Marching orders

Update (3:18 p.m.): Preemptive, Calibrated Response declared unconstitutional.

Yesterday, the President apparently held a command conference of sorts to look into the progress of the Charter change campaign. Apparently, according to scuttlebutt, she gave everyone a tongue-lashing, frustrated by what she is said to have described as the lack of progress of the people’s initiative, which isn’t gathering enough momentum. She was said to have been quite irked by the manner in which opposition to the initiative has been reported and more importantly, manifested.

No coincidence that yesterday, too, began a tremendous (and quite obviously, hugely expensive) “information” campaign on all media: television, radio, the broadsheets and in the tabloids, to push forward the administration arguments. The President is said to be quite adamant that the Senate be painted as the enemy. And destroyed. Billy Esposo explains why the Philippine Information Agency seems the wrong agency to mount such a drive.

The timeline seems endangered: Palace functionaries are said to be nervous because the maximum deadline for achieving Charter change is September (see how much time’s been wasted in this timeline). By October-November, all the political parties, including the administration coalition, will have to form and begin campaigning for their senatorial and congressional candidates, with elections scheduled in May of next year. Privately-commissioned surveys, on which the political strategists of all sides are heavily dependent, indicate that the administration won’t be able to elect any senators, and congressmen throughout the country, starting with the Speaker, are anxious over challenges being mounted even in previously “safe” districts.

The Speaker himself has tried to revive the Constituent Assembly solution, and party operatives are abuzz over what has become a three-track strategy:

1. People’s initiative calling for a shift to unicameralism, resulting in a referendum
2. People’s initiative calling for Congress to convene as a Constituent Assembly, propose amendments, and then call for a referendum
3. The House and the Senate to pass a “bullet amendment” calling for the immediate shift to a unicameral parliament, resulting in a referendum (the “bullet amendment” idea was borrowed from certain opposition quarters that wanted to propose cutting short the terms of the president and vice-president, thus paving the way for presidential elections in 2007).

The Speaker, formerly marginalized by the people’s initiative steamroller, can now say, seeing it’s getting bogged down, that signatures already gathered can be recycled with a new objective: to force the Senate’s hand, instead of bypassing Congress altogether. A Constituent Assembly is ultimately more manageable, politically, rather than putting out fires throughout the length and breadth of the country.

With these marching orders from the President, no wonder that the Manila Standard-Today goes great guns for unicameralism: Unicameral shift to save P250b annually is an example.

Would unicameralism save us money? One one point, as this article says, definitely: no more rentals for a Senate that should have moved its premises to Quezon City a long time ago. But otherwise?

If we take the computation of the probable seats in a unicameral parliament made by Winnie Monsod, that’s 400+ seats with pork barrel for each; there are allowances; would MP’s holding cabinet portfolios give up double salaries? I doubt it. if we add the current pork barrel of the President (which she would retain, and after her, devolve to the Prime Minister, or be split between them), including the following: the Intelligence Fund, the Social Fund, and unfettered access to the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes and the PAGCOR: I don’t see where savings would come from. What’s more probable is that if the Senate spends 250 billion annually, that amount will be carved up by the members of parliament. Anyway, this is one question that deserves some serious number-crunching.

In other news…

The Inquirer says Lifting of VAT on oil mulled: Plan draws bipartisan support in House but the Manila Times says Ermita, Finance trash Defensor’s RVAT idea. The Inquirer editorial supports lowering VAT on gas and says alternative energy sources besides ethanol need to be explored, too -and goads the Senate committee on energy to speed up deliberations on the ethanol bill sent by the House to the Senate last November.

Funny, ha-ha: Impersonator sends cops scurrying after “Gringo
Not funny: Armed Forces braces for another overthrow attempt set May 1

In the punditocracy, Bel Cunanan quotes the Sigaw ng Bayan people as claiming their website has received nine million hits since it was launched three weeks ago. Truly, as both Sigaw and Cunanan say, a phenomenal number, amounting to “almost 20 percent of the total number of registered voters.”

So for the more technologically-savvy out there, how can the media and the public verify such claims? Is there an objective way of doing so? Because I’m curious:

1. Are there 20 million Filipinos online as Cunanan suggests? Or is the figure misleading?
2. Can the claim of 9 million hits (unique?) within three weeks be verified? If so, how? If not, why not?
3. Does their error message -“Due to the huge volume of visitors, this site has exceeded its bandwidth limit and is temporarily shut down. To the Administrator, please contact service provider. Thank you.”- look and read like a genuine bandwidth exceeded message? Or could it be a propaganda trick? Here’s a screenshot:


Two op-ed pieces focus on development outside Metro Manila. Juan Mercado spotlights the water problems of Cebu City exacerbated by difficulties faced by potential investors in water projects; John Mangun looks at the disparity in the prices of basic commodities in and outside Metro Manila, which he says is due to a dependence on importation (which requires fuel for transportation and storage) to the metropolis:

In fact, the Philippines has two economies: that of the National Capital Region and everywhere else.

The NCR is oil dependant for transportation to get around the NCR and to bring goods to us in the Greater Metro Manila region.

Outside of this area, the fuel component of prices is much less for the goods that people need. We in the NCR pay a much higher price for vegetable and fruits than elsewhere. In fact, we pay double the price for tomatoes in Manila than in Dipolog. Outside of the NCR, fish is one-third to one-quarter of our palengke price. Premium rice is as much as 20 percent cheaper.

The 75 percent of the Filipinos who live outside NCR have not been affected as much by the effect of higher crude oil.

We, who inhabit the area, may be feeling the pinch of higher oil prices. However, the overall effect is reduced by the massive influx of new earnings primarily due to the 100,000 or so employees in the growing BPO business. The multiplier effect of all those call-center and transcription jobs is immense and notable.

Makati and Eastwood are now 24/7 areas with a tremendous amount of money flowing where it never existed before. High oil prices? It is not even part of the economic equation when you consider all the new jobs created in the last couple of years. If there are 50,000 new BPO employees in Makati since 2002, there are probably another 25,000 new jobs just to support those employees with food, transportation and other services.

The greater potential of negative impact as oil pushes higher is with the government’s budget deficit and debt serving programs. As oil goes higher, the risk of a depreciating peso increases as dollars are needed to buy oil. The Philippines will manage with $75 oil; the government may not.

Lito Gagni presents a rather frightening catalog of the defects of the NAIA Terminal 3:

The expert, Richard Francis Klenk, an American engineer who is an independent consultant in the areas of aviation, highways and marine, raised several safety issues and cited, in particular, “serious issues with respect to the structural integrity of the terminal structures.”

There were five areas that were found grossly defective: cracks in the concrete slabs, deflections in the beams, questionable pile installation, car-park structural problems and structural integrity problems of the roadways. It is no wonder then that the Naia 3 ceiling crashed down just because of the vibration from the switching on of the air-con unit.

Tony Abaya bats for the national ID card (I’m for it, too -preventing its abuse will just require vigilance). And an eloquent letter to the editor: Dissent has value. Also, Connie Veneracion takes up the cudgels for mall visitors.

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Manuel L. Quezon III.

60 thoughts on “Marching orders

  1. First of all charter change is not a “quick fix”.
    charter change is only part of a proceses of change that has to take place.
    In reality, had it not been for the scandal of the garci tapes this change that we need so much would have not been so muddled-up & confusingly complicated.
    We seem to forget that in confusion & muddling things up there is always oppurtunity.
    For so long we have had the “politics of confusion”. Proof of it is people are resoning in different directions.We still seem to be hanging-on to the idea of a snap election that will not happen anyway or just simply hanging on to ideas that can happen only in the fantacy world.
    I remember when FVR proposed charter change the first time.He was branded everything short of being called a devil by the catholic church.There was no scandal that time & the economy was doing good.
    Can anyone say then was not the right time as compared to NOW?
    let’s face it, change is a serious threat to some people & groups & I’m sure that certain people will do anything to prevent it.
    Phil Cruz, yes, it’s true we do need enforcement.You should also however factor in so many other things too.
    Because we are also a culture that funtions basicaly w/ a lot of hot air & noise.
    corruption is the order of the day.It’s like a standard procedure.It’s a culture that if you go against it then you are left in the dark & sadly it leaves you w/ no other choice then to toe the line.Sadly almost accepting it like a bitter fact of life.
    If you then think that enforcement is most important, then we might as well jail everybody.
    But the real problem is that corruption is soi deeply enbeded in our culture.People do it w/o even thinking that what they do is wrong.
    When do you therefore propose that there would have been enough enforcement & it will be the right time for change?
    I beleave running a country is like doing multi-tasking.One has no choice but to face all problems.
    Who will be the judge to say “NOW” is the perfect condition for change?

  2. Perhaps, what limits our ability to face change is our mind-set. Perhaps we seem to think of change as a “quick-fix or a cure all” solution.
    Maybe we seem to forget that change is a series of steps.Change is putting in place the right policies. But change is also about our attitudes.
    Change starts from us.It starts from us looking at the bigger picture of things & not making our feras & insecuties dominate our judgments.
    Sadly though, we seem to be holding-on to the endless 1 million reasons to oppose it.
    Obviosly, we seem to mix it up w/ personalities too.
    In a parlamentary goverment. It will be one way of didrmatizing elections. It will also certainly focus peoples attention to the party system & issues.Is that something wrong?
    I’m well aware that pinoys have a penchant of wanting to elect their national leaders directly. Question is, is it because the people like that they should then have it? Sadly, we seem to have some cultural traits that do not seem to work for a greater good.
    Is it OK that leaders should bow to peoples wishes for the sake of popularity?
    What do we really want, the politics of personalities or issues?
    We are obviously a very personality oriented culture.Infact everything is so personal that we can’t seem to distinguish anymore issues for personalities & it’s getting us nowhere.Is that something anyone can say he could leave w/?
    Ever since I have been writing in this blog I have often mentioned the importance of seeing the big picture & not just a particular & blowing it up & making it appear as the entire realty.
    Part of change are also the economic provision in the constitution. Is there anything wrong w/ making our country more competetive?
    Change will not happen if we start placing so many conditions of buts & ifs. Those are all sure formulas for not achiving anything. It’s enough to see where our country is today.

  3. #43 a de brux,

    I agree with you and Phil that respect for the constitution and the laws is due from every citizen specially government officials. I call it citizenhood, being aware, involved and even proud to be a Filipino citizen.

    By the way de Quiroz’s column today, ” Yet again, alternatives” should encourage initiatives to direct to the right alternatives.

  4. saw the so-called sigaw ng bayan site. it does show 370,000+ hits in 3 weeks. not bad for a political website.

    regarding the 9,000,000 hits, and using jumper’s argument in number 7, maybe mr. cunanan did foresee it as a post-dated reading. who knows?

    and as for the people’s initiative and charter change, i guess i’m just keeping an open mind. it isn’t a sin, after all, for people to advocate their thoughts and feelings regarding our government, for as long as we don’t say anything that may incite or promote rebellion among our fellow citizens.

    we don’t want to get in trouble with the government and get detained now, do we?

  5. I find it hard to BELEAVE most, if not all, the EXSAMPLES given by a certain poster here. I don’t pretend to know his INTENSIONS but I suspect one of several possibilities. Either he is deliberately using misspellings and bad grammar to his advantage because most decent readers are bothered by them, or he is really an idiot-savant (minus the savant part) as Steve Carrell put it. There might be other options.

    Here’s an EXSAMPLE from one of his posts: “I don’t see what is wrong in not supporting people who have constructive ways of solving our problems.” Multiple negatives make it hard to understand what one is trying to say.

    In any case, sino ba ang nagsasabi among those opposing cha-cha na gusto lang nila ang status quo? They, and I count myself among them, do want change. They want to change the palace occupant. They want to change the cabinet. They want to to revamp Comelec. They want to reform the military. They want all sorts of changes. Nobody wants status quo, nor can anybody preserve it. Change happens whether we like it or not. But all of us want the kind of changes that agree with our deeply held beliefs.

  6. It’s funny how you guys you non-sparingly dissect the website. A simple clarification on the matter would have been sufficient. In fact, I would have respected M Quezon III more had he written a more objective (but that might be a long shot eh?) column and explained: “Hey, you guys might not have gotten your ABC’s on Cyberspace straight”… or something like that.

    Instead, all the bruhaha and needless criticisms come about (and probably added another 2million or so hits to the the Sigaw ng Bayan website in the process).

    I rather like the linked article as written above ( Now I’d say that’s a lot more professionally said than what MLQIII’s column tried, but failed, to say.

    Ok fine, so the website got a lot more hits than this one. Fine, Lambino might not know the real difference between “hits” and “pageviews”, etc. He’s just a lawyer, it’s his web provider that most probably reported it to him first. Fine, we can all turn green with envy because of all the publicity, either negative or positive, they’re all having. But that still doesn’t count as enough ground to call them outright liars, cheats, etc. Else we’d be branded the same way we’re branding them.

    It’s a learning experience though, so deal with it and good luck! 😀

  7. Have you heard of a site that displays 1.16 million visits on their homepage? The homepage references 5 files: the homepage html file, 3 jpg files, and 1 css file. Hence, the 1.6 million visits to the homepage alone translates to 5.58 million *hits*.

    A techie was able to generate at least 800,000 “visits” to the homepage in just two days. At 5 files on the homepage, that’s over 4 million hits in just two days. From just one techie.

    (Five browser windows opening the homepage per second equals 432,000 “visits” for every 24-hour period.)

    The SigawNgBayan homepage, on the other hand, references 23 files, hence each “visit” to the homepage counts as 23 hits. If that techie “visited” the SNB site, that would’ve generated 1.98 milllion hits per day. From just one techie.

    Nine million hits in 21 days is attainable. I just hope our fellow Filipinos don’t interpret that as 9 million people.

  8. Exactly my point Mr. Viloria. The homepage of Sigaw ng Bayan doesn’t even show or brag that it has 9 Million visits! Hence, the counter there (showing something like 300k plus). So what’s the big fuss?? Are we going to start speculating that the site really isn’t forthright with it’s claim of 300k visits (and as many techies here have explained, could easily translate to about 12Million “hits”). What I thoroughly dislike about Mr. Quezon’s column is that it’s posing as a technical report with an obviously politically malicious agenda. Would he like to be ascribed the same kind of ill-motives in writing his column, or putting up this blog? What, like i said, would have been sufficiently corrected by an objective clarification has now been mangled into a smear campaign against a popular advocacy.

    Don’t get me wrong, i don’t necessarily understand nor side with Sigaw ng Bayan or whatever it’s “crying out for”. I’m just saying that it’s a lot easier to criticize and condemn, but takes courage to admit your deeper motives. I’d hate to point out that the website isn’t even claiming 9Million vists (accurately, it said “hits”). In the same way it shows a counter on its homepage that reflects it’s claim of 300k visits (and it’s not necessarily claiming these are “unique” visitors).

    Now, and as pointed out many times on the posts above, these are hardly “impossible” or even “phenomenal”. Too bad we haven’t thought of putting up a website like this before they did, but bite it and live on! Do I even need to point out that Charter Change and the Sigaw ng Bayan movement is ACTUALLY ONE OF THE HOTTEST TOPICS right now? Just watch television on any channel in a day and you’ll get my point clearly.

    Then again, it’s their right to speak up and so it is our right to speak out. Just avoid ascribing motives and whatnot because they just might do the same to us. And then nobody would know for the better. Cheers! 😀

  9. eskapo, i understand MLQ3’s column as a response to Bel Cunanan’s ‘Political Tidbits’ column, so his clarification had to be calibrated at that level (i.e., that of exposing political propaganda). And since when was revealing a falsehood ‘politically malicious’? And who do you refer to by the pronoun ‘us’?

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