewing Roubini is quite fetching.

    • BrianB on October 14, 2008 at 12:12 am

    I should have bought gold last year when I had the opportunity. I just thank God I’m not married with children.

    • cvj on October 14, 2008 at 12:41 am

    Although it may be too early to say this, the Brits may have just saved Western Civilization for the second time. Good thing there are still grownups on the other side of the Atlantic.

    Here’s the assessment from Paul Krugman, who also happens to be this year’s winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics.

    • nash on October 14, 2008 at 12:53 am

    Brits? They magically have £500B. I wonder where a third world country got that (lahat natulala, aba, may pera para ang reyna)…but there you go…(Once they invade Iceland, they’ll have even more.)

    • supremo on October 14, 2008 at 4:38 am

    ‘some of the thing considered positive (like BPO) was more due to serendipity and entrepreneurial success than her actual leadership’

    The Philippine government borrowed a PLDT executive to promote the Philippine BPO business in the US during the early part of the decade. This guy was clueless on where to start. There were also some clueless Filipinos who came and thought that clients were waiting after they land at the airport. It took several US based Filipinos to jump start the whole thing. JAZA was a latecomer in the business. He was forced to buy into a US based BPO firm just to get traction in the BPO business.

    • hvrds on October 14, 2008 at 9:43 am

    It is the government stupid.

    Angela Merkel said recently that governments should redirect markets towards benefiting people and not destroy their life’s savings.

    Who was minding the store?
    What were they thinking?

    “Alone, American subprime mortgages should not have triggered a global crisis. Losses are smaller than they seem. Mark Zandi of Moody’s Economy.com estimates that all U.S. mortgage losses will ultimately reach $650 billion. But that hefty amount pales against the value of all financial assets — stocks, bonds, bank loans. For the United States, these totaled almost $60 trillion at the end of 2007; for the world, the comparable figure exceeded $250 trillion.”

    “Such a vast financial system should have absorbed the subprime losses without calamity. By way of contrast, the stock market’s drop since its peak in October 2007 to Friday was $8.4 trillion, or 42 percent, reports Wilshire Associates. The official response to the subprime losses also seems larger than the problem. The government has taken over mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; the Federal Reserve is pumping out short-term loans of $1 trillion or more; and Congress’s $700 billion rescue allows the Treasury Department to buy subprime securities and to make direct investments in banks.”

    “Still, the situation has not stabilized; the crisis continues. It’s as if more firefighters had arrived at a burning home and turned their hoses on the flames, but the conflagration raged anyway. What’s going on?”

    “What we’ve discovered is that the real problem is bigger. Large parts of the financial system are too thinly capitalized and too dependent on unreliable short-term debt. Leverage ratios often reached 30 to 1 for investment banks and hedge funds (that is, $30 of debt for every $1 of capital). The presumption was that the MBA types had learned how to “manage risk.” That false conceit backfired. Low capital didn’t adequately protect against losses. Confidence and trust evaporated, because no one knew which institutions held suspect securities, how much the losses were and who was ultimately safe.”

    “Deleveraging — a shift from excessive debt toward more capital — is inevitable and desirable in the long run. The trouble is that, in the short run, it could destabilize the economy if it proceeds too rapidly.” Robert J. Samuelson
    Washington Post

    • hvrds on October 14, 2008 at 10:16 am

    The link to the above quotations….

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/10/12/AR2008101201631.html

    How could you allow finance capital to use highly leveraged credit to ramp up the future prices of oil and food. That then became the basis for costing physical production to the detriment of billions of people. Then that stupid man in the DOE here says that oil prices are determined by the market.

    Try doing that here in the rice market.

    What is the rationale for this?
    Below from Forbes Online
    Government Assistance
    Bailing Out The Oil Market
    William Pentland, 09.23.08, 11:35 AM ET

    While everyone knows the U.S. government is looking to bail Wall Street banks, few people realize that it’s also bailing out speculative oil and commodities traders in the process, fueling a sharp rise in energy prices.

    Lehman Brothers and AIG held enormous trading positions in commodities markets. If those positions had been liquidated suddenly, the price of everything from wheat to oil would have collapsed. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the main regulator of U.S. commodity markets, allowed Wall Street’s investment banks and trading companies to take control of massive positions in commodities markets called swaps held by Lehman Brothers and AIG.

    The result: Oil prices spiked by a whopping $16 per barrel on Monday, the largest single-day rise in oil prices ever.

    “If speculators were forced to liquidate their positions, oil would easily be $65 to $75 per barrel by the time the liquidation was complete,” said Michael Masters, the founder of Atlanta-based hedge fund Masters Capital Management. Tuesday, oil was trading at $108.74 in midday trading in New York.

    For all the talk of OPEC, the biggest threat to high oil prices in the short term might be the implosion of Morgan Stanley or Goldman Sachs, which would trigger a massive number of low-priced oil-futures contracts to flood the market all at once in search of buyers to liquidate those contracts.

    “If either of these entities were to collapse, we believe the downside for commodities would be tremendous as these companies unwind positions,” Valerie Wood, president and owner of Energy Solutions, told Platts on Monday. “In particular, we know Goldman Sachs has large investments in crude oil and natural gas commodities because its own Goldman Sachs Commodity Index fund [comprises] about 39% crude oil commodities and about 6% natural gas commodities. A liquidation of GSCI shares would directly result in the selling of these commodities, and selling pushes prices lower.”

    Ironically, the biggest losers turned out to be the traders who bet that at least one of the victims from this month’s financial chaos would be forced to liquidate a major long position in oil prices. When they avoided that fate, the race to unwind those bets that oil prices would fall before the end of the trading month caused a massive rally in oil prices.

    The market meltdown has revealed the full extent of Wall Street’s influence on commodities prices and, especially, their role in energy markets. More than $40 billion in cash has poured into commodity markets since the start of 2008, according to a report by Standard & Poor’s. The total amount of investments in commodity indexes is estimated at between $150 billion and $270 billion. In other words, new investments in the market have climbed by 15% to 25% in less than a year.

    In 2006, the U.S. Senate’s Subcommittee for Permanent Investigations had already reported “there is substantial evidence supporting the conclusion that the large amount of speculation in the current market has significantly increased prices.” The trouble is that so much of the trading happens in so-called “dark markets,” unregulated over-the-counter electronic exchanges where trading companies buy and sell energy derivatives, that this role is hard to document.

    Investment banks make money off commodities speculation, but are just conduits for hedge funds and institutional investors that have taken large positions in commodities markets as a long-term investment.

    “The market dynamics induced more and more financial players to move into commodities markets,” said Fadel Gheit, a senior oil analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. “It was a perfect storm. The Federal Reserve was cutting interest rates and people were running away from the dollar as it lost value. Hedge funds, pension funds and mutual funds started pumping money into commodities because they were the safest place and the safest of them all was crude oil. There were too many dollars chasing too few physical assets. That’s the bottom line.”

    • manuelbuencamino on October 14, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    Manolo,

    The impeachment is about Gloria not Joey De Venecia or Harry Roque So what they did or did not do does not detract from the merits of the case.

    I read the complaint and the human rights violation part specially with the SC saying Palparan was involved in the abduction of the Manalo brothers carries some weight. So too the bribing of congressmen and local officials, the Diwalwal contract, and the Quedancor scam.

    The opposition should stop bickering about not being alerted and talking about timing. The House has passed the budget it has done its job for the year, Now is the time for the impeachment complaint to be answered line by line. Nothing is more important than determining whether or not Gloria can be trusted with the P1.4 trillion buget

    • mlq3 on October 14, 2008 at 1:45 pm
      Author

    mb, the minority has indicated it will not support impeachment.

    • manuelbuencamino on October 14, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    mlq3

    why not? Is it flawed?

    • mlq3 on October 14, 2008 at 4:12 pm
      Author

    exercise in futility i think is the reason. of course we can also assume it’s so as not to endanger their own campaign kitties come 2010.

    • Liam Tinio on October 14, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    mb, because the opposition sees that it is no longer an effective tool.. and that the ‘idea’ behind an impeachment is an already outdated measure in extracting accountability from our leaders..

    we have to be creative and come up with a new and effective way to ensure that they remain faithful and indebted to the people..

    impeachment is outdated and no longer relevant..

    • hvrds on October 14, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    Planting season for electoral positions start in earnest or already in full swing. Budget passed….

    The rush for barangay leaders have already started or may have been started.

    Coordination between local candidates and national wannabees is a tiring process right up to election day and counting.

    The one with funding for the entire period gets the prize.

    The management skills of our local politicos in this is amazing. Generations have honed the process to an art.

    This is the largest economic enterprise in the country. –
    Elections.

    • Liam Tinio on October 14, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    ^ hvrds

    if the automation pushes through,
    it would be a whole different ball game

    • mlq3 on October 14, 2008 at 4:56 pm
      Author

    liam, i’m not sure it would. it would just bring us back to the machinery methods prior to marcos. you still have to get the voters to the precinct, though you remove the accounting interventions perfected during marcos-ramos-gma by the same bunch of accounting experts.

    • cvj on October 14, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    with automation, if there’s no precinct level count, then wholesale cheating would be a lot easier.

    • vic on October 14, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    Automation, I believe would not do much to prevent Election Cheatings. who ever has the “control” of the automation can manipulate and would even make the review of the results harder.

    A total overhaul of the system and make it not “a business for Profit” would somehow gradually reform the sytem itself and then Automation will make the process quicker and easier and even cheaper in the long run…we are going to the polls today..we still vote the same way as it was 30 years ago, but with automation taking over in counting, the result will be all known before we wake up tomorrow. and what I admired most of the process is the permanent Voters List, where the list is ready within two weeks after the Election is called without the voters doing anything and if the voter name happens not to be in the list, just present a proper ID and vote…

    • supremo on October 14, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    Reintroducing bloc voting for presidential and senatorial elections may minimize the cost of election automation.

    • UP n grad on October 14, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    people who are gung-ho all-enthusiastic about manual vote-counting (the Australian paper-ballot system) should do google-search on its weaknesses especially in countries (like the US-of-A) where the operations of the voting precincts during elections are left open to volunteers (i.e. partisans versus impartial professional civil servants).

    Very simply, manual-vote-counting allows the “operators” of a voting-precinct to judge as “corrupted” (hence, not to be counted) the quality of a ballot AFTER these operators have seen the contents of said ballot.

    • vic on October 14, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    UPn I still prefer the same manual ballot voting and after the voting, automation takes over.. Just in case there is a protest after and still can not be settled by automation recount, there are still the ballots to go back to. Last Municipal election, we had a case that was eventually settled by Manual Recount, the results…the same…

    • Carl on October 14, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    cvj,
    Mssrs. Brown & Darling dispatching a bail-out package with lightning speed, while their U.S. peers Bush and Paulson can only grovel with Congress, highlights the stark differences in politics and government between the two countries, dont you think?

    Cultural differences are also on the side of Brown. Hardly anyone batted an eyelash when he announced government support for the financial system. Whereas in the U.S. public outcry against saving Wallstreet was loud enough for congressmen to waver support for the government plan. UK citizens appear to be more trusting of their government.

    • supremo on October 14, 2008 at 11:40 pm

    Carl,

    The US is a good-for-nothing country in cvj’s book.

    • Carl on October 15, 2008 at 12:01 am

    To say that including “reckless endangerment” in the impeachment complaint “would certainly have sparked interest with a public generally offended and alarmed by the (BJE) deal” beggars belief.

    How then do you explain the “increase” (negative of a negative number) in her net approval rating in that SWS survey made right after the public got wind of the deal?

    • cvj on October 15, 2008 at 12:33 am

    Carl, as Paul Krugman said in his column that i linked to above (at at 12:41 am) the Brits under Gordon Brown did provide the leadership at a crucial juncture and Europe and the USA followed.

    “…the Brown government has shown itself willing to think clearly about the financial crisis, and act quickly on its conclusions. And this combination of clarity and decisiveness hasn’t been matched by any other Western government, least of all our own.

    As Krugman explains, the Bush Admin was unable to act decisively because they were too attached to their ideology of “private [sector] good, public [sector bad]”.

    As Nash alluded to though (at 12:53 am), Iceland would have a different opinion of the Brits. I won’t be surprise if Iceland decides to host a Russian Naval Base.

    Supremo (at 11:40 pm), i don’t think the US is ‘good for nothing’. It just needs a dose of humility.

    • nash on October 15, 2008 at 2:42 am

    kasalanan lahat ito ng mga kano, bili kasi ng bili ng malalaking bahay, with gas-guzzling 4wd eh sa siyudad naman nakatira eh puro naman utang…utang…utang… 😀

    • nash on October 15, 2008 at 2:44 am

    @cvj

    unlikely, the nordic and scandic alliance will not want to have a russian base in their sphere.

    anyways, there looks like a thaw as brits might be making pautang to them and russia is puro pangako na napako.

    • hvrds on October 15, 2008 at 6:04 am

    I spoke recently to a person deeply involved in electoral systems about the upcoming 2010 elections.

    Please note that electoral offices up for grabs are local governments except barangay, provincial government, congressional, national.

    Take the number of candidates competing and look at the number of positions available and formulate an automatic system for a simple voter to make his choice with a credible and transparent audit trail.

    Case in point. Theoretically touch screen. How large a screen will you need to fit in all the names and or faces. Think of the physical infrastructure required to be in place. Punch cards. The same problem. Think of the present time frame and funding limitations of the state.

    You can talk of automation all you want. But the culture remains the same so will the machines change it?

    • hvrds on October 15, 2008 at 6:22 am

    In actual practice there are varyng degrees in the practical process of democracy. Essentially it is thorugh representative government.

    From centralized representative democracy to a broad based participatory representative democracy. Hence the selection process for representative government is somehow confused with being the actual practice of democracy. It is only a part of the process. An important part of the process. The other important part is citizen participation in the entire process.

    The problem starts when the entire idea of citizenship itself is not well founded amongst the people.

    For the vast majority of people in the Philippines where over half the labor force (considered employed) do not work for a wage and are unpaid family workers the vote has become a commodity that can be traded for economic gain not only during elections.

    The other half mostly living on a razor’s edge.

    Voter participation in poor countries during elections is always higher in poor countries than in more developed countries.

    It will be interesting to see voter turnout in the coming U.S. elections in the midst of the economic downturn. The higher the turnout the more likely there will be a new party in charge of the White House and Congress.

    • nash on October 15, 2008 at 6:52 am

    we can vote by text/sms since everyone already has a cellphone. thus it will be cheap to roll out and implement…and besides, we already know a bit about it with all these pedestrian reality shows where the winner is determined by text…

    as for the cheating, that’s another matter. you can’t stop someone who has decided to cheat…

    • mlq3 on October 15, 2008 at 7:28 am
      Author

    the survey was taken during third quarter and conducted September 24-27. by then the president had quite clearly backtracked from the bje-moa, had taken the opposite tack, there was an intervention before the supreme court and the fighting had died down.

    all very different from what would have been the publicity “gotcha, nailed ya” effects of including springing that bje-moa on a citizenry quite obviously alarmed and offended by it.

    • hvrds on October 15, 2008 at 10:19 am

    “we can vote by text/sms since everyone already has a cellphone. thus it will be cheap to roll out and implement…and besides, we already know a bit about it with all these pedestrian reality shows where the winner is determined by text…” Clueless

    Voters have to be qualified to vote in an election. Over 90% of cell phone users in the Philippines are unregistered and attempts to register prepaid cell phone users have been fought by both consumers and the telcos.

    Registered to vote and people who vote in a TV show are two universes. Are we still in grade school?

    • cvj on October 15, 2008 at 10:39 am

    With reference to the election automation topic, i’m linking this earlier discussion. I’ve concluded that the OMR technology (not the direct voting) is the optimal one provided:

    1. There is still a precinct level count witnessed by the public.
    2. The necessary modifications to the system are made to allow traceability back to the precinct level counts.

    The above two will help forestall wholesale cheating by the insiders [aka COMELEC].

    In the I.T. world, when we deploy big automated systems, it is usually advisable to still have a parallel run with the old manual system running side by side with the new automated one. As such, i think NAMFREL should reconsider its decision to drop its quick count since it’s the first time an automated system will be implemented.

    • mlwnag on October 15, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    Manual voting / counting on precinct level and submit tally sheet in *.asp via internet or email in excel spread sheets. Excel data can be extracted and summed-up using VB routines.

    • nash on October 15, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    “Registered to vote and people who vote in a TV show are two universes. Are we still in grade school?”

    It can be done as slovenia and the uk has done. In any case, they have ‘honesty systems’ in place.

    As I said, cheating is another matter. No system can foil a cheat for long.

    • mindanaoan on October 15, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    cvj, the comelec is not involved at the precinct level, so you constraints are irrelevant to your goal.

    • vic on October 15, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    Our election results are all in. It was a minority for the same Party at dissolution but with an additional 20 seats. And 2 T.V. stations declared the winner 15 minutes after the Polls Closed and before Breakfast oppositions leaders and defeated candidates all conceded and congratulated the winners…

    what now..Liberal Leader Stephan Dion maybe have to step soon as the Liberal lost a substantial seats and also in popular votes…PM Harper, although have a stronger minority mandate, be better performing well and never let the oppositions dictate the Agenda of his Government or the Party might call for Leadership review as he failed to deliver a majority in two decisive tries…But..but it will be very hard to win a majority, unless and until the Separatist Bloc Quebecois of Quebec, who only runs candidates in Quebec (second largest number of seats) becomes irrelevant, but it still getting 50% or better of the seats and the popularity votes.

    Give it another 2 years, three at most , before another election. Right now, it is expected that all parties must co-operate with the Government to tackle the current crisis that no body knew what to do as of yet.

    • supremo on October 15, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    nash,

    Text voting might be useful during the Baranggay elections. Voters with cellphones can register their phone number and vote by text during election day.

    • cvj on October 16, 2008 at 12:31 am

    Mindanaoan, by your above statement (at 8:48 pm), it seems that you have not understood the purpose of the manual (and publicly witnessed) precinct-level count (in the context of my explanation (at 10:39 am). Let me try to make what i wrote clearer:

    Step 1: Manual count at precinct level (witnessed by the public)

    …after which, ballot boxes containing election results are transported to counting centers…

    Step 2: Automated count takes place at designated COMELEC Counting Centers

    …in the event of dispute…

    Step 3: We are able to cross check the results of ‘step 1’ with results of ‘step2’.

    To repeat, the manual precinct level counts (in Step 1) serve as a cross-check to the automated count of the COMELEC (in Step 2). Without such a manual precinct level count, there is no way to verify whether the scanned results have been manufactured from thin air.

    • nash on October 16, 2008 at 4:35 am

    A simpler way is just to assemble at the town square and raise your hands and be counted (as is still done in some Swiss towns)

    This is also done in some usa primaries.

    All this ‘cross checking’ is unnecessary.

    If we could only prosecute and jail the cheaters like abalos, garci, gma…then we would not need this level of complexity. Elections are supposed to be simple straightforward affairs.

    We only have ourselves to blame.

    • cvj on October 16, 2008 at 8:47 am

    Nash, i agree that nothing beats prosecuting and jailing cheaters like abalos, garci and gma. Be that as it may, we are where we are, and since some form automation is in the cards, we have to come up with ways to prevent the future garci’s, abalos and gma from gaming the automated system. Retaining the manual precinct-levelcount is one such way i can think of.

    • nash on October 16, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    speaking of getting votes out of thin air,

    our beloved president has done it again! ako rin nagulat, aba, GMA has economic clout in the ASEAN? Feeling niya siya si Gordo Brown? or Paulson?

    “Malacañang cannot explain immediately why President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s announcement that the World Bank had committed $10 billion for a contingency fund for Southeast Asian nations against impact of a looming global recession was denied by the monetary body’s officials.”

    Nakuuuuu! Magagalit si Ma’am, sino kaya mababato niya ng cellphone?

    • mindanaoan on October 16, 2008 at 8:53 pm

    cvj, i am not against your idea of a cross-check facility. i was just commenting on the method-and-goal consistency of your suggestion. the goal you stated was forestall wholesale cheating by the comelec. but your method is focusing on the security of the vote count. my observation is, since when did the comelec cheated on the canvassing? all the reported cheating were on the tabulation!

    we always had this cross-check facility of the vote count. major parties have watchers in the canvassing and are given copies of COCs, but there were always claims of cheating, and i don’t know how the cross-checks were used to resolve those claims.

    also, to say there is no way to verify results without a manual step is ridiculous. the world is already run by automation.

    • cvj on October 16, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    mindanaoan, if there was no manual count at the precinct level, then there would be no baseline data which can be used to detect attempts by the COMELEC to tamper with the results since, in its absence, the first time the figures would be reported would be after the ballots have been scanned at the counting centers. How to tell whether the ballots that were scanned came from a genuine precinct?

    Your statement that ‘the world is already run by automation’ is too general to be useful. You have to go to the specifics of how to protect our vote. Any suggestions on how to go about doing this?

    • supremo on October 16, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    nash,

    Nagmamadaling mag-announce para sikat, mali naman pala. Para silang bata ngayon na nagtuturuan.

    • vic on October 16, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    cjv, the system of safeguarding the sanctity of ballots are already in existence in most part of other democracies, and most are open for other countries to look at.

    Last Tuesday we held our 48th elections..there are 308 seats and five time zones and as soon as all the polls closed, the last to close was B.C. within 15 minutes two T.V. networks already declared the Conservatives as the winner of the minority government. By midnight we already had an unofficial counts…Election Law are available on line, including the hierarchy and the responsibilities of each..Communication wise, the whole country now, there is available means, from tawi-tawi to appari (is this right) so why not the t.v., the radio and even the “pollsters” can declare the winners? yes the pollster were again on the money predicting the outcome of this one. a little bit off about the strong minority (number of seats) but right on on popular votes.

    • mindanaoan on October 16, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    cvj, the world is already run by automation, almost all without the manual cross-check, why would this particular automation has to have one?

    “How to tell whether the ballots that were scanned came from a genuine precinct?”

    ballot-switching? surely you can think of better ways, using technology, to prevent ballot switching, than just comparing results from a manual count.

    if you ask me, automating the transmission of result and the tabulation will already eliminate cheating, even if we still use paper ballots and canvassing by precinct. more so, if we have electronic counting. “operators” need time and opportunity to tamper with the transmission of the result. so, the keys are speed and encryption.

    • cvj on October 17, 2008 at 12:52 am

    Vic, if Abalos, Garci and Bedol were appointed to run the Canadian COMELEC, would the purely automated system still work?

    ballot-switching? surely you can think of better ways, using technology, to prevent ballot switching, than just comparing results from a manual count. – mindanaoan

    if you can think of ways of using technology to prevent ballot switching, i’d be interested to hear it.

    if you ask me, automating the transmission of result and the tabulation will already eliminate cheating, even if we still use paper ballots and canvassing by precinct. – mindanaoan

    i agree. in fact, i would have preferred a system which preserved the paper ballots canvassing at the precinct level and then automating the transmission.

    however, i think the COMELEC was influenced by the hardware vendors to adopt their equipment so now we have those Optical Mark Readers (OMR’s) and Direct Recording Equipment (DRE) . Given this reality, the best we can do is to come up with safeguards and cross checks that would complement the use of such equipment.

    more so, if we have electronic counting. “operators” need time and opportunity to tamper with the transmission of the result. so, the keys are speed and encryption. – mindanaoan

    with purely electronic counting, you lose the link to the precinct level tally so how do you detect that the results that were fed into the automated system weren’t prepared even before the election? you no longer have a paper ballot to act as an audit trail, and as a result cheating can be more efficient and undetectable.

    • nash on October 17, 2008 at 1:55 am

    aussie and uk elections still do a manual count! and it’s quite messy, they just dump the ballots on the table and count them as if playing mahjong.

    anyways, to be makulit, can we not just jail all the cheaters, it will be cheaper and easier than complicating an easy task 😀

    no technology is cheat proof…look at internet captchas….used to be one way of deterring spam, and we wondered how on earth can you possibly fool a captcha…. now someone has managed to break it.

    • nash on October 17, 2008 at 1:58 am

    @supremo

    medyo nagkamali ako, merong nga naman palang $10B pero galing sa IMF…..akala ko naman kasi from GMA’s posturing bigla nalang tayon may ganun kalaki from our tax ala USA/UK bailout…yun pala utang ulit…eh hindi ba sa utang nga ang puno’t dulo ng kalokohang ito? 😀

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