Tonypet J. Rosales | Editor
IT APPEARS the most bloated government department—the Communications Group PNoy—simply can’t get the job done. To arrest the President’s sagging image, the administration is bringing more people into the fray, a move that could spark new hostilities between the Samar and Balay groups in Malacanang.
Since 2010, despite an awesome PR machinery, Malacanang never really got a hold of the public relations game. A series of missteps, snafus, blunders and miscommunications (beginning with the mishandling of the Luneta hostage incident involving a tour bus filled with Chinese nationals) have kept the President’s team of spokespersons and speechwriters busy fending off critics.
On Tuesday, a newspaper report by that the Palace is in “PR crisis mode”, hiring the services of a foreign pollster and political strategist to help reinvent the image of the President after the government’s net approval ratings plummeted to a record low.
The report said a crisis management team under Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. (Samar Group) and a political strategy team under Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas (Balay Group) has been activated to help refurbish PNoy’s image which has taken hit after hit since assuming the presidency in 2010.
A Palace source said Roxas is bringing back one Paul Bograd, the political strategist said to be responsible for Mar’s “Mr. Palengke” brand which made the DILG secretary No. 1 senator back in 2004. Bograd’s assignment: to fix PNoy’s image which suffered massively because of the Supreme Court’s adverse ruling on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
On the other hand, Ochoa has made changes in the Palace media group starting with the appointment of Presidential Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma as presidential spokesperson taking the place of Edwin Lacierda who is identified with Mar’s Balay group.
Ochoa is also said to have reactivated members of the Samar group involved in the 2010 campaign, including television director and PNoy cousin Maria Montelibano. Montelibano served as head of Radio Television Malacanang (RTVM) during the time of President Cory Aquino and was also the designated point-person for media in Noynoy’s 2010 campaign.
While Bograd’s appointment can be considered a slap in the face of Secretary Coloma, observers believe that recent turn of events is symptomatic of a leadership breakdown in Malacanang. The administration is slowly falling apart and may eventually cost the ruling Liberal Party (LP) the 2016 presidential elections.
Seed of Discord
The conflict between the Samar and Balay group started shortly after Mar Roxas lost the vice presidency to Jojo Binay. Balay is the the group that met regularly at the residence of Roxas and its core is composed of the LP leadership together with the Black and White Movement and Ronald Llamas’ Akbayan. Samar Avenue in Quezon City is where Montelibano’s media bureau and Ochoa’s legal team held fort. PNoy sisters Pinky and Ballsy and Sonny Belmonte also regularly joined the Samar meetings.
The difference between the two groups emerged when Balay members started blaming Samar for the emergence of the winning NoyBi (Noynoy-Binay) tandem. In 2010, Mar’s presidential candidacy was floundering (he was usually ranked 4th in the ratings) and things looked up only after he gave way to Aquino and ran for vice president instead.
However, in the last weeks before the elections, Binay eventually caught up with Mar in the ratings.
From sure winner, Roxas became a pathetic loser. The two camps exchanged barbs blaming each other for Mar’s loss with Balay—despite the polls—claiming the Binay win as a fluke. The seed of discord had already planted as early as 2010.
The latest polls showing the President’s net satisfaction ratings at an all-time low, forced both the Samar and Balay groups to reactivate their crisis management teams. The Palace is in panic and by racing to save the President and effect a quick turnaround—Pnoy and company could find himself in even deeper trouble.
Mar’s panic is understandable because his chance of becoming the LP standard bearer and winning the presidency in 2016 is directly proportional to PNoy’s pop ratings. If PNoy crashes and burns, Roxas might as well kiss his presidential aspirations goodbye.
Palace insiders say Ochoa is concerned with the way the LP has handled the DAP issue. The August 23, 2013 speech of the President defending the DAP was reportedly the idea of Roxas who managed to convince PNoy to deliver the speech on primetime television despite Ochoa’s protests.
“Ochoa believes the (Senate President Franklin) Drilon and (Budget Secretary Butch Abad are dragging the President down with them,” the Palace source said.
Abad is the architect of the DAP which has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Drilon—who failed on his promise to scrap the Senate pork—tried to make up for his failure with an attempt to salvage the impounded money by circumventing the TRO issued by the SC by having the funds declared as “savings” that the President can use in the event of a calamity. Drilon’s antics reportedly did not sit well with House Speaker Belmonte.
The situation has become a fight for the Aquino-Cojuangco clan’s life that even the “First Bunso” Kris has been put to active PR service.
Kris’ strategy jumps off from PNoy’s recent State of the Nation Address (SONA) where the camera cuts away to the gallery and catches the “Queen of All Media” wiping off her tears as her PNoy mouths off the sacrifices of their parents Cory and Ninoy in his impassioned speech.
On August 1, on the occasion of Cory Aquino’s 5th death anniversary, Kris even hinted on the potential martyrdom of PNoy. “He [Noynoy] can’t do it on his own. We need to stand by him and give him strength. Please pray with us also that he stays alive,” Kris told guests after the Holy Mass at the Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque City.
Kris, of course, was alluding to PNoy’s mentioning in his SONA of certain “dark forces” that were supposedly out to get him. While much of what makes the Aquino dynasty great has something to do with death, the idea of President Aquino dying to achieve a PR bonanza is totally out of the question.
If PNoy dies, then Vice President Binay becomes President defeating the whole purpose of initiating an ambitious PR mode to save PNoy’s neck and the LP from a public hanging.
What remains clear is that the scenario in the Palace remains as chaotic as ever with the administration content in plugging loopholes and providing band-aid solutions to the country’s problems. Common sense dictates that it is never wise to have two captains run a PR ship.
Right now, PNoy and company appear secure and safe—just like the passengers of the Titanic.
THE Aquino administration is in a quandary.
Shortly after putting senators Bong Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada behind bars for their alleged involvement in the PhP10-billion pork barrel scam and issuing a warrant against former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, government is now beset with a problem bigger than pilferage of the PDAF—that of the issue of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) being declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Designed as a stimulus package to fast-track public spending and economic and push economic growth—which was supposedly being hampered by a prevailing under-spending in government disbursements—President Aquino approved the DAP in October 2011 upon the recommendation of the Development Budget Coordination Committee and the Cabinet Clusters.
From its approval and throughout 2012-2013 government spent a total PhP142.23 billion in realigned savings from different government agencies on a total 116 DAP-funded budgets. And in declaring the practice to be in violation of the Constitution, the High Tribunal cites the culpability of the proponents and implementers of the illegal government program.
The chief architect of this budget impounding system is Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad, the same person whom some quarters have accused of orchestrating and providing tutelage to the players and con artists of the PDAF scam.
If the PDAF scam lists senators and congressmen as possible conspirators, the DAP tags the Office of the President—President PNoy—for approving a program that is against the fundamental laws of the land.
In defense, Malacanang said it “acted in good faith” when it spent hundreds of billions in public funds circumventing the provisions of the Constitution via the DAP. Also, being unconstitutional—in the words of Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda—should not be equated to criminality. Acting in good faith could be taken as the government’s admission of incompetence or an ignorance of the law, with both providing no excuse for the commission of an illegal act.
Because the DAP is very similar to the PDAF in many respects including the funding of projects identified by lawmakers, it is not easy to accept that the line that DAP was money well spent and the thievery was limited to the PDAF.
The PDAF involved an amount less than one percent of the total national budget and the DAP spending is ten times that of the money that Janet Lim Napoles and her co-accused were able to stick their fingers into.
If PDAF is just “pocket change”—Napoles and company are just petty thieves. An audit of the DAP and national budget could lead us to the big-time crooks and the smooth criminals in government.
Over the past year, more and more people have asked me the following questions:
1. Will (PCOS/PH) President Benigno “Noynoy/PNoy” Cojuangco Aquino finish his six year term and step down in a peaceful and orderly manner on June 30, 2016?
2. Are there rumblings in the military? Are there Destabilization Efforts going on? Are Coup (de ‘Eta) Conspiracies and Plots being hatched?
3. When will Public Indignation Explode? What Form will it take? Is it possible for Extra Constitutional Regime Change to occur again? If so, will it still be in the form of an EDSA type Popular Uprising cum Military Support?
4. Will Noynoy also be investigated, prosecuted, charged, arrested, detained, tried, convicted and imprisoned if he is ousted or after he steps down?
I have more detailed questions of my own. These questions have been percolating in my mind since the first major crisis of the Aquino Administrator – the August 23, 2010 Luneta Hostage Massacre. However, they have become more nagging, noisy and persistent since the Napoles P 10 Billion PDAF/Pork Scam/Scandal erupted almost a year ago. The single thing that I have been curious about the most is how the people’s anger boils internally and explodes and spills out externally.
My own tentative and qualified answers to the above questions have generally been quite conservative. First, I believe that PNoy will complete his term. Second, I believe that it is almost impossible to get the military to commit and move politically. Finally, I believe that the partial civilian and predominantly Middle Class Critical Mass of August 26, 2013, has been dissipated.
I have discovered and defined the theory of the decade and a half political cycle – fifteen years. I wrote three consecutive columns about this last year. These were in OpinYon, Volume IV, issues # 4, 5 and 6 (September 16, 23 and 30.) entitled: “Six Decades of Politics and Protest.”, “Beware of the Fourteen Year Cycle!” and “Martial Law Yesterday and Today!”. However, my cycle is not a numerological cycle as in Marcos’s seven (7) and multiples of it. Thus, he always claimed that he declared Martial Law on September 21, 1972, even though he implemented it on September 22 and 23.
My fifteen year cycle may be less than or more than fifteen years. It only refers to years and not days or dates except when I want to be superstitious for my own reasons as in the case of the Ides of March – March 15. However, in the case of the latter, I don’t hold myself or my predictions to the exact date of the Ides of March. To me, the period that we have to be excited or wary about stretches from January 16 until the middle of March. The former is the Start of EDSA II on Tuesday night, Feb 16, 2001. The latter is the end of the second semester of classes and the regular start of the summer heat (which is not conducive for rallies and street activities).
The next National Elections in 2016, will occur fifteen years after EDSA II (January 16 – 20, 2001), thirty years after EDSA I (Feb 22 – 25, 1986), forty-four years after the Declaration of Martial Law (September 21-23, 1972), forty-five years after the Bombing of Plaza Miranda (August 21, 1971). Seventy five years after the start of World war II in the Pacific (December 7 and 8, 1941, one hundred and twenty years after the Katipunan’s Cry of Balintawak (August 1896).
In line with this, more or less, decade and a half cycle, developments, events and critical mass are coming to a head. In so far as a big mass event is concerned, the August 26, 2013 Million People March to Luneta, occurred a mere thirteen and a half years after EDSA II. The three months before the Ides of July – July 15, this year of 2014, were full of history molding events and occurrences. As we enter the month of July and the second half of the year 2014 (a decade after “Hello Garci!” and a century after the start of World War I.), we see a CONFLUENCE of events that might bring about the Critical Mass that eluded the Anti – GMA Coalition for the entire length of the nine and a half year GMA Administration.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, July 1, the Supreme Court may finally decide on the Constitutionality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). We have been waiting for this since Tuesday, June 2. The Supreme Court has delayed biting the bitter bullet for a whole month or four Tuesdays (the regular En Banc Session day.). The Justices have been tweedling their fingers, twisting in the wind and squirming in their assess. Since they declared the PDAF Unconstitutional last year, they can not do otherwise with the DAP. They are trying to invent a formula that will only make the Unconstitutionality prospective and free the Inventors of the DAP from Criminal and Civil Liability for their past actions.
Originally, the Disqualification Case against former President, now Manila Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada, was going to be scheduled for the Supreme Court En Banc session tomorrow. Take note that Erap has expressed the feeling that his family is being persecuted. J. V. got only 11th place in the Senatorial race. E. R. was the only elected and incumbent winner who was ousted from his post in less than a year for the all too common sin of overspending. Jinggoy was one of three Opposition Senators singled out for Selective Persecution/Prosecution out of two dozen past and present Senators named in the Napoles long list.
The 100th Anniversary of the Iglesia ni Cristo will be celebrated on Sunday, July 27. It can only become their biggest mass Mobilization in a hundred years. Although they will not admit it, they mobilized during the Corona Impeachment as well as during one of the highs in the up and down series of rumors about Erap’s impending disqualification.
The Opening of Congress and the State of the Nation Address is scheduled for Monday, July 28, 2014.
Four weeks after, on Tuesday, August 26, is the first Anniversary of the Million People March to the Luneta.
If only I were still an active planner and implementor of Destabilization, I would thank God for such a heaven sent series of schedules. I say to my successors – don’t let the Opportunity pass. It might not present itself again in your active lifetimes.
Who and What are the Strange Bedfellows? (To be continued…)
Some labor groups are not impressed with the arrests of senators Juan Ponce-Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla, as the arrests are seemingly selective, and at best, superficial.
Progressive groups under the banner of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) condemned the selective arrests of three members of the opposition by the Aquino administration, citing that it is only one of the government’s diversionary tactics to appease the angry masses in calling for accountability.
Youth group Anakbayan says that the administration’s tactic only aims to limit the scope of prosecution in the pork barrel scam.
“We can call for accountability all day long, but the Aquino administration will not give us genuine accountability, ” said Vencer Crisostomo, national chairperson of Anakbayan.
Aquino on the defensive for his allies involved in the alleged corruption cases are among factors on why genuine accountability will not happen under his administration.
Aquino is using all his power to contain the anger of the Filipinos and redirect them to members of the opposition involved in the scam while his involved allies enjoy the privilege of his protection.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma stated that the palace has a “new media team” that collected the data on the negative impact of Sen. Bong Revilla’s speech on the internet.
Different organizations continue to point out how the administration is wasting the people’s taxes by collecting this kind of data which only aims to serve the interest of Aquino and his allies.
By Miguel Raymundo
Far from the true picture of the economy that belies Malacanang’s assertion of economic growth, latest numbers imply that the economy is on the wane, a far cry from the still sanguine assessment dished out by those in power.
Bluntly, political scams are weighing down on economy’s prospects and how businessmen perceive them.
Take the gross domestic product (GDP) which measures the nation’s local output, which has declined over the past quarters.
From a high of 7.7 percent in the first quarter of 2012, GDP has gone down to 6.3 percent in the first quarter of 2013 and a disappointing 5.7 percent growth in this year’s first quarter.
As expected, officials heap the blame on the spate of natural calamities for the economy’s slump over the past quarters.
Finding fault, however, with the weather as the culprit of the economy’s woes may not be that accurate.
While the figures are quarterly, they nonetheless provide a glimpse into what has long bogged down the economy – uncompetitive, protectionist and corruption-prone.
Yearly, the Philippines aims to chalk up between six and seven percent GDP growth in its bid to make it one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies.
That projection takes into account the foreign exchange remittances of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) which account for 20 percent of the annual GDP.
This year, prospects don’t augur well for a significant share of remittances to GDP due slowdown in this year’s first quarter as hostilities flare up in the job-rich Middle East, particularly in Libya, Iraq and Syria.
Moreover, certain policy and structural constraints still abound, one of which is the still unresolved 60:40 equity limit imposed by the Constitution on investors seeking to do business in the country.
While both Houses of Congress are receptive to striking out the archaic provision in the Constitution, it seems ironic that no less than President Aquino himself stands in the way.
In no unequivocal terms, he thumbed down any proposal to tinker with the basic law of the land, including its economic provisions.
Undoubtedly, the pro-Filipino but anti-foreigner equity ratio ceiling curbed the entry of foreign funds which only ended up in other hassle-free nations – Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar.
Lack of infras
More often than not, prospective foreign investors bewail the government’s incoherent and unstable business policy, lack of infrastructure, particularly roads, ports and airports in the Philippines.
Yet, billions of pesos are allotted annually to finance the construction of highways, being the lifeblood of the economy.
Talk of corruption in the business circuit often revolves around the pork barrel scam, a major embarrassment to Aquino’s so-called tuwid na daan” program of government.
During the just-concluded World Economic Forum in Makati city, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima was booed by activists for his upbeat assessment of the debt-plagued economy.
He was blamed for orchestrating the multi-billion dollar debt deals with the multilateral finance institutions, plunging the country deeper into a debt hole.
Not spared was Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, a dyed-in-the-wool Aquino loyalist who was roundly assailed for giving tribute to Aquino’s “tuwid na daan” platform of government for the restoration of people’s faith in the government.
Contrary to what Aquino officials trumpet, critics believe that the recent growth in the Philippine economy was “artificial, narrow, debt-driven and unsustainable.”
Worse, it is accompanied by worsening job generation, growing unemployment and exclusionary growth, mainly in the narrow real-estate and construction sectors.
These sectors are supported by record-low interest rates, which have made financing for production and for consumption artificially cheap.
While it artificially increases economic activity, this situation of cheap financing is only momentary.
Filipino businessman, Manuel V. Pangilinan, whose group of companies operates toll roads, telecommunications firms, mining pits and power utilities, says while reforms are laudable, the government still needs to address many critical issues necessary for economic growth.
“Certainly, the soft spot of development is important – reforms, governance and perception of the Philippines – but there are hard parts of development as well. It can’t be all perception.” Pangilinan wants the government to cut red tape, reduce the cost of power and build more infrastructure.
For one, American financial services giant JP Morgan Chase has cut its 2014 economic growth forecast for the Philippines, noting that its first-quarter GDP results fell below expectations and turned out to be the slowest pace of expansion in 10 quarters.
It also revised its GDP growth forecast of six percent for the Philippines this year, down from the previous forecast of 6.6 percent.
As more and more analysts reassess their views on the Philippine economy, they tend to narrow down their verdict – that the much-hyped economic growth was but a flash in the pan.
Such labels as “Asia’s next miracle” and “Asia’s rising star” are all but empty advertisements meant to make the Philippines popular to investors.
By Jose Paulo Gaborni
June 12, 2014 was a day of angst by people yearning for freedom against corrupt bureaucrats and against a system that protects them.
Most of these protesters marched from the US Embassy up to Liwasang Bonifacio, and eventually to Mendiola, and some raised posters featuring pictures of senators Enrile, Revilla, Estrada, as well as secretaries Abad and Alcala.
With their latest chants like “Noynoy Aquino, Pork Barrel King!” and “Pork Barrel tanggalin, Noynoy patalsikin!”, protesters from different organizations also called for Aquino’s ouster, citing his negligence in running state affairs, coddling corrupt bureaucrats with the latest Pork Barrel scam, and in failing to implement agrarian reform in Hacienda Luisita and other estates owned by the ruling classes.
The protest march includes an effigy of a pig reminiscent of the golden calf, paraded to the amusement of onlookers. It was first shown in last year’s anti-pork demonstration in Makati’s Ayala triangle.
Other than BAYAN, groups like Victims Against Crime and Corruption, as well as individuals like Bishop Oscar Cruz, NBN-ZTE Whistleblower Jun Lozada, Mae “Juana Change” Paner, and Blogger Tonyo Cruz expressed disgust against the present administration and the slow handling of justice against Napoles and corrupt bureaucrats.
Scarborough Shoal, EDCA, and costumed protest at US Embassy
Other than Pork Barrel, issues like the Scarborough Shoal and West Philippine sea were being discussed, stressing Philippine sovereignty over the contested rocks, shoals, and isles west of Palawan, as former Congressman Teddy Casiño said that BAYAN rejects “incursions of China in our Exclusive Economic Zone,” but also opposes a new agreement that will allow US troops to establish facilities inside Philippine military bases.
“All these are threats to our independence and sovereignty and we are here to defend them,” he said.
And prior to the march towards Liwasan, a group of protesters, dressed as Katipuneros, led the way in marching with the rest after a near-scuffle with the cops at the US Embassy, with the latter confiscating some of the props like wooden guns and bolos.
The protest near the US Embassy was about the agreements that protesters described as unequal and one sided, such as the Visiting Forces Agreement, Mutual Logistics Support Agreement, and the latest Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.
People may misunderstand, if not altogether disregard the protests regardless of the topics discussed. Oftentimes, there are those trying to describe those protesters subjectively as ‘pro-Chinese’.
After the country celebrated its day of freedom against colonizers, the following questions are begging to be asked: What is independence if it means relying on a bigger country, rather than standing up on your own?
What is freedom if it means acting like a mendicant, aside from having a system that is indeed corrupt, with officials siphoning off money from the people?
Save for those who actually care about national concerns, do the people really care about national consciousness save for Pacquiao’s boxing rematches and the occasional beauty contests? Vietnam had similar problems with China but it resisted its northern neighbor on its own.
The struggle continues, as age-old problems continue to persist. Protests will still continue, as peasants still have no land, workers keep asking for their bread, and as people wish an end to all corruption, and for as long as this nation is still yearning for a just and lasting peace.
Why the Philippines is not really a free country
By Andrea Lim
In a government that mostly serves the interests of capitalists and foreign powers, this is one question we should all take the time to ponder – are we even truly free? Every June 12th, Filipinos are lulled into an even further sense of false ‘nationalism’ and ‘freedom’ when the reality of the matter is that we are still not free as a country.
Our national policies are still influenced by our former American colonizers. Our economic freedom is being sold part and parcel to China by big business taipans, and the oligarchs are keeping us under servitude to the interests of multinationals.
President Noynoy Aquino defined ‘true freedom’ as freedom from hunger, ignorance, poverty and joblessness. However, youth group Anakbayan national chairperson Vencer Crisostomo says that the number of hungry, jobless and poor Filipinos actually increased in Aquino’s first year, and more so in the succeeding ones. The number of school drop-outs also remain in large numbers.
This shows that not only is the government’s so-called declaration of independence a façade, but it also proves that the country’s political and economic policies stay-one sided in favor of foreign powers and their local puppets.
Sovereignty For Sale
Instead of calling for national sovereignty, we have a President who chooses only to bow down to foreign powers even if it is at the expense of the Filipino people.
US influences on our armed forces through policies and programs extends to our economy – the economic crisis being experienced by the Philippines is a result of the government’s neo-liberal policies pushed by the US, such as the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the Balikatan exercises, and most recently, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
Meanwhile, China has already subdued the Philippines economically. Big capitalists such as Henry Sy, Lucio Tan and other foreign businessmen continue to exploit the Filipinos for cheap labor. What’s worse is that President Aquino himself offers us to them.
Aquino’s government has steered mainstream media into distracting us from relevant issues in our society. Instead of having us focus on the corruption cases involving Budget Secretary Butch Abad and other yellow cronies, we are bombarded with news of Noynoy’s new ‘love interest’ or Kris Aquino’s summer fling with Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista.
Cuban freedom fighter Che Guevarra says that the mere act of proclaiming independence or winning an armed victory in a revolution does not mean the freedom of a country. True freedom is achieved when the “imperialistic economic domination” over people is brought to an end.