Crime in a Culture of Corruption

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(The following are excerpts from ‘The True State of the Philippines: Crime in a Culture of Corruption’, by Ruel Pepa, published 2013 July 21 in Mr. Pepa is a retired university academic in the fields of philosophy and cultural studies. He was born, raised and spent most of his life in the Philippines. He is currently based in Madrid, Spain.)

The Philippines government has long been ineffective at solving crimes, many of which are categorized as being heinous. Rampant crime has plagued practically all levels of Philippine society, and their occurrences have largely been attributed to the weak and useless systems that characterize the government, especially those mechanisms within it that are meant to address the crime problem.

The crime problem has taken its toll on the lifeblood of the nation’s socioeconomic situation. Crimes have tremendously affected the country’s economic growth. A large segment of our people has lost confidence in the law-enforcing agencies of government. Many fear that tragedy might suddenly strike them in broad daylight. Stories from the newspapers (particularly the tabloids) are sufficient to send tingles down the spine. One thing is certain: Filipino society is crime-ridden and the government is helpless at effectively checking and containing the already serious and increasingly more serious crime problem in the country.

1. Poverty. In a society like the Philippines, where poverty is a given, no second thought is needed to ascertain that in one way or another, poverty causes criminality. Crimes are committed in areas where the urban poor live, and their occurrence is quite regular. Poverty may not be strictly identified as a direct cause of crimes but certain circumstances brought forth by and within a situation of poverty cause them.

2. Abuse of Power. Another prominent cause of crime in Philippine society is somehow also related to our economic condition. It is not the type of crime perpetrated by people in a situation of poverty but one that terribly affects them. It exploits the economic weakness of the poor, and none but the poor are the unfortunate victims of its ravaging onslaught. This cause of crime is: abuse of power.

Abuse of power is routinely perpetrated by powerful government officials and law enforcers with a mandate to defend the rights of people and protect them from harm. Abuse of power is terribly serious in the Philippines. In most cases, crimes related to the abuse of power are not treated as crimes due to methods of circumventing the laws.

Every day newspaper banners report crimes committed by policemen and military personnel—hold-ups, kidnaps-for-ransom, murders, bank robberies, carjacking, etc. The crimes of these people are even more heinous than those committed by some poor, unknown and desperate criminals. Since the justice system in the country is so discouragingly defective, most of the time, powerful criminals are exonerated of their crimes, even those categorized as heinous. Meanwhile, the unknown, powerless poor suspects in lesser crimes are not given fair trials and thrown immediately in jail.

This is the true state of the Philippines as a nation. We are governed by corrupt leaders whose major agenda are their own personal vested interests. We have law enforcement agencies and institutions whose major task is to protect and defend the corrupt leaders of the country and in the process perpetuate the system of corruption. Because of these conditions, criminality has proliferated and will continue to proliferate in the next generations. The whole situation has put common Filipinos at great economic disadvantage, and poverty is here to stay “’til kingdom come.” Hopeless? Who holds the key to the most sensible answer?

Editorial: Time to do an FM

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Editorial cartoon by Sonny Boy Surnit

PERHAPS Ferdinand Marcos had good reason to abolish Congress back in 1973.

With the extent and amount of thievery in Congress and the plunder of public funds reaching unbelievable proportions and spanning several decades, there is more than enough reason to shut down the operation of what critics and a newspaper columnist-magazine publisher describe as the “largest crime syndicate” of the land.

Throughout history, Congress has seen several evolutions and shifts from a unicameral to bicameral system. Marcos abolished Congress in January 1973 with a shift to the parliamentary system of government and the bicameral system was only reintroduced in February 1987 after Corazon C. Aquino assumed the presidency with the ouster of Marcos.

The primary role of Senators and Representatives is—supposedly—to draft and pass laws for the advancement of the nation and the protection of its people. Lawmakers are not supposed to have direct access to public funds. Well, not until the creation of the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

Originally called the Countrywide Development Fund (CDF) in 1990, the PDAF is designed to allow legislators to fund small-scale infrastructure or community projects which fell outside the national infrastructure program—which was often limited to large infrastructure items. But over the years, the PDAF has been used for things other than countrywide development. It’s been used as a tool for blackmail, coercion as a reward for political loyalty and has been the object of plunder.

Currently, each of the 24 senators has access to PhP200 million in PDAF while the 289 or so representatives receive PhP70 million a year. In total, some PhP25.03 billion of the national budget goes to our honorable men and women in Congress.

Public outcry over the CDF led to reforms in the CDF and its evolution into PDAF. But nothing has changed. The PDAF remains prone to administrative abuse and plunder. And we’re not even talking about the Disbursement Acceleration Package (DAP), which is a different matter altogether but also involves the possible misuse of billions in government money.

PNoy and his administration is in deep trouble. Maybe it’s time to do an FM.


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By Ray L. Junia, Publisher

THIEVES continue to steal the future of this country.

Nothing can be more unreal than the government claim of economic gains trumpeted by Malacañang spin masters as the best in our part of the world.

The latest gesture of courtesy by an honored guest to his host, a World Bank top official saying the Philippines is on its way to become Asia’s economic tiger, made the headlines in our national media. This made us laugh. This WB seer is either the worst prophet or best in PR that envoys are trained to be.

Motoo Konishi, WB country director for the Philippines, cited macroeconomic strength of the economy for his trust in our future. He fails to see the sick trees inside what appears to be a beautiful forest. This is unfortunate as we expect bankers to be more forthright and honest and if they cannot be honest they better just shut up.

Tail ender
The Philippines is doomed to become tail ender in the race for economic gains in Asia if not the world. It is our destiny to be always poor. We have our reasons to believe so.

Corruption is the root cause of the country’s economic miseries. Cost of living, driven by high cost of basic necessities, is too high, seventy percent of the population has been declared poor.

Stealing from government coffers has not abated, even got worse with the President illegally spending Php177 Billion on DAP from the national budget. To think that other agencies are victims of the same thievery that ultimately ends up with the people suffering.

This thievery and corruption is the first reason responsible investors are not coming in and may even be packing up.
Latest report from the Philippine Statistics Authority on the foreign investments (FI) shows a sharp decline in the first quarter of 2014 compared to same period last year.

In the first quarter of 2014, FIs approved by seven investment promotion agencies amounted to Php37.4 Billion. This is 25.6 percent lower than the take in the same period last year. In 2013, FIs were Php50.3 Billion.

FDIs tell the story
On foreign direct investments (FDI), the Philippines is the tail ender, far way below the second lowest.
The average take by the country on FDIs between 2002 and 2012 was US$2.7Billion, the lowest while Singapore, a city state, got the highest at US$52.8Billion. Vietnam got second lowest with US$8.5B, better by over US$5B.

Even the numbers on FDIs in relation to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) can cause investors to shy away from us. In the first two years of the Aquino administration, we registered again the lowest in ASEAN countries.

In 2010, net FDI was 0.7 percent of GDP and this declined to 0.6 percent in the following year, 2011. Compared with neighbor countries our net FDI was the worst and almost sick situation. Our neighbors did much better: Singapore 25.1%, Vietnam 6.2%, Malaysia 4.3%, Thailand 2.8% and Indonesia 2.2%.

In the measure of impact of the FDI to population or per capita shares, it will tell a clearer picture of the cause of our economic woes. On this measure, our FDI per capita is lowest at US$ 13.3 while Singapore registered the highest at US$ 12,347.00.

These figures covering the period ended 2011. Three years after, when poverty incidence has gone up and prices of basic goods and services have hit the ceiling, this situation could be lot worse.

The first look at our numbers will not encourage serious investors to come in. discouragement will set in when they find out why we are the cellar. The reason is massive corruption that has worsened during the Aquino administration.

It’s corruption, stupid!
Pulling down interest and trust by foreign investors in our country and national leadership are several reasons: high cost of electricity, lack of infrastructure and worsening peace and order and corruption.

While corruption is last in the list of reasons, it is the principal cause of reasons the country is losing the trust of investors.

The cost of electricity in the Philippines being highest in Asia and second highest in the world can be traced to massive corruption in the highest offices of the land, from Malacañang to Congress, down to the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

On infrastructure, the national leadership has turned over this responsibility to the private sector. From supply of power, to supply of water, to use of roads, to building of transport, and airports, these are all now being given out to private investors.

It’s rape!
Our national leaders call this Public-Private Partnership or PPP. This is one marriage that was intended to legitimize rape.

How else would one describe a situation like what the Filipinos are going through now. Before privatization, cost of electricity was one of the lowest in Asia, roads were free to use, cost of water was affordable and cost of living allowed free money to spend outside of the essentials.

The national economy is now controlled by forty families. Eighty percent of national wealth is owned by 10 percent of the population. Ninety percent share the remaining 20 percent of national wealth. This situation has led to daily “rape” of every poor Filipino’s right to a decent living.

Now we have to pay for use of highways we call toll roads. The national leadership intentionally stopped building big roads to the big city to justify entry of toll roads.

Planned robbery
What happened to cost of electricity and cost in use of roads are examples of well planned grand robbery. Government neglected building new power stations while neglecting national roads, stirring consumers to demand for better services. Privatization became the only solution, offering lower cost that never happened and, worse, cost doubled if not tripled.

Government leaders said privatization saves the government of funding services that are obligations of government. These government duties are supposed to be supported by our taxes. This cost transfer led to savings that allowed Malacañang to “steal” Php177 Billion for DAP and tens of billions for PDAF.

Theft came from many points: at the privatization arrangement when investors would show interest and put his money where his mouth is. Second, at the national budget that would have been spent for these basic services given to the private group. This savings turns out be pork barrel of Malacañang, in the case of Aquino is Php177 Billion in two years, misappropriated and misspent.

Even when privatization became a solution to our infrastructure needs, still serious investors are saying the country is short of what are needed to gain their trust.

One leading complaint is our problem in communications. Even when Smart earns billions of pesos for Manny V. Pangilinan and Globe has multiplied several folds the billions of the Ayalas, the foreign groups are not still happy with our communications system.

Truth is not only the foreign investors are complaining but the locales are also complaining of being short changed by these telecom companies.

Privatization not free
Privatization is not free to the taxpayers. In 2012, President Aquino gave the DOTC Php8.6 Billion and the DPWH Php3 Billion for the preparation of business cases, pre-feasibility studies and feasibility studies for various PPP ventures.

In inviting private sector participation, the government waives many requirements that would have earned the national treasury billions of pesos. Of course these exemptions are always suspect to be products of under-the-table negotiations that line up the pockets of government executives and legislators.

The sum total of reasons this country will not move forward and bring economic relief to the poor is we have elected officials who serve the interests of their masters and not the interests of the people. We have national leaders who boldly steal, unmindful of constitution and laws, as if the public does not exist.

The “theft” of Php177 billion by Malacañang is just a symptom of a more serious malady. The effect of this disease is a society that will always be abused and used to enrich further enrich the billionaires and make new millionaires of those we trust to lead our government. This is because we have elected thieves to run our government.


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By Ronald Roy

It’s understandable that for high-profile actor-politicians, nothing is more humiliating than being arrested, handcuffed, brought inside a patrol car with head being shoved into it by a strong hand, fingerprinted, made to pose for mugshots, then locked up in a high-security cell like a “common criminal”.

And the ironic humiliation is devastating for senators, particularly Sen. Bong “Pogi” Revilla and Sen. Jinggoy “Sexy” Estrada, top cinema action stars who not only play roles risking life and limb in heroic defense of the oppressed poor, but were also 2016’s top contenders for president and vice president, respectively, until they were implicated in the scandalous pork barrel scam.

It’s pretty certain that it was Revilla’s bruised pride that made him design and fund his voluntary surrender cum theatrics and fanfare, his egotistical tact fixated on redeeming a tarnished image or worse: delusively reliving his glory days with captive voters with an announcement he might seek the presidency in 2016 . Love him or hate him, you just have to admire the guy’s chutzpah — an attribute that shows that his die-hard fans had elected an unfit person into the senate.

But, well, there’s nothing in the law that prevents Pogi from becoming the first prisoner to run the affairs of our country as its president. After all, he’s still presumed innocent until proven guilty, ‘di ba? That way, he gets to be the first president to pardon himself — hahaha — ‘di ba? But wait, this scenario is not as loony and farfetched as it looks! Seriously, with crazy votes snowballing for him and P-Noy’s popularity steadily vanishing, the indictee’s dream may yet come true!

Reform comes best from the worst of misfortunes like Ondoy’s havoc, Yolanda’s wrath, bloody revolutions, and the Lord’s crucifixion. Yes, no less than the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth was imposed by his Father to reform a sinful world; so, if it takes a catastrophic Revilla presidency to wipe out this generation, then by all means let’s welcome the opportunity to warn the next generation that it will not pay to vote clowns and showbiz “celebs” into public office.

But what if, by some celestial miracle, the Revilla presidency turns out to be a smash hit?! Then, jolly by golly wow, we’ll have to respect the so-called vox populi despite its stupidity, and let all the laugh be on me and other Pogi-bashers!! After all, Dimas the thief and Cupertino the dullard were not barred from becoming saints.

Over a month ago, scuttlebutt had it that, by a vote of 8 to 6, the Supreme Court had thumbed down as unconstitutional the Disbursement Acceleration Program, or DAP, for short, also derisively taken to stand for Drilon, Abad and P-Noy. Shortly after that, rumor circulated that alleged pork barrel brains Janet Lim Napoles had advanced the sums needed to be granted to those senator-judges who had voted to convict then impeachment respondent Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, reimbursable from the DAP fund, which incidentally has come to be known as President Noynoy’s discretionary kitty.

It taxes the imagination to contrive a refutation that the president — who incidentally was the knowledgeable Chair of the Budget Committee when he was a solon — had nothing to do with the DAP’s creation, an act in flagrant violation of the constitution’s express and unequivocal mandate that only Congress can appropriate funds for the operations of government. He adamantly remains in denial mode, although his camp once posited that the DAP’s constitutionality issue had become moot and academic since they had already stopped using the fund. What??? “You cannot arrest me now because I already stopped killing people last year”???

In fairness to Drilon, it may be doubted that he is a co-inventor of the DAP. But, holy macaroni, the heinous culpability of P-Noy and Abad here is as manifest as Satan’s horns, tail and hooves!! It’s an open-and-shut case. No ifs or buts about it, they are both answerable to all Filipinos this very instant!! Huh??? The high tribunal has scrapped, back-burnered or revised its 8 – 6 resolution for hundreds of millions of reasons???

Sorry, but I don’t buy that. These robed men and women of the high tribunal are made of honorable stuff. They are learned and incorruptible. Call me naive, but I prefer to laze in a comfort zone seeing them that way. On the other hand, P-Noy will be hard-pressed to deny that he had made an attempt to cross government officials’ palms with silver. And this is explained by two public perceptions: his notorious temerity for bribing officials, like Corona’s impeachment senator-judges, and his visceral disdain for minority leaders.

Hmmm…who can be certain that the president’s downfall isn’t now being foretold by his own unmitigated chutzpah?

NAIA’s Problematic State

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One would expect the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) which is the only major international airport in Metro Manila to be among the top performing airports in the country. However, one would be wrong.
NAIA has a very inefficient system, from the air-conditioning up to the flight plans, especially in Terminal 2 which is leased exclusively to Philippine Airlines (PAL).

There is an ever present excruciating heat wave washing over passengers inside the glass-enclosed terminal. Even complaint after complaint from travelers have been to no avail.

Meanwhile, NAIA 3 has been bogged with controversy due to foreign planes refusing to move to the more spacious and modern Terminal 3 due to fear of being tangled in a legal dispute between Manila and German airport operator Fraport AG.

However, airports have announced that the transfer to NAIA 3 would be complete by August.

Nonetheless, NAIA 1 has been ranked number one as the worst airport in Asia by travel website Sleeping In Airports. The travel site describes “collapsing ceilings, overcrowding, unbridled bribery and taxi drivers scamming travelers on fares.”

In 2011, NAIA 1 was named as the world’s worst airport.

The site Sleeping In Airports acknowledged that the Philippine government has been working to progress NAIA 1’s facilities. It seems though that there have yet to be any developments at all.

Passengers continue to harp about long, numerous queues that begin even as far as outside the terminal, which stretch on until the passenger proceeds to the gate.

There have also been reports of taxi drivers who manipulate their meters to jack up their fare prices. Airport authorities, though, say that they were able to crack down on the practice of taxi drivers.

Travelers continue to report on corruption at NAIA 1, detailing officers asking for cash payments to speed up normal procedures.

Rainy Season Preparations
NAIA authorities have recently implemented contingency measures to make certain passenger safety and welfare following the onset of the rainy season.

Manila International Airport Authority general manager Jose Angel Honrado had a conference with the Weather Disturbance Management Committee on Friday to discuss overall direction and control procedures during bad weather.

Present in the conference were MIAA senior officials and managers of NAIA’s four terminals.

Honrado specifically directed the terminal managers to coordinate well with their respective emergency response teams.

“They are mandated under MIAA guidelines on severe and extreme weather disturbances to carry out emergency procedures in their areas of responsibility in accordance with the airport emergency plan. Under the guidelines, the terminal Manager is the ERT (emergency response team) chief,” Honrado said.

Honrado also mandated on the terminal managers to make sure that target completion dates were met for projects that could turn into potential problems during the rainy season if left unfinished.

“Like in NAIA Terminal 2, we have completed waterproofing works in the domestic portion. We have now moved to the international wing,” he said.

MIAA authorities said the renovation, repair, and completion works in the other terminals were proceeding as planned.

Black and White of NGO’s

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At this morning’s Tuesday Club fellowship of top level media practitioners at Edsa Shangri-la Hotel in Mandaluyong City, the talk is how genius scammers are using NGO’s to siphon government funds by conniving with corrupt government functionaries. The talk is how some NGO leaders connived in toppling governments of Marcos, Estrada and Arroyo and becoming cabinet secretaries as success fees. These NGO’s (non-government organization) and PO(people’s organization) rally the people in disguise as for social change. They have perfected the infiltration at the grassroot level. One example was the CODE NGO where some of its leaders were behind the so called Hyatt 10 which almost ousted former President Gloria Arroyo. Up to now there’s no accounting of the P35 billion that was supposed to be returned to the government coffers.

Ka Maning Almario, a veteran editor, mailed me some information about NGO’s. Sam Vaknin site was his source of information. To quote- “NGO’s arrival portends rising local prices and a culture shock. Many of them live in plush apartments, or five star hotels, drive SUV’s, sport $3000 laptops and PDA’s. They earn a two figure multiple of the local average wage. They are busybodies, preachers, critics, do-gooders, and professional altruists. They are parasites who feed off natural and manmade disasters, mismanagement, conflict, and strife. Always self-appointed, they answer to no constituency. Though unelected and ignorant of local realities, they confront the democratically chosen and those who voted them into office. A few of them are enmeshed in crime and corruption. They are the non-governmental organizations, or NGOs.”

Some NGOs – like Oxfam, Human Rights Watch, Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Amnesty – genuinely contribute to enhancing welfare, to the mitigation of hunger, the furtherance of human and civil rights, or the curbing of disease. Others – usually in the guise of think tanks and lobby groups – are sometimes ideologically biased, or religiously-committed and, often, at the service of special interests.

NGOs – such as the International Crisis Group – have openly interfered on behalf of the opposition in several parliamentary elections in Macedonia. Other NGOs have done so in Belarus and Ukraine, Zimbabwe and Israel, Nigeria and Thailand, Slovakia and Hungary – and even in Western, rich, countries including the USA, Canada, Germany, and Belgium.

The encroachment on state sovereignty of international law – enshrined in numerous treaties and conventions – allows NGOs to get involved in hitherto strictly domestic affairs like corruption, civil rights, the composition of the media, the penal and civil codes, environmental policies, or the allocation of economic resources and of natural endowments, such as land and water. No field of government activity is now exempt from the glare of NGOs. They serve as self-appointed witnesses, judges, jury and executioner rolled into one. Regardless of their persuasion or modus operandi, all NGOs are top heavy with entrenched, well-remunerated, extravagantly-perked bureaucracies. Opacity is typical of NGOs. Amnesty’s rules prevent its officials from publicly discussing the inner workings of the organization – proposals, debates, opinions – until they have become officially voted into its Mandate. Thus, dissenting views rarely get an open hearing.

Contrary to their teachings, the financing of NGOs is invariably obscure and their sponsors unknown. There’s lack of transparency.

All NGOs claim to be not for profit – yet, many of them possess sizable equity portfolios and abuse their position to increase the market share of firms they own. Conflicts of interest and unethical behavior abound.

According to the Red Cross, more goes through NGOs than through the World Bank. Their iron grip on food, medicine, and funds rendered them an alternative government – sometimes as venal and graft-stricken as the one they replace.

As “think tanks”, NGOs issue partisan and biased reports. The International Crisis Group published a rabid attack on the then incumbent government of Macedonia, days before an election, relegating the rampant corruption of its predecessors – whom it seemed to be tacitly supporting – to a few footnotes. On at least two occasions – in its reports regarding Bosnia and Zimbabwe – ICG has recommended confrontation, the imposition of sanctions, and, if all else fails, the use of force. Though the most vocal and visible, it is far from being the only NGO that advocates “just” wars.

NGO activists have joined the armed – though mostly peaceful – rebels of the Chiapas region in Mexico. Norwegian NGOs sent members to forcibly board whaling ships. In the USA, anti-abortion activists have murdered doctors. In Britain, animal rights zealots have both assassinated experimental scientists and wrecked property.
Birth control NGOs carry out mass sterilizations in poor countries, financed by rich country governments in a bid to stem immigration. NGOs buy slaves in Sudan thus encouraging the practice of slave hunting throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Other NGOs actively collaborate with ‘rebel’ armies – a euphemism for terrorists.

Operating in the countries of Southeast Asia, some NGO’s are funded by USAID which many believe is associated with US intelligence agencies which often have close contact to local radicals and opposition. Despite the declared humanitarian nature of their activities, they actively influence the political situation in several nations including street protests. The ‘Arab Spring’ in the Middle East was instigated through NGO’s. Protests in Thailand, in Venezuela and in Ukraine according to several news reports were inspired by PO’s and NGO’s. These NGO’s have been successful in using the internet through the Twitter, You Tube and Facebook to spread anti-government propaganda, disinformation, etc. These social networks were used to mold public opinion in the process.

Foreign funded NGO’s are regulated in several countries like China, Laos and Cambodia allegedly due to perceived shady financial assistance to the local opposition and to neutralize governments that cannot be dictated by big foreign powers.

Our National Security Council should study this concept or safety valve if the government really wants to move on without fear or favor. If other nations have the political will and understanding and wary of these facts, why not us? Lets take the necessary measures to monitor and restrict their activities that contradict our national interests. Especially now that our nation is on the verge of turbulence due to too much corruption being exposed.


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By Ray L. Junia

Who needs PDAF kickback?

The Commission on Appointments (CA) is one body that every lawmaker wants to get into. Every senator or congressman jockeys to get to this body.

In many reports, CA is described as “the powerful committee.” Many are really confused and baffled why a body tasked to screen the President’s choice for sensitive positions in government could be that powerful.

Not until the wringer Department of Environment and Natural Resources Sec. Ramon Paje went through after four years of waiting to be confirmed by the CA had many understood the powers of members of the CA.

The grilling of Department of Justice Secretary Leila De Lima likewise opened the eyes of many why only the most favored senators and congressmen get to this body. Seats in the CA are distributed to leading political parties in both houses.

Secretary Paje passed the course only after the majority in the CA decided to call for a vote and Senator Sergio Osmena was out-voted to the Cebuano senator’s consternation.
Osmena insulted Paje several times in the hearing for his permanent appointment, calling him a liar and a cheat. The senator felt strongly bad about a DM Consunji mining project that leveled a mountain and opened a sea port.

The funny part is the DMCI mining project is nothing to the gold mining operations of the group of Manny V. Pangilinan that have not only leveled mountains but also destroyed rivers and reportedly poisoned lakes and communities.

MVP’s company was even asked to pay millions of pesos in fines. Why was Sec. Paje not asked by Sen. Osmena on the violations by the MVP mining operations that caused communities to fear for their lives and livelihood.

What’s special with MVP that Osmena would not touch him with a ten foot pole? Is it because MVP owns Meralco and the leader in the power generation business?

Senator Osmena is trying very hard to create that image of fiscalizer. His PR stories tell of exposes he has championed in the name of clean government.

Will somebody in the COA and finance tell how much the government has lost in taxes and how much have Filipinos paid with their blood to feed greed of giant companies, suspected to be clients of lawmakers.

The cost to government and the people of corporate greed run to hundreds of billions a year. Who needs PDAF commissions when a small percentage from the hundreds of billions in greed by big business dwarfs all the billions allegedly stolen by alleged Napolist senators.

An anti-graft crusader and pro-people solon? Tell that to the marines.

In The Face Of Adversity

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(Excerpts of the speech of Senate President Franklin M. Drilon Adjournment Sine Die of the 1st Regular Session of the 16th Congress June 11, 2014)

Since we opened the 16th Congress in July last year, it has been a difficult and challenging journey for the Senate. I would like to thank the members of this august chamber for remaining composed and focused on our mandate despite the barrage of harsh and relentless criticisms directed at our beloved institution when the PDAF controversy surfaced last year.

The openness in which we have allowed media to report on this matter and the trust we have for our legal processes show how strong we have built our democratic foundations to withstand political turmoil.

However, we cannot deny that the PDAF controversy has cast a long, dark shadow over the institution. And we completely understand the people’s outrage. Thus, the members of this august chamber collectively sought ways to address the issue.

We abolished the PDAF even before the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional. We conducted our own investigation on the alleged misuse of the pork barrel funds.

By undertaking these measures, we are telling our people that the Senate is listening to their pleas and clamors for reforms. We are sending a clear and strong message that their Senate is sensitive to their grievances and concerns.

Amid these spirit-breaking challenges, I am certain that each one of us only has the nation’s and institution’s best interest at heart. We might be going through turbulent times right now, but I am confident that, in time, we will be able to restore the people’s respect and trust in the Senate.

Glory and Honor
We must not lose sight of our ultimate goal, which is to provide a better life for each Filipino; a life that is not wanting in choices and opportunities.

Neither should we forget that the Senate, a bastion of democracy, has a glorious beginning and a history of honor in public service. And we shall endeavor to bring back that glory and honor.

Even if the PDAF scandal was constantly hogging the headlines and trending in the social media for months, and despite the severe public beating, the Senate continues to work around the clock, deliberating on bills and crafting measures that would significantly improve the life of our countrymen.

Despite the controversies and political intrigues that incessantly plague the institution, we have persevered and continue to discharge our duties to the Republic and to the people.

The First Regular Session of the 16th Congress has afforded us the opportunity to prove the stability of our institution in the face of adversity. This august chamber, which has traditionally reveled in the confidence of the electorate and consistently maintained its prominence, has been battered by, perhaps, the gravest crisis to have ever crossed its path. In my 16 years in the Senate, never before have I witnessed this kind of turmoil.

As we continue to brave through the unforgiving blizzard of scandals and controversies, our commitments and vows to the people serve as our guiding light on the road to recovery and redemption.

Against Doubts
While we defend our institution against doubts to its integrity, our constituents are faced with a tougher fight – a fight for survival as natural disasters hitting the nation in recent years are evolving with terrifying intensity and frequency.

In 2013, one of the strongest typhoons ever recorded ripped through the Visayas and left a trail of devastation of epic proportions, from which residents of the region are still staggering to recover.

In this light, we worked for the timely enactment of measures to enable our people to quickly get back on their feet.

Among these measures is *RA 10633*, which was enacted in record time and established the national budget for 2014 at P2.265 trillion. Since calamity-stricken areas necessitate prompt delivery of basic services, social services received bulk of the allocation at P841.8 billion, representing 37.2% of the national budget.

This measure also introduced the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Program, which apportioned P20 billion to empower the victims of the most tragic natural and man-made calamities in the past year, specifically, the typhoons Yolanda, Santi, Odette, Pablo, Sendong, Vinta, Labuyo, the 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Bohol, and the Zamboanga City siege.

Aside from measures capacitating our people to pull through in the face of successive mishaps, we enacted *RA 10635*, which established the MARINA as a single and central maritime administration to comply with international standards, and therefore averted the possible employment ban against 80,000 Filipino seafarers in the European Union.

Resilience to Calamities
Among these bills is *HB 353* which forms part of the government’s continuing mission to boost our country’s resilience to calamities by mandating telecommunications service providers to send free mobile alerts in the event of natural and man-made disasters.

Under the bill, the alerts shall consist of updated information from the relevant agencies, and shall be sent directly to the mobile phone subscribers located near and within the affected areas.

Also on the list is the proposed *Graphic Health Warning Law*, which seeks to increase the awareness of the public especially among the youth on the harmful and deadly effects of smoking.
Under the bill, graphic health warnings in full color shall be printed on at least 50% of the principal display surface of tobacco packages sold in the market.

We believe that the passage of this proposed measure will bring us closer to our goal of protecting the present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke.

On the other hand, also awaiting the President’s approval is our *proposed amendments to the Act Liberalizing the Scope and Entry of Operations of Foreign Banks*. This bill aims to expand the participation of qualified foreign banks in our financial sector in preparation for the forthcoming ASEAN economic integration.

Under this measure, reputable and financially sound foreign banks shall be allowed to acquire up to 100% of the voting stocks of domestic banks. We are confident that, with greater foreign participation in our banking sector, we shall have access to a bigger pool of financial resources in order to support various infrastructure projects and other development initiatives.

Resolve to Fulfill Duty
Another priority measure that hurdled both houses of Congress is*the bill extending the corporate life of the Philippine National Railways* as its charter is set to expire this month.

Recognizing the importance of PNR’s uninterrupted service to the riding public, both houses worked intently to ensure this measure’s swift passage in their respective domains.

The Senate has shown a strong resolve to fulfill its duty to the nation, with fervor and determination. Never have we neglected our obligation to the people, despite our present difficulties. Even as we take a respite, we shall endeavor to recover the people’s faith in the Senate as a democratic institution.

Thank you very much.

The BI is Making Ribbons out of Red Tape

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By Dong Maraya

The Republic of the Philippines suffers from widespread corruption. Means of corruption include graft, bribery, embezzlement, backdoor deals, nepotism, and patronage.

According to a World Bank study in 2008, corruption in the Philippines is considered to be the worst among East Asia’s leading economies and the country has sunk even lower among those seen to be lagging in governance reforms. The 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index published by global watchdog Transparency International, showed that the situation in the country had improved slightly but still remained serious.

Corruption exists in all levels of the government, especially among high-level civil servants. Companies generally have little confidence in the Philippine judicial system, and this is due to the allegedly incompetent court personnel, corruption and long delays of court cases.

Transparency International-Philippines said some of the factors that contributed to the Philippines’ slight jump are the improvement in government service, and cutting red tape.

Red tape refers to the rules that government personnel must follow to accomplish a task. Sometimes the governmental process seems cumbersome to us, especially when we want a quick answer. Many feel that the government establishes far too many rules or procedures with their numerous departments particularly their frontline personnel, which are closer to and more quickly responsive to the public.

The battle against red tape and inefficiency in our bureaucracy is never an easy task.  Red tape has long been embedded in our culture with Filipinos having to deal with voluminous requirements and seemingly endless processes with government agencies.

Eliminating red tape and averting graft and corruption has far-reaching benefits for our economy, such as cutting costs of doing business in the country which will in turn improve investor confidence and heighten our global competitiveness.

In the past numerous efforts were undertaken to curb red tape but these did not cause dramatic changes in public service. In some cases, red tape even intensified.

Delays in official transactions are breeding grounds and provide opportunities for corruption. Delays alienate people from their government aside from hiking transaction costs. Corruption makes the country poor and living in it is oppressive.

The Anti-Red Tape Act or RA 9475 of 2007 aims to promote efficiency and transparency in government with regard to the manner of transacting with the public by requiring each agency to simplify frontline service procedures, to formulate service standards to be observed in every transaction and make known these standards to the public.

The Anti-Red Tape Act required all government agencies to adopt and formulate a Citizen’s Charter. This refers to an official document, a service standard or a pledge, that communicates, in simple terms, information on the services provided by the government to its citizen’s. It describes the step by step procedures for availing a particular service and the guaranteed performance level that they may expect for that service.

Although the Bureau of Immigration (BI) has formulated a Citizen’s Charter of its own, Commissioner Siegfred B. Mison has moved anew to cut red tape in the agency’s processing of various alien documentations.Mison, in a recent operations order, directed concerned Bureau offices to strictly observe timelines in the processing of applications for visa conversion/extension and ACR I-Card issuance/renewal designed to expedite and facilitate the processing of said applications.Under the order, all concerned offices are directed to review, evaluate and indicate recommended action within a specific number of working days upon receipt, depending on the type of transaction.The BI Chief said his order to set timelines is aimed to improve, facilitate and expedite the processing of the applications.

All applications received by the Central Receiving Unit (CRU), upon making sure that all documents are complete and in accordance with existing checklists, must be transmitted to the concerned offices within the same working day of receipt.“There is a need to enhance the existing procedures and guidelines in the processing of these applications to eliminate bureaucratic red tape,“ he pointed out.Mison said there is also need some key reforms for the issuance and renewal of the Alien Certificate of Registration Identity Card (ACR I-Card) to avert graft and corrupt practices and improve the efficiency of delivery of such front-line services.He explained that, under the BI’s “Good guys in, Bad guys out” program, foreigners with bona-fide intention to apply for appropriate visa are presumed to be “good guys” which should be extended tourist and/or investment-friendly immigration services.

What Is PNoy Up To?

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by Ramon Orosa

SOMETHING is happening in this nation that is not easy to understand or interpret. Most people are wondering what’s next. Others are also wondering how PNOY sees and/or interprets what is happening. Most of the opinions are not so salutary.



When the protests began about the PDAF and began to reach a crescendo, the evident uncertainty of the Palace was discomforting. First was the kneejerk response of opposing the protest and defending PDAF. Then the position changed to being somewhere in the middle until the day of the protest when a declaration of support for the protest was made obviously to pre-empt the MPM protest march at Luneta.

Obviously, the responses suggested that the assessment was that the protests would somehow go away and that it should not be taken seriously. This was a mistake because what was hurt was PNOY’s own integrity. For someone who had planted on the masthead of his administration the “Matuwid na Daan”, his vacillation about truly pursuing the corruption exposed by the Commission on Audit report was disheartening to many people.
This revelation of such extensive malfeasance in the highest levels of the Legislative bodies and the Executive Departments, after the impeachment through somewhat dubious methods of the Chief Justice, sent tsunami-like waves over the whole nation. The ones who impeached Corona were guilty of even greater corruption! Proof once and for all that, with few exceptions, corrupt and dishonorable persons in just about every part of government are totally undeserving of any honor and have tainted so severely their positions. No delicadeza and they are still clinging to their posts, shameless if anything.

Remedial action was undertaken to try and pacify the protesters by inviting the somewhat motley leaders to a conference with the DBM head Butch Aquino and DSWD Sec. Soliman and a few others. It did not result in any real changes as was proven subsequently.

The people’s demands were essentially two. First, abolish the PDAF in both houses of Congress, meaning take away from them the power to initiate and control projects, their function being legislating. They are welcome to make suggestions, but cannot initiate projects on their own initiative. That work should be undertaken by the line departments and agencies with no overt or discreet interference.

Of course what resulted in the budgetary process was to simply change the collar around the pork but the initiative still rests with the individual legislator. In other words, sheer cosmetics, not substantive.
The second portion of the protesters demands was to charge everyone involved in the corruption, regardless of party affiliation. The report of the Commission on Audit indicated that over 200 legislators were somehow involved in the matter, some already out of Congress, many others still in. Well, up to now the charges have not been filed and it seems only three are being seriously considered at this time. The sad part is that legislators on both sides of the aisle are involved but PNoy is being true to his pursuit of only those that may represent a danger to him or else those that are in the opposition. So the protesters have given PNoy until sometime early December to file all the charges and otherwise prove that he is just like the other politicians and cannot stand on his declared slogan. He has been found seriously wanting. He may have a heart for the poor but all calculated for political gain.

I am not betting that with the exception of a very few samples, the others will be indicted at all. Again, it will be at the expense of PNoy’s integrity and commitment to doing the right thing! I suspect though that in formulating that slogan the ones who crafted his political postures never anticipated that all these revelations of corruption would ever be so public.

Next followed the Zamboanga incident and there are those that saw what happened as suspiciously orchestrated. Followed by PNoy’s physically staying in Zamboanga for a week, utterly neglecting all the other national concerns. Some interpret this as a somewhat escapist activity. Next came the earthquake in Bohol and so now PNoy is camping out in the area. This leaves a lot of people wondering that though the moves might have had some PR value, it did expose PNoy to accusations of limited capacity to undertake the stresses of office and face the very serious issues that need to be faced. So much for the people being the boss. Turns out to be sheer political blather.
These developments though smack of a very cynical sort of perception management considering the damage done to PNoy’s image by his waffling on the PDAF issue; protesters incidentally wanted the elimination of discretionary spending to be applied to what is tantamount to his own pork, a large percentage of the national budget at about 600 Billion of a 2 trillion budget, approved by a compliant Congress in 15 minutes as the media have reported.

Well, maybe not totally, but certainly much , much less than the current amount; the idea being let the amounts be allocated directly to the line departments who must give good account of how they spend it.
And so, PNoy’s principal slogans lie in tatters.

Well, I think it was naively undertaken and has proven virtually impossible to truly pursue. But it does raise issues about what is next. If the protests continue or if PNoy truly pursues the issue of corruption in the PDAF, he will have to deal as well with the claimed corruption in Malampaya funds, the Agriculture scam and a whole lot of others that have come to light.

Then, there is the corruption in many LGU units all the way down to the Barangay level. As I have commented before, we will probably need to enlarge our jails and holding places or else create a bonanza for hospitals as the favorite holding area of those who have some influence in this nation.

But this is not really the danger. If PNoy is pushed hard to the wall, what direction will he then take? We need the seers to come out and tell us what they see coming up next because I do not see the pressures abating.