Sunday, July 31, 2005

Dy's Deadly Secret

Unforgettable golf round bared Dy's 1-year secret

Tony S. Bergonia
Inquirer News Service

IT WAS one round of golf that Faustino Dy Jr. and his golfing buddies—former senator Vicente Sotto III and Rep. Luis ''Baby" Asistio—would never forget.

It was during the ninth-hole break at a newly opened Sun City golf course outside Los Angeles late last June that Dy, former governor of Isabela, let out one secret that he had been keeping to himself for more than a year, according to a source close to the former governor.

The secret: A meeting that Dy attended in La Vista in the home of the First Couple in Quezon City shortly before the May 2004 presidential elections.

According to witnesses brought out in the open by Archbishop Oscar Cruz, it was in that meeting where money changed hands to influence the outcome of the elections.

According to another source close to Dy, the former governor is trying to stay away from the heat generated by that secret at home.

Dy had been licking his wounds in California following one of the biggest political upsets in Isabela and Philippine history.

"He doesn't relish being in the limelight as a result of this (scandal)," said the source. In fact, the source said, Dy is even angry at Philippine media because "now they run after him, but when he was campaigning (for reelection) he was all but ignored."

A day after that fateful round of golf, the golf buddies met again in another location and discussed details of the secret.

Contacted yesterday, Sotto confirmed that there was such a round of golf played but did not say much else.

Dy, a member of the political dynasty that has ruled Isabela for years, lost his reelection bid for governor to radio broadcaster Grace Padaca, a political neophyte.

Another source said while Dy was not volunteering to testify and in fact is reluctant to take the witness stand in the ''jueteng" investigation at the Senate, he said ''he would not tell a lie" if asked to testify.

The source, who helped in Dy's failed campaign for reelection as governor of Isabela, said the former governor shared the secret not knowing it would soon make headlines and rattle allies and officials of MalacaƱang back home.

According to the source, Dy also took flight after finding out with certainty that he was on the hit list of the New People's Army, who was believed to be supportive of Padaca during the elections.

How it got to bishop

Sotto, a key opposition figure, came home early this month with Dy's secret. The source said he passed the secret on to former Quezon City Rep. Tony Aquino, Sotto III's partner in a BMW dealership in Libis, Quezon City.

It was Aquino, said the source, who brought Dy's secret to Archbishop Oscar Cruz, who had been waging war on jueteng and demanding that President Macapagal-Arroyo come clean on it.

But Bishop Cruz initially hesitated to take the information hook, line, sinker since it appeared to be hearsay, the source said.

Bishop Cruz, the source added, wanted Dy to come out in the open or execute an affidavit attesting to what he saw, heard and did in the afternoon meeting at the house of the Arroyos in La Vista.

A group says no

It was the bishop's way of making sure the witnesses who volunteer information to him are not feeding him falsehoods.

The source said the "secret" was offered to a civil society group that was critical of Ms Arroyo. The group turned down the offer.

According to jueteng witness Sandra Cam, the meeting was more than just a social gathering among Ms Arroyo, Dy and several regional directors of the Commission on Elections.

In a press conference in Intramuros with Bishop Cruz and two other jueteng witnesses, Cam said millions of pesos changed hands during the meeting, which she said was called to make sure Ms Arroyo won by at least a million votes over her closest rival, the late actor Fernando Poe Jr.

At the meeting also, according to Cam who was quoting another source, was Lilia Pineda, mayor of Lubao, Pampanga and husband of suspected jueteng lord Bong Pineda.

Cam said her informant told her that Pineda, in the presence of Ms Arroyo, gave out P2 million in cash to each of the election officials who were there. Mayor Pineda denied the allegation.


Palace officials described the allegation as 'hogwash."

Dy and Padaca were among the names mentioned in the now controversial ''Gloriagate" tapes that former NBI Assistant Director Samuel Ong brought out in the open.

In a transcript of the tapes prepared by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), the controversial former Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano was supposed to have discussed the case of Dy with an unidentified caller.

Dy was moving heaven and earth to prevent a loss to Padaca.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Arangkada for July 30, 2005


              LAPOK NI GLO


Human nabulilyaso ang iyang press conference sa Malakanyang sa niaging adlaw, kanus-a iyang giabog ang foreign correspondents gikan sa Palasyo ug ang gihatagan og higayon mao rang labing taphaw nga mga pangutana, hingpit na gyong nisutoy nang media blitz ni Presidente Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo pinaagi sa pagpa-interview sa pinili nga news organizations.

Pero tak-om lang gihapon siya labot sa labing importanteng kontrobersiya nga nakapatay-og sa iyang administrasyon: Ang audio recording sa giingong panag-istorya nilang kanhi Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano. Di siya mokomentaryo sa bisan usa sa 15 nila ka panag-istorya nga klarong gitumong pagmaniobra sa resulta sa eleksiyon sa niaging tuig. Di pa gyod gani siya moangkon hangtod karon kon si Garcillano ba "ang opisyal sa Comelec" nga iyang gika-istorya.


Maapiki na gani si Presidente Arroyo, pananglitan dihang gikuhaan siyag reaksiyon sa pasangil ni Arsobispo Oscar Cruz nga nakasaksi siya sa paghatag og tag-P2 milyones nga jueteng payola ngadto sa 13 ka regional directors sa Comelec sud mismo sa iyang pinuy-anan sa La Vista, Quezon City sa wa pang eleksiyon sa Mayo sa niaging tuig, modayon siyag ingon nga naghinobra nang "trial by publicity" batok niya.

Mahimo bang hunghongan ang presidente nga way laing kapaingnan ang mga namasangil batok niya gawas sa katawhan nga maabot lang pinaagi sa media kay:

  • Una, di siya mapasakaan og kaso sa korte kay duna siyay immunity;
  • Ikaduha, lisod dangpan ang kapolisan ug ubang ahensiya nga gitugyanan pag-imbestigar sa dagkong krimen kay pulos man giduma sa iyang mga tinudlo; ug
  • Ikatulo, ang impeachment nga maoy gitakda sa konstitusyon nga paagi pagtangtang niya sa katungdanan maglisod pag-ugpo tungod sa makabungog niyang mayoriya sa duha ka bay balaoranan.


Hapit ko mahagbong sa akong lingkoranan dihang niingon ang presidente nga di siya motubag sa mga atake batok niya kay di siya gustong mobawos paghimo og personal nga mga atake sa iyang mga kaatbang. Kinsa man intawoy iyang ilaron? Ang iyang pagpakahilom sa niaging kapin sa usa ka buwan natapakan sa gatosan ka pilo sa bastos ug iresponsableng kampanya sa iyang gamhanang makinarya sa propaganda nga nibuong sa kadungganan sa tanang nipaluyo sa sibawng awhag para sa iyang resignasyon sa Malakanyang.

Ang labing klarong mga ebidensiya nga siyay utok, o labing menos siyay nagtugot, sa pagpanglabay og nangalisbong lapok sa mga bakak ngadto sa iyang mga kaatbang mao ang nabistong pagpagawas sa Malakanyang og minilyon ka pesos pagpalit sa sipsip nga mga sakop sa media ug ang pagdumili niya pagbadlong ni Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, nga klarong maoy gihimong berdugo sa iyang administrasyon, pag-insulto sa tanang nangahas pagbarug batok niya—gikang Susan Roces ngadtong Cory Aquino, kanhi budget secretary Emilia Boncodin ug sa party list groups. [30]

New YOU?

Posted by Yvonne Chua 

IF no "constructive group" has emerged yet from the Armed Forces, it's because military intelligence is keeping a close watch on political dissent from the ranks since the political crisis started in early June, says former Army captain Rene Jarque.

Jarque, who served as special assistant to the Secretary of National Defense for defense policy and strategy before he left the service in 1998 to work as an executive abroad, also describes the AFP as "a confused organization," with officers and men harboring varying sentiments on the turmoil—from " inis (irritation)" due to red alerts that inhibit their movement to indifference or "walang pakialam" to concern "na sana maayos na ang gulo (hope all this ends soon)."

In a five-page analysis entitled "What's with the Armed Forces?", Jarque says the generals owe their positions to President Arroyo and have much to lose if she goes.

"The higher you go up in rank, the more compromises you have to make, the more you become involved in unethical conduct and corrupted by the system," the former Army captain says. "And many, if not all, of the generals and ex-generals have skeletons in their closets."

Meanwhile, the senior officers (majors to colonels) are "siguristas," what with their careers to protect. Some have also been tainted by corruption, notes Jarque.

But he believes there exceptions or those who may rise and lead the disgruntled junior officers and soldiers when the situation is ripe.

Jarque says the junior officers (lieutenants and captains) are the "most aware of the inadequacies of the government and the inept leadership in the AFP," as they bear the brunt of the battles against the rebels in the countryside.

Although this is where one would find the sentiment to be constructive or to intervene the strongest, he says at the same time the junior officers are too low in the chain of command to lead a "constructive" group and will be closely watched by military intelligence.

As for the enlisted personnel (privates, corporals and sergeants), Jarque says these are "economic soldiers" who are afraid to lose their jobs and more worried about day-to-day survival. "But if this group can be organized, they are a very powerful bloc," he says.

According to Jarque,  what is also keeping members of the armed forces from joining the fray is "there is no unity of command among the attacking forces."

"The battle lines though are not clear as it has presently many fronts with many warring parties and conflicting interests," he says.

He also identifies the involvement of leftist organizations in the opposition as a major factor behind AFP's  hesitation to intervene. Soldiers still perceive leftist groups as the "enemy of the state," says the former Army captain.

Last week, a manifesto purportedly issued by the Young Officers' Union (YOU) announced the group was breaking a 10-year peace accord to try and bring down President Arroyo.

Although YOU founders disowned the manifesto, saying the group was disbanded in 1995, they did not discount the possibility that disgruntled officers and men may have revived the YOU.

On the eve of Arroyo's state-of-the-nation address, another group claiming to be junior officers of the AFP and representing disgruntled soldiers expressed their support to calls for a "change in government."

Two men, clad in military uniforms, with armbands and their faces covered, appeared on a videotape sent to ABS-CBN. The videotape was entitled "Protector of the Filipino People." 

Friday, July 22, 2005

RP's Unemployed

 Posted by Yvonne Chua 

TWO surveys on employment were recently released—and their findings hardly jibe.

According to the Social Weather Survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations for the second quarter of this year, unemployment among Filipino adults reached a new record high of 20.3 percent last May.

The April 2005 Labor Force Survey of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), on the other hand, placed the unemployment rate at 8.3 percent and the number of jobless Filipinos at 2.9 million for the month of April.

The disparity stems largely from how the SWS and the government define and measure unemployment.

The SWS continues to define the unemployed as those who report that they are (1) not working and (2) also looking for workGovernment, however, has revised the official definition of the unemployed to include a third criterion: those available for work. 

The new definition, which took effect starting the April 2005 Labor Force Survey, effectively excluded 1.9 million persons from the ranks of the jobless in the Philippines. Under the old definition, the unemployment rate would have stood at 12.9 percent and not 8.3 percent.

Another difference between the two surveys: The SWS statistics on employment and unemployment refer to the population of adults, or those 18 and above, which is different from the official Philippine labor force definition which starts at age 15.

According to DOLE, even under the old definition, the unemployment rate declined from 13.7 percent in April 2004 to 12.9 percent of April this year.

The SWS survey, meanwhile,  said that adult unemployment in the Philippines has been extremely high for four successive quarters, starting from 19 percent in the third quarter of 2004, 18.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2004, and 16.5 percent in the first quarter of 2005.

"These are the only times when adult unemployment has been above 15 percent, ever since the SWS unemployment statistical series started in 1993," the SWS said.

The research outfit added that current high levels of unemployment are consistent with the high levels of hunger and poverty reported by the Social Weather Surveys in successive quarters.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Gloriagate Blogs

Posted by Alecks Pabico

LET a thousand (journalist) blogs bloom.

No doubt about it, the current political crisis rocking the Arroyo administration has made blogging, for all its unmediated, instantaneous and personal nature, an attractive reporting medium for Filipino journalists. Of course, the case for blogging journalists has already been made by the likes of Manuel L. Quezon III, Jove Francisco (By Jove!), Chin Wong ( Digital Life), Erwin Oliva (cyberbaguioboy), to name a few, even before we at the PCIJ started venturing into the blogosphere ourselves.

Recent welcome additions to the journalist blogging community are GMA Network's Howie Severino (Side Trip with Howie Severino), who has a blog on blogs today, and Philippine Daily Inquirer's editorialist John Nery (Newsstand). Much earlier, we also saw GMA reporters coming out with blogs of their own — Tina Panganiban-Perez ( crimson page) and Joseph Morong (Essays and Other Lullabies). The media network is said to be encouraging its reporters to go into blogging.

Another journalist has also been blogging anonymously since May at The Early Edition.

While the mainstream media based in Metro Manila seem slow in grasping the potential of blogging as an important addition to the journalistic toolkit, interesting developments have happened elsewhere. In Cebu, Sun.Star has spiced up its coverage of "Gloriagate" by launching the Citizen Watch: The Arroyo Presidency blog. There's also dyAB, the first radio station (as far as I know) that is complementing all its programs with blogs ( dyAB Abante Bisaya). 

Friday, July 08, 2005

Gloria's Fighting Words

(Text of Pres. Arroyo's Nationwide TV/Radio Address on July 7, 2005)
Mga Minamahal kong kababayan.

When I was young and my late father Diosdado Macapagal was president of our country, I thought of him as the "good guy" and his political opponents on the other side were the "bad guys".

Because of my father's influence, I had always thought of myself as on the side of the good. Thus, it is very painful for me to know that among many of our countrymen today, I have been demonized as the "bad guy." This is unfair, but it is a cross that God in His wisdom has given me to bear, so I will bear it. I have never questioned God's ways before, and I will not do so now.

When I first entered politics in 1992, little did I know that within a decade, I would become president of our country. And little did I expect that within another five years, there would be calls from civil society for my resignation from office or for the formation of a "Truth Commission" regarding some of my political actuations.

When I spoke before the nation some two weeks ago, I did so against the advice of my legal counsel. But I thought that speaking before you, the Filipino people, was the right thing to do. Shameless people have peddled the lie that I confessed to cheating. What I disclosed was that I talked to an election official. But that this had taken place after the certificates of canvas had already been used to proclaim the winning senators, and it was those same certificates of canvass that showed that I won by around a million votes. That is the truth.

Indeed, it is right for our country to confront the truth, but if we do so, let's confront the biggest, most painful political truth. The big truth that we are aware of deep in our hearts, but that we collectively sweep under the rug. The big truth whose debilitating effects on our country, year after year, decade after decade, have developed into feelings of disgust, hopelessness and even despair among large segments of our society.

The truth that I discovered from my beginnings as a neophyte politician in 1992, rising to become a veteran politician through the years, is this: over the years, our political system has degenerated to such an extent that it is very difficult to live within the system with hands totally untainted. That is the truth. In addition, our system has degenerated to such an extent that more often than not, it is political agenda first, and national interest last. For example, we have endless investigations and scandals in aid of political and media projection, rather than in aid of legislation or executive action. That is the truth. Because of this system of politics, our country has been left behind by other countries in the region, and our best and brightest, the cream of our youth, are voting with their feet to leave the country. That is the truth.

I do not blame any individual or political block for this sad state of affairs. It is simply the truth that the political system that I am part of has degenerated to the point that it needs fundamental change. We are collectively to blame, so we must collectively be the solution. Let he who is without sin, cast the stone. To those who feel that they cannot cast the first stone, I invite you to help in the solution.

My proposed approach to reform our system of politics and governance is something that I had wanted to bring forth during the upcoming state of the nation address. However, because our country is hungry for a resolution to the political uncertainties that have plagued us these past few weeks, I will bring it up now.

First of all, I am not resigning my office. To do so under circumstances that connote an EDSA 3 would condemn any successor to the possibility of an EDSA 4, then an EDSA 5, and so on, unless our political system were first reformed to make it more responsive to the people's will, such that changes in leadership come about in an orderly and stable manner.

The world embraced EDSA 1 in 1986. The world tolerated EDSA 2 in 2001. The world will not forgive an EDSA 3 in 2005, but would instead condemn the Philippines as a country whose political system is hopelessly unstable. And the Filipinos as among the finest people in the world, but who always shoot themselves in the foot. Under those circumstances, who would invest money in the Philippines? How would we weather the difficulties arising from the price of crude oil being at its highest in history?

What I intend to do is to work with legislators and civil groups who believe that changes in the fundamental law of the land are necessary in order to confront such basic issues as federalism, the character of our legislative process, reducing red tape in government processes, running for public office under a true party system and with less need to raise campaign funds, modernizing the economic provisions of our constitution, and so forth.

At the same time, I will restructure and strengthen the cabinet, giving it a free hand to meanwhile reform and manage our day to day governance with as little political interference as possible, even from me.

This is how we will proceed.

First, I'm asking my entire cabinet to tender their resignation in order to give the executive a free hand to reorganize itself. I'll ask our sectors to give me the names of candidates that we can invite to replace those who will not return to the cabinet, or even to help out at other levels of the executive.

Second, the cabinet will be given a free hand on governance, while I focus on the fundamental changes that we need to put in place.

Third, I will begin to reach out to the political and civil sectors that have an interest in the various advocacies that are relevant to our constitution. Federalism, for example, is an advocacy that I had espoused long ago.

This is neither political ploy nor gimmick. I believe that this process will quickly lay the foundation for deep reforms in our society, including reforms in our political way of life. This would be a legacy that our generation of politicians and citizens could collectively be proud of. I now have grand children to play with and to help bring up. Like all of you, I want our children to grow up in a better Philippines. I have prayed on this, and I hope that I have discerned God's will properly.

Maraming salamat sa inyong lahat.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

RP Blessing

Commentary: For the Philippines, credit downgrades may be a blessing
By William Pesek Jr. Bloomberg News

ING Bank analysts recently made an odd announcement: Philippine dollar-denominated bonds are the "most attractive" among Asia's sovereign debt issues. Didn't they notice that two major international rating companies had recently downgraded the credit of the Philippines?
Actually, ING's analysts are well aware of the country's fiscal difficulties.
Budget deficits here are bloating the national debt, which has risen 75 percent since Gloria Arroyo became president in January 2001. Yet ING analysts may be justified in giving Arroyo, a trained economist, benefit of the doubt.
"We believe 2005 could be a breakthrough year for the Philippines, when growth breaks out on the upside and fiscal woes diminish," ING said in a recent report.
There are myriad reasons to be skeptical about an economy that is increasingly referred to as the Argentina of Asia. Investors do not soon forget when nations declare a moratorium on foreign debt payments, as the Philippines did 20 years ago and Argentina did in 2001.
Convincing markets that Philippine debt will not spiral out of control is a challenge in the best of times. But these are reasonably good times for the Philippines. The economy is growing at a pace of around 6 percent, a rate that the United States, Europe and Japan can only dream of. And Arroyo isn't facing an election, as she did in 2004.
The Philippines now has an opportunity to reduce the budget deficit and ensure that more of its 86 million people share in the economy's growth. It should also remind investors that the nation has solid, investment-worthy companies, as well as outsourcing industries with attributes they may not find in China, India or Malaysia.
The government should also inform travelers that Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam don't have monopolies on beautiful tourist destinations. In short, this is an occasion to remind the world why it should not sell the Philippines short.
Will the government take advantage of this opportunity? There is reason to be optimistic, and, as counterintuitive as it may seem, the Philippines has Moody's Investors Service and Standard & Poor's to thank for that.
Both rating companies cited the nation's deficit when they cut their Philippine ratings this year. Just 10 days after the downgrade from S&P, the House of Representatives voted to increase the value-added tax to 12 percent from 10 percent. Doctors, lawyers and oil importers are being called upon to pay taxes for the first time.
A sense of crisis is sometimes needed to prod politicians into action. Only such pressure, it appears, will force this nation's bureaucracy to make necessary compromises.
Let's hope that dynamic stays in place. If the Philippines can't get things on the right track while its economy is growing at 6 percent, when can it?
Unfortunately, the Senate ended a recent special session without passing the House of Representatives' tax bill. Doing so would not only bolster tax revenue to narrow the budget deficit and ease concern that the nation will default on its debt, but it would also send a message that the government is committed to reform efforts.
Explaining why it didn't happen, the president of the Senate, Franklin Drilon, said: "We don't want to rush."
Yes, you do want to rush, Senator. Otherwise, markets will grow even more impatient.
So far, investors do not seem to be panicking. The difference in yield between the Philippines' 8.25 percent bond due in 2014 and comparable U.S. Treasuries has shrunk to 3.99 percentage points from 4.24 percentage points four months ago.
Yet investor tolerance is a finicky thing. When it comes to budget deficits, the Philippines really is different. The United States, which has no track record of default, gets the benefit of the doubt from investors even as its record budget deficit widens apace. The Philippines lacks the same fiscal latitude.
In January, the Philippines held its biggest overseas debt issue, selling $1.5 billion of 25-year debt. It may sell another $2 billion by the third quarter. Showing global markets evidence of fiscal progress would lower its financing costs.
A third of the annual budget now goes to interest payments. Lower borrowing costs would leave one of Asia's more fragile economies more money for schools, health care, roads and bridges. Considering that a third of its population lives on less than 60 U.S. cents a day, the Philippines could use all the extra cash it can find.
Like all windows of opportunity, this one may not stay open for very long. If the Philippines uses it wisely, its bondholders could be a happy bunch.

Zobel's View

In the Philippines, an Asian Success Story With a Difference
By Jaime Zobel de Ayala

Since the Cold War ended, East Asia has emerged in the public consciousness as the strongest challenge to the West's continued preeminence. The economic performances of Northeast and Southeast Asian countries are frequently lumped together and then compared to those of the United States and other Western nations.

Japan leads the Asian pack. Insofar as other Asian economies approximate its features, they are rated successes. So far it has surmounted every challenge to its primacy. Challenges that sapped the strength of other countries have only made it stronger.

Those challenges have included a currency that was too strong, an excessive dependence on foreign oil, and the hostility of major trading partners. As Japan spreads its influence beyond its borders through investment and trade, its self-reliant strength at home has not been diluted, despite its current short-term political headaches.

In "Looking at the Sun," the American writer James Fallows concludes that a Japanese-style partnership between the state and the private sector for national progress is the best way to succeed. He marvels at how Japan used a kind of economic judo to turn what were once seen as the West's defining strengths - private enterprise, free trade and liberal democracy - to the disadvantage of the West.

The image of the West has taken a beating from comparisons with East Asia. The Philippines, often seen as a pale imitation of the West, has thus also fallen in esteem. Democracy and free enterprise are blamed for the weak governments, confused societies, wayward citizenry and lurching eco nomies of the West, and of the Philippines. In stark contrast are the strong governments, disciplined societies, cooperative citizens and smoothly rising economies of East Asia.

The Philippines was the first country to shake off colonialism in Asia and the first to recover from the ravages of World War II. It was also the first Asian nation to stage a nonviolent revolution, setting a pattern of political development throughout Eastern Europe that brought the Cold War to an end. All this is in the past. Countries with economic strategies and political systems that are diametrically different from those of the Philippines are now held up for admiration.

The Philippines is now restructuring its economy, in cooperation with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, to bring it even closer to the Western model of free enterprise at home and free trade abroad, with the government involved in government and business in business only. The Philippines upholds individual rights at home and international law abroad.

The problem with a democracy is that it is a nice place to live in but you are not sure to eat. The problem with a dictatorship, as Filipinos discovered, is that you are not sure to eat or live. The authoritarian experience of other countries in the region has been different. They are lucky. But the Philippines has to live and act on the basis of its own sad experience.

The critics are right: Philippine democracy is having a hard time solving the problems that a dictatorship created. Half of the nation's revenues go to servicing a huge foreign and domestic debt inherited from the Marcos years. Democracy is expensive - but it is not a luxury. For the Philippines, it is a necessity.

Philippine democracy can hardly be described as a failure. Among Asian countries, we have solved the deadly problem of political succession without tanks in the streets. Communist insurgency in the Philippines is fast winding down. The liberal culture, while explaining the indiscipline of our society, also accounts for its extraordinary tolerance. We have no racial problems.

Philippine solutions are not neat, but they involve a sense of community and cooperation. The problem of policy inconsistency between administrations has been solved. Without skipping a beat, President Fidel Ramos took up the essential policies of the previous democratically elected administration.

The administration of President Corazon Aquino prepared, and the Ramos government has implemented, the deregulation of foreign exchange and other measures to open the economy, improve efficiency and competition, and strengthen the private sector. Mr. Ramos has called for stronger English-language instruction and education in basic skills to recover or retain the country's former advantage in these areas.

The Philippines is moving toward economic recovery. Interest rates are low. Inflation is in single digits. The foreign exchange rate is stable. Investments in housing and construction are rising. Consumption is increasing. There is vigorous development in new growth centers such as Cebu, in the central Philippines, and Davao in the south. The troublesome power shortages are almost over. The government budget deficit is being addressed with new tax measures. Economic growth will likely hit 5 percent this year, after adjustment for inflation.

The Philippines has made its choice - private free enterprise rather than the East Asian way of directed economies. But, like the rest of Asia, the Philippines will leapfrog economically where it can, in areas where it has comparative advantage. These include widespread literacy, competence in English, and superior skills, even if wages are higher than in most of Southeast Asia.

The Philippines would prefer a strong economy built from the ground up, complete with heavy industry and a thriving agriculture. But the country will harness growth areas wherever they can be found. This may buy time to acquire the scientific and technological culture essential to real, substantive development.

It is too soon to say that one way is best for all time, and another a hopeless failure. As they say in America, it ain't over until the fat lady sings. And she's not in the stadium yet.

The writer is chairman and president of Ayala Corporation, one of the largest companies in the Philippines. He contributed this comment to the International Herald Tribune.

IHT Copyright © 2005 The International Herald Tribune |

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Democratic Left

Posted by Luz Rimban

WHEN political activists calling themselves the democratic left gathered to launch their "Laban ng Masa" campaign last week, the event almost went unnoticed. After all, the group didn't have big political names in its roster, apart from the veteran activists, university professors and marginalized party list representatives in Congress. Besides, in the heat of the political season, what were another gathering, another mobilization, and another march?

Among political forces opposing President Gloria Arroyo, it seems that this group would not be too far from other opposition groups that have been asking her to step down. Their call, the demand for a "transitional revolutionary government" sounds very much like the "caretaker government" proposed by the political opposition allied with former President Joseph Estrada and the forces of the late presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. Like that sector of the opposition, the democratic left wants the 1987 constitution scrapped so that the country and the government can start from scratch.

But that's just about all they have in common. Not only does the democratic left want the President to step down, they are also calling for an end to elitist rule. In other words, they want President Arroyo to go, and to take with her the elite—the ruling class—including the worst of the country's traditional politicians now waiting in the wings for the demise of the Arroyo government.

Former University of the Philippines president Francisco Nemenzo, who is leading this group, believes that Arroyo is to blame for mismanaging the economy and should have been asked to resign, even before the jueteng and "Hello Garci" scandals broke out.

"To win the elections, (Arroyo) used billions of pesos of government funds that belonged to the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), the Social Security System (SSS), and other government financial institutions, not to mention the money that came from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and the PAGCOR," said Nemenzo in his keynote speech.

"And now, how does she plan to solve the problem she created? By raising taxes. But Arroyo is not taxing the rich because she's afraid of them. Instead, she's imposing taxes like the EVAT that businessmen could pass on to ordinary people. In other words, she is making us pay for her election campaign," Nemenzo added.

The solution, says the democratic left, is a transitional revolutionary government like the one that replaced the Marcos dictatorship after EDSA 1. But that revolutionary government, they say, remained in the hands of the elite represented no less by one of their own, Cory Aquino. Which is why fundamental change never happened.

Still, Aquino projected an image that was motherly, untainted and unambitious, and managed to move the middle class against Marcos in 1986. The democratic left still doesn't have a Cory Aquino, in a society where icons and symbols mean everything to people.

They're also wary of supporting leaders who might just turn out like Arroyo. "We don't want to go into a framework of supporting the lesser evil, because the lesser evil eventually becomes the greater evil," says Ronald Llamas, national president of the party list group Akbayan.

For now, the question of a leader is what hobbles this "third pole," as the democratic left forces like to call themselves. Supporting Poe's widow Susan Roces might place them in the same league as the traditional politicians, although it's an option they're probably considering. But Nemenzo told the crowd gathered at the UP Bahay ng Alumni last week to expand their choices of a leader beyond the options the media have offered. He mentions the names of UP professors Randy David and Walden Bello, and economist Alejandro "Ding" Lichauco.

Whether the democratic left option is a shot in the dark, or the answer to the middle class's frustrations with traditional politicians and the elite, depends on how they intend to carry out this idea of a "transitional revolutionary government," and whether they are able to get their message across. What was a long-term vision needs to be refocused for the here and now, as change seems imminent.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Electoral Fraud

Posted by Vinia Datinguinoo

THE Congressional canvass that declared Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to have won the presidency in 2004 showed her to have beaten Fernando Poe Jr. by 1,123,576 votes. A study published in Kasarinlan, a journal of UP's Third World Studies Center, says this could not be so. The paper, written by new media pioneer Roberto Verzola, asserts that Arroyo did not win the May elections by 1.1 million votes. It was a very close contest, Verzola says, with "the most probable results" ranging from a GMA win of around 156,000 votes or less, to an FPJ win of around 84,000 votes or less.

Verzola analyzed both the Namfrel tally—that used election returns (ERs)—and the parallel official count by Congress of provincial Certificates of Canvass (COCs). He dissected not only the numbers but how the tally itself progressed.

Verzola first made his findings public just over a month after the elections, in a shorter piece published June 20 last year in the Inquirer.

View Verzola's full report here.


Posted by Yvonne Chua

FIFTY-NINE percent of the respondents of a Social Weather Stations' telephone survey in Metro Manila believe President Arroyo told then Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano to cheat in the May 10, 2004 elections and that she was not just trying "to protect her votes."

The June 28-30 survey, which the SWS said was "conducted on its own initiative as a public service" after Arroyo's June 27 admission that she had called a Comelec official, showed that only 29 percent believe she called to protect her votes.

Other highlights of the survey:

  • 68 percent heard Arroyo's June 27 address over TV or radio, or read it in newspapers.
  • 94 percent were aware of the Garci tapes.
  • 32 percent had listened to the tapes, and 40 percent had either listened to or at least read a transcript of the tapes.
  • 84 percent support the full airing of the tapes to the public.
  • Only 20 percent agreed with Arroyo's statement that the chapter on the Garci tapes should be closed; 77 percent wanted some things done, including an investigation (26 percent) and Arroyo's resignation (18 percent).
  • 48 percent said Vice President Noli de Castro was capable of running the government in case Arroyo resigned or were removed.
  • Arroyo has a -31 net trust rating and the Comelec, -27.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Wiretap FAQ

Posted by Alecks Pabico 

AS we have pointed out, last Monday's televised message of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo failed to address a lot of issues and only raised more questions. While she admitted that she "had conversations with many people, including a Comelec official" and that the phone call was a "lapse in judgment," Pres. Arroyo neither confirmed nor denied:

  • that she had a conversation with then Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano;
  • that the conversation was taped and/or wiretapped; and
  • that she either authorized or did not authorize the recording/wiretapping.
To better appreciate and hopefully address the legal issues revolving around the "Gloria-Garci" tapes, the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) has released a 15-page document containing Frequently Asked Questions on the Anti-Wiretapping Law and related issues .