Romp assembly

Like a train wreck in slow motion, it finally happened: the entire Makati City government has fallen, a regime change on a scale not seen since the aftermath of the 1986 Edsa Revolution, when local officials were dismissed wholesale. There was certainly plenty of time to prepare the public for what was going to happen. The timing is perfect, beating the prohibition on suspensions that takes effect 90 days before the start of the campaign period (in January). Philippine Commentary says this is all a Ronnie Puno power play.

In other political news, Atienza’s rump was spanked by the Comelec. But the Comelec needs a spanking, too, for terming the Atienza rump assembly a “romp assembly” in its official order. In any case, Atienza’s set back is temporary, because surely he can manage to win a proper election within the party. For those friendly to the party (like myself) one can only hope the President won’t continue to divide the party and that there won’t be a walkout.

But Atienza may have a short-lived victory even if he corrals support within the LP. After all, in the Only in the Philippines department: there’s news it’s not Imeldific, it’s Borgy running for Mayor of Manila. With this utterly charming line from Borgy’s mother, Rep. Imee Marcos:

“With Borgy, it’s like having Imelda Marcos run as mayor of Manila,” the lawmaker said.

The former first lady will, according to her daughter, serve as her grandson’s campaign manager instead. More interesting is that the move of the Marcoses cements their alliance with the Macapagals. It serves as a foil to Senator Panfilo Lacson, who would’ve been one of the strongest contenders for the post. Having cleared Makati City, the administration must prevent an opposition win in Manila at all costs. Oh -and caffeine sparks is not amused by the news.

Meanwhile, government proudly marches forward to instill faith in itself with the people: Palace nixes CBCP on Comelec revamp and Palace: There’s money for more pork -the budget secretary maintains its pure coincidence social services as well as the pork barrel’s been increased ahead of a plebiscite and election year. And just to play safe, the Daily Tribune reports the squeeze is being put on fertilizer scam witnesses and information tightly-managed:

Both Malacañang and former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante, reportedly one of the the presidential couple’s bagman, appear to be in desperate straits, as President Arroyo’s emissaries have been hunting down the Senate witnesses who testified on the P3-billion fertilizer funds scam and are allegedly bribing them to recant their testimonies, while Bolante’s American lawyers have written to Sen. Ramon Magsaysay, Jr., asking him to testify before the immigration court hearing scheduled on Nov. 7.

At the same time, a Filipino diplomat told the Tribune that all Philippine Embassy and consulate reports on Bolante are handed directly to President Arroyo, without passing through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

In other news:

Nurses remain in limbo. Palace not out of the woods yet.

There is a devastating and alarming article in Newsbreak today, which explains how government’s fudging unemployment numbers, and how underemployment is on the rise:

After all, a total of 988,383 Filipinos left for work abroad last year compared to the 700,000 addition to the domestic work force, according to government data.

…”While the Philippine government claims that the fight against unemployment is a top priority, its actions do not seem to support this alleged concern,” write economists Jesus Felipe and Leonardo Lanzona Jr. in a chapter on the Philippines for a new ADB publication, Labor Markets in Asia: Issues and Perspectives.

They add: “So far, the policy of ‘high employment’ seems to remain toothless and is only secondary and complementary to the two core policies of price stability and fiscal discipline.”

…According to the latest labor force survey of the National Statistics Office (NSO), the number of employed people in the year to July 2006 rose by 735,000, or only half the government’s target of 1.5 million new jobs a year between 2004 and 2010.

By changing how joblessness is defined, the government now claims that the unemployment rate is only at 8 percent, instead of 10.9 percent under the old definition. But even statistical revision cannot hide the fact that job creation is falling awfully short of targets and expectations set by the government itself.

Worse, the underemployment rate, or the proportion of working people who are looking for additional work, rose to 23.5 percent, the highest in 18 years or since 1988, when the economy was just beginning to recover from debt crisis and recession of the early 1980s.

This is worrisome to labor economists who believe poverty is more strongly associated with underemployment than with absolute joblessness itself.

About 30 percent of Filipinos are considered poor according to locally defined benchmarks, though the number rises to 44 percent if the World Bank’s universal standard of US$2-a-day income is used.

,,,Agriculture accounted for almost half of jobs created in the last two years while retailing contributed a fourth. “Most of these are part-time, low paying jobs,” he says.

This is hardly surprising considering that the economy itself is expanding at a pace below the 7-to-8 percent annual growth rate assumed in the medium-term plan.

After hitting a 15-year high of 6.1 percent in 2004, gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate fell to 5 percent in 2005 as Arroyo faced her worst political crisis over allegations of poll cheating and corruption. The ADB expects it to recover slightly to 5.4 percent this year and 5.3 percent next year but these are still far below the medium term targets.

Worse, investments, which are necessary to create new jobs and hasten economic growth, fell by 4.3 percent in 2005 and 3.8 percent in the first half of 2006. In contrast, the medium-term plan assumed that the investment rate, or the proportion of investments to GDP, would go up from 20 to 28 percent.

In the punditocracy, Gary Younge thinks there is a rising tide of discontent against the Republican party, and that the Democrats will reap electoral benefits -but are pursuing victory in the wrong manner:

“This is without question the worst political situation for the GOP since the Watergate disaster in 1974,” wrote the veteran analyst Charles Cook in his political report on Friday. “I think a 30-seat gain today for Democrats is more likely to occur than a 15-seat gain, the minimum that would tip the majority. The chances of that number going higher are also strong, unless something occurs that fundamentally changes the dynamic of this election. This is what Republican strategists’ nightmares look like.”

A recent Pew research survey revealed 51 percent of voters plan to back Democrats against 38 percent for the Republicans. Moreover, Democrats are more pumped up. Currently 59 percent of Democratic voters say they have given a lot of thought to this election, 51 percent are more enthusiastic about voting than usual, and 71 percent say they are angry. Republicans are far more distracted and less keen. The trouble is the things the Democrats are angriest and more enthusiastic about are, for the most part, not the things their party is talking about. The Foley episode is having about as much impact on voting intentions as the Lewinsky affair did on Clinton’s approval ratings - none. The Pew poll was being conducted as the Foley story broke. Interviews before and after he resigned gave almost identical results.

China Daily lays out a defense of Chinese socialism with capitalist characteristics; the New Straits Times says Malaysian government efforts to penalize their version of Taglish are futile; and the Korea Herald on South Korea’s dilemmas vis-a-vis its northern neighbor.

The blogosphere has Bryanton Post on the mass arrests ordered versus Malaya staff and writers -at the behest of the president’s husband. A Nagueño in the Blogosphere asks something Mamutong will be interested in: would Federalism help the electric industry?

ComelecAKO says Gus Lagman and Christian Monsod suffer from a conflict of interest in opposing the poll automation picked by the Comelec.

Under The Talisay Tree wonders why he’s making do with PLDT’s DSL. I’m a Baby! muses on the psychopaths we all know. Askalfreak doesn’t know if newspapers will disappear but thinks -and is glad- books will be around for some time to come.

ExpectoRants laments the return of the mullet. Amen.

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Manuel L. Quezon III.

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