The destruction of the presidency

Wrote Montesquieu in The Spirit of the Laws,

…it is likewise a shocking abuse to give the appellation of high treason to an action that does not deserve it. By an imperial law it was decreed that those who call in question the prince’s judgment … should be prosecuted as guilty of sacrilege. Surely it was the cabinet council and the prince’s favorites who invented the crime. By another law, it was determined that whosoever made any attempt to injure the ministers and officers belonging to the sovereign should be deemed guilty of high treason, as if he had attempted to injure the sovereign himself. This law is owing to two princes remarkable for their weakness-princes who were led by their ministers as flocks by shepherds; princes who were slaves in the palace, children in the council, strangers to the army; princes, in fine, who preserved their authority only by giving it away every day…

“[P]rinces who were slaves in the palace, children in the council, strangers to the army; princes, in fine, who preserved their authority only by giving it away every day…” This was how I began my column Scorched-earth governance, in October, 2005 in reply to those who claimed they admired the President because she’d strengthened the presidency.

My column for today, The destruction of the presidency, essentially updates the point I raised then, with five examples that have taken place since then: the foiled attempt to proclaim martial law in 2005; the foiled attempt to turn a proclamation of a state of emergency into a kind of martial law in 2006; the derailing of the President’s expected declaration she would revoke E.O. 464 by Secs. Ermita, Favila, and Mendoza a few weeks ago; and the reckless handling of our country’s relations with the United States (our international obligations abandoned because of a kidnapping) and China (every bilateral agreement mired in the quicksand of controversy) which have will have grave effects for the duration of this administration and perhaps for some administrations to come.

Yesterday I pointed out that some lawyers were comfortable with the Supreme Court’s decision, because it wasn’t a doctrinal one; but what the Supremes might have intended is different from what the consequences of the decision, this early on, have already been. Today’s Inquirer editorial, Presumptuous, points to a concrete example of the law of unintended consequences at work. A lengthy extract is called for:

Are all Senate inquiries void, because the rules of procedure governing them have not been recently republished? …Romulo Macalintal drew the sweeping conclusion soon after the controversial Supreme Court decision in Neri v. Senate Committee came down.

The day after Macalintal did so, it was Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita’s turn to extrapolate from the new ruling. Officials of the Executive Branch will skip future inquiries, he said, because they can be considered to be legally invalid.

It is difficult to imagine any member of the Supreme Court expecting the decision in the executive privilege case filed by Romulo Neri to lead to this exact turn of events. No one so much as suggested that the Senate stop all its inquiries, because of the failure to publish the rules. Inquiries in aid of legislation are not only expressly provided for in the Constitution; they are fundamental to the work of both houses of Congress. What the majority voided were only the Senate’s contempt citation and arrest order against Neri.

But the law of unexpected consequences is unforgiving. There is no appeal.

There is no appeal, if the Executive Branch itself encourages the wrong interpretation of a controversial decision. “All along the Senate has been conducting its hearings but it turns out they have yet to publish their rules of procedure,” Ermita said. “So, it turns out all their hearings can be considered constitutionally infirm.”

In fact, the Supreme Court did not say this. It had limited itself to the “subject proceedings”‚ – that is, the hearings being conducted by three Senate committees on the National Broadband Network scandal, in the inquiry Neri testified in.

If in fact all Senate inquiries are invalid, what happens (to choose one legislative measure the Arroyo administration wants passed) to the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement? By Ermita’s vested-interest logic, the hearings conducted on JPEPA must be considered to be constitutionally infirm too.

Ermita said his legal team had prepared the opinion behind the recommendation that Senate inquiries be skipped. We think Ermita’s opinion, because it was transparently tailored to fit the recommendation, is not only presumptuous, it is dangerously presumptuous.

Here’s the crux: The administration argues “presumption of regularity” when its actions are questioned or limited or even voided by the courts. But it does not extend the courtesy of the same principle to the Senate. By extrapolating a conclusion favorable to its political fortunes (that is, avoid Senate inquiries), the administration demonstrates a barely concealed contempt for a co-equal but inconvenient branch of government. If, as the administration believes, presumption of regularity were the touchstone of democratic governance, then surely (by the administration’s own logic) it must apply to other agencies of government?

Again: there are those undisturbed by the recent Supreme Court ruling, because they want to give the high court the benefit of the doubt; and refuse to see, or cannot see, why lawyers and other segments of the citizenry are alarmed. See, for example, the statement by Simbahan Lingkod ng Bayan.

But going beyond this particular president, the problem is that derailing the constitutional balance in this manner means that even if the President steps down in 2010, the harm she’s caused will endure for some time to come; it means, at the very least, that much of the energies of a new administration and new Congress will be spent on restoring constitutional balance -or, if the new president enjoys the Arroyo legacy of impunity, to continuing confrontations between institutions.

Rene Azurin, in his Business World column for today (unavailable online, so reproduced in full), has this to say:


René B. Azurin

A captured government

Not being a lawyer, I imagine I can be forgiven if I do not pussyfoot around with legal niceties and just call the Supreme Court decision that granted the President and her minions the power to conceal crimes under the guise of “executive privilege” downright disgraceful. Let me add that I think this could indicate that there are nine Justices willing to bend over for the President when it counts. This could also indicate that the capture of government by the present ruling group is now complete.

With a generally subservient bureaucracy and a majority of the members of Congress firmly in the President’s pocket (pocketbook), control of the Supreme Court would certainly be the final element needed to render the President and her cronies invulnerable and untouchable, no matter what they do. The ramifications of the recent 9–6 Supreme Court vote in favor of the President should thus give us all pause. Keeping in mind that 12 of the 15 Justices of the Supreme Court are already appointees of this President and the remaining 3 will also have been appointed by her before her term is supposed to end in 2010, the question must definitely be asked: is the Supreme Court still independent?

Given the executive privilege decision, the answer appears to be “no”. The arguments made by the majority give the impression that their decision was made first and then a legal basis was sought to justify it. Without going in detail into the legal issues — law luminaries can do that — I feel that the essential weakness of the majority’s decision that former Cabinet member Romulo Neri did not have to answer, on the grounds of “executive privilege”, certain questions put to him by the Senate in its investigation of the anomalous ZTE Broadband deal is that it argues that the confidentiality of communications between the President and her subordinates — even when these have not been shown to compromise national security or diplomatic relations and even when the President herself admits to being aware that this merely commercial matter involves a crime (bribery) — trumps the public’s right to know and, thereby, hold public officials to account.

In his dissent, Justice Carpio says that “even if questions call for the disclosure of confidential presidential discussions or diplomatic secrets, executive privilege still cannot be used to cover up a crime”. That, I think, should be indisputable if public interest and fairness were used as the foundations for framing the decision. Moreover, as some Justices point out, executive privilege is actually only an implied prerogative of the President and not expressly granted as a presidential power. In contrast, express constitutional provisions state that “the State adopts and implements a policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest” and that “the State shall maintain honesty and integrity in the public service and take positive and effective measures against graft and corruption”. What the majority Justices’ stand means, therefore, is that they believe that an implied presidential prerogative takes precedence over explicitly stated provisions to safeguard the interest of the public against officials prone to abusing their considerable power.

That makes the decision disgraceful. In effect, it would seem that the Supreme Court majority deliberately opted to take the side of the President against that of the entire community. They did not have to rule in favor of the invocation of executive privilege since they could just as easily have taken the position against it. In fact, the arguments used to support the majority position seem weaker and more legally convoluted than the straightforward logic of the dissenting opinions that argue the primacy of the public’s right to transparency in the exercise of government power.

The Justices who favored the President are saying that the Executive branch of government needs to be even more powerful than it already is and less accountable to the public than it has ever been. This suggests that those Justices want to tilt the balance of power in this country even more in favor of those with already enormous amounts of power and even more against those without any power at all.

If that is the new reality that the Filipino public faces today, it means that we citizens must now live with a system wherein we no longer have any practical means of checking the power of our highest government officials. The two branches of government — the Legislative and the Judicial — that were designed to counterbalance and constrain the tremendous power vested in the Executive branch will now have to be deemed compromised. The public has long realized, of course, that the majority of our Representatives and a good number of our Senators will not act against the President’s interests because the lure of pork barrel fund releases and other goodies (like P500,000 gift bags) is simply irresistible to them. Now, with this new decision, it is becoming clear that a majority of the members of the Supreme Court also will not act against the interests of the President even when this effectively makes them a party to the concealment of corruption and other public crimes.

This should be, for all of us, profoundly distressing. If all three branches of government are now the captured preserve of the President and her gang, what can we, the suffering Filipino public, do about it? We are told that there are prescribed processes to seek redress and we are exhorted to use those processes. But we know — not being quite as stupid as they assume us to be — that these processes and the institutions through which they flow are controlled by those able to exercise the coercive and economic might of government. We have seen how the impeachment process can be blocked completely by mercenary congressmen. It now appears that we can no longer even count on the Supreme Court to stand up for our interests and for justice, fairness, and truth. Are we lost?

Are we lost, indeed? The question hangs in the balance, but another non-lawyer, Tony Abaya, points out in his column,

All this calls to mind one of the most perceptive comments made by Engineer Jun Lozada during the Senate hearings on the ZTE scandal, which no one seems to have paid much attention to, to wit, that “in the Philippines, with our abundance of lawyers, there is more emphasis on legality than on justice, and that we have a legal system but not a justice system” How true, how sadly true.

To this non-lawyer, if this landmark decision is left as is, it means that government bureaucrats, favored businessmen and predatory politicians can now conspire with the Malacanang tenants and their relatives to raid the public treasury with more impunity than ever, or to enter into contracts clearly disadvantageous to the national interests, fully confident that they would be safe from investigation by Congress or prosecution by the courts since they can always invoke executive privilege to cover up their crimes.

Then again, a way forward is the proposed freedom of information act being lobbied for by various groups. One such group, Team RP, issued this statement today:


“The Court has always been regarded as the final bastion of democracy, a balancer of power and rights, and a champion of the public’s interest, but the recent Neri vs. Senate decision of the Supreme Court promulgated on March 25, 2008, left the public with more deepening suspicion, growing unrest and a sense of confusion with nowhere else to go.

“The decision which ruled that Secretary Romulo Neri cannot be compelled to answer several key questions about the anomalous NBN-ZTE broadband deal, in effect have left the entire nation doubting the Arroyo government in light of this corruption scandal.

“But while the decision left us uncertain, it highlighted some fundamental things which we urge the public to ponder — first, we would not have had this dilemma had our executive officials provided for effective transparency measures espousing a policy of full and authentic public disclosure as embodied in our Constitution; and second, had our legislators not been lost in the world of politicking and grandstanding, their efforts in aid of legislation would have resulted in laws supporting the people’s right to know.

“As a country that prides itself with democracy, it’s ironic that we have no real access to information. Until a policy of full public disclosure, transparency and meaningful accountability is effected, not only will large-scale corruption issues persist, but the people will remain uninformed, disempowered, marginalized and disenfranchised.

“We can only grow as a real democracy when people are adequately informed about the operations and policies of government. The right of the people to be informed should no longer be left to the sheer discretion of the Court, the inertia of the lawmakers and the caprices of our public officials.

“It is alarming that Malacañang announced that members of the cabinet would invoke the Supreme Court decision when invited to Senate hearings. It gives a blanket license with ambiguous parameters to officials to evade the reach of both the oversight and legislative powers of the Senate.

“We believe that the Palace, who has taken the role as the main crusader against graft and corruption should also take the lead not in finding ways to hide from the public’s eye but to be at the forefront of enacting these much needed transparency measures.”

Meanwhile, the debate on what to do, and what’s at stake, continues. In light of the Jesuit Province’s new guidelines on the continuing crisis, two reflections are offered up. A critical look comes from Filomeno Sta. Ana III of Action for Economic Reforms; and a friendlier look’s taken by Juan Mercado.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

146 thoughts on “The destruction of the presidency

  1. in short..

    rice cultivation in the country uses too much water and resources to make it an economically viable crop for production..

  2. Liam (at 3:29 pm), do you think then that Alex Magno et. al. should be congratulated for such an accomplishment for their positive efforts to deteriorate our irrigation facilities?

  3. it depends on which aspect of development you want to achieve for this country..

    if you believe that going through intensive agricultural development (for rice at least) should be an agenda for national progress, you would abhor what Alex Magno did.

    if you believe that NOT going through intensive agricultural development (for rice at least) should be an agenda for national progress, just like Alex Magno thinks, you would praise such action.

  4. Liam, i belong to the first category although i would not put it exactly in that manner. I believe in increasing agricultural productivity i.e. yield per hectare in whatever crop we choose to plant whether it be rice, corn or sugar, whether for food or biofuels. If there was a conscious decision to switch away from rice as a food source, it did not occur to me that consciously letting irrigation facilities deteriorate would be a sensible step as there are other ways to go about it.

    How about you, in your comment (at 3:41pm) above, do you belong to the first or second category?

  5. LT,

    I read that philstar article of Magno.

    He was spot on on water.

    But aside from agri, even for domestic use, we rely so much from deep wells,to the extent of drying it.

    I live in paranaque, water has been a long time problem.

    listening to gma on that food summit thinggie, again many good intentions like:

    funds for r and d, making new technologies attractive to young farmers,etc.

    now a little reality check.
    Why do we allow land to be converted to malls,etc.
    or why convert ricelands for other uses?

    aside from water . may i add it is also due to abandonment of farming to the old turks,sticking to old technologies,etc, we just seem can’t make rice production viable.

    With all those good intentions mentioned,if it all happens then well and good.

  6. @cvj

    i think i belong here, with stress to the parenthesised phrase

    if you believe that NOT going through intensive agricultural development (for rice at least) should be an agenda for national progress, just like Alex Magno thinks, you would praise such action.

    for me, rice is a very labor intensive and water intensive agricultural crop. its output is also prone to be affected by weather aberrations and seasonal changes. and given the type of weather we have, growing it ‘economically’ is not just possible.

    i have long contested this point, in this blog, even before the rice crisis came about in the media. i really believe that rice, although a staple in the Filipino diet, just uses too much water and arable land that our geography just cannot comply. unlike in vietnam or thailand, where water flows 24/7 from the snowcapped mountains up north, we have to depend on aquifers and rain to irrigate rice.

    and i think rice is the major user of water from irrigation in this country.

  7. and water, as scarce as it is in an archipelago such as our country, should be used for more productive purposes.

    my thing is, if you are subsidizing something when you can get it for a much lower price in other parts of the world, it would be self-detrimental. let’s put that money elsewhere, where it will be more useful.

  8. LT,

    this is the portion where I saw magno’s point quite sound.

    “Remember that rice production uses our two scarcest resources: arable land and fresh water sources. By choosing to produce rice on scarce arable land, we opt to produce the lowest value per unit of land. Rice production is a poverty trap because it uses so much land and so much fresh water to produce the least possible value.

    Let those mainland countries who benefit from large rivers flowing down from the Himalayas produce rice. We have to pump water out of our now saline aquifers to grow this crop. In the process we dehydrate our forests, imperil our fresh water supply and use a lot of fossil fuels to pump out that water.
    re arable land:
    as to if it could have been avoided if we have not converted lands for other purposes,that is water under the bridge now. nandyan na yan, pero as on how to solve it, I do not agree with abandoning rice production and live everything to others,pano kung ayaw na nila mag export,dahil sa domestic demand nila.

  9. Why do we allow land to be converted to malls,etc.

    i think its because of:
    income generated per hectare of land

    income of 1 ha. riceland < income of 1 ha. mall

  10. LT,

    “Why do we allow land to be converted to malls,etc.

    i think its because of:
    income generated per hectare of land

    income of 1 ha. riceland < income of 1 ha. mall”


  11. Liam, Karl, in my blog, i’ve had a similar discussion with fellow blogger Jeg (of Versimilitude) and i took a position similar to what you have now. When he told me that…

    “Personally, I think we shouldve gone for food security first, self-sufficiency in food, before we tried to industrialize. But it might be too late now. We’ve been caught up in the globalization / industrialization whirlwind, hence those problems you enumerated. We’re importing rice! That is a travesty, imo. Taiwan can feed itself, export food, and industrialize. They had their priorities straight. We might have to abandon primary production and industrialize just to keep up. Our farmers will be left out in the cold if they dont adjust to the new realities.

    …i responded…

    Whenever, i hear the term food security, what i envision is emergency stocks of canned goods, noodles and grains (along with water supplies) hidden in caves or underground. Other than that, i think the best form of food security under non-emergency situations would be the ability to source food from our trading partners. Instead of food security, the main reason for wanting rapid increases in agricultural productivity would be that it supports and complements industrial growth – cvj Taiwan: Land Reform, Food Security and Industrialization Saturday, May 12, 2007

    Today, given a scenario where there is an increase in the worldwide prices of rice validates Jeg’s worries and leads me to reconsider my previous position.

  12. @KG

    food security is a very big issue for a lot of countries, that is why they subsidize their agriculture heavily (US to Corn and Wheat, Japan to Rice).

    the idea is, one must not rely on the supply of other countries for your food, since if you rely much on that source for food, you will end up hostage to their supply.

    but that is only good if you have plenty of money to subsidize the agricultural production of food. Magno’s point is that we don’t.

    that is why we have to count on our ever-reliable diplomatic corps to work deals and compromise with other countries for things that we do not have, so we can use the money intended for other productive pursuits (like corruption *sarcasm*).

  13. cvj

    i am worried too, and am reconsidering what i am saying.

    but what is holding me is that i somehow believe that planting more profitable crops, like jathropa, or ensuring that the income we get from what was previously arable land, would be more than the prevailing price of importing rice.

    and so far, the oversupply of chinese and indian agricultural goods, thai, vietnamese and cambodian rice is making me calm.

  14. Now i think that we should concentrate more on food security (FPJ’s platform btw) including rice. We need to turn the problem on its head. If the disadvantage of rice production is that it consumes too much water (relative to other crops), then what we should concentrate on is on increasing water production. That is because any future water shortage will make any rice shortage pale in comparison.

    Rice production means that we require more water, which means that we need more watersheds, which means we need to reforest our mountains and disallow mining and other polluting industries.

  15. oh.. speaking of reforestation, LandBank in its report has increased its loans on environmental projects (mostly reforestation) from 2.6 Billion to 12.3 Billion

    see this

    but then again

    cost of efforts in increasing our water supply > cost thais, viets get their water

  16. Liam (at 4:41pm), i agree but the current oversupply in China and India may not be there all the time. Maybe, these are good enough in postponing the crisis but i think it is best to use this reprieve as a chance to reorient our priorities. DJB has a relevant post on biofuels vs. food as well.

  17. Liam,

    “If there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life”

    one way of rephrasing it –

    If there is a sin against life in the philippines, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life with gloria around as in hoping for another life without a president gloria and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life despite gloria’s continued presence in malacañang

  18. Jose Montelibano poses this in his latest column on

    Will Filipinos have the generosity to help those who need it the most? Is the “bayanihan” spirit still alive in our culture? Will divisiveness lead to chaos, or give way to attempts to transcend it? Panic is not yet here, and I hope it will never come.

    I remember the amount of air time and front page space dedicated to politics and grandstanding politicians even as mudslides and other natural disasters took hundreds of lives a couple of years back.

    Refer to an observation I made about how the PCIJ handled this back in 2006:

    …after which I locked horns with Mr. Alecks Pabico himself (documented in a subsequent rant). 😉

    I’m willing to bet on our infinite capacity to continue bickering about our trivial politics even as the country teeter further towards food riots.

  19. the argument i guess is that there is a certain predictability when it comes to natural disasters, just as there is a kind of absence of culpability when it comes to the human misery they cause: unless it becomes a case of relief supplies being gobbled up by corruption, or more than the usual incompetence in the handling of relief, etc. but there are political controversies and issues that are of the moment and end up monopolizing coverage.

    but food is the ultimate political question. and while there’s an element of nature, a food crisis often comes to a head because the problems were nurtured by a government or the system that government has the bad luck of presiding over when the crisis hits. a correlation has been made between the french revolution and a mini ice age which led to devastating harvests, for example. the cost of bread was the kindling lit by the thinkers of the enlightenment, burning the french monarchy down to the ground.

    the question then is whether palliative measures are called for, and who can make the call for the comfortable to share with the destitute when the comfortable will necessarily (and for good reason) cast a skeptical eye on officialdom if it makes that call. considering the nature of recent controversies there is precious little moral ascendancy for the administration to be making that call, for example (and not even a tenth of what businessmen, etc. discuss about the government and smuggling, for example, ever makes it to the paper but that doesn’t stop it from being common knowledge among the sectors who will be expected to make sacrifices).

    and for an issue that requires government providing information to prevent panic and help sectors figure out a solution, when the well-honed instincts of that government is to suppress and confuse information, well…

  20. Fearless forecast: if the Pinas economy holds, GMA exits 2010, with grace.

    If the global food commodity worsens, opportunists will gladly take advantage of an agitated NCR population.

  21. and there are people out there who are actually rejoicing with the impending food crisis.

  22. KG:

    listening to gma on that food summit thinggie, again many good intentions like:

    funds for r and d, making new technologies attractive to young farmers,etc.

    now a little reality check.
    Why do we allow land to be converted to malls,etc.
    or why convert ricelands for other uses?

    GMA’s statements are banalities. If you want your daily fill, just look for Toting Bunye quotes. The government’s response to the rice crisis is a knee-jerk reaction that reveals the absence of a consistent agricultural and industrial policy. I can rant and rant, but Idon’t have the time. Go to UP and there have been TONS of studies on our dysfunctional agricultural policies.

  23. PGMA could declare a state of national emergency citing the rice shortage (economic crisis).

    Or, ask Congress to grant emergency powers for the duration of the crisis.

    If Senate refuses, they become the bad guys.

  24. UP n student@8:15pm:

    Question is: What is the threshold? I’m concerned, but I don’t see a breaking point just yet; people know it’s a regional phenomenon.

    I know some guys probably have more knowledge of the situation. Is there a threat of a REAL shortage, of rice running out at the stores? Is the trigger 45? 50? per kilo. Sorry, but I’m not in the Phils. and I’m trying to get a sense of breaking points for our people on this issue.

  25. @ nash, the funny thing is my friend as he is now, was also a Sale Manager for Del Monte back home and told me, he can wiggle his way out of anything himself, but next time he has to be very careful, because someday he might find himself in court, the prospect is not very appealing. His problem was he concluded the deal with the handshake but the “wifey” was not happy about it..and for her sake, well he just didn’t expect the “lecture” was sharp. He got a different car anyways and he’s happy with it…

  26. In general, would you trust an agreement between two Pinoys that is sealed by nothing more than a handshake? … BenignO

    Generally, it’s not uncommon for ordinary folks (mostly concerning their livelihood) to enter into an agreement without a written contract or even a handshake. everything is actually based on trust. I can cite a lot of examples here like contracting a newspaper boy to deliver our favorite dailies at home and pay him at the end of the month. There’s no any written agreement or contract signed not even a handshake yet, this agreement has been running smoothly for more than 10 years now. My cousin has a small bakery and he delivers his products to different sari-sari stores & small eateries w/ deferred payments again, there’s no written contract maybe only a handshake but people pay. When I was building my house, I have to advance construction materials from a construction supplier (yes, a chinese) and there was no written contract also on how to pay him but he trusted me anyway. And we all know also how the bombays conduct their (illegal) business of 5/6 usually to palengkes and small stores yet again, their (illegal) business flourishes. I can go on and on. All of these agreement are based on trust.

    As for Nash, I think to conclude that BenignO is surrounded by untrustworthy pinoy friends is uncalled for. Because if that’s your premise, I would conclude also that your circle of friends has a bad influence on your demeanor based on your rants here.


    DAY 36

  27. Grd – The examples you cite are transactions where if either side violates the agreement, the ultimate cost is low. If the boy does not deliver your daily, you are out 25 pesos. If he is really bad, you might be out a hundred pesos. Same with the suppliers and the money-lender. In fact the money lender’s very high rate of interest is the price of the risk premium for this type of loan-making. And ultimately, the opinion of your dyaryo boy does not matter even with a simple mortgage application. So in this case the risks are very low, so both sides do not deem it necessary to incur non-handshake costs.

    But what if somebody were to borrow money from you equivalent to 50% of your net worth, would you not require a contract? if not, where can I find you, I need cash …

  28. In 2007, the Philippines imported 1.8 million tons of rice, or 16 percent of its requirement, mainly from Vietnam and Thailand.

    Last month, Mrs. Arroyo asked the Vietnamese prime minister, Nguyen Tan Dung, to commit to export 1.5 million tons to the Philippines — Vietnam pledged only a million tons, officials said.

    Vietnam’s government announced late March-2008 that it would cut rice exports by nearly a quarter this year. The government hoped that keeping more rice inside the country would hold down prices.

    The same day, India effectively banned the export of all but the most expensive grades of rice. Egypt announced on Thursday that it would impose a six-month ban on rice exports, starting April 1, and on Wednesday, Cambodia banned all rice exports except by government agencies.

    Governments across Asia and in many rice-consuming countries in Africa have long worried that a steep increase in prices could set off an angry reaction among low-income city dwellers.

    “There is definitely the potential for unrest, particularly as the people most affected are the urban poor and they’re concentrated, so it’s easier for them to organize than it would be for farmers, for example, to organize to protest lower prices,” said Nicholas W. Minot, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington.


    Pinas in 2008 is facing a five to ten percent drop in rice for consumption. Ten-percent-less appears to be a survivable shock. But food riots may still happen, especially in the cities.

  29. Duckvader,

    to you what i have cited are peanuts, low risk. but for that newspaper boy or man who has a family to feed, if I and the others whom he are supplying are not going to pay him because there’s no written contract, then he has a problem feeding his family. by the way, I don’t pay him in advance.
    the same case with my cousin, if those people will not pay him then he has to close his shop. this too applies to that chinese trader w/ a not so big store, if I (and his other costumers) didn’t pay him because there was no contract, then it’s a big loss to him and he might also run out of business considering that most of these people are also having credits for their merchandise from bigger suppliers. the same with the bombay, if those ordinary folks who’s livelihood defends on that bombay’s money lending business, did not pay him, he might stop with his business also but it will be bad for those ordinary folks too because there’s nobody who will lend them the money without the collateral required by licensed lending institutions. I’m simply talking here of ordinary folks who’s livelihood is dependent on mere “handshake” agreement and based on trust. but these practice goes up to big time businesses too. just ask the fil-chinese traders.

    benignO asked about “trust” between pinoys concerning unwritten agreement. you have to consider all things big or small.

  30. As I was reading a topic on the next thread; I came across Rice riots (Kome Sodo) in Japan in 1908 which brought down the japanese Terauchi government.

    Just points to ponder.

  31. MLQ says:



    usec. manny gaite didn’t require a contract.


    Only one logical conclusion: It wasn’t his or his family’s money.

  32. grd:

    I’m not saying that the customer base isn’t a risk. Rather, that the present value of the probable loss from an individual relationship going bad is probably less than it would have to have a non-handshake agreement made out, and the risks are probably dispersed based on the supplier’s experience. Therefore, the handshake agreement suffices.

  33. @grd

    “As for Nash, I think to conclude that BenignO is surrounded by untrustworthy pinoy friends is uncalled for. Because if that’s your premise, I would conclude also that your circle of friends has a bad influence on your demeanor based on your rants here.”

    Point taken sir. But I should tell you I have no ill-feelings of a personal nature to Benign-zero or Bencard.

    This is just a ribbing/coloured manner of debate. We are not children and I’m damn well sure that these guys, I have learned, can take it as much as they can dish out.

    My friends are trustworthy, thank you very much. Even if we don’t close the deal with a handshake.

  34. @vic

    yes, i guess it’s a lesson learned. you must explicitly state what you are agreeing to before you do the handshake or verbal agreement.

  35. Duckvader,

    I was actually focused on BenignO’s comment so I wrote that the “handshake” system do exist in the phils too even in big businesses using of course the “network of references and connections“ that you’ve mentioned. But going through the comments again, i see where you’re coming from.

    But what if somebody were to borrow money from you equivalent to 50% of your net worth, would you not require a contract? if not, where can I find you, I need cash …

    Definitely I will require a contract and a collateral worth more than my money since I’m not into business and not a risk taker. But are you saying that people in Japan just do that? Or say financial institutions just lend out money to individuals with just a mere handshake?

    The reason there are few lawyers in Japan is that the legal profession has tried as much as possible to restrict the number of lawyers entering the profession

    Therefore, it is greed that is at the heart of the low number of lawyers in Japan.

    Are you saying that the regulation of lawyers in Japan is in the hands of private individuals and not under the govt? i thought your other answer is more apt.

  36. @ nash,

    i’m not actually defending benignO, i just don’t feel it’s right attacking other people who have nothing to do with the argument between you two.


  37. grd,

    on the first part, I think it’s more miscommunication between the two of us, including the possibility that I made my point erroneously. I think the message I was sending that Filipinos are more likely, in important transactions, to require a contract before they agree to a commitment. The Japanese on the other hand, will try as far as possible to fulfill a commitment on a handshake, i.e. there is more value in a handshake in Japan.

    On the second point, regulation is in the hands of the Supreme Court and the Ministry of Justice. But the lawyers do make it so that both agencies implement strict regulations. Here’s a quote from a paper:

    n Japan, the lawyers’ market is regulated so strictly that the contrast between the small lawers’ market and the huge economy is surprising. The number of lawyers is about 15,000, while the GDP and population are $4 trillion and 130 million, respectively. The regulation is governed principally by the Supreme Court of Japan and the Ministry of Justice. Regulations are implemented mainly through (1) strict bar examinations and (2) long trial times. The pass rates of the exam are 2-4% each year, and the average trial time (civil cases and District Courts) is 19.2 months. The consequences of the regulation are that (1) consumers pay 13.9-100.0% higher prices than in countries with no regulation, and (2) the expected rate of return on human capital investment in lawyers is very low, around the 0% level. It is not only a great loss for Japanese economy but also very unfortunate for university students that the investment opportunity in this most respected profession is almost blocked. (JEL K23, K40);jsessionid=H2YCnWGYZGm9Sbq3yHN3jy2jzfDjWYlyJMhnnGYGTJz0pLywRB1K!835737377?docId=96425161

  38. There are misleading statements that the SC decision on Neri vs Senate allows the President to invoke EP to conceal a crime. A careful reading of the both the majority and minority views of the SC would show their unanimous view that EP cannot be used of conceal a crime.They only differ in their appreciation of the circumstances as to whether the presumption of EP has been overcome.

    EP is rooted in the doctrine of Separation of Powers among the Executive, Legislative and Judicial Departments. Each is co-equal and enjoys supremacy within their powers and functions assigned by the Constitution. As such, official communications and cabinet deliberations in the cabinet are considered presumptively privileged as are executive sessions of Congress and the Supreme Court. But, EP is not absolute. The presumption of EP can be overcome when the party invoking the privilege is involved in any criminal activity. The burden of proof is on the party claiming to overcome the presumption, otherwise the mantle of privilege remains. In the instant case, there no allegation that the President was directly or indirectly involve in any criminal activity. Hence, her conversations with Neri is covered by EP.

  39. DuckVader, grd,

    how about this for a middle ground –

    a person who can’t keep his word or can’t honor a handshake deal can’t be trusted to abide by the terms of a contract

  40. DuckVader,

    I understand your point re the trust system in Japan. But I made my own google search about Japan’s legal system and based on the article below, it seems the culprit for this handshake system is the govt and the reason why japanese has to make do with this trust system is actually due to the inaccessibility of lawyer’s services to ordinary citizens in japan. But all is not well as per the article I partly quote below and as I understand, they are now trying to remedy this problem.

    The Japanese have long prided themselves on restricting the number and activities of lawyers as part of a system directed by powerful government ministries. The United States has about 20 times as many lawyers as Japan per capita. Lawyers in Japan are almost never in private practice nor are their services available to regular citizens.

    “There were many implications of this model of restricted access,” Ginsburg said. “It was very difficult to obtain legal services in Japan, and much of the supposed non-litigiousness of the Japanese can be attributed to the lack of the ability to find a lawyer if one was needed.” Furthermore, most lawyers were concentrated in the big cities, leaving residents in rural districts without access to legal advice or redress.

    Starting in the late 1980s, pressure mounted to change the system. It came from several sources, according to Ginsburg. The Supreme Court and Ministry of Justice wanted to increase the number of judges and prosecutors, and big business complained about bottlenecks in the legal system. As the economy declined, more legal disputes emerged among businessmen, and deregulation reduced the government’s grip over private-party transactions.

    “When business is embedded in a network of dense relationships among buyers, suppliers, creditors, employers, and employees – as was traditionally true in Japan in the past – disputes could be dealt with informally, or suppressed,” Ginsburg said.

    “The shrinking pie – or at least less rapidly expanding pie – seems to have frayed these social ties and led to more disputes. All of these developments reflected a sense that the institutions that had promoted high growth since the 1950s were no longer able to function in the era of economic decline, and trust in the government as a kind of steward of the economy disappeared.”.


  41. Some months back; I think I posted here some specific recommendations (which in turn I took from a forum several years back) on water, food, maintaining the forest, garbage, etc…

    Since those recommendations haven’t been proven to be non-effective or detrimental; I think that they are still worth giving a shot.

    With regards to extracting groundwater; I think a way must be found to artificially (as against natural means)resupply it. Like possibly a run-off from a dam straight to the underground before the supply in the dam gets too high during the rainy season. This could offset the damage done by release of a large amount of dam water to the immediate surroundings that can endanger life and livelihood.

    If memory serves me right, a purported release of water in a dam caused a number of casualties in the Pagsanjan river a decade ago as well as a release of water from the Pantabangan dam (to prevent the dam from reaching its automatic spilling level in anticipation of more rain) 2 years ago damaged some crops.

    Though the latter story was largely downplayed by the Upper Pampanga River Integrated Irrigation System (UPRIIS), operations Manager Antonio Nangel would later admit that small areas of farmlands along the banks of the Pampanga river were indeed damaged.

    Too much water extraction from the groudwater can cause soil subsidence leading to general “sinking” of the top land which could contribute to propensity to flooding during slight to moderate rainfall as well as saltwater intrusion into the fresh groundwater itself.

    Saltwater intrusion is what happened to certain areas in Cebu several years back that the wells in some areas are no longer a suitable source of freshwater.

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