ALEX MAGNO: PARTISAN

One tweet, the other day, said the Philippines was under apartheid: there was one set of rules for the Yellows and another for everybody else. That remark, sarcastic as it was, cannot be entirely unwarranted. Everything, it seems, including rescue and relief, seems tainted with partisanship. There is this image stuck in my mind, difficult to expunge. It is a news photo of President Aquino and Secretary Mar Roxas touring the devastation in Leyte wearing uniform yellow shirts. They resembled Tweedledee and Tweedledum, who just needed to look alike. Much has been said in the social media about this proclivity to cling to partisan symbols by amateur psychologists arriving at conclusions from a distance. I will not repeat those conclusions here. Suffice it to say, I found it curious that when Mar Roxas faced the press last Tuesday to deny allegations of politicking in the midst of disaster made by Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez, he wore a yellow pin on his shirt. (Full article below)


MANILA, DECEMBER 16, 2013 (PHILSTAR) FIRST PERSON By Alex Magno - One tweet, the other day, said the Philippines was under apartheid: there was one set of rules for the Yellows and another for everybody else.

That remark, sarcastic as it was, cannot be entirely unwarranted. Everything, it seems, including rescue and relief, seems tainted with partisanship.

There is this image stuck in my mind, difficult to expunge. It is a news photo of President Aquino and Secretary Mar Roxas touring the devastation in Leyte wearing uniform yellow shirts.

They resembled Tweedledee and Tweedledum, who just needed to look alike.

Much has been said in the social media about this proclivity to cling to partisan symbols by amateur psychologists arriving at conclusions from a distance.

I will not repeat those conclusions here.

Suffice it to say, I found it curious that when Mar Roxas faced the press last Tuesday to deny allegations of politicking in the midst of disaster made by Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez, he wore a yellow pin on his shirt.

Neither President Aquino nor Mar Roxas have appeared in public wearing the flag on their lapels, preferring those yellow ribbon pins as adornment.

In the case of Mar Roxas, the yellow shirt seems to be a belated preference.

I recall Roxas, during the 2010 campaign, sticking to his trademark deep blue shirts that set him quite apart from the standard-bearer’s colors.

In his testimony before the Senate, Romualdez recounted how Roxas demanded a letter from him admitting he could not exercise his responsibilities as city executive.

He quoted Mar as saying: “You have to remember, we have to be careful. You are a Romualdez and the President is an Aquino.”

How could such a thought have occurred in Mar’s mind in the midst of great devastation?

That is a damning quote, however it might be interpreted. It damns both Mar and his President.

Roxas, replying to Romualdez’s suggestion of partisanship getting in the way of rescue and relief, insists that everything was done to help Tacloban — whatever the surname of its mayor. That rejoinder trips on the fact that no emergency funds have been released for Tacloban one month after the storm.

The city’s internal revenue allocation remains trapped at the DBM. Decaying corpses continue to be found in the city a month after the calamity.

Although there is a photo-op of President Aquino and Mayor Romualdez sitting in a meeting days after the storm, the mayor claims the President has not talked to him at all.

I know President Aquino has this unique skill for shaking a person’s hand while looking the other way. I tried practicing that and fumbled each time.

The responsibilities of his office, nevertheless, demands that he takes time to discuss with the mayor of Tacloban — whatever his surname might be. Statesmanship requires that, however much the President might be inclined to shield himself with partisan colors.

Remember what Mandela said about working with your enemy to achieve the common good. He sat down with de Klerk and worked out the end of apartheid.

Statesmanship achieves great things.

Carrying cost

At least, even if we are doomed to absorb a hefty, inflation-inducing increase in electricity costs, the discussions about staggering the price spike helps improve our financial literacy.

After Meralco and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) agreed to a three-stage formula for implementing the price increase, we must now worry about the “carrying costs” for that formula.

Because the price increase is staggered, it means that the distribution company (Meralco) will under-recover from consumers what it has to pay the power producers. The under-recovery, in the initial stages, will have to be financed somehow. That implies some cost-of-money during the initial period. That cost-of-money will have to be imputed to the electricity charges consumers must pay over the term when power costs will be high.

In the end, the formula means consumers will eventually pay more. They will pay for the entire cost of producing electricity plus the cost of staggering charges for that cost.

Although painful, it is actually cheaper for consumers to absorb the full cost in one blow. The staggered schedule of price increases, incurring carrying costs, might seem more benevolent even if it will in the end cost consumers more. The benefit of this formula is entirely illusory.

Anyone who uses a credit card should know that staggering payment comes with costs eventually. It might seem less painful to pay in protracted installments, but only if we do not mind the financing costs this entails.

The utilities economists and the financial experts have yet to fully compute the carrying cost that will be incurred by applying a three-stage price increase. It could be a major addition to the burden consumers absorb in the end.

The only reason for this clumsy (and deceptive) three-stage price increase is politics. People in the Palace are deathly fearful of rioting in the streets if the power price increase comes in one blow. Imaginably, tremendous pressure has been exerted on Meralco and the ERC to stagger the increase.

This staggered increase is wise only if we assume the consumers are stupid. On this assumption, the authorities hope the consuming public will not feel the pain and the economy will not go into an inflationary spiral.

Then again our consumers might not be stupid. They might not be lulled by the incremental increases, knowing that in the end they will be paying more because of carrying costs.

Then they will be really angry, especially since this price spike is due entirely to poor planning.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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