Plans A and B, 2007 versions

The slowdown in the interweb is really frustrating, particularly if you’ve developed a routine for sifting through the news and blogs in the morning. It takes forever and a day for anything to load, and what appeared quickly yesterday may not load properly today. The year is off to a very bad, tiring, and frustrating start for anyone in an www-dependent line of work. In his column, Peter Wallace paints a grim picture of how the call center industry has been hammered by the effects of the submarine cable through Taiwan being cut; apparently other nations used their clout to find alternatives but the Philippines is just praying for a miracle. He advocates investment in alternative cables or a new cable for the country, but warns the diversion of calls to other centers in other countries probably means local expansion will be put on hold, and traffic won’t return:

…Every call center in the country was down – some 150,000 employees on over 120 call centers were affected. Three days later, capacity was still down 40 percent. Complaints from irate principals started pouring in. Head office management wasn’t too happy either. I’m putting it mildly.

There’s already a lot of resistance in America to transferring American jobs overseas. Here’s perfect ammunition for those who want those Americans in call centers in America (where they used to be). While the call center bosses think it’s not smart to have all eggs in one basket (sorry for this hackneyed cliché, but it does express my sentiments aptly), the Philippine basket was dropped. It was not the fault of the Philippine government (now there’s a refreshing change) nor of anyone in the Philippines. Still, a bunch of eggs was definitely broken.

The culprit was a natural disaster – an earthquake in Taiwan so violent that it broke the underwater communications cable between the Philippines and the US.

If the Philippine government rushed to do something about the situation, it certainly didn’t tell anyone. Call centers, and the entire business process outsourcing industry were left twisting in the wind. That’s a good analogy: Death to the industry may be exaggerated, but you can be sure head offices will be rethinking their expansion plans.

The inability of the Philippines to respond swiftly or have alternatives in place forced companies to re-direct their calls to other countries – Malaysia, India, South Africa, wherever call center companies have alternate sites. The sad thing is that that re-direction is likely to be permanent.

…One of the problems he can address is that the Philippines has misplaced priorities. Places like Singapore (where the government owns Singtel) or NTT in Japan have clout. And they used it to get priority allocation of cable bandwidth when this crisis hit. As did several others – taking what the Philippines should reasonably have had.

So, now the Philippines must think contingency planning and buy a significant stake in a couple (in case one goes down) of the main cables. Or do what Kenya and South Africa are doing, lay their own cable. Given the importance ITES now plays, the Philippine government should seriously consider doing the same. The US150 MM or so to do it is small potatos compared to the huge potential of this sector. After all far more is spent on a road between factories and a port. The number of jobs, and well-paying jobs at that, created by one telecoms cable far exceeds whatever commerce, and jobs a single road can provide. An undersea cable can generate infinitely more revenues than any highway ever could.

What it also highlighted was need for a better communication system between all the major players: government, industry support services and, the call centers and BPOs themselves. They need a well-established “quick call” system so that when the unexpected happens everyone can be fully informed.

A colleague informs me that the other day, the Hong Kong Telecom Authority assumed emergency powers, and that Indonesia has decreed that aid workers have priority when it comes to Internet usage, and opened up its expensive commsat network just to keep things going. So if things are bad here, they’re as bad elsewhere.

Now, while the news was being steadily leaked during the holidays (to slowly gage public reaction, perhaps, or simply to get the news out while no one really cared -the “boil the frog slowly so he doesn’t notice” framework for communications strategy), today’s papers finally rev up the possibility that we’re in for a February surprise: a people’s initiative that would transform the electoral landscape.

The proposal? Let’s call it Plan A (2007 edition): Another People’s Initiative, with attention paid to dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. A unicameral, presidential system, this time (unless the unicameral, parliamentary system proposed in 2006 suddenly returns from the dead).

In recent days the Commission on Elections has caused publication of new implementing rules and regulations for a people’s initiative. The rules bear in mind the recent decision of the Supreme Court on the last, ill-fated, so-called “people’s initative”. Objectively speaking, the new rules serve to flesh out the law and give teeth to the Constitution’s provisions on initiative. From what I’ve read, they sound like the rules lawyers told me should have been followed, had the administration or opposition pursued a real initiative last year.

Politically, of course, it’s a can of worms. First, there is now the option to reconsider the signatures the Legion claims it gathered last year. Which may be a long shot, but more astounding things have happened. Second, there’s the shift in emphasis away from the House leadership, specifically, the Speaker, to the President’s very own master of electoral logistics, the Secretary of the Interior.

Speaking of the Secretary of the Interior, his own bravado-filled statement provides us a smooth transition to:

Plan B (2007 edition): An administration Senate Slate with a fighting chance, and retention of a majority in the House (but perhaps dominated by Kampi and no longer by Lakas). According to RG Cruz, the administration slate tentatively includes:

Presidential chief of staff Mike Defensor, Congressmen Robert Ace Barbers, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Majority Leader Prospero Nograles, Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya, prospero pichay, ace durano, angelo reyes, mike enriquez and korina sanchez and Finance Secretary Margarito Teves. However othe reliable administration sources said 6 slots are reserved for some opposition politicians who are lobbying to be part of the slate, as well as members of the Senate’s Wednesday group, Senators Joker Arroyo, Ralph Recto, Francis Pangilinan, and Senate President Manuel Villar.

The President only has to elect 5 senators to derail any possibility of an impeachment prospering in the Senate. And, as one Lakas-CMD veteran told me shortly before the holidays, the raiding of their party by the president’s pet party, Kampi, is well underway -and they seem at a loss over what to do about it.

There are two election-related blog entries of note: Mongster’s Nest suggests the point of unity for the opposition shouldn’t be a crude dislike of the President, but instead, a positive coming-together against hunger, which would emphasize the trickle-down assumptions of the administration. I agree. Philippine Politics 04 says the opposition’s goals with regards to the House have to be more ambitious. The question though, is if a people’s initiative is attempted, to what extent can and should it be fought? It would be easier to fight it if a plebiscite were held in February, as it could be round 1 in a 2 round fight; if a plebiscite were held simultaneously with the May elections, it adds yet another thing to guard in an election which promises to be fraud-filled at least on the senatorial level.

The only thing going against a plebiscite and election lumped together, is that expectations would be raised for senatorial candidates, which might be messy if dashed (in the first place, what do you do with them, never mind the opposition, what about administration candidates?) So it would still be logical to have a plebiscite in February leading up to the cancellation of the senate portion of the May elections.

Plan C (2007 edition) a constitutional convention, sometime, somehow, somewhere, as expressed by the Vice-President.

As the Inquirer editorial points out, as with Daniel Smith, so has it been with everything: a calibrated, preemptive response suffices for all crises and conditions. Ellen Tordesillas explains how this works vis-a-vis the United States.

Fascinating entries, as usual, in Another Hundred Years Hence on rezoning in Makati City; and also, on the company behind the city’s past growth.

Blurry Brain takes a look back at his argument for social cleansing (of which I partially approve).

I’m glad to hear Ronnel Lim intends to go back to blogging.

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Manuel L. Quezon III.

63 thoughts on “Plans A and B, 2007 versions

  1. A discussion on possible candidates has turned into a discussion on the psychological state of one person. Nice. 😀

    Anyway… My criteria for senators I’ll vote for:
    1) They must be willing to convict GMA after a fair hearing should the house vote to impeach; and
    2) They should be able to perform creditably as senators for the next six years and not become embarrassments to themselves, the senate, and to us.

    Both criteria required. If I can’t find any candidates that fit the criteria, I’ll exercise my right to NOT vote for anybody and leave that decision to the people who will.

  2. Jeg, your criteria for candidate selection sounds compatible with mine. Where we differ is on how we would act given boundary situations like the one brought up by Aames. On this, i would prioritize your first criteria over your second since in our society, ’embarrasment’ is as much an expression of the voter’s position in life as it is the candidate’s qualities. The middle forces tend to be embarrassed about the wrong things.

    This time around, in determining whether or not someone has the credentials to be a lawmaker, i will try not to look through the typical snooty middle class lens. (Because of your position on Noli de Castro, i don’t count you among the snooty.)

  3. James,

    Im not really expecting to change the mindset of CVJ. But I will always voice out my disagreement with him in this forum no matter how he and his ilk take it. Just to make him aware of it, you know…

  4. hey james,

    have read billy espos column too.. if not here it is

    I will also agree with Bong Austero column, about his observation on the election at the local level… take note we are both promdi. so we definitely know what were saying. national issues is never a factor in in the local election. So I will have to agre with Bong that its will still be an administration majority in the next congress.

    The funny thing is this, CVJ and his ilk will be populating the Senate with biased impeachment judge. Eh pano kung walang impeachment na maitransmit sa senate?

    Alm mo ang feeling ko this, etong pinagyayabang ng opposition na ilalampaso nila is Gloria sa election. Magiging katulad na naman eto ng sinsabi nila may magic number na daw sila para maimpeach si Gloria noong panahon ng Impeachment I. Tapso pagdating ng botohan wala pala..Trademark an eto ng opposition eh. Walang credibility!

  5. Thanks, cvj. Noli De Castro performed creditably as a lawmaker, earning the praise of his colleagues, particularly Senator Joker Arroyo during De Castro’s stint as a senator. So my stand on him isnt such a tough call. (Im tempted to add a third criterion: The candidate must be able to embarrass the middle class. 😀 )

    I saw some names being floated by the opposition party (7 of them) as senatorial bets and I must say theyll be able to fulfill my 2 criteria–if not the third–easily.

    Is MLQ3 still having connection problems?

  6. Rego, Esposo should be heeded by the Opposition. He paints the Opposition as talangka (“Talsik diyan!”), not as leaders who have a vision for reform and progress. Esposo says “In the past two years since the Garci tapes surfaced, the opposition could only arouse the people’s ire against Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. But they failed to get the people’s support to remove Arroyo and put them in power.
    All this time, all we hear from the opposition are criticisms and attacks against the alleged Palace squatter. Over and above that, they offer neither vision nor platform of government.
    …the opposition fails to offer reform. By failing to inspire the nation with a credible vision for the future and a platform of reform, the opposition candidates cannot credibly project themselves as part of ‘us’ (the people). Rather, the opposition candidates will only be viewed as the same as ‘them’ (the status quo).”
    Esposo’s words may be brushed off as coming from another pro-GMA diehard, except he, in his own words, says “I count as one of the severest critics of the Arroyo regime which I find to be worse than the Marcos regime… the Arroyo regime operates like a dictatorship under the guise of a democracy. I am among those who Mike Arroyo has sued for libel.”

  7. Unfortunately, UPn, it is not in the character of the Opposition to heed anybodys advise. Everything that Mr Esposo said was laid down about two years ago by Bong Austero

    And its tooooooooo late for them to do that too. Between now and May elections, I dont expect anymore changes in the political landscape and even mindset. People have heard and learned enough from both sides. All the issues towards Gloria and what ever the opposition has to offer has already been raised and was serve for public consumption. What else need to be done but mere formalities.

    The opposition doesn’t really have much option but to stick it out with Erap’s showbiztocracy. Thats the best that they can do now. There is no more time for them to develop a new leader. Unfortunately, their strength ( Erap) is their greatest weakness too. While they have an instant masa following ( voters) with Erap, they can never get other votes outside the Eraps consitutents also.If they woudl dissociate themselves from Erap the more loses that they will incur dahil mas mawalan sila botante ng .. Its really LOSS-LOSS loss situation for opposition. At ang akal nila hindi eto alam ng mag tao. Popel understand so well from teh very start that they are sooooo desperate with Peopel Power to oust Gloria eh. Because that is their ONLY way to grab the power
    They have no change through election at all.

    If their is something I really hate about the Opposition is that ang tamad tamad nilang mag develop ng paraan para makuha ang sympthay ng mga tao. Their style is sooooooooooo jaded and is just simply ineffective.

    On the other hand, Gloria is actually the one doing bold moves, challenging the status qou, taking risk on unpopular decisions…. Wether teh oppsosition admit it or not, Gloria has has good accomplishments to report to the people. And it just a tall order debunking them, when peopel in the local level can see those solid accomplishments. Compared to a no proof from Opposition.

    I even believe that people have already made up their mind as to whom they will vote and even which side to will go. And that includes the great undecided.

    With no solid accomplishments to report coming from the opposition, I strongly believe that the great undecided will eventually aline with Gloria come decision time!

    So CVJ has to eat his heart out for another 3 years….

  8. UPn Student, as an experienced marketing professional, Esposo understands the value of snob appeal. His Brand Y proposal is the right one – for the 2010 elections. He pictures the middle forces as some sort of savior (as in EDSA and EDSA2) but today, it is actually part of the problem so it is not in a position to offer any credible alternatives. For now, the middle class has to get over its own moral deficiencies by helping resolve the issue of Gloria Arroyo’s legitimacy. Snootiness can wait.

    Rego, i know that there is a time difference between Manila and New York, but bong austero’s open letter came out eleven months ago (February 2005), not two years ago, as you have implied above. There was little doubt that you or Austero will eventually align yourselves with Gloria come decision time which explains why the Opposition hasn’t wasted much time trying to get your sympathies. The opposition does not have enough time or resources to court the wallflowers.

  9. Dubya Bush says “To oppose everything whole proposing nothing is irresponsible.” Maybe some from the Opposition can champion the following : (1)law and order : increase the budget of the PNP so it can hire 3,000 additional policemen;(2)increase the salaries of public school teachers;(3)increase the salaries of judges; ice to lower the cost; (4) increase taxes (but only on people making P250,00 a year or more); (5) increase road-building budget (for additional 3,000 kilometers of farm-to-market roads).

  10. Dubya Bush says “To oppose everything whole proposing nothing is irresponsible.” Maybe some from the Opposition can champion the following : (1)law and order : increase the budget of the PNP so it can hire 3,000 additional policemen;(2)increase the salaries of public school teachers;(3)increase the salaries of judges; ice to lower the cost; (4) increase taxes (but only on people making P250,00 a year or more); (5) increase road-building budget (for additional 3,000 kilometers of farm-to-market roads).

  11. UPN Student, yeah i just heard him say that a few minutes ago as well. For Bush to say that after ignoring the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group (ISG) and the will of the American people as expressed in their mid-term elections is really astounding. He not only rejected their advice, he now pretends they were never given.

    I agree that the Opposition should not dream of going into the election campaign without a program of government. That part is a no brainer, but to focus on that aspect alone would mean walking into a trap. Over and above matters of governance, there is the issue of Gloria’s legitimacy which goes to the heart of the worsening crisis of representation that we have been experiencing for almost a decade now.

    Of course, the Opposition must be prepared to explain why the legitimacy issue matters and how this is ultimately tied to governance, specifically Arroyo’s capacity to govern in the remainder of her term as well as the longer term impact to our institutions.

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