INQUIRER EDITORIAL/OPINION

EDITORIAL: WAITING TO MOVE ON  

It certainly sounds like a blessing, these transitional houses built by the nongovernment organization Operation Blessing, for the evacuees of Tacloban City who survived the wrath of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in November 2013. Last July, 60 families moved into transitional homes—nipa huts made of bamboo matting and coconut lumber, with a floor area of 18 square meters. Built on a one-hectare lot in Barangay Santo Niño in Tacloban, the houses are a far cry from the makeshift tents and bunkhouses the families used to occupy. Here, the survivors can sleep better at night, without fear of mudslides, floods, and the storm surge that flattened entire villages and swept away lives, homes and livelihood almost a year ago. Safety and security were their main concerns in relocating these survivors, local officials say proudly, pointing to this flat land in Santo Niño that is at least 24 kilometers away from the nearest body of water.

And aye, there’s the rub: Most of the transplanted survivors are fisherfolk who now find it impossible to ply their trade in their new landlocked home. Santo Niño, a residential zone, is inland and has no farmlands. To get to the nearest fishing ground, they’d have to shell out at least P40 in round-trip fare. It’s a tough choice these evacuees are forced to make: Live in sordid tents in a treacherous area where they can at least eke out a meager living, or move to the relative comfort and safety of transitional houses in the middle of nowhere, there to scrounge for food and jobs. The plight of the Yolanda evacuees recalls the sad fate of Zamboanga residents who remain sequestered in evacuation sites one year after being displaced by Moro National Liberation Front rebels who mistook pillage and plunder for a political statement.

At least 11,000 people whose homes were torched by the MNLF renegades are still living in the city’s sports stadium where death and disease are constant, if unwelcome, guests. Because of overcrowding and the lack of water and sanitation, at least 167 evacuees have died of pneumonia, acute gastroenteritis, asthma, tuberculosis, suspected measles, cardiovascular-related diseases, neonatal ailments, malnutrition, fever and congenital anomalies, according to a city health official. A year’s worth of government rehabilitation efforts, and all they have to show for it are lives interrupted: children forced out of school, and worse, molested or even raped, fathers depending on doles for food, mothers unable to take care of the family’s health needs for lack of basic sanitation resources. *READ MORE...

ALSO 2nd Editorial: Answers needed 

To the evident surprise of many professional politicians and political observers, the Senate inquiry into the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall parking building has gained traction. The formidable reputation of Vice President Jejomar Binay, the mayor at the time the construction of the building started and the real object of the muckraking fervor of Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Alan Peter Cayetano, had raised the odds against any substantial discovery or revelation at the hearings. Binay not only has the highest ratings of any incumbent government official; he is also known for his competence as chief executive of the city that hosts the country’s central business district. But the admissions against self-interest made, first by his erstwhile local ally, ex-vice mayor Ernesto Mercado, and then by the former head of Makati’s general services department, Mario Hechanova, have punctured that very reputation. Mercado’s confession that he had personally benefited from the building project, and his conclusion that Binay as mayor must have benefited even more, was powerful testimony because he had put himself in harm’s way. It also created the space for Hechanova to make his own, more damning, public confession: that he had helped rig the bidding process in Makati regularly, to favor Binay’s preferred supplier, Hilmarc’s Construction Corp.

The one-two combination was enough to make Binay and his allies change strategy. While before they had vigorously denied any corruption, now they declare that in Binay’s last years as mayor the city government hosted what news reports called “a triumvirate of corruption”—meaning Mercado, Hechanova and city engineer Nelson Morales, now deceased—over which Binay had no control. Binay’s new spokesperson, Cavite Gov. Juanito Vicente Remulla, issued a statement immediately after the hearing where Hechanova appeared, claiming something that he implied was common knowledge, at least in Binay’s city: “It is known in Makati that the ex-vice mayor, city engineer and Mario Hechanova were rigging the bidding, especially infrastructure.” He later explained that Binay’s aides had filled him in on the details of what he described as a “conspiracy” led by Mercado, one that was supposedly active during Binay’s last term. At that time, he said, the mayor was too distracted by harassing tactics employed by President Gloria Arroyo to run City Hall with his customary hands-on approach. *READ  MORE...

ALSO Opinion by Peter Wallace: Act on the facts 

I’ve always believed that you make better decisions when you face facts. Let’s start with this headline in BusinessWorld last Sept. 5: “Philippines found among most restrictive.” The OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) says the Philippines is the most restrictive among 64 developed and developing economies. That is not a fact you want to hear if you are the leader of that country. But it’s a fact the leader should accept, even welcome, so he can use it to force the rapid removal of those restrictions.
President Aquino will be in Europe on Sept. 13-20 to encourage investment in the Philippines. When he returns he’ll announce great success, with large levels of investment promised, even committed. He has made a number of trips overseas in the past four years, enough trips and enough time to see some results. So what are the facts?

The President has made three trips to Japan. Let’s skip last December. The earlier two resulted in promises of $4.6 billion. The result to date: only $951 million, not much more than what came in ($824 million) in just one year (2007) under Gloria Arroyo. It was the same for the trips to the United States—three visits with around $3.7 billion promised, but only $779 million has come in. During his visit to Australia and New Zealand in October 2012, some $830 million in investments was promised. But only a dismal $3 million has actually flowed in from the two countries in 2013, and $19 million for the first five months of this year.

To summarize, the President has made 30 trips to 17 countries. But in the past three years only a total of $9 billion has come in. So the fact remains that during the period 2011-2013, the Philippines was still attracting the lowest level of FDI (foreign direct investments) among the major Asian economies. In that period, China received $975 billion in FDI, Singapore $175.4 billion, Indonesia $56 billion, Malaysia $36.4 billion, Thailand $27.4 billion, and Vietnam $24.7 billion. Almost thrice the FDI in the Philippines. The trips are not achieving the desired result. The question should be asked: Why? *READ MORE...

ALSO Opinion by Randy David: Considerations on the Bangsamoro Basic Law  

Once the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law comes before Congress, we can expect its key provisions to be challenged on constitutional grounds. Its critics will assail these provisions as tantamount to a de facto recognition of a dual-state situation. Constitutionality is also bound to be raised at the Supreme Court, which, not too long ago, struck down a previous initiative of more or less similar import. We don’t know exactly how members of the Moro community will react to a failure to pass the proposed law, but we can be certain they will not take it sitting down. If the matter is not resolved before the end of President Aquino’s term, it will become a thorny talking point in the 2016 national elections. The challenge to the Bangsamoro law will be cast in the emotionally-laden vocabulary of “dismemberment” and “fragmentation,” mobilizing prejudices rooted in what one might call, with apologies to Freud, the narcissism of presumed wholeness.

While these skirmishes will happen on the political and legal fronts, the more decisive battle for a just and lasting peace must be waged in the hearts and minds of the Filipino people. And this demands from all of us not only the patience to understand a law that lies outside our everyday concerns, but also the readiness to examine our entrenched beliefs and biases about Muslims and Muslim Mindanao. In what way has this region been a meaningful part of the Philippines? Its history has been marked by unremitting resistance to subjugation by external powers, including those representing the Filipino nation-state. Culturally, it has amazingly kept its coherence as a distinct entity in a predominantly Christianized society. Politically and economically, it has remained in the last 68 years of Philippine independence nothing more than a neglected and exploited periphery of a sovereign Filipino state. Its fierce sense of self-understanding revolves around the image of a community that is fighting to free itself from internal colonialism. It is safe to say that the average Filipino has always viewed this region with a mix of fascination and suspicion.

Because Muslim Mindanao has never felt the hand of an effective central political authority, it has spawned rival warlords who perform the basic functions of government. The republic itself has not been able to govern Mindanao except tenuously and indirectly—by integrating its Manila-sponsored strongmen into the circuits of the nation-state. The political history of the Ampatuan clan that ruled the province of Maguindanao for decades is a classic illustration of this arrangement. There are people like them in almost every town in Muslim Mindanao—armed tyrants who rule by intimidation and coercion. They signal their presence and their territorial claims by the multiple road checkpoints they maintain and the clan wars they now and then wage against one another. The formation of an elected Bangsamoro political authority, whose rule, hopefully, will be free from the dysfunctions that have hobbled the existing regional government of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, is surely a step in the right direction.*READ MORE...


ALSO Editorial: Rogue cops on Edsa  

Was anyone the least bit surprised that the suspects behind that Sept. 1 incident on Edsa involving armed men surrounding an SUV turned out to be cops? The photo immediately caused a sensation when it surfaced on Twitter, partly because of the mystery surrounding it. Who were these men aiming guns at the occupants of the SUV? Was it a legitimate police operation, perhaps against a high-profile fugitive? Or a kidnapping, done so brazenly in broad daylight on that ultrabusy highway?

The fact that there was no police report on the incident many hours after the photo had gone viral deepened the mystery. What the photo indicated was a meticulously planned operation—three vehicles plus a motorcycle hemming in the white SUV and forcing it to stop, and men with drawn guns then surrounding it. One of the men had a pair of handcuffs on his belt, which was an immediate clue: He must be a plainclothes policeman. The vehicles’ plate numbers were clear. But for hours and even days later, no victim came forward to complain. Was there a conspiracy to keep the incident under wraps?
Credit must be given to officers of the Eastern Police District for taking up the case and quickly solving the mystery. The men with guns were policemen, mostly from the La Loma precinct in Quezon City.

According to accounts of the heist, the cops waylaid the white SUV, took into custody its two passengers, employees of a construction company in Mindanao, and divested them of some P2 million reportedly intended for buying heavy equipment. The victims were also forced to withdraw more cash from their ATM accounts. They were taken to the La Loma station and held there for seven hours, then released with the warning that they would be killed if they so much as squeaked about their ordeal. What the rogue cops didn’t reckon with was that someone on the highway had been alert enough to take a photo of their “hulidap” operation. And, following that, a police officer—EPD’s Chief Supt. Abelardo Villacorta—resourceful enough to investigate the case based on the photo and to confront the perpetrators once he had the goods on them. The La Loma station deputy commander, Chief Insp. Joseph de Vera, was the first to be arrested. Charges have been brought against him and his cohorts.*READ MORE...

ALSO: Let there be light 

By Dr> Ramon del Rosario, Jr --We have all heard the news that Luzon will again face an energy crisis in 2015 even as the Visayas and Mindanao have been suffering rolling blackouts on a regular basis. The estimates are that we will have a shortage of 400 to 600 megawatts assuming that all existing power plants remain online—which is a best-case scenario. A stable and secure supply of power is, of course, critical to the interests of the Philippines as power is one of the key drivers of our economic growth. With our desire to be a destination for foreign investment, we cannot afford to be a nation with inadequate power supply. It is imperative that we immediately formulate policies to address this shortage, or risk increased prices for consumers and losses for businesses.

The problem we are encountering—inadequate supply in the face of strong and growing demand—is exacerbated during the summer months. These are when more electricity is consumed and power from hydroelectric plants is severely restricted, when major power plants are under maintenance, or when natural disasters destroy transmission lines. The immediate need is to come up with practical solutions covering both supply and demand. While the national government seeks congressional authority to contract additional generating capacity under the Epira (Electric Power Industry Reform Act), we in the business sector are ready to do our part. One commendable initiative is the Manila Electric Co.’s Interruptible Load Program (ILP). Last Sept. 8, the Makati Business Club hosted a forum in which Meralco briefed the business community on the ILP, which is aimed at decreasing aggregate demand from the grid during the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. by having corporations with large loads voluntarily run their generator sets subject to just compensation.

So far, 118 MW of capacity have been committed to the ILP by such companies as SM Prime Holdings Inc. and Robinsons Land Corp. Another 42 potential customers representing 48 MW of capacity have indicated interest as of this week.
We remain hopeful that we can significantly increase these commitments in the coming weeks. I encourage other corporations with substantial generating capacity to also sign up. While the current scheme of the Energy Regulatory Commission does not fully compensate corporations for running their generators, the alternative of forcibly running their generators without compensation during a power outage should not escape notice. It is also in everyone’s best interests for the government to seriously consider a fair compensation scheme that will induce owners of generator sets to operate these during peak hours. This is a program where the wholehearted support of the private sector is absolutely needed and most welcome! *CONTINUE READING...


READ FULL REPORTS HERE:

Waiting to move on


EDITORIAL CARTOON COURTESY OF CEBU DAILY (LONG TIME COMING)

MANILA, SEPTEMBER 15, 2014 (INQUIRER) EDITORIAL It certainly sounds like a blessing, these transitional houses built by the nongovernment organization Operation Blessing, for the evacuees of Tacloban City who survived the wrath of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in November 2013.

Last July, 60 families moved into transitional homes—nipa huts made of bamboo matting and coconut lumber, with a floor area of 18 square meters. Built on a one-hectare lot in Barangay Santo Niño in Tacloban, the houses are a far cry from the makeshift tents and bunkhouses the families used to occupy.

Here, the survivors can sleep better at night, without fear of mudslides, floods, and the storm surge that flattened entire villages and swept away lives, homes and livelihood almost a year ago.

Safety and security were their main concerns in relocating these survivors, local officials say proudly, pointing to this flat land in Santo Niño that is at least 24 kilometers away from the nearest body of water.

And aye, there’s the rub: Most of the transplanted survivors are fisherfolk who now find it impossible to ply their trade in their new landlocked home. Santo Niño, a residential zone, is inland and has no farmlands. To get to the nearest fishing ground, they’d have to shell out at least P40 in round-trip fare.

It’s a tough choice these evacuees are forced to make: Live in sordid tents in a treacherous area where they can at least eke out a meager living, or move to the relative comfort and safety of transitional houses in the middle of nowhere, there to scrounge for food and jobs.

The plight of the Yolanda evacuees recalls the sad fate of Zamboanga residents who remain sequestered in evacuation sites one year after being displaced by Moro National Liberation Front rebels who mistook pillage and plunder for a political statement.

At least 11,000 people whose homes were torched by the MNLF renegades are still living in the city’s sports stadium where death and disease are constant, if unwelcome, guests.

Because of overcrowding and the lack of water and sanitation, at least 167 evacuees have died of pneumonia, acute gastroenteritis, asthma, tuberculosis, suspected measles, cardiovascular-related diseases, neonatal ailments, malnutrition, fever and congenital anomalies, according to a city health official.

A year’s worth of government rehabilitation efforts, and all they have to show for it are lives interrupted: children forced out of school, and worse, molested or even raped, fathers depending on doles for food, mothers unable to take care of the family’s health needs for lack of basic sanitation resources.

* While government officials fall all over themselves in their eagerness to trumpet the country’s latest economic gains, the Yolanda evacuees and the Zamboanga siege survivors remain trapped in their threadbare lives. It’s a frustrating scenario ripe for crime and rebellion.

Tacloban officials say they’re now doing a survey of people staying in temporary shelters to find out what type of livelihood best suits each of them. Before the year ends, the officials add, these evacuees could hopefully be transferred to permanent houses just 100 meters away from their present transitional homes.

But 100 meters from nowhere is still nowhere—where no jobs and no facilities await, only more hunger and despair.

Is this the best that the government can do? What of the donations that the global community have contributed for the rehab of Yolanda survivors?

Can the rehab czar help account for this?

How long will these displaced folk wait for deliverance to be able to move on with their lives?

With so many disaster-preparedness bodies formed to mitigate the effects of so many natural calamities on the country, it’s unthinkable that people continue to wallow in uncertainty—their lives on hold—one full year after.

Or is prompt, sensitive and appropriate response too much to ask, now that local and national officials are casting a moist eye on the elections in 2016?

What would it take to bring their focus back from the Big Prize, to these seemingly insignificant lives from remote, vote-lean villages—part of the public they had vowed to serve before they got elected?

Hopefully, not another Yolanda, nor another MNLF siege.


Editorial: Answers needed Philippine Daily Inquirer12:10 am | Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

To the evident surprise of many professional politicians and political observers, the Senate inquiry into the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall parking building has gained traction.

The formidable reputation of Vice President Jejomar Binay, the mayor at the time the construction of the building started and the real object of the muckraking fervor of Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Alan Peter Cayetano, had raised the odds against any substantial discovery or revelation at the hearings.

Binay not only has the highest ratings of any incumbent government official; he is also known for his competence as chief executive of the city that hosts the country’s central business district.

But the admissions against self-interest made, first by his erstwhile local ally, ex-vice mayor Ernesto Mercado, and then by the former head of Makati’s general services department, Mario Hechanova, have punctured that very reputation.

Mercado’s confession that he had personally benefited from the building project, and his conclusion that Binay as mayor must have benefited even more, was powerful testimony because he had put himself in harm’s way. It also created the space for Hechanova to make his own, more damning, public confession: that he had helped rig the bidding process in Makati regularly, to favor Binay’s preferred supplier, Hilmarc’s Construction Corp.

The one-two combination was enough to make Binay and his allies change strategy. While before they had vigorously denied any corruption, now they declare that in Binay’s last years as mayor the city government hosted what news reports called “a triumvirate of corruption”—meaning Mercado, Hechanova and city engineer Nelson Morales, now deceased—over which Binay had no control.

Binay’s new spokesperson, Cavite Gov. Juanito Vicente Remulla, issued a statement immediately after the hearing where Hechanova appeared, claiming something that he implied was common knowledge, at least in Binay’s city: “It is known in Makati that the ex-vice mayor, city engineer and Mario Hechanova were rigging the bidding, especially infrastructure.”

He later explained that Binay’s aides had filled him in on the details of what he described as a “conspiracy” led by Mercado, one that was supposedly active during

Binay’s last term. At that time, he said, the mayor was too distracted by harassing tactics employed by President Gloria Arroyo to run City Hall with his customary hands-on approach.

* Perhaps Remulla should not have rushed out of the gate. His explanation only raises more questions. And it hits Binay’s reputation where it hurts the most—his record of administrative competence.

If it was well known that corruption in Makati City thrived under Vice Mayor Mercado and the two other officials, why did Binay’s supporters wait until Hechanova testified before publicly acknowledging the fact? If Hechanova had kept mum, would the Vice President’s previous statement attacking only Mercado (“all that Mr. Mercado said are lies”) stayed as talking point?

What happens if, in future hearings, more city officials or even suppliers come out and attest to corruption in Makati? Will the circle of conspirators widen accordingly? The point is: Remulla’s naming of the three officials will look ridiculous if more so-called conspirators emerge.

And if it is true, as Remulla asserts, that there was corruption in Makati in Binay’s last term, but he was unable to stop it (or for some reason denounce it) because he was under severe pressure from Malacañang, then that raises the most consequential question of all: Why would Binay seek the presidency itself, if he cannot even fully meet the responsibilities of city mayor? (This is the competence question, which Remulla’s statement itself prompts.)

As president of the republic, Binay would be faced with much more pressure than Arroyo directed at him. Not only domestic politics but also foreign affairs would demand the utmost from Binay; the fate of the Bangsamoro would lie in his hands, as well as Philippine national dignity in the face of Chinese aggressiveness. Would Makati-scale corruption be an acceptable tradeoff?

One more question for Remulla: Now that he has admitted that corruption marred the construction of the parking building, would he still follow the Binays’ lead, deny any overpricing—and call it “world-class”?

OPINION

Act on the facts  By Peter Wallace |Philippine Daily Inquirer2:09 am | Thursday, September 11th, 2014


Peter Wallace

I’ve always believed that you make better decisions when you face facts. Let’s start with this headline in BusinessWorld last Sept. 5: “Philippines found among most restrictive.”

The OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) says the Philippines is the most restrictive among 64 developed and developing economies. That is not a fact you want to hear if you are the leader of that country. But it’s a fact the leader should accept, even welcome, so he can use it to force the rapid removal of those restrictions.

President Aquino will be in Europe on Sept. 13-20 to encourage investment in the Philippines. When he returns he’ll announce great success, with large levels of investment promised, even committed.

He has made a number of trips overseas in the past four years, enough trips and enough time to see some results. So what are the facts?

The President has made three trips to Japan. Let’s skip last December. The earlier two resulted in promises of $4.6 billion.

The result to date: only $951 million, not much more than what came in ($824 million) in just one year (2007) under Gloria Arroyo.

It was the same for the trips to the United States—three visits with around $3.7 billion promised, but only $779 million has come in.

During his visit to Australia and New Zealand in October 2012, some $830 million in investments was promised. But only a dismal $3 million has actually flowed in from the two countries in 2013, and $19 million for the first five months of this year.

To summarize, the President has made 30 trips to 17 countries. But in the past three years only a total of $9 billion has come in.

So the fact remains that during the period 2011-2013, the Philippines was still attracting the lowest level of FDI (foreign direct investments) among the major Asian economies. In that period, China received $975 billion in FDI, Singapore $175.4 billion, Indonesia $56 billion, Malaysia $36.4 billion, Thailand $27.4 billion, and Vietnam $24.7 billion. Almost thrice the FDI in the Philippines.

The trips are not achieving the desired result. The question should be asked: Why?

* If the President seriously wants to create jobs, the first and biggest thing he needs to do is to level the playing field and make foreigners feel welcome by removing constitutional limits to foreign ownership, for which not only foreign but also Filipino businessmen have been clamoring.

After all, you go where you feel welcome. His opposition to this is impossible to understand. Easing foreign ownership restrictions in key economic sectors is important if the Philippines is to shift from a consumption-led economy to one that is driven by investments and exports.

An economic growth anchored on investments and exports is more inclusive and has greater capacity to provide livelihood and jobs to Filipinos. And it must happen if the Philippines is to join the TransPacific Partnership trade deal.

And then there are the dozen issues ever so frequently raised that they hardly need repeating, only addressing and correcting. But to remind the President, here are the top issues:

• Corruption. In this area we give him much credit, and there’s been improvement in the Philippines’ anticorruption ranking. It is now near the upper half (53 percent) of the countries surveyed by Transparency International; it was in the bottom quartile (77 percent) in 2009. He’s put great effort into fighting corruption, but it still proliferates throughout the government, particularly within local governments. Some definite, very positive achievement, but there is so much more to do. It is deterring investment.

• Inadequate infrastructure. The public-private partnership program is finally beginning to take off, but government spending is still woefully slow and insufficient. It just isn’t happening at the speed or the scope needed, as anyone caught on NLEx could tell you.

• Improvements in tax regulations. Congress’ support here is necessary, and promised (the review is being done at committee level), but attention from the leader of the country would accelerate progress. Tied into this are the tax rates, the highest in Southeast Asia. There’s a false belief that a high rate results in high levels of income for the government. It doesn’t. There are numerous examples where lowering tax rates increases government revenues. A much higher value-added tax rate (tax when you spend) accompanied by a much lower income tax rate (don’t pay when you earn) makes considerable sense.

• Hopelessly inefficient bureaucracy. The 165 signatures and two-three years required for approval to build a power plant say it all.

I’d add to those top issues the ones I often hear about: consistency of policies and sanctity of contracts—both violated in this administration (and previous ones).

And the ill-thought-out security of tenure. If you can’t fire, you don’t hire. If you can’t fire, there’s no reason to work harder and more efficiently. You can’t compete.

I could go on and on. And I have ever so frequently done so in the past 30 years. It seems to fall on deaf political ears.

Promises are made, action doesn’t happen.

The Philippines is doing much better in many areas, but not in those areas mentioned. The result is, no one comes. It gets the least FDI among the major Asian economies. According to Social Weather Stations, some 11.8 million Filipinos don’t have jobs, or have insufficient jobs, and an estimated 12.1 million households are mired in poverty. These are the facts.

Time to act on them, not pretend that things are doing just fine.

It’s time to get angry, Mr. President. Face facts, and demand action.

(The FDI data come from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Philippine Communications Operations Office, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, and World Bank.)

Considerations on the Bangsamoro Basic Law By Randy David |Philippine Daily Inquirer2:07 am | Thursday, September 11th, 2014


Randy David

Once the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law comes before Congress, we can expect its key provisions to be challenged on constitutional grounds.

Its critics will assail these provisions as tantamount to a de facto recognition of a dual-state situation. Constitutionality is also bound to be raised at the Supreme Court, which, not too long ago, struck down a previous initiative of more or less similar import.

We don’t know exactly how members of the Moro community will react to a failure to pass the proposed law, but we can be certain they will not take it sitting down. If the matter is not resolved before the end of President Aquino’s term, it will become a thorny talking point in the 2016 national elections. The challenge to the Bangsamoro law will be cast in the emotionally-laden vocabulary of “dismemberment” and “fragmentation,” mobilizing prejudices rooted in what one might call, with apologies to Freud, the narcissism of presumed wholeness.

While these skirmishes will happen on the political and legal fronts, the more decisive battle for a just and lasting peace must be waged in the hearts and minds of the Filipino people. And this demands from all of us not only the patience to understand a law that lies outside our everyday concerns, but also the readiness to examine our entrenched beliefs and biases about Muslims and Muslim Mindanao.

In what way has this region been a meaningful part of the Philippines? Its history has been marked by unremitting resistance to subjugation by external powers, including those representing the Filipino nation-state. Culturally, it has amazingly kept its coherence as a distinct entity in a predominantly Christianized society. Politically and economically, it has remained in the last 68 years of Philippine independence nothing more than a neglected and exploited periphery of a sovereign Filipino state. Its fierce sense of self-understanding revolves around the image of a community that is fighting to free itself from internal colonialism. It is safe to say that the average Filipino has always viewed this region with a mix of fascination and suspicion.

Because Muslim Mindanao has never felt the hand of an effective central political authority, it has spawned rival warlords who perform the basic functions of government. The republic itself has not been able to govern Mindanao except tenuously and indirectly—by integrating its Manila-sponsored strongmen into the circuits of the nation-state. The political history of the Ampatuan clan that ruled the province of Maguindanao for decades is a classic illustration of this arrangement. There are people like them in almost every town in Muslim Mindanao—armed tyrants who rule by intimidation and coercion. They signal their presence and their territorial claims by the multiple road checkpoints they maintain and the clan wars they now and then wage against one another.

The formation of an elected Bangsamoro political authority, whose rule, hopefully, will be free from the dysfunctions that have hobbled the existing regional government of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, is surely a step in the right direction.

* If the Moro Islamic Liberation Front thought it was ready to create a separate Bangsamoro state, it would not bother to sit down for negotiations. It would simply announce its secession from the Republic of the Philippines and fight for international recognition. Indeed, this is a vision that many thoughtful Moros have not completely given up, seeing in it the only meaningful route they can take to ensure the survival and growth of the Moro nation. What deters them from pursuing this path is the awareness that wars of secession are open-ended events marked by protracted violence that can put in peril the very survival of their people.

There are many forms of regional autonomy, differing in the degrees to which the autonomous unit can effectively exercise self-direction and sustain itself over time. For political observers like former University of the Philippines president Jose Abueva, the Bangsamoro project could well be a template for a more comprehensive federal system of government in the future.

To me, real autonomy is an evolutionary achievement of society. No law can completely underwrite an autonomy whose conditions of possibility have not been previously established in the political arena. In the long term, even political authority will be empty without economic growth. And stable economic activity is not possible without functioning social institutions like schools and civil society organizations. None of these aspirations can be realized anymore within narrow ethnolinguistic or sectarian lines. That is why the case of the Bangsamoro may strike some, at first glance, as a retreat to premodern segmentary societies. But, when one considers that what is being consolidated under a single political authority here is a region that hitherto has been ruled by tribal fiefdoms, warlords, and local kingpins, it is difficult not to see it as a modest step toward political modernity.

The viability of an autonomous system lies ultimately in its ability to define its own environment. Autonomy is not isolation. It means, rather, being able to determine one’s own points of connection to the world. This is something that is not acquired overnight, but is developed only in the course of a cognitive openness to the possibilities that a complex world has to offer.

Rogue cops on Edsa Philippine Daily Inquirer12:12 am | Saturday, September 13th, 2014


INQUIRER EDITORIAL CARTOON SEPTEMBER 13, 2014

Was anyone the least bit surprised that the suspects behind that Sept. 1 incident on Edsa involving armed men surrounding an SUV turned out to be cops? The photo immediately caused a sensation when it surfaced on Twitter, partly because of the mystery surrounding it. Who were these men aiming guns at the occupants of the SUV?

Was it a legitimate police operation, perhaps against a high-profile fugitive? Or a kidnapping, done so brazenly in broad daylight on that ultrabusy highway?

The fact that there was no police report on the incident many hours after the photo had gone viral deepened the mystery. What the photo indicated was a meticulously planned operation—three vehicles plus a motorcycle hemming in the white SUV and forcing it to stop, and men with drawn guns then surrounding it. One of the men had a pair of handcuffs on his belt, which was an immediate clue: He must be a plainclothes policeman. The vehicles’ plate numbers were clear. But for hours and even days later, no victim came forward to complain.

Was there a conspiracy to keep the incident under wraps?

Credit must be given to officers of the Eastern Police District for taking up the case and quickly solving the mystery. The men with guns were policemen, mostly from the La Loma precinct in Quezon City. According to accounts of the heist, the cops waylaid the white SUV, took into custody its two passengers, employees of a construction company in Mindanao, and divested them of some P2 million reportedly intended for buying heavy equipment.

The victims were also forced to withdraw more cash from their ATM accounts. They were taken to the La Loma station and held there for seven hours, then released with the warning that they would be killed if they so much as squeaked about their ordeal.

What the rogue cops didn’t reckon with was that someone on the highway had been alert enough to take a photo of their “hulidap” operation. And, following that, a police officer—EPD’s Chief Supt. Abelardo Villacorta—resourceful enough to investigate the case based on the photo and to confront the perpetrators once he had the goods on them.

The La Loma station deputy commander, Chief Insp. Joseph de Vera, was the first to be arrested. Charges have been brought against him and his cohorts.

* If the brass think this is a black eye on the Philippine National Police, they’re wrong; it’s a virtual body blow, and only the most recent in a never-ending cascade of stories about cops becoming the very criminals they are sworn to hunt down.

In the same week that the La Loma cops took the spotlight, for example, a Korean tourist came forward to accuse four Manila police officers of trying to extort as much as P100,000 from him after he fought with a fellow Korean inside a restaurant, reportedly over an unpaid debt. Brought to the Manila Police District headquarters, Cho Yong Woo said the cops threatened him with jail unless he produced the amount, which went down to P30,000 from the original P100,000.

The typical defense of the PNP hierarchy in the face of such incidents is that these are isolated cases, and that anyway all efforts are being exerted to clean up the ranks. But are these efforts working? Take the purported mastermind of the Edsa heist, Senior Insp. Oliver Villanueva, who is still at large. The man’s personal data sheet for 2013 showed that he was worth P6.5 million—down from P7.3 million in 2012. How did he manage to amass that much? Is it possible for a senior inspector to become a multimillionaire on a cop’s salary without anyone else in the organization noticing?

Or has Villanueva become this prosperous because others like him up and down the line also benefited in various degrees from whatever criminal enterprises they were engaged in? How many times have Villanueva et al. pulled off heists like the Edsa “hulidap,” before a single inadvertent photo of their latest caper tripped them up?

It has been noted that a number of the suspects are graduates of the PNP Academy. What’s going on out there that its products turn out this way? Other PNP Academy graduates have since disowned the rogue cops, but would subsequent values formation seminars be enough when police recruits are steeped in a dysfunctional training environment before they are let loose on society?

By their fruits ye shall know them. What the PNP needs is nothing less than a top-to-bottom overhaul.

Let there be light By Ramon R. del Rosario Jr. |Philippine Daily Inquirer12:11 am | Saturday, September 13th, 2014


Ramon R. del Rosario, Jr. is the President of Philippine Investment Management (PHINMA), Inc. and Bacnotan Consolidated Industries, Inc., two affiliated companies with investments in housing, education, energy, financial services and steel roofing. He is also Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of AB Capital and Investment Corporation, a full-service investment bank and Chairman of Microtel Inns and Suites (Pilipinas), Inc.

We have all heard the news that Luzon will again face an energy crisis in 2015 even as the Visayas and Mindanao have been suffering rolling blackouts on a regular basis. The estimates are that we will have a shortage of 400 to 600 megawatts assuming that all existing power plants remain online—which is a best-case scenario.

A stable and secure supply of power is, of course, critical to the interests of the Philippines as power is one of the key drivers of our economic growth. With our desire to be a destination for foreign investment, we cannot afford to be a nation with inadequate power supply. It is imperative that we immediately formulate policies to address this shortage, or risk increased prices for consumers and losses for businesses.

The problem we are encountering—inadequate supply in the face of strong and growing demand—is exacerbated during the summer months. These are when more electricity is consumed and power from hydroelectric plants is severely restricted, when major power plants are under maintenance, or when natural disasters destroy transmission lines. The immediate need is to come up with practical solutions covering both supply and demand. While the national government seeks congressional authority to contract additional generating capacity under the Epira (Electric Power Industry Reform Act), we in the business sector are ready to do our part.

One commendable initiative is the Manila Electric Co.’s Interruptible Load Program (ILP). Last Sept. 8, the Makati Business Club hosted a forum in which Meralco briefed the business community on the ILP, which is aimed at decreasing aggregate demand from the grid during the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. by having corporations with large loads voluntarily run their generator sets subject to just compensation.

So far, 118 MW of capacity have been committed to the ILP by such companies as SM Prime Holdings Inc. and Robinsons Land Corp. Another 42 potential customers representing 48 MW of capacity have indicated interest as of this week.

We remain hopeful that we can significantly increase these commitments in the coming weeks. I encourage other corporations with substantial generating capacity to also sign up. While the current scheme of the Energy Regulatory Commission does not fully compensate corporations for running their generators, the alternative of forcibly running their generators without compensation during a power outage should not escape notice.

It is also in everyone’s best interests for the government to seriously consider a fair compensation scheme that will induce owners of generator sets to operate these during peak hours. This is a program where the wholehearted support of the private sector is absolutely needed and most welcome!

* A massive and well-designed energy conservation program involving highly practical solutions—such as switching to inverter-type air-conditioning, raising air-conditioning thermostat levels by two degrees, and widespread use of LED light bulbs—is another program that private business will be very happy to support.

On the supply side of the equation, there is more that the private sector can do with adequate government support—for example, more power supply agreements to add more capacity to the grid during periods of red alert by selling to Meralco to offset short supply. JG Summit and Shell are ready to consider 60 MW and 20 MW, respectively, for such an arrangement.

Another practical approach is to review and carefully plan the maintenance shutdowns of power plants. As we anticipate a shortage during the summer months, everything in their power must be done by the Department of Energy and National Grid Corp. of the Philippines to ensure that any planned maintenance should be scheduled outside of that period.

The government must also act decisively when it comes to rehabilitating the Malaya Thermal Power Plant as it can reportedly supply as much as 300 MW to the grid as soon as February. Time is of the essence, and adding 300 MW of supply will go a long way toward preventing rolling blackouts.

In the long term, what we really need is an environment that encourages investment in this sector. Bringing a power plant onstream is very challenging in the Philippines. In some cases, as many as 160 permits are required in order to build and operate a power plant.

Imagine how much easier it would be to invest in this sector if the various regulatory requirements are aligned and streamlined. Additional investments should also make the market more competitive, and could result in lower electricity prices for consumers. However, a lack of investment in power plants will result in this problem occurring over and over again.

We in the private sector will do what we can, and we are prepared to work closely with the government to address these issues and develop a viable, long-term plan for energy security.

I remain very hopeful that the economic growth that the Philippines is enjoying will be sustained. The eyes of the world are on us. It will be a shame if our failure to adequately address the energy crisis today leads our nation into pitch darkness tomorrow. We must all do our part to make regular blackouts a thing of the past.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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