Sunday, July 30, 2006

One Voice Is Being Heard

I was getting a haircut last night in a barbershop with lots of talkative people, who also happened to be watching a popular tv singing contest (Pinoy Superstars). Turns out, one of the barbers and a manicurist struggling with an ingrown toenail had actually tried out for the show. But when a paid advertisement from the newly organized movement called ONE VOICE came on, there was a noticeable hush and everyone seemed to realize a serious message was being relayed. After the ad, there were murmurs and remarks about "chacha" and I was curious what they thought it all meant. Turns out, barbers and manicurists can be quite philosophical in their views and narratives ("kwentong barbero"). These ranged from the expected skepticism about ALL political messages nowadays, to one particularly insightful comment by the manicurist that chacha means "Hindi na tayo boboto para sa Presidente, sila sila na lang! Eh ano, wala na akong paki diyan!" And the talk immediately turned to relative singing skills and comparative looks of Jenalyn and Katrina.

But the remark struck me. The lady manicurist understands the practical meaning of a shift to the Parliamentary system: that it will take away from the electorate their ability to vote directly for national leaders (Senate and President) and will only be voting for their local government officials--a dicey and dangerous position if you happen to oppose the local warlords and political dynasties that cover the Archipelago. I am convinced this is the very powerful message that will derail the chacha choochoo train of the Singaw ng Bayan movement being funded and pushed by the Palace: GMA's chacha is a sinister plan to take away their vote and give it all to Jose de Venecia and his moral dwarves. One Voice is being heard!

I had attended the One Voice orientation seminar at the Ateneo de Manila University Saturday morning and got to chat with and interview some of its convenors.

CHRISTIAN MONSOD, former Comelec Chair and nominal leader of the organization, led the presentation which was attended by about 200 people. His message in the first One Voice ad, sums up the movement's important objective: We must restore the people's faith and confidence in democracy." In a Palace counter-attack on the group's apparently effective first advertisements, Singaw ng Bayan and Rep. Judy Antonino have accused the group as "elitist" and that One Voice has P252 million in ad money. Mr. Monsod disputed the figure, but revealed that "businessmen concerned about growing authoritarianism" have generously donated the money for the ads, on condition of anonymity.

MLQ3 ("The Explainer") was present and leads the speakers lineup in the coming national campaign to explain the chacha and to get the vote out. I predict that school campuses, with its vast numbers of young unregistered but eligible voters, will be a major arena in which One Voice will make big difference. It is a statistical fact that students and youth often have strong opinions about things, but they don't bother to vote. A strong registration campaign is an effective, yet truly nonpartisan method of mobilizing larger numbers of citizens to participate in the electoral process. And to help restore faith and confidence in democracy by alerting the people to the power of their numbers and their ballots.

RAUL CONCEPCION was present at the affair and I had a remarkable conversation with him about ELECTORAL REFORM. I only wish our friend Postigo Luna of ComelecAko were there too. Mr. Concepcion strongly backs the idea of VERIFIABILITY OF PRECINCT RESULTS that we've been discussing here. And he agrees, any new law should enforce the mandate upon Comelec to publish those results in newspapers or online throughout the canvassing period. (He was even more passionate about this idea than I was). We also exchanged views on the role of automation and the need to reduce or eliminate that durn multi-stage canvass during which the Garcis of this sad archipelago do their dirty work. Btw folks, please check out and contribute to the wiki that Postigo Luna has put up: Botante Ako!

From the looks of the planning workshops that followed the convenors presentations, One Voice has shifted into second gear and represents a major force to stop the chacha choo choo train. Jose de Venecia was on tv last week to describe his revised timetable for taking away the peoples ability NOT to vote for his sorry sack of shit (GWB and CNN use "shit" so why can't I?):

Sometime in August, the Comelec will complete their over-eager and possibly unconstitutional indulging of Raul Lambino's Singaw ng Bayan signature campaign and begin considering how and when to schedule a plebsicite. By the end of September, the Panganiban-led Supreme Court will reverse itself on the historic 1997 Santiago vs. Comelec decision, which ruled the people's initative mode of chacha as unconstitutional for lack of an enabling law. (Funny how FVR, the Pedrosas and other shady characters from that era are also on board the new chacha choo choo). Then, after the required 60 day campaign period, JDV expects to convene a interim Parliament by November after a plebiscite that he says (with moist and gleaming eyes, his eyebrows crouching into a sharp inverted "V") will bring peace and prosperity to the country.
Well, I don't think so.

When GMA and Erap finally share a cell block together, I'll donate the 24/7 webcam and Internet service.


(9:45) In the Media workshop of One Voice, there was an interesting discussion on the accusation of Palace surrogates that the organization is "elitist" and proof of this was the estimated P252 million cost of the ad campaign (which Christian Monsod disputed and said was actually less than 10% of that figure). But the discussion centered on how to "counter" this charge. I was playing the Devil's Advocate by observing that Filipinos don't have any problem voting for elites, both from the political, business, social and entertainment elites, all of whom have one thing in common: money. It comes with the turf, and though One Voice proclaims nonpartisanship, the general impression I get from my own (unscientific) polls of people, is that most think of One Voice as being "anti-GMA". (I suppose it's the prominent presence among its signatories of the "Bishops 6" accused of participating in what ABSCBN News insists was a "failed coup d'etat" last Feb. 24.) But contrary to some "politically correct" opinions expressed at the workshop that One Voice should project a masa image, I don't think it hurts One Voice at all if the Palace wants to portray it as having P252 million pesos worth of support from anonymous donors. The group decided, it would not go into a defensive position on the Palace accusation. Right on! There is no need to display elitist guilt feelings or self-consciousness. It's enough that one's true motives are on the side of the people, and not hypocritical elites whose motives are not.

(1600) Thanks to William "Dave" Hanley of San Antonio Texas who emailed this link to an article in the National Review Online by Victor Davis Hanson on the use of language in the Media with respect to the ongoing conflict between Hezbollah and Israel:
The Victory of Untruth. (NRO) by Victor Davis Hanson

A "ceasefire" would occur should Hezbollah give back kidnapped Israelis and stop launching missiles; it would never follow a unilateral cessation of Israeli bombing. In fact, we will hear international calls for one only when Hezbollah's rockets are about exhausted.

"Civilians" in Lebanon have munitions in their basements and deliberately wish to draw fire; in Israel they are in bunkers to avoid it. Israel uses precision weapons to avoid hitting them; Hezbollah sends random missiles into Israel to ensure they are struck.

"Collateral damage" refers mostly to casualties among Hezbollah's human shields; it can never be used to describe civilian deaths inside Israel, because everything there is by intent a target.

"Cycle of Violence" is used to denigrate those who are attacked, but are not supposed to win.

"Deliberate" reflects the accuracy of Israeli bombs hitting their targets; it never refers to Hezbollah rockets that are meant to destroy anything they can.

"Deplore" is usually evoked against Israel by those who themselves have slaughtered noncombatants or allowed them to perish — such as the Russians in Grozny, the Syrians in Hama, or the U.N. in Rwanda and Dafur.

means that the Hezbollah aggressors whose primitive rockets can't kill very many Israeli civilians are losing, while the Israelis' sophisticated response is deadly against the combatants themselves. See "excessive."

Anytime you hear the adjective "excessive," Hezbollah is losing. Anytime you don't, it isn't.

"Eyewitnesses" usually aren't, and their testimony is cited only against Israel.

"Grave concern" is used by Europeans and Arabs who privately concede there is no future for Lebanon unless Hezbollah is destroyed — and it should preferably be done by the "Zionists" who can then be easily blamed for doing it.

"Innocent" often refers to Lebanese who aid the stockpiling of rockets or live next to those who do. It rarely refers to Israelis under attack.

The "militants" of Hezbollah don't wear uniforms, and their prime targets are not those Israelis who do.

"Multinational," as in "multinational force," usually means "third-world mercenaries who sympathize with Hezbollah." See "peacekeepers."

"Peacekeepers" keep no peace, but always side with the less Western of the belligerents.

"Quarter-ton" is used to describe what in other, non-Israeli militaries are known as "500-pound" bombs.

"Shocked" is used, first, by diplomats who really are not; and, second, only evoked against the response of Israel, never the attack of Hezbollah.

"United Nations Action" refers to an action that Russia or China would not veto. The organization's operatives usually watch terrorists arm before their eyes. They are almost always guilty of what they accuse others of.

(1620) LUMAD GROUPS REJECT INCLUSION IN BANGSAMORO HOMELAND (Via Mindanews) Here is a really thorny problem for those in the administration who think that the Mindanao problem can be solved simply by creating a Bangsamoro Ancestral Domain to be run by the MILF/MNLF:
Representatives of the Lumad (indigenous peoples) from 26 tribes in Mindanao have issued a “unified position” declaring their “strong opposition for the inclusion of our Ancestral Domains/Ancestral Lands into the Bangsamoro homeland.” Arumanen-Manobo Datu Al Saliling of Carmen, North Cotabato, the Lumads’ representative to the government peace panel’s technical working group, said at least 107 representatives from 18 tribes and eight sub-tribes in Mindanao, signed the position paper at the end of the two-day Indigenous Peoples’ Summit last Monday (July 24) in Tulugan, Sungko, Lantapan, Bukidnon.
We better get this thing right or we could be turning Mindanao into another Lebanon. Coincidentally, I listened to the Chairman of the Bangsamoro People's National Congress, Amalim Centi Tillah, evading ABSCBN ANC's Tony Velasquez's direct question about the call of AL QAEDA's Zayman Al Zawahiri's call for global jihad against Israel. I did not hear him categorically reject such a call. No wonder even the lumads (native Filipinos who are neither Christians nor Muslims) are suspicious of the deal being cooked up with the Bangsamoro's leaders, many of whom are indistinguishable from the Christian warlords and local potentates all over the North and Central parts of the Philippines.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

I'm With Israel

NEUTRALITY may be advisable when we know little about a particular conflict. But it does not apply in this case because we know a lot about Israel, Lebanon and the terrorist organization called Hezbollah, which is really Iran's proxy in Lebanon.

Joe Assad, Consul General of Lebanon in Manila, was my high school classmate at La Salle Green Hills. He is a Lebanese Christian whose family has roots in Beirut. I sympathize with him over the grave humanitarian situation that has arisen in his country because WAR has not been averted. And War IS hell. But I could not disagree with him more on his two main points on Strictly Politics with Pia Hontiveros just now that:

1) Lebanon is a "victim" in the fight between Israel and Hezbollah; and
2) that Hezbollah is just a bunch of "farmers" and "shepherds" who are fighting for their freedom against the Zionist aggressors. (Nice try Joe, but here, pull my leg some more ole buddy!)

Here are some of the accomplishments of those "farmers" and shepherds":
* a series of kidnappings of Westerners in Lebanon, including several Americans, in the 1980s;
* the suicide truck bombings that killed more than 200 U.S. Marines at their barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983;
* the 1985 hijacking of TWA flight 847, which featured the famous footage of the plane’s pilot leaning out of the cockpit with a gun to his head;
* two major 1990s attacks on Jewish targets in Argentina—the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy (killing twenty-nine) and the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center (killing ninety-five).
* a July 2006 raid on a border post in northern Israel in which two Israeli soldiers were taken captive. The abductions sparked an Israeli military campaign against Lebanon to which Hezbollah responded by firing rockets across the Lebanese border into Israel.
Ambassador Oscar Valenzuela of the Dept of Foreign Affairs Middle Eastern and African Affairs Bureau, really does a great disservice to the Philippine audience by claiming that Hezbollah is not considered a terrorist organization by the United States or the European Union.

Israeli Ambassador Yehoshua Sagi contested this point with him, pointing out correctly that Hezbollah is on the US foreign terrorist organization list (along with the CPP-NPA). Italy, the Netherlands and Poland have branded Hezbollah a terrorist organization, and only Hezbollah's presence within the Lebanese parliament has apparently constrained the EU itself from branding the organization as terrorist, and instead only names its leaders as such.

Former Senator Leticia Shahani makes the key point here that the Lebanese government itself has been unable to implement the United Nation's resolution for Hezbollah to be disarmed and have the legitimate government of Lebanon be the only armed military power within its own borders.

It would be as if Indonesia was basically overrun by Jemaah Islamiyah and they started firing missiles into Zamboanga and Cotabato. If the Indonesian government did nothing but call them freedom fighters, and we had Israel's strength and will for national survival, would it not be self-defense for us to stop them?

Peace will come to Lebanon some day. But in that future, I cannot see a thing like Hezbollah existing side by side with a thing like Israel. Forced to choose between the two, because it IS a war, I'm with Israel.

The best analysis of this is ongoing at the Belmont Club, by another old friend of Joe Assad.

UPDATE: Our Own HezbollahThe New People's Army is in the news:

NPA Landmine Injures 15 Civilians:
TANDAG, Surigao del Sur -- (2ND UPDATE) At least 15 people were wounded, five of them seriously, when their minibus hit two landmines planted by communist rebels along a highway in the southern province of Surigao del Sur, Monday morning.
That's funny, the CPP NPA claims it only uses "remote controlled landmines" after the international community has loudly condemned the use of land mines worldwide because of precisely this sort of thing. This only proves that we have our own Hezbollah in the NPA, as another item even has the communist terror group offering to pay for the hospitalization of the victims. What? Using money extorted from locals and national businesses shown in another news item:

Reds torch 10th Globe TowerSeems like they never hit Smart/PLDT cell sites. Wonder why? Maybe, rival telco Smart/PLDT is probably paying "revolutionary taxes" -- which is really what keeps the communist insurgency alive. Shame on you Manny Pangilinan!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Full Text of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's 2006 State of the Nation Address

In case you are looking for the 2008 SONA, go here.

State of the Nation Address of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during the 3rd Regular Session of the 13th Congress of the Republic of the Philippines
24 July 2006

Thank you.

Thank you, Speaker de Venecia. Congratulations, Senate President Manny Villar; Vice-President Noli de Castro; President Ramos; Chief Justice Panganiban; Members of the diplomatic corps; Senators; Congressmen and Congresswomen; Other officials, ladies and gentlemen.

Sa araw na ito, nakatuon ang isip natin sa ating mga kababayan sa Lebanon. Nasa kuko sila ngayon ng malagim na paglala ng digmaan. Kahapon lamang, sinalubong natin ang unang dalawang-daang Pilipinong lumikas doon. Limang-daan pa ang mauuwi natin sa susunod na apat na araw.

Sa ating mga OFW, tunay kayong mga bagong bayani. Sa inyong paglilingkod sa pamilya, sa ating bayan at sa Diyos, maraming salamat.

Sa ating mga kababayan, a journey of a thousand miles does not begin with a single step. It starts with the first step, with gathering the means to complete it successfully. Those means are now at hand.

To my friends in Congress who, in the face of grave political consequences, championed and passed some of the most severe and critical fiscal reforms to save our economy, maraming salamat. You are the true friends of the Filipino people. For the real challenge has never been to blame but to fix what is wrong in our country and our economy.

Dahil sa inyo, sa wakas may pondo na tayo, hindi lamang para ibayad sa interes, kundi para sa edukasyon, mas mabuting tulay at kalsada, pagbigay kalinga sa kalusugan at higit na trabaho sa ating bansa. Now, we have the money to pay down our debt and to build up our country.

To the civil servants who rose to the challenge of turning a weakening economy to a strong republic, through more vigorous tax collection and more vigilant action against corruption, maraming salamat. We have achieved record revenue collections. We are lining up corrupt officials to face the consequences of their misdeeds. And finally earned the respect of the international community as a serious and viable state for our fiscal discipline and billions of pesos in annual interest savings that are now going into necessary public investments.

To our men and women in the armed services, the huge and deep core of your loyalty has earned the nation’s accolade. The few mutineers have been condemned by the people. They and their partisan cohorts and funders are being brought to justice. Sa nakararaming kawal at pulis na nagtaguyod ng watawat at Saligang Batas, maraming salamat.

And at a time when we must each, as individuals and as communities, take greater responsibility, our local government officials man the frontline of change: change for greater accountability, for better service and more responsiveness to their constituents. Sa inyong lahat, mga local government officials, maraming salamat.

Higit sa lahat, salamat sa sambayanang Pilipino, para sa inyong mga sakripisyo, sa inyong tiyaga, for believing, in the face of the greatest hardships, in our ability to surmount the obstacles to the future you deserve; you who have resisted persistent if not pathetic calls for despair instead of faith, for anarchy instead of harmony, salamat, salamat, taus- pusong pasasalamat.

So I stand before you today to deliver a state of the nation that is focused on what the people want; the people want to know the plan to put us on the path to prosperity.

I am not here to talk about politics; I am here to talk about what the people want; details on the state of the nation and what their government is doing to make progress every single day.

Sama-sama nating isusulong ang bansa patungo sa kinabukasang nagniningning.

Gaya ng nakikita sa graph na ito, dahil sa ating reporma sa ekonomiya, we now have the funds to address social inequity and economic disparity. Too many … masyadong marami, ang mamamayang nagugutom. Hindi ako hihinto hanggang magtagumpay ang ating laban sa kahirapan.

We now have the funds to stamp out terrorism and lawless violence.

May pondo na tayo para labanan ang katiwalian.

Our reforms have earned us P1 billion from the U.S. Millennium Challenge Account for more investigators, prosecutors, and new technology to fight corruption. We are matching this with another billion from our fiscal savings.

We now have the funds for constitutional and electoral changes. Sa kasalukuyang sistema, napakabagal ng proseso, at bukas sa labis na pagtutunggali, at sikil ang lalawigan at mamamayan sa paghahari ng Imperial Manila. Panahon nang ibalik ang kapangyarihan sa taumbayan at lalawigan. For surely, there must be a better way to do politics, so that those who lose elections do not make the country pay for their frustrated ambitions. There must be a better way so that those who win the nation’s mandate to govern can work without delay and whimsical obstruction. There must be a better way.

Meanwhile, now we can fund the Medium Term Public Investment Program.
Sumusulong na ang ating plano na may tatlong yugto. Una, ang makaahon sa mga dekada ng utang at kapos ng pondo. Nagawa na natin ito. Ikalawang yugto, ang pagbabalik sa taumbayan ang mas malaking kita ng pamahalaan: upang makapagpundar ng kalinga sa kalusugan, edukasyon at trabaho na kailangang-kailangan ng mamamayan. Ginagawa na rin natin ito. And finally, Phase Three: to invest in the natural advantages and natural resources of each section of our nation so that when harnessed together, the major economic regions of the nation are larger than the sum of its parts.

We will enhance the competitive advantage of the natural “super regions-”of-the-Philippines: the North Luzon Agribusiness Quadrangle, the Metro Luzon Urban Beltway, Central Philippines, Mindanao and the Cyber Corridor.

In North Luzon, we will prioritize agribusiness investments. The agricultural and fisheries potential of the Cordilleras, Ilocandia, and Cagayan Valley can feed Luzon affordably. And nearness to North Asia holds the rich promise of agricultural exports and tourism.

My father built the Halsema Highway from Baguio to Bontoc, and the Bagabag airport in Nueva Vizcaya to access the Ifugao rice terraces, which by the way, the UNESCO has recently praised for the way we have carried out our heritage preservation policy. We have rehabilitated the Baguio to Mount Data leg of the highway and the rest of Halsema will now follow. We will upgrade the Bagabag airport and build a new one in Lallo, Cagayan, which will connect to Cordillera by upgrading the Tabuk-Tuguegarao Road.

Sa Tabuk, Kalinga, noong Abril, tumanggap ng titulo sa lupa ang ilang matatanda, pagkatapos nilang naghintay ng dalawampung taon mula noong napirmahan ang Mount Data Accord ng gobyerno at ng Cordillera People’s Liberation Army. May isang matanda, suot ang lumang uniporme ng CPLA. Pumila, hila-hila ang isang binatilyo. Sabi niya, “This is not for me but for him.” Agad inab?o?t ang titulo sa apo. Narito ngayon si Ginoong Ama Balunggay at ang kaniyang apo si Jacob.

And our post-harvest support shall continue, like the cold chain that we set up in 2004 for La Trinidad, Benguet under Mayor Nestor Fongwan. It consisted of a refrigerated storage facility and refrigerated trucks to deliver vegetables to Metro Manila. Nais kong tumaas ang kita ng mga magsasaka, at ang ina ng bawat tahanan ay makabili ng mura at sariwang gulay para sa kaniyang mga anak.

So that the people will know how well their money is spent, Benguet and its towns of Bakun, Bokod and Itogon have rolled out the new electronic government accounting system in their jurisdictions.

If Ifugao was able to cut its poverty in half in the first three years of our administration, from 56 to 28%, congratulations. We hope that through these programs, the other provinces can replicate the success of Ifugao. Hangad nating dumami ang mga taga-Cordillera sa mga propesyon na tinitingalaan ng bayan, gaya ng mga abogadong gaya nina Maurice Domogan at Romeo Brawner. Ibig din nating makapaghanda ang Cordillera sa awtonomiya pagdating ng pederalismo, ayon nawa sa pagbabago ng Saligang Batas.

Sa Dagupan, inilunsad na ng mga kolehiyo gaya ng Northwestern Lyceum University and ladderized system of education. Sa ganitong sistema, magagamit sa unibersidad and mga kursong kinuha sa vocational school at ang karanasan sa trabaho.

We will expand President Ramos’ flagship San Roque Multipurpose Dam with the massive Agno River Project. Another major project is the Banaoang Irrigation. We allocate P200 million a month for small irrigation projects like those in the flood control plan of the Region II Development Council headed by Bishop Ramon Villena. Plus another P200 million a month for farm to market roads.

Also in the works is an international airport in Poro, La Union and the improvement of the two airports in Batanes as recommended by Governor Vic Gato. Ilocos Sur will have a seaport in Salomague while the Cagayan Zone Authority will better the one in Port Irene.

To save dollars, windmills in Batanes and Ilocos Norte turn megawinds into megawatts. When Army Commander Romy Tolentino was North Luzon commander, he became a soldier-farmer, planting jatropha as yet another alternative fuel.

The Metro Luzon Urban Beltway spans most of Central Luzon, Metro Manila, Calabarzon, Mindoro and Marinduque. It must be a globally competitive urban, industrial and services center, because it produces more than half of the country’s GDP.

To be world-class we invest in five comprehensive strategies for global competitiveness:
1. Make food plentiful and affordable to keep our labor cost globally competitive.
2. Reduce the cost of electricity to make our factories regionally competitive.
3. Modernize infrastructure at least cost to efficiently transport goods and people.
4. Mobilize, upgrade and disseminate knowledge and technologies for productivity.
5. Reduce red tape in all agencies to cut business costs.

The most prohibitive red tape is in our outmoded Constitution. We need Constitutional change to bring our rules of investment into the new millennium

The new public bidding process has been shortened to 45 days for infrastructure, and 26 days for supplies, as of today. Even before this, Metro Manila firms paying bribes for public contracts declined from 57% in 2003 to 46 today. Congratulations, Metro Manila

Machine readable electronic passports will enhance the credibility of Philippine travel documents, improve the mobility and increase the prospects of Philippine business and labor.

Legitimate mobility is hampered by human trafficking. Through the support of the USAID, we have convicted human traffickers with the Tongco spouses who were sentenced in a Quezon City court last December. These accomplishments removed us from the from the priority anti-trafficking watchlist.

To lower power costs we introduced the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market last month. Let’s give it a chance to work. And we would like big power consumers like electronics, our number one exports, to avail of lower power rates from the National Power Corporation. On coco-biodiesel, we now have enough capacity for the proposed 1% blend just waiting to be passed into law.

The Subic-Clark corridor is on its way to a competitive international logistics center. This will be my legacy to my cabalens, jointly with Lito and Mark Lapid, Rey Aquino, Ana Bondoc, Blue Boy Nepomuceno, my son Mikey and Tarzan Lazatin. We jumpstarted it with giant investments in the Subic Seaport, the Clark Airport, and the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway.

And to bring the beltway to the west we will connect the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Road to Dingalan Port through Nueva Ecija, and the Marikina- Infanta Road to the port of Real.

Upang ibsan ang pagod ng mga empleyadong namamasahe sa trapiko sa Kalakhang Maynila, mangangapital tayo sa mga expressway at tren.

We will have a continuous highway from Clark to Metro Manila to Batangas Port. Tapo?s na iyong expressway mula Clark hanggang Maynila.. Sa ngayon wala nang isang oras ang biyahe mula Clark hanggang Monumento. Ngayon iiwasan natin ang trapiko mula Monumento, dahil idudugtong natin ang North Expressway sa C-5. Tutulong si Sonny Belmonte sa right-of-way. Ang C-5 naman ay konektado na sa South Luzon Expressway. Ang South Luzon Expressway ay pinapalapad naman hanggang Calamba. Sa Agosto, pahahabain ito hanggang Batangas. We will also build the Coastal Road to Bacoor, which has become urban under Jesse Castillo.

Pagdurugtungin natin ang MRT at LRT mula Monumento hanggang North EDSA upang mabuo ang biyahe paikot sa Kamaynilaan, at maibsan ang trapik. We will construct the Northrail to Clark and the Southrail to Lucena and on to Bicol, and upgrade the link between them. We will also extend the LRT to Bacoor. Sa pagbilis ng biyahe patungo at palabaas ng Metro Manila, makakatira ang manggagawa sa mas mura at maaliwalas na lalawigan.

Maayos na ang kapaligiran sa riles ng tren sa South Superhighway. Masaya ang mga pamilyang hinatid namin ni Vice President Noli de Castro sa kanilang bago at permanenteng relokasyon. Teddy Boy Locsin said it hadn’t been done before, and couldn’t be done at all. Well, Teddy?

Ngayon gagawin ito sa Maynila, si Lito Atienza ang bahala.

We thank China for agreeing to fund these housing needs. Huwaran ng ating programang pabahay para sa mahihirap ang mga proyekto ng Iglesia ni Kristo at Gawad Kalinga.

Ngunit kapos sa tubig ang mga taga-West Zone ng Kamaynilaan. Kaya bibigyan natin ng prayoridad hindi lamang ang edukasyon, koryente, enerhiya at kalusugan, kundi tubig din. We are setting up a 300 million liters per day pumping station for Muntinlupa, Las Pinas and Paranaque.

We will build a roll-on-roll-roll-off port system to link Lucena, Quezon to Boac, Marinduque, like the Batangas-Mindoro RORO.

Sa ganitong mga proyekto, palalakasin natin ang ekonomiya ng mga barangay at lalawigan. And we will end the long oppression of barangays by rebel terrorists who kill without qualms, even their own. Sa mga lalawigang sakop ng 7th Division, nakikibaka sa kalaban si Jovito Palparan. Hindi siya aatras hanggang makawala sa gabi ng kilabot ang mga pamayanan at maka-ahon sa buka?ng-liwayway ng hustisya at kalayaan.

In the harshest possible terms I condemn political killings. We together stopped judicial executions with the abolition of the death penalty. We urge witnesses to come forward. Together we will stop extrajudicial executions.

Central Philippines has the competitive edge in tourism in its natural wonders and the extraordinary hospitality of its people. The area sweeps across Palawan and Romblon, the Visayas and Bicol, plus the northern Mindanao islands of Camiguin, Siargao and Dapitan. Topbilled by Boracay, Cebu, Bohol and Palawan, it attracts more than half of the foreign tourists to the Philippines. It is also the center of geothermal power in the country, which we continue to develop.

The priority here is tourism investments. Coming soon for superstar Boracay are an instrument landing system for the Kalibo airport and a P3 billion private investment in a San Jose, Romblon airport, plus good roads to spillover destinations all over Panay.

In Cebu, Gwen Garcia is constructing a world-class convention center for the ASEAN and East Asian Summits in December.

Helping our infrastructure upgrading, is the fall in bribery for public sector contracts in Metro Cebu, from 62% of companies in 2004 to 47 today. Congratulations to Cardinal Vidal for shepherding his flock and to Metro Cebu Mayors Osmena, Ouano and Fernandez, and Metro Cebu representatives del Mar, Cuenco, Gullas and Soon-Ruiz.

Bohol became a destination distinct from Cebu since it defeated the terrorist insurgency with community initiatives led by the power tandem of Rico Aumentado and General Johnny Gomez, now the NCR Commander. It now merits its own international airport, just as our country deserves a world-class Constitution strongly supported by Governor Aumentado and the league of local authorities.

Tourism in Palawan requires the upgrading of the airports of Puerto Princesa, Busuanga, San Vicente ( hometown of Congressman Alvarez that’s why he’s clapping) and the building of a new one in Balabac; as well as a continuous road backbone from El Nido to Bataraza.

We will lengthen the Dumaguete runway for tourism as well as electronics. Valencia, Oriental Negros could attract semiconductor firms with power rates subsidized by the geothermal field of Palimpinon. Negros will also advance energy independence with ethanol projects in San Carlos City and Tamlang Valley, once the biofuel law is passed. (You have done your part, Migs)

We will serve Guimaras by the airport being built in Santa Barbara, Iloilo and by a new RORO port in Sibunag. We will link Sipalay via Silay airport funded by the national government and Kabankalan airport being built by its local government. Thank you.

For Bicol’s whalesharks, beaches and, of course, Mount Mayon, we have started acquiring the right of way for an international airport in Daraga, Albay. We will provide the means to the perfect surfs of the Pacific by upgrading the airports of Siargao, Guiuan and Tacloban.

We will widen the road to Dakak in Dapitan, and RORO will connect Siquijor to Santander, Cebu; Camiguin to Jagna, Bohol; Ubay, Bohol to Maasin, Southern Leyte, for diving in Limasawa.

We will bring Masbate and Biliran into the RORO Eastern Nautical Highway from Surigao through Leyte through Naval and Maripipi in Biliran through Esperanza, Aroroy and Burias Island in Masbate and on to Bicol. The much-awaited 10-megawatt generator set arrived in Masbate last Saturday. It is ready to power up the province before the end of the month.

Camiguin, Romblon and Camarines Norte got out of the list of poorest provinces in 2003. With tourism these provinces can become rich.

Also winning the war against poverty and calamity, undaunted by unimaginable catastrophe, the valiant people of Southern Leyte, under the leadership of Rosette Lerias and Oging Mercado (our Rudy Guliani) are rebuilding the lives of Saint Bernard and San Francisco from their tragic mudslides. Yesterday, I asked the Japanese government to help Southern Leyte implement an integrated management approach to deal with their critical ecosystem, like the one the World Bank has approved for the Bicol River Basin.

Mindanao is our priority for agribusiness investments in the south. Mindanao is mostly fertile and largely typhoon-free, exporting coconut products and high value crops, and from its waters come 40% of the country’s fish catch. Our investment priorities mirror those for North Luzon, and more because Mindanao has the poorest regions and poorest provinces and because we have to spend on a logistics system linking it to the north.

In 2003 we introduced the RORO from Zamboanga del Norte through Negros, Panay and Mindoro to Batangas. This system has slashed travel time from Mindanao to Luzon from 36 hours to 24 hours, and freight cost by 30 percent, so crucial to food shipments. Now we will develop more routes like the one from Cagayan de Oro through Camiguin, Bohol, Cebu and Masbate to Bicol, the Central Nautical Highway.

Also in 2003, Sulu, Lanao del Sur, and Tawitawi registered double-digit declines in poverty incidence from the year 2000. Congratulations.

Kitang-kita ang pag-ibayo ng mga isla ng Sulu, Basilan at Tawi-Tawi. Nagbukas ang Jollibee sa Basilan. The Balikatan exercises with the United States, combined with the US GEM program and other donor-assisted projects, have no doubt contributed to this.

Sa Sulu, isang araw ng Mayo, umuulan, nagwakas ang isang mahabang pagtutunggali nang pumasok ang mga kawal at sibilyan sa Kampong Bitan-ag sa Panamao na hawak ng mga rebelde. Nagyakapan at nagkamayan ang dalawang panig. Dahil sa matinding pagnanais para sa kapayapaan ni Marine General Ben Dolorfino, naganap ang pagkakasundo. Gayon natapos ang isang madugong kabanata. Congratulations, General Ben Dolorfino.

Susi sa anumang pag-ibayo ang malakas na suporta at ma-abilidad na liderato ng pamahalaang local. Halimbawa, iyong “from arms to farms” ni Governor Ben Loong ng Sulu, with his caravan of tractors literally invading former rebel camps in his province. Congratulations.

Mahigit isang linggong nakaraan, dumating sa “Eleven Islands” ang daan-daang rebeldeng at kanilang pamilya, sa pamumuno ng dating MNLF Commander na si Aribari Samson. Dito sa mga pulo? na kilalang “no man’s island,” dati nagtatago ang mga rebelde at criminal. Ngayon sa tulong ng isang programa ng United Nations, nagtayo tayo ng dalawang daang tahanan at panibagong buhay para sa pangkat ni Samson. Thank you for giving peace a chance. Congratulations, Commander Samson.

I take this occasion to express our gratitude to the donor community from the US, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the European Union, Australia, Japan, our ASEAN neighbors, the multilaterals and the rest of the world. Thank you for helping us in our peace process.

If we can harness the forces of good in our nation, the positive force at work here at home and those from abroad such as the US, Malaysia, the OIC and others, we shall prevail in Mindanao with a peace agreement that brings freedom and hope to all Filipinos. With this peace, we would reap dividends in resources invested in agribusiness, not aggression, to build up, not tear down, the Philippine south.

Among the possible peace dividends would be pro-poor road projects like the Siocon-Sirawai-Sibuco-Baligyan Road in Zamboanga del Norte; the Lebak to Maguindanao which Sim Datumanong started when he was Secretary of Public Works; the Dinagat Island road network in Surigao Del Norte; the Hawilian-Salug-Sinakungan barangay road in Agusan del Sur; the Pangil Bay Bridge; and the Surigao-Davao Road, which we want to be as beautiful as the Bukidnon Highway completed during the administration of Joe Zubiri and the term of Migs Zubiri.

Mindanao’s number one export, coconuts, has been growing continuously for the last three years, at the rate of 10% a year. The coconut farmers deserve a portion of the peace dividend. I invite Congress and the Bishops-Ulama-Priests-Pastors-Farmer-Lumad Conference led by Archbishop Fernando Capalla to help me ensure their rightful share.

On top of peace and investment, progress also demands good governance. I congratulate Donkoy Emano for the drop in reports of corruption for public contracts in Cagayan de Oro from 65% of firms last year to 38 this year. Also Rudy Duterte and the other leaders of Metro Davao led by Majority Leader Boy Nograles for a similar drop, 57% last year to 49 now. Things are coming together for Mindanao, a prelude to their readiness for eventual federalism.

The Cyber Corridor will boost telecommunications, technology and education. The corridor runs the length of all the super regions, from Baguio to Cebu to Davao. The cities of Davao, Tagum and Samal Island Garden all operate electronic government accounting systems. There are many wings now to the corridor because enterprising local executives like L-Ray Villafuerte and Jerry Trenas have aggressively attracted call centers to their jurisdictions (Congratulations, Jerry) In this corridor, the English and information and communication technology skills of the youth give them a competitive edge in call centers and other business process outsourcing.

In 2001, in this hall, we hailed ICT as a key growth sector. So we built up telecommunications infrastructure and opened the market for Internet phone calls. Today international calls cost 6 cents a minute, down from 40 cents. From 2,000 BPO workers in 2001, we now have 200,000.

I had coffee with some call center agents last Labor Day. Lyn, a new college graduate, told me, “Now I don’t have to leave the country in order for me to help my family. Salamat po.” I was so touched, Lyn by your comments. With these structural reforms, we not only found jobs, but kept families intact. Thank God, I thought, or someone might also try to impeach me for violating Article 15 of the Constitution on the solidarity of the family as the foundation of the nation.

As Louie Villafuerte argues, to step into the future, a country that wants to be a player in the global economy needs bold and well-funded research and development initiatives of its own. To this end, we will continuously increase the budget for science and technology, and education. For in today’s global economy, knowledge is the greatest creator of wealth.

In summary, I named only a few priorities to illustrate that on many fronts, your government is working, and working well. Our economy is now growing over the longest period in the last quarter-century: 22 consecutive quarters of growth. Umakyat ng mahigit tatlumpung porsyento ang kita ng pinakamahihirap na pamilya sa unang tatlong taon ng ating panunungkulan, at bumaba ang dami ng maralita sa 25% ng mga pamilya, mula 28%, katumbas ng dalawang milyong katao na lumaya sa kahirapan. According to Thornton and Punongbayan, 70% of medium-sized business owners are optimistic, the fifth most optimistic among 30 countries, just behind India, Ireland, South Africa and China.

Bickering in politics may delay, but not derail the initiatives that need to be taken on our pro-poor, pro-growth, and pro-peace agenda. Regardless of the fate of the national budget, we must automate our election process. Local governments must get their rightful share of revenues. I ask Congress to pass a supplemental budget to effect this.

We are a great people. We have honest students and honest cops. We have scaled the heights of Mount Everest, dominated the Southeast Asian games, we have won international beauty titles, and of course punched our way to triumph in the boxing world. Our people compete and win every day in every imaginable job throughout the world. Individually, we’ve taken the world on and won; together, we must take on the challenge of creating a new, peaceful, humane and competitive nation and prevail.

For those who want to pick up old fights, we’re game but what a waste of time. Why not join hands instead? Join hands in the biggest challenge of all, where we all win or we all lose: the battle for the survival and progress of our one and only country.

After three years, eleven months, and six days, I shall relinquish the Presidency, with much if not all that I have outlined completed. I do not want it said then that, in the end, I defeated my enemies. I would rather have it said that all of us, you and I, friends and foes today, achieved together a country progressive, prosperous and united.

Thank you. Mabuhay!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Mumbai Thoughts: Is Manila a Sitting Duck?

AUSTRALIA'S Sydney Morning Herald carried a disturbing item recently about the vulnerability of its mass transportation systems to terrorist attacks like the recent deadly coordinated train blasts in Mumbai, India. This article got me to thinking about the City of Manila and its own vulnerability to terrorist attacks, which was already demonstrated in the December 30, 2000 bombing of Manila's LRT-1 line which killed several dozen passengers. There was also the sinking of Super Ferry 14 on February 26, 2004 by an Abu Sayyaf/Rajah Suleiman Movement bomb smuggled on board. Over 120 people died in this worst ever terror attack on the Philippines. Strangely enough, because it occurred at the start of the 2004 election campaign period, the president chose to call the thing "the work of pranksters" -- as TIME Magazine here relates it. The authorities waited until AFTER the elections to admit that Super Ferry 14 was a terrorist attack. But now, take a look at this Google Map (all the Zoom-N-Pan and Option controls work, plus you can grab and drag the map around at any point.) If you'd rather look at volcanoes today go to Google Mogul, my Science website.


[1] The field of view contains at least three high value terrorist targets in the middle of the City of Manila. Near the center of the Map is Nagtahan Bridge as it crosses the Pasig River, which snakes its oily green way horizontally across the map. Immediately east of the bridge, south of the river, you will observe the PANDACAN OIL DEPOT, with its numerous oil and gasoline storage tanks (each of the round white objects contains tens of thousands of liter of oil or fuel. To get an idea how big each storage tank is, compare the width of each one to the fourlane bridge nearby!). Immediately west of the bridge, on both sides of the river, are the MALACANANG PRESIDENTIAL PALACE grounds. Immediately north of the bridge, you will see the LRT-2 Light Railway Transit Line 2 (LRT-2) which carries thousands of passengers daily. One of the trains is visible after pulling out of a nearby train station. Boarding passengers, usually only the women, have their handbags checked by poking a small wooden stick into them. And of course all around this highly combustible situation are slums, ghettos, businesses, homes and markets. But it isn't like this is some kind of secret. The continued existence of the Pandacan Oil Depot, is a major, tragic disaster waiting to happen. Meanwhile the top officials of the Philippine government and the military top brass, are currently engaged in a political theatre of survival against an opposition that, like a hydra, apparently has heads in the elite Military units, in the Senate, in the House, in the Catholic Bishops Conference, in the Media, in the Academe, in Civil Society, among the NGOs of students, workers, and peasants from the Left, Right and Center, and even former Cabinet officials. So many Enemies the State has now, that on Monday when the President's offers her State of the Nation Address, she will be separated from her people by a planned 20,000 loyal(?) troops.

[2] Earlier this week, Manila Police Chief Vidal N. Querol warned that the Ninoy Aquino International Airport's main runways present flight paths that cross heavily populated, and little secured surroundings, including slums and a major North-South Highway, the South Luzon Expressway. He has asked the public to report "suspicious activities by people carrying long, shoulder carried things."

[3] The third map available above shows the Philippine Congress' Batasan Complex area, where the President will deliver her SONA on Monday. The house on Adler Street in Filinvest II, where the six Magdalo escapees were reportedly found and recaptured last week is within the field of view, from my comparison with street maps. This is said to confirm the intelligence gathered from documents captured from the fugitives indicating they were going "to bomb the Batasan complex" this Monday...Or so the story goes as it is being spun through "leaks" and "reports" and "affidavits" through an avid Media led by ABSCBN News.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Doronila: "Losers never get to define Patriotism!"

Among the few remaining active apologists for Edsa 2 (of which I count myself as having been one--a long time ago!), none is more authoritative than PDI's Amando Doronila. His published chronicle of those events, The Fall of Joseph Estrada (The Inside Story, 2001) is my own favorite source of the raw historical details and chronology of events. This is because "Doro" is a superb journalist, a professional to the core in ye olde tradition, with more than FIFTY years in the business. I would be privileged merely to shine his shoes. But today, I must also spit upon them a little to get the mud out and bring the clarity back.

In his Wednesday PDI column, The Fiction of Withdrawal of Support Doro produces a near perfect specimen of that much-abused yet subtle philosophical art called CASUISTRY. This term is not always pejorative mind you, as it refers to an important technique of CASE-based reasoning that has its proper uses. And abuses. Those who delight in mental gymnastics charged with the politics of Regime Change in the Philippines, will do well to read Doronila today for a masterpiece in unconscious self-contradiction, whose stunning climax and conclusion is:

"Losers never get to define Patriotism."

But the weakness of a casuistic, or case-based argument which some practitioners like Doro apparently do not appreciate, is that precisely because it is case-based, you cannot generalize as Doro does in his conclusion. Such casuistic generalizations can always be blown up by a single, equally stunning counter-example. The failed Cavite Mutiny and its garrotted "losers"stand in eloquent rebuttal of Mr. Doronila today: Fathers Mariano Gomez, Jose Apolonio Burgos and Jacinto Zamora! But at least Doro does this all with the an appreciation for the ironies of realpolitik. I cannot say the same for the taunting triumphalism of Justice Sec. Raul Gonzalez's recent declaration that "A successful coup d'etat is patriotic, but if it fails you are a criminal!" In a letter written to La Solidaridad, Jose Rizal writes:
Without 1872, there would have been no Plaridel, Jaena or Sanciongco; nor would the brave and generous Filipino colonies in Europe have existed. Without 1872, Rizal would now have been a Jesuit and instead of writing "Noli Me Tangere," would have written the opposite. Observing those injustices and cruelties fired my young imagination and I pledge to dedicate myself and to avenge some day those victims. With this idea, I have studied and this can be discerned in all my works and writings. God will give me the opportunity someday to keep my vow.
I like the way an American says it too: (Frederick Douglass, the great American Justice and abolitionist:)
"Your forefathers were men of peace; but they preferred revolution to peaceful submission to bondage. They were quiet men but they did not shrink from agitating against oppression. They showed forebearance but they knew its limits. They believed in order but not the order of tyranny. With them nothing was "settled" that was not right. With them, justice, liberty and humanity were "final" -- but not slavery and oppression. You may well cherish the memory of such men, for they seized upon eternal principles, and set a glorious example in their defense. Mark them."
Ultimately, we are all casuists towards the particular cases of our own lives. And that is why, it is the individual conscience that must decide all the arguments.

Only the Aristocracy Cares About the Eternal Principles!
The Citizen Soldier's Moral Dilemma

(2100) Sec. Mike Defensor got 14% of the television vote and lost all three rounds to Minority Leader Rep. Chiz Escudero who got a whopping 86% of the called-in vote during their much-advertised Debate. The exchange was moderated by Twink Macaraeg on the ABSCBN News ANC just now. I hope Mike felt ambushed and bushwhacked, which of course he was. Haha! I guess an "unscientific TV poll" does have a utilitarian purpose. Chiz Escudero was at his cogent best. Chiz had a very effective riposte to the river of good news that Sec. Defensor's presentation consisted of. Chiz asks the rhetorical question: "but are the Filipinos sharing in all the economic progress being described by Mike Defensor?" Obviously not, and he had many concrete examples. Defensor had no comeback and was flat on his back most of the match. Congratulations Chiz.

(2130 UPDATE)
First it was the Batasan 5. Now it's the Bishops 6. Secretary Raul Gonzalez could get it in the neck from PGMA the next time they talk. I would love to have a wiretap right now on the channel between Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. I bet he's getting more than earful of her famous temper for his really brilliant accusation today against six Catholic Bishops of conspiring with Leftists and Rightists to overthrow the Arroyo government last February, after Bishop Antonio Tobias said he had given sanctuary to fugitive Lt. Lawrence San Juan earlier this year. But Msgr Nico Bautista was choking with anger on prime time TV at the sheer presumption of guilt and the unfairness of the Justice Secretary and his gratuitous accusations and allegations. He challenged the Justice Secretary to file the appropriate criminal cases against the Catholic Prelates and prove his wild charges.

And look at what Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo, head of the Catholic Bishops Conference (CBCP) just posted on his blog in reaction to the day's events:
July 19, 2006 In the Interest of the Common Good

I respect the personal decision of Bishop Antonio Tobias in helping some members of the Magdalo group. As explained by him, it was in the interest of both the Magdalo group and the government in order that there may be a non-violent resolution of their differences.

Contrary to allegations, the 6 bishops in the news report did not have any meeting together with any group—including any member of the Magdalo group—in order to bring down the PGMA administration unconstitutionally and in a violent manner. It is very possible that an accusation is being leveled against the credibility of the Bishops, because of our stand on issues which are not pleasant to certain groups. As Bishops we always promote peaceful, non-violent and constitutional means of reform in government.

If I, or any of the Bishops, have spoken against or criticized the conduct of anyone or any group—in favor or against the government—it was for the interest of the common welfare. Because people look at issues from different perspectives and with different values, we Bishops accept that our statements—individually or corporately—may not be agreeable to everybody.

We feel sad that the stories related to the report of overthrowing of government are being fabricated without proof as to their veracity. I appeal that the sources of such stories will clarify themselves for the sake of the common good. I invite them to prove their statements involving us, six bishops.

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President
I would say we should expect a rather messy DIVORCE between the Church and State pretty soon now given that the likelihood of a magical reconciliation is nil. Msgr. Nico Bautista was right. It is most unfair and irresponsible -- the pronouncements and statement of the Justice Secretary, who is now doing injustice to just men.

I think the Catholic Bishops could use a friendly word, a comment or two, to encourage them as they get drawn into the maelstrom. Here is the blog of the CBCP head: Reflections: A Bishop Blogging.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Man With Half A Million Employees (And Not Much Else)

KORINA TODAY on ABSCBN News ("men of the hour, flavors of the month") interviewed incoming Education Secretary Rep. Jesli Lapus (NPC, Tarlac, Chair of House Ways and Means Cmte, once president of Land Bank and previously USec of Agrarian Reform.) Dry as bone, though he gamely denies it "after office hours", Lapus also gave a humorous self-description: he finds it ironic he says, that people used to tell him he wouldn't do well in politics because he was such a technocrat, but now they say he won't be any good in Education because he is such a politician. Maybe this reveals a "can-do" self-confidence with a "just-you-wait" attitude at the kibitzers. Or maybe it was just a clever line he dreamt up, but he deserves benefit of the doubt to try and do some good. He claims to be a manager at heart, and doesn't like having been stereotyped as a finance type. Well he's gonna need the experience dealing with people since he takes over the largest single bureaucracy in the government, with over half a million employees, (not all of whom are teachers by a long shot). There is however, very little else to Deped aside from the teachers, principals, administrators, analysts, supervisors, superintendents, reviewers, secretaries over and under, and the rest of the government employees that make it up. Most of the public schools don't even have reliable water or electricity, so forget about computers and books. Despite double and triple shifting the facilities, classes are even held in bathrooms and out-of-doors. Of course there is an ever increasing number of students flocking to the "free" public school system. But it is little wonder that Deped is almost all employees and not much else. Just look at how the budget is divided among Salaries ("Personal Services"), Monthly Overhead and Operating Expenses, and Capital Outlays. The teensy weensy sliver is the School Building program. And that was cut in half from last year! Probably to make room for the Opus Dei inspired Values Education module that now suffuses the Philippine Education Learning Competencies of the Basic Education Curriculum documents like incense on Maundy Thursday.

WHAT'S A BUDGET FOR? Asked about this highly illogical 85%-11%-4% split of the Deped's 9-figure budget, Jesli Lapus gave the stock answer that seems to be the graveyard for any criticism of the Deped--"We aren't spending enough on education."

He states forthrightly that the portion going to salaries is "fixed". How right he is! Under the 2006 budget Deped would get P119 billion or so and spend, as shown about P101 billion on themselves in salaries. If the 2005 budget is re-enacted Deped would get about P112 billion for a budget. But they would still spend the same P101 billion on paying themselves! In other words, The ED in DepED is not Education but "EmployeD". But Jesli Lapus does not seem to be clueless. He mentions the scandalous situation, recently exposed, that 70% of high school science teachers are not science majors! (And how about the English teachers who can't speak English?). I think that if he is as good a manager as he claims to be, he will realize a few weeks into the job that he's running Fedex with half a million drivers, but no trucks, planes, phones, computers or even hand-doillies to help in the delivering of packages. And when the truck drivers union wants to hire more truck drivers, BEFORE investing in any trucks or computers, he might even get kicked out unless he complies. Likewise, the Deped employees cannot be denied their P101 billion in salaries. It's the Law since they are civil service eligibles.

So the bad news for Secretary Lapus is that not only does he have practically nothing but employees, he can't get rid of any of them in order to buy class rooms, computers, libraries, laboratories, speech and AV equipment, Internet connections, or yeah, lights and running water for the students.

Why? Because we "aren't spending enough?" No, we aren't spending the P150 billion total (Deped + Ched) in a rational manner. We are spending it in what we think is an idealistic or altruistic manner, substituting pious handwringing for what is really a self-defeating trap that ends with the inutile bleat "We aren't spending enough on education."

I claim this: get rid of all the SUBJECTS in the curriculum that don't teach Math, Science, English, Pilipino or Social Studies, and Mr. Secretary, at least 15 billion pesos will magically appear right in the middle of the present budget, and you will be the hero that will solve those alleged "resource gaps" in the basic school facilities that the STUDENTS need: classrooms, Internet, textbooks, light bulbs! (I know, I know "people power" will hound you out of the Deped, but the students will love their laptops.)

RELATED POST: Our Patriotic Curriculum and the Classroom shortage

(2130) Is JocJoc Bolante In Trouble With US Law?

Senator Ramon Magsaysay, Jr. suggested today that the fleeing Jocjoc Bolante may be in trouble with US authorities for more than immigration violations. The report is that his visa was cancelled upon the request of the U.S. Embassy in Manila, and he is apparently being detained in a San Pedro California facility, pending the resolution of certain procedures, including a reported plea for asylum. I hear from certain people in the San Francisco Bay Area that lawyers are being recruited by First Gentleman Mike Arroyo to help Jocjoc. (You know who you are--Shame on you guys!)

Strictly Politics with Pia Hontiveros had on lawyers Amado Valdez (University of the East), Harry Roque (U.P.) and Ted Laguatan, a US based Fil-am lawyer. If I didn't know Ted better, I'd swear he gave the idea for Jocjoc to apply for asylum in the US to Malacanang, given his unusual relish over the easy possibility that Jocjoc will be in the US for 3-5 years "if he has a good lawyer." Ahem. A lil shameless advertising, Ted? As usual, Ted was showing off his knowledge of the legal insider's gobbledygook in the California jurisdiction.

Dean Amado Valdez was right though, Jocjoc can run but he can't hide. And Harry Roque was enraged that Bolante would abuse the right of asylum on the part of those with real reason to seek it from the United States. He mentions the possibility I like best myself, that Bolante is being investigated by US authorities because some of the funds in the agriculture fertilizer scam involved US official development assistance programs and funds.

I'm confident that if enough Filipinos and Americans take interest in this case of possible plunder and international flight, justice will be done to Jocjoc and his handlers. It is atrocious that twobit lawyers in America can use American law to frustrate a warrant for Bolante's arrest issued by no less than the Philippine Senate. America is better than that, and we Filipinos and Americans who love both these countries will surely see to it that they are not debased by the avaricious, the corrupt and those who would use the Law to break its principles. I think Ted Laguatan is wrong. Jocjoc and everyone who has illegally helped him will be brought to Justice despite the goddamn lawyers.

Monday, July 17, 2006

ABSCBN News ANC Wants To Become CNN East?

BSCBN News is undertaking a massive makeover of its major news operations and the All News Channel ANC, perhaps stung by perceptions that rival GMA networks could soon take over the number one spot in Philippine television. With ex-CNN Jakarta bureau chief Maria Ressa now handling Public Affairs at the network, there is a visible increase in the quality and quantiy of both global and domestic news and commentary. (Heck, David Celdran gets to interview picky "young Japanese women shoppers" in the poshest precincts of the Rippongo Hills and the Akihabara) A whole slew of new programs appear to be in the offing (Check out Manuel L. Quezeon's The Explainer program, for example, Tuesdays at 6pm). From the network spots featuring Maria Ressa, it looks like ANC wants to become the CNN of Southeast Asia, at least for starters, since the OFW market is really of global extent. The Filipino is among the 21st century's first global citizens... The initiative involves alliances with the Philippine Star (yecch!), Business World and Business Mirror. But they still have to show me they understand the World Wide Web and convergence...My reactions to a selection of new shows from last week...

MAGGIE DE LA RIVA was the incandescent presence on Cheche Lazaro's Media in Focus tv talk show last Friday, on the revitalized ABSCBN News ANC all news cable channel. As a 23 year old rising star in the ABSCBN network in 1967, Ms. de la Riva was abducted one night on her way home, raped and tortured by a notorious gang of young men led by Basilio Pineda and Vicencio Jose. Unline most other rape victims, she decided to accuse the rapists nonanonymously and in a dramatic series of court appearances won their conviction and sentencing to death. As a young man, my family lived just blocks away from the Swanky Hotel in Pasay City, and I remember vividly the newspaper pictures of those men with shaven heads just before they were fried from brain to balls in the electric chair. For many of my generation, that seared in our young minds forever this message: Rape is EVIL! The victory of Justice in this case was self-evident in the grace, bravery and enduring humanity that lives on in Maggie de la Riva. The other interesting guest of Ms. Lazaro was RENE SAGUISAG, who was discussing the eternal struggle between the "right of the public to know" and the "rights of privacy." He brings up the point that in the Subic Bay Rape Case, there is nothing in the law that requires the identity of the accused to be divulged. But in this country, we have far many more serious examples of the violation of the principle of the presumption of innocence. For example. But I was disappointed that Cheche Lazaro did not ask her other guest, Rina Jimenez David to explain her published claim that the real significance of the Nicole rape story is that it is really not about one woman and four men, but about the entire American military raping the entire Filipino nation because that is the way Americans are.
According to Rina (PDI 7/8/06): "But even that resounding victory for the nationalist cause would ultimately be eroded by the VFA and the continuing presence of the American military on our soil. Which just goes to show that when Americans want to f—k with you, they’ll f—k you any which way."
RAMON J. FAROLAN writing for PDI yesterday, passionately castigates the Philippine Military and the Palace for its treatment of the six recaptured Magdalo soldiers...
"The junior officers arrested that day are not criminals. They do not deserve to be treated as such; and I was appalled that the AFP chief of staff, the PNP chief and the Army commander allowed themselves to be used in a photo opportunity that degraded and destroyed the dignity of these young officers. (Save this type of photo-ops for bank robbers, gambling lords or rapists!)

Whatever they have done, these officers are your younger brothers. With all the power in your hands, you can discipline and mete out punishment if the charges against them are proven. But there is no need to humiliate and diminish them as human beings and fellow officers. Their actions that began with the Oakwood mutiny do not stem from a desire for personal gain or power. They stem mainly from having seen the injustice and corruption in our society, which has led to a strong desire for meaningful change.

If the idea of subjecting these officers to shame and ridicule is to discourage others from taking a similar path, let me suggest that such action could have the opposite effect; it could instead engender resentment, bitterness and hostility among others in the organization."
Commodore Rex Robles (ret.), a member of the Feliciano Commission which investigated the Oakwood Mutiny (whose 3rd anniversary is next week!), told ANC last week a very similar thing. He believes that of 10,000 officers in the Armed Forces, perhaps 20% or 2000 of them are sympathetic to the Magdalo group of 300 Oakwood mutineers. He does not believe that the arrests of the six escaped Magdalo soldiers can possibly be an end to the just concerns of those idealistic and active junior officers in the armed services. The Feliciano Commission found plentiful reasons for restiveness in the military because of the rampant corruption at the top, a fact that the Palace has consistently countered with a massive propaganda campaign that paints the Magdalo as purely the dolts of politicians or Latin American banana republic-type putschists. Yet the unavoidable fact about the Magdalo is this: they are combat veterans and heroes of many battles against communist and separatist insurgents, they have staked their lives for the Republic. Their accusations have been more than confirmed in the exposure and conviction of the AFP's previous comptroller Gen. Garcia, and subsequent revelations. Honor, decency, fairness and moderation demand that their impassioned and earnest voices be heard and not suppressed. We cannot condone violence or coup d'etat, but I submit that if these men are guilty of any crime, it is not these.

Check out the Hillblogger for more along this vein, (also in the Comment Thread.)

KORINA SANCHEZ FRIDAY had on retiring General Generoso Senga, who probably gives a lot of people the creeps with the way he seems to always be walking on egg shells (you know what I mean?) I suspect Senga is the source of the Danilo Lim video tape that Korina led off Bandila with a few weeks ago. (She should ask for the one with HIM withdrawing support!) She seemed to be thanking him anyway for such favors. Senga is under a cloud, even as he just wants to quietly step into retirement without getting his starched uniform spattered upon. The whole story of February 24 has not been told. I think ABSCBN cannot just play along dumb as if the Danilo Lim Video just popped up out of the garbage can. No one can force ABSCBN to reveal their source for it, which General Lim claims never to have hidden but that its acquisition was illegal. But if this is all it will be good for--to bolster Palace propaganda--then they have been mere willing tools.

Such inutile acceptance of being used, if it stays that way, won't get ANC "a place at the global table of ideas."


(1400) Suckers for a Pretty Face
Korina Sanchez at 1pm Today was a replay of her interview with Joelle Pelaez, a former second runner up in the annual Binibining Pilipinas contest who was introduced by her mother, Blanquita Pelaez to President Joseph Estrada. To deflect accusations that her own mother "peddled her to the former president" in order to get a lucrative contract to supply handcuffs to the PNP, Joelle told Korina that it was actually Annabelle Rama (a notorious procurer of young things for dirty old men like Chavit and Erap) who brought her to parties, along with the other runners up in the contest, starlets and assorted delicacies from the delicatessen of Filipino delights. Just for being pretty, nothing more right? Korina slipped in with stealthy sarcasm, Joelle got 2 million pesos from Erap and/or Chavit.

And the following exchange was delicious:

Korina: "President Estrada claims that he would not have been interested in you because he never goes for second runner up or any kind of runner up. How would you react to that?"

Joelle: "Well, I guess, he can say whatever he wants to, teehee..."

Korina:"Yeah, you got the Rolex anyway, right?"

Joelle: "Yeah, haha right! right!"

Touché Korina! Korina is really are getting to be the Barbara Walters of the Philippines. The silly lil ditz with a pretty face didn't even get Korina's superb dig at her true character.

Ilocano money was must've been raining all over the demagagosphere until Chavit's lollipop left to resume her job at a talent agency in LA. later last week. But the little episode shows that Filipinos are easy suckers for a pretty face, even a second runner up, as most of the rest of the media treated this venomous mynx with kid gloves, sopping up her teary performances and sobbing perorations. And Korina would intone at the end of her show: "May the truth prevail!"
In this country? What a laugh.

(1900) FIDEL RAMOS WAS JUST TALKING TO DONG PUNO: Ho-Humbug! (Not even worth paraphrasing or commenting on).

(2100 TALKBACK WITH TINA MONSON PALMA) Human rights lawyer Rene Saguisag savages the military authorities for their disrespect of the civilian authority and a landmark Supreme Court decision (June 21, 1984). He reminded the authorities of the Court's order forbidding that any prisoner be held incommunicado, as the Magdalo 6 apparently are. I can understand Atty. Saguisag's fury, considering that in that landmark decision the prisoner in question was no less than Communist Party honcho Jose Maria Sison! In the present case, Atty. Saguisag is representing a combat veteran of the anticommunist campaigns, Capt. Nathaniel Rabonza. The army rep, a Lt. Bacaro, was completely out of his league with former Sen. Saguisag. who is a bonafide hero of anti-Marcos struggle and a renowned human rights lawyer and civil libertarian. Poor bloke winced when Rene called his boss, General Esperon, "salot ng bayan" on ANC TV just now.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

"To Hell with the Law, Crime Pays!"

lattering the coup plotters of 2001, whose victory gave him his present job, the Secretary of Justice Raul M. Gonzalez, proclaims that any victorious coup d'etat is patriotic while defeated ones are criminal. Yet, has he not demeaned the entire Justice System as moot and academic? Does not Sec. Gonzalez enliven evil hope of success in criminal minds? I think principled and reasonable citizens will come to conclude that either both or neither of Angelo Reyes and Danilo Lim are guilty of one and the same crime: mutiny, and in one case it did not even come to that, but was contemplated or proposed mutiny, a call to mutiny which Senga considered for two hours. But if legitimacy comes from sheer victory in such a weighty matter as Regime Change, no matter what the means employed, what for do we need the Rule of Law when the good Mr. Justice Secretary proclaims it: To hell with the Law, CRIME PAYS!

Speaking of which, Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, chairman of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, writes in his blog yesterday --
On the question of envelopes or gifts allegedly being distributed and of dinners offered by Malacañang to some bishops, since these were privately done, there was no consensus among the bishops whether to accept or not, whether to go for the dinner or not. Each bishop was completely free.

Truth to tell, the bishops did not have any knowledge of the alleged plan of Malacañang to use these gifts or envelops for political ends. It was only later that they realized the implication of the offer. Some, we know, returned their envelopes.

The bishops were told that the envelopes were for the poor. But how must the poor be help institutionally? On the one hand, bishops with the limited resources of their dioceses are already trying to respond to the needs of the poor, v.g., through their social action programs. On the other hand, must not the government use better its powerful institutions to help the poor? If the powerful institutions are not effective and efficient in the work of poverty alleviation, the question that must be asked is “WHY?” But must it be channeled to the bishops at this time?
Right on. This proves Lagdameo has read and understood Deus Caritas Est, and therefore knows the true meaning of the Separation of Church and State! The sad reality however is this: whatever "charity" the Church gives out to the poor is primarily the charity the Church itself receives from the rich. And one thing the rich and powerful in this country have long understood and exploited is the fact that the poor -- both shepherds and sheep -- need them to survive!

RAUL PANGALANGAN (A Passion for Reason) has a ringing condemnation of the descent of society and the Law:
So has Arroyo’s Strong Republic become Gunnar Myrdal’s Soft State, where “breaking rules and flouting laws is a cultural norm”? No, this government is perfectly capable of being strong when it comes to its enemies. The problem is when it comes to its friends. It can get an entire government -- and a dulled public -- to look the other way. It can finagle reprieves from the courts at will, citing neat technicalities that befuddle common sense. It’s like that Monty Python comic skit showing security police at a checkpoint, searching every crevice of a car with flashlights and sticks, while on the roof rack there is a giant box labeled TNT, with a lighted fuse and connected to an old-fashioned alarm clock loudly ticking away.

Filipino lawyers spend four years in college, another four years in that psychological boot camp called law school, and another year preparing for that booby-trapped ordeal known as the bar exams. All that, in exaltation of a rule of law that has increasingly become fiction. By today, the mighty gods of the bar must confess that they have begun to resemble what the legal philosopher Roberto Unger calls “high priests who have lost their faith but kept their jobs.”

Given the present dispensation, Filipinos will have to do it the hard way -- they have to elect better leaders. But on the matter of electoral reform Filipinos also have to do it the smart way...
The next part of this post is inspired by the continuing labors and comments of Postigo Luna (Comelec Ako)...

TRUST BUT VERIFY: Many people who have bank accounts access them almost entirely through Automated Teller Machines (ATM) scattered all over the country at least for routine transactions. Except for the truly paranoid, hardly anybody worries about their money being stolen by the bank clerk, or lost in the machine or intentionally miscalculated by the bank owners.

But ask, why do we trust the automated teller machine system at all? Is it simply because we are dealing with an adding machine that can't make a mistake? Surely not, for we all know human hands eventually handle ATM transactions inside the bank, usually after office hours. So why don't we give it a second thought and implicitly trust the ATM system, indeed the whole impersonal banking system, to keep our financial transactions secure and accurate? Is it because the banking business is run by honest men, like the Comelec? I don't think so.

I think it lies in the fact of VERIFIABILITY. For example, suppose I have P1,000 in my checking account and I deposit P500 into an ATM in Makati. Now, if I fly off to Cebu and there find another ATM in my bank's network, I can pop my card in and discover from my Account Balance that indeed I now have P1,500 in that account and could in fact withdraw it all then and there. I can perform such a verification 24/7 from almost anywhere in the world. In effect the bank is telling the world: look this guy has P1,500 in our vaults. This simple ability to verify what the bank says I have in my account keeps the bank honest and me happy. Indeed, it is with marketing pride that banks crow about the security and reliability of their banking transactions, even if we know there has to be about as many dishonest people there as any other human endeavor. It keeps customers honest too, the fact that whenever you step up to an ATM your entire transaction is captured on security cameras and therefore represent another layer of verifiability about the transaction. Indeed, throughout the banking and financial systems, it is not the inherent honesty of people that the systems are designed around. In fact most security systems assume people's potential for dishonesty! So much so that the system designs have evolved towards thwarting all possible attempts at cheating the system--even by the system designers or bank owners themselves. The goal of all such system design to is to make it largely impossible to cheat the system without getting caught and punished. That is the only way the banking industry has won the trust and confidence of the banking public.

The exact opposite is true of course for our Commission on Elections and whole bankrupt election system of the Philippines. But I think the problems, and therefore the solutions, are very similar: How do we count our money in one case, and how we count our votes in the other.


Consider the present Philippine election system. Some 50 million voters cast ballots at more than 250,000 voting precincts. Then a multistage canvassing process takes over that brings precinct results into municipal canvasses, and municipal results up to provincial canvassing, and from there onto yet a third stage of handling and processing in the Congress. All the while, the multifarious agents of the Commission on Elections handle the various certificates of canvass, and precinct results, and transmit them to and from the various stages of canvassing.

Now it is generally conceded that in general the counting of precinct level votes accurately reflects the true will of its registered voters. Perhaps that is because it is only at that level the voter vigilance is effective. It is in the higher stages of canvass that all kinds of shenanigans like "dagdag bawas" (addition and subtraction) largely occur. But if I am a lonely voter in Precinct #123456, and with my neighbors knew what our votes were in the election, there would be no way for me to easily verify that those results are reflected in the municipal or provincial or congressional tallies. It would simply be impossible under the current system.

I think that PRECINCT LEVEL VERIFIABILITY should be a system specification of a new election system:

During the period of election polling and canvassing, and as a matter of public record thereafter, the public shall have real-time access to the number of votes cast for each candidate as reported to the Commission on Elections by each precinct.

Such a specification does not imply or necessitate automation, but is a mere functional requirement on the kind of system that the public would mandate the Comelec to use, by law. The present Election Modernization Act, RA 8436, upon which the ill-fated MegaPacific consortium automatic counting system was based, is seriously flawed in that it is not technology-neutral. In fact it naively requires the use of a specific technology, optical mark reading technology, in order to accomplish automated counting of the ballots.

In other words, the suggested VERIFIABILITY spec can and should implemented by Comelec for the 2007 elections. It can be accomplished with no automation systems in place at all. We would merely require of Comelec the realtime publication of precinct level results in newspapers and on the World Wide Web. So that individual voters can check for themselves how their votes are being tallied. In one sense, the entire election exercise is a giant exercise in the ADDITION together of 250,000 ADDENDS, one for each national candidate, each representing the tally of votes from each precinct.

The whole system will be a lot more "trustworthy" if that process is transparent to the public and the results can be directly verified BEFORE the final tally is announced.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Catholic Bishops Denounce Killings By Communist Insurgents

The Pastoral Statement of the Catholic Bishop's Conference contains an eyeopening statement on killings being perpetrated by insurgents that have come to the attention of local dioceses:
26. Extra-Judicial Killings.

On extra-judicial killings, the CBCP stand is of long standing. We have issued statements on this issue in the past. Needless to say, we join the outcry of groups that have denounced the increasing number of extra-judicial killings of journalists and social activists suspected as sympathizers of insurgents allegedly by some ultra-rightist elements in the military. But at the same time, we cannot close our eyes to the great number of extra-judicial killings that sometimes do not come to light in the newspapers but are known to us in our dioceses. These are killings reported by our people as allegedly perpetrated by insurgents for various reasons, such as agaw-armas operations,the failure to pay a revolutionary tax, or "blood-debt to the people."

These we also unequivocally denounce. The defense of human rights and of human dignity must itself be just. It has to be impartial, irrespective of religious belief or ideology.
Speaking to ANC's Ricky Carandang on The Big Picture just now, Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo said that the Bishops have a "a long list of people" who've been killed not by the government, but as a result of NPA raids on police stations to capture weapons and ammo, in the collection of revolutionary taxes and other extortion/protection rackets run by the communist armed groups. So far, as both Ricky and Lagdameo noted, the Media reportage has painted a one-sided picture of who is commiting these "extrajudicial" killings. I've put quote marks on the word "extrajudicial" because I realize now that this term is loaded against the government and the military. I've opined in numerous recent posts that people should not assume that all or even most of these murders are all the work of rightist of paramilitary groups, though some undoubtedly are. Likewise, the murder of journalists cannot possibly be blamed on any one single cause or perpetrator. These revelations by Lagdameo reflect the reality that the communist insurgency in the Philippines has taken a heavy toll in human life, especially out in the countrysides, where indeed the Catholic Church cannot ignore them, as they surely oversee the last, tragic rights for the victims of the CPP NPA. I'm glad they've weighed in on this issue because it sounds like they know what is really going on! Shame on Media that beats its chest about "the right of the public to know!"

UNCLEAR AND AMBIGUOUS: Groans of disappointment can be heard in many places over the "disinclination" of the Bishops to support the second impeachment complaints. I was not at all surprised at their basic position, but I was aghast at the mangled, confused statement of it:
24. Impeachment.

We wish to make the CBCP position clear and unambiguous on the present impeachment plans:

24.1. We are undoubtedly for the search for truth. Therefore, in all sincerity we respect the position of individuals or groups that wish to continue using the impeachment process to arrive at the truth.

24.2. But as Bishops reflecting and acting together as a body in plenary assembly, in the light of previous circumstances, we are not inclined at the present moment to favor the impeachment process as the means for establishing the truth. For unless the process and its rules as well as the mindsets of all participating parties, pro and con, are guided by no other motive than genuine concern for the common good, impeachment will once again serve as an unproductive political exercise, dismaying every citizen, and deepening the citizen's negative perception of politicians, left, right and center.
Dong Puno Live had the good commentary on this matter, mainly from Prof. Magay of the University of the Philippines. She pointed out how contradictory it was to want a search for the truth but not to support the impeachment, since it IS the only peaceful, Constitutional means of getting at the truth for a high official like the President, who can't otherwise be used. She also criticized the Bishop's position as one of "bad prophesy" by predicting certain failure of the impeachment process and bad faith on both sides, instead of promoting a "culture of hope." Touché, Prof!

WHAT SCARES BISHOPS ABOUT SEX AND SEX ED? They are afraid the kids will find out that sex is fun and all become sluts and studs. That became obvious after Tina Monson Palma asked a Deped official if "the joy of sex" was part of their sex education plans. To which she got a shivering, shuddering, "Oh no, we would never teach children that!".

Under tremendous pressure from the Catholic Church, the Deped has completely capitulated and halted a pilot program on reproductive health classes for high school seniors while the Opus Dei cuts and pastes "abstinence" and "chastity" all over the course content. The Inquisitor-Censor is again Antonio Torralba of the University of Asia and Pacific. This is the same person who caused the ABOLITION of Grades One and Two Science courses in all public elementary schools starting with the 2002 Basic Ed Curriculum.
22. The Family under Siege.

We are deeply troubled by attempts to legislate or make as state policy ideas that tend to weaken or even destroy cherished religious values regarding the nature of life, the nature of marriage as union of man and woman, child bearing, the values formation of children, etc. Such ideas are part of an orientation that is fundamentally secularistic and materialistic, separated from their religious and moral roots. We find them in pending bills about population, marriage and family, reproductive health, and sex education in schools. The Filipino family is ill-served by these developments. As the foundation of a civilization of life and love, the family is most seriously threatened. Therefore, Catholic lay groups as well as our Bishops' Commission on Family and Life have made many public interventions about these and they shall continue to do so.
Oh well, expect some lurid exposés on the sex and private lives of the Bishops from the Main Stream Media...