30 April 2013

Breaking the unholy alliance between business and politics

(The Philippine Star) 

Businessman and entrepreneur Manuel V. Pangilinan should be congratulated for opening a debate on the role of business in nation building.
He said “the government should allow the private sector to take an active role in ensuring that economic growth was shared and enjoyed by all classes.” Pangilinan was reacting to the report of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) that the numbers of the country’s poor were unchanged since 2006 despite high economic growth.
But it is not quite how MVP puts it. He asks if it might work better for the Philippines if the government allowed the private sector to take an active role in pushing for economic growth.
I can understand where he is coming from, feeling frustrated that so much could be done if only the government were to welcome private initiative. Being an entrepreneur he wants to take on agriculture in a massive way since the majority of our poor are farmers. He says the private sector can help the industry with a greater infusion of technical know-how and capital.
“The imperative is inclusive, not exclusionary, growth. Business and government need to work together to identify areas that offer the higher levels of employment and income to our people — agriculture and tourism, for instance,” Pangilinan said.
Malacañang’s reply to the MVP initiative is disappointing. The president’s spokesman said “eradicating poverty in the country was not an overnight thing.”
Edwin Lacierda blames “the high level of poverty incidence on the lackluster performance of the agricultural-fishery sector.
Someone should tell him not to make it a chicken and egg problem. Agriculture and fishery are “lackluster” because it does not have the means to perform better and not the other way around.
He then gives an ominous warning that defeating poverty cannot be done overnight. Maybe. But we can at least begin and that is where the MVP suggestion can be put to good use.
*  *  *
Historically, the private sector or more accurately family owned companies control government in the Philippines.
Well, MVP does not need to go very far. Rentier politics thrives in the Philippines. Media is used as the rent to acquire benefits and contracts from a government that owes its election victory to media. No wonder, private groups are all eager to own media that they can use for the benefit of candidates during election campaigns.
It is well known that the Lopez empire was built using this formula. One member of the family was in charge of media and finance and another in politics.
So MVP should address his call for more private sector initiatives differently. He should call for a level playing field based on meritocracy. If this is the case then private sector should indeed be given a more active role but please it should not be exclusively for ‘cronies’.
*  *  *
The unholy alliance between business and government in the Philippines was best described in “An Anarchy of Families” by Alfred McCoy. In his book he points to the closeness of business interests to government in our political structure as the reason for a weak Philippine state.
“From provincial warlords to modern managers, prominent Filipino leaders have fused family, politics, and business to compromise public institutions and amass private wealth — a historic pattern that persists to the present day.” McCoy writes.
He cites how the Osmeñas and Lopezes, elite Filipino families formed a powerful oligarchy — controlling capital, dominating national politics, and often owning media. He also takes on provincial warlords like Ramon Durano, Ali Dimaporo, and Justiniano Montano who have used “guns, goons, and gold” to accumulate wealth and power in far-flung islands and provinces. He shows how this collusion between government and private interests has continued into the 21st century, despite dramatic socio-economic change that has supplanted the classic “three G’s” of Philippine politics with the contemporary “four C’s” — continuity, Chinese, criminality, and celebrity. (We must add “PCOS” elections.)
*  *  *

19 April 2013

The TIME List

 (The Philippine Star) 

I would have remained quiet about the TIME award to President Noy Aquino as one of the 100 most influential leaders in the world.  
But it was a bit much when the magazine gave the reasons why he was chosen. “The sputtering economy stabilized and became hot under him, he pushed for a reproductive-rights law that many said was impossible in the fervently Catholic nation, and he bravely confronted Beijing over its claim on the South China Sea,” says TIME.
He may have been cited in the TIME list but all three reasons demean the Philippines as a country in the service of the American agenda. Had TIME Magazine been subtler when giving the reasons for naming him, it would have given space for intelligent and patriotic Filipinos to appreciate the award.
But then the TIME list for influential leaders has a reputation for the choices it makes to favor political reasons. It is no different from choices made for winners of the Nobel Peace Prize or for that matter which country wins in the lamentable beauty contests of Miss Universe or Miss International.
*      *      *
His inclusion in the list could not have come at a worse time with the release of a Wikileaks report on a US diplomatic cable that said “even the late President Corazon Aquino admitted that her son, President Benigno Aquino III, is not a “natural politician.” The cable was sent before the 2010 elections by former US Ambassador to Manila Kristie Kenney.
The cable was sent to inform Washington of Aquino’s expected bid for the presidency, after Sen. Mar Roxas said he was passing on to Aquino the Liberal Party standard.
In Kenney’s cable she said “Most political observers, including his late mother, agree that he is not a natural politician, lacking the charisma and aggressive political agenda that usually propels political candidates.”
The US diplomat said it was Cory herself who told her “it had taken a massive effort by the entire Aquino clan... to get Noynoy elected to the Senate.” Mrs. Aquino reportedly said they had to rely on the popularity of her youngest daughter, actress Kris, her husband basketball star James Yap, as well as her own political pull.”
Aquino, served out three terms as Tarlac second district representative, ranked sixth in the 2007 senatorial race with more than 14.3 million votes.
Kenney also described the President’s record as a legislator “lackluster.” “He has not played a leading role in the House or Senate, and his views on many controversial issues remain unknown.”
Interestingly she noted in the same cable that the US Embassy is “not aware of any corruption allegations against Aquino” and that his “uncontroversial nature” is seen to boost his image as “clean”.
She compared “Aquino’s foray into presidential politics to that of his mother’s, who had been catapulted into the presidency by the assassination of her husband, Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr.” That answers many questions on how he took over from Mar Roxas who was earlier favored by the US because of his background in finance.
“Just as the 1983 assassination of Senator Ninoy Aquino propelled his wife, Cory, into presidential politics, so too her death has unexpectedly transformed the political landscape, launching her son on a quest for the presidency,” Kenney said.
Her conclusion: there was public clamor for Aquino to seek the top government position, because “Filipinos hoped to see change after the controversies which hounded the Arroyo administration.”

04 April 2013

Mad, Simply Mad

The Musings of Ronald Roy
March 5, 2013

Mad, Simply Mad
Ronald Roy — 2013 March 05
Deserving serious reflection is the comment of an octogenarian stranger (“OS”, for brevity) assailing as “indecently biased and one-sided” the P-Noy administration’s 1) account of martial law atrocities purportedly committed on orders of dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, 2) list of alleged martyrs and heroes he is said to have victimized, and 3) irresponsible revision of history by requiring indoctrination courses in schools on its version of the martial law years, including events that led to his fall under the crunching weight of American-sanctioned people power revolution that was wielded by some 150,000 riotous people assembled near the junction of Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, Eulogio Rodriguez Avenue and Aurora Boulevard, Quezon City.
OS” hit it on the head of the nail when he said that P-Noy’s commie-infested government has neither legal nor moral right to exclude from the reverential recognition those soldiers and civilians who fought against Muslim secessionist rebels and the Ninoy Aquino-led CPP/NPA/NDF rebels, and were wounded, tortured and killed in the process.
I wrote in previous articles that casualties were sustained on both sides of the country’s internecine war, and that it would be utterly wrong to dishonour those who were wounded, tortured or murdered by those who tried to install a communist regime in the country, as well as by those who wished to dismember the republic.
That the victims of martial law must be compensated is something that’s just fine with me; but the disparagement of Marcos forces and followers who resisted Muslim secessionists and armed Maoists led by Kumander Dante Buscayno, the staunch ally of Ninoy Aquino and ward of his mother Doña Aurora, would be a great disservice, nay, a supreme insult to the present and future generations of Filipinos.
Through the recently signed Human Rights Victims Reparations and Recognition Act of 2013, it is unfortunate that Pres. Noynoy Aquino has officially commenced a regime of classroom-lectured historical distortions. And if rumours are fact, he will utilize an extension of his term beyond 2016 in order to intensify a perpetuation of martial law’s dark side, with Sen. Benigno “Bam” Aquino waiting on the wings to carry on a few years from now (like 2022?), and so on.
I join “OS” in asking P-Noy and Human Right Commissioner Etta Rosales why they think that those who suffered at the hands of Commie Chairman Jose Maria Sison, Commie Kumander Dante, and a host of Muslim renegades, cannot be regarded as human rights victims, and should be identified as enemies of the state. It’s of course obvious they’ll choose to ignore the simple question.
Just as obvious would be their reluctance to investigate widespread corrupt practices among members and fiscal agents of the Philippine Commission on Good Governance in all the years of its existence. Atty. Antonio Rosales, Etta’s husband, I’m sure has long been waiting to be asked to help in the digging up of countless reported anomalies in PCGG’s operations, and it can only be curious why no move has been made to seek his help.
Former Senator Jovito Salonga, incidentally, has himself remained deafeningly quiet amidst unflattering snipes at his integrity as erstwhile PCGG Chair. But rest assured P-Noy will not cause to investigate his “Tito Jovy” for sentimental reasons—PCGG having been his mother’s creation, and Jovy having been her first appointed PCGG Chairman.
Besides, P-Noy owes Jovy a lot for forever keeping his trap shut about all he remembers of Ninoy’s involvement in the Plaza Miranda Bombing which had been plotted and executed to permanently incapacitate all Liberal Party contenders for the presidency except, of course, Ninoy Aquino, who deliberately absented himself from the Miting de Avance to escape the explosions that were scheduled for 10:00pm. Ninoy Aquino was mad, simply mad.
But he was also a very glib and witty raconteur. Endowed with the gift of gab, Ninoy was a regaling public speaker who never failed to keep his listeners enraptured. Emceeing political programs was his forte. He was to the Plaza Miranda Miting de Avance, as a duck would be to a river; and it was puzzling why Ninoy would not come to emcee the rally which started at 6:30, and it was already 8:30.
That evening, I was home watching the event on live television; Doy Laurel was doing the same in his Mandaluyong residence. We had twice called each other up exchanging speculations about why Ninoy had preferred to watch the proceedings via television in Doy’s house. [I had earlier turned down Doy’s invitation to come to watch the LP event in his residence where a despedida de soltera for his daughter Suzie was being held, preferring to stay home instead].
At 8:55 Doy called to invite me anew, but I declined and instead asked him what Ninoy was doing; and he replied, “Heto, watching Plaza Miranda on TV, and I’m wondering why he is fidgety…” At 9:40 I called and Doy said Ninoy had already left for the Plaza Miranda Rally. Ninoy would naturally reach Quiapo after the makeshift stage bearing his party comrades had already been bombed by two grenades in accordance with a multiple murder plot which the CPP would eventually own up to!
Although the evidence incriminating Ninoy was circumstantial, I believe it would have been strong enough for his criminal indictment. I am likewise sure other pieces of evidence could have then been culled to satisfy the quantum of “guilt beyond reasonable doubt”; albeit fate would not have it that way, it seems, even if I personally know two more living witnesses who can come forward with persuasive evidence.
Back to Jovy Salonga. At some time past 11:30pm, my father and I were at the hospital bedside of the injured senator. His hands and head heavily bandaged, Salonga managed to mutter: “Ka Pepe, may kinalaman si Ninoy dito sa aming pagkabomba!” He might have said more if my father had allowed him. Instead, dad hushed down his friend so he could rest.
Some years after that, I saw Sen. Salonga on television. He was holding high a red book in his hand, saying “Narito sa librong ito, mga kababayan, and mga detalye ng Plaza Miranda Bombing, at ang mga pangalan ng mga utak.”, or words to that effect. The Cory government would effect retrieval of copies of the book from all known commercial bookstores within 48 hours after Salonga’s televised announcement. Shortly after that, Cory would appoint him to the coveted position of PCGG Chairman.
As I write this piece, more startling similarities between Noynoy and his father Ninoy come into focus. For example, during martial law, Marcos launched Project Jabidah in order to facilitate a peaceful resolution—via a referendum of the residents on the territory of Sabah—of the Sulu Sultanate’s proprietary claim over the said territory. But the plan was aborted when Sen. Ninoy Aquino delivered a privilege speech exposing Jabidah as a warmongering scheme of a madman.
Well, in retrospect, Jabidah might have succeeded. At the very least it was worth a try. The Kirams hoped for better luck when Ninoy’s son became president. But after his inauguration in 2010, P-Noy ignored pleas for help from Sultan Jamalul Kiram III. And now, as of this writing, with 12 Filipinos and 7 Malaysians (and surely still counting) killed,  P-Noy tells all cornered Kiram followers to surrender to Malaysian authorities, or face the consequences!!
And should they be lucky to be allowed to return to the country, Department of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima will arrest and prosecute them for rebellion or other crimes later to be determined… Ha?!
Surely, blood is on P-Noy’s hands, and does he know it!!! But he doesn’t really care. He must please the Malaysians at any and all costs to ensure fruition of 1) the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement, and 2) his dream for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Ubusan ng lahi?! I wouldn’t know, Joe  (Cortez), but I can’t see violence abating within weeks. I don’t like Nur Misuari but I agree with him that P-Noy has no right to go against Filipinos. Additionally, he now shifts the blame to others for instigating the war; and even so, this would not exculpate him from the impeachable offense of not rendering justice to 800,000 Filipinos!
Hmmm… like his father, P-Noy must truly be mad, simply mad.