Thursday, July 31, 2008


Kung saka-sakali, anong ibubuga ni Gov Among Ed kina Senator Chiz Escudero, Loren Legarda, Manny Villar, Mar Roxas, ex president Erap Estrada at Vice President Noli de Castro, mga kinukunsidera at palagiang lumalabas sa SWS, Pulse Asia survey!

Una, bukud sa hindi ito makikipaglandian (magso-solicit) sa mga PEKE, BUGUK, hati-hati at parti-partidong LAKAS-CMD, KAMPI, NPC, LP at NP, para makakuha man lang ng pondo at bilyung pisong campaign funds, wala sa kanya ang pinakaLOLO ng mga padrino sa bansa,
ang mga BILYUNARYONG si Ricky Razon, Danding Cojuangco, Lucio Tan, Bong Pineda, Aboitiz, Gaisano at higit sa lahat ang pamilyang MACAPAGAL ARROYO.

Pangalawa, kung sakaling maging pampulitikang MARTYR at irecall ni Mikee Arroyo, Pineda at Lapid sa Pampanga, mapasama siya sa 2010 national election, panigurong pagtatawanan lamang, pagkakamalang nasisiraan ng bait, titirisin lamang, lalamunin lamang, kakatayin lamang, aakusahang kurakot, chickboy, ide-demolition job ng tinatawag na LOCAL MACHINERY (TRAPO) ng big 4 presidentiable, si Among Ed.
Ganun kabuluk ang sistemang pulitika at election sa ating bansa.
(Photo above: Among Ed;
- Doy

June 2008

When the news broke out several weeks ago that President Arroyo had appointed erstwhile Pampanga Governor Mark Lapid to head the Philippine Tourism Authority, a minor executive agency, it was clear that the second phase of the battle in Pampanga was about to begin.

Without significant tourism credentials and with graft cases still pending against him, the appointment of Mark Lapid should be seen as a way to mollify the Lapid camp in exchange for whatever plan is in the works. In the most likely scenario that a recall elections is currently in the offing, such a move effectively gets the erstwhile governor out of the way for a mano-a-mano slugfest between two contenders. It must be remembered that the main reason why Father Ed Panlilio or “Among Ed” won as governor was that the formidable Lapid camp and the more-formidable Pineda camp neutralized each other and split the vote during the 2007 campaign. Among Ed’s victory margin of 1,147 votes may have been freakish and phenomenal but a convincing mandate it never was. Such a narrow margin must have terribly whetted the appetites of both the Lapid and Pineda camps to take another shot at the province’s top post.

And another shot through a recall elections seems very, very likely. Since any tenant in Malacanang is bound to have a long memory, the memory of the political embarrassment caused by Among Ed’s media disclosure of the P500,000 payola scandal only several months back
must still be causing certain blood pressures to rise. Besides, the fact that a last minute interloper managed to wrest the province’s governorship against two of the President’s most loyal supporters is a fact that most likely never sat well with the hubris of the most powerful Kapampangan in recent years. It is not Isabela or Naga, after all, but Pampanga, the President’s and her father’s own backyard so the stakes have always been high.

Thus, when Among Ed two weeks ago pulled off a surprise by filing plunder charges against the patriarch of the Pineda camp, alleged gambling don Bong Pineda himself, he may not have been intentionally raising the ante but merely calling the already high-stakes bet. All this time, he must have been aware of the busy plans of his political enemies so in response he boldly took the offensive as the best defensive move. Whether this move will prove to be a brilliant maneuver or an incredibly careless one, only later events would definitely prove. One thing has been made clear, though, by Among to foes and friends alike---he wont go down without a big fight.

But chances are, go down Among will in the next few months. The forces arrayed against him are just too many, too irresistible and too passionate. With the Vice Governor against him alongside almost all (except one) of the town mayors, all the members of the Provincial Board, disaffected business groups and prominent individuals like erstwhile supporter Lolita Hizon, and even some members of the clergy, Among Ed’s current base of support is a pitiful shadow of what it was gloriously once during the storied 2007 campaign.

The technical legal impedim
ent to a recall upon which some supporters rest their hopes that no recall proceedings could be initiated---that regarding the recount suit precluding any other suit from being concurrently entertained by government bodies---may prove to be not much of a security blanket after all. Remember that Comelec had just been reorganized with the appointment of two new commissioners. In any case, that body had never been known to be a bedrock of fair play and integrity. Of course, the final hope lies in the Supreme Court with the esteemed Chief Justice Puno at the helm. But even there, the ultimate rule is the number’s game.

A Malacanang bearing down and wheeling and dealing to oust Among Ed is something that must be assumed as a given at this point. People may call it revenge but to paraphrase that classic saying---that’s what they are in power for. In the 2007 elections, it simply could have been way too distracted by the goings-on in other parts of the country for it to belatedly realize and prevent the impending upset in Pampanga. Now with a single dish on its plate, it would be fair to assume that Malacanang’s best and most experienced political tacticians and operators will be deployed to Pampanga in a recall election.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, Among Ed will most likely lose, and lose terribly, any recall elections. It must be noted that the number of voters who cast their ballots in Pampanga during the 2007 elections was actually lower than previous elections. This was not due to voter disinterest certainly but most likely due to that tactic employed by both the Lapid and Pineda camps in their respective bailiwicks---of buying people off not to vote for either one of them. In a recall elections between two protagonists, expect the votes for Mark Lapid to be harvested by Among Ed’s opponent, whoever that person might be.
Expect also the active participation of the town mayors in any campaign. This fact alone ought to be frightening because the mayors can now devote their full concentration on their local constituencies in a manner unfettered by the exigencies of their own political campaigns.

And so the questions that must be asked are: Why did it come to this? How could one of the greatest upsets in Philippine electoral history unravel in a matter of months? What lessons can be learned in this entire episode?
While thorough and exhaustive answers to these questions deserve book-length ponderous manuscripts, below are some preliminary points that must be considered in any event.
(Photo below: Bong Pineda,

In the first place, Among Ed’s victory margin of 1,147 was so tenuous to the point of being Pyrrhic. Simply put, except for the true believers in Among Ed’s camp, such small margin left everybody unconvinced about his actual mandate. In politics, any sign of weakness, however small, is fair game to be exploited and pounced upon so that such weakness will become bigger and bigger to the point of fatality. Early on, Among Ed called out the Pineda camp to accept defeat and not pursue an electoral protest. Such calls were naturally ignored. But then again, how could a Filipino politician really do that? Especially with the truism, masquerading as a joke, that nobody loses an election in this country for the simple reason that losers had merely been cheated out of victory.

The crusading spirit that played such a magnificent role during the campaign also must also be held into account with this turnaround. The appointment of novices such as Atty.Vivian Dabu to such a sensitive post as Provincial Administrator, for instance, and Among Ed’s insistence on her when groups eventually called on her to quit, lost many actual and potential allies who were helping and could have helped Among Ed in his administration. It did not help any that Dabu’s snobbish, no-bullshit personality honed by years of being a litigator was a stark contrast to Among’s gentle and affable style. All in all, it did not matter that they really meant well despite appearances to the contrary. People saw the new faces at the capitol as sanctimonious crusaders that not only hated sin but virtually condemned also the sinner.

Ultimately, Among Ed’s total inexperience in politics and his long vocation and training as a priest has a lot to do with the situation he now finds himself in. At least Cory Aquino of the original EDSA had some sort of long familiarity and training in realpolitik as the wife of a master politician in the person of Ninoy Aquino and had able backstop support in the political Cojuangco family of Tarlac. Despite his crash course at the Ateneo School of Government, it would not be unfair to say that what moves Among Ed is still his ecclesiastical training that makes use of Divine Reason not as an ultimate frame by which things and events ought to be viewed but as primus, an Alpha and Omega. Many times, as erstwhile ardent supporters would narrate, Among Ed once he had made up his mind on something would be as easy to convince to another position as one would an enigmatic rock---solid, serene and obstinate. As such, Among Ed was not built for consensus-building, for give-and-take, for tactical improvisations and other minimum requisites that make up even the smallest-time, barangay-level politician.

It had been joked many times over that somebody like Joe De Venecia (and traditional politicians in general) could convince the unwitting to buy Quiapo bridge with his smoothness and glibness. Presumably, Among Ed would never even think of anything remotely close to that. He would rather offer to people the bridge to heaven for free, if they swear to and fulfill a moral life by not lying, cheating, stealing or killing. In this temporal world, however, such a moral life is perhaps what is only needed for government to truly serve the interest of the Kapampangan people, bring peace and development to the province, and engender the fullest potential of humankind that can only be had by serving God.

In all likelihood, this is the deepest essence of Among’s offensive against the Pineda camp and which may well totally backfire on him, what with the intense reaction such an offensive had provoked among the local officials in that camp. He must have sensed that with all forms of pervasive evil in his midst, the littlest compromise would defeat his biggest purpose. And thus, like the catacomb Christians of pre-Constantine Roman empire, Among Ed had dug his feet in the middle of the coliseum and had shown that apart from God he is not afraid of anything and anyone. Come slay me, he appears to dare everybody, and oblige me in my martyrdom.

And so it seems inevitable that once the Pampango gladiators start to unleash their beasts and move in for the kill, they would find an almost too-willing martyr who for his defense will only invoke God and good governance. Some in the gallery might protest loudly or they might not at all. It won’t matter though: the thumbs down signal had been already given, the beasts of war have already been unleashed and are now hurtling towards their prey. The only thing that could save this would-be martyr is an act of mercy from the Empress herself. But having fought many battles and winning them all, the ruthless Empress is beyond mercy. In fact, she had waited for this moment far too long already!

And here lies the greatest, most compelling, irony. In slaying this unarmed prophet of good governance, Malacanang will inadvertently create its ultimate antithesis: a very powerful icon of reform. And in doing so, this impending outcast prophet in Pampanga---uncompromising against evil, faithful to his God and fellowmen, and magnificently glorious in defeat---might just well be the nation’s hottest political icon come the 2010 elections.

"Fernando Villarca Cao served as Deputy Director at IPD. The paper was produced as a contribution to the thinking and debate about Pampanga politics. The paper should not, however, be read as representing the only or even the main viewpoint within IPD of the complex situation in the province."

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"Peace" is possible: GRP-MILF timeline

Doy / July 30, '08

Ganito ang balangkas, ang pakanang “roadmap” ng GRP-MILF peace process na ipambabraso ng Malakanyang sa Kongreso at sa mga kaaway sa pulitika. Abangan ang mga “golf courses” at pamumudmud, mga transaksyon at pakikipagtawaran sa pagitan ng mga Tongresman, ilang Senador at operador ng Malakanyang. Aasahan din ang matinding pagtutol ng sektor ng Simban, mamamayan, mga independent LGU executives sa Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) re ancestral domain, mga karagdagang teritoryo na mawawala sa kanilang jurisdiction at mapapasakamay sa teritoryo ng Bansa Moro Judicial Entity (BJE).

Credibility ang bumabara at malaking tanong sa kasalukuyan. Sinong maniniwala sa biglaang pagsisirko, convertion ni GMA bilang “peace activist / advocate.” Mas kapani-paniwala ng mahigit isang libong beses na mas political survival ng Malakanyang partikular ni GMA ang pakay ng nasabing kasunduan, kaysa sa peace process at kaularang ipinopropaganda sa madla.

'Wag na wag agad magtitiwala ang marami, lalo na ang pamunuan ng MILF na seryoso na nga si GMA sa peace process. Ang malamang sa mangyari, bunsod ng matinding depensa ng Senado, sa kangkungan din ang tuloy ng postponement ng ARMM election. Masawata man sa Senado ang hangarin ng Malakanyang, ikakatwiran pa rin nito sa MILF na seryoso't nagsisikap ito sa peace process, kahit hindi totoo at walang naniniwala.

Tulad ng inaasahan, maggagamitan lamang ang magkabilang panig, ang palasyo ng Malakanyang at ang MILF na sa bandang huli, sa kalagitnaan ng usapan ay mauuwi lamang sa goyoan, pananabotahe, trayduran at mas higit na labanan sa Mindanao. Abangan ang susunud na kabanata.

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Agence France-Presse

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Concerto, indie film ni Paul Morales

Doy/ July 30, '08
Bihira lang akong manuod ng sine, kung baga bilang lang sa daliri kada taon. Sapagkat, marami sa ating pelikula ngayon, kundi masyadong OA over acting, luhaan, sampalan, sex at violence at higit sa lahat, hindi makatotohanan. Laki talagang pasalamat at napanuod ko ang Concerto.

Nung inalok sa akin ng kaibigang si Viking na panuurin ang pelikulang CONCERTO, hindi na ako nag-atubiling tanggihan. Ayon sa kanya, "Davao at 1944 ang setting.” Agad sumagap sa isip ko na mukhang nasa huling bahagi ng World War II ang konteksto ng pelikula. Ang kutub ko, baka anti-war ang tema, singilang blues o may relasyon sa war criminals ala German fascist leaders na prinisecute ng mundo dahil sa genocide ng daan-daang libong hudyo.

Maganda at kakaiba ang pelikulang Concerto, bukud sa hiwaga ng musika (piano) na nagsilbing tulay upang maibsan ang tensiong ng gera, ang musika ang naging sandata upang paga-angin ang buhay na dinaranas ng mga tao. Ang alingawngaw ng mga boses at tunog ng piano ang nagpa-gaang sa nababalisang takbo ng buhay, na kahit paano’y naiwaglit ang lungkot, takot at pighati ng mamamayang dumaranas ng walang kasiguruhan epekto ng gera.

Ipinakita rin ang mahalagang papel ng isang magulang (Nanay at ng Tatay) sa kung paano sinuong ang napakadelikado at napakahirap na sitwasyong idinulolt ng gera. Sa gitna ng kalupitang dinanas sa kamay (torture) ng mga mananakop na Hapon, sa tindi ng udyok at hamon ng paghihiganti, nagawa nitong “magpakahinahon at unawain ang sitwasyon.” Halos ganun din ang naging papel ng isang anak nitong si Joselito. Bukud sa tapang, nagawa nitong maistablished ang pagtitiwala ng Hapon.

Ipinakita ang mahalagang papel ng pakikipagkaibigan, pakikisalamuha, pakikipag-ugnayan, pakikipagnegotiate at pag-established na mahusay na rapport sa mga mananakop na kahit paano’y nagsilbing buffer o pag-minimized ng trahedyang idudulot ng malupit na gera.

Ang pelikulang CONCERTO ay naging kabahagi ng CINEMALAYA 2008 competition .
To watch the movie trailer on YouTube, click here.

Friday, July 25, 2008

GMA, muling maiisahan ang oposisyon?

Doy / July 26, '08

Hindi hamak na mas mabigat ang isyu ng postponement ng Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Election kung ikukumpara sa malazarswelang State of the Nation Adrress (SONA)” ni GMA sa Lunes at isyu ng reproductive health na patuloy na pinagdidibatihan ng simbahang katoliko’t mga iba’t-ibang sektor ng lipunan. (Photo:

Sa request at kahilingan ng Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) na agad sinang-ayunan ni GMA, malamang sa hindi na matutuloy ang ARMM Election. Sa unang tingin, parang si GMA ang lumalabas na tunay na "peace advocate at naniniwala sa pinakikipaglaban ng mamamayang Moro." Ayon sa Malakanyang, “ang postponement ng ARMM Election ay para sa kagalingan, isang legacy para sa kapayapaan, kaunlaran at para sa kabutihan daw ng bansa." Ang tanong ay kung may maniniwala naman kaya at kung makakalusot ito sa Senado?

Totoong may namimintong naka-ambang gera sa Mindanao bunsod ng umiinit na isyu ng ancestral domain at nauudlot na prosesong pangkapayapaan sa pagitan ng gubyerno at MILF. Bukud sa inaasahang kaguluhang idudulot ng election at pamamayagpag ng angkang Ampatuan, ang administration candidate, may ilang tunggaliang mga interest ang nakasalang sa pagitan ng malalaking angkang pulitiko sa ARMM.

Inaamin mismo ng mga awtoridad (PNP) na may mahigit kumulang na 280 barangay ang inaasahang pagmumulan ng election violence o hotspot sa rehiyon, ito’y hindi dahil sa insureksyon ng MILF, bagkus bunsod ito ng ilang dekadang tunggaliang namamagitan sa hanay ng malalaking pamilya, political warlord at kanilang hawak na libong private armies sa lugar. Kung maglalabu-labo ang labanan sa Mindanao at sasabayan ng MILF, unrest at malawakang kilos protesta sa Kalakhang Manila, baka tuluyan ng magcollapse at hindi na makayanang mapanghawakan ng Malakanyang ang sitwasyon; ang patong-patong na krisis, bagyong pulitikal at ekonomya, ang mga trahedyang dulot ng katiwalian, pagtaas ng presyo ng petrolyo, hanggang langit na presyo ng bilihin at opensibang NPA sa kanayunan.

Pangalawa, ang katanungang kung may naniniwala pa ba ng election sa Pilipinas, lalo na sa ARMM? Maski sabihin pang modernisado, computerized, preperado ang Comelec at partisipasyon ng civil society bilang election watchdog, walang katiyakang magkaroon ng "clean, peaceful and honest election" sa ARMM. Alam at saksi ang lahat na "moro-moro lamang ang mga halalan sa ARMM. Dagdag pang usapin ang "kawalang silbe, inutil, tiwali at manipulasyon isinasagawa ng Malakanyang sa ARMM."

Kung sakaling hindi maitutuloy ang election, ang isang casualty rito ay ang modernization ng election na ipinagmamalaki ni Melo ng Comelec. Ang ARMM election kasi ang lumalabas na "PILOT TEST" ng Comelec para sa 2010. Kung hindi maipapakitang epektibo at episyente ang computerized election, nanganganib na pagdudahan gamitin ito sa 2010 presidential election, kung may election sa 2010? (Photo:

Kawalan ng pagtitiwala, kredibilidad at sensiridad ang ilan sa mga isyung ibinabato ng mga kritiko ng Malakanyang patungkol sa isinusulong na peace process sa Muslim Mindanao. Bukud sa ura-urada at pabago-bagong postura ni GMA, napaghahalatang re-actionary at walang malinaw na plano’t patakaran ang Malakanyan. Kung babalikan ang mga pahayag, pronouncement ni GMA noong mga nakaraang State of the Nation (SONA 2003-7) address, nakatanim sa isipan ng tao ang hayagan at matitigas na panawagan nitong "sa loob ng aking pagtatapos sa panunungkulan sa 2010, (meaning sa loob ng 3 years), "kanyang buburahin, dudurugin ang rebelyon at insureksyon ng MILF, MNLF at CPP-NPA sa Pilipinas."

Hindi tayo magtataka na may lihim at nakatagong "agenda't rekisitos" ang nasabing pagpapatigil ng halalan sa ARMM. Tulad ng inaasahan, ang peace process at ang Mindanao conflict ang tila gagamiting iskima pa upang i-black mail ang mga kaaway sa pulitika, ang oposisyon at palabasing kontra ito sa kapayapaan at walang malasakit sa panawagan ng Bansa Moro. Kaya't maliban sa "kahinaang taglay, watak-watak, may kanya-kanyang agenda, nalalagay sa alanganing sitwasyon at muling naiisahan, nauutakan ng Malakanyang ang OPOSISYON."

Hindi kailanman magreresign si GMA o bibigay ang palasyo ng Malakanyang sa kahilingan ng oposisyon na magkaroon ng snap election bago mag 2010. Tulad ng hinala ng marami, ang peace process sa Mindanao ang siya pa ngayong magiging kakambal sa pag-aamyenda ng sistema ng paggugubyerno na maaring humantong hindi lamang sa political survival ng huli, maging sa extension ng presidency ni GMA. Ang isang anggulo’t paraang nakita ng mga spin doktor ni GMA ay "ang pagsasabuhay ng nailibing ng panawagang Charter Change ni GMA, sa paraang CON AS na nagkataong siya namang itinutulak na panukala sa Senado ni Senator Nene Pimentel." Hindi lang natin alam kung may kapalit o kung magpapagamit si Nene sa agenda ng Malakanyang?

Sa hindi inaasahang biglaang pagyuko ni GMA sa kagustuhan ng MILF, kahit wala pang malinaw na balangkas na peace agreement, lalabas na kahit na siya’y pagtawanan ng mundo, kahit masakripisyo ang soberanya’t Konstitusyon ng bansa, mawalang saysay ang mga alituntunin ng batas, maisangkalan o "mai-accomodate ang kontrobersyal na isyu ng anscestral domain" at kahit na magmukhang tanga ang Comelec kung ang kapalit naman ay ang kaligtasan pulitikal ng sarili, pupwede. (Photo: MILF forces,

Dagdag pa, dahil sa mahigpit ang pangangailangan suporta mula sa mga galamay sa Kongreso ang nasabing pagpapaliban sa election, "muli na namang gagamitin ang magic at hiwaga ng pamumudmud ng salapi't pabor at pambabraso, kahit pa sabihing nasa priority bill nito ang JPEPA, VAT, repeal ng Oil Deregulation at patong-patong na krisis na kinakaharap ang country." May mga balitang ina-areglo na ng mga operador ng Malakanyang ang posibleng agapay para sa isinusulong na Charter Change ng maimpluwensyang CBCP, korte suprema at sektor ng negosyo. Pera-perahan lang talaga ang labanan ngayon.

Kahit paano'y mukhang makakabawi si GMA sa unpopularidad na naging pangulo sa buong kasaysayan ng pulitika sa bansa. Maaring sabihing malaki ang magiging pampulitikang kalamangan ni GMA kung ikukumpara sa mga kaaway nito sa pulitika na "patuloy ang paksyunalismo, pagiging kanya-kanya at walang maiprisintang mukha at alterntiba." (Photo below:U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney (R) walks with Al Haj Ibrahim Murad, a leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), before their closed-door meeting in Camp Darapanan outside Cotabato city, southern Philippines,

Kaya lang, kung talagang seryoso sa kapayapaan si GMA sa Mindanao, "buwagin na rin niya ang pekeng ARMM at lahat ng mga private armies ng malalaking pampulitikang angkan (political clan), ibalik sa barracks ang mahigit sampung batalyong sundalo at CAFGU at palayasin ang mga tropang Amerikano sa Mindanao. Ipatupad ang electoral at political reform 'di lamang sa Mindanao, maging sa buong kapuluan. Bigyang puwang ang partisipasyon ng mamamayan sa gawaing paggugubyerno at ganap ng ihatag ang matagal ng panawagang tunay na awtonomiya't pagpapasya sa sariling bayan ng Bangsa Moro."

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

SONA 2008

Let them eat 'spin' (Qu'ils mangent de la merde):
National Social Welfare Program, Noah's Ark, and the so-called strategic responses to the national crisis
Aya Fabros
Official pronouncements coming out so far claim: 'SONA 2008 government targets on track.' For this year's state of the nation address (SONA), the plot thickens and twists abound, with a despised president speaking before a discredited congress amid a backdrop of widespread hunger, skyrocketing prices, and escalating discontent. Confronted with a plummeting -38% net satisfaction rating, 11.4% inflation rate, and 16.3% hunger incidence, Gloria Arroyo will be brandishing before Congress and the rest of the nation her accomplishments and forthcoming programs, anticipating applause for every point and pause. (Photo: GMA,

According to the Philippine Information Agency,
"the SONA 2008 will revolve on investments made, investments being made and investments to be made by the government to ensure long term development for the nation." This shall highlight so-called achievements in 2007, including perhaps the passage of the Cheaper Medicines Law (RA 9502), the creation of 53,026 teaching positions (2002-2007) and provision of scholarships to 563,906 students, the allocation of P1 billion to TESDA for its PGMA Training for Work Scholarship program in 2007, an emergency employment program to provide employment to out-of-school and out-of-work youth, subsidies and the conditional cash transfer program, as well as the completion and opening of Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3.

National Social Welfare Program and the Noah's Ark
GMA is also expected to put forward her blueprint to address the current economic crisis, as she expounds on the National Social Welfare Program and her administration's attempt to address the devastating 'impact of the adverse global environment.' By virtue of Administrative Order No. 232, government agencies, such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Education (DepEd), Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), and the Social Security System (SSS), have been clustered to facilitate more cohesion and interagency coordination in carrying out social welfare programs, with the SSS administrator at the helm of this interagency initiative. AO 232 does not enumerate specific projects, however, the Noah's Ark framework, which has been 'approved in principle' according to proponent, Gov. Joey Salceda, reveals particular thrusts for
the remainder of GMA's term.

Noah's Ark, an allusion to the vessel that protected and saved humanity from the great flood, is being presented as a strategic and consolidated response to the fuel and food crisis.
"Social protection, in contrast to growth impetus as instrument of poverty reduction, has now become the foremost undertaking of the national government. Thus, we propose to the President and to our policy makers this social protection plan to build a Noah's Ark of basic needs to shelter the poor so no one would be left behind once the surging waters of economic adversities sweep over our shores," according to former presidential chief-of-staff and current Albay Governor, Joey Salceda.

The multi-year social protection plan is reportedly backed by a P 316 Billion budget to be funded by domestic borrowing and loans from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. It aims to augment incomes of poor and middle class families and increase public goods spending on agriculture, education, health and housing. Several reports identify the following elements of the Noah's ark: conditional cash transfers targeting 4.7 million impoverished households, with an allocation of P84 billion for three years, or 28 billion annually; P36 billion for Commission on Higher Education scholarships and training voucher
s from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority; P 58 Billion incremental budget for the Department of Agriculture; RICE SUBSIDY P 90 Billion; and P30 billion for NFA budget to build up a strategic rice reserve by buying from local farmers, according to reports.

The components of this strategic response appear to be patterned after various interim initiatives put forward with the onslaught of the multiple crises of unemployment, prices, hunger, and energy, such as the Katas ng VAT, Pantawid Kuryente and the conditional cash transfer program, which have been criticized for being short-term, 'band aid', populist measures. In the first quarter of 2008, additional revenues generated from consumption taxes have been funneled into 8 Billion pesos worth of subsidy, relief and dole-outs handed out to lifeline users of electricity, poor households with
young school children, wives of public transport drivers, and calamity victims. (Photo below: (Photo: Mahabang pila sa Commonweath Av, "Rice crisis worsening"

Similarly, for this multi-year plan, cash subsi
dies and direct transfers comprise a major bloc. With the intensification of hunger and poverty, poor households would certainly welcome the dole-outs. However, criticizing these initiatives as populist palliatives is not really off the mark. For one, dividing up P 28 billion to 4.7 Million impoverished families would only amount to a meager P 5,957 per household per year, clearly below the annual per capita poverty threshold of P 15,057 set in 2006 (the latest Family Income and Expenditure Survey), and this does not even capture the inflation surge in 2008. This hardly constitutes 'pantawid gutom', juxtaposed with the Family Living Wage (FLW), the official rate, comprised of food and non-food expenditures needed to sustain a family of six, set by the National Wages and Productivity Commission, which for NCR (June 2008) was pegged at P 894, or P 326,310 per family per year. ( In fact, the recent SWS survey on hunger indicates an increase in and intensification of hunger, with 200,000 more Filipinos experiencing severe hunger compared to last quarter, even after the cash transfers and dole-outs were carried out.

A central part of this so-called social protection framework is simply just an extension of an unsustainable, dole-out regime. The problem with a 'pantawid gutom' strategy is that hunger is a symptom not the disease. How this can be considered a strategic response, without addressing the chronic problem of joblessness, precarious livelihoods, and low-paying, unsteady work, not to mention the glaring disparities in assets, resource endowments and income distribution, is somethin
g that only the creative imagination of this administration can fathom. Or perhaps these inherent contradictions are being deliberately ignored to evade the tough decisions that have to be made to ensure thorough going growth and development? The other thing is that these efforts of the administration are concentrated mostly in NCR, where public, media attention is focused and dissatisfaction is greatest, which raised a lot of questions on who's being targeted and why. The question to ask then is this-- pro-poor or pro-pogi points?

It's really not surprising that strategies are inadequate and misdirected, considering that this administration does not really acknowledge the full extent of the crisis and the reasons behind it. In their books, the whole crisis is brought about by external factors beyond our control. "As a country, we are all suffering from the world economic downturn. Factors beyond our control have seriously assaulted our economy and our way of life. The sound economic and fiscal program of government has provided us with the necessary buoyancy that has so far kept us afloat in these rough seas," says deputy spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo.

She adds, 'if not for the Arro
yo administration's strong economic fundamentals in the past years', "we can only imagine how devastating the world fuel price crisis would have affected us."

Notice how Fajardo pins the blame on the world economic downturn, gives GMA the credit for purportedly keeping our head above water, but forgets to mention the liberalization and deregulation thrusts that slaughtered domestic agriculture and industry, and rendered our economy even more vulnerable to the swings and shocks of the world market; or this administration's failure to provide the necessary social investment and asset reform infrastructure to prepare us for the impending deluge. Claims of sound economic fundamentals are belied by data that show us trailing behind our neighbors. As Walden Bello emphasized in an earlier article, the recent UNDP Human Development Report show that while our economy was growing, Philippine per capita income growth was the 'worst in Southeast Asia' at an average 1.9% growth between 1990-2005, in contrast with Vietnam (5.9%), Thailand (2.7%), Laos (3.8%), Cambodia (5.5%) and Myanmar (6.6%) The truth is, benefits of moderate economic growth under GMA failed to trickle down to the poor; and in fact poverty incidence increased from 30% in 2003 to 32.9% in 2006, according to the National Statistics Coordination Board.

Moreover, glaring disparities in income distribution continue to persist, with the poorest families (decile) getting a meager 2.16% of the total annual fa
mily income growth, while the richest families (decile) got 34.26%. Under an economic regime where distribution of resource endowments and access to opportunities to earn are skewed and limited to precarious livelihood, with low, unsteady incomes, it is not surprising that the incomes of the richest grew 16 times more than the incomes of the poorest. Given a limited framework that refuses to recognize (or insists on ignoring) these contradictions in our economy, the nation is bound to be stuck with mediocre mitigation measures rather than strategic solutions.

A country in crisis, a president-in-distress
Instead of an admission of accountability and a more truthful assessment of the situation, GMA's crew offers us consuelo de bobo and asks us to take comfort in the fact that we have a 'a very dedicated and hardworking president', "a very active performing achiever, perfo
rming political leader, performing President," who would rather "buckle down to the nitty gritty of seeking ways to help cushion the effect of the world economic situation and just see to the immediate and effective implementation of programs to benefit our people." These are the lines given by Cerge Remonde, Eduardo Ermita and Lorelei Fajardo, respectively, who came to GMA's defense after her ratings plunged to -38%, an all-time record low, crowning Gloria Arroyo as the most unpopular president in history, disliked by at least 60% of the people, in all regions, across the archipelago. Survey or no survey, the whole image of a leader, bent to carry out necessary, tough, unpopular measures, is negated by her waffling position on urgent and critical legislation such as the CARP extension and the Reproductive Health bill.

What we have before us at this point is a flawed framework (insufficient and shortsighted) hyped up by an intensified propaganda offensive carried out by Arroyo's spin doctors. What's being fed to us, branded as strategic solution, is essentially a populist politician's propaganda; and What's lacking in substance and sincerity is fervently filled up with a heaping shit-load of spin. Ultimately, what we're being asked to count on is a politician in distress steering this so-called ark at a time of dire crisis.

The problem here is that GMA has her eyes set on mitigating her own crisis, the lack of legitimacy, confidence and mandate that besets her regime, rather
than the larger crisis that holds the nation hostage. A closer look at her propaganda drive, her political appointments and subsequent plays at a programmatic response actually betrays a blueprint for GMA's shelter and not ours. The recent round of political appointments completely erodes her posturing and pretense of a well-meaning, well-thought out strategy, with Arroyo's handpicked allies and cronies being given key positions in crucial agencies, such as the National Economic Development Authority, the Energy Regulatory Commission and the Social Security System, all critical in determining the outcome of the current crisis. Certainly, Recto wasn't chosen for his track record in socioeconomic planning, but more likely for his participation (and failed bid) in Team Unity and his proximity to possible vice presidential candidates being eyed by the administration.

Further, the political appointment of Romulo 'executive privilege' Neri, who will be at the head of the social welfare cluster, coordinating efforts under the National Social Welfare Program, including the infusion of funds toward direct cash transfers, could very well be a step toward assuring GMA's sustenance as they pave the way for the road beyond 2010. Possibly, we are looking at the groundwork for yet another ZTE-NBN or Bolante fertilizer scam. It really doesn't help that the key actors in this crisis situation are the same ones who have orchestrated large-scale, perpetual plunder, deception and fraud. (Photo below;
Marie Antoinette execution,

At this stage of the crisis, survival clearly is the name of the game. But whose survival and at whose expense, that is the nagging question. Meanwhile, with GMA on top of the food chain, the 14.5 Million who are hungry and the 60 percent who are dissatisfied will have to make do with a rehash of the Marie Antoinette quip 'qu'ils mangent de la brioche!' (let them eat cake) Of course, what GMA and her gang are in fact saying at a time of grave crisis is this: 'Qu'ils mangent des mensonges, qu'ils mangent de la merde!'

But then again, as history tells us, there's always the option to collectively cry out,
"off with their heads, off with their heads!" ##

Related Story:
Multi-billion sa FIELDS, 5 libong km na daan at subsidies, aasahang ibibida ni PGMA sa SONA - special report

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

NORTHRAIL project, maagang nadiskaril

July 16, 2008
Sa pagdiskaril ng Northrail project, hindi ko lang alam kung anong klaseng State of the Nation address (SONA) ang ibubuladas at ipagmamayabang ni Ate Glo sa July 28. Tulad ng inaasahan, ang inaasam-asam nating railway system na sinasabing mas moderno kung ikukumpara sa dating TRAIN na nasaksihan ng ating mga lolo't lola at pinatakbo ng Phil National Railroad (1920s-1970s / PNR) mula Tutuban hanggang La Union ay mukhang mapupurnada. Ang Northrail project na ipinattern sa kontratang ZTE (Sec may 200 ka rito) Broadband ay BUMUKOL at mauuwi sa wala. Ang dahilan, TONGPATS, KURAKOT!
(above Photo: Northrail made in China train;, Belo
w; a relic coach of Philippine National Railways now rotting in Hondagua Lopez, Quezon,

“Ang labis na pangongotong, ang gadambuhalang laki ng LAGAY na hiningi at ang maagang pagpapaluwal nito sa mga opisyales ng gubyerno ang mas kapani-paniwalang rason kung bakit nag-alsa balutan ang mga Tsinong Engineers sa proyekto.”

Ayon sa balita, “ang malaking bahagi ng anim na bilyong pisong (P6.0 bilyon) nagastos ng China National Machinery and Equipment Group (CNMEG) para sa naturang proyekto ay naipang LAGAY, NAIPANG SUHOL lamang sa matataas at maimpluwensyang tao't mga opisyal ng gubyerno.” May ilan source na nagsasabing may ilang matataas na opisyal na ang nakakuha ng LAGAY na nagkakahalaga ng P500.0 milyong na naideposito na sa bangko. In short, NAISTAPA sila ng mga magugulang na kurakot.

Ito ang isa sa mga dahilan kung bakit halos gustong padagdagan ng $300.0 milyon ng (P15.0 bilyon) China-CNMEG ang Northrail para raw masimulan na't magpatuloy na ang proyekto. Halata na, kahit pa itago sa alibi na “kawalan daw ng PROJECT DESIGN, ang humihinang Peso - dollar na palitan, tumaas daw ang implasyon at ang isyu ng squatter o ang right of way ng proyekto.” Sinong maniniwala sa nasabing dagdag-kahilingan, bistado na kayo ni Mang Pandoy.

Layon ng Northrail project na paunlarin ang transportasyon at railroad system ng bansa na balang-araw ay mapapakinabangan ng mga tagaMetro Manila, Gitnang Luzon hanggang sa mga taga Baguio sa Hilagang Luzon. Ito rin ang inaasahang iiwang ala-ala, LEGACY at handog ni Ate Glo sa walong taong niyang nasa poder para sa kanyang mga kababayan sa Pampanga.

Batay sa time frame ng proyekto, kung nagsimula ang proyekto noong 2003, 2010 ang target date of completion. Pero sa takbo ng mga pangyayari, mukhang isang bangungot at isang malaking kahihiyan ang patunguhan ng proyekto. Sapagkat sa nalalabing isa't kalahating taon sa pwesto, "ni isang metrong haba ng aserong bakal ng riles, isang 10x 6 inches na kapal na buhos na semento na may isa't kalahating metrong haba na pagpapatungan ng bakal na riles ay wala pa, ni wala ka man lang marinig na ingay ng mga heavy equipmenta o pukpok man lang ng martilyo," 2010 ka pa diyan. Ang tanging na-accomplished lamang nito ay ang pagpapatalsik ng mahigit 40,000 urban poor squatter sa Bulacan. Palibhasa, ito lang ang kayan-kayanin nilang paglolokohin.
(Top Photo: Xinhua-Tibet railway;, below;
A file photo taken on Nov. 2004 shows the ongoing Qinghai-Tibet railway. [Xinhua]

Ang kahiya-hiya rito, nauna pang natapos ang 2,000 kilometraheng habang Qinghai-Tibet railway (Golmud to Lhasa), na inanigurahan noong nakaraang taon (July, 2006), kaysa 32.0 kilometraheng Caloocan to Malolos, Bulacan na Northrail project. Nagkakahalaga ng $3.60 billion ang nasabing mega project ng China na mukhang breaking the record ang dating. Sapagkat kakaibang terrain ang binagtas ng railway na tinawag na "roof of the world," mala-Great Wall of China, may 4,000 meter elevation, mahahaba't matatarik na tulay o elevated / fly-over kung ikukumpara sa ground level, patag na terrain at napakadaling gawing 32.0 km Caloocan-Malolos Northrail project.

Kung makukumbinsi ng CNMEG ang Malakanyang sa hiling nitong karagdagang pondong $300.0 milyon, dodoble at aabot sa $800.0 milyon ang kabuuang halaga, mula sa orihinal na $421.0 million at $82.0 million bilang counterpart sa bahagi ng gubyernong Pilipinas. Sa $800.0 million, kung tama ang aking kompyutasyon, lalabas na $25.90 million / kilometro ang magiging project cost ng Northrail. Samantalang $6.0 million / kada kilometro lamang ang nagastos sa kumplikado at kagila-gilalas na $3.60 billion, 2,000 kilometraheng haba ng Qinghai-Tibet railway.

Kung mangyayari ito, ang Northrail project ang lalabas na pinakamahal, ang pinakagintong railway projects sa buong mundo. Parang dinaig pa nito ang high tech Maglev (400 km / hr bullet Magnetic Elevated train sa Shanghai at sa Germany) at TGV train sa France. (Photo: MagLev Train sa Shanghai,; TGV train sa France,

Kung walang kurakot, ang halagang $800.0 million na Northrail project ay posibleng umabot mula Tacloban-Maasin, Leyte, babagtas ng Bicol Region, Metro Manila hanggang Laoag, Ilocos Norte (2,000 km)! Kaya tuloy ang mga dayuhang mamumuhunan ay nag-aalangang pondohan ang ilang natitirang MRTs (MRT 4,5,6 at 7) projects sa Kamaynilaan. Baka nga naman bumukol, magsuper over prized, makotongan at sakmalin ng mga galamay ng Malakanyang.

Kung sa bagay, sa mata ng taga-gubyerno, "ito ang kultura, ito ang tradisyon, since immemorial pa ito, gawain na ito mula kay Pres. Quezon hanggang kay Arroyo, normal lang at nakabaon na ang ganitong takbo ng gawaing paggugubyerno at higit sa lahat, ipagmamalaki't taas noong ipagwawagwagan pa nilang HINDI ito KURAKOT, WALANG KATIWALIAN, wala kaming kasalanan sa diyos."

Realated Soty:
Northrail project, pang-Guinness ang presyo (Noel Abuel/Boyet Jadulco/Bernard Taguinod)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Gusto mo pa bang irollback sa P 9.50 ang presyo ng langis?

July 15, 2008
Bigla lang pumasok sa isip ko na kung saka-sakali, gusto n'yo pa bang ibaba sa dating presyong P9.50 (dekada 80s at early 90s) kada litro ang halaga ng gasolina? Bukud sa imposibleng mangyari ito, masyado hypothetical question ang dating. Bigla akong nakapagsulat ng mapanood ko sa news kagabi ang paglusob ng grupo ng kabataan sa tanggapan ng Pilipinas Shell, bilang protesta sa patuloy na pagtaas hanggang langit ng produktong petrolyo at kahilingang “irollback ang presyo ng langis.”

Totoong malaki ang sinasakmal na tubo ng tatlong mga dambuhalang kumpanya ng langis sa Pilipinas, pero ang tiyak at sigurado rin, dahil sa maling patakarang pinairal, mas may malaking kasalanan o accountable ang mga estadong tulad ng Pilipinas sa patuloy na pagtaas ng presyo ng produktong petrolyo. Ang "patakarang deregulation, privatization at ang pinaiiral na 12% collection sa VAT" ang ilan sa matibay na halimbawa. Walang dudang mas matindi pa sa tama ng World War II ang epekto ng pagtaas ng presyo ng langis sa mahigit pitongpung milyong (70.0 milyon) kababayan nating mahihirap.

Sa tantya ko, pihadong nasa negatibo't positibo ang
resulta ng mga kasagutan, depende na lamang kung nasaan ka nakalugar, istado ng pamumuhay, kung ano ang nasa likud ng batok mo, ang pampulitikang linya't ideolohiyang tangan-tangan mo, kung baga, sa kabuuan, maaring magkaiba-iba ang diskurso't pangangatwiran natin.

Sa konteksto ng Pilipinas, kung maibabalik sa P9.50 / litro ang presyo ng gasolina, halimbawa lang, malamang istatus quo ang magiging kalakaran at lagay ng ating lipunan. Hin
di tayo nakasisiguro na iiral ang "demokratisasyon o ang partisipasyon ng mamamayan sa gubyerno't sa lipunang Pilipino." "Wala tayong katiyakan na magkakaroon ng pagbabago sa buluk na sistema ng politika't ekonomya ng bansa. Wala ring duda na ang distribusyon ng kayamanan ay patuloy na mapapakinabangan lamang ng iilang naghahari."

Maaring sabihing may pag-unlad ang ekonomya, partikular sa sektor ng agrikultura't industria, pero ang tanong, sino ang mas makikinabang, kanino ang "means of production at sino ang mas may KAPITAL?" Ika nga ng mga kaliwa, "sino ang mas makikinabang sa ganansyang idudulot ng pag-unlad ng ekonomya, ang masang Pinoy, mga CASIQUE o ang mga corporate elite?" Sa P9.50, mawala kaya ang rebelyon, insureksyon, banta ng KUDETA at manalo na ang Kilusang Kaliwa? Mukhang wala ring kasiguruhan.

Sabi nga ng mga aktibista, "mapang-api't mapagsamantala ang balangkas na istruktura ng lipunang Pilipino." Meaning, lumalaki ang agwat ng mayaman at mahihirap. Ilang malalaking pamilya't makapangyarihang pulitiko lamang ang walang dudang mamayagpag sa kasaganahan at karangyaan. Wala rin kaduda-duda na ang mga dambuhalang mga Oil companies (nakalista sa New York-London Stock Exchange) at gubyernong Pilipino ang tiyakang magpapatuloy sa pakikipagsabwatan at pagsasamantala sa dugo't pawis ng mayoryang mahihirap.

Sa kabilang banda, kung bababa sa P9.50 / litro at ito naman marahil ang gusto ng marami, walang dudang bibilis ang takbo ng ilang ulit ang “CLIMATE CHANGE o ang ina-advocate ni VP Gore at ng GREENPEACE ang Global Warming sa mundo.” Bunsod nito anya, kaliwa't kanang dilubyo at trahedya (bagyo, baha, tagtuyot, peste) ang kasasapitan ng mundo.
Sapagkat mura
na ang gasolina, milyong pinoy ang bibili ng sasakyan at di lang simpleng sasakyan, tulad sa Amerika, big cars, toy truck, libu-libong mga SUVs (sport utility vehicle) sa mga Urban Centers ang babalagbag sa mga lansangan. Makasabay kaya sa development ang mga mega projects, inprastraktura ng pangulo? (Left photo: traffic on Edsa,; solar panel,, Bangui Bay, Ilocos Windmills

Kung P9.50 / litro ang gasolina, kinakabahan ako at baka hindi matutong sumakay sa MRT at tamrin ng maglakad ang mga tao, lalo na ang middle class. At kung saka-sakali, baka ang pinaplanong maramihang pagtatalayo ng mass railway transit (MRT, train system), meaning ang pagtatakwil sa fossilized fuel ay ganap ng maunsyami. Malamang walang mae-envision na E-Jeepney at hindi na kwela ang paggamit ng BISIKLETA. Malamang hindi mag-click sa tao ang kaliwa't kanang GREEN MOVEMENT sa bansa o sa buong mundo. Mahihirapan na rin maitayo ang mga kilusan at partidong naka-ugnay sa kalikasan at pagsugpo ng polusyon (Clean Air).

Sa murang fossil fuel, walang lilitaw o babagal ang pagdevelop ng alternative source of energy, tulad ng SOLAR, WIND, WATER, geothermal Powered energy, iba pang uri at conservation ng tubig at kuryente. Dadami ang private vehicles, mas titindi ang trapik sa Commonwealth, Quezon Av, Edsa o saan man sulok ng Kalakhang Maynila. Malamang, hindi na mag-interest ang mga CAR companies na gumawa ng HYBRID, electri at Hydrogen fuel Car, compressed natural gas powered na BUS at iba pa sa mundo.

Kung noon ay kontrolado ng OIL CARTEL o mga monopolyong kung tawagin ay SEVEN SISTERS, mga dambuhalang oil companies na binubuo ng US, UK at mga mayayamang kanluraning bansa, ang 90% ng langis sa mundo, mula sa oil production, refining at distribution ng langis, sa ngayon, "pawang mga ESTADO, mga gubyernong astig (State Owned) ang may hawak ng mahigit 90% ng langis sa mundo."

Kung noon (60s-70s) ay may SEVEN SISTERS;
1.Standard Oil of New Jersey, ang Esso, Mobil at ExxonMobil (US);
2.Royal Dutch SHELL (Anglo-Dutch);
3.British Petroleum, dating Anglo-Persian Oil Company, BP Amoco
4.Standard Oil
Co. of New York ("Socony"). Mobil, Exxon at Exxon Mobil
5.Standard Oil of California ("Socal") o CALTEX. Naging Chevron, Texaco, CHEVRON TEXACO at kalauna'y naging CHEVRON;
6.Gulf Oil, noong 1985, malaking bahagi nito ay nakain ng Chevron. Ang ilang bahagi ay napunta sa BP;
7.Texaco. Nagsanib sa Chevron in 2001. Naging ChevronTexaco,

Ngayon, “walong supermajors;"
1.Saudi Aramco (Saudi Arabia)
2.JSC Gazprom (Russia)
3.CNPC (China)

4.NIOC (Iran)
5.PDVSA (Venezuela)
6.Petrobras (Brazil)
8.Pemex (Mexico)

"Ang grupong ito ang siya ngayong may kontrol ng halos 90% ng produksyon, refining at distribusyon ng langis sa mundo." Ano na ang nangyari sa Oil Cartel, sa grupong Seven Sisters? Mula sa pito, apat na lamang ang nagsusurvived; ang ExxonMobil, CHEVRON, SHELL at BRITISH PETROLEUM.

Sa kaso ng Pilipinas, ayon sa datos na inilalabas sa mga pahayagan, mas malaki ang kinikita ng gubyerno, mga P80.0 bilyon noong nakaraang taon sa anyo ng koleksyon sa VAT sa langis kung ikukumpara sa pinagsamang kinitang tubo ng mga Oil Companies na P10.5 bilyon.

Marami ang naniniwala na ang umiiral na presyo ng langis sa world market ay bloated at espekulsyon lamang. Sa kabila ng paglaki ng produksyon ng langis sa mga OPEC countries, imbis na bumaba ang presyo, "ang build-up ng nuclear arms ng Iran, ang tensyon sa Gitnang Silangan, ang pananabotahe sa mga pipeline ng langis ng mga liberation movement (gerilya) sa Nigeria, at ang patuloy na pagpapasabog ng mga militante sa mga Oil refineries sa Iraq ang pinalulutang na isyu at pinalalabas na dahilan."

Kaya't para sa akin, sa tanong na "kung ibabalik sa P9.50 at kung aabot man sa P100.0 / litro ng gasolina
, ang sagot ko diyan, depende sa labanan."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Jobs, Prices, Incomes, Poverty: Uncovering the State of the Nation

Aya Fabros
Focus on the Global South
10 July 2008
In a couple of weeks, Gloria Arroyo will be delivering her State of the Nation Address (SONA), marking another year of tenacity and triumph over a recurring and still-unfolding crisis confronting her delegitimized regime. (Photo:

This upcoming SONA is her key address since the wildfire of political scandals that revived calls for her resignation, including the NBN-ZTE deal, the Malacanang cash gift fiasco and the impeachment farce. The economy, which had been registering steady growth, low inflation and some incremental improvements in employment, has essentially served as her administration’s refuge from the political verwirrung that followed. With her legitimacy in question, Arroyo and her spin doctors have craftily appropriated the dictum ‘it’s the economy, stupid,’ as a central strategy to deflect criticism and opposition to her regime. Indications of a healthy economy have in effect served as political tools for undermining and discrediting demands for her to step down and cut her term short. Her spin doctors have worked doubly hard to capitalize on this picture of a soaring economy, presenting an image of Arroyo as a manager and leader bent on getting down to work, with her goal set on ensuring and sustaining economic progress, even in the face of escalating adversity and ‘destabilization’.

This propaganda drive gave birth to slogans such as “Trabaho hindi gulo” as well as the barrage of TV ads and tarpaulins that brandish the lines “Ramdam ko ang asenso” and “Ramdam ko ang kaunlaran.” In the recent stage of this propaganda blitz comes a more targeted populist offensive, spawning interim programs such as the Ahon Pamilyang Pilipino and the Katas ng VAT, which provide a springboard for direct transfers to the poor, including lifeline users of electricity and poor households with young school children. This portrays a responsive, pro-poor president, who has put in place timely programs for the poorest whose conditions are aggravated by rising prices of key commodities, as the dark side of the economy stealthily reared its head.

The robust economy that the Arroyo administration has been gloating about has manifestly bared its key flaws. With the unravelling of key indicators such as prices and jobs, more and more paradoxes are starkly revealed as the SONA approaches. The boost of 2007 turned out to be short-lived, a spurt that could not be sustained. The spin pertaining to a solid economy is dramatically discredited by sharp changes in key indicators that Arroyo supposedly tamed under her watch. After the record-level growth of 7.3%, the “soaring” economy of 2007 “slackens”, with GDP growth down to 5.2% in the first quarter of 2008, to use the words of NSCB Secretary-General Romulo Virola.

The slowdown in national income growth comes with staggering rises in prices, weakening real value of the peso, declining employment and increased joblessness, and high incidence of poverty and hunger. Prices of key commodities, such as rice and oil, are escalating week on week.

Inflation rates are sharply rising. From an average of 2.8 percent in 2007, inflation has skyrocketed to 11.4 percent in June 2008. The real value of the peso fell to 65 centavos, in May 2008, and then to 63.5 centavos in June compared to its value in 2000. Put differently, the goods and services that could be purchased for a hundred pesos back in 2000, now cost P 157.4 (June 2008). For the ordinary Pinoy, this means that we need to shell out more to maintain our standard of living. The cost of living continues to go up, real incomes are dwindling, at a time when Filipinos are struggling, and barely getting by, w i t h p o v e r t y - l e v e l w a g e s , underemployment or joblessness.

Jobs crisis: Precarious work and unemployment
A chronic jobs deficit, both in terms of number and quality of work, continue to characterize the employment situation in the country. Job generation has not kept pace with the economy's growth. Although the economy is growing, the number of jobs is not growing fast enough for the expanding labor force. The working age population has increased from 56.4 Million in April 2007 to 57.7 Million by April 2008. Of the 34.22 Million in the labor force, 2.9 million do not have jobs. Unemployment has worsened from 7.4% last year to 8% this year, indicating that our economy is losing jobs rather than creating them. Between April 2007 and May 2008, nearly 200,000 jobs were lost.

Working Poor, Inadequate Incomes and Poverty Wages
While some workers have lost their jobs, a larger number of workers are engaged in precarious, low paying (if at all) employment. Of those employed, 10.9 Million (32.6%) are laborers and unskilled workers, most likely earning poverty wages. To offset the rising cost of living and the shrinking real value of the peso, a 20-peso increase in the minimum wage has been approved, in the National Capital Region (NCR), and P10-P15 pesos elsewhere in the country. Income tax for minimum wage earners has also been scrapped recently. For NCR, the minimum wage is now in the range of P362-P382 a day, but this covers only 43% of the P 882 family living wage (FLW), an official estimate set by the National Wages and Productivity Board, comprised of food and non-food expenditures required to nourish and sustain a household of six. The quagmire of laborers is a heady cocktail of falling real wages and inadequate income: They're not only suffering from diminishing purchasing power, they're also not earning enough to sustain their daily needs. Worse, among those employed, 12.5 percent are actually unpaid family workers or workers not earning anything at all for their labor. The number of unpaid family workers is also on the rise, now at 4.2 Million from 3.85 Million last year.

Precarious Employment, Decline in Formal, Steady Jobs, Underemployment
Similarly, the proportion of wage and salary workers has also dropped: from 53.4% in January 2007 to 51.7% in January 2008, while own account workers are also increasing in number, with 10.88 Million Filipinos being “self-employed”. Small and medium entrepreneurs might come to mind, but then again, think hawkers, vendors, scavengers, and the like. In this respect, regular formal work with steady wage incomes seem to be on a downturn, and more and more Pinoys appear to be resorting to informal employment to make ends meet.

This is similarly reflected in the growing number of the underemployed. Despite the fact that 60 % of those employed are actually working full-time for more than 40 hours a week, there are 6.62 Million Filipinos who have a job but are still looking for more work. The underemployment rate is up from 18.9% to 19.8% from April 2007 to April 2008 and the number of underemployed has increased by almost 300,000. These figures underscore questions pertaining to the quality of work available to Filipinos.

The Young and the Jobless
Who are the unemployed? Apparently, majority of the unemployed are young and educated. 2.37 Million or 81.4% of the unemployed are young, aged 15-34 years old. This figure only stood at 2.14 Million or 79.7% last year, indicating an increase in unemployment among the youth. Another unemployment paradox is the apparent rising unemployment among the educated. Among those who are unemployed, 40%, or 1.166 Million, have actually obtained college level education; up from 39% or 1.05 Million last year. Now this is bursting the Filipino dream, our ahon sa kahirapan strategy, to send our children to school against all odds, in order for them to secure good jobs and a better quality of life. And then again, with jobs sparse and wanting at the homefront, the recourse is to go abroad.

Agriculture, Employment, Productivity, Income
T h e agricultural s e c t o r continues to lag behind services and industry in terms of GDP share. In 2007, it accounted for only 14.1% of gross domestic production (current), contributing 936 Billion to national income. In contrast, the share of services and industry comprised 54.2% and 31.7% respectively. In terms of employment, however, agriculture provided as much as 35.2% of jobs. Industry, on the other hand, employed only 15.6% of workers. Agriculture did not demonstrate the same positive correspondence between employment share and share in domestic production. A simple way of illustrating this contradiction is by computing the ratio of GDP and Employment share. Industry has the highest ratio at 2.03, followed by services at 1.09, with agriculture trailing behind at 0.4. Malalauan (2006) describes the agricultural sector as being “trapped in low productivity” in a previous Development Roundtable Series (DRTS) publication, showing a similar trend with respect to GDP per input of labor.

Agricultural output per unit of labor in 2005 was a meager P 63,828, compared to Industrial output per unit of labor and service output per unit of labor valued at P 357,651.55 and P 183,018.7 respectively. He further points out, “from such low productivity, and considering costs of inputs, we can only expect very low incomes in the agriculture sector. In addition, frequent calamities, poor infrastructure, unstable prices, and seasonality of employment render agricultural incomes vulnerable.” Precarious production and unsteady incomes are still reflected in the latest data. Almost half of the underemployed (48.3%) are found in the agricultural sector. It also accounts for majority of unpaid family workers.

Half of Pinoy families say they are poor
The crisis in prices, jobs and incomes has grave implications on poverty and hunger. Official statistics show that (as of 2006 Family Income and Expenditure Survey) the number of poor families rose to 4.67 Million in 2006 from 4.022 Million in 2003. At least 32.9% of the population live below the poverty line. Self-rated poverty is even higher. An estimated 9 million families, or 50 percent of households consider themselves poor according to the March 2008 survey of the Social Weather Stations. Moreover, the most recent SWS survey shows that 2.8 Million families (15.7%) have experienced involuntary hunger. In the wake of surging food prices, a rise in the incidence of hunger cannot be far behind. While real incomes have been falling, the price of food has been continuously rising, at a fast pace. Food inflation rate has already reached double digits at 16.5% (June 2008), and even higher outside NCR at 17.3%.

The price of rice has increased at an even faster pace, at 43% across the country, and a staggering 60.5% in NCR. Food is ecoming more and more inaccessible, with inflation getting a larger cut from already inadequate incomes and as of the first quarter, approximately 7.1 Million households, or 2 out of 5 Filipino families, already consider themselves ‘food-poor,’ according to SWS. Over 400,000 families, 5.8% of the self-rated food poor, experienced severe hunger in the first quarter, at a time when inflation was still 4.9 to 6.4 %.

High incidence of hunger and poverty is set against a backdrop of stark disparities in incomes and resource access. According to the 2006 FIES, the average annual income of the poorest 10% is pegged at P 32,000. This is clearly inadequate to nourish and sustain an average Filipino household, even when set against a low per capita poverty threshold of P15,057, or 42 pesos per person, per day. Comparing between income groups, note that the average income of the richest households is 19.4 times more than the average income of the poorest households. The poorest decile earned only P 32,000 and the richest decile had an average income of P617,000 in 2006. The sharp contrast in incomes reflects skewed access to opportunities to earn and to gain from economic growth.

The striking disparities can be demonstrated in various ways. For instance, in 2006, the poorest decile registered a total annual family income of P 56 Billion (current prices), from P 44 Billion in 2003, generating an increase of P 12 Billion. In contrast, the richest decile garnered a total annual family income of P 1.074 Trillion, from P 884 Billion in 2003. With a P 190 Billion increase (current prices), the richest families got a share of 34.23% of total annual family income growth (P 555 Billion increase from 2003 to 2006). The poorest families, on the other hand, received 2.16% of the total growth in annual income of families. The contrast between the growth of the two income groups is 15.83 to 1-- the total income of the richest families grew 16 times more than the poorest families. That the poor are getting a smaller share of growth should not come as a surprise in an economy where distribution of resource endowments and access to other opportunities to earn are skewed and limited, confined mostly to precarious work, with low, unsteady incomes. What’s worse is that these families are also the ones most likely to feel the harshest blows of the crunch. They do not only earn a lot less, but also devote a lot more of their expenditures on food and other commodities that have shown highest increases in prices. In this respect, it’s not only the distribution of gains that are unequal, but also the distribution of risks, with the poorest most vulnerable and intensely affected by swings and shocks.

This is a snapshot of how the economy is faring in terms of jobs, prices, incomes and poverty. Clearly, the state of this tenuous economy is best gleaned from the state of the Filipino working people. As we contend with this heady cocktail of skyrocketing prices, escalating cost of living, precarious employment or joblessness and falling real value of incomes, more Filipinos will find themselves thrust in a condition of worsening poverty, insecurity and hunger.

The cruel contradiction that underlies our economic trajectory is the fact that the majority of Filipinos who have not accrued benefits from economic upturns, are the ones who are most affected and devastated by its downswings. While our economic managers are busy cooking up a cacophony of short-term populist projects, they have not addressed the inherent contradictions that characterize our economy or even effectively insulated the most vulnerable from the shocks that take place. Although the government has insistently pinned the blame on global developments, they will have to come up with more than just sophisticated spins or one-shot programs to appease the rising numbers who are feeling, and reeling from, the crunch. As more and more Filipinos are slaughtered by this economic tempest, what would be worth noting is how this latest swing in the economy will determine the unravelling of the political crisis.

* Aya Fabros is Research Associate for Focus on the Global South.