By Ronald Roy
In a fried chicken restaurant last week, I could not help overhearing five medical students enjoying themselves by citing personalities who are seen in light of what their names suggest. Prominent politicians embroiled in the pork barrel anomalies were then getting a beating when the name “Benigno B.S. Aquino lll” was mentioned.
The only coed in the group volunteered: “P-Noy’s name is problematic for him. ‘Benign’, from which Benigno is derived, means ‘gentle and kind’, not vengeful, and in medical terms, ‘not harmful or malignant’. [Laughter] And those initials ‘B.S.’ are so suggestively malodorous someone should advise him to do away with them.[Laughter] Finally, in fairness to him, people should stop calling him Benigno B.S. Aquino the Turd”. [Pandemonium]
A name could actually begin to bear an influence on its owner as early as one’s childhood years. For instance, a boy christened “Christopher” could take such an interest in Christopher Columbus he would likely proceed to be an authoritative historian in his professional life; but this isn’t the rule in most cases, certainly not in the case of the Chair of the Commission on Audit, although her name “Maria Gracia Pulido Tan” is, beyond question, as beautiful as it is reverential.
The image that the appellation creates is that of Mary, who is full of grace, and who is the Lord’s handmaid whose work is clean and thorough. Unfortunately, it is a misnomer, apart from her surname “Tan” being associated with the color mix of yellow and brown, as well as with some known tax cheats so-named. Mrs. Tan, a lawyer and a certified public accountant, is a constitutional official of the Republic and, as such, is removable from office only by impeachment.
A personal friend and appointee of P-Noy who loves to travel (at one time, 13 times in 12 months), she is the head of an office that is ordained by its charter, the fundamental law, to serve as the sovereign people’s watchdog institution that is tasked with the audit of all government revenues, resources and other expenditures, and generously endowed with expansive jurisdiction over all government offices and agencies, to each of which a “resident CoA Auditor” is assigned.
When she was appointed, she was aware that such would be the magnitude of her authority, and that such would be the reach of her responsibility in making sure that — with the assistance of all her Auditors acting under her supervision and in accordance with her instructions nationwide — she would be able to arrest at stage two the cancerous pork barrel disease that was already spreading very fast.
But, alas, her office has failed in this regard because, well, like other government offices, CoA has also been so coapted by the executive and legislative departments that the dreaded affliction has now terminally plunged to stage four! No, it would be difficult to hold her administratively liable for mere incompetence or gross negligence, assuming it can be done to someone removable only by impeachment.
But certainly she has breached the public trust by capriciously exercising her authority in order to protect the President and his bosom allies, while zeroing in on his political antagonists on matters of accountability over funds and other assets owned by the sovereign Filipino citizens. Indeed, she has shown excessive partiality in the choice of whom to audit and “expose” in various PDAF and DAP-related situations, in particular those high-profile functionaries known to be eyeing the presidency and vice presidency.
As of this writing, Mrs. Tan’s latest “victims” are Cong. Mickey Arroyo and Sen. Bong Bong Marcos. No, I am not acting the apologist for these legislators who, in the first place, would be their own best defenders. But I do decry her obvious persecution of her benefactor’s political enemies. I do decry the culpable debasement of her constitutional oath to discharge her office with impartiality, independence and fairness.
Under her watch, CoA has been sleeping on the job. As a result, the floodgates of graft and corruption have been opened wider than ever before in history. In a sense, it may now be stated that because of her inept leadership, P-Noy’s government has become the most corrupt ever to have come to pass in this country. And, maracas de Caracas, I hear she is expecting a reward by way of a Supreme Court seat, after Jardeleza, id est !
If this is true, then her running afoul with both the basic charter and the public trust is, without doubt, the result of some form of dictation from the Palace and the two Houses of Congress. If this is true, then the CoA Chair is guilty of the unbridled defilement of the public trust that her own public office is deemed to be.
Many people in the world especially the Islamic nations were astounded as to where this terrorist group ISIS came from? Just like the Al Qaeda, ISIS( Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) started as freedom fighters and metamorphosed into super warriors more mightier than the Al Qaeda and the Taliban combined. Most of its components according to reports are not even born in the Middle East but Arab-Americans, Muslim-Europeans, British, Australians and according to former President Fidel Ramos, more than a hundred Filipino Muslim jihadists who are members of the BIFF and the Abu Sayyaf’s went to Syria to join and be trained by ISIS.
James Dorsey of the Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore Aug.14,2014 wrote that US President Barack Obama’s decision to launch air strikes against Islamic State jihadists in Iraq is fraught with pitfalls and could persuade IS to consolidate its position in Syria, in the knowledge that Obama is likely to salvage the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Kevin Barrett, editor of Veterans Today, August 12, 2014 believed that Israel is either committing suicide or insane. He cited former US Senate Counsel Jeff Gates, author of Guilt by Association saying that Zionist actions, no matter how crazy they look, are the product of elaborate strategic calculations. He wrote that the Zionists are master of game theory- a psychopathic technique for following utterly amoral mathematical self-interest in pursuing ones objectives.
Barrett argued that if Gates is right, the Zionists must be taking desperate measures because they are in a desperate situation. They are facing a demographic challenge, the Palestinians resistance in getting better at asymmetrical warfare and global public opinion is gradually and inexorably turning against them.
Michael Singh, the managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former senior director for the Middle East Affairs of the US National Security Council, in his article at the International New York Times, 8/20/14, said that President Obama surprised many recently when he diagnosed the crisis gripping Iraq as partly an economic one, noting that the Iraqi Sunnis were detached from the global economy and thus frustrated in achieving their aspirations.
Singh disclosed that while Iraq’s chaos has many sources, Obama is nevertheless ‘on to something’ and it’s not just Iraqi Sunnis, but the entire Middle East that is detached from the global economy. The economies of the Middle East are not only detached from the world’s but from one another. Economies and politics are inextricably linked. And economic progress is the key to easing the chronic instability that threatens American interests in the region.
As I’ve been saying in the past that politics begins and ends in economics, Singh was partly right in his assessment. But he has not answered fully his query as to why Obama made a surprise order to attack the ISIS in Iraq.
According to James Dorsey of RSIS,”With tens of thousands of Yasidis trapped by the Jihadists on a mountain in Northern Iraq under dire circumstances and the security of the Iraqi Kurdistan, with Iraq’s most stable region under threat, Obama had little choice but to take action. Growing Saudi-fueled sectarianism in the Middle East is likely to backfire on the US effort as many Sunnis will perceive the air strikes as an expression of a pro-Shiite policy. Sunnis believe that the US policy had brought Shiites to power in Iraq with the toppling of Sunni strongman, Saddam Hussein.”
(During the Babylonian festivities in the past hosted by Saddam, I found out that the hexagram symbol now being used by Israel in their flag was the former emblem of the Yasidis.)
Pundits believe that the air strike launched by Obama was well calculated, the way the American elite kicked out several of their ‘Frankenstein’ worldwide including Marcos, Saddam, Hosni Mubarak, recently Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood and Iraq’s former Prime Minister al Maliki.
According to Mohamed Bin Ali of RSIS (June 30, 2014) the plan was to create levels of conflict. “First is a sectarian one between Sunnis and the Shiite regime. The second level is ideologically motivated attacks. The third is the humanitarian level where there’s a humanitarian crisis to justify intervention. Many are radicalized by what they see and who they come into contact within.
Syria as an example is undergoing a political conflict that serves as the newest hotspot attracting scores of foreign fighters like ISIS, ISIL, etc.”
Sounds familiar! The pattern is getting clearer. That was how the Al Qaeda was created by Osama bin Laden, another state-sponsored terrorist who was sacrificed after winning his war against the Soviets in Afghanistan.
Even the popular geopolitical analyst, Prof. Michel Chossudovsky of Global Research (June 14, 2014) commented that there is an ongoing engineered destruction and political fragmentation of Iraq towards the creation of a US sponsored Islamist Caliphate. He explained that the Al Qaeda affiliated entities have been used by US-NATO in numerous conflicts as ‘intelligence assets’ since the heyday of the Soviet-Afghan war. In Syria, the Al Nusrah and the ISIS rebels are the foot soldiers of the western military alliance which oversee and control the recruitment and training of paramilitary forces using different names and acronyms.
Chossudovsky concluded that the plan was to support both sides. The war on terror created the Al Qaeda terrorist entities as part of an intelligence operation, as well as rescuing governments which are the target of terrorist insurgency. This process is reportedly carried out under the banner of counter-terrorism. It creates the pretext to intervene.
ISIS is allegedly a ‘Caliphate project’ of creating a Sunni Islamist state. It is neither a project of the Sunni population of Iraq. It is a part of a US intelligence agenda. The Islamic Caliphate is allegedly supported covertly by the CIA in liaison with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Turkish intelligence. He confirmed that Israel also channeled support to Al Qaeda rebels in Syria as well as to the Kurdish separatists.
“The endgame is to destabilize sovereign nation states and to transform countries into open territories on behalf of the so called foreign investors.” Chossudovsky stated.
A Filipino Islamic scholar told me the other day that Muslims worldwide are watching carefully the possible scenario of how the Zionists will take over the Golden mosque in Jerusalem and the ongoing atrocities in Gaza. They are also monitoring the ISIS no ‘mercy strategy’ in killing Muslims and the possible pretext in destroying the ‘Dome of the Rock’, the ‘perceived hindrance’ in building the Zionists third temple. He added that the Muslim world will fight back including Arab states allied to Israel. His nightmare is the possible intervention of the western allies. He’s getting feedback from the US that the Zionist Americans controlling the US government wanted to help the Israelis in getting the Arab lands to fast-track the creation of a Greater Israel.
The scholar foresees that the beheading of the American freelance journalist James Foley could be the justification for the US government all out intervention to assist Israel in the road to Armageddon.
Peter Cauton considers himself a career HR Practitioner turned serial entrepreneur. But he is more than that. Technopreneurs and aspiring startups all over the country know him more as an inspirational speaker and a founder of several startup companies. He is an expert on how to get someone’s dream tech business started, and how to sustain it.
He started his first company, STORM Consulting back in 2006. The company has since grown by leaps and bounds and is now called STORM Rewards.
Peter Cauton is considered a leader of the Filipino Startup Movement via his site Juan Great Leap (juangreatleap.com). His mission in life is to inspire others to take the great leap into entrepreneurship. In his interview with Tech In Asia’s Raya Edquilang, he was asked: What was that defining moment when you made a conscious decision that helping others is what you want to do?
He answered, “In 2008, I made the biggest career decision of my life – I took the leap, kissed my corporate career goodbye and went full-time to help my struggling startup. Considering it was in the middle of the recession and I had a newborn son, it was an idiotic decision. By God’s grace, it worked out. In 2011, not only was I making a good living running my own firm, I also founded more startups. I just felt incredibly blessed.”
Peter felt the need to pay it forward. He also wanted to write a book. He shares, “It would consist of some of the lessons I learned in leaving corporate and developing my startup. But after some months, I found that it was just a huge step to develop material from scratch into a book. So I thought of something I had never thought I do – write a blog. I remember writing my first post. I dilly-dallied a lot, postponing pushing the ‘publish’ button for as long as I can. In many ways, starting a blog was scarier than writing a book. The exposure was instant. What if people hated what I wrote? Or thought ‘this guy is a hack’? But I thought, like my startup leap, nothing worthwhile is ever accomplished without some risk. And so I clicked publish. The blog has almost taken a life of its own now. I totally did not forecast how much it would resonate with people. Its been an amazing blessing for me.”
His idea for Juan Great Leap is to do advocacy work to promote startups. One of their plans is to popularize Juan Great Leap conferences. “In the last one, sponsored by Ayala, we attracted over 200 people to a learning session/panel discussion. We are planning another one on March 2nd: a mass ‘speed dating’ event with 20 awesome startup founders. These bigger events are geared towards creating a mass learning opportunity for participants.”
Juan Great Leap also organizes smaller meetups, called Open Coffee. Every month, around 40 to 50 people participate. The meetup is geared towards collaboration and helping other aspiring techpreneurs. Peter says that the meetup is open to people from any part of the startup process from ‘I have an idea’ to ‘I have just sold my startup.’
The main attraction in Juan Great Leap events, according to him, is the open floor where people have two minutes to pitch anything to the group – an idea, a problem to solve, a need, a survey. The idea is to learn, share and have fun.
“Aside from these, I meet two to three entrepreneurs for coffee every Saturday morning. We talk about everything and anything – from startup ideas, outlining opportunities, and even the spiritual side to startups. A couple of people I’ve met at Startup Saturdays have become dear friends of mine, some also who I’ve had the privilege to mentor,” he adds.
Asked about the greatest challenge for Filipino tech startups, Peter remarks, “There aren’t enough entrepreneurs to take on the multitude of great ideas which are available. Right now, you see the same people in startup events – this is very good of course, as we are creating a strong community, but we need more people to join in. The biggest challenge is to inspire even more Filipinos to take that great leap!”
In the midst of his success, Peter admits that he has made mistakes anyone could possibly imagine. But he did not allow mistakes to stop him from pursuing his goal. “By sheer perseverance, passion, and prayer, STORM is still standing after nearly 7 years, and has been growing steadily,” he says.
Peter knows that being a technopreneur is also a process of learning things about yourself. He muses, “What I’ve learned about myself in recent years is that I really love the startup process – I absolutely love getting the right ideas and the right people together in solving great problems. I guess the HR person in me never left – I want to help other people find their passions. With this end in mind, can it get any better than rallying people to build startups, new entities that are supposed to center around the entrepreneur’s passions?
Looking around what has been happening in the startup scene around the world, I feel the Philippines has been left out a bit. I look at the Techcrunch-type sites around and I notice more and more extremely passionate, talented people taking huge leaps in pursuing their dreams, almost on an everyday basis.”
Peter has some words of wisdom for fresh college graduates and young aspiring entrepreneurs:
“Our graduates by and large think of one path: to make a resume, get hired by a corporation, and work their way up the corporate ladder. Then maybe get an MBA in 3-4 years, ideally abroad, and then resume going up that ladder. Talk to any business graduate of any school and this is what you’ll hear. This is the mind-numbingly singular plan.”
“Ever think about starting a business? What if you took that leap 2 years ago?
It is shuddering to think how many dreams have been quashed, how many creative impulses wasted, how many spirits have been broken, in these corporate jobs where positions matter more than people.”
Peter continues, “No way in hell is this because of a lack of talent. Filipinos are world-renowned talents. No way is it because of a lack of ambition. It is because of a lack of perception. A perception that, yes, someone in her twenties can put up a great, world-class startup. That, yes, you can make a dent in the universe.”
His final piece of advice for those who want to become entrepreneurs?
“Take that leap, Juan.”
Advances in information technology changed not only the way we think of businesses, but also of the way we run them. With the rise of companies run by minimal office staff, there is a need for assistance in doing the nitty-gritty aspects of the business. The challenge is to do it without garnering additional costs and manpower. This is where Afortiva Virtual Solutions comes in.
Afortiva supplies ‘virtual assistants’, people who can do the kind of work that office secretaries and personal assistants used to do. The only difference is that you can access your VA anytime and anywhere there is an Internet connection. Founded by Gregory and Vanessa Misaghi, the company uses a very simple but highly beneficial concept.
While Gregory handles CEO duties, Vanessa, as Operations Director, oversees the daily operations and manages their working teams. Their VA teams provide administrative support and other specialized services to businesses, entrepreneurs, executives, business professionals, and others who have more work to do than the time to do it.
Vanessa explains, “Many clients realize that they are spending too much time taking care of busy-work that they can’t bill clients for, but still needs to be done, such as scheduling trips, planning meetings, researching the Internet for information, tracking expenses, paying bills and taxes, balancing the books, maintaining files, screening calls, and answering e-mails. A virtual assistant can save you time because you’ll be spending less time doing that work and more time growing your business, having quality time with the family, or just plain relaxing.”
Afortiva’s service is all about helping their clients, mostly business owners and managers, to concentrate on what they do best. Their clients have realized the importance of having someone outside the office handle all routine office tasks.
Gregory, or Greg as he’d like to be called, acknowledges that the VA concept is not that new. What makes their services different is that they have created their unique spin on the what a VA can do for their clients. He emphasizes that it is all about knowing what your clients need on a personal level.
He shares, “Afortiva is more of a ‘Mom and Pop’ shop. A small business for small businesses. In this model, we don’t want you to keep ‘returning products to the store’ if unhappy. We don’t want you to waste the time. Time that we have promised to give you. Have a business problem and need consulting? You need a service that you don’t see on our list? Let us solve that for you by finding solutions for your problems as if it were ours. We will constantly update you and call you instead of sending a generic email. Unlike big firms, we won’t let bureaucratic or arbitrary procedures limit us from helping you. You won’t have to talk to five people to solve one simple task. You don’t have to take two steps forward and one step back. These value added services are free and are included with the rate we charge you.”
In a Facebook conversation with Vanessa, she shares that just like a lot of businesses, they went through several transitions before becoming successful.
“I was into business development for six years. Greg was into training for three years. We met at a call center. When we became a couple, we realized our tandem is a good combo to start something out. I was contacted by one of my former clients from the US, and he asked if I can do projects for him. I took the job as a part-time thing. Greg became interested in it. And we both agreed, why not do this for good?”, she said.
At first, Vanessamade contact with all of the people she networked with from the US and found a way to secure clients. Most of the jobs theyreceived weretelemarketing-oriented.
She recalls, “We have only had two computers at home then. We did it ourselves. Andwe were able to hire oneyoung person to help us out. All of a sudden the number of clients increased instantly. They mostly came from referrals by my other contacts and current clients. Soon we had to move operations to Bacolod to accommodate those clients. Greg’s dad has an office there with six desktop computers. We borrowed their office at night.”
Sadly, the Bacolod move didnot work out well for the couple’s first venture together. Vanessa admits that labor costs are cheaper there but they had a hard time finding competent people to work for them. The telemarketing accounts also demanded too much from them and became too difficult to work with.
The couple flew back to Manila and resolved to reshape their business model and we discarded their telemarketing accounts. They eventually decided to focus more on the ‘virtual assistant’ market. This decision positively shaped Afortiva into what it is now.
One thing they learned from their previous work experiences is to identify what made both of them leave in the first place. “When we put up Afortiva, we made sure to recall whatever things we didn’t like from our previous companies, and ensure that we won’t do those things in our own company. We now operate in a culture and work atmosphere that our employees enjoy. They havethe freedom to be creative. They have discipline, and most importantly, they can learn alot from the online marketing industry, ” remarks Vanessa.
By Ray L. Junia
OpinYon is a responsible advocacy paper. It is not an angry tabloid that detractors are wont to accuse it of. But if taking a passionate stand against abuses by big business means being angry and committing a crime, then we admit our writers, together our editorial staff, stand guilty of being angry and offensive.
That the editorial preference of this paper has hurt big business can not be overstated by the dirty tricks on censorship employed by big money.
One common complaint of our regular followers, buying their copies from our outlets, is that there are no copies to buy and outlets had run out of copies. Reports reaching me say copies are sold out in an hour upon reaching the shelves.
Too good to be true, so we did our own sleuthing. Indeed, it sold out fast on some issues. We also found out that this is because of an organized effort to buy all copies from all our outlets in Metro Manila. Why? Some big business people do not want OpinYon reaching its readers. And they have the money to do this.
This is censorship done during the pre-Martial Law period of the former dictator of this country, Ferdinand Marcos. This is censorship resorted to when big money cannot buy the writers and the paper does not sell out stories.
On some occasions, we are forced to do a reprint when the number of those asking for copies justify the cost.
This censorship has strengthened our resolve to campaign for direct subscription, and in the process be trusted by advocacy groups and our readers.
We have redefined our priorities resulting in giving more space for stories to allow deeper analysis and articulation on issues of high national interest.
Notice these changes in this issue and the coming issues of OpinYon.
We are most thankful for the continued and growing patronage of this advocacy paper. We pledge not to abandon the cause to educate the people on economic issues affecting consumers, the environment, livelihood for the underprivileged, and advocacy of other groups.
Come May 1, the nation will mark Labor Day, but is it worth celebrating?
For as long as labor remains mired in a state of deprivation, no significance – either real or imagined – can be attached to what is supposed to be a day of tributes to the workers.
That the workers are exploited with impunity can hardly be disputed, given the rampant practice by big businesses such as SM of tycoon Henry Sy to resort to contractualization.
Bluntly, contractualization – other than the businesses’ subtle way to rake in more profits — appears to be the hidden cost underlying a struggling economy.
While providing relief to the ranks of the jobless, such measure is but only temporary, exposing indeed the government’s lack of long-term solutions to the nation’s job woes.
Broadly, the malpractice is not only revolting, but also immoral because it deprives workers of their human right to a life of respect and dignity.
Without any moment’s notice, those who entered into such lopsided arrangement can be terminated even in the absence of any justifiable cause.
How and why contractualization continued to thrive under the noses of labor officials defies logic.
The economy, as the government says, has been on a growth track over the past years, creating opportunities for employment.
And yet, based on official statistics, there’s still a growing number of Filipinos who are jobless.
It only buttressed the fact that while growth is welcome news, it can’t be equated by any stretch of imagination with the uplift of the workers’ quality of life. Understandably, we can’t find fault with those who opt to look for greener pastures abroad.
Desperation is just overwhelming, leaving them with no choice but to take their chances in faraway lands.