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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Meritocracy as government

FROM A DISTANCE
By Carmen N. Pedrosa

Meritocracy is a word often bandied around as a way to get the right people in government. To all who marvel at Singapore’s success, Lee Kuan Yew says “because it is a meritocracy.”
It is especially felt acutely in the Philippines at this time. We have the wrong people leading our country. But it was inevitable because of our social structure, our politics and our system of governance.
How many times have concerned Filipinos said that if only we had better leaders we might be a better country than we are. And I do not mean just to be wealthy or have a high GDP or a triple A rating from credit agencies. We know how these yardsticks of what a country should be are sometimes the very instruments of failure and injustice.
*      *      *
But it isn’t only in the Philippines that there is dissatisfaction about governance. We know that it is about systems, not just because countries are either presidential, parliamentary or monarchy or its modern versions of dictatorship or democratic or communist or socialist. All are susceptible to graft and decay. Still, because we have ideas of how societies should be organized to mitigate defects, it is always useful to hear what other people think.
Having read Lee KuanYew say that Singapore was built through meritocracy and aware of the Philippines’ recent fiasco of how a clueless president assigned a clueless senator ex-rebel soldier to back channel our problem with China has made me think. Could we apply meritocracy in a society like the Philippines? The way things are, the answer is no, we can’t. We are bedeviled by a system that gave birth to attitudes inimical to good governance. It is designed towards being led by the incompetent.
I found some of my thoughts echoed by a group that have put their ideas on meritocracy on paper. With both democracy and communism leading us to dead ends, the idea of meritocracy becomes attractive.
Indeed proponents see it as the coming big idea in a changing world.
*      *      *
Here are some of the thoughts they share from the website:http://rondetafelbeleid.nl/meritocracy.
Some political commentators have written in favor of meritocracy and suggested that this should be the big idea that our political leaders rally around. These commentators are right, but not in the way they think. This is indeed the time for meritocracy, but there’s one straightforward reason why democratic politicians would be mad to accept the challenge. Quite simply, meritocracy and democracy are incompatible.”
We have been so used to mindlessly extolling the virtues of democracy that we have failed to tackle its defects.
Meritocracy is just a new way of saying a very old word: aristocracy — rule by the ‘best’. If democratic politicians were not the best individuals to be running our country — i.e. those most deserving by virtue of their talents — what right would they have to lead us in a meritocratic environment? As soon as the meritocratic genie is released from its bottle, the legitimacy of democracy itself is called into question.
The democratic voting system — a system in which the only qualification required is that you should have achieved the astounding feat of surviving in this world for at least 18 years — is, and never has been, consistent with any principle of merit. If it were, voters would have to pass exams to demonstrate their merit before being allowed to participate in elections. It’s meritocracy’s revolutionary challenge to democracy that should become the focus of political debate.
And why shouldn’t democracy be forced to justify itself? As disillusionment with politicians grows inexorably, hasn’t the time come to try something new? Is it possible to construct an entirely new political system based not on democracy but on meritocracy?
We are bombarded with so much rhetoric promoting the virtues of democracy that people have been brainwashed into thinking there’s no alternative. Apart from extremist fringe parties, no one spends any time considering a radical reshaping of our political institutions. Yet through history few intellectuals have spoken supportively of democracy and most have been openly contemptuous of it.”
*      *      *
The American journalist H. L. Mencken said in 1916, ‘Democracy is a form of religion. It is the worship of jackals by jackasses.’ One of his alternative definitions was: ‘Democracy is the art of running the circus from the monkey cage.’ He considered democracy actively hostile to free thinking: ‘Democracy is grounded upon so childish a complex of fallacies that they must be protected by a rigid set of taboos, else even halfwits would argue it to pieces. Its first concern must thus be to penalise the free play of ideas.’
In this regard, democracy has surely succeeded in its aim — there is little discussion in modern intellectual circles of replacing democracy. That said, a book has just appeared that accuses voters in democracies of being irrational. The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies (2007) by Professor Brian Caplan advocates that a nation’s economic decisions should be taken by councils of economists insulated from the vagaries of democracy.
There are two central problems with democracy. The first is that the electorate, by and large, are grotesquely ill-informed about the issues upon which they are voting. They are usually guided by emotive arguments, glib sound bites and crude, scare-mongering propaganda. A careful, considered analysis of complex issues never occurs. If I were to ask a typical voter to write a four-page essay on the pros and cons of joining the Euro, or on any other significant issue for that matter, they wouldn’t have a clue. In other words, democracy, at heart, is government by emotion rather than reason, which is why it’s associated with so much ineptitude.
The second problem is that democracy constantly provides the proof of its own inadequacy. Mencken says, ‘Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule — and both commonly succeed, and are right.’ If a democratic government were competent, what would be the point of an opposition? We are supposed to regard the opposition as keeping the government on its toes, but the opposition’s unending carping simply erodes confidence in both the government and democratic institutions in general.”
CNP: This article is written to invite thought and debate. Indeed, it may take another generation to take it on but it can be a legacy from this generation by spreading it as an alternative idea to democracy.

PNoy appointee is OFWs’ nightmare

By ATTY. DODO DULAY

In the past two columns, we wrote about the agony endured by an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) while securing an “exit clearance” from the Philippine Overseas Employment Authority (POEA). Well, those columns elicited a two-page response from POEA Administrator Hans Cacdac which, however, raises more questions than answers.

Cacdac explained that the process of securing an overseas employment certificate (OEC) for “balik-manggagawa” (BM) or return hires lasts only 15 minutes from evaluation of documents to payment of fees but that their biggest challenge has been the volume of BMs being processed daily, which is around 2,000 to 2,500 BMs on an average working day.

If Cacdac already knows there’s a large volume of OEC applicants, why were there only 7 out of 20 processing windows open? And why didn’t he open more processing windows sooner?

To address the congestion, Cacdac also says they have set up field stations in some malls and he plans to roll out more stations in other malls in the next few months. However, putting up satellite offices without overhauling their outdated processes and procedures will not spare our OFWs the aggravation but will only disperse the misery more widely.

The POEA chief also claims they’re trying their best to clear the BM processing center of unnecessary structures and have no longer renewed the contracts of concessionaries and commercial stalls. If so, why are there still BPI, Globe and other booths inside the BM processing center while most OFWs are forced to stand or sit on the floor for lack of seats and space?

According to Cacdac, the lady handing out application forms upon entry is supposed to make life a little easier for OFWs who may want to get hold of the forms as early as possible. He says that upon receiving the form handed out a few steps after entering POEA premises, the OFW should walk through the building premises where there is an information desk officer to whom our OFW letter-sender could have presented any type of query. But how are OFWs supposed to know there’s an information desk inside the POEA premises when the lady handing out the forms never even bothered to point the way or respond to our OFW letter-sender’s inquiries? We’re told there’s not even a flowchart or pamphlet given out to guide OFWs through the process. So much for “public service.”

Cacdac also wanted to know the identity of our OFW letter-sender supposedly so they could trace their “process cycle time” with regard to her case and “adequately defend themselves,” adding that previous news reports about aggrieved OFWs have identified the complainants. Obviously, the insinuation being that our OFW letter-sender’s story may be fictitious, inaccurate, exaggerated or a freak accident.

Instead of trying to “defend themselves,” Cacdac should line up and go through the OEC process himself. Indeed, it is quite unbelievable that Cacdac isn’t even familiar with their usual “process cycle time” that he needs to verify it in the case of our OFW letter-sender. Perhaps Cacdac has been cooped up in his air-conditioned office too long that he doesn’t know what’s happening in his own backyard. That or he’s just plain incompetent.

Cacdac should also explain why BMs need to fill-up the same lengthy forms every time they apply for an OEC when the POEA is supposed to have their employment records and history on file? And why hasn’t POEA formulated a system or used modern technology like biometrics and smart cards so that OFWs need not “re-validate” their OECs at the airport or be re-interviewed at the immigration counter? Is it because some people are afraid of losing their “raket”?

We’re sure Cacdac knows what’s wrong at POEA since he’s not a “newbie” in the agency. In fact, he’s a Gloria Macapagal Arroyo-appointee who served as POEA Deputy Administrator for more than 4 years until September 2010.

To the credit of President Noynoy, he appointed Cacdac to the top post at POEA despite being a former Arroyo functionary. Soon after his appointment in January this year, Cacdac was interviewed on national TV touting a 7-point agenda which he boasted would streamline the way OECs are issued and cut down on unnecessary steps or procedures while vowing to bring in more personnel, IT equipment and technology to make this happen.

So the question that Malacañang should now ask Cacdac is: Why does getting an “exit clearance” – which Cacdac admits is supposed to be a 15-minute process – still take 9 hours or more?

Apparently, the so-called agenda of Cacdac is all “dakdak”. Nothing’s changed since his POEA stint during the Arroyo administration. So whatever happened to President Noynoy’s promise that he would no longer tolerate an attitude of business-as-usual in government?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

JPE hints at espionage over solon’s Sino caper


By Angie M. Rosales
TRILLANES CONTACT IS CHINESE INTEL OFFICER — ENRILE

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV appears to sink deeper into trouble the more he opens his mouth against his colleagues at the Senate, as Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said the former military mutineer may have committed espionage in carrying out his role as the government’s backdoor negotiator in resolving territorial disputes with China.


From what I heard, he had managed to establish contacts courtesy of a military intelligence officer of China (assigned) in the Chinese embassy in the Philippines,” Enrile said to reporters.


The Chinese intelligence officer provided the channel to enable the senator to establish communication lines with some government officials in China, Enrile said.


Enrile issued the statement in the wake of Trillanes’ latest tirades that Enrile had erred in exposing the “notes” of Philippine Ambassador to China Sonia Brady.


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago pointed out that Trillanes can no longer be an effective backchannel negotiator with China over the disputed territories as his cover has already been blown.


He may as well be a formal negotiator for the Philippine panel. His contacts or channels in China will no longer have the same effectiveness as this was reported out in the Philippine media because the Chinese Communist Party will know the moves of the Philippines in advance. This is a faux pas in diplomacy by the Philippine government. We don’t even know who tapped who because that seems to be a point of contention,” Santiago said.


Now, that Trillanes’s cover has been blown. His effectiveness depended on great part on the secrecy of the negotiations. If that is the case, he is no longer as effective as before. He may as well be part of the panel the Philippine government sends to negotiations with the Chinese panel,” she added.


Santiago took note of criticisms on Trillanes on not being part, in the first place, of the negotiations since he is supposedly a legislator.


Trillanes was again firing away against Enrile yesterday in media despite Malacañang practically begging for him to shut up.


First, JPE (Enrile) wrongly assumed that Ambassador Sonia Brady purportedly took those notes down while I was meeting with the Chinese officials. For the record, she was never present in any of the backchannel talks conducted,” according to Trillanes.


Earlier, Trillanes cast doubts that the Brady notes were authentic saying that the points raised by Enrile may have just written by the Senate President’s staff.


Trillanes said he had only one meeting with Brady in Beijing, which was held last Aug. 17 at the Philippine Embassy.


I arranged for that meeting, specifically, to brief her about the background and status of the backchannel talks since she just reported at the embassy sometime in early August,” Trillanes said.


He added that during the private meeting, only Philippine Consul Evangeline Ong Jimenez-Ducrocq and a member of his staff were present with him and Brady. “But, definitely, there were no Chinese officials present,” he said.


The media could easily ask Consul Jimenez-Ducrocq to confirm this. So, if those Brady Notes indeed exist, this is where she or Consul Jimenez-Ducrocq probably wrote it. Now, I absolutely don’t see anything wrong about conducting a briefing and coordinating with Ambassador  Brady,” Trillanes said.


Trillanes also accused Enrile of exposing state secrets “just to spite me”.


He claimed that the maneuver of Enrile blew up on his face as “he unwittingly pointed to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) as the only possible source of those classified documents,” Trillanes added.


The Brady notes were read by Enrile during his interpellation of Trillanes last Wednesday, after the latter, in a privilege speech, accused Enrile of railroading a bill seeking to divide Camarines Sur into two provinces to pave for the creation of Nueva Camarines.


Enrile, for his part, told reporters that Brady’s notes indicated it was prepared after Trillanes’ supposed 12th meeting with his Chinese counterparts.


The Senate chief pointed out that Brady was unaware of the first 12 meetings of Trillanes, who supposedly managed to establish contacts with former Chinese ambassador to the Philippines and present vice foreign minister of China, Fu Ying, in the first few meetings.


He’s saying a mouthful, why doesn’t he tell us what had transpired in his first, second, third, 4th, 5th....12th, 14th, 15th (meetings)?


In disclosing the so-called Brady notes, Enrile maintained that the document cannot fall into the category of a state secret, a claim which was, however, contradicted by Santiago.


I’m reporting to the nation about the conduct of a senator selling the country to a foreign government. That is my privilege to tell the people, every senator should do that including those that I think who os selling the country to another nation or who’s working for another country. That is the duty of a real senator, to protect the interest of this country,” Enrile said in defending his statement that the notes were not state secrets.


Enrile dismissed assertions of some sectors, in particular a complaint lodged by lawyer Oliver Lozano to the Senate, demanding an investigation on the alleged treasonable acts of Trillanes.


There’s no treason here in this issue. There’s (no element of) war. The issue here is....Trillanes’ behavior and pronouncements and action involve the highest interest of this country and the Filipino people. It involves the safety of this country,” he said.


There was no treason but we have an espionage law. We have a law on treason but we also have a law on espionage and that law on espionage is the one that sent Rufus Romero, a West Pointer who was a member of the staff of Col. Dwight Eisenhower at that time before the war,  (to jail) because it was found out that he was also passing information inimical to the interest of this country to the Japanese before the invasion,” he explained.


When asked if Trillanes could be held liable for such, Enrile merely laughed saying that they will have to study the matter since there is a law on espionage.


Santiago said, however, that proving Trillanes may have committed irregularity in his back channeling job may be hard to prove.


If he was authorized by the President, more so if he was requested to assume this role, then there is nothing wrong because we cannot compartmentalize a public official. He can be elected to the legislative branch, but he can be of service to the country in another branch as long as he has full authority,” she said.


But, in any event, apparently, he first went to China and there he made his first contacts. He then came back to the Philippines and thereafter served out his role as a back channel negotiator. If there was any question at all, it will be ‘What was he doing in China the very first time that he made contacts,” Santiago said.


Normally, if you are a senator, you form part of a delegation extended to the legislature in general. You will not have time to develop channels especially since the topic is super secret,” she added.


Santiago appeared to have taken the side of Enrile on the issue of Trillanes’ need to coordinate with the DFA of negotiations with China whether it’s being carried out via a backdoor channel.


In the first place, the secretary of foreign affairs must know what’s going on, whether it is explicit or implicit, meaning to say whether it is publicized or kept under wraps. In any event, it is not relevant to the leadership of the secretary of foreign affairs. It is important that everything should be known by the secretary so that he will have complete input to help him in the decision-making process. It appears that Del Rosario was caught off-guard, so I can understand fully well why he is miffed about the whole secret that was kept from him. Now we have a case where nobody knows who initiated this backchannel procedure. According to Senator Trillanes, it was Secretary (Paquito). Ochoa who asked him, but Malacañang claims it was Senator Trillanes who volunteered to do so,” she said.


But apparently there were parameters to his authority. He was limited only to Panatag Shoal. He had no authority to speak on other subjects. As to whether he was successful as a backchannel operator remains to be seen because even that is a subject for debate. We don’t even know, if, for example, he was responsible or partly responsible for the back out of about thirty ships there, leaving only two or three. I just feel that this is a calamity in the order of a disaster for Philippine diplomacy,” she added.


It was understandable, Santiago said for both Del Rosario and Brady to be shocked to learn of such backdoor negotations operations and have been deliberately excluded from the process.


The issue on Brady preparing those “notes” which are obviously meant to be reported to Del Rosario is a standard procedure for all diplomats when they meet someone from the home country, most especially in their assigned country.


They will always put down in writing their notes on their conversation because they have to report to the secretary of foreign affairs.


Santiago, nevertheless, said the notes of Brady should have been held confidential by Enrile.


They are always confidential. They are only written for the eyes of the secretary of foreign affairs through his discretion, can report them to the president or not. But in any event, the public is not supposed to know about these notes, because diplomacy has always been conducted sub rosa. There’s a difference between the relationship that it ought to be and the relationship as it actually is,” she said.


So it’s a function of an ambassador—like ambassador Brady, one of the most competent, brilliant diplomats ever seen—it was her function to take notes of every major conversation with every major public official of the Philippines or of China and report them to the secretary of foreign affairs,” Santiago added.


Asked how the issue can be resolved, Santiago said “the best procedure when there is a case of extreme urgency or confusion is everybody should zip their mouths. Nobody should talk.”

Manny Pangilinan’s royal pique, Elias and Ibarra

By MARLEN V. RONQUILLO

Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere’s recurring narrative is sense of country. Crisostomo Ibarra, the main character, is someone who loved his country because his country gave him so much—the best in life and Maria Clara.


The Indios of his time and place would be happy with just one, the beauteous Maria Clara. But Ibarra had it all until the fall from grace, the tragic result of his essential and basic decency. He was not even the born hero, predisposed to fight the injustices and inequalities of his time. 



The real hero was Elias, the boatman. He was a dissident on a mission, who loved his country and loved it more as he suffered from his efforts to see the light break through the darkness and hopelessness of his country inflicted by the frailes and the guardia civil at the micro level and the Empire at the macro.



The more Elias got trapped into the vortex of the insurrection, and as his personal perils escalated, his love of country grew deeper and sweeter. Until his last breath, he was still pining for that “dawn of freedom” to break through .



On the 40th anniversary of the declaration of martial law on September 21, the true-to-life stories of latter-day-Eliases, had been inspirational. Many had fallen prey in the darkness of the martial law years and their next of kin had to remind others of their great sacrifices. Others had survived to tell their stories. While scores of young men and women in that generation minded their own business or got their head start in life with the cronyism of martial rule, the modern-day Eliases took the path of dissent and dearly suffered for that choice.



It was in this context of the recollection of the sacrifices and the young lives snuffed out in their prime during the martial law years, that Mr. Manny Pangilinan, the helmsman of a vast business empire, stood out like a drunk in a churchyard with his declaration of pique. That he was thinking of packing his bags and leaving the country for Hong Kong and bringing all his investments with him. The source of his pique: Senator Trillanes’s declaration that Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario was making his decisions on the territorial tension with China partly to help his close friend—Pangilinan.



Just that and Mr. Pangilinan got royally piqued?



Let us go back to the source of the royal pique. His name was mentioned in passing. He was not part of the dramatis personae. If at all, the mention of his name was part of a brief aside.



And yes, he is threatening to leave the country because of that.



What if some senator were brave enough to haul him into a Senate inquiry? Senators, of course, do not do that to a immensely wealthy man, who happens to own a media empire. Mr. Pangilinan should be relieved that the Philippine Senate does not have uncompromising characters such as Bernie Sanders or Russ Feingold .



But what stood out was this, the servility of the Philippine Senate aside. On the day, the country was commemorating those who have fallen during the dark and perilous days of martial rule, an immensely wealthy man reminded us that some had little if not zero sense of country at all. I will pack my bags and leave because I am mightily piqued.



Wow.



And we seem to be trembling over the proposition that this immensely wealthy man would indeed leave the country that is predisposed to give in to his every bidding. Decamp for Hong Kong to leave the miserable country where he has been some sort of Tycoon-King.



Wow.



With the exception of Mr. Pangilinan and the top 10 percent, Filipinos do not have the option of leaving after facing a molehill of an irritant. We know who pack their bags to leave the country in a daily mass exodus—OFWs packing their bags for the various work diasporas to remit dollars back into the home country .



For those who are not OFW, we are here in the country for good— to live the inadequate or miserable lives we have. And taking the blows of life—some benign, some brutal—with some kind of stoicism and patience. Of course, above the ordinary lives are a special kind of people with extra-ordinary stories of greatness and love of country.



A heroic few, do transcend the humdrum of their lives to fight despots and tyrants, corrupt leaders and kleptocrats. The martial law years proved that and the Bantayog ng mga Bayani lists the more prominent ones. Some can live a life that is close to the perfect human being like the late Jesse Robredo.



Some can soar like Elias, who, when confronted by darkness, will lay their lives to etch slivers of light into the dark dead night and torment the power-corrupted rulers.



Friday, September 28, 2012

Ouster of Reghis Romero from HCPTI sought

By Butch del Castillo / Omerta
(This column, nota bene, was submitted to the BusinessMirror Desk shortly before the Makati City court issued its decision on the case.)

NOW we are told that another valuable asset of the national government—which should be worth more than P300 million by now—was illegally conveyed or transferred to controversial businessman Reghis Romero. If the national government wins its case, Reghis Romero would lose control of the Harbour Centre Ports Terminals Inc. (HCPTI).

This case, mind you, is apart from the 5.6 hectares, or 80 percent, of “Broadcast City” that Romero had taken over as his own under a joint-venture agreement (JVA) with the government-owned IBC 13. The takeover has been described by the Office of the Solicitor General as “grossly disadvantageous” to the government.

The other prime government asset that Romero has managed to acquire is the block of controlling shares in HCPTI owned by the Home Guaranty Corp. HGC is now trying to recover these shares from the Romero group through the courts to protect its huge exposure in the multibillion-peso Smokey Mountain Development and Reclamation Project (SMDRP) in which the government has lost untold billions.

Romero has been saying that the controlling block of HCPTI shares he now holds was part of a government payment package to him for the P627 million in “advances” he had allegedly made in the first phase of the SMDRP, which failed when Romero was in charge.

The questions that remain unsatisfactorily answered, however, are not only how and why such controlling shares became part of the payment package, but also why R-II Builders had to be paid at all when it miserably failed to deliver on his contractual commitments to the Smokey Mountain project.

The HGC has filed an urgent motion asking the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 147 to appoint a receiver for HCPTI to prevent the dissipation of the latter’s assets, which Romero has allegedly been illegally enjoying for several years now. On top of this, R-II Builders refuses to recognize HGC’s standing as a stockholder of record! (The HGC has had to file for mandamus to compel recognition of all original HCPTI shares conveyed and assigned to HGC.)

It was only recently (September 13) when the HGC filed a “declaration of nullity of conveyance” covering the 285.5 million shares in HCPTI owned by HGC. In its complaint, the HGC claimed the questioned block of shares was unlawfully transferred to Romero’s R-II Builders, and subsequently to the holding company of the Romero group called HCP Holdings.

Lawyer Manny R. Sanchez, former Rizal congressman who now heads the HGC as its president, told the DWIZ on Tuesday that Vice President and housing czar Jejomar C. Binay wanted the HGC to consolidate its assets—consistent with its key role as fund mobilizer in the housing industry. (Binay is chairman of the Housing and Urban Development and Coordinating Council or HUDCC. He is also a member of the HGC board along with Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, chairman; former National Economic and Development Authority Director General Cayetano Paderanga and Sanchez.)

The asset pool was created in 1994 as alternative funding scheme for the failed Smokey Mountain project. Romero’s R-II Builders (with a paid-up capital of only P500,000) had bagged the P6-billion contract a year earlier, but it soon became evident that it did not have, and could not possibly raise, the billions needed to see the Smokey Mountain and Reclamation Project through to completion.

Under its original JVA with the National Housing Authority (NHA), R-II Builders formally committed to “fully finance” all aspects of the project, including the leveling of the huge mountain of garbage and the reclamation of up to 79 hectares of land from the Manila Bay to serve as “enabling component of the project.”

Under that JVA, R-II Builders was supposed to construct 2,992 units of temporary housing, level the Smokey Mountain, construct 3,520 units of medium-rise housing and develop an industrial-commercial site within the area.

The HGC said in a “briefer” on the project that Romero failed to accomplish all of the above. His R-II Builders “failed to finance the SMDRP…the construction was thus suspended for some time, pending the adoption of a new funding scheme.”

In effect, the government took over the Smokey Mountain project about 18 months later when then-President Fidel V. Ramos approved the “securitization concept” to enable the government to raise the huge funding needed for the Smokey Mountain project. But what shocked the business community was that R-II Builders remained very much part of the revised project.”

“Instead of being banned with extreme prejudice from the project as it deserved, it managed to insinuate itself as one of the four principal signatories to the asset pool, including the NHA, R-II Builders, and—for the first time—the HGC (formerly the Home Insurance Guaranty Corp.),” an NHA official said.

It has so far managed to collect from the government a total of P627 million in cash and in kind. But it is the “in kind” part of the payment package—that gave Romero control of the HCPTI—that the HGC considers illegal.
In its summation of the very expensive Smokey Mountain project—which had ballooned to P9.82 billion as of October 2002—the HGC revealed the following:

• R-II Builders, without HGC’s knowledge and prior consent, leased out 15 of the lots assigned and conveyed to HGC on the pretext that Romero was the authorized administrator of the lots. This is being contested because the Smokey Mountain asset pool has been terminated and the remaining undisposed assets have been assigned and conveyed to HGC, titles to which have been transferred and registered in the name of the HGC.

• HGC has filed estafa cases against officers of R-II Builders for leasing out the properties under HGC’s name located at the Manila Harbour Center. Besides that, R-II Builders collected payments from the lessees and pocketed such payments.

• Apart from shares originally conveyed to it, the HGC is also seeking the recovery of 285 million shares illegally paid to R-II Builders for alleged expenses that it should have shouldered as project proponent.

• Under a Contract of Usufruct over the Berthing Space conveyed to HGC, the latter was supposed to be paid 5 percent of the gross revenues of HCPTI. HCPTI did not pay from the start and HGC canceled the contract. A court has granted HGC’s motion for preliminary attachment for the unpaid 5 percent share.

• With the cancellation of the Contract of Usufruct, HCPTI has lost the right to use the berthing space. HGC has asked the Philippine Ports Authority to cancel HCPTI’s permit to operate.

• After noting that the Romero group used HGC lots and common areas for illegally stockpiling mountains of coal, the HGC called in all the regulatory agencies to stop the practice.

The world according to Enrile

Calling A Spade
By Solita Collas-Monsod

I RECEIVED a copy of Juan Ponce Enrile A Memoir last Sunday afternoon, for "early review," whatever that means. And I must say that I got hooked from the very beginning, by Nelson Navarro’s Introduction and Ponce Enrile’s (JPE) Prologue. So much so that for the next two days, the book was with me wherever I went, to be read at every opportunity, particularly while in the car in between appointments (no, I don’t get dizzy reading in a moving vehicle). Which is why I was able to finish the 740-page volume (including appendix, but excluding the intro and the prologue) in two and a half days.


Reading about what JPE had to go through in order to get an elementary and high school education moved me to tears. His family wasn’t just poor, it was dirt poor. His mother went to great lengths to ensure that he would be able to go to school -- and because there was no school in their area, she approached distant relatives, offering JPE’s houseboy services in exchange for board and lodging. JPE’s narration is done without an ounce of self-pity: how he went barefoot to school, how he could sleep only five hours a day in order to be able to do his housework and his school work, how he had no books and had to depend on neighbors who had them, how he picked up movie leaflets in the street to use as scratch paper because he couldn’t afford ruled paper, how he was ganged up on by the "rich" classmates in his second year of high school, and stabbed, how his case against them was dismissed, and how he was then expelled from the school for being a trouble maker, and how all this strengthened his resolve to finish his studies -- he had originally wanted to be an engineer, but the oppression and injustice he experienced made him decide to be a lawyer instead.


When he finally met his father (who apparently had no inkling that his liaison with the widow Petra had born fruit), it was after the War (during which he was imprisoned and tortured), and he was enrolled in a school run by the Maryknoll sisters, where he earned his High School Diploma at the age of 23. As a postscript, he finished his pre law (Ateneo, cum laude) and his law (UP, cum laude), and was offered scholarships in Harvard, Yale, and Columbia (he chose Harvard).

The account of his struggle to get an education has to be one of the most inspiring I have encountered, and should be widely disseminated. At this point, Ponce Enrile is enjoying tremendous popularity, and his climb out of grinding poverty through education will surely be an effective tool in the campaign to reduce the very major problem of school dropouts. Who knows? Maybe going barefoot to school will become a badge of honor rather than a cause for shame. But because the book, which is to be launched this afternoon, is going to be very costly, perhaps the first 90 pages can be excerpted and distributed with the help of some obliging philanthropist.

For the historians, and for those who lived through the martial law years, Enrile’s insider account of what went on from the time Ferdinand Marcos campaigned for the presidency (JPE apparently was asked by his partners to leave his law firm because he supported Marcos over Macapagal), through his government service as Collector of Customs and Finance undersecretary and Secretary of Justice and as Secretary and later Minister of National Defense is fascinating in its delineation of how power corrupts, and how absolute power corrupts absolutely. Marcos started out, apparently, with very good intentions -- and Ponce Enrile’s story outlines how those good intentions paved the road to hell.

And many gems of information, previously unknown, are there for the picking, courtesy of the JPE memoir: Some examples:

Very early on in the martial law years, JPE earned the ire of Imelda Marcos -- and he and his wife Cristina were removed from the social guest list.

The Tripoli Agreement was negotiated by Imelda and National Defense Undersecretary Carmelo Barbero without the knowledge or participation of JPE (does this sound familiar?) -- an agreement which apparently was constitutionally flawed. Imelda was furious at JPE for pointing this out, but apparently Estelito Mendoza and Jose Roño backed him up. The Agreement had to be renegotiated.

Edna Camcam, the lady love of Fabian Ver, who divulged Ver’s plans about a government takeover (after allowing Imelda to sit for six months) in the event of Marcos’ death. Why she did this is not explained, except that Camcam and Enrile are comprovincianos. Maybe Nelson Navarro edited it out -- the JPE book draft was 2,000 pages long, after all. I wish I could read the original.

Danding Cojuangco "acquired the 20% of the Ayalas in San Miguel, while the other shares from other stockholders were acquired for the coconut farmers and placed in the name of newly formed corporations. The 20% of the Ayalas bought by Danding and the other shares bought for the coconut farmers were paid out of funds borrowed from the remaining balance of the Coconut Consumers Stabilization Fund which by that time was deposited in the United Coconut Planters Bank in trust for the coconut farmers and renamed as the Coconut Industry Investment Fund (CIIF).

JPE was not aware of Marcos’s illness. Marcos kept it from him. It was Paeng Salas who told JPE that Marcos was undergoing an operation.

JPE tendered his resignation to Marcos in July 1983 (a month before the Aquino assassination) because whether he realized it or not, Marcos was no longer in control -- Ver and his minions were. Marcos did not accept his resignation.

Joker Arroyo told JPE that Cory asked him (Joker) to tell JPE that he had nothing to worry about his ill-gotten wealth. JPE asked Joker to tell Cory that he (JPE) had no ill-gotten wealth and that if she had any doubts, not to hesitate to subject him to an investigation. JPE, after the falling out, was indeed subjected to nine-month investigation by BIR Commissioner Benny Tan. Nothing was found.

Cardinal Sin, among others, lied. What about? Well, you’ll have to read the book.

An OFW’s agony. PNoy and Baldoz, please read

Written by 

We received a letter from an exasperated and incensed Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) detailing the agony she went through securing an “exit clearance” from the Philippine Overseas Employment Authority (POEA) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) so that she could go back to work abroad after a brief vacation here.

We are sure her story will resonate among the millions of Filipino OFWs who surely suffered the same harrowing experience and shabby treatment from the government offices and officials who were supposed to make things easier and convenient for the country’s so-called “modern-day heroes”.

Here is her letter:

“Dear Sir,

“It was not long ago when I first had my OFW experience. I went home for my 2011 Christmas break and stayed in the Philippines for 2 weeks. I did not go to POEA for the “exit clearance” so when I got to NAIA, my suffering began. I arrived early and lined up for hours to check-in for my 11:45 PM flight in January 2012. When my turn came, the airline ground crew informed me that I have to pay the travel tax first since I did not have my Overseas Exit Clearance (OEC)/E-receipt from POEA. When I got to the travel tax counter I was instructed to go to the POEA office outside to confirm if I needed to pay any taxes. I said, “Are you kidding me? I have to get in line for the luggage x-ray and airline check-in again, I only have an hour left?” I refused to go and insisted that I just pay the travel tax instead but they said it will be better if I went and so I did.”

“I was surprised to find out how the POEA/OWWA employees treat OFWs. They were not helpful and accommodating. They were actually rude. There was this old gay staff who was speaking in a very loud voice saying, “Ano ba yan! Yung mga 5 days lang dito sa Pilipinas ang pinapayagang kumuha ng exit clearance dito sa NAIA!’’ Ano ba naman kayo!” He said the same thing to me so I replied in the same tone that ‘’this is my first time!’’ He then changed his tone and handed me this form to complete and asked me to bring it to OWWA for checking and then bring it back to him. I completed the form, brought it to OWWA and that is where I learned it is mandatory to pay the OWWA membership fee of P1,200, Philhealth fees of P1,200 and the exit clearance of P100. I could not do anything. I was obliged to pay the fees so I can leave the country to work and send money back to the Philippines, for the government and public officials to keep and use. I returned to this rude gay staff afterwards to collect my OEC/E-receipt. I then rushed outside to do x-ray and then to the airline check-in counter but unfortunately, I missed my flight that night. This is the kind of assistance offered to OFWs by the government.

“After that unforgettable experience from my last vacation, I made sure I got an exit clearance ahead of time when I returned to the country for another vacation. So last month, I went to the POEA office around 10 a.m. (Tuesday) to again secure an “exit clearance.” Outside the main door of the building there was a lady seated on the side giving out “balik-manggagawa” forms. I asked which form I needed for the OEC. She just handed me several forms without explaining what they were for and instructed that I wait for my number to be called. It was like a market place inside. There were so many people and not many chairs for the waiting OFWs. I stood in a corner and completed the forms (Philhealth, Pag-Ibig, absentee voting and balik manggagawa). I went to the room where they were processing the OECs. The room was packed and disorganized. They were only serving “430A” that time and I was “428B.” 997 OFWs to go, I said to myself. There was a “priority” window and 15 other windows for the not-so-important people like us, but there were only seven (7) windows open serving the OFWs. How efficient, right?”

“It was a long wait. You could actually sense how tired, irate and impatient many OFWs were. There was a lot of complaining. I heard someone telling his wife over the cellphone to come to POEA to experience his suffering saying, ‘Akala mo ba nagpapasarap kami dito?!’’ Another OFW was saying it is easier to come home than to leave Manila. Others were asking how many times they needed to update their personal information (i.e. full name, address, birthday, parents’ name, profession, etc)?” 


“While waiting for my turn, I paid my SSS and Pag-Ibig fees. At the OWWA window, after checking their system, I was told my OWWA membership had expired and that I needed to pay P2,600. ‘How can that be when I just paid my OWWA and Philhealth this January 2012?,’ I asked. The lady didn’t answer and just told me to wait for the evaluator and then go back to her.


“After a long 9-hour wait, my number was finally called at around 7 p.m. I submitted the ‘personal information sheet’ to POEA to be evaluated and then to OWWA. I was told to pay P2,600 so I presented all my receipts in January (P1,200 for Pag-Ibig, P3,360 for SSS and P1,200 for OWWA). I was asked to pay P1,300 instead (P1,200 for Philhealth and P100 for the OEC). Why is their system not updated when the whole point of going through these aggravation is for them to keep their records up-to-date? How come payments are not registered correctly? Are they really keeping all the information they collected from us? When I left POEA with my OEC/E-receipt in hand, there were still around 500 people waiting for their OECs.



“With all the hassle I went through, I thought that I was done with POEA. But on the day of my flight, the NAIA airline staff told me to go to POEA/OWWA to have my exit clearance verified. So I asked her why I had to have my exit clearance verified when I already went to POEA precisely not to be inconvenienced anymore when I leave. Wasn’t that the whole purpose of getting an exit clearance? She just replied it’s the ‘new policy.’



“I was so pissed off. I went out and lined up at OFW lounge again only to find out that the e-receipt only needed to be signed by the POEA staff at NAIA. I was so frustrated that I told him, ‘Why do you let us spend and waste one whole day in POEA office to get an ‘exit clearance’ and pay all those dues and then ask us to still come here just so you can sign it?! This is an e-receipt, computer-generated, released by your office, right?!! Why don’t you spare us this inconvenience, trouble and suffering?!’ The staff just said: It’s policy.”



“Then it was time for immigration/passport control. There was a line for OFWs so I went there thinking that it would be faster or easier. But no, the line wasn’t moving. OFWs were being interviewed and their papers checked again. That’s when I decided I’ve had enough so I took a chance and went to the regular travelers’ line. Luckily, it was just a plain passport/immigration check and I was able to fly out that day.



“I really feel sorry for my fellow OFWs who have to go through the same b***s*** every time they leave the country after their vacation. It saddens me to know that the government is adding distress and trouble to OFWs. All they do is suck and collect money from all of us. What do OFWs get as benefits from all these hassles? That we do not pay airport or travel tax when we leave? I would rather pay them than go through hell every time I leave my own country. I would rather be an unregistered OFW if this is how Filipino workers abroad are being treated. We do not just work for all of you; we also work for our families. So stop this b***s*** and stop making our lives miserable. You do not ease our pain. You do not help us. You are, in fact, a burden to all of us. I wish you realize that. Better yet, try to be an OFW and go through this entire b***s*** and tell us what you think.”



The nightmare which this unfortunate Filipina OFW went through only reflects the government’s cavalier attitude toward our labor expatriates. Despite pumping some US$23-billion into the Philippine economy last year, our OFWs have not been given the privileges commensurate to their contribution.



It’s also quite shocking to learn that with the billions of pesos in fees collected from our OFWs, the POEA and OWWA still don’t use modern technology like biometrics, database networking or the internet to make it faster and easier for our OFWs to get the needed clearances or to exit the country. And forcing OFWs to cough up hard-earned money for fees that have already been paid but are being charged anew because POEA and OWWA have been negligent in updating their records, is nothing but plain and simple extortion. Apparently, the Labor Department’s press releases about making things more convenient for OFWs are just that – press releases.



Is this how the Aquino administration treats its “bosses”?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

No state secrets divulged

By Ninez Cacho-Oliavares

Just what state secrets did Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile divulge when he read the notes of then Ambassador to China Sonia Brady, as claimed by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV?


Truth is, Trillanes does not know what he is talking about, especially the part where he claims that Enrile “brazenly exposed state secrets just to spite me and it eventually blew up on his face.”


As far as public opinion goes, the Brady report blew up on Trillanes’ face, so much so that he may just be politically dead.


But what state secrets were divulged? Enrile said nothing nor read anything that could be categorized as state secrets, since what he had disclosed, via the Brady notes, was precisely how Trillanes was working against the interest of the country — such as his telling Brady that no one in the country cares about Scarborough Shoal, and that he hewed to the bilateral line of the Chinese, apart from bad mouthing the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Albert del Rosario. These are state secrets?


The Brady notes contained the undesirable conduct of Trillanes as a back channel negotiator, which has nothing to do with the so-called state secrets.


In fact, it was Trillanes himself who had divulged a state secret, i.e., that he was Noynoy’s back channel in China. As this pseudo-diplomat who is moreover throughy wet behind the ears, should have realized, a back channel is a secret move by a government for whatever reasons that government believes a back channel is needed. He first spilled the beans of his being the back channel in China talks in a major daily where he also called the DFA chief a “traitor.”


What particular state secrets then were divulged by Enrile through the Brady notes as being claimed by Trillanes?


It was also Noynoy who had divulged the lies of Trillanes, in that Trillanes had claimed that he had been asked by Executive Secretary to be the Palace’s backdoor negotiator when it was the other way around. Noynoy himself who is just as inept in such matters, bared that Trillanes had volunteered for the back channeling job, claiming that it was the Chinese who wanted him as the Philippine negotiator, which also made Noynoy himself look stupid, as he agreed to what the Chinese officials purportedly wanted as negotiator, which would make Trillanes an agent for the Chinese.


Enrile was quoted as saying in a radio interview conducted by former Ambassador to the US Ernesto Maceda that intelligence officers of the People’s Republic of China’s Liberation Army helped Trillanes in establishing contacts in Beijing while he was reportedly doing backdoor negotiations with China.


The newspaper report said Enrile had stated that Trillanes’ closeness with top members of the Chinese military bolsters his theory that the senator could be walking a treasonous line during his backdoor talks with China on the South China Sea dispute.


If he is indeed, close to the intel service of China, you can go in and out of China, that gives you the reason to understand why he was saying that the Filipinos are not interested in Scarborough Shoal,” he added.


I understand that his channel he developed is the intel service of the Chinese embassy, which is actually the representative of the Chinese military. The PRoC Armed Forces, the Liberation Army of China, as you know, that is an institution that actually governs China,” said Enrile.


Enrile has pointed out that Trillanes had meetings with Chinese officials 16 times in Beijing, which trips Trillanes claimed were funded by the Palace, but which the Palace refuses to confirm or deny.


What is strange, however, is why some sectors who are pro-Noynoy and pro-Trillanes (and they are few) insist on keeping such Brady notes secret, as though it is better to keep the nation in the dark as to what treasonous acts Philippine officials have been and are being committed against the country and the nation--and all done in secret.


Trillanes did the country and the nation a great disservice as Noynoy has done.


Filipinos have a right to know when they are being screwed by their officials.

Back-channel bakbakan


Ad Lib
By Greg B. Macabenta

THE HUE and cry over the reported back-channel discussions that Senator Antonio Trillanes IV held with China may have given the impression that this was a new and unheard of diplomatic tactic employed by the government.

In truth, "back-channeling" is as normal to governments and politicians as breathing in and breathing out.

To appreciate the dynamics of the back channel, it’s important to understand that what governments and politicians declare in their speeches and on-the-record statements may be different from what they do outside the glare of media and the public eye.

Recall how then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger used back-channel diplomacy to initiate talks between the US and China. Publicly, neither country was willing to admit any interest in reaching out to each other.

Sworn enemies like Iran and the Unites States find it in their best interests to maintain a communications channel -- albeit unofficial and, thus, in a virtual back room -- to make sure that nervous fingers do not unnecessarily pull the trigger, or to find an opening for rapprochement.

By definition, resorting to the back channel demands absolute confidentiality. It also allows for "deniability" -- a term that became a buzzword in the US during the Iran-Contra Senate inquiry involving President Ronald Reagan and Marine Lt. Colonel Oliver North.

Among politicians, using the back channel to make deals comes naturally and is, just as naturally, tied to a scratch-my-back arrangement, as in, "you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours." Of course, the "back room" is the more common term for such a process. But, whether back channel or back room, it’s all the same. Unofficial. Discreet. Necessary. And sometimes illicit.

No less than President Noynoy Aquino conjectured that the midnight appointment of Renato Corona as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was part of a back room-cum-back channel-cum-scratch-my-back strategy concocted by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to ensure her acquittal, in case the incoming administration decided to exact retribution for her sins in office.

Apparently, Trillanes suspected that Congressman Luis Villafuerte and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile were using the back channel to facilitate the splitting of Camarines Sur into two provinces, the better for the warring Villafuerte father and son to have their own private provincial preserves. Whatever the suspected scratch-my-back tradeoff was, Trillanes didn’t like it.

At any rate, to go back to the Trillanes back-channel activities with China, while the tactic is as normal as a Henry Kissinger gambit, the one thing diplomats and responsible public officials do not do is to announce it to the public, much less read private notes into the Senate records -- unless an official inquiry is being conducted.

In times of war, folks who do that -- including senators and senate presidents -- are marched before a firing squad and shot.

We understand that the conflict between Trillanes and Enrile was sparked when the former, a Bicolano, accused the latter of making a deal with Villafuerte to split CamSur.

Trillanes, already notorious for shooting from the hip (remember the botched military mutiny over a decade ago?), should not have started shooting from the lip -- not when the target is a master of DDT like Enrile (remember the fake ambush that triggered martial law?).

Not surprisingly, instead of trashing Trillanes on the same issue of splitting CamSur, Enrile pulled out a rabbit from his hat: incriminating notes on Trillanes’ "shuttle diplomacy" with China.

Did Enrile give some thought to the embarrassment to which he would expose the country and the president, along with Trillanes? Hadn’t he heard of the adage about cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face?

Apparently not. Apparently, hell hath no fury like an irate Enrile -- and the heck with national dignity and national security.

On the other hand, one can’t help but admire the skill of Ponce Enrile’s PR team. Notice how Trillanes has had to bear the brunt of media brickbats, in spite of the fact that it was Enrile who broke Rule Number One in Back Channeling: Don’t hang out the dirty underwear!

Of course, Trillanes’ response to Enrile’s indiscretion was his own violation of Rule Number Two: Don’t hang out your used condoms!

That’s not the end of the back-channel bakbakan. The repercussions caused by the quarrel of two over-aged juvenile delinquents, who unfortunately happen to be senators of the land, have just begun.

Like a drunken cowboy making whoopee with his six-shooter, Trillanes has taken potshots at Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, business magnate Manny Pangilinan and the United States, aside from Enrile. In the process, Trillanes has also exposed Noynoy Aquino’s own clumsy attempt at back-channeling.

Aquino has had to admit having authorized Trillanes to conduct talks with the Chinese. And he did it -- in a demonstration of poor judgment -- without the knowledge of his Secretary of Foreign Affairs. That’s like Barack Obama authorizing a senator to initiate talks with Iran behind the back of his own Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

On the other hand, Trillanes, in a display of arrogance and disrespect, didn’t bother to let the Senate President in on the arrangement.

Didn’t Aquino trust his chief diplomat? Did he actually think there was some grain of truth to Trillanes’ depiction of Del Rosario as a traitor, selling out the country to the Americans?

That was bad enough. But what made it worse was that Del Rosario was negotiating the treacherous waters of international diplomacy, trying to leverage the mutually distrustful, albeit mutually beneficial relations between America and China.

The scuttlebutt is that Del Rosario is so upset, he is seriously considering resigning. Can we blame him for doing so?

Unfortunately, it will the country’s loss if he steps down -- not that the bona fide anti-Americans care.

But whether the nationalists -- both genuine and pseudo -- like it or not, in dealing with the Chinese bully, it helps to have America on our side. And it’s sheer naivete to think that the US will protect the Philippines for reasons other than its own national interests.

Meanwhile, back to the back channel bakbakan (brawl): Who will come out the winner. Trillanes? Enrile? Aquino? Del Rosario? It depends on who can spin it best.

But there’s no doubt about the loser. The Philippines.