MANILA STANDARD OPINION

EDITORIAL: PRE-CHOOSING DESTINY 

This is a reality we Filipinos must contend with. Our democracy ensures our right to self-determination and to decide for ourselves who we want to govern us. We make it a point to register and vote, watch closely our election process and guard the results. We speak out against vote buying and denounce violence in any form. We like to believe we are maturing as an electorate, more discerning of candidates’ credentials and track record aside from the prominence of their name or the luster of their smile. Now we demand to see candidates’ platforms of government and their positions on crucial issues. We hope that with every election season, more and more Filipinos would do the same. This is because we recognize that the entire voting process is a way to assert our right and comply with our obligation as citizens—prime movers and determiners of our nation’s destiny.

We are, after all, only as good as the leaders we choose. All these lofty thoughts come to mind as, less than two years before the start of the campaign season for the 2016 presidential elections, we hear various rumors about potential political combinations for the top two posts at stake. The Secretary of the Interior and Local Government, thought by many as the one the President would endorse as his successor, could not seem to do anything else to improve his acceptability among the people. Thus, the Liberal Party is hard pressed to either make him more palatable in the next few months, or go with another candidate altogether. The Vice President, who has made no secret of his intention to run as president, is reportedly in talks with the President’s party for a supposed alliance, even if he belongs to the supposed opposition: specifically, the United Nationalist Alliance. However, the Vice President is also a close family friend of the President’s and it has been said that presidential sisters actually prefer him over the secretary. * CONTINUE READING...

ALSO by Emil Jurado: Liberals on panic mode 

A businessman-friend asked me over a cup of coffee to explain what’s happening in the political scene. There seems to be a trial balloon for President Aquino having a second term, and possible mixing of candidates, like Malacañang and the Liberal Party having Vice President Jojo Binay adopted as administration candidate, or an unbelievable Binay-Mar Roxas team-up, aside from usual speculations of a Chiz-Escudero-Grace Poe tandem to challenge Binay. The answer to all these, I told my friend, is that President Aquino, the people around him and LP stalwarts are becoming so desperate about the prospect of a Binay presidency in 2016. It all boils down to that, really. They are not too sure whether Binay would protect President Aquino once the latter steps down. By protection I mean protection from prosecution and detention, in the same way former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is now detained.

President Aquino, after all, has had so many violations of the law, including the Priority Development Assistance Fund, the Disbursement Acceleration Program, the Reproductive Health Law and the conviction and ouster of Chief Justice Renato Corona. If Binay runs under the United Nationalist Alliance as an oppositionist, which I believe he will do despite his closeness to the presidential sisters, he will have no choice but to have President Aquino prosecuted. What goes around comes around. Insofar as President Aquino’s bid for a second term is concerned, that is just baloney. The Constitution is very clear against a second term. But, Malacañang and the President’s minions and lapdogs in the Liberal Party are testing the waters just the same. In fact, Palace spokesmen Edwin Lacierda and Sonny Coloma said that it all depends on the sentiments of the President’s “bosses,” meaning the people. The truth of the matter is that there is a propaganda and political strategy team headed by an American. They want to confuse the people insofar as Binay’s loyalties and priorities are concerned. * CONTINUE READING...

ALSO by Francisco Tatad: Shooting down Aquino’s balloon  

President B. S. Aquino III’s trial balloon on a possible second term is high up in the air, and we now see him speaking from both sides of his mouth. One side says he will step down at the end of his term in 2016, the other side says he wants to listen to the “voice of the people,” who are his “bosses.” The Constitution provides for a single term, and more and more people want to see Aquino out not by 2016, but now, if possible----“immediately, if not sooner,” to borrow a quip from the irreplaceable Carlos P. Romulo. As far as some critics are concerned, Aquino has destroyed the Constitution and the rule of law, and has become a “criminal president.” The only other term for him, according to them, is a “jail term,” after former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, his predecessor and present prisoner. Just who would like him to have a second term?

No one has come out in the open. But these could be power-brokers who would like to continue making lots of money by remaining in power. Possibly guilty of plunder, they are understandably terrified at the prospect of spending the rest of their lives in jail. They probably believe that by staying another few years in power, they could postpone the inevitable. And how will Aquino hear “the voice of the people?” By listening to the courtesans in Congress who had taken bribes to impeach Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, and now threaten Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno with similar impeachment for voting against the Disbursement Acceleration Program, which the Court has voided by a vote of 13-0, and for refusing to be cowed by the President’s threat of retaliation. Vice President Jejomar C. Binay has called on the unnamed group to “respect the President’s decision to step down by 2016” and to stop pushing for an additional term for him. It was the least he could do. The Vice President could become the first casualty in case of a presidential term extension, and he has every right and duty to look after his own interests; no one else will. * CONTINUE READING...

ALSO by Jojo Robles: The road to ruin  

No wonder people who knew him from school remember him only as a “C student.” Not only does President Noynoy Aquino fail to understand the concept of savings, as he admitted during a televised speech, he apparently can’t even wrap his mind around the idea of going into debt—which is what he intends to, apparently, to generate more of his savings. Consider the following short discussion on both concepts a test of your ability to understand them. You can congratulate yourself if, at the end, you are able to comprehend both savings and debt better than the President himself—if you went to the Ateneo like Aquino, perhaps you would have even gotten better grades than he did. Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon asked this week: if the government has so much money in the form of savings, why does it keep going into debt? Ridon revealed that by the end of the year, each of the 100 million citizens of this country will be P59,121 in debt to the Philippines’ local and foreign creditors—who will hold P5.9 trillion in obligations from the government. The proposed P2.606 trillion 2015 national budget, just submitted by Malacañang to Congress, is 15 percent higher than the current year’s. To fund the 2015 outlay, the Department of Budget and Management promises to raise P2.337 trillion through tax collections, non-tax revenues and privatization. To fund the deficit (the difference between proposed income and the actual outlay), the government will borrow P700.8 billion.

But according to Ridon, majority of the new loans, or P390.4 billion, will not even be used to fund projects lined up for next year. Instead, the amount will be used to pay amortizations on the outstanding national government debt. (By the way, this is where all those credit upgrades from the three international ratings agencies that Aquino keeps bragging about—paid for in millions of dollars by our taxes —will come in handy. All they mean, after all, is that more people will be willing to lend government money; it never seems to occur to Aquino that he can actually make government live within its means, spending only money it can reasonably collect and not drive us all further into debt.) * * * Since the discovery of Aquino’s Disbursement Acceleration Program, which has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, various reports have pegged DAP funds at somewhere in the neighborhood of P170 to P140 billion. This, the government was able to do by impounding funds allocated for various projects approved by Congress and contained in the national budget even before the projects were completed, a practice that the high court disallowed. Aquino, in his television address, said he could not understand the Supreme Court’s definition of savings. So he asked Congress–which benefited hugely from DAP funds transferred by the palace (a practice that was also disallowed)—to redefine savings for him, with a view to making legal what the Supreme Court had already declared illegal. * CONTINUE READING...

ALSO Editorial 2: Still the King of Pork 

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III proved beyond a doubt this week that he indeed deserves to be crowned the Pork Barrel King. In clandestine meetings that were kept from the press, Mr. Aquino’s emissaries from the Cabinet quietly met with congressmen to assure them that they could still fund their pet projects, even though the Supreme Court had declared the Priority Development Assistance Fund, more commonly known as pork barrel--unconstitutional. The envoys, Commission on Higher Education chairman Patricia Licuanan and Health Undersecretary Janette Garin, held separate meetings with the lawmakers, but their message was the same: pork barrel, albeit under a different guise, was alive and well, and available to the congressmen. ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio, who was in the closed-door meetings, said they began two weeks ago, shortly after three impeachment complaints were filed against the President. The timing suggests that Mr. Aquino was buying insurance against his impeachment with the currency of pork. “You don’t have to worry about your pork barrel projects because we are here to assure you that your projects, just like before, are still there. All you have to do is identify and nominate your projects,” Tinio quoted one of the emissaries as telling the congressmen. * CONTINUE READING...

ALSO by Tony Lopez: Republic of Rizal  

The World Bank, or at least its Manila office, seems to love President Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III. The Washington-based financial behemoth believes Manila’s claim that poverty incidence was reduced by three percentage points between 2012 and 2013, from 27.9 percent to 24.9 percent. The three-percentage-point reduction is equivalent to 2.5 million Filipinos graduating from being poor to being non-poor in a single semester. Not only does the World Bank believe in this claim. It believes that the trend is not a freak. “Stronger job creation in the first half of 2014 suggests that poverty reduction will continue,” says the bank breathtakingly in its latest economic update (August 2014) on the Philippines. Yet, the bank immediately contradicts itself by lowering its growth projection, in terms of rise in the value of the Philippine Gross Domestic Product, from 6.6 percent to 6.4 percent this year, and from 6.9 percent to 6.7 percent in 2015.

In the whole of 2013, GDP growth was a dizzying 7.2 percent, up from 6.4 percent in 2012. However, by first quarter of 2014, the economy suddenly shifted to lower gear, growing by just 5.7 percent from the heady 7.7 percent in January-March 2013. That two-percentage-point reduction at current prices is equivalent to a P220.6-billion reduction in production of goods and services, from P2,861.1 billion in the first quarter of 2013 to P2,640.5 billion in the first quarter of 2014. Had the economy grown at, say, the 2013 first quarter rate of 9.2 percent at current prices in the first quarter of 2014, it should have produced P263.86 billion more in goods and services (9.2 percent of P2.64 trillion). In effect, the effective loss to the economy was P484.46 billion (the P263.86 billion gain of first quarter 2013 over first quarter 2012 plus the P220.6 billion loss in first quarter 2014 over first quarter 2013). Imagine how many jobs P484.46 billion could have created? It is 48,446 jobs—assuming it takes P10 million to create one job, or 96,920 jobs—assuming it takes P5 million to create a job, or 193,840 jobs—assuming it takes P2.5 million to create one job. A hamburger outlet with P25 million investment usually has ten workers. That’s P2.5 million per job.

So why does the World Bank think poverty reduction will continue at the frenetic pace it did in the first half of 2013—by three percentage points, despite a steadily slowing down economy? There is only one explanation: The World Bank loves Noynoy Aquino. The bank wants him to succeed, despite a string of scandals involving the illegality and unconstitutionality of his three major initiatives—the RH Law, the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF or pork barrel of legislators), and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (the P150-billion petty cash of President Aquino which he dispenses with remarkable political elan and savvy). The Supreme Court has declared all three initiatives—anchor programs of the Aquino regime—unconstitutional. * READ MORE...


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Pre-choosing our destiny

MANILA, AUGUST 18, 2014 (MANILA STANDARD) This is a reality we Filipinos must contend with.

Our democracy ensures our right to self-determination and to decide for ourselves who we want to govern us. We make it a point to register and vote, watch closely our election process and guard the results.

We speak out against vote buying and denounce violence in any form.

We like to believe we are maturing as an electorate, more discerning of candidates’ credentials and track record aside from the prominence of their name or the luster of their smile. Now we demand to see candidates’ platforms of government and their positions on crucial issues. We hope that with every election season, more and more Filipinos would do the same.

This is because we recognize that the entire voting process is a way to assert our right and comply with our obligation as citizens—prime movers and determiners of our nation’s destiny. We are, after all, only as good as the leaders we choose.

All these lofty thoughts come to mind as, less than two years before the start of the campaign season for the 2016 presidential elections, we hear various rumors about potential political combinations for the top two posts at stake.

The Secretary of the Interior and Local Government, thought by many as the one the President would endorse as his successor, could not seem to do anything else to improve his acceptability among the people. Thus, the Liberal Party is hard pressed to either make him more palatable in the next few months, or go with another candidate altogether.

The Vice President, who has made no secret of his intention to run as president, is reportedly in talks with the President’s party for a supposed alliance, even if he belongs to the supposed opposition: specifically, the United Nationalist Alliance. However, the Vice President is also a close family friend of the President’s and it has been said that presidential sisters actually prefer him over the secretary.

* “Why not?” said the garrulous youngest sister, who claims to be “Queen of All Media” over national television a few days ago, adding the qualifier that anybody who could continue what her brother started would get their endorsement.

But now another former President, who is with the Vice President in the UNA, has said the latter was definitely running for the opposition. The Interior Secretary, after floating the widely-criticized proposal to let the President have another term, has now said he would support anybody whom his boss chooses to endorse, after all.

In the meantime, the people lap up these scenarios. We ask ourselves whether we can tolerate more of the game of musical chairs come campaign season.

It is galling that even before we troop to the polling centers and make our choice, our choices have been narrowed down for us.

It would have been good, too, if the basis for such pre-determination were the same stringent standards we are trying to use for ourselves. But no: Why would we even need the nod of a few chosen families and political stalwarts, who have their own interests to consider—not the least of all avoiding going to jail—to give us their short list of “acceptable” names?

So the next time we extoll the virtue of democracy and delude ourselves into thinking that those who govern us are the product of our own free will, we should think again.

Liberals on panic mode  By Emil Jurado | Aug. 12, 2014 at 12:01am

A businessman-friend asked me over a cup of coffee to explain what’s happening in the political scene. There seems to be a trial balloon for President Aquino having a second term, and possible mixing of candidates, like Malacañang and the Liberal Party having Vice President Jojo Binay adopted as administration candidate, or an unbelievable Binay-Mar Roxas team-up, aside from usual speculations of a Chiz-Escudero-Grace Poe tandem to challenge Binay.

The answer to all these, I told my friend, is that President Aquino, the people around him and LP stalwarts are becoming so desperate about the prospect of a Binay presidency in 2016.

It all boils down to that, really. They are not too sure whether Binay would protect President Aquino once the latter steps down. By protection I mean protection from prosecution and detention, in the same way former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is now detained.

President Aquino, after all, has had so many violations of the law, including the Priority Development Assistance Fund, the Disbursement Acceleration Program, the Reproductive Health Law and the conviction and ouster of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

If Binay runs under the United Nationalist Alliance as an oppositionist, which I believe he will do despite his closeness to the presidential sisters, he will have no choice but to have President Aquino prosecuted. What goes around comes around.

Insofar as President Aquino’s bid for a second term is concerned, that is just baloney. The Constitution is very clear against a second term. But, Malacañang and the President’s minions and lapdogs in the Liberal Party are testing the waters just the same. In fact, Palace spokesmen Edwin Lacierda and Sonny Coloma said that it all depends on the sentiments of the President’s “bosses,” meaning the people.

The truth of the matter is that there is a propaganda and political strategy team headed by an American. They want to confuse the people insofar as Binay’s loyalties and priorities are concerned.

* Along this line, I believe that when Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas said he wanted President Aquino have a second term, everything had been planned. They want to test the people’s sentiment, and they also want to confuse us.

Malacañang and the Liberal Party seem to be achieving these ends so the Vice President needs to make a categorical declaration that he will remain the opposition candidate in 2016.

Binay needs to declare his real intention. This despite politics being a game of addition in politics, and he being a veteran politician.

If Binay ever makes the mistake of dividing his loyalty to the administration and the opposition, former President and now Manila Mayor Erap Estrada may be forced to run against him. And that could split right down the middle the “masa” support of both Erap and Jojo.

Recall that while poll surveys show Binay as the man to beat in 2016, my gulay, Erap is second to him.

If the President and his minions and lackeys in Congress commit the mistake of monkeying around with the Constitution and allowing a second term for Mr. Aquino and all his lapdogs in Congress who also extend their terms, that would be another Edsa in the making. There’s so much distrust now with both chambers of Congress, and the administration of President Aquino—anything can happen!

* * *

With Malacañang and the Liberal Party unsure about the candidacy of Mar Roxas, who continues to remain at the bottom of the totem pole in all poll surveys, the question is: who then will be the candidates of the administration in 2016? Binay will not be stupid enough to allow himself to be adopted by the LP.

That’s why the President and the LP are trying very hard to convince on Grace Poe-Chiz Escudero or vice versa. But, will Chiz accept being a spare tire for Grace, who is a neophyte?

If it comes to pass that Malacañang and the LP will have the No. 1 and No. 2 administration candidates, who will stop a Bongbong Marcos-Alan Peter Cayetano or a Cayetano-Marcos team-up under the Nacionalista Party?

On Binay’s part, I can only wonder who his vice presidential candidate will be. Remember that Jinggoy Estrada is now detained for his supposed involvement in the pork barrel scam.

The most Logical is Chiz Escudero, who campaigned for a “Noy-Bi”win in 2010. This possibility becomes doubly logical since rumors have it that the presidential sisters supported Binay for the vice presidency in 2010. But would that guarantee that President Aquino will be spared from jail after he steps down?

* * *

Malacañang and the Liberal Party keep on telling us that President Aquino needs a successor to continue with is reform agenda following the “Daan Matuwid” or straight path mantra. He also said “Kung Walang Corrupt, Walang Mahirap.”

Both mantras have not been observed, of course, since graft and corruption have continued and in fact gotten much worse, so much so that the straight path mantra has become a big joke.

And we also know that the incidence of poverty and joblessness have worsened during the four years of President Aquino.

The only legacies I can think of are the illegal and unconstitutional PDAF and the DAP, bribery, culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, self-righteousness, pride and hypocrisy. Mr. Aquino believes that he is God’s anointed to rule the country, and thus he can never make any mistake.

Shooting down Aquino’s balloon  By Francisco S. Tatad | Aug. 11, 2014 at 12:01am

President B. S. Aquino III’s trial balloon on a possible second term is high up in the air, and we now see him speaking from both sides of his mouth. One side says he will step down at the end of his term in 2016, the other side says he wants to listen to the “voice of the people,” who are his “bosses.”

The Constitution provides for a single term, and more and more people want to see Aquino out not by 2016, but now, if possible----“immediately, if not sooner,” to borrow a quip from the irreplaceable Carlos P. Romulo. As far as some critics are concerned, Aquino has destroyed the Constitution and the rule of law, and has become a “criminal president.” The only other term for him, according to them, is a “jail term,” after former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, his predecessor and present prisoner.

Just who would like him to have a second term? No one has come out in the open. But these could be power-brokers who would like to continue making lots of money by remaining in power. Possibly guilty of plunder, they are understandably terrified at the prospect of spending the rest of their lives in jail. They probably believe that by staying another few years in power, they could postpone the inevitable.

And how will Aquino hear “the voice of the people?” By listening to the courtesans in Congress who had taken bribes to impeach Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, and now threaten Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno with similar impeachment for voting against the Disbursement Acceleration Program, which the Court has voided by a vote of 13-0, and for refusing to be cowed by the President’s threat of retaliation.

Vice President Jejomar C. Binay has called on the unnamed group to “respect the President’s decision to step down by 2016” and to stop pushing for an additional term for him. It was the least he could do. The Vice President could become the first casualty in case of a presidential term extension, and he has every right and duty to look after his own interests; no one else will.

* But if the move for another term eventually prospers, it will not be because some power-brokers had vigorously pushed for it, but only because Aquino himself had maneuvered for it, and he happened to be in control of Congress, which has decided to propose constitutional amendments through a constituent assembly (con ass), the oligarchic media, the hopelessly compromised Commission on Elections and the rigged voting machines that will process and proclaim “the people’s votes.” It would, therefore, be more appropriate to call on Aquino not to yield to the totalitarian temptation than to simply call on the tempters to stop tempting him.

Aquino must step down in 2016 because the Constitution has decided he should, and the people (assuming they were the ones who really put him in office) have also decided he should. It is no longer up to him to “decide” whether or not to do so. However, he could decide to step down before 2016 because of poor health, incapacity, or simply because nobody wants to wear the yellow ribbon any more, and we should all be thankful for it.

Which of Aquino’s two statements then should we believe? That he would step down by 2016, or that he would listen to the people’s “voices” to see if they would like him to continue in office? This question has to be asked because Aquino has shown a strong tendency to play fast and loose with the facts and the truth.

He has shown himself to be the exact opposite of one of his late father’s political favorites, the late legendary Vaclac Havel, former president of the Czech Republic, who famously told his countrymen, “I assume you did not propose me to this office so that I, too, would lie to you.” In contrast, Aquino has had no qualms lying to his countrymen with a straight face.

This was most recently demonstrated in his last State of the Nation Address. So many facts were misrepresented in that speech. In some instances, he could be excused for simply repeating the dumb data fed to him by his subordinates, as when he crowed about the imaginary 12,184 kms. of national roads he had supposedly built and fixed since he became president.

But there was no way he could not have known that he was weaving pure fiction and telling a brazen lie when he bragged about his supposed “accomplishments” in Tacloban, which is still waiting for national assistance to recover from super-typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan’s devastation of Nov. 8, 2013. It is nothing short of criminal to make his lies the basis of any illusion that anyone would want to keep him in office beyond 2016.

Contrary to all known facts, Aquino boasted in his SONA: “Your government wasted no time in responding. We immediately cleared the airport, which is why, within 24 hours after the storm, three C130s were able to bring in aid. On the same day, we were also able to set up a communications hub to hasten the flow of information…In the span of two days, the Leyte water district resumed operations; on the third day, the first gas station opened. By the 22nd of November, which was two weeks after the storm, the one millionth food pack was distributed to the victims…”

Prior to this empty boast, the hardest-hit victims had tried, out of self-restraint, to moderate their criticism of the national government’s absence in their midst. While they were openly critical of Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II for his many lapses, they tried to spare Aquino of any direct criticism.

The only exceptions were when Aquino inflicted injury upon himself as when he told a businessman, “But you’re still alive, aren’t you?”, for complaining about the danger to life posed by the food looters. Or when he told a group that had come all the way from Tacloban to complain about the slow inflow of relief, that if they could afford to travel to Manila, then it meant they did not really need help.

In a recent interview, Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez has revealed painful details, which had not been sufficiently underlined before. These include the following:

Contrary to the official claim of prompt action, it took Malacañang four days to declare a state of calamity in the area, despite the fact that Defense Secretary and National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council Chair Voltaire Gazmin, NDRRMC vice-chair for disaster preparedness Mar Roxas, and National Civil Defense chief Eduardo del Rosario, were on hand to witness the widespread devastation.

The seaside airport was cleared on the first day, as Aquino claimed. But this was because much of the debris was carried to the sea by the receding waters, not because of any national government effort. It was the city mayor working with one payloader who personally led the clearing of the road leading to the airport, where Gazmin, Roxas, and Del Rosario had landed the day before the storm.

Upon arrival, Gazmin and Roxas called for a meeting with responsible government officials to prepare for the storm. The most critical agency—PAGASA, the weather forecasting agency—was absent, but instead of summoning the agency, Roxas adjourned the meeting, and suggested to reconvene at 8 am the next day. Then in lieu of Pagasa, Roxas announced that Yolanda would make its landfall at noontime, Nov. 8. But it arrived with its 378 km winds at 7 a.m. the next day, instantly claiming thousands of lives, including some security men assigned to the Cabinet members.

The security fatalities were never reported in the media. One other unreported detail was that during their three-day visit, Gazmin and Roxas spent part of the time looking for insulin to treat the defense secretary’s diabetes. On their third day, they flew out to Cebu where the medicine was obviously more readily available.

On the second day, some 300 soldiers arrived from the 8th Infantry Battalion Headquarters in Catbalogan, Samar. They came not to augment the rescue, relief and debris clearing operations, but to provide security for the President who was coming in two days. When Aquino arrived, the 300 soldiers proved not enough for the purpose, so the city police had to be pulled out from their outposts, leaving nothing to contain the looting and jailbreak when they occurred.

Romualdez said his first impulse was to brief Aquino on the situation on the ground as soon as he arrived. But the President refused to even look at him, the mayor said. When he finally got Aquino’s attention, he told him they had already recovered some 1,000 dead. This greatly irritated Aquino, who said, “You shouldn’t be telling me these things.”

The President then asked how many policemen the city had. The mayor answered, 293. And how many were around? The mayor said, 29. Before he could explain that most of them had been dispatched to secure vulnerable areas, Aquino flared up, saying the missing policemen should be prosecuted for abandonment of duty.

The National Civil Defense chief had no better luck. When Del Rosario told Aquino that the devastation was already running up to 80 percent, the President pointed to the buildings that were still standing, and said, how come they were still there?

Contrary to the claim, no gas station opened on the third day after the storm. They reopened in Leyte and Samar only two weeks later. On Day One, a private businessman had to lend the Tacloban city government some gas to keep their few vehicles running.

Food packs came mainly from the World Food Program, through the US 7th Fleet and the British Navy, not any other source. The DSWD was trying to supply the city’s 250,000 native population, but this number had swollen to about two million from the influx of transients in need of food, hospital care and other services, which had become scarce in the places outside Tacloban.

This figure is supported by a McDonald study before the storm, which showed that Tacloban’s work week population rose to one million in the morning just from the student population of the four universities and the regional offices’ work force. This means the government left millions unserved with Aquino’s claim of one million food packs after two weeks.

According to the official count, Yolanda destroyed 54,231 house in Tacloban alone, 23,718 partially destroyed, 30,513 total. A total of 1,246 units have since been built in three bunkhouse communities. So far the national government has downloaded P184.5 million to rebuild the city hall, civic centers and public markets, but nothing for mass housing.

The UNDP has spent at least $4 million on relief and rehabilitation, and the Tzu Chi Foundation even more. But there has been no matching effort from government. There has been no public accounting either of the foreign donations that had come in, and where they have gone or are going.

But for Romualdez, the deepest wound Aquino has inflicted upon the people of Tacloban and Eastern Visayas is that until now, he has not offered one word of condolence to the victims of Yolanda and their closest kin. How could anyone anywhere propose such a president for another term?

The road to ruin  By Jojo Robles | Aug. 08, 2014 at 12:01am

No wonder people who knew him from school remember him only as a “C student.” Not only does President Noynoy Aquino fail to understand the concept of savings, as he admitted during a televised speech, he apparently can’t even wrap his mind around the idea of going into debt—which is what he intends to, apparently, to generate more of his savings.

Consider the following short discussion on both concepts a test of your ability to understand them. You can congratulate yourself if, at the end, you are able to comprehend both savings and debt better than the President himself—if you went to the Ateneo like Aquino, perhaps you would have even gotten better grades than he did.

Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon asked this week: if the government has so much money in the form of savings, why does it keep going into debt? Ridon revealed that by the end of the year, each of the 100 million citizens of this country will be P59,121 in debt to the Philippines’ local and foreign creditors—who will hold P5.9 trillion in obligations from the government.

The proposed P2.606 trillion 2015 national budget, just submitted by Malacañang to Congress, is 15 percent higher than the current year’s. To fund the 2015 outlay, the Department of Budget and Management promises to raise P2.337 trillion through tax collections, non-tax revenues and privatization. To fund the deficit (the difference between proposed income and the actual outlay), the government will borrow P700.8 billion.

But according to Ridon, majority of the new loans, or P390.4 billion, will not even be used to fund projects lined up for next year. Instead, the amount will be used to pay amortizations on the outstanding national government debt.

(By the way, this is where all those credit upgrades from the three international ratings agencies that Aquino keeps bragging about—paid for in millions of dollars by our taxes —will come in handy. All they mean, after all, is that more people will be willing to lend government money; it never seems to occur to Aquino that he can actually make government live within its means, spending only money it can reasonably collect and not drive us all further into debt.)

* * *

Since the discovery of Aquino’s Disbursement Acceleration Program, which has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, various reports have pegged DAP funds at somewhere in the neighborhood of P170 to P140 billion. This, the government was able to do by impounding funds allocated for various projects approved by Congress and contained in the national budget even before the projects were completed, a practice that the high court disallowed.

Aquino, in his television address, said he could not understand the Supreme Court’s definition of savings. So he asked Congress–which benefited hugely from DAP funds transferred by the palace (a practice that was also disallowed)—to redefine savings for him, with a view to making legal what the Supreme Court had already declared illegal.

* Aquino’s lackeys in Congress promised to duly redefine savings—despite the fact that doing so is not their job and even if savings in the legal, budgetary context has already been defined long ago in all previous General Appropriations Acts. The chief architect of DAP, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, even announced that such a law will overturn the Supreme Court ruling on DAP and (hopefully) prevent Abad and Aquino from serving long prison terms for their pains.

But this is all basic stuff; assuming you haven’t heard of either savings or debt, you would have gained a rudimentary understanding of both by now. Perhaps, even if you don’t have an economics degree from an expensive school like Aquino does, you already have a personal, real-world suspicion that the surest way to getting into a lot of trouble financially is to not spend your money for its intended purposes, to grab whatever money remains and declare it as savings, to be spent however you wish, and then to borrow more money to pay old debts, while keeping the rest again to allow yourself to declare that money as savings.

If this is the way you took care of your family’s finances, you know that you’d soon be living on the street, begging to pay for your nasty solvent-sniffing habit. It will not help you at all that you have redefined what the word “savings” means, or that you had all the good faith in the world, either.

As for Aquino, he should be thankful that he never had to work at a real job in his entire life and that he probably never will. If it was his own money that he used to fund something like DAP, to compensate congressmen and senators to do his bidding, his family would have him locked up in the loony bin for threatening to dissipate the family fortune.

Oh, and there’s also that humongous P500-billion special contingency fund controlled by the President in the proposed 2015 budget that, if it was slashed to a fraction to accommodate actual emergency expenditures, would still be a formidable presidential pork barrel fund, to be spent cleverly the year before a national election. But that’s another fund for another discussion—let’s stick to the basics, for now.

Still the King of Pork  By Manila Standard Today | Aug. 13, 2014 at 12:01am
 

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III proved beyond a doubt this week that he indeed deserves to be crowned the Pork Barrel King.

In clandestine meetings that were kept from the press, Mr. Aquino’s emissaries from the Cabinet quietly met with congressmen to assure them that they could still fund their pet projects, even though the Supreme Court had declared the Priority Development Assistance Fund, more commonly known as pork barrel--unconstitutional.

The envoys, Commission on Higher Education chairman Patricia Licuanan and Health Undersecretary Janette Garin, held separate meetings with the lawmakers, but their message was the same: pork barrel, albeit under a different guise, was alive and well, and available to the congressmen.

ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio, who was in the closed-door meetings, said they began two weeks ago, shortly after three impeachment complaints were filed against the President. The timing suggests that Mr. Aquino was buying insurance against his impeachment with the currency of pork.

“You don’t have to worry about your pork barrel projects because we are here to assure you that your projects, just like before, are still there. All you have to do is identify and nominate your projects,” Tinio quoted one of the emissaries as telling the congressmen.

* Tinio, who used this as a basis for filing a fourth impeachment complaint against President Aquino, said he even had an audio recording of the meetings to prove his allegations.

“President Aquino continues to insult the members of Congress by dangling the pork barrel to do his bidding and buy their votes against impeaching him,” Tinio said.

“By sending his emissaries and alter-egos, the President has culpably violated the Constitution and betrayed the public trust considering that the Executive’s action was made even after the Supreme Court already declared PDAF as unconstitutional. It was a brazen act of betrayal of public trust, just to save his skin.”

Mr. Aquino’s allies in the House of Representatives have conveniently killed the fourth impeachment complaint by citing the lateness of its filing, but nothing they do can hide the unmistakable stench of corruption emanating from the Palace.

It is a stench that the President can ill afford, given that his approval ratings have plummeted to their lowest point in his four years in office. Those ratings are likely to go down further, following the President’s arrogant defense of his Disbursement Acceleration Program, parts of which the Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional. Nor can the President hope to get much of a ratings bounce from his very public intimidation of the Supreme Court, with his stooges threatening the justices with everything from impeachment to a tax audit.

The Filipino people, whom the President likes to call his bosses, are not as gullible as he believes. We know a bribe when we see it and recognize that its origin is none other than the Pork Barrel King himself.

Republic of Rizal By Tony Lopez | Aug. 13, 2014 at 12:01am

The World Bank, or at least its Manila office, seems to love President Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III.

The Washington-based financial behemoth believes Manila’s claim that poverty incidence was reduced by three percentage points between 2012 and 2013, from 27.9 percent to 24.9 percent.

The three-percentage-point reduction is equivalent to 2.5 million Filipinos graduating from being poor to being non-poor in a single semester.

Not only does the World Bank believe in this claim. It believes that the trend is not a freak. “Stronger job creation in the first half of 2014 suggests that poverty reduction will continue,” says the bank breathtakingly in its latest economic update (August 2014) on the Philippines.

Yet, the bank immediately contradicts itself by lowering its growth projection, in terms of rise in the value of the Philippine Gross Domestic Product, from 6.6 percent to 6.4 percent this year, and from 6.9 percent to 6.7 percent in 2015.

In the whole of 2013, GDP growth was a dizzying 7.2 percent, up from 6.4 percent in 2012.

However, by first quarter of 2014, the economy suddenly shifted to lower gear, growing by just 5.7 percent from the heady 7.7 percent in January-March 2013.

That two-percentage-point reduction at current prices is equivalent to a P220.6-billion reduction in production of goods and services, from P2,861.1 billion in the first quarter of 2013 to P2,640.5 billion in the first quarter of 2014.

Had the economy grown at, say, the 2013 first quarter rate of 9.2 percent at current prices in the first quarter of 2014, it should have produced P263.86 billion more in goods and services (9.2 percent of P2.64 trillion).

In effect, the effective loss to the economy was P484.46 billion (the P263.86 billion gain of first quarter 2013 over first quarter 2012 plus the P220.6 billion loss in first quarter 2014 over first quarter 2013).

Imagine how many jobs P484.46 billion could have created? It is 48,446 jobs—assuming it takes P10 million to create one job, or 96,920 jobs—assuming it takes P5 million to create a job, or 193,840 jobs—assuming it takes P2.5 million to create one job. A hamburger outlet with P25 million investment usually has ten workers. That’s P2.5 million per job.

So why does the World Bank think poverty reduction will continue at the frenetic pace it did in the first half of 2013—by three percentage points, despite a steadily slowing down economy?

There is only one explanation: The World Bank loves Noynoy Aquino.

The bank wants him to succeed, despite a string of scandals involving the illegality and unconstitutionality of his three major initiatives—the RH Law, the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF or pork barrel of legislators), and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (the P150-billion petty cash of President Aquino which he dispenses with remarkable political elan and savvy). The Supreme Court has declared all three initiatives—anchor programs of the Aquino regime—unconstitutional.

* Two more initiatives are the pending review by the Supreme Court—the Bangsamoro Republic for Muslims and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), the repackaged military bases agreement with the United States. Both are replete with constitutional defects that it would be astounding if they pass muster the Supreme Court’s critical eye.

Since Robert McNamara’s time, the World Bank has always been enamored with poverty reduction. After carpet-bombing Vietnam to no avail, then US Defense Secretary (1961-68) McNamara headed to the World Bank “where he went on a binge of ‘poverty-fighting’ spending,” according to Forbes Asia (August 2014). “Alas, poverty persisted and corruption mushroomed,” sneered the magazine.

In the most recent decade, Asia managed to halve its poverty, but that is no thanks to the World Bank. The one major country that has failed to cut its poverty by half is the Philippines, the one Asian country the World Bank has been shepherding mightily for the longest time to reduce the ranks of its poor —currently, at least 25 million according to official government data, and 55 million according to the Social Weather Stations (SWS) polls.

If those 55 million Filipino poor seceded from the Philippines, they would be able to form the world’s 25th largest country. Let’s call that country Rizal. Yes, all the Rizalian citizens will be poor but there will be unprecedented equality and egalitarianism. Everyone is poor.

Their one blessing is that they would have gotten rid of the 100 elite families that have controlled and manipulated the economy and politics of the Philippines for the last 100 years.

They would have gotten rid of a corrupt and rapacious Congress which is controlled by the 100 families.

They would have none of PDAF and DAP. Best of all, Aquino, an heir to a vast hacienda land, would not be their president.

If Singapore succeeded, from being Third World to First World, with less than 2.5 million people and no resources to speak of in 1965, the Republic of Rizal, a country 22 times larger could certainly succeed. The World Bank will help the Rizalians, of course. And the US too. They will just print money.

The Philippine economy is in a slowdown mode and the World Bank is keenly aware of it.

So why does the bank believe poverty will continue to be reduced, by a significant percentage?

Under ordinary circumstances, growth propels job creation. You put money in a business. That business creates employment. The employment creates income which in turn creates demand. Producing the goods to satisfy the demand will move the economy.

The best way to reduce, if not eliminate, poverty is by giving the poor jobs so that they can have income to buy their basic needs—food, rent for shelter, pay for electricity and water, tuition money for the kids, and savings that can conceivably be used to buy an asset—say, a secondhand cellphone, an old model tv set, or even a ref.

Unlike in Latin America, poverty cannot be ameliorated by doleouts—the so-called Conditional Cash Transfers. Because before the money reaches the hands of the poor, it is used to grease the palm of greedy politicians and ambitious bureaucrats.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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