BOO  CHANCO:  DOES  ATE  GLO  KNOW  WHAT  IS  GOING  ON?

MANILA, December 20, 2004
(STAR) DEMAND AND SUPPLY By Boo Chanco - A week ago, I sat in on a private briefing of the latest findings of Consumer Pulse and I came out of it alarmed, but not surprised. Actually, they told me nothing I didnít already know and feel, except that there are now numbers to back everything up.

Yes, there was this thing about the growing pessimism, specially in Metro Manila. There is also this feeling of a sharp deterioration in peopleís quality of life. Self-rated poverty is now a high of 70 percent of population. Among the poor, their principal concern is where to get their next meal.

People donít think government has come up with effective responses to the fiscal crisis. People are also looking for clear directions and crisis leadership. Ate Gloís trust rating has dropped precipitously, breaking the low mark registered during the Jose Pidal scandal. Hopelessness among the people is traceable to inflation, job losses and lack of government response.

Cynicism is high. About 70 percent of the population thinks at least half of the pork barrel funds go to the pockets of legislators. Some 80 percent believe there is corruption in the military and that it is going on for a long time involving the highest ranking officers. The top issues in the minds of people are the debt/fiscal crisis, discipline in the military and the energy crisis. Many do not think government has a program to manage the energy crisis.

It seems to me that things will get worse before they can get better. With the economy set to slow in 2005 as demand for exports cools and interest rates at home and abroad to likely rise, a Reuters report observed that Ate Glo would face an even more difficult environment. The worrying parallel is Argentina, where violent unrest accompanied a slide into economic crisis in 2002. But the same Reuters report observed that the Filipinos have so far shown more patience. But, for how long?

And so it goes. The close to two-hour presentation and discussion with the Pulse Asia academics led by economist Noel de Dios of UP drove home the picture that we are in deep shit. So I asked if they had briefed the President. Well, they said, they briefed Bobi Tiglao and Toting Bunye. Bobi and Toting were supposed to brief the President. When I saw Toting last Monday at the People Asia function, I asked him if they had briefed the President. He said they are still figuring out how to best inform her.

It looks to me like they are deathly afraid to be the bearer of bad news to Ate Glo. Bobi and Toting were briefed two weeks ago and they havenít talked to the President about it. Do they have no sense of urgency? No wonder Ate Glo acts and talks like, well, the crisis is over. It would seem like she is not being kept informed by her own officials. Maybe they are afraid their heads would be chopped off. Then again, not keeping her informed is a dereliction of duty... their heads should really be chopped off.

Worse, I was told Ate Glo does not systematically read the newspapers, if at all, unlike former President Ramos, who would even write his comments in red pentel pen. Doesnít she realize that knowing the problems is the first step in crafting solutions? Ay naku! Paano na tayo ngayon?

Condolence

Who really knows when tragedy would strike! Joe and Gina de Venecia hosted a group of us, columnists and editors, for an early Christmas lunch in their home in DasmariŮas Village last Thursday. Little did we know tragedy would strike just a few hours later.

As a parent, I can feel the sorrow of Joe and Gina. The death of a child, specially in such a circumstance, is always bitterly painful for a parent. In our moment of grief, it is difficult to see the reason for it all. It is only our faith in God and in His infinite wisdom that gives us the strength to surrender to His will even if we do not understand.

To Joe and Gina, my deepest condolences for their loss. All I can do now is pray for both of you that you may be able to bear this burden (specially now in what should have been a most joyous season), and that our Lord has welcomed your daughter into His presence.

Merry Christmas to both of you and to Joe, a Happy Birthday as well.

Boorish Bank

I think Citibankís response to the published criticism of its treatment of its former officer, Mau Ceniza, misses the point. It is not a legal issue. I am even ready to concede that maybe Citibank is well within its rights to declare her position redundant and show her the door. I was offended more by the boorish manner by which she was treated after.

Normally, when a corporation has to cut its workforce due to business considerations, it does what it can to ease the pain of abrupt job loss by giving an attractive package that includes assistance in outplacement. In the case of Mau, Citibank immediately demanded that Mau pay up her housing loan and pay the cost of her two-week old car that was given to her as a perk.

Even when Mau got Chinatrust to take over her housing loan from Citibank, it took Citibank a while to sign the papers to make the Chinatrust takeout effective. Worse, even if Citibank was the cause of the delay, it had the nerve to charge Mau its normally high commercial interest rate for the period Mauís papers languished at some desk in Citibank. I say, Citibank should have shown some civility.

Then again, why should we be surprised?

A reader, Arnie Alcazar sent me this e-mail about his Citibank customer experience.

"In Jan. 2003 I discovered that Citibank Mastercard had been billing me nearly P4,000 for a "Call for Cash" loan that I NEVER availed of. I reported these erroneous charges countless times to various "Citiphone officers" who all assured me that my complaint would be acted upon soonest...

"In Dec. (2003), a Citibank officer called to offer me a "compromise settlement"Ėthey would come up with a new balance, minus the disputed billings and the concomitant charges and penalties. But I made it clear to them that I will accept nothing less than a total write-off of my outstanding balance.

"How, pray tell, can they compensate me for their gross mistake, for all the payments Iíve made (along with interests and penalties) on this erroneous loan? And what about the undue stress they have caused me Ė not only by their continued billings, which showed my debt piling up month after month, but also by their never ending calls? How can they ever make up for damaging my credit standing? I also chided Citibank for their shabby treatment of a "founder member" with a consistently good credit standing for over 12 years! After hearing me out, the Citibank officer "promised" to get back to me with another proposal.

"But instead of getting back to me, Citibank added insult to my injury by referring my account to their external lawyers! The whole of 2004, I have gotten at least five demand letters and several calls from different law offices (I just got the latest one today, Dec. 9)!

Oh well...maybe it is because they are big and powerful... there is this sense they can do anything they want. In fairness, I have been a long time client of Citibank and have not experienced anything more annoying than perpetually busy or unanswered customer service lines. Somehow, the Filipino officers and staff of the bank, typified by the relationship manager assigned to me, manage to give their professional best.

"Citibank should treat its people like valuable assets, not disposable bank equipment. I am sure the case of Mau Ceniza, who worked admirably to build up the bankís energy clientele (and was even asked to junk a rival bankís offer of overseas employment) but discarded like used tissue paper shortly thereafter, is a cause of quiet worry and demoralization for Citibank staff.

"For both employees and customers, Citibank must learn to value relationships. Thatís a secret for success in this market."

Boo Chancoís e-mail address is philstar_chanco@yahoo.com


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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