Philippines

FAILURE

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By Miguel Raymundo

THE appointment of former senator Francisco Pangilinan as Presidential assistant for food security and agricultural modernization raised a lot of questions back in May. And, almost three months after being named de facto Agriculture Secretary, Kiko still has nothing to show for it.

While the competence and public service record of Pangilinan may not be questionable, it is President Aquino’s move to put him on top of the National Food Authority (NFA), National Irrigation Administration (NIA), Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) and Pesticide Authority—agencies under the Department of Agriculture (DA)—that is highly suspectable.

Unsavory

Despite efforts by how Malacañang massage and sugarcoat the fact that Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala has been effectively stripped of much of his powers as DA chief, there is no denying the unsavory nature of the Pangilinan appointment.

At face value, the move could be interpreted as yet another attempt by the Aquino administration to redeem itself from the double-barreled scandal involving the misuse of billions in public funds via the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and other pestering issues of graft and corruption that have effectively dislocated the “Matuwid na Daan” schema.

Pangilinan’s entry to the Cabinet is, to a certain extent, akin to the selection of another former senator, Ping Lacson, who was appointed as Presidential Assistant for Relief and Rehabilitation (PARR) in the face of government’s systematic failure to address the needs of millions of Filipinos in Eastern Visayas who suffered the devastation of super typhoon Yolanda back in November.

Poster Boy

Lacson, who as senator refused to collect his PDAF allotments, was the perfect poster boy for the PNoy administration in its effort to neutralize reports of the delay in the delivery of typhoon relief being caused by unscrupulous government officials filching millions in foreign cash and equipment donations.

However, Lacson’s appointment carried no real powers with it. He had no access to funds and had no authority whatsoever to police the government agencies involved in the massive relief and reconstruction effort. This, Lacson learned the hard way—after losing a publicized run-in with Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson over his declaration that the temporary bunkhouses being constructed to shelter typhoon victims could be grossly overpriced.

Pangilinan, meanwhile, has an almost unblemished publish service track record. He is as likable as Mickey Mouse. But unlike Lacson, Pangilinan is loyal to PNoy and is a Liberal Party stalwart and critics believe there is more to his appointment than just “cleaning the ranks of the DA”.

Trouble

Less than a week after Kiko’s appointment, two agency heads under the DA tendered their resignations. PCA Administrator Euclides Forbes and National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Arthur Juan both submitted their courtesy resignation letters to the Office of the President.
Juan, who had just been recently appointed to replace Orlan Calayag, gave his letter on May 6 and asked that his resignation “be made effective upon the appointment of a replacement.” Forbes, appointed in January 2011, filed his resignation on May 8.

“I filed a courtesy resignation to enable the new boss to choose (a new administrator). But I’m willing to stay,” Forbes told reporters.

Pangilinan refused the resignation of Juan, who had been earlier accused by rice trader Jomerito “Jojo” Soliman of extorting PhP15 million from him. Reports said PhP10 million was purportedly for Pangilinan and Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas while the remaining PhP5 million was for Juan.

Soliman claimed that Juan’s lawyer Patricia Galang is also involved in the extortion. Soliman said the PhP10 was deposited to bank accounts provided by Juan while the PhP5 million was supposedly delivered to Juan in cash.

Juan has denied the allegations and government has yet to finish its investigation into the matter, the reason cited by Kiko for refusing his resignation.

Pangilinan believes trader Jojo Soliman made up the allegations against Juan because Soliman’s license was suspended for his practice of allegedly mixing animal feeds with rice.

Forbes, meanwhile, has been replaced by Romulo Arancon Jr. as PCA head. Also, word is out that NIA Administrator Claro Maranan and FPA Director Norli Gicana are also likely to be replaced.

Impossible Task

With less than two years before the end of the PNoy presidency most observers believe that it is impossible for Pangilinan to address the issues of rice smuggling, food security, and rebuild the livelihood of millions of Eastern Visayas farmers who lost their means of living to Yolanda.

For starters, the agriculture sector grew by only 1 percent from last year and the coconut industry is in shambles losing one-third of its production—the output of Eastern Visayas farms destroyed by Yolanda.

With some 33 million coconut trees destroyed, it will take 10 years before the region begins to produce coconuts again even as thousands of farmers continue to wait for the arrival of much-needed government relief almost a year after the typhoon.

Meanwhile, the promise of rice sufficiency is more likely to remain just a promise with government spending focused on rice imports than the development of new technologies and programs to help resurrect the local rice industry. PNoy himself defended the importations as a means to “curb smuggling and to bring rice hoarders to their knees”. With imported rice flooding the market, the future of the Filipino rice farmer under the PNoy administration looks dim.

On the issue of food security, more than a quarter of Filipino adults (36%) claimed to be food insecure, while 23% of Filipino children said the same in the latest National Nutrition Survey (NNS). The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has the highest prevalence of food insecurity. However, the problem is not concentrated in one area, but persistently scattered across all 16 regions of the Philippines.

Some regions may have fewer cases of food insecurity than others, but the data suggests that it may take more than a while before the government manages to end hunger for all Filipinos.

2016 Derby

So what is Kiko Pangilinan supposed to achieve given his limited time?

In a visit to IloIlo last July, the newly appointed Cabinet man was accompanied by Juan and a team of National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents in the raid cum inspection of a local warehouse. The operation yielded 1,500 re-bagged sacks of NFA rice intended for resale as commercial rice. But local media was quick to dismiss the whole affair as nothing but a publicity stunt for Kiko who is being groomed as a vice presidential candidate in 2016.

“If the inspection was meant to curb the activities of unscrupulous rice retailers, authorities should have done it periodically in the past, not only during the visit of a Malacanang VIP,” a local columnist wrote.

“All over Western Visayas or in the entire country for that matter, more sacks of repacked NFA grains can be discovered if authorities are only doing their job religiously,” the writer added.

Other than posing for photo-ops and being interviewed on national television, Kiko actually had no business being in the area after it was cleared by NBI agents as a crime scene.

Money Man?

In his penultimate State of the Nation Address PNoy ended with the words “Hanggang dito na lamang po ako at maraming salamat”. After this, the frenzy was on for the 2016 polls with all government activity focused on preparing the machinery to propel the administration bet for the next presidential derby.

“Pangilinan’s main concern is to guard the expenditures of the PCA and NFA and to make sure that the ‘proceeds’ are funneled into the administration’s 2016 campaign kitty,” a PNoy critic said.

A large part of this observation owes to the fact that the DA agencies put under Kiko’s watch have become, post typhoon Yolanda, the most funded outfits of the department.

The Philippine plan for the recovery program has allotted about PhP18.7 billion for the rehabilitation of the agriculture sector, which includes crops, livestock and fisheries. The PCA, for example, has received PhP2.8 billion for the rehabilitation of the coconut industry—money that remains untapped because of the lack of legal guidelines covering the disposal of felled and damaged coconut trees that would satisfy the legal rights of land owners, tenants and other beneficiaries.
To fund the recovery program, government will utilize the billions in foreign relief and it is said to be even mulling the use of the PhP5.8 billion in coco levy held by the National Treasury after being declared as public funds by the Supreme Court.

The other half of Kiko’s assignment, agricultural modernization, is also a money post with the enactment of the Agricultural and Fisheries Mechanization (AFMech) Law which installed the DA (Secretary Alcala) as the lead agency in all programs and equipment procurement related to the farm modernization program.

All this amounts to a lot of cash that could be diverted and made available for the administration’s 2016 campaign by way of some clever budget maneuvering similar to the DAP.

In the end, Pangilinan may fail to attain food security and all other promises made to the Filipino people before President Aquino steps down from office. But all the media exposure in this regard should be enough to assure him a seat in the Senate come 2016—or even the vice presidency.

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WAR IN THE PALACE

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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.

Crisis Mode

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.

Serious Concerns

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.

Sister Act

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 Devil and Strange Bedfellows at Pastor “Boy” Saycon’s Birthday (July 8)!

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By Linggoy Alcuaz

At the end of last week’s Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow column, I greeted Pastor “Boy” Saycon a “Happy Birthday!” The title of my Monday, July 7, column was “Quintessential Operator! Strange Bedfellows!” Boy is the Quintessential Operator. Strange Bedfellows are the people we meet at Boy’s parties as well as in Philippine Political History.

The Devil, I did not meet, but I heard about, also at the same party, from Melvin Mitra, Boy’s “Masa” operator. Its initials are “PPP”. Those stand for three words that may compose the name of Vice President Jejomar Cabauatan Binay’s new political party. Those letters are also the initials of Manuel Manahan and Raul S. Manglapus’s Third Force Political Party in the 1957 and 1965 Elections.

The main point that I was trying to get across to my audience or readers in my last two columns was that even Strange Bedfellows have to get together. That is, if they want to advance, progress, succeed and win. My YTT column for Monday, June 30 (two weeks ago), was entitled “Ides of July! Confluence of Events! Strange Bedfellows!” It hinted that a period of opportunity is unfolding.

Thus, in the realm of my advocacy and proposition, the devil is the “Purist”. My example of the Purist was the 1957, 1959 and 1965, PPP/GA/PPP Campaign and Election Run of the Third Force. At that time, at my tender young age, I belonged to and supported them. I’m not a “Balimbing” and Opportunist in the fashion of Mediaman turned Politician Ben Evardone. I’m not afraid of struggling and losing.

However, I believe in struggling and trying over and over again. I believe in consistently doing better and eventually winning. I have won many times – 1953 (Magsaysay), 1961 (the Grand Alliance coalesced with the LP in the United Opposition Party (UNO).), 1984 (The election of region wide Assemblymen for the Interim Batasan Pambansa. The Opposition won a majority of the twenty one seats in Metro Manila or the National Capital Region.), 1986 (EDSA I), 1987, 1988, 2001 (EDSA II), 2010 (PNoy) and 2013 (Erap).

The Left has been trying since 1930 but have not yet won. However, they have survived WW II and eight and a half decades of constant struggle. They have survived mergers (The “Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas and the Socialist Party of the Philippines pre WW II merger.) and many splits. They have been instrumental in and participated in ousting and installing two sets of Presidents – Marcos and Aquino in 1986 through EDSA I and Estrada and GMA in 2001 through EDSA II.

The problem with the PPP/GA/PPP – 1957/1959/1965 attempts was that instead of improving their position with every attempt, the reverse happened. They lost by bigger and bigger percentages or proportions with every attempt. In the context of the 1935 Constitution’s Two Party Presidential System (from 1935 to 1972), the first objective or step for the Third Party was to challenge and contest the strongest Opposition Party for its privileges, rights and status, specially the Dominant Opposition Party Inspectors in the Boards of Precinct Inspectors. Once this was accomplished, it would be much easier to challenge the Administration or Incumbent Party. And so, it was a matter of first things first.

And so the prejudicial question is, “Should the Leading Presidentiable for 2016 and the Upset (over MAR and Loren) Vice Presidential Winner for 2010, organize a new party that will have the same Initials as the loser Third Force Parties of the 50’s and 60’s?” The big differences are that the 1887 Constitution decreed a Multiparty Presidential System and did away with Government paid Election Inspectors. Thus, the connection may be more symbolic than real.

It may be good for VP JCB to establish the connection with the old PPP’s as the Reform Experiments as well as Uncle Sam’s protégées. Jojo may have too much of an Activist, Human Rights and Leftist Image and Roots. However, of all of us First Quarter Stormers, both Moderate and Radical, Jojo is the most successful Trad Pol Convert. Why not try to show that he is a wolf with the heart of a lamb.

On the other hand, it may be good also to display to the Americans that he is trying hard despite his Radical Youth to take shelter under the Eagle’s Shadow. After all, unlike the typical government official who is content to take a short course at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Jojo has been back and forth to the USA taking these short courses in several schools. Perhaps the idea was to acquire as many classmates who might become future influential US government officials.

However, let us go back to the Strange Bedfellows at Boy’s Birthday Party at the Pastor’s Gastro Pub (sandwiched between the GSIS and the PNB along the Diosdado Macapagal Highway). I first took notice (at the Makati Sports Club) of Pastor “Boy” Saycon during FVR’s Lakas-NUCD-UMDP 1992 Presidential Campaign. However, I was with 1992 cheated Presidential Candidate Miriam Defensor Santiago and her husband, Narciso “Jun” Yap Santiago, and the Philippine Reform Party (PRP) from 1992 to 1995.

I really met Boy when I joined GMA’s KAMMPI in 1997. I have been going to his Birthday Parties since 1998 except when they fall on a weekend. My son Manuel, “Mikko’s” birthday also falls on July 8 since 1975. Fortunately for Boy, when Mikko’s Birthday falls on a weekday, we celebrate it on a Saturday or Sunday and are free to attend. Boy has turned the celebration of his parties into a political art of sorts.

From 1998 until 2004, his parties were held at his Ayala Alabang home. In 2003, Danding Cojuangco who was contemplating running for President again in 2004, was the star of the party. In 2005, his birthday coincided with the Hyatt Ten defection. We had a big rally in Makati that could have led to toppling GMA if FVR and Joe de V, had not stood by her. After the Ayala Ave. rally, I drove alone to Ayala Alabang to find a dark and lonely home without a party. The party was at the UCC in Ft. Bonifacio.

Since then, Boy has held his Birthday Party in various other places: his condo at Boni Ridge, a Chinese Restaurant in Ermita or Malate, at the top floor of the Fully Booked Bookstore at Boni High Street, a Tent at the Reclamation area near EDSA and MOA and finally, his very own restaurant – Pastor’s Gastro Pub.

In the years after “Hello Garci”, disgruntled military and police officers populated his parties. In the years before the 2010 Presidential Elections, Manny Villar, Loren Legarda and Alan Peter Cayetano were permanent fixtures. In 2010, a week after Noynoy assumed office, Iggy Tuason Arroyo was one among a thousand guests. In 2011 at Le Pavillon PMAP’s Ronald Lumbao put in an appearance. (To be continued)

Foreign Investments to PH Still Smalltime

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U.S. one-hundred dollar bills are seen in this photo illustration at a bank in Seoul

EVEN as inflows of foreign direct investments (FDI) rose four-fold in April on the back of higher capital inflows and reinvestment in the country, as the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported Thursday, a private bank analyst said the amount is smalltime and not enough to compete with regional peers.
Metropolitan Bank & Trust Company (Metrobank) research head Ildemarc Bautista said the growth is welcome news, but it is still not enough to be competitive in the region. “It is welcome news, but those are still absolute numbers,” Bautista said.

FDI soared to US$597 million from US$ 149 million in 2013, BSP data showed. This was driven by a spike in investment inflows in debt instruments to US$518 million from US$23 million in the same comparable period.

Smalltime

“If we hit $4 billion by year-end, it’s still small compared to our peers in the region,” Bautista added.
The Philippines registered $3.86 billion in FDIs in 2013, low compared to Southeast Asian peers, according to United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) World Investment Report 2014. As of end-2013, FDIs in Malaysia reached $12.31 billion, $12.95 billion in Thailand and $18.44 billion in Indonesia.

Reinvested earnings also increased by 26.2 percent to US$80 million compared to last year’s US$63 million, the BSP noted. However, equity capital investments registered a net outflow of US$1 million as withdrawals of US$79 million offset US$78 million gross equity capital placements. FDI in January to April grew by 9.1 percent to $2.4 billion $2.2 billion net inflows last year as net inflows were recorded across all components.

“The sustained increase in net inflows continued to reflect strong investor confidence in the country’s solid macroeconomic fundamentals,” the BSP said.

Net investment inflows in debt instruments also increased by 42 percent: US$1.6 billion from the US$1.1 billion of the previous year. Reinvested earnings increased by 1.3 percent year-on-year to $265 million while net equity capital placements reached $635 million.

Most equity capital came from the United States, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan and was channeled mainly to financial and insurance, real estate, manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, and mining and quarrying activities.

Greater Outlflows

Foreign direct investments (FDI) have been flowing out more than in since 2010, according to the UNCTAD report. In 2010, FDI reached US$1.07 billion but US$2.712 billion were withdrawn at the same time. Then in 2011, total inflows amounted to US$2.007 billion while withdrawals totaled US$2.350 billion. By 2012, total foreign direct investments in Philippines reached US$3.215 billion, but US$4.173 billion were also taken repatriated by foreign investors.

FDI inflows outpaced outflows only last year.

Economists cited foreign ownership limits as a major impediment to FDI growth.

“When they see the necessity of needing a 60-percent local partner, that diminishes the attractiveness of coming in,” Ateneo professor Cielito Habito said in a forum last month. “It’s really time to revisit our age old resistance to opening up because we are one of the few remaining around in the ASEAN who are still quite restricted. The sooner we do this, the better,” he added.

The 1987 Constitution limits foreign ownership in certain industries, particularly utility companies, to 40 percent. The Charter was written during the time of then-President Corazon C. Aquino, mother of President Benigno S. Aquino III. To amend the foreign ownership rule will require constitutional change.

“There are challenges since there are many bills pending and Congress is not taking action, as it is busy with other issues,” Habito said.

In February, the BSP reported that inflows of foreign direct investments (FDI) dropped nearly 60 percent, reflecting policy inconsistencies, lack of enabling laws and easing of equity placements. BSP data showed foreign direct investment (FDI) fell by 59 percent to US$350 million in February from U$854 million in the same month last year.

Enabling Laws

“The country needs enabling laws and environment, lower cost of doing business, more transparency and consistency to attract more foreign investments,” Bautista said.

Infrastructure – mainly the power situation and the condition of airports – also help ruin the investment climate, Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) economist Nicholas Mapa said in a separate interview.

There were also more equity placements last year as investors were anticipating credit rating upgrades from debt watchers, Mapa noted. “This year, there are still some inflows but not at the same pace as that of last year,” he said.
Though FDIs are improving, the Philippines remains a laggard among Southeast Asian peer markets, Mapa said. “The country has to address factors [related] to FDIs so we can attract more long-term investments”.

Malum Prohibitum

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By Ronald Roy

Any breach of the law is an act classified either as malum in se (bad in itself) or malum prohibitum (bad because it is prohibited). Let us use this as a premise for a clearer understanding of the Supreme Court’s resolution declaring unconstitutional the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). I think that this is necessary for observers who are not lawyers, given the complexity of the facts and the intricacies of the plunder law appurtenant to the criminal cases now before the Sandiganbayan.

An example of an act that is malum in se is stealing. An apprehended thief cannot claim he did not know that there was a law punishing theft. In this case, ignorance of the law will not excuse him because stealing is intrinsically bad, immoral or evil, and even an atheist knows this. An order for restitution and a jail term await him. On the other hand, an example of malum prohibitum is a traffic violation, like parking a car in a no-parking area. The driver will get a fine for this.

In relation to the DAP imbroglio, was the act of the executive department in usurping congress’ power of the purse malum in se or malum prohibitum? This is the essential question.

Under the constitution, congress is vested with the exclusive power to appropriate funds for the operations of government. The constitution and the General Appropriations Act (GAA) were violated when DBM Sec. Florencio Abad, his subordinates and other government functionaries gathered the unused funds of the departments, agencies and offices within the jurisdiction of the president, purportedly for the noble purpose of distributing the same to sundry priority projects to accelerate economic development. Purportedly? Granted.

It may even be further assumed for argument’s sake that the DAP was designed with a mechanism to insulate its operations from graft. Nevertheless, the DAP was still an unwarranted usurpation of the legislature’s exclusive power of the purse. And here’s why: When the executive department wrested away a power exclusively owned by both houses of congress, 1) it created an abhorrent imbalance of power among the three branches of government — a disrupting disequilibrium which no healthy democracy would wish to be home to, and 2) it opened the floodgates of graft, which incidentally is what actually happened in the premises. These are the two situations that the law seeks to prevent.

Last week, I wrote that President Noynoy could not claim good faith because when he was a senator, he authored and sponsored a bill outlawing the DAP which he then saw as evil, although his colleagues ignored him. Well, he’s now hard-pressed to convince anybody that when he woke up one morning, he realized that the DAP was a virtuous concept pala. And so, as a favor to the nation, he authorized its implementation. Ngek!!

In any event, the general consensus of observers is that DBM Sec. Abad now finds himself in deep s – – t. Last week, over a dozen youth leaders led by Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon filed with the Office of the Ombudsman a complaint of the non-bailable crime of Plunder. The youths, acting under Youth Act Now (YAN), a nationwide alliance of youth groups, charged that Abad “conceptualized, developed and implemented the DAP himself, supposedly as an economic stimulus facility”. I’m sorry, but I fear the observers’ jubilant overconfidence will likely go for naught.

The facts of the DAP and the provisions of the plunder law itself are so complicated they will give defense counsel generous lea ways for securing Abad’s acquittal. YAN’s thrust, IMHO, would be virtually trouble-free if it had instead sued Abad for Malversation (Art. 217, Revised Penal Code). A feature in Malversation would have made it much easier to convict Abad, namely, his mere negligence in allowing another or others to illicitly profit from DAP’s operations.

And the effects thereof would be just as damning as in Plunder, viz, the penalty of reclusión perpetua (life imprisonment) if the amount misappropriated or embezzled is more than 22,000 pesos, or reclusión temporal (ten years imprisonment) if 22,000 or less; additionally, Abad would be slapped with perpetual special disqualification from holding public office and a fine equal to the amount involved, not to mention that in appropriate cases there would be prima facie evidence that he had unlawfully profited.

It has long been my belief that PDAF and DAP offenders can be more easily convicted under the provisions of Malversation. Just think: In Plunder, many transactions will usually be needed to reach the threshold of 50 million pesos for conviction, while in Malversation, one transaction will be enough.

Pres. B.S. Aquino lll? Well, his numbers in the lower house shield him against impeachment, but Malversation or the malum prohibitum offense of Technical Malversation will send him to jail after his term.

(To be continued)

For feedback: rqonald8roy@gmail.com/09186449517

He Who Controls Technology Rules

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By Erick San Juan

I was amazed to read at the Wall Street Journal (7/9/14) an article entitled “From Hidden Station, China Spies on the World” by James T. Areddy, Paul Mozur and Danny Yadron. It pictured how sophisticated the Chinese espionage and their high-tech weaponry capability that can compete with the western technology.

The report vividly described the China’s version of the US National Security Agency monitoring Russia and track missiles from the mountains near Beijing. China’s military experts allegedly analyze internet phone calls on an island dubbed as China’s Hawaii and eavesdropped on Europe from a secret town hidden behind an array of residential towers.

The Wall Street Journal assembled an overview of some secret operations of China’s global monitoring organization using Chinese government websites, academic databases and foreign security expertise. The 3rd Department of the Peoples Liberation Army’s General Staff Department which spy watchers call 3PLA is reportedly central to China’s military strategy, tasked with monitoring and analyzing much of the world’s communication, including embassy cables, corporate emails and criminal networks for foreign threats and competitive advantages.

China’s national security operation is perceived to maintain what active and former US officials say are facilities around Shanghai specialized in watching the US. One of them is located close to the main transoceanic communication cables linking China to the US.

Last May, the US Justice Department indicted five officers of 3PLA on charges that they stole US corporate secrets. The report added that as Beijing modernized its high-tech defensive arsenal, the Wall Street Journal backed up ‘on the ground’ views of 3PLA facilities with an examination of the organizational structure of the NSA like military departments. Pundits believe, it rattled governments and corporations around the globe while remaining obscure outside security circles. Its operational units are spread out widely throughout China.

According to foreign experts, recruits came from elite specialist universities. 3PLA’s estimated 100,000 plus hackers, linguists, analysts and officers populate a dozen military intelligence units. Its multiple sub-operations divvy up responsibility according to geography and task as reported. At some 3PLA units in Beijing and Shanghai, arrays of satellite dishes seemed to dwarf the walls surrounding them where visitors face stiff-faced guards and written warnings. Some farm fields sprout dozens of thin radio towers next to a base in Northern Shanghai.

According to the Wall Street Journal report, two former US officials familiar with intelligence assessments said 3PLA’s operational structure has parallels with those of the US National Security Agency and the Pentagon’s Cyber Command, both run out of Fort Meade in Maryland, USA. There are so many secrets and detailed information at the WSJ report. Who will taught that this top level information can be exposed like the Wikileaks, Snowden report, spy novel like Ludlum, Le Carre and has a semblance of the James Bond spy thriller.

It entered my mind like a ‘deja vu’ when I attended a security conference abroad recently. One of the lecturers told us that the old adage-” He who controls the gold rules.” is already passé and the future war will be won by superior technology. Humint or human intelligence through clandestine and spy networks will soon be replaced by super computers and hi-tech gadgets. Soldiers as warriors due to its vulnerability will be retooled by intelligent robots. Planes, drones, tanks and other weaponry will be unmanned and controlled by computers and satellites.

It’s very clear now that the hype of sophistication is part of psy ops and myth to make the perceived future enemies believe that they now have the capability to fight and defeat the western technology and strategy.

I have to remind some nation-states not to ‘bite the bullet’ and stop their provocation of war just to cover their leaders’ deficiencies and impending domestic strife. In disguise of uniting their nationals, they are trying to be bully for a ’cause’ and possibly fight another enemy.

Such leaders should learn from the mistakes of the past and history of wars. The west have created thousands of think-tank like Project 2049 Institute, a Virginia based organization whom the WSJ was provided with unpublished analysis on 3PLA. What about the several security conferences analyzing and assessing possible and future conflicts inviting members of the academe, top intelligence and defense officials and security analysts worldwide.

The real problem lies with the pawns. The Philippines could possibly be the ‘guinea pig’ if our leaders will not be careful. Be wary!

Crime in a Culture of Corruption

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opinyon-editorial

(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 NewsJunkiePost.com. 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?