EDITORIAL/OPINION FROM BLOGS
PNoy's ADMIN IN REVIEW


EDITORIAL from the South Asean Research Center: AQUINO'S REFORMISM HITS A DEAD END 

SEPT 30, 2014 --WRITTEN BY Mark R Thompson is Director at the Southeast Asia Research Centre (SEARC) and Professor of Politics at the Department of Asian and International Studies, City University of Hong Kong. ---Unlike his scandal-plagued predecessor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo — who left office as the most unpopular post-Marcos president — it has long seemed that Benigno S. ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III, could do no wrong. Aquino promised to take the ‘straight path’ (matuwid na daan) to clean up corruption.

This, he said, would also eradicate poverty. Aquino’s reforms were, at first, very successful. Economic growth accelerated to the highest among ASEAN nations. Corrupt politicians were held accountable — Arroyo was charged with plunder while Aquino’s congressional allies removed Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, a ‘midnight’ Arroyo appointee accused of obstructing Aquino’s anti-corruption drive. More people paid their taxes after a Bureau of Internal Revenue crackdown. And pro-administration candidates dominated mid-term congressional elections in 2013. PHOTO: An effigy of Filipino president Benigno S. ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III is displayed as thousands of anti-corruption protesters march on the first year anniversary of an anti-graft street protest at a park in Manila, 25 August 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Credit rating agencies such as Fitch gave Aquino’s administration a vote of confidence as well, upping the country to investment grade. The Philippines steadily improved its ranking in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, moving from 129th of 177 countries in 2011 to 105th in 2012 and to 94th last year. Aquino seemed to be moving fast along a ‘straight path’. But over the past 12 months Aquino’s reform drive has run into a dead end. In 2013, there were revelations that corrupt legislators employed fake non-governmental organisations (NGOs) set up by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles and others to divert pork barrel funds into their own pockets. After initial hesitation, Aquino — seeking to limit the outcry from his middle class base — agreed to abolish the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) that had been used to pay the fake NGOs.

ALSO Column from Business World: Is the economy Binay-resilient? 

The prospect of a Binay presidency must be the administration’s major nightmare. Else why would PNoy squander his political capital on the striptease of a re-election via Charter change? As recently as two months ago, PNoy’s impassioned state of the nation speech in July and Butch Abad’s able defense at the Senate already seemed to turn the tide of debate on the festering Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and “pork” issue. The President seemed on the verge of winning the political battle, even if he had lost the judicial one. So it was a surprise when PNoy and some of his close allies raised the possibility of changing the Constitution in order to allow him a chance at a second term. Why suddenly throw gas on the embers of animosity that were already about to die down? (I discount the possibility this is all a product of PNoy’s “evil genius” — that he shrewdly raised the spectre of political Charter change, knowing its unpopularity, simply to scuttle the pending moves to change the Constitution’s economic provisions.)

The only other plausible explanation is that the President and his allies are truly worried about the looming (would you say inevitable?) prospect of a Binay presidency. PNoy has said as much: his mantra ever since the State of the Nation Address has been the dire need for a successor who can “continue what we have begun” — a task which the Vice-President apparently is not up to. The only problem is, no electable alternative is on the horizon either. Hence the seemingly desperate feint at a second-term presidency. As with most dire apprehensions, the prudent thing is to confront them by imagining the worst case and proceeding from there. So it is proper to ask: just how bad might a Binay presidency be for the economy? I mean, really.

On the one hand, large global and local developments are now in place that not even a purely self-interested Machiavellian leader (not necessarily the Veep) can ignore or undo. Because these are likely to persist, PNoy’s successor will have an easier time and more room for action than he did. It is these trends that make the economy “Binay-resilient” — to a degree. But let’s break it down. First, the large overseas remittances (bringing in more than $2 billion monthly) are certain to continue. This is the single biggest factor in an active current account and is the bedrock of the macroeconomy’s stability. The knock-on effects on international reserves, credit ratings, the economy’s borrowing costs, fiscal headspace, and so on, are obvious enough. * READ MORE...

ALSO from the PPP Center blogsite: Major project infrastructures get top-level approval  

OCT 17 --Communications Secretary Herminio B. Coloma, Jr. said the PPP projects which secured green light from the NEDA Board, headed by President Benigno S.C. Aquino III, were the first phase of the P30.40-billion Operation and Maintenance (O&M) of Iloilo Airport; Phase 1 of the P40.57-billion O&M of Davao Airport; Phase 1 of the P20.26-billion O&M of Bacolod Airport; P5.23-billion O&M of Puerto Princesa Airport; P18.99-billion Davao Sasa Port Modernization Project; and P50.18-billion Regional Prison Facilities through PPP.
Mr. Coloma also said the NEDA Board, in the same meeting, approved the change in contract terms for the P122.81-billion Laguna Lakeshore Expressway Dike Project, also under the PPP program. “Authority was given by NEDA Board for DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) to adopt a hybrid contractual arrangement, as stipulated in the IRR (Implementing Rules and Regulations) of the BoT Law.

Also, the DPWH was directed to coordinate with LLDA (Laguna Lake Development Authority) and PRA (Philippine Retirement Authority) on implementation,” he said in a text message. Mr. Coloma would not elaborate, but a January 2013 policy brief prepared for the PPP Center described a hybrid project as one that provides assets in lieu of cash or other conventional forms of subsidy, or allows official development assistance or other concessional international financing not usually obtained for a PPP project. Also approved was the 18-month extension of loan validity (to Jan. 10, 2016 from July 10, 2014), downscaling of scope and reallocation of project cost that cut the total cost of the ongoing Laguindingan Airport Development Project to P7.70 billion from P7.85 billion. O&M of the various airports, Mr. Coloma noted, is meant to “enhance safety, security, access, passenger and cargo movement efficiency, and operational efficiency at the airport”, while the regional prison facilities is expected “to accommodate 26,000 inmates with facilities for both men and women.” *READ MORE...

ALSO from GetRealPhilippines.com: Noynoy Aquino cannot take all the credit for the Philippines’ economic gains  

President BS Aquino created his own crisis to justify the DAP. Can the Philippines Afford a Single Aquino Term in Office? This was the question posted by The World Post blogger, Daniel Wagner recently and a question a lot of Aquino supporters have been passing around lately. Not only is the question idiotic, it is also pointless. It is idiotic because it assumes that President Benigno Simeon (BS) Aquino is the only person out of 100 million people who has the capability to keep the country moving forward. It is pointless because the Philippine Constitution prohibits the incumbent President from seeking another term. Filipinos will have to spend billions of pesos to remove the term limit just to allow a mediocre President to run again. The thought of it is enough to make a lot of people shudder in disgust.

Most rational people know the answer to the question is a definite YES, the Philippines can afford a single Aquino term. In fact, considering the first Aquino Presidency also performed below average and even suffered a tumultuous term, Filipinos didn’t really need another Aquino as their President. There were better, more qualified and more statesman-like candidates who were vying for the Presidency during the 2010 Presidential Election. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a popular mother who passed away before the election so they didn’t get the majority of the sympathy votes. One can’t help but wonder what Wagner’s agenda is about. He had no basis for promoting a second term for BS Aquino in his article. He simply cited the country’s notable GDP growth, which should not be credited solely to the current government.

As Asia Editor of the Financial Times David Pilling mentioned in his previous article, improvement in economic fundamentals already started during former President Gloria Arroyo’s term and that some of the macro-economic improvements have been the fruit of policy changes outside BS Aquino’s administration, particularly at the central bank: Much of what the government of President BS Aquino had achieved over the last four years is primarily attributable to Arroyo’s legacy… In truth, some of the macro-economic improvements have been the fruit of policy changes outside his administration, particularly at the central bank. Although his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, was deeply unpopular and accused of overseeing a corrupt administration, much of the improvement in economic fundamentals can be dated to her government. Of course we can’t expect members of the media allied with BS Aquino to highlight that important information. They want to give all the credit to their patron saint and keep painting the previous administrator as “evil” – someone who did nothing good for the country. * READ MORE...

ALSO from Uncomplicated Mind blog: Aquino’s imperial presidency 

PHOTO: AT APEC LAST YEAR 2014: President Aquino during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit in Bali, Indonesia, October 6, 2013. Aquino was applauded loudest when
he rejected the idea of seeking another term. AP Photo/Wong Maye-e. ---During the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit in Bali, Indonesia, last October 6, 2013, Philippine President Noynoy Aquino was asked whether he thought of serving another term to ensure the country’s economic growth that seemed to prosper during his incumbency. Aquino was loudly applauded when he rejected the idea of a seeking a second term.

In explaining the rationale for the one-term limit for Philippine presidents, Aquino recalled how one of his predecessors was “first elected in 1965, got re-elected in 1969, and decided to stay until 1986.” Of course, Aquino was referring to Ferdinand Marcos who ruled the country with an iron fist for more than two decades. Marcos wasn’t contented with two terms: he had to invent a justification for declaring martial law to prolong his presidency beyond the constitutional limit.
What President Aquino failed to mention was this was the legacy of his mother, former President Cory Aquino, who helped restore democracy in the Philippines with the adoption of the 1987 Constitution that provided for a one-term president. A legacy the son is now prepared to desecrate and dishonour with his own ambition of running for another term by hinting that constitutional change may be necessary to amend the limit to the current presidential term of office and to clip the powers of the judiciary.

After his mother stepped down from the presidency in 1992, six years after the EDSA People Power Revolution that toppled the Marcos dictatorship, the next succeeding three presidents attempted to have the Constitution changed so they could run for another term. But each time, they would be rebuked, and popular support for Charter change never did actually prosper. In speaking against another term when interviewed during the APEC conference, it wasn’t lost on President Aquino that the framers of the 1987 Constitution had Marcos in their minds when they fixed the presidential term to six years without re-election. The framers hoped that the country will never again see the day when another dictator will usurp his powers as president so he can stay in office against the wishes of the people. * READ MORE...

ALSO from Bulatlat World: Understanding (Not Just Exposing) Corruption 

There might very well be a conspiracy afoot to prevent the election of Vice-President Jejomar Binay to the Presidency in 2016. It doesn’t release Binay from the responsibility of credibly answering the accusations that have been hurled against him. But neither should it prevent the media from using the opportunity to provide the public the information and analysis it needs to encourage citizen action against corruption. The 2016 elections may be all of 19 months away, but no one will seriously challenge the probability that what’s happening to Binay is a pre-emptive strike intended to steadily erode voter preference for him. Nevertheless, declarations that “it’s just politics” and “selective justice” won’t do, given the seriousness of the charges, and the opportunity they offer for the media to enhance public understanding not only of corruption but also of the exclusionary character of the political system that makes corruption inevitable.

Binay spokespersons say that what the media have labelled the “Binay hacienda” is actually owned by someone else (who, however, happens to be a Binay acquaintance and business associate). That disclaimer alone is not enough, the public being well aware of the practice among public officials of using dummies to mask their ownership of property as well as involvement in corporations and business interests. This fact alone should have provoked the media into taking a sober look at the way political power is used in furtherance of limited interests. Instead, some sectors of the media simply went overboard in their focus on the accusations that have been made against Binay, the detailed reports being complete with photos and videos taken from a helicopter provided by Binay’s main accuser.

Binay and company have accused the Department of Justice of partisanship, but that partisanship, if it indeed exists, doesn’t make the charges against him false. Binay can’t also seek refuge in his status as Vice-President in his refusal to appear before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, for the simple reason that it doesn’t contribute to disproving the allegations of overpricing, kickbacks and unexplained wealth against him. If Binay is saying that his entitlement to respect as the country’s Vice-President outweighs the public’s right to the truth about an individual who could very well be President of this country from 2016 to 2022, the media need to point it out as one more indication of what’s wrong with the political system.

Binay cannot just keep on doing what he’s been doing for one simple reason: his approval ratings as well as his numbers as the leading candidate for the Presidency in 2016 are falling, indicating that much of the public believes the charges against him to be true, in all probability because neither he nor his spokespersons have been doing a credible job of refuting them. For his own sake as well as that of the electorate, 41% of which, prior to the airing of the allegations against him, had declared that they would vote for him in 2016. On the other hand, the media need to go beyond merely reporting the juicy details of the charges against Binay and, such as it is, his attempts at responding to them. Rather than empowering citizens, the incessant reports on corruption in the public sector, among them the current focus on Binay among other officials, are reinforcing mass apathy and disaffection with political engagement. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Statement of Secretary Edwin Lacierda: 
On the Aquino administration’s achievements for 2012 Released on December 27, 2012]

When the Filipino people gave an overwhelming mandate to President Benigno S. Aquino III in 2010, there were those who remained skeptical of the extent of reforms that can be instituted, given the entrenched culture of corruption and mistrust of government.

The many achievements of the Aquino administration in 2012 should put those doubts to rest. At home and around the world, the Philippines has become recognized as a bastion of stability and good governance. Through hard work, deft decision-making, and intense political will, the President has laid down the foundations of justice and inclusive growth. Through it all, he continues to clean house, eliminate waste, and put primacy on restoring public trust in our institutions.

Almost a year after calls for “all out war” against Moro separatists were answered by a firm and sober “all out justice” stance by the President, the MILF and GRP signed a historic Framework Agreement that sets the stage for a final, enduring peace in Mindanao. This is among the first successful dialogues between a government and a Muslim separatist movement in the modern era, and could set the template on how to peacefully handle such conflicts across the world.

While an atmosphere of peace is now beginning to set over the conflict-ridden south, the entire country is experiencing a newfound sense of justice and fairness. After the President publicly announced judicial reform as among the bedrocks of his agenda, the House of Representatives impeached former Chief Justice Renato Corona over allegations of betraying the public trust. He was later on convicted and removed from office by an overwhelming majority of Senators. This heralded the arrival of a judiciary characterized not by secrecy and patronage, but by integrity and competence. The appointment of Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, and later Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, sustained the momentum of reform in the judiciary.

The message is clear: If a Chief Justice can be impeached—and a former president put under hospital arrest for alleged plunder and electoral sabotage—then so can anyone; a crime is a crime, regardless of wealth or status in society. With this principle in mind, the President signed into law the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act, the first of its kind in Asia, which criminalizes the unlawful arrest of civilians and ensures the preservation and protection of every Filipino’s civil liberties. This law clearly demonstrates the President’s commitment to human rights. Through these reforms, we are strengthening a system where the law serves the people and works towards their full development. Without doubt, we are moving towards a society where fairness reigns—fueled by a people empowered by its government.

Nowhere is this empowerment more evident than in the investments that the government has channeled towards education, health, and poverty alleviation. Agencies such as the Department of Health, the Department of Education, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (which spearheads the Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program,) have all experienced sharp increases in their budget, proving the President’s resolve to lift our countrymen from the margins of society. * READ MORE...

(ALSO) PNoy in 2013: From popular to pilloried  

PHOTO: President Benigno Aquino III announces on Friday, August 23, 2013, that he will abolish the Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF during a press conference in Malacañang. Gil Nartea. --The year 2013 was not kind to the Philippines. And it wasn't exactly nice to President Benigno Aquino III either. Aquino, arguably one of the most popular Philippine presidents to assume office, was elected in 2010 with more than 15 million votes, almost six million more against his closest rival, former President Joseph Estrada. But three years into his term, Aquino has managed to lose the trust and approval of many of his supporters. "The ratings have dropped, especially in Metro Manila, he is now in a full-fledged political crisis, and doubts have arisen if he can escape being a lameduck president or even end his term in 2016," political analyst Ramon Casiple told GMA News Online.

In the last survey released by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) in 2013, Aquino's net satisfaction ratings remained at its lowest (+49) for the year. It's also below his average rating for 2010 (+62), 2011 (+53), and 2012 (+53). The average net rating for 2013 is +55. Based on the SWS surveys, Aquino's satisfaction ratings have always been lower than that of Vice President Jejomar Binay throughout the year. And while Aquino's trust and approval ratings were relatively high based on Pulse Asia surveys, Binay's ratings have also always been higher throughout 2013. But Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. told GMA News Online that it is not "appropriate" to compare the two. "The magnitude and depth of the President’s responsibilities are of a higher and different order from those of the Vice President. It must also be pointed out that the incumbent Vice President is a member of the President’s Cabinet and therefore shares in the responsibilities of carrying out the Philippine Development Plan," he said. Casiple also said it's normal for vice presidents to have a higher rating than sitting presidents. "The VP is seen as not accountable for the government's performance. He also has all the time to campaign for pogi points across the land," he said. Losing 'pogi points' * CONTINUE READING...


READ FULL REPORTS HERE:

Aquino’s reformism hits a dead end


An effigy of Filipino president Benigno S. ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III is displayed as thousands of anti-corruption protesters march on the first year anniversary of an anti-graft street protest at a park in Manila, 25 August 2014. (Photo: AAP)

MANILA, OCTOBER 27, 2014 (EAST ASIA FORUM) POSTED 30 September 2014 Author: Mark R. Thompson, City University of Hong Kong - Unlike his scandal-plagued predecessor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo — who left office as the most unpopular post-Marcos president — it has long seemed that Benigno S. ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III, could do no wrong.

Aquino promised to take the ‘straight path’ (matuwid na daan) to clean up corruption. This, he said, would also eradicate poverty.

Aquino’s reforms were, at first, very successful. Economic growth accelerated to the highest among ASEAN nations.

Corrupt politicians were held accountable — Arroyo was charged with plunder while Aquino’s congressional allies removed Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, a ‘midnight’ Arroyo appointee accused of obstructing Aquino’s anti-corruption drive.

More people paid their taxes after a Bureau of Internal Revenue crackdown. And pro-administration candidates dominated mid-term congressional elections in 2013.

Credit rating agencies such as Fitch gave Aquino’s administration a vote of confidence as well, upping the country to investment grade. The Philippines steadily improved its ranking in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, moving from 129th of 177 countries in 2011 to 105th in 2012 and to 94th last year. Aquino seemed to be moving fast along a ‘straight path’.

But over the past 12 months Aquino’s reform drive has run into a dead end.

In 2013, there were revelations that corrupt legislators employed fake non-governmental organisations (NGOs) set up by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles and others to divert pork barrel funds into their own pockets. After initial hesitation, Aquino — seeking to limit the outcry from his middle class base — agreed to abolish the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) that had been used to pay the fake NGOs.

* Aquino was not initially blamed for this pork barrel scam — the president-appointed ombudsman indicted three opposition senators. But Aquino was accused of shielding his allies in Congress by limiting the Commission on Audit investigations of the scandal to before he took office in 2010. Aquino’s opponents also claimed that money had flowed to legislators to vote for Corona’s impeachment, trial and conviction.

In the absence of a strong party system, patronage has long been the only way for a president to ‘get things done’ in the Philippines. Fidel V. Ramos, generally considered the most successful reformist president before Aquino, was particularly adept at pork barrel spending to push through reforms.

Aquino’s artful concealment of the necessity for presidential pork was ‘outed’ when the Supreme Court ruled unanimously on 1 July this year that major components of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) — which Aquino defended as a necessary instrument to quickly disperse unspent funds from other programs to higher priority projects — were unconstitutional.

Aquino lashed out at the Supreme Court in his penultimate State of the Union address, leading to fears that he would try to impeach its members (including his newly appointed chief justice) or slash its budget. Aquino also hinted that he might push for constitutional change to allow him to run for a second term, raising old fears of Marcos-style continuismo (continuing indefinitely in office).

But his congressional allies abandoned him both on his challenge to the Supreme Court and his call for constitutional change. His poll ratings have dipped sharply and Aquino — accustomed to high levels of popularity — now faces political isolation as a lame duck president.

Philippine politics appears to have gone through yet another case of a popular leader brought low by cascading scandals and failed promises. Aquino himself admitted his pledge to clean up the Bureau of Customs had failed miserably and recently appointed a new Custom’s chief to try again.

But in Aquino’s case, the fall from grace is particularly striking given his narrative of ‘good governance’. Graft remains, and Aquino’s family continues to resist the court-ordered land redistribution of his family’s huge plantation Hacienda Luisita.

Growth in the Philippines remains profoundly unequal.

Under Aquino, the Philippines has experienced impressive macro-economic growth, fuelled by remittances from the 10 per cent of the country’s population working abroad — often in menial jobs — and business process-outsourcing, primarily call centres that are largely foreign owned and can easily be moved to another country. While the service sector has boomed, agriculture — the economy’s biggest sector — has performed dismally.

Last year, economist Cielito Habito calculated that the growth in the aggregate wealth of the country’s 40 richest families in 2011 was equivalent to over three quarters of the increase in the country’s GDP that year .

Unemployment, already the highest in ASEAN, has risen during much of Aquino’s presidency, while poverty has hardly dipped. Self-reported poverty has actually risen.

Aquino has poured money into a Brazilian-style conditional cash transfer scheme that has met with some success but critics say he should concentrate instead on universal social services and creating jobs. The administration’s list of major completed infrastructural projects is also lean.

Vice President Jejomar Binay (who defeated Aquino’s vice presidential bet in 2010; presidential and vice-presidential candidates are elected separately in the Philippines) is widely seen as a leading contender in the 2016 presidential election — although his bid has been tarnished by a plunder case (for a supposedly overpriced parking garage said to involve payoffs) recently filed against him, which his supporters claim was instigated by Aquino allies.

Binay became a national political figure through his promotion of social welfare when mayor of Makati, Metro Manila’s business district. This suggests that Aquino’s inability to stick to the ‘straight path’ may have shifted the focus of the next campaign to the plight of the country’s poor who lack access to decent jobs, adequate education, health care and other social services.

Mark R Thompson is Director at the Southeast Asia Research Centre (SEARC) and Professor of Politics at the Department of Asian and International Studies, City University of Hong Kong.

FROM BUSINESS WORLD

Is the economy Binay-resilient? by Emmanuel S de Dios on Sep 16, 2014 No Comments
Introspective Business World, 16 September 2014

The prospect of a Binay presidency must be the administration’s major nightmare. Else why would PNoy squander his political capital on the striptease of a re-election via Charter change? As recently as two months ago, PNoy’s impassioned state of the nation speech in July and Butch Abad’s able defense at the Senate already seemed to turn the tide of debate on the festering Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and “pork” issue. The President seemed on the verge of winning the political battle, even if he had lost the judicial one.

So it was a surprise when PNoy and some of his close allies raised the possibility of changing the Constitution in order to allow him a chance at a second term. Why suddenly throw gas on the embers of animosity that were already about to die down? (I discount the possibility this is all a product of PNoy’s “evil genius” — that he shrewdly raised the spectre of political Charter change, knowing its unpopularity, simply to scuttle the pending moves to change the Constitution’s economic provisions.)

The only other plausible explanation is that the President and his allies are truly worried about the looming (would you say inevitable?) prospect of a Binay presidency. PNoy has said as much: his mantra ever since the State of the Nation Address has been the dire need for a successor who can “continue what we have begun” — a task which the Vice-President apparently is not up to. The only problem is, no electable alternative is on the horizon either. Hence the seemingly desperate feint at a second-term presidency.

As with most dire apprehensions, the prudent thing is to confront them by imagining the worst case and proceeding from there. So it is proper to ask: just how bad might a Binay presidency be for the economy? I mean, really.

On the one hand, large global and local developments are now in place that not even a purely self-interested Machiavellian leader (not necessarily the Veep) can ignore or undo. Because these are likely to persist, PNoy’s successor will have an easier time and more room for action than he did. It is these trends that make the economy “Binay-resilient” — to a degree. But let’s break it down.

First, the large overseas remittances (bringing in more than $2 billion monthly) are certain to continue. This is the single biggest factor in an active current account and is the bedrock of the macroeconomy’s stability. The knock-on effects on international reserves, credit ratings, the economy’s borrowing costs, fiscal headspace, and so on, are obvious enough.

* Second, unless the new administration screws up on this entirely (though, why should it?), the prudent conduct of monetary policy is also likely to continue. The Bangko Sentral, after all, is an independent authority whose policies have been among the least politicised in the past. (Say Tetangco, who has rendered outstanding service in the current administration, was originally an Arroyo appointee reappointed by PNoy.) One can presume therefore that the same smart balance between controlling inflation and maintaining a competitive currency will continue to be struck with the same guiding parameters.

Besides, the more important ingredient for low inflation is also difficult to change — the liberal and low-tariff trade regime that was the handiwork of many administrations, beginning with Aquino I. The only bout of serious inflation under this Aquino administration occurred in recent months and only because that single culprit commodity has not been trade-liberalised, namely rice.

Fourth, some important existing social programs created, continued or expanded by the present administration have so built up constituencies of their own that they would be immensely difficult to roll back. Among these, consider the conditional cash-transfer program (just try abolishing that now) and the expansion of PhilHealth coverage and benefits. Even the K+12 initiative, shaky as it is, pre-empts a significant portion of the budget and commands a critical minimum of any future administration’s attention. The same is true for the other by-now established pillars of the Philippine economy: tourism, direct foreign investment, the BPO sector, renascent manufactures.

Indeed even the administration’s failures and inadequacies will play a role in defining the agenda. Any future president — friendly or not — will inevitably want to distinguish itself by rising above the present one’s obvious shortcomings in, say, transport infrastructure and energy. Among the inevitable blessings is the likely replacement of the deadwood and non-performers that PNoy has curiously been reluctant to dismiss. In such ways, therefore, PNoy will already have influenced and defined the agenda for the next president, even one who may be entirely self-interested and cynically concerned only for political survival.

In short, the constituencies created by the administration’s reforms have been substantial. And while such constituents may not necessarily vote for PNoy’s anointed, they are certainly going to hold out for their rights and achieved entitlements, thus setting bounds on any future president’s rogue behaviour.

Let’s face it: the real risk from a rogue president (again, not necessarily the Veep) is not that he or she will say the wrong thing in contradiction of PNoy’s legacy. It is not even that he or she will say the right thing and do another. The real danger is it that s/he will be publicly exposed as a sham, creating a serious crisis of legitimacy with untold economic repercussions. This has been the story of presidents from Marcos to Estrada to Arroyo, and it can be shown (even econometrically) that perceptions of corruption and political instability have been historically responsible for the largest drops in investment.

So it is not a question of the mask a politician wears, it is rather the danger that the mask might fall off. Filipinos have been lucky this time around: PNoy does not wear masks, so there is nothing to drop. We can only hope that if the next president is not a selfless patriot, then he can at least act like one. As the famous but unattributed maxim goes: “The most important thing is honesty. Once you know how to fake that, you’ve got it made.”

FROM THE BLOG OF THE (PPP) PUBLIC-PRIVATE-PARTNERSHIP CENTER

POSTS TAGS: BENIGNO AQUINO III
Major Infracstructure projects get top-level approval Business World, 17 October 2014 By Imee Charlee C. Delavin


PRESIDENT AQUINO III

Communications Secretary Herminio B. Coloma, Jr. said the PPP projects which secured green light from the NEDA Board, headed by President Benigno S.C. Aquino III, were the first phase of the P30.40-billion Operation and Maintenance (O&M) of Iloilo Airport; Phase 1 of the P40.57-billion O&M of Davao Airport; Phase 1 of the P20.26-billion O&M of Bacolod Airport; P5.23-billion O&M of Puerto Princesa Airport; P18.99-billion Davao Sasa Port Modernization Project; and P50.18-billion Regional Prison Facilities through PPP.

Mr. Coloma also said the NEDA Board, in the same meeting, approved the change in contract terms for the P122.81-billion Laguna Lakeshore Expressway Dike Project, also under the PPP program. “Authority was given by NEDA Board for DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) to adopt a hybrid contractual arrangement, as stipulated in the IRR (Implementing Rules and Regulations) of the BoT Law. Also, the DPWH was directed to coordinate with LLDA (Laguna Lake Development Authority) and PRA (Philippine Retirement Authority) on implementation,” he said in a text message.

Mr. Coloma would not elaborate, but a January 2013 policy brief prepared for the PPP Center described a hybrid project as one that provides assets in lieu of cash or other conventional forms of subsidy, or allows official development assistance or other concessional international financing not usually obtained for a PPP project.

Also approved was the 18-month extension of loan validity (to Jan. 10, 2016 from July 10, 2014), downscaling of scope and reallocation of project cost that cut the total cost of the ongoing Laguindingan Airport Development Project to P7.70 billion from P7.85 billion.

O&M of the various airports, Mr. Coloma noted, is meant to “enhance safety, security, access, passenger and cargo movement efficiency, and operational efficiency at the airport”, while the regional prison facilities is expected “to accommodate 26,000 inmates with facilities for both men and women.”

* The other projects approved in the more than eight hours of meeting were: P8.55-billion flood risk management project for Cagayan de Oro River; the P1.27-billion Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue-Makati Avenue-Paseo de Roxas vehicles underpass project; the P4.01-billion Metro Manila Interchange Construction Project Phase 6; P810-million restoration of damaged bridges along Bohol Circumferential Road; P1.86-billion Fisheries, Coastal Resources and Livelihood project; as well as the P2.28-billion Convergence on Value Chain Enhancement for Rural Growth and Employment to be implemented by the Agrarian Reform department.

Mr. Coloma said funding for the approved projects will come from various sources: some will be government-funded, some will require loans, others will have private equity funding or a combination of these modes.

With the approval by the NEDA board, Mr. Coloma said these projects could now move forward, adding that the President also “directed the Cabinet and NEDA members to focus on completing similar ongoing projects.”

Two other PPP projects that were discussed but not approved — the P19.30-billion Motor Vehicle Inspection System and P21.2-billion North Luzon Expressway (NLEx)-South Luzon Expressway (SLEx) Connector Road — will be taken up in the next NEDA board meeting that has yet to be scheduled, Mr. Coloma said.

He added that Mr. Aquino ordered further review of other non-PPP projects that were taken up, namely: Balog-Balog multi-purpose project under the National Irrigation Authority, as well as extension of a road improvement project and an institutional development project of the Department of Public Works and Highways.

Eight PPP projects have been awarded so far by the Aquino government since the late-2010 launch of this flagship infrastructure program, namely: the P64.9-billion Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT-1) Cavite Extension; the P1.72-billion Automatic Fare Collection System; the P17.52-billion Mactan-Cebu International Airport Passenger Terminal Building; the P2.01-billion Daang Hari-South Luzon Expressway Link Road; the P15.52-billion Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway; the P16.28-billion first phase of the PPP for School Infrastructure Project (PSIP); the PSIP’s P3.86-billion second phase; and the P5.69-billion Philippine Orthopedic Center modernization.

Besides the Laguna Lakeshore Expressway Dike Project, six other PPP projects have been rolled out, namely: the P35.4-billion Cavite-Laguna Expressway; P2.50-billion Integrated Transport System (ITS) Project-Southwest Terminal; P4.50-billion ITS Project-South Terminal; P24.40-billion Bulacan Bulk Water Supply Project; P18.72-billion New Centennial Water Supply Source-Kaliwa Dam Project; and O&M of LRT-2.

FROM GETREALPHILIPPINES.COM

Noynoy Aquino cannot take all the credit for the Philippines’ economic gains September 5, 2014by IldaGET REAL PHILIPPINES BLOG


President BS Aquino created his own crisis to justify the DAP.

Can the Philippines Afford a Single Aquino Term in Office? This was the question posted by The World Post blogger, Daniel Wagner recently and a question a lot of Aquino supporters have been passing around lately. Not only is the question idiotic, it is also pointless.

It is idiotic because it assumes that President Benigno Simeon (BS) Aquino is the only person out of 100 million people who has the capability to keep the country moving forward. It is pointless because the Philippine Constitution prohibits the incumbent President from seeking another term.

Filipinos will have to spend billions of pesos to remove the term limit just to allow a mediocre President to run again. The thought of it is enough to make a lot of people shudder in disgust.

Most rational people know the answer to the question is a definite YES, the Philippines can afford a single Aquino term. In fact, considering the first Aquino Presidency also performed below average and even suffered a tumultuous term, Filipinos didn’t really need another Aquino as their President.

There were better, more qualified and more statesman-like candidates who were vying for the Presidency during the 2010 Presidential Election. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a popular mother who passed away before the election so they didn’t get the majority of the sympathy votes.

One can’t help but wonder what Wagner’s agenda is about. He had no basis for promoting a second term for BS Aquino in his article.

He simply cited the country’s notable GDP growth, which should not be credited solely to the current government. As Asia Editor of the Financial Times David Pilling mentioned in his previous article, improvement in economic fundamentals already started during former President Gloria Arroyo’s term and that some of the macro-economic improvements have been the fruit of policy changes outside BS Aquino’s administration, particularly at the central bank:

Much of what the government of President BS Aquino had achieved over the last four years is primarily attributable to Arroyo’s legacy…

In truth, some of the macro-economic improvements have been the fruit of policy changes outside his administration, particularly at the central bank. Although his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, was deeply unpopular and accused of overseeing a corrupt administration, much of the improvement in economic fundamentals can be dated to her government.

Of course we can’t expect members of the media allied with BS Aquino to highlight that important information.

They want to give all the credit to their patron saint and keep painting the previous administrator as “evil” – someone who did nothing good for the country.

* As mentioned before, BS Aquino’s economic policy of government spending to stimulate growth is simply a continuation of the previous administration’s policy initiated in 2008 to “counteract” the effects of the Global Financial Crisis that ravaged global markets.

BS Aquino however, had to use spending to stimulate the economy after he created his own crisis when he deliberately put on hold infrastructure projects the previous administration had initiated. The effect of his decision to stop the projects slowed the economy in 2011. That gave birth to the President’s unconstitutional Disbursement Acceleration Program or DAP. PhilSTAR columnist Alex Magno summarized the gravity of what BS Aquino did in his previous article:

In order to pool mammoth amounts of “savings,” the Aquino administration cancelled infra projects wholesale.

The Belgian-assisted dredging of Laguna de Bay, the French-assisted construction of modern ro-ro ports, the Chinese-assisted Northrail project, the rehabilitation of our airports, the Japanese assisted flood control and many others were arbitrarily junked. The massacre of major infra projects in 2010 and 2011 resulted in a sharp drop in our GDP growth rate in 2011.

All these were major infra projects. They might have broadened the asset base of our economy to underpin future growth. Their multiplier effects are massive.

The DAP mechanism converted economic investments into politically configured consumption. The money taken from infra projects was converted into pork barrel slush funds designed to strengthen the grip of the Liberal Party over our politics.

The profoundness of the crime committed cannot be overstated. It has substantially diminished the opportunities for sustainable growth of the next generation of Filipinos.

Sadly, only a handful of BS Aquino’s critics in the media highlight the gross incompetence in his neglecting the economic impact of putting projects on hold during his honeymoon period. In short, prior to his justification that the DAP “helped stimulate the economy” three years after putting government projects on hold, he was actually against spending or at least spending on projects initiated by GMA.

Some consider his move vindictive. It is unfortunate that only a handful of people understand what really happened and how the DAP came about.

BS Aquino simply can’t take the credit for the country’s stable economy because it is being propped up by Filipino Overseas Foreign Workers (OFW). And the policy of sending workers abroad has been in place since the early 1970s, during the Marcos years. To quote David Pilling of the Financial Times again on the country’s economic growth:

Nor is growth being driven purely by policy. Very healthy levels of remittances from abroad and strong domestic demand mean the economy is shielded more than most from external shocks. The country, where half the population is 24 or under, is entering the sort of “demographic sweet spot” that saw other Asian nations prosper.

BS Aquino and his minions have a penchant for emphasizing only the good news from foreign media. When foreign media writes something good about BS Aquino, his minions are quick to quote the article. When it’s bad, they’ll say it is baseless.

An example of this was when Malacanang Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr called a New York Times article “inappropriate”. This was after they published a scathing editorial and advised BS Aquino to uphold the Constitution, stop butting heads with the Supreme Court and gracefully step down when his term is up.

Hopefully, when BS Aquino steps down from office, he will bring patronage politics with him. It was during his term when the size of pork barrel funds and lump sum funds ballooned. Now that they have been declared unconstitutional, members of Congress will be forced to do some real work for a change.

Filipinos should consider it a good thing that they are not beholden to the possible Presidential candidates for 2016 Election.

Since it won’t be another Aquino, they will not treat him like a saint and they won’t hesitate to impeach him.

FROM THE UNCOMPLICATED MIND BLOG

Aquino’s imperial presidency Saturday, August 16, 2014 BY JOE RIVERA, TORONTO, ONT, CANADA



During the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit in Bali, Indonesia, last October 6, 2013, Philippine President Noynoy Aquino was asked whether he thought of serving another term to ensure the country’s economic growth that seemed to prosper during his incumbency.

Aquino was loudly applauded when he rejected the idea of a seeking a second term.

In explaining the rationale for the one-term limit for Philippine presidents, Aquino recalled how one of his predecessors was “first elected in 1965, got re-elected in 1969, and decided to stay until 1986.”

Of course, Aquino was referring to Ferdinand Marcos who ruled the country with an iron fist for more than two decades. Marcos wasn’t contented with two terms: he had to invent a justification for declaring martial law to prolong his presidency beyond the constitutional limit.

President Aquino during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit in Bali, Indonesia, October 6, 2013. Aquino was applauded loudest when he rejected the idea of seeking another term.

What President Aquino failed to mention was this was the legacy of his mother, former President Cory Aquino, who helped restore democracy in the Philippines with the adoption of the 1987 Constitution that provided for a one-term president.

A legacy the son is now prepared to desecrate and dishonour with his own ambition of running for another term by hinting that constitutional change may be necessary to amend the limit to the current presidential term of office and to clip the powers of the judiciary.

After his mother stepped down from the presidency in 1992, six years after the EDSA People Power Revolution that toppled the Marcos dictatorship, the next succeeding three presidents attempted to have the Constitution changed so they could run for another term.

But each time, they would be rebuked, and popular support for Charter change never did actually prosper.

In speaking against another term when interviewed during the APEC conference, it wasn’t lost on President Aquino that the framers of the 1987 Constitution had Marcos in their minds when they fixed the presidential term to six years without re-election.

The framers hoped that the country will never again see the day when another dictator will usurp his powers as president so he can stay in office against the wishes of the people.

* Generally, term limits are viewed as necessary to curb executive ambition, as Thomas Jefferson had argued during the adoption of the U.S. Constitution in 1789. But Jefferson’s warning was drowned by the voices of Alexander Hamilton and many of the American Founders who thought term limits would invite mischief by ex-Presidents and argued against their inclusion in the U.S. Constitution.

An unwritten rule was established by American presidents from the time of George Washington that they should only serve a maximum of two terms, with the exception of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who was elected four times and served during the Depression years and the Second World War.

It was only in 1951 with the ratification of the 22nd Amendment that the current limit to the president’s term of office has been incorporated in the U.S. Constitution.

The origins of executive term limits go back to the ancient republics. Aristotle listed as a key characteristic of democracy that “no office should ever be held twice by the same person.” The rationale for term limits in these early democracies was the idea of rotation of office.

Democracy, in the view of ancient Greeks, required that citizens have the experience of both “ruling and being ruled in turn,” and this principle was best achieved by limiting tenure in public office, so as to maximize the number of citizens that could govern.

Notwithstanding some high-profile cases, modern-day presidents have observed term limits with remarkable frequency in consolidated or mature democracies. Those countries which have successfully amended or replaced their constitutions to facilitate term extensions have little to do with their presidents’ ideology or with the desire to continue the programs they started.

Jose Manuel Zelaya of Honduras, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Colombia’s Alvaro Uribe are examples of presidents who have amended their countries’ constitutions to allow them to extend their terms.

Attempts to overturn constitutional limits to presidential terms are not restricted to Latin America. Other countries like Azerbaijan, Niger, Algeria, Cameroon, Chad, Gabon, Guinea, Namibia, Togo, Tunisia, and Uganda have also adopted referenda overturning term limits.

Former Philippine President Gloria Arroyo tried several times to persuade Congress to call for Charter reforms but to no avail.

Vladimir Putin opted to step down from the Russian presidency in favour of an informally empowered prime minister, which provided him with an unlimited tenure, or at least one at the mercy of a sympathetic legislature controlled by his party.

Term limits have recently been relaxed in Russia’s neighbouring countries like Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

All these successful attempts to overturn term limits have invariably ushered in robust authoritarian governments, including those that masked presidential ambitions through changes in political systems such as from presidential to parliamentary.

President Noynoy Aquino will be joining the ranks of these autocrats should he become successful either in extending term limits or changing the government structure into a parliamentary system that would allow him to continue as head of government as long as his political party controls the legislature.

Aquino is banking on his popularity, albeit tarnished by his DAP debacle, that an extension of his term as president would enable him to continue strengthening the national economy and attacking graft and corruption like no other Filipino leader has accomplished in decades.

Empowered by public opinion manufactured by a subservient media that no other or better alternative to him is available, Aquino’s hint of extending his term is very troubling, disquieting enough that he is reconsidering his position on Charter change to restrain the perceived overreach of the Supreme Court on his executive powers.

Is he the most popular president in Philippine history?

Click link to view people's http://bulatlat.com/main/2014/08/01/artists-channel-protest-through-music-poetry-and-art/
protest against the Aquino administration through music, poetry and art.

Measured against the Filipino people’s experience under Ferdinand Marcos and on account of similar overturning of term limits in other countries, Aquino’s ambition of an imperial presidency will prove very costly to our fledgling democracy.

With Aquino’s popularity, assuming that he is never tainted by the graft and corruption that surrounds his government particularly all the swirling allegations of misconduct among his key people, it would be easy then to install a kind of elective monarchy which in any event would not have a large quantum of power.

But the real impetus to the urgency of Charter change, however, is not about extending Aquino’s term of office, or about the endless debate on the pros and cons of term limits, or even replacing the current government with a parliamentary system. All this talk of allowing Aquino to run for another term is all a mirage.

Since day one, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte has always wanted to amend the patrimony provisions of the Constitution to allow more foreign ownership and control of the country’s economic wealth.

To Belmonte this was necessary if the Philippines must join the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement under the auspices of the United States.

The economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution that establish national patrimony have always been the major obstacle, and unless they were removed, the Philippines would never be part of the trade agreement.

Another reason for Charter change is President Aquino’s pet project, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), where the draft bill has been pending before Congress to the chagrin of the MILF partners in the peace initiative.

Only an amendment of the Constitution can resolve all lingering questions of constitutionality of the proposed Bangsamoro law.

Of course, one more reason why President Aquino reversed his earlier position on Charter change is his own ego. He is still sore and he wanted to get back on the Supreme Court for invalidating his government’s Disbursement Acceleration Program, and he could accomplish this if the powers of the judiciary are clipped under an amended constitution.

As to extending his term of office which is prohibited by the Constitution, President Aquino knows full well the legacy of his parents. There is no credence to the idea being spread by his followers and the yellow media that there are no suitable replacements for him.

It’s an open season for a long list of possible presidential candidates, from the incumbent vice-president to some aspiring members of Congress whose competency is beyond the president’s own qualifications when he ran for president.

The truth is, among the ordinary folks, workers, the poor, and other marginalized sectors, there is no clamor for more of Aquino’s presidency.

People who are confronted daily with rising prices, growing inequalities and intolerable socio-economic conditions, are all fed up because only Aquino’s business friends and the wealthy classes are the ones enjoying the so-called economic growth under his administration.

Extending President Aquino’s term of office is a guaranteed formula for tyranny to flourish, a repeat of history under Ferdinand Marcos. Filipinos therefore must be wary of an Aquino imperial presidency. As Simón Bolívar once said:

“Nothing is more perilous than to permit one citizen to retain power for an extended period. The people become accustomed to obeying him, and he forms the habit of commanding them; herein lays [sic] the origins of usurpation and tyranny.... Our citizens must with good reason learn to fear lest the magistrate who has governed them long will govern them forever.” Posted by Joe Rivera at Saturday, August 16, 2014

FROM BULATLAT.COM

UNDERSTANDING (NOT JUST EXPOSING) CORRUPTION


By LUIS V. TEODORO
Vantage Point | BusinessWorld

There might very well be a conspiracy afoot to prevent the election of Vice-President Jejomar Binay to the Presidency in 2016.

It doesn’t release Binay from the responsibility of credibly answering the accusations that have been hurled against him.

But neither should it prevent the media from using the opportunity to provide the public the information and analysis it needs to encourage citizen action against corruption.

The 2016 elections may be all of 19 months away, but no one will seriously challenge the probability that what’s happening to Binay is a pre-emptive strike intended to steadily erode voter preference for him.

Nevertheless, declarations that “it’s just politics” and “selective justice” won’t do, given the seriousness of the charges, and the opportunity they offer for the media to enhance public understanding not only of corruption but also of the exclusionary character of the political system that makes corruption inevitable.

Binay spokespersons say that what the media have labelled the “Binay hacienda” is actually owned by someone else (who, however, happens to be a Binay acquaintance and business associate).

That disclaimer alone is not enough, the public being well aware of the practice among public officials of using dummies to mask their ownership of property as well as involvement in corporations and business interests.

This fact alone should have provoked the media into taking a sober look at the way political power is used in furtherance of limited interests.

Instead, some sectors of the media simply went overboard in their focus on the accusations that have been made against Binay, the detailed reports being complete with photos and videos taken from a helicopter provided by Binay’s main accuser.

Binay and company have accused the Department of Justice of partisanship, but that partisanship, if it indeed exists, doesn’t make the charges against him false.

Binay can’t also seek refuge in his status as Vice-President in his refusal to appear before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, for the simple reason that it doesn’t contribute to disproving the allegations of overpricing, kickbacks and unexplained wealth against him.

If Binay is saying that his entitlement to respect as the country’s Vice-President outweighs the public’s right to the truth about an individual who could very well be President of this country from 2016 to 2022, the media need to point it out as one more indication of what’s wrong with the political system.

Binay cannot just keep on doing what he’s been doing for one simple reason: his approval ratings as well as his numbers as the leading candidate for the Presidency in 2016 are falling, indicating that much of the public believes the charges against him to be true, in all probability because neither he nor his spokespersons have been doing a credible job of refuting them.

For his own sake as well as that of the electorate, 41% of which, prior to the airing of the allegations against him, had declared that they would vote for him in 2016.

On the other hand, the media need to go beyond merely reporting the juicy details of the charges against Binay and, such as it is, his attempts at responding to them.

Rather than empowering citizens, the incessant reports on corruption in the public sector, among them the current focus on Binay among other officials, are reinforcing mass apathy and disaffection with political engagement.

* It is of course not new. For the longest time, most Filipinos who’ve been sickened by reports and evidence of corruption have been condemning all politicians as uniformly corrupt, about which, they add, they can do little or nothing.

In many instances they also shrug away the reports as of no consequence to their lives, except for the opportunities these offer in expressing their contempt for politicians and government officials.

The Philippine media report and comment on — in detail, and with accompanying photographs as well as background material, feature stories, investigative reports and opinion pieces — allegations of corruption against such officials as Binay and Philippine National Police Chief Alan Purisima, to cite the most recent examples.

During the Arroyo regime, the media served up huge helpings of reports on official wrong-doing, as they similarly did during the Estrada and Ramos administrations.

Over the last two years, the news media also chronicled the accusations against former Chief Justice Renato Corona as well as the bases for them. Neither have the media been remiss in providing the nasty details behind the plunder cases against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, and Ramon Revilla Jr.

The media also exposed the diversion of pork barrel funds to ghost NGOs and the involvement of both private and public sector personalities in it.

The media were also the vehicles in the public exposure of the alleged use of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds in assuring the impeachment and conviction of Corona.

But to what purpose other than for the sake of newspaper circulations and broadcast ratings do the media relentlessly report corruption?

If the essence of pornography is its being a detailed account presented for its own sake, so detailed — and presented for their own sake — have the reports been that they practically constitute pornographic accounts.

These accounts provoke reactions limited to expressions of cynicism (“that’s just the way things are”), which eventually turn into apathy and disdain for political engagement.

For all of the media’s detailed accounts of corruption, what’s missing in the orgies of media exposure of scandal after scandal are attempts to go into the roots and causes of public sector corruption.

Rather than empowering media audiences, the result is the opposite: they create a sense of powerlessness and lead to a rejection of the political involvement and action indispensable to a democratic polity.

The Philippine media have been accused of an inordinate focus on politics, which is true enough. But because the politics that is their main concern has been limited to the reporting of scandals without looking into their causes, they succeed only in encouraging citizen indifference to political issues, and in preventing understanding of the political system in terms of such fundamentals as who wields political power, how and for whom, as keys to citizen empowerment in understanding corruption and doing something about it.

Corruption may not be the sole reason for the poverty that has haunted this country for centuries, but it is an important factor in the continuing impoverishment of the many.

Corruption is rooted in the exclusionary character of the political system, which over the decades has become the preserve of a handful of political dynasties focused on self-aggrandizement. The Philippine media can provide citizens the knowledge they need that’s vital to informed political action.

But instead of insight and understanding, some sectors of the Philippine media regale citizens with the lurid details of corruption in high places without providing them a guide in what they can do in putting an end to it.

Luis V. Teodoro is the deputy director of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility - www.cmfr-phil.org Published in Business World October 16, 2014

FROM WWW.GOV.PH

Statement of Secretary Edwin Lacierda:

On the Aquino administration’s achievements for 2012 [Released on December 27, 2012]


LACIERDA

When the Filipino people gave an overwhelming mandate to President Benigno S. Aquino III in 2010, there were those who remained skeptical of the extent of reforms that can be instituted, given the entrenched culture of corruption and mistrust of government.

The many achievements of the Aquino administration in 2012 should put those doubts to rest. At home and around the world, the Philippines has become recognized as a bastion of stability and good governance. Through hard work, deft decision-making, and intense political will, the President has laid down the foundations of justice and inclusive growth. Through it all, he continues to clean house, eliminate waste, and put primacy on restoring public trust in our institutions.

Almost a year after calls for “all out war” against Moro separatists were answered by a firm and sober “all out justice” stance by the President, the MILF and GRP signed a historic Framework Agreement that sets the stage for a final, enduring peace in Mindanao. This is among the first successful dialogues between a government and a Muslim separatist movement in the modern era, and could set the template on how to peacefully handle such conflicts across the world.

While an atmosphere of peace is now beginning to set over the conflict-ridden south, the entire country is experiencing a newfound sense of justice and fairness. After the President publicly announced judicial reform as among the bedrocks of his agenda, the House of Representatives impeached former Chief Justice Renato Corona over allegations of betraying the public trust. He was later on convicted and removed from office by an overwhelming majority of Senators. This heralded the arrival of a judiciary characterized not by secrecy and patronage, but by integrity and competence. The appointment of Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, and later Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, sustained the momentum of reform in the judiciary.

The message is clear: If a Chief Justice can be impeached—and a former president put under hospital arrest for alleged plunder and electoral sabotage—then so can anyone; a crime is a crime, regardless of wealth or status in society. With this principle in mind, the President signed into law the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act, the first of its kind in Asia, which criminalizes the unlawful arrest of civilians and ensures the preservation and protection of every Filipino’s civil liberties. This law clearly demonstrates the President’s commitment to human rights. Through these reforms, we are strengthening a system where the law serves the people and works towards their full development. Without doubt, we are moving towards a society where fairness reigns—fueled by a people empowered by its government.

Nowhere is this empowerment more evident than in the investments that the government has channeled towards education, health, and poverty alleviation. Agencies such as the Department of Health, the Department of Education, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (which spearheads the Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program,) have all experienced sharp increases in their budget, proving the President’s resolve to lift our countrymen from the margins of society.

Congress enacted the Responsible Parenthood Law to foster public health and access to information on reproductive health to citizens who are free to act in accordance with their conscience. In this manner, a deeply divisive issue was finally resolved. Health for the citizenry also informed the momentous passage of the Sin Tax Reform Law. After languishing for several terms, and in the face of tremendous pressure from lobbyists, Congress responded to the bill’s certification as urgent by the President, and passed the law before the end of the year. Legislators, commentators, and media have all lauded the President’s political will in passing these laws.

These political initiatives came hand-in-hand with a roaring economy, one that has experienced strong growth and stable inflation despite the uncertainties of the global economy. Philippine GDP growth for the 3rd quarter hit a two-year high of 7.1 percent—the highest in Southeast Asia, and among the top performing economies in Asia. Meanwhile, the Philippine Stock Exchange index this year broke record high after record high, soaring above expectations and breaching the 5, 800 mark. The Philippine Peso also appreciated by as much as six percent this year and is projected to gain even more strength in the coming year.

These positive indicators are underpinned by an administration that has maintained fiscal discipline, initiated reforms to ramp up quality public spending, and invested heavily in both social and physical infrastructure. This is manifested in the 2.006-trillion peso General Appropriations Act for 2013, 10.5 percent higher than the 2012 budget. The 2013 GAA continues the Aquino administration’s tradition of an on-time passage of the budget-eliminating leak-prone reenactments and showing the determination of government to ensure that every peso of the budget is spent wisely.

Not only is the President enjoying the highest sustained public approval ratings in history—he is also being recognized by the international community as a true leader in foreign affairs. The Philippines has taken the lead in upholding a peaceful, multilateral, and consensus-driven diplomatic approach as regards territorial disputes. In this regard, President Aquino has stood his ground thus gaining the admiration of his fellow leaders in the global arena.

While these past two and half years have been a period of continued renewal for the country, 2012 in particular has been a year of rebuilding and restoration. This year we saw the full effect of political will used correctly and for the right purposes, knowing that power is merely lent by the people to their leaders to ultimately serve the country’s best interests. By all indicators, this was the best year for the Philippines in a long time, a time for celebration and pride for the reclaimed standing of our country as we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other rising nations of the world.

In 2012, we turned the corner, fixed the damage wrought by the crooked ways of the past, and established further that the straight path is the only way forward. Despite the tragedies that have visited the country in 2012—from natural disasters to the untimely demise of a beloved reformist—the Filipino people have shown that their spirit cannot be broken. As the administration embarks on 2013, there is all the more reason for Filipinos to travel on the straight path under the leadership of President Aquino and the adherents to his noble cause.

FROM GMA NEWS NETWORK

PNoy in 2013: From popular to pilloried By KIMBERLY JANE TAN,GMA NewsDecember 30, 2013 2:28pm 74 13 4 903 Tags: Benigno Aquino III


President Benigno Aquino III announces on Friday, August 23, 2013, that he will abolish the Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF during a press conference in Malacañang. Gil Nartea

The year 2013 was not kind to the Philippines. And it wasn't exactly nice to President Benigno Aquino III either.

Aquino, arguably one of the most popular Philippine presidents to assume office, was elected in 2010 with more than 15 million votes, almost six million more against his closest rival, former President Joseph Estrada.

President Benigno Aquino III announces on Friday, August 23, 2013, that he will abolish the Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF during a press conference in Malacañang. Gil Nartea

But three years into his term, Aquino has managed to lose the trust and approval of many of his supporters.

"The ratings have dropped, especially in Metro Manila, he is now in a full-fledged political crisis, and doubts have arisen if he can escape being a lameduck president or even end his term in 2016," political analyst Ramon Casiple told GMA News Online.

In the last survey released by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) in 2013, Aquino's net satisfaction ratings remained at its lowest (+49) for the year. It's also below his average rating for 2010 (+62), 2011 (+53), and 2012 (+53). The average net rating for 2013 is +55.

Based on the SWS surveys, Aquino's satisfaction ratings have always been lower than that of Vice President Jejomar Binay throughout the year.

And while Aquino's trust and approval ratings were relatively high based on Pulse Asia surveys, Binay's ratings have also always been higher throughout 2013.

But Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. told GMA News Online that it is not "appropriate" to compare the two.

"The magnitude and depth of the President’s responsibilities are of a higher and different order from those of the Vice President. It must also be pointed out that the incumbent Vice President is a member of the President’s Cabinet and therefore shares in the responsibilities of carrying out the Philippine Development Plan," he said.

Casiple also said it's normal for vice presidents to have a higher rating than sitting presidents.

"The VP is seen as not accountable for the government's performance. He also has all the time to campaign for pogi points across the land," he said.

Losing 'pogi points'

* But Casiple said the Aquino administration definitely lost a lot of "pogi points" because of its handling of the so-called pork barrel scam and relief operations for Typhoon Yolanda.

"The Napoles and pork barrel issues, as well as the Zamboanga crisis and Yolanda disaster have taken their toll heavily on the Aquino administration in the last half of 2013. These have called into question his sincerity and capacity for presidential leadership," he said.

The pork barrel scam does not involve the President himself but his handling of the case and his officials tagged in the controversy have earned public ire.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda (left) and Secretary to the Cabinet Jose Rene Almendras (2nd left) talk to businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles (seated) and her lawyer Lorna Kapunan in Malacañang on the night of August 28, 2013. Napoles surrendered to President Aquino hours after the President offered a P10M reward to anyone who can give information for the arrest of the alleged brains behind the P10B pork barrel scam. Rodolfo Manabat

Aquino specifically received public criticism for supposedly giving "special treatment" to alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, who had earlier tagged several administration critics in the fund scam. Napoles, wanted for a serious illegal detention case, surrendered to Aquino in late August.

Since the controversy erupted, several of Aquino's appointees have resigned due to their alleged involvement in the scam. Among them are former National Bureau of Investigation director Nonnatus Rojas, Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon, and Local Water Utilities Administration acting chair Rene Villa.

In September, Rojas quit shortly after several NBI officials were accused of protecting Napoles. His reason for quitting government was supposedly for health reasons. He has since returned to his old post as regional prosecutor of the Ilocos Region.

On the other hand, Biazon resigned early December after being named a respondent in a malversation complaint in connection with the pork barrel scam. On the other hand, Villa stepped down also in December after admitting he lawyered for Napoles when he was still in the private sector.

Abolish pork

In an apparent bid to appease protesters, Aquino in August changed his previous stand and said it was time to abolish the pork barrel or the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

But instead of dying down, public fury intensified after the revelation of the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which was supposedly used to pay senators for the conviction of former Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Persistent criticisms against him and his administration even forced the President to ask for airtime from networks for the first time to address the Filipino people on the DAP issue.

Yolanda

Then in early November, super typhoon Yolanda ravaged the central Philippines, killing over 6,000 people with over a thousand others still listed as missing. To date, the government is still reeling from its effects almost two months after.

Before its onslaught, the President assured the public that the government was prepared for the typhoon that eventually wiped out entire towns in the Visayas region. But the government failed its promise to reach affected towns immediately and later on admitted it had shortcomings in the response and relief operations.

President Benigno Aquino III and DILG Secretary Mar Roxas II inspect the damaged Tacloban City airport on Sunday, November 10, following the devastation caused by super typhoon Yolanda. Yolanda, the world's most powerful typhoon in 2013, packed more than 300 kph winds when it made landfall in Eastern Visayas on November 8. Ryan Lim

And even as problems continued to arise in the relief operations, the spotlight went from the victims to the feud between Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez and Interior Sec. Mar Roxas.

Netizens feasted on the public spat and critics said it showed the favoritism of the government. Aquino retaliated by saying those "putting the blame on the national government are performing a disservice to the people."

Coloma Jr. likewise pointed out that Aquino's satisfaction rating in calamity-stricken areas was not affected.

"We are grateful to our people for proving once more that they are on the side of true public service and are unswayed by mere politicking," he said.

According to the last SWS survey, the net satisfaction in the Visayas actually increased by +2 from +48 in September.

"These results serve as a reassurance: The Filipino people, who he has constantly referred to as his strength, continue to stand behind him. They believe in his leadership, founded on efficiency, firmness, and foresight," said Coloma.

And while there have been fluctuations in Aquino's popularity ratings in the past year, Coloma said the President's "trustworthiness has not been varied significantly."

"When the national leadership implements reform programs, it is understandable that some sectors may feel disaffected seasonally. What is essential is that the people trust that their government works for their welfare," he said.

"The President and the Cabinet steered the country with a steady hand through a series of overlapping disasters while hurdling serious challenges on the political front," he added.

The bright side?

Some citizens seem to agree since Aquino managed to retain his satisfaction rating at +49, which Casiple attributed to the Aquino administration's other achievements.

He specifically said the President has "done a lot" in the economic field.

"The investment grade ratings, CCT, zero-budget management, low-inflation regime, maintenance of exchange rate, BPO and tourism gains—all these have made us one of the best performing countries in the eyes of economic managers," said Casiple.

Coloma also said the administration's biggest accomplishments for 2013 were in the economic front.

"The Philippine economy was the fastest growing in the region after seven consecutive quarters of posting high GDP growth rates, and is now hailed as ‘Asia’s rising star,'" he said.

"Good housekeeping of the country’s financial household enabled the country to weather the successive natural disasters with sufficient resources at year-end," he added.

GPH lead negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer (left) and MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal sign the powersharing annex of the framework agreement with Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato' ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed (right) in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, December 8, 2013. OPAPP

In the political front, the Palace official said the midterm elections were held in an "orderly manner" and majority of administration bets took the available elective posts. Coloma also cited the signing of three out of four annexes of the Bangsamoro framework agreement, which Casiple described as "encouraging."

"His anti-corruption drive is still seen as progressing, albeit at a slower pace and thinner grounds," said the analyst.

But Casiple noted that these are not yet "solid and lasting" accomplishments.

"From the point of view of real social reforms, he has far to go: asset reforms, environmental protection and climate adaptation, democratic political reforms, anti-poverty program."

So what should Aquino do? Casiple said he should fulfill his "twin promises" to fully address poverty and corruption.

"At the moment, public opinion is mixed about him. However, he is running against time – the direction is going against him and his legacy may well be a mediocre one," he said. — RSJ/KG, GMA News


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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