Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Posts Tagged ‘Aquino’

Responding to Marcos’ Near-Victory

Posted by butalidnl on 17 May 2016

Ferdinand Marcos Jr nearly got elected as Vice President in the recent Philippine elections. He lost by only a couple of hundred thousand votes.  A full third of the electorate voted for him, believing that (pick one or more of the following):
– Martial Law was not that bad, or even that it was good;
– Martial Law was bad, but was only the fault of his father;
– the VP position isn’t that important anyway;
– Marcos was the most experienced, and most competent among the VP candidates;
– it was important to vote against the LP, even if it meant voting for Marcos

Let us go into these points more deeply.

Teaching Martial Law at School
The first point – the belief that Martial Law was not that bad – is the fault of successive post-Martial Law politicians and of Filipinos in general.  After we overthrew Marcos in 1986, we felt that everyone knew about Martial Law. We didn’t do enough to ensure that this general knowledge was passed on to future generations.

Every year, there would be an EDSA anniversary celebration on 25 February; but there was no effort to include the experience of Martial Law in school history textbooks. In those textbooks, Marcos was portrayed as just one in the series of presidents. Students were taught that all presidents had good and bad points. The students took it to mean that Martial Law was not that bad – just something similar to the failed Estrada presidency.
What should have been done was to have a specific chapter on Martial Law: on how Marcos grabbed power, on the various economic, political and human rights crimes the Marcosses committed, and the brave resistance of many people, and finally the 1986 uprising.

Instead of merely remembering the EDSA uprising every 25 February, we should also mark 21 September as the anniversary of the Martial Law declaration. 21 September would then be some kind of ‘Memorial Day’ and 25 February ‘Freedom Day’.  The Aquinos’ role in both should be reduced; more emphasis should be given to how many people who suffered under Martial Law, and how they fought back.

Merely the Son of…
Ferdinand Marcos Jr is trying to pass himself of as ‘merely the son of’ FM Sr. the dictator. That he was innocent of the wrongdoings of his father and mother. But this is a lie.
FM Jr became 18 years old in 1975, a mere 3 years into Martial Law. He was an adult who fully participated in the ‘family business’ of looting the wealth of the Philippines. He used dummy corporations to siphon money from legitimate businesses.
And then there are the various secret bank accounts of the Marcos family. FM opened secret bank accounts for all his children, to which they alone would have the access codes.While the Philippine government has gotten hold of the assets from many Marcos accounts (especially those in Swiss banks), there are many accounts elsewhere, which are harder to trace. FM Sr’s remaining personal accounts, which are presently controlled by Imelda Marcos, will also surely be passed on to her children upon her death.

So, FM Jr is not merely the son of FM Sr, the dictator. He is his heir; he was a co-conspirator to his father; he has inherited a big part of the loot his parents had stolen; he is complicit in many of FM Sr’s crimes..

“The Vice President Position is not that Important”
Some people say that the they could vote for FM Jr, because it is ‘only’ for Vice President, which is after all not an important position.
While it is true that the position of Vice President is not as powerful as that of the President, VPs yield more power than senators or cabinet secretaries. First of all, a Vice President is often given a cabinet post. She/he will attend cabinet meetings. And since she/he is the only one whom the president cannot dismiss, she/he will be one of the cabinet heavyweights, regardless of whatever portfolio she/he has.

Second, a VP is literally only a heartbeat away from being president. If the president dies or is deposed, the vice president will take over. This has happened three times in Philippine history: in 1944 when Osmena became president-in-exile after Quezon’s death; in 1957 when Garcia took over after Magsaysay died in a plane crash; and in 2001, when Gloria Macapagal Arroyo replaced president Estrada after he was deposed.
For this reason, we should only elect a vice president who would make a good president.

Then, the vice presidency is a perfect launching pad for an eventual presidential campaign. Marcos was the VP of Macapagal before he first ran for president in 1965. Erap Estrada skillfully used his VP position for this purpose. Binay  used it for the same purpose.

If FM Jr became vice president, he would also have used the position to gradually change people’s perception of FM Sr and Martial Law.

Most Experienced, Competent
Then, it is said that FM Jr was the most experienced and competent candidate.  In response to this, we could recall how Cory Aquino responded to a similar argument by Marcos Sr (paraphrasing): “I am not as experienced as Marcos in cheating, stealing and trampling on people’s human rights”.  One’s length of stay in office is not an automatic sign of competence, but of the strength of one’s political dynastic power.

Leni Robredo had served only 3 years in the House of Representatives; but she had performed exceptionally well as Representative, with many good bills introduced and advocated, including the Freedom of Information Bill and the Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Bill. Before becoming Representative, she had worked for the Naga City Public Attorney’s Office, and then as coordinator of SALIGAN – an alternative legal support group. Her work brought her in contact with people from many communities, including many outlying ones. She has had a lot of experience.
FM Jr became Vice-Governor of Ilocos Norte in 1980 (after finishing college), and proceeded to take positions alternately as governor, congressman and senator, all based on his local dynastic politicial base in Ilocos Norte (with an interlude between 1986 and 1991 because he was with his father in exile). Having been always in public office, FMJr does not have any experience with what ordinary people feel and want.

What FM Jr seems to have done during his years in public office is to steer clear of petty political controversies and corruption scandals. With literally billions of dollars in bank accounts, and the Marcos unchallenged political dominance in Ilocos Norte, he did not need to. Compared to other political wheeler-dealers who ran for vice president e.g. Chiz Escudero or Gregorio Honasan, FM Jr would indeed seem like a decent choice.

Marcos vs Aquino
One narrative that seems to be quite strong is that Martial Law was mainly about the rivalry between Marcos and Aquino. Under this logic, the administration of PNoy is just the counterpoint of Martial Law (and implicitly was made to be equivalent to it). Thus, those who disliked PNoy and the Liberal Party should vote for FM Jr .

I come from Cebu; and I know that Marcos’ main rival when he declared Martial Law was Sergio Osmena Jr (Serging), who had run against him in the 1969 elections. When Marcos declared Martial Law, the first target was the power base of vice president Fernando Lopez – Marcos grabbed their properties (incl. ABS-CBN and Meralco) – because the Lopez family was the biggest threat to his power.  The outspoken Senators who opposed Marcos were Salonga, Diokno, Aquino and Tanada. Among them, Salonga was the most respected leader. Salonga, however, suffered from ill-health due to the injuries he incurred during the Plaza Miranda Bombing of 1971. It was Salonga who headed a broad coalition of the opposition in its boycott of the 1981 elections.

During the darkest years of the dictatorship, Ninoy Aquino was in exile in the USA. After the 1981 election boycott, Ninoy Aquino realized that if he remained outside for long, he would lapse into political irrelevance. In order to get back into the scene, Aquino decided to return in August 1983. His death on Marcos’ orders (many people now believe that it was Imelda Marcos who ordered it, not Ferdinand) transformed him into a martyr for the Filipino people. He became a rallying point for a wave of protests that pushed Marcos to declare snap elections in February 1986.
When Marcos called for snap elections, it was Salvador Laurel who was the most likely candidate of the opposition. But many of those who were active in the protest movement didn’t want Laurel to lead them. Eventually, the united opposition chose Cory Aquino to run as president. Laurel had to very reluctantly agree to run as vice president.
Thus, the Marcos – Aquino was a small part of the contradiction during Martial Law.

Post EDSA governments chose to emphasize the role of the Aquinos in overthrowing Marcos. Cory Aquino needed to: she was faced with numerous coup attempts against her, and she wanted to honor the memory of her assasinated husband. Fidel Ramos, who succeeded Cory Aquino, emphasized the last years of Martial Law; because in the first part, he was Martial Law’s enforcer.

‘Never Again’
It is of utmost importance that our people are properly educated about the evils of Martial Law. We need to reach out to the young people and inform them about what Martial Law was all about – and not what they learned in school.  We need to revise the history textbooks to give an accurate accout of Martial Law; and that problems with subsequent presidents pale in comparison.

The Marcos-Aquino myth needs to be broken. The story of a whole era of resistance needs to be told. .Ninoy and Cory Aquino should be brought down to earth; their role should be acknowledged, but no longer inflated.

And it is very important to expose FMJr’s personal participation in FM Sr’s crimes. ‘Never Again’ should not only refer to never again having Martial Law. It should also mean that the Filipinos would ‘Never Again’ support the Marcoses bid to return to power.

 

 

 

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Vote Wisely in Philippine Elections

Posted by butalidnl on 14 October 2012

The candidates have now all filed their CoCs (Certificate of Candidacy) with the Comelec. The election season has unofficially begun, even though the period when candidates could properly campaign has yet to start.  One thing that stands out of the candidates list is that it is full of old NAMES – often these aren’t the politicians we knew, but their children or spouses. They run because people would still vote for them out of name recall. In the Senatorial race, a lot of the candidates with known names are running: Cayetano, Enrile, Angara, Aquino, Magsaysay, Binay, Villar, Estrada (Ejercito).. The local and congressional candidates also have known names, from established political dynasties. Voters will often face the choice of which political dynasty they will support this time.

What are honest people, who sincerely want the country to develop, to do in the face of all this? A lot, actually.

What Voters Can Do
To be a good voter, you should do a lot more than show up at the polling station come election day. Casting your ballot should be the end of a process in which we we choose our officials.

Study the candidates: their performance in office, or their CVs if they haven’t served yet. See if their talents match the position they seek. (for example, one could say that a good debater – like Miriam Santiago – may not really fit in an executive position, like president, but would be great as a Senator). Researching a candidate’s performance and background is a lot easier to do today, compared to previous elections Many candidates are easy to Google, if not the candidates themselves, news articles about them.
It is important to see the qualifications of the person himself/herself, and not that of their family. A candidate from a political dynasty may be good; conversely, a ‘new’ politician could be incompetent or corrupt.

Talk to people about your choices. It might surprise you how many people are willing to listen to your views (that’s why its important to study the candidates well yourself). In turn, people will also have opinions and information which may cause you to change your mind. The important thing is that people discuss – this is the essence of the democratic process. The more people discuss the merits of various candidates, the more they can make good, thought-out, voting decisions.

Having well thought-out voting preferences has a ‘multiplier effect’. Many people, who are not well-informed about politics, often seek out those who they think could give them good advice on whom to vote for. They would ask their employers, colleagues, friends, even neighbours for advice.

Make demands from candidates. Ask them to make concrete promises e.g. “Expand the capacity of the city’s hospital” “Stop a proposed open-pit mining project” or “Support the passage of the Freedom of Information bill”. The thing is, they will be pushed to implement their promise, or lose your (and many other people’s ) support in the next election.
Don’t ask for something vague, like:”Be tougher on crime” or “Fight corruption.” This is easy to promise, and it would be difficult to measure whether they fulfilled the promise or not.

With social media nowadays, it is a lot easier for groups of citizens to make demands of candidates.

Accept the bribe, but vote your conscience. If someone gives you money to vote for a candidate, accept it; but then go ahead and vote for the one you chose in the first place. If the candidate you chose was the source of the money, you may want to reconsider whether you still will vote for him.

Join citizen initiatives. There are a lot of initiatives, online and offline,  which you can join, which work for cleaner and better elections. Epalwatch for example goes against premature campaigning and the use of public funds for campaigning.  Namfrel observes the conduct of the elections themselves. There are many groups doing voter information drives.

And finally on election day…
Vote for candidates that are good.
Write down in advance the candidates you are voting for. Don’t make decisions in the polling place itself – because such decisions are going to be made more out of name-recognition than sound judgement.
If none of the choices for a position is good, don’t vote for anyone – just leave that space blank in the ballot. In choosing Senators, you are not obliged to choose 12 – just vote for those you deem to be good, even if that means you only vote for four or five.
You are not required to choose the ‘lesser evil’. People who vote for a candidate they dislike less very often regret their vote later. It’s much better to just leave the position blank on the ballot.

Of course, by voting wisely, one doesn’t expect to change the political system overnight, or after one election. But as more and more people fully exercise their democratic responsibilities and vote wisely, things will gradually change for the better. Full democratic participation is a necessary ingredient to political transformation; change will happen as people more fully exercise their democratic duty to vote wisely.

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Limit Government Corporation Salaries

Posted by butalidnl on 17 August 2010

President Noynoy Aquino made a big issue of the excessive bonuses paid to the board of the MWSS during his recent State of the Nation Address (SONA). It seems that there are a lot of other government corporations which also pay their boards quite richly. Is there a way to limit the pay of these people? How high should their salaries and bonuses be, then?
One angle that the Senate is looking into is whether these Government Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCCs) comply with RA 7656, which require GOCCs to remit at least 50% of their annual net earnings to the government. Apparently, some GOCCs are not remitting their earnings, and have funneled these instead to their own pockets, by way of bonuses and other benefits to their managers.
But, if we take aside the issue of whether or not a GOCC is remitting its earnings to the government, there should still be a limit on the salaries of their executives. The question of what constitutes excessive pay needs to be answered.

I  suggest that limit for the compensation for GOCC executives, should be the salary that the president receives himself. It should be reasonable enough to establish the salary of the president as the maximum “norm” for government salaries. After all, as the chief executive of the country, he should be the highest paid government official. But, how will this work when the boards of MWSS and other government corporations and institutions are governed by their own charters?

The Netherlands
In the Netherlands, there is a “norm” regarding how high the salaries of publicly owned corporations can be; and this is the salary of the prime minister. This norm is called the “Balkenende Norm”, which is the name of the current prime minister, and who earns about Euro 188,000 per year. However, the government could not impose this as a formal limit, . So, the Dutch parliament passed a law requiring the publication of the list of government officials (as well as officials of government owned or controlled corporations) who earn more than the Balkenende norm. And, since this law was passed in 2006, there has been immense public pressure put on those who do earn more than the premier, but who don’t really deserve to (according to the public, that is). This has led to many managers being forced by their boards to return “excessive bonuses”.

In the Netherlands, people accept that people like the head of the Central Bank, the AFM (equivalent to the SEC) and other financial regulators, need to be paid high salaries; because, otherwise, you will not be able to get the most qualified people for these jobs. But they frown upon some hospital directors (these are public corporations here) who get higher salaries than the prime minister, for instance.

“P-Noy Norm”
In the Philippines, I think it would be a good idea to have a “PNoy Norm” , which will set the president’s salary as the norm for the highest salaries in government. The Congress should also pass a law requiring all officials (especially those from GOCCs) who earn more than that to declare how much they earn, and that this should be published in the internet and in other media. This way, the public will have the possibility to assess whether these officials deserve such high salaries.

The PNoy norm should be set above the president’s nominal salary. After all, he has some non-salary benefits e.g. free lodging in Malacanang, free travel, etc. So, let us say we put the norm at Php 1.8 million a year (Php 150,000 a month), and this would include salaries, bonuses and other fringe benefits. So, GOCC executives earning more than this should declare it.

The government could put this norm in effect simply by the power of an Executive Order.  And, and the same time, the president could set up a commission to review the salaries of all executives who receive more than the “P-Noy Norm”. And I am sure that public pressure will come to bear on officials who receive more than the PNoy norm, but who cannot justify such a high level of compensation.

And of course, the Senate should continue with its investigation of whether funds which should have gone to the government have instead gone to the pockets of GOCC managers.

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Ban Officials from Claiming Government Projects

Posted by butalidnl on 7 August 2010

President PNoy Aquino said that he supports Senator Escudero’s Senate Bill 2187 which prohibits the naming of government projects after officials. And he went on to declare that he does not want to have any project named after him. This is a good sign.
Actually, Escudero’s bill is only the latest Senate attempt at curbing this practice. In 2004, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago proposed Senate Bill 1967, which will penalizes the attaching of the name or image of any public official to a sign announcing a proposed or ongoing public works project. It was not passed by the 13th Congress, so Santiago reintroduced it in 2007, in the 14th Congress, and it still didn’t pass.
Santiago’s SB 1967 bill penalizes officials who do attach their name or image to a project, to 6 months to 1 year in prison, and to permanent disqualification from running for public office. Escudero’s SB 2187 penalizes the offenders with 1 year imprisonment and a fine from Php100,000 to Php1,000,000.

Corruption
The practice of claiming government projects as “theirs” by government officials is not only irritating, it is also a waste of money. And, more importantly, it is a form of corruption. After all, these officials use public funds and projects for personal gain. It is a form of free advertisement for themselves, as a sort of advanced election campaign. Even if no additional funds are involved (i.e. the sign would have been put up anyway), it is still corruption. And, if it involves additional expense for the government, it becomes even worse.

Congressmen seem to need to show off where their pork barrel allotments go to. Let them just show them in their websites (or the websites of the Dept of Local Government, or that of Congress), where they could publish what projects got funded by their pork barrel funds. This would have the additional advantage of increasing transparency in the allocation of pork barrel.

Just like the anti “Wang Wang” drive of the government, a ban on claiming government projects will go a long way towards changing the general atmosphere that leads to corruption. It will be a small, but quite visible (or should we say, “invisible”) step in the right direction.

Provisions
Let us go to the provisions such a law should have. In the first place, I think the law should specify by the claim ban. Billboards explaining the project is one way, but there are others e.g. words painted on a waiting shed, or the name of the project is similar to the politician’s name, or words printed or attached to a label of a product (e.g. school bags given to children). The ban should cover all these.

Then, the punishment for violating the ban should not include imprisonment. I think that would be too harsh, and may have a counter-productive effect, i.e. people would not complain of violations, because they think that imprisonment is too harsh. The punishment should include: a big fine, suspension from office for 6 months to a year for the first offense, and expulsion from office plus a permanent prohibition from public office for the second offense. I think this should be fair enough to be upheld.

And the government should also allot money to “erase” all claims on projects by government officials. Waiting sheds may need to be painted over, projects may need to be renamed, etc.

I think President PNoy should include this bill among the priority bills that he will push Congress to pass.  Then, passing it through Congress becomes a possibility. Otherwise, if he doesn’t signify it as priority, it will not pass; since many lawmakers like to claim government projects.  And, if the president doesn’t think it should go through as a bill, he could adopt it as an Executive Order, which although faster, would also be less effective than a law.

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Privatizing PAGCOR

Posted by butalidnl on 31 July 2010

I think that President Aquino’s plan to privatize PAGCOR is a good idea. In the first place, it will remove the government’s hand from directly “promoting” gambling. And if it does it the right way, government will continue to earn revenue from PAGCOR.

Separation of Functions
By privatizing PAGCOR, the government would have the opportunity to separate its task of regulating the gambling industry, from its task of operating a gambling business. This should mean that gambling will be more regulated than it is at present, with the combined functions of PAGCOR.

The government should first set up a special Gambling Authority, which would take on the task of regulating all forms of legal gambling – cockfighting, lotto, sweepstakes, Small Town Lottery and casinos. This new body would determine where casinos would be allowed, etc. This way, the new body should be able to concentrate on regulation of all gambling; and not be “distracted” with the task of maximizing revenue. This latter task should then go to the management of PAGCOR.

Government Revenue
The government should then  impose a special tax on casino operations, so as to “discourage” gambling, and at the same time raise money from these – as a sort of special “sin tax”. This tax will be in addition to the usual business tax. This way, the government will be able to earn money from gambling, but not be involved in managing the gambling system itself.

The object of government should not be to maximize incomes from gambling, but rather to make the best out of a bad situation – i.e. that people feel the need to gamble.

Shares in PAGCOR
The government seems to be studying the possibility of selling PAGCOR to a single entity, either domestic or foreign. I think this will end up with a privately-owned  casino monopoly, which will not be desirable. The solution that I propose is to sell 50% of  PAGCOR shares on the open market, as an IPO (Initial Public Offering), preferably to Filipinos. The government will retain 25% as a “Golden Share” , to help ensure that PAGCOR will be operated correctly (according to the government, that is). And the final 25% will be sold to a management group, which could be auctioned off to either domestic or foreign parties.

Or the government could do it there other way around, by first auctioning off the 25% to a management group, and then later selling 50% to the general public.

This way, the management will control only 25% of the company. Enough for it to have a decisive say in the day-to-day operations, but not enough to control the direction or objectives of the company. They will not be able to sell it to another party or diversify, since the government controls one fourth of the shares, and will not agree to such changes.

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