Don’t bother to think

My Inquirer Current entry today in a sense, takes off from my Arab News column for this week, Blunders Allied With Crimes. An article in Slate today tackles how the United States tackled the Philippines and you can contrast this with an article in The Objective Standard as to why the United States is bogged down in Iraq, with no successful end game in sight. The analogy here is that neither America nor the AFP are countering insurgencies here at home or Iraq as they did at the turn of the 20th Century: and thus both are failing to meet their objectives.

Using force isn’t necessarily proof of either will, or genuine strength. It can be a sign of weakness or, something just as bad, a kind of selective blindness.

Take the President’s response to the latest survey on self-rated poverty. The President suggests people should take a second look at how their prioritize their spending, but at the same time, the government announces more casinos. And along the way, contradicts the very things that enabled the economic statistics in which she takes pride: had people not been smoking as much, or sending it out zillions of text messages, her raising taxes (not a reform, as she claims, but the logical question of her over-spending) would not have been able to compensated for what came before. Her laying it on thick on Tony Lopez also belies her claim to not being obsessed with politics, when as any president does, so does her cabinet: and what are Raul Gonzales (whose job is the Justice Department) and Ricardo Saludo (whose job is to be Secretary to the Cabinet) doing but politicking?

But of course it all makes perfect sense if you don’t deviate, one bit, from Palace-supplied talking points. It depends on a literal reading of the laws and an unsophisticated attitude towards the exercise of power. But we all know what is legal isn’t necessarily right, and what is possible isn’t necessarily what should be done. See the account in Newsbreak of where the culpability of the executive department lies. In cops misrepresenting themselves. In delays that are in themselves, violations of justice. the point is not that people have no right to sue, they do -but should they be suing all the people who get sued, and on the grounds used to justify the suits, and should the manner in which cases are filed and the police enforce warrants and so forth, be accepted without any questions? I think not, and that’s the whole point.

there’s an interesting editorial from Business Mirror, on the chance the President might veto portions of the national budget, which has been waiting for the President’s signature since February 22, but which will only be signed today (after the campaign has started, which meant the campaign began with budgetary breathing room for the Palace).

A whole slew of commentaries on corruption: overall, from Marvin Tort; from Jarius Bondoc, referring to school teachers; Bong Austero on mulcting cops.

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Manuel L. Quezon III.

145 thoughts on “Don’t bother to think

  1. Come on guys! You’re all better than this. Let’s go back to the issues raised by Manolo’s post.

    For example, I do think that the consumption bias of our society and economy is really a major weakness. More texting (the frivolous kind), drinking and smoking are all part of this bias. It not only makes our economy weak (making much of the GDP growth insubstantial) , it also weakens the lives of our poor countrymen many of whom do tend to skip the essentials for these things. Many students in the U-belt are reportedly skipping lunch just to spend on cell phone load. The corporate sector has to be more discerning in its marketing campaigns. People are not just consumption machines. They have to build healthy and meaningful lives.

    And the casino project is another step in a very wrong direction for this country. Glamorizing gambling will further weaken the already weak social fabric in our country. The government needs to continue focusing on education, health and micro-finance. These will help our poor pick themselves up.


  2. For example, I do think that the consumption bias of our society and economy is really a major weakness. More texting (the frivolous kind), drinking and smoking are all part of this bias. – Ben

  3. (continued from above)
    We should thank the smokers, drinkers and texters because they are the ones who are currently driving the economy and generating multiplier effects. At an annual per capita income growth of 2%, a member of the poor who earns USD 2 dollars a day can expect to double his income after 36 years, which spans his/her useful adult life. Wouldn’t that realization be enough to drive someone to drink, smoke, text and gamble? Rather than lecture the poor majority on their consumption habits, we have to appreciate that what they are doing is a human and rational response in the face of their future prospects.

  4. I see your point, cvj. I would do the same in their situation.

    My appeal is more to some in the corporate sector who mass-market consumption practices to the poor to the point of excess. Skipping meals for cell phone load is just not healthy.

    In the long run our economy would be stronger if investments (and therefore savings) were a larger component relative to consumption as it is now. For one thing, the corporate sector will need to create more decent jobs (more secure and better pay) which will encourage the poor to plan for the future instead of merely consuming for the present. This will take time, of course.

  5. Ben, i agree with what you say about investments and economic growth. The right parties to confront with regard to the issue of investments would be the business community and the government. Unfortunately, our government leadership has not done its part as Arroyo hasn’t been able to control much less minimize the level of corruption during her past six years. In fact, it has worsened. Also, as i pointed out in a comment to the succeeding thread (‘Absolute Veto’), domestic borrowings under Arroyo have far exceeded that of previous administrations. This has the unfortunate effect or crowding out other types of borrowing, i.e. those that could otherwise finance productive ventures.

  6. Ben:

    The only control PGMA has over corruption is to intensify prosecution and apprehension of corrupt officials. The record shows that more big fishes in the military, BIR and Customs, among others, are now facing conviction and public opprobrium for their misdeeds, than in any other recent administration. PGMA cannot control evil men from committing the act of corruption if they are not deterred by the prospect of punishment. It is a cultural thing in our political life, and we are all responsible for it, not just PGMA. Stop blaming her for all the ills of our society, its not fair.

  7. Oh, dear, please DO think, at least before posting meretricious nonsense such as this.

    “Take the President’s response to the latest survey on self-rated poverty. The President suggests people should take a second look at how their prioritize their spending, but at the same time, the government announces more casinos.”

    Casinos bring in foreign money and improve the current account; text, cigarettes and booze do nothing of the kind.

    And just how this is related to the war in Iraq, or the possible veto of the budget, is not at all clear.

    So please, at least TRY to think before you post.

  8. Bencard, don’t exagerrate, i’m not blaming her for all the ills of society, only the ones she’s accountable for. As occupant of Malacanang, GMA has primary responsibility for addressing the problem of corruption. As shown from the World Bank’s governance indicators, she has failed in this job for the past six years. Corruption has worsened under her, even in comparison to Erap’s admin:

    1996 -0.41
    1998 -0.34
    2000 -0.53
    2002 -0.55
    2003 -0.46
    2004 -0.58
    2005 -0.58
    [Source: World Bank Governance Matters V]

    The above index ranges from -2.5 to +2.5. We’ve always been in the negative but it has never been as bad as it is now. At best, she can plead incompetence in this area, on the assumption that she and/or her husband are not themselves corrupt.

  9. Bencard,

    My posts were on the consumeristic trend in Philippine society and I do not think this is linked with corruption in any major way. I do note with keen interest your report on the advances in anti-corruption of the GMA administration. Please provide me references for this which I can report in my own blog and track in terms of follow-through.

    I also did not intend to blame the President for all the ills of our society. I haven’t been a fan of the President ever since she reneged on her Rizal Day promise but, in fairness, I credit her for her anti-poverty stance as quoted in PDI today: “As long as there’s one person who is hungry the government should do something about that.”

    On the other hand, I don’t like the direction of expanding casinos under her administration. PAGCOR, as a government-owned gaming monopoly, should be very careful in not being too visible or too aggressive. The dangers of gambling are well-known.

  10. cvj, i really don’t want to engage you in an interminable childish argument. But I know, you are intelligent enough to understand that what I am saying is that PGMA cannot be blamed for the plunderous acts of which Generals Garcia and Ligot, and some former Customs and BIR commisioners, among others, are currently accused of. If a man chooses to steal, he and he alone is responsible for it, along with his co-conspirators if any. I’m not the one who is exaggerating. It is you who is in the habit of generalizing and using sweeping conclusions without basis in fact, and then using irrelevant statistics to lend them some false validity.

    Even if your statistic is true, it only proves that more crooks are getting caught and prosecuted under PGMA than in any other previous administration, least of which is Estrada’s who himself is currently in jail for plunder.

  11. Ben, I don’t have official statistics from the office of the ombudsman or pagcor – I think they are the best places to start an inquiry. However , the military and civilian personnel I mentioned, as well as national and local government officials (who usually cry “political harassment” in knee-jerk defense of themselves and dubious protest of alleged supporters) are in the headlines lately and are of public knowledge. Correct me if Im wrong but seldom, if ever, did I hear such “untouchables” being publicly denounced, let alone prosecuted, under other administrations.

  12. Bencard, there is a reason why the World Bank calls it Governance Indicators, in that it’s intended to measure quality of governance. The statistic on ‘Control of Corruption’ (one of the World Bank’s six key dimensions of governance) does not mean what you want it to mean, rather, it measures:

    the extent to which public power is exercised for private gain, including both petty and grand forms of corruption, as well as “capture” of the state by elites and private interests

    By this measure, available at the World Bank’s website, Arroyo compares poorly with her predescessors as well as with her contemporaries in the other 200 countries being measured. Like it or not, the data is there.

  13. cvj, just answer this in your own mind. Would the world bank ever know the existence of corruption if it is not revealed to it through official disclosures? I don’t believe the World Bank is an irresponsible body that fabricate facts out of sheer malice.

    If corruption is committed in the dark and deliberately hidden by those tasked to enforce the law, how can it be revealed and be included in the World Bank’s statistics?
    I don’t think Alan Peter’s or Panfilo’s bareface lies would be taken seriously by the World Bank. Do you? But of course you do.

  14. Bencard, contrary to your spin, the World Bank gets its data for its Governance Indicators from multiple sources, both private and public, via polls and surveys which include. They use a combination of surveys and polls:

    “Survey” refers to surveys of firms and individuals with first-hand knowledge of the governance situation in the country.
    “Poll” refers to assessments by country analysts at commercial risk-rating agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and multilateral aid agencies.
    Publicly available data sources are fully disclosed on the Worldwide Governance Indicators
    Web site. Partial access to proprietary data sources is provided on the Web sites of the providing organization.

    Source: A Decade of Measuring the Quality of Governance, Governance Matters Worldwide Governance Indicators 2006

  15. cvj, why don’t you research on the comparative statistics of all corruption prosecutions under all administrations after Marcos? Maybe you’d be making more sense. Polls and opinions, especially unsound and unsubstantiated ones, do not constitute factual statistics.

    For sure the alleged ill-gotten wealth of Garcia and Ligot, and certain officials and multi-millionaire mayors as well as other politicians, considering their sheer magnitude, have not been accumulated overnight -but could have started from Cory Aquino’s presidency down through Estrada, and discovered and brought to prosecution and public attention under PGMA. Who do you think should get credit for exercising political will and courage of combatting corruption in our corrupt government? If there is command responsibility, there has to be command credit too.

    Now, tell me who is spinning dishonest fantasy? Your use of international materials does not help, if you do not know how to interpret them, or deliberately give it meaning other than what it truly purveys.

  16. ooops, another erratum, Ben, in my 2:37 am post. The correct office is PCGG, not Pagcor as I mistakenly referred to.

  17. Bencard :

    “ooops, another erratum, Ben, in my 2:37 am post. The correct office is PCGG, not Pagcor as I mistakenly referred to.”

    And I suppose PAGC would be a good source, too. I requested Comm. Koni de Guzman for an interview on their efforts, especially related to RA 6713 CODE OF CONDUCT AND ETHICAL STANDARDS FOR PUBLIC OFFICIALS AND EMPLOYEES ( We were at a meeting with India’s Arvind Kejriwal ( who had just received the Ramon Magsaysay Award. I think that we can really go much faster in anti-corruption if we adopt something like Delhi’s Right to Information Act 2001 which gives every citizen the right to examine government documents. Kejriwal used the Act to great effect with other citizens.

  18. cvj, you can do better than that. Why don’t you just admit you are wrong, instead of wiggling out of it with a sarcastic nonesense.

  19. Bencard, it is futile to insist that the Empress is wearing clothes long after it has been revealed otherwise. Of course, it is your prerogative to keep trying.

  20. cvj, you’re not gonna con me into another one of your squid tactics. Just admit that you don’t have the answer to everything and you can go. Wait for another day to argue when you have a tenable position.

  21. cvj,

    Did your conclusion in your March 25, 2007, 11:54 pm comment take into account the margins of error for control of corruption? Would you say that the decline in control of corruption is either statistically or practically significant?

  22. Aames, that’s a fair question. My preceding comment stated only the most likely values for the control of corruption index. Here is the data presented in terms of the possible range of values given the standard error for each year:

    Year Range of Values
    1996 -0.21 to -0.61
    1998 -0.17 to -0.51
    2000 -0.36 to -0.70
    2002 -0.44 to -0.69
    2003 -0.33 to -0.59
    2004 -0.45 to -0.71
    2005 -0.45 to -0.71
    [Source: World Bank Governance Matters V]

    Regarding statistical significance, although it is theoretically possible to have a case where the earlier years’ error is on the low side while the latter years error is on the high side, that scenario is not the likely one. As for practical significance, i consider it practically significant that in six years, Gloria Arroyo could not mprove on Erap’s record when her advertised strength is on quality of governance.

  23. Bencard, here is a list of the 31 organizations (and their publications) that the World Bank has used as sources. A lot of these are commercial agencies whose clients are business people. I doubt if they’d take kindly to being called ‘garbage’.

  24. cvj, once again. the sources of your “source” are based on nothing but polls and surveys (unverified perceptions of supposed responders) rather than factual records. The best gauge of how corruption is being addressed by a particular administration is the number of investigation and prosecution that happens under its watch. The acts of corruption, if any, that has been going on since Marcos’ regime down through Estrada’s presidency, are not forgotten and comprise the overall picture of corruption in the country, and would naturally be a factor in the so-called polls and surveys on the matter, regardless of who’s taking them. Whether or not they are used by the World Bank has nothing to do with their credibility or validity.

  25. Bencard, if you clicked through the ‘Governance Indicators’ link that i provided above (at March 27th, 2007 at 7:15 pm), you would have been able to read the authors state that:

    We never use lagged data when current data are available, in order to ensure that our indicators
    are as timely as possible.
    ” [emphasis mine] “In this respect our approach differs from Transparency International’s
    Corruption Perceptions Index, which in each year uses data from the current and two previous
    years for some of its sources (GCS, WCY and PRC), although peculiarly it does not follow the
    same practice for three other annually-available sources (FHT, MIG, and WMO). As a result the
    2005 Corruption Perceptions Index is based on 2005 data from only 10 data sources. In contrast
    our Control of Corruption Index is based on 19 data sources, all of which refer to 2005.

    As for your belief that the number of investigations and prosecutions should be used as a gauge of the administration’s effectiveness in fighting corruption, i’d believe you once the Arroyos start investigating and prosecuting themselves.

  26. Fascinating how Arroyo apologists get afflicted with narcolepsy whenever confronted with truths they cannot handle.

  27. cvj, sorry, but your tired arguments put me to sleep. When are you going to stop making propositions that have been officially dead for a long time? You can keep it alive in your mind but please, don’t foist it on others as “truths”. Incorrigible presumptuousness is a disease of the mind.

  28. Bencard, no need to say sorry as your behavior is as expected. If anything, i feel somewhat sorry for you that at your age, you are being compelled to construct and promote an alternate version of reality. That’s a tough job.

  29. Fascinating how Arroyo apologists get afflicted with narcolepsy whenever confronted with truths they cannot handle. –CVJ

    — ouch.. it hurts.

  30. bystander, it hursts? I didn’t know you are an “Arroyo apologist”. You could have fooled me.

    cvj, when I say “sorry”, i didn’t mean to apologize to you (don’t flatter yourself). Here in the U.S., we say “sorry” even as we tell people they are stupid. As to my age, let me just tell you, while you are still trying to go “there”, I’ve been there, and I know false “intellectuals” when I see one.

  31. cvj, when I say “sorry”, i didn’t mean to apologize to you… – Bencard

    So it’s sort of like when Gloria Arroyo said ‘sorry’ on TV sometime back.

  32. I’M SORRY, but calling those who disagree with you as “presumptuous” and “stupid” is a clear indication that you’ve run out of arguments in your futile defense of gloria arroyo. being a brown american simply does not make your arguments superior to that of others. neither does age give you an advantage.

  33. So it’s sort of like when Gloria Arroyo said ’sorry’ on TV sometime back. -cvj

    –yeah. when gloria arroyo said “i am sorry”, what she really meant was “i am sorry, stupid”.

  34. cvj, bystander: why don’t you ask GMA herself? I only explained the context of how I used the word, not to let you be presumptuous again, as you both always are.

  35. Bencard, it’s useless to ask GMA as i can’t take her answer at face value. She has been known to twist the facts for her benefit.

  36. She has been known to twist the facts for her benefit. –cvj

    –just like the self-righteous arroyo apologist we have here.

  37. Enough, guys. I can only be in a childish colloquium for so long because I have better things to do. You both are not worth the battery on my laptop.

  38. Bystander, for Gloria Arroyo, everyday is April Fools day;-) –cvj

    Ah ok, cvj. I guess that explains everything, including that of her apologists masquerading as self-righteous intellectuals.

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