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LIES AND DECEIT

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By Al Labita

NOTHING to crow about the Aquino government’s self-serving claim that under its watch, the economy has expanded at a rate faster than what its officials could imagine.

Reckoned with realities, however, the growth only perpetuated the perennial rich-poor gap, one of the world’s worst, despite Aquino’s much-ballyhooed reform agenda.

While statistics only tell half a story, they nonetheless betray the painful truths lurking behind a façade of lies and deceit.
The inclusive growth Aquino has been harping on has been largely inclusive only among the few moneyed elite to the exclusion of the vast majority – the poor.

As the economy grows, it also exponentially drives up the wealth of those in command and control of the lives of Filipinos.
The figures are grim — only 40 families such as the Ayalas, Sys and Tans account for nearly 80 percent of the economy as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), an OpinYon’s research shows.

In stark contrast, some Asian neighbors had managed to whittle down the rich-poor ratio as they gained headway in democratizing their economy over the past decades.

In Thailand, the same number of families account for only 33.7 per cent of the economy and in Malaysia, 5.6 per cent, indicating how the Philippines has lagged behind in addressing the urgency to spread out the nation’s wealth.

Ironically, the glaring disparity vis-à-vis sharing a nation’s wealth explains why the Philippines has more billionaires (in US dollar) than in more prosperous Thailand and Malaysia.

GDP and PPP

They are the same people who take advantage of lucrative contracts, including profit guarantees and tariff increases, under the government’s Public-Private Partnership program (PPP), Aquino’s centerpiece in pushing infrastructure projects.
“The regime has consistently favored the few billionaires while further marginalizing the poor. Aquino now wants to enrich them even more by giving them various perks for the PPP projects,” says the militant Bayan Muna in a statement.
Based on the account of US-based magazine Forbes, the combined net worth of the Philippines’ 50 richest totaled US$65.8 billion in 2012, more than a quarter of the nation’s GDP.

Mostly of Chinese origin, these families own companies which have grown—aided largely by generous government incentives—to become conglomerates with shares traded on the Philippine Stock Exchange and in some cases offshore, notably in cash-rich Hong Kong and Singapore.

Millionaires to Billionaires

Their vast and diverse corporate tentacles extend far and wide, catering to the lives of Filipinos, literally from womb to tomb, leaving them with no choice but to enslave themselves under the weight of an oppressive western-style economic system.
As shown in the list of Singapore-based UBS Billionaires Census 2013, the Philippines ranked 9th in Asia, with 13 billionaires with a combined net worth of US$35 billion.

In 10th place was Malaysia with 10 billionaires worth a combined US$37 billion, while Thailand ranked 11th with 10 billionaires worth US$25 billion.

As usual, ethnic Chinese taipans Henry Sy and Lucio Tan topped the list of the Philippines’ mega rich whose ranks had swelled as more of their kind continued to amass wealth at the expense of those marginalized by the government’s pro-rich, anti-poor economic policies.

Sy, who operates shopping malls, saw his assets surge 44 percent to US$7.2 billion in 2012 alone and remains the Philippines’ richest man.

Doubtful Data

According to the Forbes 2012 annual rich list, Sy and Tan whose businesses range from retail to property and other related ventures were worth a combined US$13.6 billion, equivalent to six per cent of the Philippine economy.
While GDP has undoubtedly risen over the past years, every Filipino’s share of it is unfortunately the lowest among Asean countries.

Based on the latest data of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), the Philippines’ per capita GDP) stood at only US$4,339 in 2012 compared with Singapore, $61,461; – Malaysia, $16,976; Thailand, $9,609; and – Indonesia. $4,971.
GDP is the amount of goods and services produced, while per capita is derived from dividing the population in relation to GDP.
While seemingly doubtful, the NSCB data hardly reconcile with Aquino government’s oft-repeated claims that GDP last year expanded by 6.8 percent and even bragged that it outpaced Singapore’s 1.3 percent, Malaysia’s 5.6 percent, Thailand’s 6.5 percent and Indonesia’s 6.2 percent.

Yet, the Philippines’ per capital GDP has been the lowest–and slowest—among its peer group since 2005 despite official claims that it is Asia’s fastest-growing economy.

Poverty Level

In what could be an indicator of the country’s ever-widening rich-poor gap, NSCB data also showed that high-income households accounted for more than half, or 60 percent, of the GDP.

The balance of 40 percent of the economy’s income was shared by the bulk, or about 84 percent, of the country’s population.
To be poor meant earning less than 16,800 pesos a year or P1, 400 a month or P47 pesos a day which covers 26.5 per cent of the nearly 100 million Filipinos.

As gleaned from the official poverty data of NSCB, the proportion of poor Filipinos to the total population has been surging from 24.9 per cent in 2003 to 26.4 per cent in 2006, and 26.5 per cent in 2009, an issue Aquino promised to address under his “Daang Matuwid” program of government.

Inclusive Growth?

The Philippines has one of the highest poverty rates among emerging Asian economies. The poverty incidence stood at 27.9 percent as of the first semester of 2012, almost unchanged from the 28.6 percent in 2009.

Aware of the magnitude of the problem, the government wants to bring down poverty incidence to 16.6 percent by 2015, an ambitious target difficult to achieve as the rich get richer and the poor poorer, given the economy’s bias for the affluent and the powerful.

In more ways than one, the economy is basically lopsided in structure allowing the oligarchs to gain too much control of the country’s resources and creating one of the worst income inequalities in Asia.

One wonders whatever happened to Aquino’s oft-repeated term “inclusive growth” which seeks to create jobs and reduce poverty by spreading the economy’s gains to trickle down to lower-income segments of society.

More importantly, the rich-poor disparity also draws attention to Aquino’s anti-poverty conditional cash transfer program which has a budget of more than P40 billion this year.

Capitalist vs. Socialist System

The program seeks to see 15 million of the nation’s poorest people receive money directly in exchange for their kids going to school and mothers and children getting proper healthcare.

In releasing its data, NSCB risked incurring anew the ire of Aquino who once bawled out the agency’s officials for portraying the economy in bad light contrary to his government’s rosy picture.

Sign of compassion for the disadvantaged sector of society may be gleaned from how the tycoons responded to the clamor for aid of the hapless typhoon victims in the Eastern Visayas region.

While some, particularly Sy and Tan, handed out P100 million each, others were hardly in the news, apparently opting to work behind the scene with less fanfare.

Billionaire port king Enrique Razon  deployed heavy equipment to repair the damaged piers in Tacloban city and Leyte, while the Ayalas and banker George Ty chipped in P10 million and P50 million, respectively, worth of relief supplies.

The cost of putting the typhoon-ravaged Eastern Visayas region back on its feet amounts to a whopping P250 billion, a window of opportunity for the tycoons to share their wealth with those they derived their profits from.

Overall, while there is evidence of progress in addressing the yawning rich-poor gap, it is too slow. One study says it would take dozens of decade for the bottom millions of the nation’s population to achieve 10 per cent of the national income under the current rate of change.

Similarly, it raises questions about the Philippines’ pro-capitalist economic model vis-à-vis the egalitarian-oriented socialist type.

WHAT IF? A Doomsday Scenario

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by Frederick Fabian

 (Photo credit: AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
(Photo credit: AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

WHAT if a disaster of cataclysmic proportions hits Metro Manila, home to more than 15 million Filipinos—and the seat of the nation’s capital?

Thousands of lives will be lost and casualties can run to millions. It will be a harrowing sight that will surely bring the nation to its knees. That is, if we consider the potential disasters on a grand scale, such as the recent earthquake in Bohol and typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) that razed big parts of Leyte to the ground.

What if, instead of the Visayas, Yolanda took a path straight through the heart of the National Capital Region?
The resulting storm surge would drive the waters of the Laguna Lake inland and inundate the lakeside barangays of Laguna and drown millions of people. The loss of lives and damage to property would be triple the Visayas count.

Faultline

What if the Marikina Valley Fault System shifted and triggered a massive earthquake? Are we ready to deal with such a scenario?

The Philippines, after all, is located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of the world that is susceptible to earthquakes and volcanic activity. The island republic is also considered one of the world’s most dangerous places, because we are a constant recipient of typhoon landfalls more than any large country in the world.
As grim as it may sound, an inconvenient truth is better than a comfortable lie.

(Photo credit: AP/Inquirer/Str)
(Photo credit: AP/Inquirer/Str)

The Marikina Valley Fault System extends from San Mateo, Rizal and runs through Makati, Marikina, Parañaque, Pasig and Taguig. It has been observed by Phivolcs and other scientific experts as a potential origin of large-scale earthquakes that can reach a magnitude of 7 or higher within Metro Manila.

A possible death toll, as predicted by experts, can reach 35,000, with an estimated 120,000 injuries. The earthquake will also require the evacuation of three million people from the potential disaster areas.
In a research done by the Metro Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study (MMEIRS), funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in 2004, it was revealed that a 7.2 magnitude earthquake can destroy 40% of residential buildings, fatalities numbering 114,000 and fires that will result to 18,000 more casualties.

While the eastern side of Metro Manila will suffer the brunt of the event, damage and consequential damage can affect the rest of the NCR. Dr. Norman Tungol of Phivolcs has advised that Metro residents, especially those living near the faultline, to be prepared for the worst, because earthquake prediction is not an exact science.

Aside from structural damage, another risk looming over the people of Metro Manila would be the possibility that reservoirs such as the Angat Dam would be damaged and cause flooding. Building collapse can cause electrical short circuits, petroleum and LPG leakages from storage tanks, among others, that would trigger fires, according to a report by online news site Bulatlat.com. Places susceptible to fires are Valenzuela, Caloocan, and the southern parts of Quezon City.

What Government?

Newsfeeds in Facebook were filled with complaints and angry callouts about the incompetence of President Benigno Aquino III and his lack of political will in dealing with the recent typhoon. The complaints are well-placed and unquestionably valid: at the same space of the few hours when CNN correspondent Anderson Cooper was reporting on the lack of organized government efforts in Tacloban City, President Aquino was on the air with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that everything is under control despite contrary evidence.

It wouldn’t be too far-fetched to say that the President is being cold to the plight of the people of Leyte, if his actions in the past week after the storm is to be gauged. After all, PNoy has been distant and detached from the real-life drama happening in Tacloban and surrounding towns, preferring to do a form of remote-control governance rather than be physically present where the people are suffering, where they are mourning the dead and where the children are going hungry. That appears to be too much for his constitution.

It seems that it is not something a privileged, upper-class-raised Noynoy can handle. How can a sheltered rich boy, the scion of Philippine political icons and hacienda landlords, possibly bear the harrowing sight of devastation and desperation when it’s taking place in front of him? The crisis is far from the safety and comfort of his Malacanang office. We can just imagine that he will treat the residents of Metro Manila the same way. Humans are creatures of habit, and if anything, the President is one. He has a terrible habit of placing the blame on someone else, as if he lacks the capability to own up responsibility.

Incompetence Is Matter Of Fact

As many rational and well-informed Filipinos would tell you, Malacañang has always been incompetent where it counts. Some may dismiss it as mere cynicism and pessimism. But several counts of wrong decisions and late responses to a crisis is an indicator not just of incompetence, but of impotence. We all know that this is not the first time that the Aquino administration has shown that it is incapable of delivering in crucial times. From the 2010 Manila Hostage Crisis, the growing unemployment rate despite his claims of economic growth, the 2011 vetoing of the budget provision for disaster management, to the mishandling of the pork barrel issue, the list just goes on.

Reputable news analysts and weather experts have predicted that the NCR can become the next ground zero based on past scientific data and environmental factors. There is more than enough evidence to support the possibility that significant parts of Metro Manila can and will be subjected to massive damage that can equal that of Tacloban and nearby Leyte towns. According to former Manila Chronicle newsman and science/technology writer Alan C. Robles, “a storm like Haiyan could bring the Philippine capital to its knees.”

In his interview with MMDA chairman Francis Tolentino, the official confirmed similar concerns by saying that it will be just like Tacloban, which was decimated to the ground when Yolanda struck. Tolentino confidently stated it will just be the same, if not worse, although he noted that some structures in Manila are better built to withstand typhoons. He significantly added, “It will also cause societal disruption.”

Welcome To Floodland

Metro Manila is 638 square kilometers in area, composed of 16 cities, one municipality, and has up to around 15 million people living in it. It is surrounded by bodies of water and flood-prone areas such as Barangka in Marikina, Pasig areas near Rosario, central parts of the city of Manila (Blumentritt, Maceda, España, etc.), and parts of Roxas Boulevard in Pasay.

The NCR is practically sandwiched between Manila Bay, facing the China Sea on the west side and Laguna Lake on the southeast. Another factor to consider is the northeastern part bordering the province of Rizal.

In recent years, the mountainsides there have practically been denuded and logged to the ground, and residents in the lower parts of Antipolo City near Marikina have experienced damaging floods due to the accumulated rainwater from Rizal flowing into the river.The Angat Dam and the Pampanga river basins are also hazards to Metro Manila if a super typhoon of the same scale as Yolanda hits. In 2012, disaster management official Edgardo Ollet admitted that the dam “has cracks and needs major repairs”.

One can imagine that the combined force of incessant raining and a highly possible super typhoon is all it would take, and a deluge of epic proportions is just waiting to happen. Meanwhile Dr. Mahar Lagmay of DOST’s Project Noah was also asked by Robles, and he was positive that another super typhoon can happen in the near future. Dr. Lagmay even put it this way: “It’s Russian roulette”. It may not hit now, or any time this week, or the next, but the chances are very high that it can and will happen. Scientists do not need to reiterate those facts to us, as it is already evident in our history as a country: tropical storms are regular occurences. The sad truth is that we as a society have not learned so much from past disasters. As philosopher George Santayana would put it, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Lessons In Foresight

Pecier Decierdo, a physics teacher who works for Mind Museum and science advocacy director for civil organization Filipino Freethinkers, has provided pointers that the public should always keep in mind when it comes to handling disasters. He stated, “More storms make landfall on the Philippines than on any other large country on Earth.”

This one fact demands that the science curriculum in the country should be tailored to produce basic education graduates who understand how tropical storms roll.” According to him, allowing an inadequately informed population to live in a storm-prone country is a massive inhumanity.

A public dialogue on disaster management should be top priority, so that people will be more capable and well-informed in handling the effects of natural disasters in our lives, rather than wait for government to dictate disaster measures. Decierdo remarked, “We should talk about the weather more”. It is known that the country has an insufficient number of meteorologists, and that the public does not regard due status to meteorologists and weather scientists, which results to having underpaid and overworked PAGASA employees.

Underpaid weather specialists and undermanned and ill-equipped weather stations result to inaccurate weather forecasting, which lead to deaths and losses that could otherwise have been prevented.

Economic Consequences

Using 2009’s Ondoy devastation as basis, we can expect that a Haiyan-scale super storm will bring in not just the strongest winds, but the force of floodwaters rushing in and submerging two-story buildings. Business and commerce in the metropolis will definitely be halted. Makati’s main thoroughfares would be clogged, and being a neighbouring city to flood-prone Pasay, it just makes it worse.

Roxas Boulevard, site of Manila’s significant commercial activities and facing Manila Bay, would be the one of the most damaged for obvious reasons. Metro Manila is located in a catchbasin between Manila Bay and Laguna Lake, which means that there is no exit for excess water pouring in from both sides. According to urban planner and master architect Paolo Alcazaren, most of the drains constructed since the Spanish period have either been lost, covered up, or clogged with garbage.

A super typhoon hitting Metro Manila will definitely paralyze the country’s economy,because it will be more than the sum of the past typhoons of the last five years.

Disaster Preparation

This doesn’t mean that we should just be fatalistic and embrace the apocalyptic end times, because something can actually be done.

This is where disaster experts come in. In an interview with Rappler’s Marites Vitug, Kathryn Hawley of Asia Foundation advises that it’s best to prepare for a worst-case scenario and hope that it doesn’t happen. Measures such as stockpiling of water and food, strategic assigning of resources, land use regulations, low-cost housing programs, public awareness campaigns and poverty reduction strategies can help absorb the shocking blow of an imminent catastrophe.

A super typhoon hitting Metro Manila will definitely paralyze the country’s economy,because it will be more than the sum of the past typhoons of the last five years. If not a super typhoon, the threat of the Marikina Fault System is imminent. Combine that with mounting government negligence, festering corruption, and lack of public preparedness. It is a tragedy waiting to happen, and we cannot just stand by and ignore it. It is time to learn by foresight rather than hindsight.

Disaster readiness is the only way to reduce the “what ifs?”.

CHRONOLOGY OF THE RIFT: Pacquito Ochoa VS. Mar Roxas

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November 28, 2009 – Benigno Aquino III and Manuel ‘Mar’ Roxas II file for candidacy as President and Vice President.

marochoa

June 30, 2010 – Atty. Pacquito Ochoa Jr., handler of Aquino’s legal affairs since his run for Congress in 1998, is chosen to be Aquino’s Presidential Executive Secretary. Atty. Ochoa’s father (former mayor of Pulilan, Bulacan) is a longtime close friend of Aquino. Ochoa is a partner in the Marcos-Ochoa-Serapio-Tan law firm (MOST), with Atty. Liza Araneta-Marcos, wife of Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. and cousin of Jose Miguel ‘Mike’ Araneta Arroyo, former presidential husband.

May 10, 2011 – May 13, 2011 – Political analysts and veteran government officials Ernesto Maceda (ex-Marcos executive secretary and former senator) and Albay Gov. Joey Salceda (ex-Arroyo chief of staff) predicted in an interview with ABS-CBN that a clash between the Ochoa and Roxas camps are inevitable. Maceda previously stated similar concerns in his Philppine Star column.

June 29, 2011 – In an interview with Newsbreak, Ochoa denies influencing Aquino in his appointment of Roxas as incoming DOTC chief rather than as supposed Chief Of Staff, as insinuated by Aquino in past press interviews.

June 30, 2011 – Despite public expectations that Mar Roxas will be appointed as Aquino’s Chief Of Staff, Roxas accepts Aquino’s offer to take on the then-recently vacated position of Secretary of Transportation and Communications, right after former DOTC head Ping De Jesus resigned.

August 31, 2012 – Aquino appoints Roxas as new DILG chief, and Cavite Rep. Joseph ‘Jun’ Abaya as new DOTC head.

September 3, 2012 – DILG Secretary Mar Roxas and Ochoa gave contradicting statements to the public on DILG Undersecretary Rico Puno’s exit. Roxas claimed that the President is giving Puno a different assignment, while Ochoa insisted that no such decision has been made by the President yet.

August 25, 2013 – Malacañang dismisses Brian Raymund Yamsuan, consultant to Ochoa, after being mentioned as the one who brokered the meeting between Napoles and the editors of Philippine Daily Inquirer.

September 10, 2013 – Ochoa denies link to Janet Lim-Napoles. His law firm MOST used to represent Napoles, as indicated by NBI affidavits with the MOST imprint in them.

November 4, 2013 – Palace denies rumors about infighting within the Aquino administration’s ranks. Mar Roxas and Pacquito Ochoa appear together in public, beside each other, during an awarding ceremony for the soldiers in the Zambo siege.

Nov. 6, 2013 – According to Francisco Tatad’s column in Manila Standard, “Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa was quoted in this paper as saying it was Roxas who had pushed Aquino to make that widely derided ‘I am no thief’ speech on television, which has now become the latest national calamity under the Aquino administration.”

-Compiled by Eric Fabian

SNAKE PIT

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By Miguel Raymundo

MOST of us believe the pork scandal is a corruption issue. Yes it is, but to some high-risk political operators, this is just the start of the 2016 presidential campaign. The last three years in Malacañang has been the most dangerous, if not unproductive, for sitting President BS Aquino. Not only has he found himself abandoned, but also tamed even by his most trusted allies. As expected, powerful forces are now on each other’s throat in what could easily be a warm-up fight for the presidential contest two and a half years from now.

(photo source: nydailynews.com)
(photo source: nydailynews.com)

But if you think the war is between Malacañang and the opposition, you fail to see deeper into what is happening behind doors in the current pork barrel scandal. The war is now between forces inside Malacañang. Manila Standard Today reported that DILG Secretary Mar Roxas is to blame for the 12-minuter fiasco, the “I-am-no-thief” televised speech of PNoy. The Manila Standard also reported of a Laygo survey that said PNoy’s popularity rating is down by 35 percent, a major slip in his ratings. The broadsheet said Malacañang is in panic. The paper said they have a Malacañang insider for a source. OpinYon sources inside Malacañang say the Manila Standard story is half-true. It is true that there is a bloody war between forces of Executive Secretary Pacquito “Jojo” Ochoa and those of the Liberal Party led by Roxas. It is too bloody that PNoy has been reduced to become a victim of the ambitions, greed and fears of the Ochoa camp.

BOC: Cash Cow

The Ochoa camp is not ready to give up its control over Malacañang even after PNoy is gone. That is the ambition and the greed. The fear is should an enemy group take control of Malacañang, Ochoa and company could be joining another President behind bars. The fears of Ochoa’s group are not unfounded. There are persistent reports that some top Malacañang officials are in control of smuggling. Billions of pesos in lost taxes and government revenues end up in the pockets of the relatives of these Malacañang officials. Out of power, they will not only lose this cash cow, their boys might even be charged of corruption. The Bureau of Customs is the favorite cash cow of any political party in power. It has lately become a center of controversy and power play between Samar and Balay groups. Attempts by the Balay group to take control of BOC has always been derailed resulting in Ruffy Biazon keeping the post even with his dimwit performance. Also the agencies known for massive corruption like the DPWH are controlled by the Samar group. There is sharing of powers in some agencies that bring in the cash. The bigger pie almost always ends up with the Samar group.

Dirty Tricks

In the elbowing in the power game, pockets and egos are bruised creating deep resentment and plotting between the two forces. The war inside Malacañang is a very interesting as regards the use of dirty tricks. Unbelievable it seems the claim that only the Roxas camp is to blame for the 12-minuter speech fiasco. The report said that PNoy delayed facing the camera for that “I-am-no-thief” speech to give time for corrections of the speech by Ochoa. Being the last official to tinker with the transcript, Ochoa should take the blame for the final copy. But the Manila Standard source from inside Malacañang said that Roxas takes the blame and played up the slant that he is bringing down the President.

(photo source: http://www.capizdateline.com)
(photo source: http://www.capizdateline.com)

Who owns Manila Standard?

An OpinYon source said it is the other way around. The almost perfect handling by dirty tricks operators of Samar is making Roxas the bad boy. Almost perfect is the handling in the demolition of Roxas except that the top broadsheets appear to be treating the story with suspicion. So does OpinYon, forcing us to sneak in and get our side of the truth. Why is Manila Standard on top of this “inside sources” trick? This brings us to ask: who owns Manila Standard? That paper is owned by the Romualdezes, who are actually the Marcoses. We encourage you to do your own math and we would end up with the same conclusion. Notice one story finding space and getting viral in social media: the Marcos wealth and insinuations that its return will solve poverty in this country. Another interesting side of this 2016 battle for the presidency is how the camp of Binay is being treated by these two forces inside Malacañang. It appears that a decision has been made that Binay is not a serious contender, if not an already destroyed potential enemy.

Binay, A Goner?

With Binay already reduced to ashes, ironically by his own acts and moves by Malacañang, the two groups are now on each other’s throats, suspecting that whoever takes Malacañang will have the other join the President behind bars. Roxas has minced no words in seeking the presidency come 2016, but speculations are rife that Ochoa may have a different agenda – backing the presidential bid of opposition Senator Ferdinand Marcos “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. The Ochoa-Marcos link is via a law firm – the Marcos, Ochoa, Serapio and Tan, thus the acronym MOST. Marcos refers to Liza Marcos, wife of Senator Marcos, while Ochoa is Aquino’s executive secretary and S and T for Edward Serapio and Joseph Tan, respectively. The law firm was recently tagged as lawyering for pork barrel queen Janet Lim-Napoles, accused in a case of kidnapping and serious detention.
It should be noted, as well, that as early as Aquino’s 2009 presidential campaign, the salt to the wound has already been added. Members of the Balay faction of Aquino supporters, the one headed by Roxas, started blaming the Samar group under Ochoa for the failure of the Aquino-Roxas banner, after Chiz Escudero endorsed the Aquino – Binay tandem, without the knowledge of the said candidates. Escudero even went as far as to print t-shirts saying ‘Aquino-Binay’, which did not help the already widening division between the two groups that are supposed to be united under the Aquino flag. The publicity spin doctors in Malacañang were quick to rush and patch up the holes created by the infighting, but not fast enough that sources from inside were able to spread the knowledge that Aquino is running a divided political household.

Battle Royale

Since Filipinos are known for putting premium on keeping up appearances, Ochoa and Roxas would come in public ceremonies together, standing side by side, just to make it appear that allegations of infighting are baseless. Other than the obvious nonverbal tension that one can observe in this play-acting to feign truce, we know that the Filipino public has seen the same political drama repeated over and over again, and they are not fooled.
As preparations for the 2016 elections begin, we see a repeat of the 2010 battle royale between these two groups. But this time, it will be bloodier and it might trigger the fall of Pnoy even before the 2016 elections.
Malacañang is now the most dangerous place to be: a snake pit.

This Week on OpinYon : SNAKE PIT

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opinyon-4-12

 

“As expected, powerful forces are now on each other’s throat in what could easily be a warm-up fight for the presidential contest two and a half years from now. But if you think the war is between Malacañang and the opposition, you fail to see deeper into what is happening behind doors in the current pork barrel scandal. The war is now between forces inside Malacañang.” – Miguel Raymundo

Coming out this week! Available in National Bookstore, Powerbooks, and Fully Booked.

Save The Philippines

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[By Al Labita]

BASED on Opinyon’s perceptions and social media surveys, the developing pattern of calls for change tilts towards those with a proven track record of integrity and competence outside the abominable dog-eat-dog world of politics.

Something’s Got to Give

At the rate the spate of crisis is laying siege on the three-year-old Aquino presidency, the betting is on whether it would last its six-year mandate. Unable to cope with the crushing pressures spawned by a harsh political climate, Pnoy appears to have lost his sense of control of a country teetering on the brink of becoming a failed state. As defined by Wikipedia, a failed state ensues when a central government becomes so weak or ineffective in stemming the rising tide of widespread corruption and a slumping economy. Another dimension of a failed state is erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions and inability to provide public services. Nowhere is such more exemplified than in Noam Chomsky’s book titled Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy.

Opinyon410.indd

Scary Scenarios

That, in a nutshell, seems foreboding and may be ascribed to the prevailing state of the nation. The emerging scenarios are dreadful – either Pnoy resigns or forced out office. Banking on self-serving popularity rating only whetted the pent-up public clamor for a drastic change in government, given the onslaught of street protests. Neither Pnoy’s propensity to play the blame game has helped him abate his sinking fate nor did it curb the likelihood of a mob rule in a country polarized by clashing vested interests. From his jailed predecessor Gloria Arroyo, Pnoy has now turned to media as his latest favorite whipping boy in heaping blame for his misfortunes in public office. Addressing mid this week foreign journalists, he warned them against falling prey into a conspiracy trap meant to link him to the pork scam.

Conspiracy

“Our media and our people are far too good—far too wise—to be grossly and brazenly led to the wrong issue, Pnoy said. “Plunderers should be taken to account,” he added, a stance only eliciting mixed views from hard-nosed newsmen.

Though Aquino enjoys the backing of the men in uniform, past bitter lessons showed how they hastily abandoned and dumped the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his predecessors Joseph Estrada and Gloria Arroyo when their hold on power was no  longer tenable in the face of mounting public outcry over corruption scandals.
Whether such tragic ending would eventually befall on Aquino remains to be seen as the country’s political complexion remains highly fluid.
While anything can happen, one thing is sure – Pnoy can’t keep his guards down.

Highly Divisive

Undoubtedly, the highly divisive pork barrel scam has sapped Pnoy’s political will to govern and only exacerbated the people’s loss of trust in him. This early, egging on the 53-year-old bachelor president to quit is like asking for the moon as most lawmakers in both houses of Congress had been exposed as Aquino’s paid hacks through the pork barrel system, the reason why calls for impeachment against him landed on deaf ears. Contrary to his self-projected image as an “incorruptible” president, Pnoy has already gained notoriety for resorting to money politics as evidenced by how he plotted the ouster of then chief justice Renato Corona. So far,   there’s no palpable sign as yet on who the people would prefer to succeed Pnoy should current tensions lead to an abrupt end to his six-year reign in power. By operation of law, Vice president Jejomar Binay is next in line, but not necessarily as he has to reckon with the distortions and aberrations of the country’s political history. If we recall, the late senator Arturo Tolentino as the “duly-elected” vice president was supposed to succeed Marcos following the fraud-marred snap polls.

Quirks in Politics

But due to unknown quirks in politics, an unexpected civilian-backed 1986 military revolt intervened, catapulting then plain housewife Corazon Aquino to power notwithstanding her hesitance and inexperience. As in the case of the late democracy icon, an unlikely figure may yet emerge if the current pressure-packed political scene persists.

Who Could She/He Be?

Scanning the horizons, the people are understandably sick and tired of recycling the scalawags in politics – the old and new trapos. Topping the list are the two highly respected captains of the industry – Manuel V. Pangilinan and Ramon S. Ang, both at the helm of publicly listed consumer-oriented conglomerates. Like Pangilinan, Ang faced challenges in turning around San Miguel Corp. (SMC) from an inward-looking company to one of today’s formidable Asian corporate behemoths.

Risks

From traditional lines of business anchored on beer, packaging and food, SMC has diversified to cost-intensive strategic industries in what analysts described as a “calculated risk” in a highly competitive environment. Adding power, mining, telecoms, oil, aviation and other related ventures to SMC’s investment portfolio had paid off in that these broadened the conglomerate’s market base, both locally and internationally. Thanks to Ang’s bold forays, SMC has been raking in record-breaking revenues which currently translate to about 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, a corporate feat indeed for a homegrown conglomerate. Under Ang’s stewardship, SMC has set its sight on achieving what had long remained on its drawing board – whopping revenues of U$50 billion by 2018 as it plans to acquire new businesses and expand existing ones. By and large, the target is nearly three times what SMC made in 2011, when it ended the year with US$17.5 billion in turnover. Known for his management prowess, Ang initially pegged a US$20 billion revenue target for 2015 but revised it upward in that by end of 2012, the conglomerate had already achieved its goal.

Singapore and Thailand

“Before, when we set a target of US$10 billion, people said, ‘That’s unbelievable!’ But we were able to achieve that. It happened. So that’s why we increased our target. From US$20 billion, we are hoping to reach US $50 billion revenue in the next 5 years,” Ang told reporters.

An engineer by training, he led SMC last year in acquiring management control of the financially ailing Philippine Airlines (PAL) from the group of taipan Lucio Tan. From then on, the nation’s flag carrier underwent rapid changes, including a refleeting program estimated to cost SMC over US$1 billion in capital expenditure to sharpen its competitiveness in the global airline industry. Part of the deal includes PAL subsidiary Air Philippines, a budget airline. Critics may quickly hint of a possible conflict of interest should the tycoons take over the reins of power, an irritant that can be overcome in due time in a democratic setting. Though largely untested, technocracy, as evidenced by the country’s rapid corporate growth, may yet be the key to solving the nation’s decades-old problems of poverty, inequality and dispossession.

Singapore is a case in point. Most of its current crop of leaders — from the prime minister to cabinet members – was plucked out from the corporate sector and became popularly elected. With the stringent values of fiscal, ethics and management disciplines learned from their previous profit-driven businesses, they managed to transform the island city-state from what was once a “basket case” in the early ‘50s to a prosperous nation today with one of highest per capita incomes in Asia. Neighboring Thailand is another example, whose prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, comes from a family of corporate elites, the key drivers of the country’s rapid economic growth. Previously, her brother Thaksin, a tycoon, also served as prime minister.
In the Philippines, however, any sudden paradigm shift in a volatile and highly charged political atmosphere can be tumultuous, if not bloody.

Lucio and Susan Co : The Next Big Thing in Retailing

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LUCIO and Susan Co—a husband and wife entrepreneurial team—has literally struck gold with their Puregold Price Club, a chain of over 150 “hypermarkets” across the Philippines. Starting with one store in 1998, the Cos have expanded at a rapid pace, lately through acquisitions, to build Puregold into the country’s second largest retailer, after Henry Sy’s SM Group.

‘Sari-Sari’ Concept

Contrary to what the name suggests, a Puregold outlet stocks not fancy goods but a range of cheap merchandise aimed at a rising population of middle-class shoppers and owners of neighborhood convenience stores, or the ubiquitous sari-sari stores.

LUCIO CO WITH PNOY

Since 2010 the retailer’s revenues have doubled to US$1.3 billion with net profits increasing fivefold to US$65 million—making the couple one of the richest Filipino entrepreneurs today. The Cos transferred most of their stake in Puregold, to listed holding company Cosco. Subsequently, Cosco did US$400 million offering at a 30 percent discount to fund expansion, driving share price down. They pocketed US$100 million as part of that deal. Lucio’s retailing background is linked to running duty-free airport shops, including Clark International Airport, a former American air force base northwest of Manila.

With Puregold, the Cos have earned both respectability and fabulous riches. Since 2011, when they took the company public, its shares have soared threefold. “Puregold is the country’s only pure play retail company, and it’s on an aggressive growth trajectory. Investors like that,” says Lauro Baja, country head of  Philippines UBS Investment Philippines, which was a lead manager in its IPO. Puregold’s meteoric rise is linked to a domestic consumption boom that has been the mainstay of the Philippines’ growth story. If consumer confidence remains upbeat, the retail market is expected to grow to US$75 billion by 2017.

New Subsidiary

In July, Puregold Price Club announced it is setting up a new subsidiary to hold investments in the food retailing business. In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange, Puregold said its new subsidiary Estenso Equities will house investments in other food retail outlets.

“Estenso Equities would hold interests in other grocery chains that would not necessarily be consolidated into Puregold, in cases where the existing owners would like to get a strategic or financial partner but maintain controlling interest,” Puregold president Leonardo Dayao said in an interview.

“There may be food retail businesses in which we may be acquiring certain equity position but are not going to be part of Puregold,” Dayao said. “It’s a vehicle to give us flexibility to go into something that is not on a full ownership basis, in case there are investment opportunities.”

The new subsidiary will thus represent Puregold’s portfolio investments in allied businesses. While earlier acquisitions were mostly businesses and brands that were consolidated into Puregold—such as S&R, Parco, Eunilane and 11GrocerE—this move signified Puregold’s willingness to take a non-controlling interest in prospective acquisitions.
On “non-food” specialty retail, those eyed by Cosco are pharmacy and construction/hardware materials retailing. Earlier, a privately owned Co company has acquired Visayan pharmaceutical chain ThreeSixty.

Energy Interests

A month earlier, Lucio’s newly acquired publicly listed company Mariwasa Siam Holdings, Inc. was officially transformed to Da Vinci Capital Holdings Inc.

This has thus become Co’s third publicly listed company after successfully taking retailing business Puregold Price Club Inc. public and creating a new holding firm Cosco Capital out of mining/oil arm Alcorn Gold Resources Corp. (APM).
In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange on Thursday, Mariwasa said the Securities and Exchange Commission had approved amendments to its articles of incorporation to change its name to “Da Vinci Capital” and extend its corporate term for another 50 years from Nov. 5, 2013.

Co has yet to officially announce his plans for Da Vinci but stock pundits expect Co to infuse energy-related businesses. His group’s privately held Union Energy Corp. earlier announced a partnership with renewable energy developer Sta. Clara Power Corp for an 8-megawatt mini-hyropower project in Oriental Mindoro costing about P1.9 billion. Union Energy is likewise undertaking a P1-billion investment in a 9.9-megawatt rice husk biomass power plant in San Jose City, Nueva

Mall Strategy

Last month, Cosco Capital Inc. bared plans to acquire shopping centers to fast-track its foray into community malls. Teofilo A. Henson, company director in charge of Cosco’s real estate business, said the firm is looking to build its first community mall in the province of Cagayan.“Right now, we are looking at Tuguegarao. That is a possible site. We have studies now ongoing,” Henson said in an interview during the company’s stockholders’ held in Muntinlupa City.He also said the firm may also acquire existing malls to move “faster” in this foray.“There are also existing malls that were offered to us. So we are evaluating [the offers],” Henson said while declining to name the malls, which according to him are located in Luzon.

Meanwhile, Cosco President Leonardo B. Dayao, in his report to stockholders that day, said the company plans to open its first community mall “in 2014.”Dayao said the company was looking to spend P400 million for each of the eight community malls it plans to build in the next three years. These malls will add to 192 supermarkets of Cosco subsidiary Puregold Price Club, Inc. as of end-June.Liquor Distribution.

At the same time, Dayao said the company has begun the “mass market” distribution of its imported liquor product, Excelente brandy.“We began the mass market [distribution] of Excelente in June,” he said.Dayao also said the company hopes to seal distribution agreements with other supermarkets aside from Puregold and S&R.The company targets to sell 500,000 to one million cases of Excelente brandy in the next two to three years, Jose Paulino L. Santamarina, president of Cosco unit Premiere Wine and Spirits, Inc., said on the sidelines of the meeting.“We just hope we can take 5% of the local market in two to three year,” said Dayao, who noted that the local market is dominated by Emperador Distillers, Inc.Cosco’s net income surged to Php488.30 million in the first half from Php1.42 million a year ago after absorbing various assets of the Co family early this year.

Cosco announced that it is expanding the distribution network for its liquor business in Visayas and Mindanao. The company said that it is looking to develop commercial retail establishments in the provinces. It has identified 8 sites for retail malls, each with a P450 million budget for construction and land acquisition.

Expansion

Cosco said it requires P12 billion to fund the expansion of its liquor, property, and oil storage businesses, as well as its diversification into non-food ventures. Cosco said that it plans on spending P6 billion to expand its real estate business. The company also earmarked P3 billion for debt financing, P1 billion for liquor distribution and P2 billion for its diversification into noon-food specialty retail.

Cosco earlier announced it would conduct a share sale to increase its public float to the level required Philippine Stock Exchange. The announcement also came after it got regulatory approvals to reorganize its business interests.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approved an increase in the company’s authorized capital stock to P10 billion and infusion of over P70 billion worth of Co’s assets in the company, including supermarket chain Puregold Price Club Inc.

The infusion gave Co a 93.4% stake in Cosco.

Manny V. Pangilinan : Miracle Man

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by Al Labita
 
HE has long shunned politics.
But like a ghost, his name haunts the political landscape now abuzz with rumors in the run-up to the 2016 elections.
From obscurity, Manuel V. Pangilinan, aka MVP, suddenly shot to prominence, being bruited about as a potential “dark horse” in the next presidential race. What props up MVP’s stock is his technocratic skill that transformed the once struggling Hong Kong-based First Pacific Company Ltd. into one of Asia’s profitable corporate titans. He may not have any political affiliation, but he has the money. The self-made billionaire sportsman has made it to the elite list of US-based Forbes Magazine as one of the Philippines’ richest men, joining the ranks of taipans Henry Sy, Lucio Tan and the Ayalas. He was listed as the Philippines’ 50th wealthiest with an estimated net worth of P4.5 billion as of July 2013.

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Forays

Undoubtedly, MVP boasts impeccable credentials. As the top honcho of First Pacific, he steered its phenomenal growth over the past decades. From selling Indonesian noodles, the company diversified into banking, finance and property, mainly in Hong Kong and Jakarta, the headquarters of parent Salim Group. In mid ‘90s, MVP saw an opportunity to return to his country where he learned the ropes of the trade, so to speak, as an investment banker.
At the time, the telecom industry was liberalized, enabling him and his group to launch a bid to take over the then financially ailing Philippines Long Distance Telephone (PLDT). With PLDT as flagship, there was no stopping him from venturing into other profit centers — ranging from power to mining, toll roads, media, water and related utilities – all under a listed holding firm, Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) chaired by MVP.

Today, the Philippines accounts for 70 percent of First Pacific’s offshore forays, a sign of his abiding faith and confidence in his country’s business potentials.
 
The Miracle Man

MVP has earned the trust of the very rich, with track record in making sure stakeholders in companies he runs get back their money’s worth. That kind of character is what the Philippines  needs now. One who takes care of the trust given him by stockholders. One who has not and will not betray his bosses, the investors.

Our publication, OpinYon, is of the thought that the Philippines if run like a corporation could get out from the economic hole it is drowning in and bring real prosperity to this country. And who could run giant companies and turn around losses better than the proven miracle man himself – MVP.

Given the chance to run the Philippines like those giant companies he has turned around to make profits, MVP could serve his “bosses”, the Filipinos, like he is serving those who trust him with their money.  
Given a change of heart in the people towards trapos, MVP has better than fair chance of earning the trust of the people and win the election for President.

After Pres. Benigno S. Aquino has been stripped of his mask and now earning public ridicule, most Filipinos are asking: who should lead this country?  
 
Media Ownership

MVP has the campaign infrastructure to win in a political contest. He has good grip of respected media in, print and broadcast. His business interests are almost everywhere in communications and utilities. He has an army of loyal workers, satisfied in their pay like at PLDT, Meralco and other MVP firms which are among blue chips traded on the Philippine bourse and are the usual top picks by both foreign and local investors.

Credit also goes to MVP for laying the foundation – in terms of infrastructure –of what is now known as “Global City,” a former Army Camp, in Taguig City after winning its public bidding. Amid public outrage over the “pork barrel” scandal, the tycoon appears to be a logical choice as an alternative to dyed-in-the-wool trapos in a rapidly shifting political milieu.

Should he throw his hat in the political arena, it’s likely the media outfits – TV 5, Daily Inquirer, Philippine Star and the Business World – under his corporate umbrella would come in handy in a political campaign.
But in his media comments, MVP has thumbed down any ambition to seek a public office.
‘There is no political blood that runs through my veins. I believe I can serve our people better some other way.”
 
Technocrat

He reacted to rumors that, on the prodding of friends and business associates, he would seek an elective position in the 2016 elections. Pundits believe he would make a great president, given his “technocratic skills.” At a recent forum on the 2016 presidential elections, organized by the Center for Philippine Futuristics Studies and Management Inc., political analyst Antonio Gatmaitan said Pangilinan “could bring his technocratic skills to address the complicated economic issues that will confront the nation and help address a few selective social issues.”

Gatmaitan knows whereof he speaks as he is the executive director of the Political Economic Applied Research Foundation. In case Pangilinan decides to run for the country’s top post in May 2016, Gatmaitan said: “Imagine the excitement it can create.” Ramon Casiple, the executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms, said it is clear that Pangilinan has a political agenda in buying stakes in a diversified mix of financially distressed companies and turning them around as money spinners. He also believes Pangilinan would be the dark horse candidate in the 2016 presidential elections. “I agree there is a dark horse. And that’s MVP,” Casiple said.
 
Hidden Agenda

Apolitical he may be, MVP’s thoughts – often expressed in media interviews – betray what could be his hidden political agenda. In not a few instances that he articulated his own vision for the country favoring investments in such critical businesses as tourism, mining, utilities and information and communications technology.

To him, investments in infrastructure such as power plants, toll roads, seaports and airports are vital to lower the cost of domestic production – ideas that would serve as dividends or profit-sharing with Filipinos should the government turn corporate-oriented and business-like under the banner of what would become the Philippines, Inc and with him as a prospective CEO.

Pangilinan believed that the country’s leaders should be more involved in coming up with long-term solutions and move beyond short-term crisis management if they aspire for the country to grow and move forward.
On election, his view is that it should provide a rare opportunity to define the country’s long-term economic and social priorities, and form a broad consensus around them.

He noted that the private sector should take the lead in mobilizing and directing infrastructure spending, adding the government’s assistance is needed as well.
 
Winnability

“The private sector cannot operate on its own. It must seek government help and assistance. In infrastructure, public-private-sector partnership will be critical—the private sector being the moving force and the government providing the relevant incentives, support and enabling regulatory framework.” In more ways than one, MVP is also a philanthropist through his Kapatid Foundation.

In Bacolod city, the City Council approved a resolution declaring MVP an adopted son, noting that his life’s success story is an inspiration that is worth emulating by all Filipinos.

During his years in Hong Kong, he founded and chaired the Bayanihan Center that provided cultural and vocational activities for Filipino domestic workers there. In December 2012, he mobilized his telecommunication companies in a national telethon that raised millions of pesos to aid the victims of typhoon Pablo.

“This simple and hearty resolution is a manifestation that the city government of Bacolod truly recognizes the services and contributions of Pangilinan in the different sectors or our community,” the resolution reads.
 
Ako Mismo

Talk about MVP running for president is not new. In 2010, media placements launching the “Ako Mismo” advocacy movement fueled speculations that he was keen in the country’s plum post. Public perception then was that the movement was meant to be MVP’s platform had he decided to throw his hat in the political arena.

“If given the chance and if there is a possibility of winning, MVP will run for president,” a businessman said.
But, in a statement, MVP clarified that the movement was intended to awaken and spread the Filipinos’ sense of responsibility as an individual. “Our legacy is that reliance on community, government and family must be balanced by strong personal accountability,” he says.

“As for myself, I am not running for any political office. I am truly at home running a business,” a statement viewed with skepticism by doubting Thomases among eagle-eyed political watchers.

INCOMPETENT, DISHONEST?

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[by Miguel Raymundo]

THE guessing game is on. Will PNoy finish his term?

The answer to that question is not a dare to impeach him, but also how deep the Filipinos are hurt by an incompetent and dishonest President.

“Impeach me!” President Benigno S. Aquino III dares the people.

This week's OpinYon cover story. Includes old news reports about the alleged Cory wire fraud.
This week’s OpinYon cover story. Includes old news reports about the alleged Cory wire fraud.

Believing in “doctored” surveys, Aquino is confident—and deludes himself that the people love him and his family so much that they can empty with impunity this poor country’s coffers and that still more Filipinos will keep them on the pedestal.

He is likely to lose this dare as the middle class has taken to the streets and is now leading the march to stamp out corruption in government and bring behind bars those who have stolen people’s money. #OpinYon #PNoy #Incompetent #Dishonest#Philippines

read cont | http://bit.ly/15UPQqq