Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Making a joke of the polls

Emil Jurado - To the point - Manila Standard Today

In the past, there were perennial nuisance candidates, among them the late Racuyal who was best known for filing his candidacy for president every time there was an election. Come to think of it, we at the 365 Club at the Hotel Intercon also had the late Lucio de Gala, who would challenge every presidential candidate.

For the forthcoming 2010 polls, we also have coming out of the woodwork candidates who believe they could be president. They are the ones who almost always get 1-to-2-percent ratings in Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia surveys. Yet they continue to make noise about their aspirations. Are they running for the funds of it?Justify Full

Now comes the biggest joke of all—the candidacy of Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio, a priest on leave, who invokes the name of God in his discernment to run for the highest seat in the land. Some gall, indeed, for somebody whose election as governor of Pampanga is now being questioned, who believes that good intentions and idealism are enough to govern well, and who thinks he is the only honest official in Pampanga.

Not to be outdone, my good friend Nandy Pacheco of Ang Kapatiran is fielding an unknown Olongapo councilor, whose name escapes me, to be presidential candidate. This makes the 2010 presidential polls a circus. Send in the clowns, as the song goes!

Panlilio should face reality and refrain from making a joke out of himself. But then, in our kind of democracy, everybody—retired priests included—is free to make a fool of himself.

= = = =

Political party tells CBCP: Don’t ignore ‘JC’

By Christian V. Esguerra - Philippine Daily Inquirer

If Nandy Pacheco is scratching his head these days, it’s not because he needs a shampoo.

It’s rather that, much to his chagrin, it hasn’t apparently washed over the Catholic Church hierarchy that the political party he had organized based on Christian precepts has become real with a true-blue presidential candidate.

The founder of Ang Kapatiran party Sunday was incensed upon reading on the website of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) that the prelates saw “no qualified ‘presidentiables’ so far.”

“The bishops know that we have a candidate, so I don’t know why this came out,” Pacheco said. “How can they say that when our party was founded precisely on the social teachings of the Church?”

In its latest pastoral statement released this month, the CBCP said “our present situation poses a great and urgent challenge for active lay participation in principled partisan politics.”

“Many even believe that politics as practiced in our country is a structure of evil. It is alarming that crippling apathy and cynicism has crept in even among our young,” the bishops said.

Pacheco, an advocate of nonviolence who also founded the “Gunless Society,” maintains that Kapatiran has been responding to such a call since 2004 when the party was established.

JC is the name

In May, the party announced that it would field a presidential candidate in the 2010 elections—John Carlos “JC” delos Reyes, a low-key councilor and a member of the Gordon clan in Olongapo City.

Delos Reyes was the lone winner from among Kapatiran candidates in the 2007 elections.

Pacheco also rued that the party has yet to be invited to any of the forums gathering prospective presidential candidates.

“We’re the only party with an official presidential candidate so far yet we’ve not been invited to these forums,” he told the Inquirer.

Asked if organizers were probably not taking the party and its candidate seriously, he said: “That’s how it appears.”

“This is our passion and our crucifixion,” Pacheco said. “What we’re doing is difficult because we are swimming against the current. But it’s faith that keeps us going.”

He said he was “hurt” with the CBCP story, but clarified that he was not blaming the bishops. He said some of the prelates had been accommodating the party’s request for visits in their dioceses.

‘Man of pure heart’

Pacheco described Kapatiran’s candidate as “a man of pure heart fighting big-money politics.”

“With JC at the wheel, I can sleep because I know where we are going,” he said.

On Sunday, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to stop the forums and debates for the presidential aspirants, saying they were “premature and inappropriate.”

“Right now, we still don’t have a single presidential candidate. What we have now are individuals supposedly aspiring or planning to be presidential candidates. So it is not correct to be staging so-called ‘presidential’ forums this early,” TUCP secretary-general Ernesto Herrera said in a statement.

According to Herrera, an individual’s “self-proclamation” that he or she is interested in running for president does not make him or her a legitimate presidential candidate.

‘This is silly’

“Right now, just about anyone dreaming to run for president can join the so-called ‘presidential’ forums. This is silly,” Herrera said.

The TUCP, a registered party-list group, did not say if it would file a formal petition in the Comelec to ban such forums.

“What is happening now is that a number of individuals are merely using the untimely forums as platforms to project themselves as possible presidential candidates, and collect political contributions, or to promote their secondary political plans to run for vice president or senator,” Herrera said.

He suggested that sponsors call their forums anything they like, except describing them as “presidential.”

Real presidential forums or debates may only be held after the Nov. 30 deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy set by the Comelec, the former senator added.

Might that be a reason why Kapatiran’s official candidate has not been invited to these talk shows? Or why the bishops have not taken notice of JC? With a report from Jerome Aning

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Architect nixes bail vs SBMA libel case

By Allison Lopez - Philippine Daily Inquirer

Renowned architect Felino "Jun" Palafox Jr. has vowed not to post P10,000 bail for a libel suit filed by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) over a tree-cutting controversy.

Palafox, who is waiting to be served his warrant of arrest by an Olongapo court, said in a text message received by the Philippine Daily that he donated the bail money to the Divine Word missionary group.

"After due discernment and consultation with my family, spiritual advisers, religious, business, academic, environmental, civic groups, I have decided not to post bail as a show of protest for the injustice, unfairness, persecution, discrimination and harassment against me in the libel case filed by SBMA officials in Olongapo," said the Makati-basedurban planner.

Palafox, however, declined to give interviews to media upon the advice of his lawyer.

In late 2008, Palafox exposed the planned razing of an urban forest at the Subic Bay Freeport to pave way for a Korean-owned hotel-casino.

Bidding for consultancy in the proposed Ocean 9 Casino-Hotel project, Palafox had said his company got out of the project because more than 300 trees, some of them "centuries old," in the project site would be cut.

He also claimed that an SBMA executive asked his [Palafox's] firm for an 18-percent commission in exchange for the official getting them on the short list of bidders for a previous project updating the free port's master development plan.

SBMA administrator Armand Arreza, meanwhile, said no centuries-old trees were cut and demanded that Palafox prove his allegations of extortion.

Friday, July 17, 2009

hanjin issue

Editorial: What’s going on?
from Business Mirror

REPORTS that a little-known South Korean firm had managed to lease thousands of hectares of land in Mindoro Oriental, in a deal known only to some local officials but not to the departments of agriculture or environment, is certainly cause for alarm.

While it’s state policy to encourage foreign investors to set up business in the country and thus provide jobs, especially in a time of crisis, the benefits from such large-scale contract farming with nebulous terms remain unclear. In fact, if the worst fears of farming communities come true, such a deal could even impact on the food security of local inhabitants.

Even more alarming is that several similar arrangements are reportedly being forged in many parts of the country, and in many cases those in government who should know about them are either in the dark, or not serious about their regulatory duties.

We are not surprised, meanwhile, that in several recent controversial cases involving the exploitation of natural resources, South Korean firms are involved. The “Korean invasion” is for real, make no mistake about it, and while Filipinos are good neighbors and hosts, it’s time to look into the seemingly unstoppable muscling in of some Korean interests into various sectors and areas. For instance, the new “gold rush” area in a part of the Compostela Valley—site of the famous Diwalwal gold rush—counts scores of Korean prospectors among the hundreds flocking to the place, mostly unregulated.

The argument may be made that it’s good that foreigners are making a stake here and investing their money for business. Yet it behooves government agencies concerned in every case to make sure the benefits from allowing foreign business to operate here far outweigh the negatives—that is, that “dirty money” from organized crime isn’t laundered in Philippine-based operations; that the ventures are fair to the host communities and will not degrade the environment; that the foreign employers create a substantial number of jobs and follow local labor laws strictly (think Hanjin and its slew of cases in Subic); and fundamentally, that these ventures don’t infringe on the Philippine Constitution.

What’s Dick been smoking?

By Jojo Robles - low down - manila standard today

‘‘Senator Gordon wants to pardon the Abu Sayyaf,” the post on the online message board reads. “Maybe he should get kidnapped in Basilan first before he makes such a [expletives deleted] offer again.”

The post reminds one of a wag’s definition of a conservative as a liberal who’s been mugged. Indeed, Senator Richard Gordon’s immodest proposal could only have come from someone so far removed from the ground that he can actually consider granting amnesty to the members of a lawless criminal syndicate even before they can be made to answer for their heinous crimes.

Even if the suggestion had come from one of those professional bleeding-heart, human-rights activist groups, it would have to be dismissed outright. And it is to the everlasting credit of these groups, in fact, that virtually none of them has even dared to propose something as outrageous as Gordon’s cockamamie amnesty plan.

But this is Gordon, the former tough guy of Olongapo who once ruled a city that grew up around Southeast Asia’s biggest US naval base with an iron hand. And wasn’t the senator’s father, the former Mayor James T. Gordon, himself gunned down at Olongapo’s city hall more than 40 years ago, something that should have convinced the son that punishment should follow crime?

There is nothing in Gordon’s previous public record that would have prepared us for his amnesty plan, except possibly for the fact that he wants to become president next year and may need some votes from Basilan and Sulu. Or maybe that picture of him holding an Aeta child in the aftermath of the Pinatubo eruption and his relatively recent conversion as head of the Philippine Red Cross has pushed him over the liberal edge, where criminals are victims and poverty is the root and justification of all crime.

But why would Gordon want to pardon the Abu Sayyaf, which has made a mockery of government’s efforts to stamp out the barbaric business of kidnapping for ransom and which has embarrassed this country throughout the world? Here’s what Gordon said: “Time has its way of mellowing the minds of people… and the likes of [Abu Sayyaf leader] Radullan Sahiron are becoming mellow in their activities and they’re the ones who could agree to entering into some peaceful program so that they will lay down their arms.”

According to Gordon, the older bandits can convince the younger ones who have inherited their gruesome livelihood to lay down their arms and stop preying on anyone who they think can give them ransom money. He added that the bandit elders would consider amnesty, “especially if there is socio-economic assistance for them.”

What has Gordon been smoking that has made him as mellow as the Abu Sayyaf gangsters that he now proposes to pardon? And isn’t the offer of “laying down their arms” (which sounds like the Abu Sayyaf is some sort of freedom-fighting movement) in exchange for amnesty and economic assistance just another form of ransom payment to these brutal criminals?

* * *

If Gordon is really serious about pardoning the Abu Sayyaf, perhaps he should talk to all those people who were victimized by the kidnap-for-ransom gangs first. And they aren’t just the foreign tourists or aid workers like Eugenio Vagni, who also proposed (right before he left the Philippines, naturally) that we should forgive the bandits.

For every Stockholm Syndrome-sick Vagni, after all, there are dozens of small local traders, professionals and even children who have been abducted for ransom by the gang in the Basilan-Sulu area—many of them abused, tortured, raped and beheaded for some cash. Gordon should ask these people if they are willing to pardon the likes of Abu Sabaya and Al-bader Parad before opening his mouth again on the matter.

Then there’s the military and the police in those two provinces, whose members have been pursuing the Abu Sayyaf for years and losing their lives and those of their comrades because Sahiron and his ilk provide protection to the violent henchmen of this criminal syndicate. How will the military and the police respond to a blanket amnesty offer to the Abu Sayyaf?

While he’s at it, Gordon can even consult the Muslim secessionists in Mindanao and see if they would accept a plan to pardon a group that has been giving the Islamic separatist movement such a bad rep. Gordon will discover that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will have nothing to do with the kidnappers in Basilan and Sulu—and would be deeply offended if the bandits were offered amnesty while legitimate Moro rebels can’t even make any headway in their peace talks with the government.

No, amnesty isn’t the solution to the problem of the Abu Sayyaf, unless Gordon wants to incite and inflame an entire country that wants to see them brought to justice for their many crimes. If pardoning criminals stopped crime, then the Abu Sayyaf is a real terrorist organization dreaming of a separate Islamic fundamentalist state.

Because the Gordon proposal, at heart, is the logical conclusion of the belief that the Abu Sayyaf does what it does for some purpose other than to make money. Regardless of its origins as a network of terrorists funded by Al-Qaida, the Abu Sayyaf is now merely a criminal organization that funds itself by abducting anyone who looks like he or she could raise some money to pay for their “board and lodging.”

Bring the bandits to justice first. Help the impoverished communities that harbor them and who benefit from their ransom payments, so that the Abu Sayyaf will become anathema to its network of family and friends.

But don’t give them blanket pardon just because they’ve “mellowed” and now want lots of aid so they won’t kidnap people anymore. That’s just plain [expletive deleted] stupid, Dick.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Filipino women abroad outnumber men

Filipino women abroad outnumber men

More and more female OFWs from the provinces
Only Bataan, Pampanga and Zambales had more male land-based overseas workers than females.

Editor's Note: The following is an article prepared by the Institute for Migration and Development Issues in the Philippines.

On the national aggregate, females who worked and settled overseas have outnumbered males.

The same gender trend is true when looking at the provinces of origin of overseas Filipinos, as local development in the countryside has an overseas Filipina's face.

Philippine Overseas Employment administration data on overseas workers from 2004 to 2007 shows that 33 provinces have more female land- and sea-based migrant workers than male counterparts, compared to 18 provinces that had more male migrant workers than females, says a policy brief by a nonprofit organization.

These include all the provinces belonging to the Ilocos region and in the Cordillera Administrative Region, writes a policy brief on overseas Filipinos by gender in the provinces released by the Institute for Migration and Development Issues (IMDI).

Some 21 other provinces, meanwhile, had years that there were more female migrant workers than males and vice versa-with no clear trend which gender has more migrant workers over the four-year period, says the policy brief (which can be downloaded at http://depositfiles.com/files/sscex7wj5).

An overwhelming 76 of 78 provinces with data had more female than male emigrants and permanent residents, reveals a 27-year dataset on this group of migrants coming from the Commission on Filipinos Overseas.

Only Aklan and Tawi-Tawi had more male than female permanent residents and emigrants, reveals IMDI's policy brief (written by Dawn Naisa Majaducon).

The provinces that had more female than male overseas workers and permanent residents come from provinces with high and low poverty incidence levels.

Government data segregates overseas Filipinos as land- and sea-based (the latter is included because the Philippines is the world's leading supplier of merchant marine fleet).

But looking at total land-based workers per province alone by gender, 73 of 76 provinces with data show that females outnumber male land-based workers.

Only Bataan, Pampanga and Zambales had more male land-based overseas workers than females.

IMDI wrote that women overseas Filipinos have contributed “a lot of resources quietly yet visibly, and have helped improve their birth provinces' quality of life.”

On the other hand, the institute said these contributions by overseas Filipinas are “not without a cost” since females are vulnerable to human rights abuses”.

IMDI's policy brief on overseas Filipinos in the provinces by gender can be downloaded in this link: http://depositfiles.com/files/sscex7wj5

RP now the least competitive in Asia-Pac

RP now the least competitive in Asia-Pac --survey
The Philippines has become the least competitive country in the Pacific region, lagging behind its neighbors in economic performance, government efficiency, and infrastructure, the 2009 World Competitiveness Ranking showed.

The Philippines’ ranking slid by three notches from 40 in 2008 to 43 in 2003 out of the 57 economies included in the World Competitiveness Yearbook (WCY) and lagged behind its neighbors in the Asia Pacific region.

“The Philippines is in the bottom among the 13 countries in Asia-Pacific region,” said Felipe Alfonso, interim president of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), during the presentation of the results at the State of Philippine Competitiveness National Conference in Pasay City on Monday.

Asia Pacific countries that performed better than the Philippines included: Hong Kong (2nd), Singapore (3rd), Australia (7th), Qatar (14th), Japan (17th), Malaysia (18th), China (20th), and Taiwan (23rd). Thailand landed on the 26th spot while Indonesia ended one notch higher than the Philippines at the 42nd spot.

“We have not been able to get out of the bottom third,” Alfonso added.

The rankings, however, did not include some Asian countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Brunei and Papua New Guinea but included Kazakhstan and Qatar for the first time.

Leading the rankings were the United States, Hong Kong, Singapore. Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Australia, Canada, Finland and Netherlands. Occupying the bottom spots are Venezuela, Ukraine, Argentina, Romania, Croatia, Greece, Colombia, Italy, Russia, South Africa and Turkey.

“The results are largely based on data from early 2008. The effects of the global economic crisis came at different times so the rankings may not adequately reflect the impact of the crisis last year,” Alfonso said.

The 2009 World Competitiveness Scoreboard of the Swiss-based International Institute for Management Development (IIMD) ranks 57 economies from the most to the least competitive using four criteria: economic performance, government efficiency, business efficiency, and infrastructure. The four categories are further broken down into different sub-factors.

AIM serves as the local partner of IIMD.

Four criteria

The criterion economic performance includes macroeconomic evaluation of the domestic economy while government efficiency measures the conduciveness of government policies to competitiveness.

Meanwhile, business efficiency tackles whether the national environment encourages enterprise to perform and infrastructure analyzes whether basic resources meet the needs of the business.

The Philippines ranked 51st in economic performance, 42nd in government efficiency, 32nd in business efficiency and 56th in infrastructure.

"Our relative weaknesses are in international investment (56th), public finance (54th), business legislation (50th), productivity and efficiency (53rd), education (54th) basic infrastructure (57th) and scientific infrastructure (56th)," Alfonso said.

Alfonso said that economic performance went down by nine notches because of decline in exports in the fourth quarter of 2008, slump in direct investments and the impact of high prices of oil and food last year.

“The Philippines is hit especially being the world’s largest rice importer,” he added.

Government efficiency, he added, declined because of continuous difficulty in doing business while the infrastructure ranking went down because of high dependency ratio, lack of energy infrastructure and issues affecting future energy supply.

“The Philippines has the worst distribution infrastructure in Asia,” Joseph Lim, a professor of economics at the Ateneo de Manila University said, adding that together with India and Indonesia, the country has the worst water transport system.

Lim said more taxes should be spent for infrastructure development and more projects should be placed in poorer communities and provinces. He added that there is also a need to address wastage in infrastructure due to corruption, kickbacks and inefficiencies.

High pupil-teacher ratio

The study also showed that the Philippines had the highest pupil-teacher ratio in secondary education among 57 countries, and the second-highest pupil-teacher ratio in primary schools. It also showed that the country, along with Indonesia, had the worst secondary enrolment rate among Asian countries.

“More quality schools in primary, secondary and tertiary level will have to be built in poorer, more backward and congested areas,” said Ma. Lourdes Sereno, executive director of the AIM Policy Center.

“Increased incomes, higher employment and lower poverty incidence are crucial to prevent dropouts from elementary and secondary enrolment and to encourage entry into tertiary schools,” she added.

Alfonso, for his part, said that improving the quality of education in the country could reduce the incidence of job-skills mismatch, which also contributes to unemployment and underemployment.


Reacting to the results of the competitiveness survey, Meneleo Carlos Jr., chairman of the Federation of Philippine Industries, said the government should exert more effort to address the country's lack of competitiveness, particularly in critical areas like infrastructure and business efficiency because these are responsible for the flow of investments into the economy.

"Competitiveness is vital to investments and economic growth," he noted.

Department of Trade and Industry Undersecretary and Board of Investments Managing Head Elmer Hernandez, on the other hand, assured that the public sector is doing its best to increase the competitiveness as well as attractiveness of the Philippines to foreign investors.

On infrastructure, for instance, Hernandez said the government has a number of projects lined up under its Comprehensive and Integrated Infrastructure Program, which is expected to contribute greatly to economic growth.

While citing this, he raised doubts over results of the IIMD survey, saying those interviewed could have been "unaware" or "very skeptical" of the government's economic plans.

"The economy is afloat and doing good. There have been a lot of improvements in different sectors," he told reporters.

Philippine Economic Zone Authority Director-General Lilia De Lima, who also attended the State of Philippine Competitiveness National Conference at the SMX Convention Center, echoed Hernandez's view. "They interviewed respondents in only one city out of 135 cities in the Philippines. That is not representative of the country."

"They should have gone to the PEZA, BOI, Subic and Clark areas where a lot of investments and developments are happening," she added, noting that investments in PEZA alone have improved in the previous months.

De Lima also said that the country's labor force, among others, remains competitive as evidenced by the fact that more companies are moving their operations here.

"From the feedback we are getting from multinationals here, Filipinos have high productivity. Our workers have a competitive edge."

De Lima clarified, however, that she was not really contesting the survey results.

"These are just some comments. Surveys are good. They vary most of the time, but we still want to know." By Jesus F. Llanto With Judith Balea, abs-cbnNEWS.com