Monday, July 28, 2008

Ramdam na Ramdam Na Ang Kahirapan

Yesterday, the Black & White Movement together with Akbayan underscored the sad state of our nation by holding a forum and soup kitchen in Bgy. Tatalon, Quezon City. We were supported by local groups MATINIKK and Tatalon Hunters Group. The women of the barangay took our donated cash and cooked "lugaw" and hard boiled eggs, enough to feed the kids in the area. Among those in attendance were Akbayan's Risa Baraquel and Etta Rosales, BnW's Dinky Soliman and family, Dodo Macasaet, Karen Tanada, Pastor Dong Cusio.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


The State of the Nation According to Former Senior Government Officials
Manila, July 25, 2008

Fellow Filipinos, Friends of the Filipino people:

On Monday, July 28, 2008, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will make her 8th State of the Nation Address. The abundance of the number eight may make the occasion lucky for her. We gather today to consider if it marks a lucky day for the rest of the Filipino people.

The President will once again enter Congress with members of both Houses assembled, wade through crowds of costumed officials lined up with hands extended in welcome. She will take the podium and proceed to deliver her State of the Nation Address to cheers inside the hall and boos in the streets outside.

Diminished and trivialized as this political rite has become under GMA, we, former senior government officials, nonetheless persevere to take this occasion seriously. The State of the Nation Address or SONA is an important “ritual of the state” symbolizing the coming together of the nation as one family to hear its head, or Pangulo, speak on how stands our common collective enterprise. It is a unique opportunity each time for the whole nation to take a look at itself, assess its state of well-being and lay out a program of action for strategic priorities to be pursued.

Only the President of the Republic as head of state has the responsibility to address Congress on the state of the nation. This mandate grants our country’s leader the privilege of charting our actions toward our collective future but also demands an accounting of results from actions promised in the past.

Even as Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is poised to make her 8th SONA, she still has to be held accountable for results from her seven years in power thus far.

Seven Years

In our people’s history, periods of productive seven years marked the birth of our country as a free nation. Seven years of publishing La Solidaridad laid the intellectual foundations for imagining a sovereign Filipino nation.

Jose Rizal, after writing and publishing Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, returned to the Philippines, where, within seven years, he was executed at Bagumbayan and thereby triggered the Philippine revolution.

Thereafter, within another dramatic seven-year period, Christian Filipinos revolted against Spain, the Spanish-American war was fought, the Philippine-American war raged, and Muslim Filipinos fought the American occupation of their land. These four wars over a seven-year period defined the country that we are today.

Our founding fathers have shown that so much can be achieved in seven years. What has the GMA administration achieved in seven years?

Being former senior government officials, with our respective experience at different departments and agencies of government, we examined the record of this administration from 2001 to 2007. We reviewed the President’s stated
intentions declared at seven past State of the Nation Addresses on a wide range of matters from managing the economy to fighting corruption to ensuring food security, among others. But our nation’s true state cannot be found in studying the speeches of the President. We must discern it from the evidence around us about the state of development of our dearly beloved nation. We examined the evidence from seven years of her administration.

We hereby report our conclusions to the nation.

Review of Performance

The Philippine Constitution, ratified in 1987 after our people’s victory over the Marcos dictatorship, seeks a society in which exist “a more equitable distribution of opportunities, income, and wealth; a sustained increase in the amount of goods and services produced by the Nation for the benefit of the people; and expanding productivity as key to raising the quality of life for all, especially the under-privileged.” This would be achieved by the State promoting “industrialization and full employment based on a sound agricultural development and agrarian reform.”

The past seven years of this administration have seen repeated, persistent, and gross violations of this Constitutional mandate. The willful and systematic violation has harmed the Filipino nation, and we have identified at least seven curses that harmed us in the past, harm us today, and will continue to harm us in the future. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has used the powers of the presidency so irresponsibly and selfishly that her administration has either inflicted, or worsened, or did nothing about, these seven curses that gravely enfeeble our nation.

We warn our people that in her address to the nation next Monday, the President will blame global causes for higher food and fuel prices and cite how she is spending our money supposedly to alleviate the hardships of a suffering people. We will review the curses that define our shared suffering as a nation these past seven years. We ask the thoughtful citizen to evaluate the Administration’s plans for our country’s future in the light of this past record.

Here are seven curses that seven years of GMA has wrought upon our nation.

A Country Unable to Feed Its People

The first is the curse of a country unable to feed its own people, due to gross neglect of agriculture and rural development.

Since the start of the GMA administration seven years ago, 12 million more Filipinos were added to our already teeming numbers. Millions more are on their way. Yet our vital capacity to feed these more mouths has been left grossly neglected.

In her very first SONA in 2001, she made rice self-sufficiency a priority and even held office at the Department of Agriculture in order to make sure her programs were implemented. She repeated the promise of food on every table in her 2003 SONA. Yet, in every year throughout her administration thus far, the country was importing increasing quantities of rice every year that this year the Philippines achieved an odd milestone in rice self-sufficiency: our becoming the world’s largest rice importer.

Each year our government declares its commitment to implement the Agricultural and Fisheries Modernization Act. Yet in the past seven years, the Department of Agriculture never got the P/17 billion in incremental funds mandated under the law. Reported amounts released were repeatedly puffed up and window dressed to include costs of projects unrelated to agriculture and activities already undertaken. Safety nets promised farmers when tariff protection of agricultural products was lessened were not provided.

Instead of extending adequate funding, the President let loose in the Department of Agriculture people who waste and steal whatever limited funding there is; people like Joc-Joc Bolante who, as agriculture undersecretary, was accused of masterminding the diversion of P/728 million in fertilizer funds to “ghost” foundations and urban congressional districts, thereby denying farmers the benefit of this vital farm input.

Our agricultural trade deficit, that was already just short of a billion dollars in 2000 ($967 million in 2000), ballooned to more than one and a half billion dollars in 2006 ($1,535 million in 2006). Each year we needed to create 1 million new jobs in agriculture and fisheries, but we were able to realize these additional 1 million new jobs in seven years. In 2006, less than 2% of total direct foreign investments went to agriculture and, in 2007, only 6% of all outstanding loans financed agricultural projects.

The high food prices pushing more people into hunger and poverty are a direct result of our government’s neglect of agriculture. This is a fundamental failure because so many of our poor live in rural areas and depend on agriculture, because anemic agricultural production leaves urban Filipino consumers at the mercy of volatile world markets, and because weak agricultural output constrains the overall competitiveness of the rest of the economy.

Worsening Poverty and Increasing Inequity

The second is the curse of worsening poverty and increasing disparity between rich and poor, due to economic mismanagement that ignores the needs of the many to serve the interests of the few.

We acknowledge that many external factors, beyond the reach of government, influence our economy. When global food and fuel prices were low and stable, when the economies of our trading partners were humming along, and when international credit markets were fine, this administration claimed credit for whatever was going right. Now that inflation and interest are rising, this government blames higher food and fuel prices in world markets for our current economic woes. One cannot claim credit for what goes right while avoiding blame when the same things go wrong.

Government policies often affect the economy, when they do, after a lag period. Some policies taken by previous administrations could help or hinder current economic performance. The crucial task of government policies is to build the foundations of sustained economic growth by harnessing our people’s own desire to meet their own needs and achieve their highest aspirations through the good or bad times brought about by changing global economic conditions.

And here we must point out that our present economy was already yielding increased joblessness and widening poverty even before the current worsening of global economic conditions which, we fear, will yield even more job losses and greater hardship in the near future. Despite last year’s much ballyhooed record GDP growth rate, this year we have 2.9 million workers who are unemployed and another 7 million workers who are looking for more work to supplement their incomes.

Some new jobs created in 2007 were good jobs, such as in call centers and their support services and real estate activities, and in teaching. But many more new jobs were in sari-sari stores, bagsakan, namamasukan, katulong, labandera, househelp, trisikad, padyak-cycle, colorum, and FX transport. Apart from unemployment and under-employment, the quality of available jobs in our economy has significantly deteriorated. The loss of jobs is further abetted by rising incidence and volume of smuggling, possible only by those with political connections to the administration.

A major side-effect of the serious failure in job creation, which should be a major policy concern of all government policy, is that poverty incidence increased to 26.9% in 2006 (from 24.4% in 2004). This comprises 4.6 million poor families or 27.6 million poor individuals.

The severe constraints that extreme poverty imposes on many more millions of Filipino families are triggering a process that could transmit poverty into the next generation and become self-perpetuating. Women from the poorest quintile are having an average of six children over their reproductive life compared to women from the richest quintile who have only two children. Children from poorest families are 25 times more likely to die than children from the richest families.

The tragedy of extremely poor families does not end with bearing more children than they can support, more of whom will die in infancy or childhood. It continues on to their surviving children’s reduced access to schooling and education. School attendance levels in elementary have been falling: from 90.3% three school years ago; to 87.1% two school years ago; to 83.2% last school year (2006-2007). These percentages mean more than 2 million children aged six to eleven years old who do not attend elementary schools. Drop-out and repetition rates have increased by 30%.

Public education’s ability to rescue poor families from the poverty trap has suffered due to severe under-spending by government. While enrollment grows at 2.5% each year, the education budget grows at only 2% in real terms. While the Estrada administration with its more constrained budget spent P/5,830 per student from 1998 to 2001 (in 2000 peso terms), the Arroyo administration, with its supposedly stronger fiscal condition, spent only an average of P/5,304 per student from 2001 to 2006. The Philippines remains one of the lowest spenders on education in Southeast Asia. Today, the Philippines, which was a leader in our region in the nineties in education-for-all indicators, has fallen in ranking below such countries as Indonesia, Mongolia, and Vietnam.

Deteriorating Basic Social Services

The worsening of education indicators is just one among many other symptoms of the third curse, which is, the curse of deteriorating basic social services essential to the survival and welfare of the people, due to callous disregard of the public good. Public money is spent on the wrong things, not enough on the right things, and all with little results, thereby wasting a precious and scarce resource for national development.

Our current fiscal state was improved, not by solid revenue effort, but by deep cuts in social and economic spending. Our national government revenues as a percentage of GDP remain among the lowest among the major economies of Asia since 2001. Our government’s allocation of resources for development expenditures has been the lowest in the region. Our continuing tight fiscal situation constricts the available resources for infrastructure development and educational modernization, the two most important investments we must make as a nation.

The Filipino workers, farmers, professionals, businessmen, and consumers are financing the government from their blood, sweat, and tears. Every centavo and peso the government collects and spends comes from someone’s productive effort. Every legislator’s salary and allowance, every government executive’s budget, and every contract or agreement with government is paid for by the economic output of the Filipino nation. Yet the allocation, management, and use of public funds are marked by such greed and disregard of the public good that can only be condemned as scandalous.

Consider the behavior of this government in the face of the latest typhoon that lashed the Visayas last month.

While homes, farms, and businesses in our country were taking precautions given storm warnings, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, her husband and sons together with a specially selected delegation were packing their gowns and suits for what is always a great treat: visiting friends and relations in the USA.

While they were hosting cocktails for the candidacy of Senator Santiago to join the International Court of Justice, Senator Santiago’s kasimanwa were suffering strong winds, heavy rain, flooding, and the fear of dying in the elements.

While GMA was enjoying the 50 minute meeting with President Bush, that included laughing at a cultural stereotype joke about Filipinos being cooks and maids, sirens were sounding in Iloilo warning that rising flood waters are no joke.

While the President’s staff were chasing Democratic Party Presidential candidate Barack Obama all over the US for a precious meeting, which eventually resulted in a brief telephone call, victims in Iloilo, Capiz, and Aklan were chasing after rice, food, and water in many damaged towns and barangays short of supplies for their essential needs.

While many Ilonggo families were staying on their roofs shivering in the cold and gray daylight and subsisting on whatever food some neighbor or friend could share, our government officials were occupying 30 rooms at Willard Hotel in Washington DC at between $300 to $5,000 a night and having dinners at $400 –$500 per plate.

And as the hungry, dirty, and wet homeowners of farms and subdivisions all over Panay island confronted their devastated neighborhoods caked in mud and strewn with debris, many of our highest officials from Congress and the Cabinet were rushing to ringside seats at the Pacquiao fight in Las Vegas, with the certainty of hitting the shows, gaming tables. and slot machines.

The image of Emperor Nero fiddling while Rome burned has an echo for us Filipinos today. It is the image of our officials’ downing toasts to the leadership of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in New York, Washington, and Las Vegas while Filipinos were gasping for air and drowning in the Visayas, a region which up to this time had always been a loyal believer in this government.

It grieves us greatly to remember that authoritarian leaders like Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and Russian President Vladimir Putin each cut short their respective state visits abroad and returned when their countries were hit by calamities. Yet our President did not see it fit to do the same thing for her people that the Pakistani and Russian presidents did for theirs.

Our back-of-the-envelope calculation is that this Philippine delegation visit to the USA while the Visayas was being visited by calamity cost at least P/300 million. In contrast, how much did our government spend on relief for typhoon victims? While our national treasury was being freely bled by the costs of this particular junket, including the costs of mounting early morning video-conferences to show how high technology can faintly substitute for real sympathy, what stringent restrictions attended every release of every sack of rice and every bag of relief goods provided to our suffering people?

Around 8 million people were affected by disasters each year from 2004-2006. Only half of these affected people received any assistance from government and private sector. Of those who were assisted, presumably among the poorest victims of disasters, the value of the assistance did not even approach 1% of the low average incomes of these poor households during normal times.

And, while we are examining the government’s behavior in the last typhoon, which featured a terrible man-made sea disaster within a larger calamity, let us pause and consider how well the Department of Transportation and Communications under this administration performed. The DOTC was previously occupied with touting the merits of the cancelled NBN-ZTE project, which would have cost $329 million. Yet we now find out that the same DOTC has been neglecting the implementation of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System that was started in 1997 and has, in fact, been contracted and delivered but never implemented.

Why does the DOTC persist in pursuing the scandal-ridden NBN-ZTE project while it desists from completing an approved, contracted and implemented project that could make travel on Philippines seas safer? Maybe the answer lies in the far greater opportunities for corruption in starting new projects versus the much less opportunity for bribes in putting on stream a completed project.

Cancer of Corruption

Thus the fourth is the curse of a national government gripped by a metastatic cancer of corruption.

The World Bank reports that in 2007 our country is the most corrupt among ten of East Asia’s leading economies, even worse than Indonesia, and we are among the most corrupt one-fourth of 212 countries in the world. Transparency International in 2005 ranked us among the countries with “severe corruption,” ranking 117th most corrupt among 159 countries. Another World Bank study in 2006 showed a worsening of our control of corruption from an already weak 50% in 1998 to an even weaker 37% in 2005. A global competitiveness survey in 2006 ranked us 60th worst among 61 countries in terms of bribery and corruption.

Corruption has become pervasive, persistent, prolific. And the President, instead of fighting it, has become its prime practitioner and protector. She corrupted the already weak electoral process. She corrupted the already diminished civil service. She corrupted the already politicized public investment and fiscal programs. By committing crimes without punishment, abusing power without restraint, and violating rules with impunity yet suffering no adverse consequence, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has turned our most valued principle of “public office is a public trust” into a perversion: “public office is a key to whatever you can get away with.”

Our system of checks and balance is being torn apart. And a culture of impunity has taken root and grows by the day. Like a crocodile biting its tail, bad government chases after corruption, which drives even worse government grasping after more corruption.

A corrupt president leading a corrupt system of governance to the nation’s perdition spawns many grave consequences in its wake:

There are the enormous financial costs of corruption that increase public spending without corresponding increases in public benefits and make the burden on every Filipino born and yet to be born much harder to bear for being so much heavier and so infuriatingly unjust.

There is the treason of selling off sovereignty to those willing to condone corruption from foreign powers, to large companies, to well-connected persons, to private interests. This involves the systematic sacrifice of national interest for personal gain, the effect of which directly worsens the situation of the poor and marginalized, and further limits the possibilities of a better future for everyone.

There is deepening damage from long-standing crises, unattended by a government whose attention is on committing corruption, fending off exposure of corruption committed, and buying or scaring off those fighting any corruption exposed. Meanwhile the nation’s state deteriorates. Crises in health and nutrition, education, food, water, energy, environment, poverty crisis, urban chaos, rural development, rule of law crisis, human rights, Mindanao.

There is the perpetuation of the cycle of corruption spawning bad government demanding more corruption. Destruction of constitutional bodies. Eroding the independence of the Supreme Court. Turning local governments into puppets. Buying off the military and police hierarchy. Militarizing the bureaucracy. Cultivating a Malacanang wing of the Church. Usurping the House of Representatives.

A very large share of these truly enormous burdens from dysfunctional governance is added to the already heavy burden on the poorer half of the Filipino nation, making their suffering much harsher, their poverty much harder to overcome, and even impeding their own efforts to survive and prosper.

Wanton Abuse of Presidential Power

This corruption is fed by and feeds from the fifth curse, which is the curse of wanton abuse of presidential prerogatives.

We have cited the case of Joc-Joc Bolante who represented the worst of the President’s appointees from 2001 up to the 2004 elections. The President used her prerogative to appoint senior executives of government to put in place someone willing to cut corners to help her secure election in 2004. After she appeared to have obtained a legitimate mandate from the 2004 elections, many more good and capable people joined her government to serve our people.

After the “Hello, Garci” scandal broke in 2005, however, and through the many scandals since then, many good and capable people left the government for various reasons. The balance of power within the GMA administration between its dark and bright sides tipped radically in favor of the dark side. A new type of presidential appointee along the Joc-Joc Bolante brand dominates. The appointments of others already rejected by the electorate in 2007 will further darken the complexion of her Cabinet. You can name your own favorite presidential appointee belonging to the following categories:

a) They have no pretense of serving the nation, just the President. Whatever credentials they might posses to qualify them for the jobs they occupy are secondary to the only real requirement: blind loyalty to the President.

b) They are former politicians who eat scandals for breakfast and have acquired callousness to controversy.

c) They are bureaucrats who see this administration as an opportunity for one more feeding at the public trough before retirement and obscurity.

d) All of the above.

A special place is reserved among the Joc-Joc brand of GMA appointees for Secretary Romulo Neri, former NEDA Secretary, former CHED Chairman, now SSS Administrator and head of the Social Welfare cluster of the Cabinet. After exposing the attempted bribery surrounding the NBN-ZTE deal, he became one of the keepers of evil secrets, protected by the talisman of “executive privilege” as long as he remains in a Cabinet position.

It is bad enough that the abuse of presidential prerogatives in the administration of government hobbles the effectiveness and responsiveness of GMA’s administration. Unfortunately, it also damages future administrations by destroying the norms, standards, and practices essential for a stable and well-functioning professional bureaucracy.

Nearly 60% of the 4,000 positions from directors to undersecretaries belonging to the career executive service are occupied by GMA appointees who do not possess eligibility in the career executive service. She has appointed more than 80 assistant secretaries and under-secretaries whose positions are not even provided by law.

She has usurped the power of government Boards, Councils, and Commissions to appoint their officials by abusing the courtesy previously extended to the president using so-called “desire letters” which essentially intimidate these collective bodies to elect her chosen ones. She has even directly violated the law by such maneuvers as placing a quasi-judicial body like the National Telecommunications Commissions under the control and supervision of the DOTC Secretary.

Her latest machination is the vesting of Cabinet rank to such positions as SSS Administrator, which is a position in a government corporation, and TESDA Director, which is a position in an attached agency of DOLE. These actions destroy institutional arrangements established by decades of practice essential to clear and simple lines of administration in the bureaucracy. The results are predictable: confusion, demoralization, and more opportunities for corruption.

An Illegitimate President

Many of these curses are linked to the sixth curse, which is the curse of an illegitimate president.

In her SONAs of 2001, 2002 and 2003, she promised clean, computerized elections.

And in the 2004 SONA, just after the presidential elections, to an audience that probably included then Comelec Commissioner Garcillano, then Comelec Chairman Abalos, and, maybe, still Comelec employee Lintang Bedol, she said with a straight face: “Thanks to many of you, I emerged from the last election with more votes than any previous president.”

In her 2006 SONA, she once again promised automated elections. And after the 2007 senatorial elections, she delivered another SONA before a Congress that included Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, whose election is still being disputed as tainted with dagdag-bawas. To this day, she has not taken any sure step to clean, computerized elections after seven years of promises. Her recent appointments of new Comelec commissioners of unknown reputations still do not offer any comfort about our future elections.

In her 2002 SONA, she declared: “I will lead our country towards a strong republic.” She defined “a strong republic” as a government making policies independent from such class and sectoral interests, as, for example, Lucio Tan, Ricky Razon, and others. It is also a government with strong institutions, like an Ombudsman that is not headed by a classmate of her husband. It is government with a strong bureaucracy where appointees are chosen free from political consideration and strictly on their merit, not the likes of Mark Lapid at the Philippine Tourism Authority or Tito Sotto at the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo promised us a strong Republic. We have realized that she is running a stolen Republic. Thus far, we have seen her trying only to keep what she has stolen.

Many people note that the President works so hard, rising early and sleeping late, hardly resting, following punishing schedules day in and day out, traveling the length and breadth of the land. She goes to every nook and cranny of our archipelago pushing her five super regions, her BEAT THE ODDS priorities. Her appointees and political allies are mystified why she continues to have such low ratings, why people say they are dissatisfied with her performance.

In the five super regions she unveiled at her 2006 SONA, and amplified with scores of projects costing P1.7 trillion pesos during the 2007 SONA, more than half of people are dissatisfied with her performance: 62% in Mindanao, 56% in Visayas, 63% in Metro-Manila, and 60% in rest of Luzon.

Yes, the President works very hard. But who is she really working for? It is not for us and our future; it is for her and her future. She is like the over-dedicated accountant who is never absent, who always works overtime, who never allows anybody else to do her job, because she is hiding her stealing of the company’s funds. Or the Customs collector who works so hard he returns to his post directly from the hospital even with an IV line still attached to his arm because he wants to keep the bribes coming.

We are witnessing the unfolding consequences of illegitimate politics, which uses incumbent position to secure continuation at whatever cost to country and its institutions. Even as we condemn and resist every unfair and unjust act we encounter, we must work first against the politics of despair, alienation, and cynicism, which this administration has spawned and continues to foster.

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the head of our government is the worst threat to the state of our nation. The person pretending to tell us about the dire state of our nation next Monday is the very same person who has done the most to destroy the very foundations of our nation, sell its future to its exploiters and abusers, and consign the poor and middle class to deeper poverty and worse despair.

A Nation Robbed

Finally, we come to the seventh curse which combines the malignant effects of the first six curses. This is the curse of a nation robbed of its dignity, unity, and future.

Under this administration, our country has acquired a global reputation for pervasive corruption which can only hurt and humiliate us. Under this administration, our country has been investigated by international bodies as a violator of human rights for extra-judicial killings and assassinations of political activists and journalists. Under this administration, our national patrimony from mineral resources to possible oil deposits has been put on sale to foreign interests like so much ukay-ukay. The loss of our country’s good international standing and credibility has been a sad victim of GMA’s bad governance. We will suffer from these losses as a people for a long time, just as we suffered from the ridicule and humiliation as the country of Imelda’s shoes.

Our national interest dictates that our most important task in foreign policy must be to restore the credibility of our government as a reliable international partner and as a dependable enforcer of domestic laws and regulations. However fragile our democratic institutions may be, these are in place and must be nurtured through, among others, strong links with other nations.

The President talks and acts as if the thousands of Filipinos who leave for work abroad and the millions of our countrymen already working abroad are an achievement of her administration. Overseas employment is more often an act of desperation and only incidentally an act of heroism. Leaving one’s home, family, and community to seek jobs in strange, difficult, and dangerous places is rarely a decision of visionary enterprise on the part of our overseas Filipinos. Much more often it represents a repudiation of what GMA has wrought on this land and a rejection of the limited choices her policies have created.

It is true that continued growth in the amounts of remittances from overseas Filipinos has benefited many families as well as the whole economy. Poor families with an overseas worker have a 70% chance of getting out of poverty. The foreign exchange flows have financed consumption, growth in retail and wholesale trade and real estate.

But economists Felipe Medalla, Raul Fabella, and Emmanuel de Dios have written recently about looking beyond the remittances-driven economy. The currency appreciation due to remittances has a cost to our economy. It has eroded the competitiveness of manufacturing and all tradeables for both export and import-competing sectors, causing investment and output in these sectors to weaken. Investment has declined from 24% of GDP in 2000 to less than 18% in 2006. Even the families of overseas workers themselves suffer from the consequences of the currency appreciation. They have lost the equivalent of P/188 billion in purchasing power since 2004.

The worst unintended side effect of remittances has been to allow the government to abdicate on doing many difficult and urgent tasks. For example, public investment has perversely become less necessary since the production sector makes less demands on infrastructure. Yet, we must recognize that a remittances-driven economy is limited and self-undermining because remittances cannot be expected to remain high and grow at an increasing rate. We must, therefore, use whatever breathing space remittances provide to accelerate investment spending on infrastructure and education as the common facilities for remittance-dependent and other sectors of our economy.

All the damage we see inflicted on the nation are multiplied and further complicated in Mindanao, where poverty, conflict, corruption, and bad policies have created a permanent crisis zone. Peace and development of Mindanao, with due respect to the democratic strengthening of autonomous Muslim communities, must be a priority.

Reclaiming Democracy

Will we get a government able to lead us through our problems and sensible enough to build on our strengths? Only when it is a government we can trust.

The Jesuit historian Fr. Horacio de la Costa provides us with some guidance:

The survival of democratic government in our country depends on whether or not the people have confidence in the ability of democratic government to reform itself. And they will have this confidence only if they actually see government making a serious effort to reform itself. They will lose confidence, they will lose hope, not only in their government but in themselves if our ship of state continues to be, in the words of T.S.Eliot, “a drifting boat with a slow leakage.” We must stop the leakage; put an end to drift; find a direction, and steer.

We will persevere in working with our political institutions as our instruments for reform and justice, not parties to anomalies and scandals. We will continue to build a government that mobilizes the nation to greater achievements and not a mere machinery for delivering patronage to favored supporters. We will keep looking for a presidency that fights the enemies of social justice and is a reliable platform for serving those who have less in life that they may have more in law; not this one temporarily in Malacanang fighting only its critics and serving only self, family, relations, and cronies.

The Philippines, even under this administration, continues to have the strengths of a democracy: informed citizenry; free media; a robust civil society; communities of decent and civic-minded people; allies of good governance all over the world and throughout our country. We will build institutions that stand solidly for the nation’s interests and resistant to the corrupt and crooked.

We can re-imagine the nation as something far better and more capable than the one that the President will paint in her SONA this Monday. We can find deep and enduring ties and connections with millions of other fellow Filipinos and sympathetic foreign friends around our re-imagined vision of our nation. And we can devote our lives, careers, and resources to the effort to ultimately realize this re-imagined vision of our nation. This is how the Filipino people will prevail over this current patch of bad governance.

This administration may have stolen the Republic, but it will not rob us of our hopes.

Thank you, and good day to all.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sama-Sama Sumigaw sa SSS

This Friday, July 18, our Black Friday Protest shall be in front of the SSS Head Office at East Avenue, Quezon City.

We shall assemble at the KFC Restaurant along East Avenue (just before the SSS Building if you're North-bound) starting at 4:30 PM. At exactly 5:00 PM, we will walk towards the SSS front entrance, where we will denounce in the strongest possible voice the appointment of Romulo Neri as president of SSS.

We invite all SSS members to join us in protecting our contributions and funds.

At sa mga tumatanggap na ng pension, isang paalala lang na nanganganib ang pension niyo! Makiisa sa protestang ito kung gusto ninyong maseguro ang patuloy na pagtanggap ng pension niyo.

We all saw how Winston Garcia used GSIS funds in the aborted Meralco takeover bid. Let us not allow the same thing to happen to our SSS funds.

Plan of action:

1) Wear BLACK, preferably the "Patalsikin Na! NOW NA!" T-shirts. You can also design and wear your own shirts with your own slogans.
2) Assemble at the KFC restaurant along East Avenue starting at 4:30 PM.
3) At exactly 5 PM, we will all walk towards the SSS front entrance.
4) On cue, everybody should pose and do the "Patalsikin" sign. Take plenty of pictures we can disseminate to media.
5) On cue, disperse quietly.

Important reminders:

1) Please do not pass leaflets or harass the regular customers of KFC or employees and people transacting business at the SSS.
2) Bring your cameras. The highlight of the protest action is photographing protesters as they do the "patalsikin" pose
Forward this message to as many friends, relatives, colleagues, and egroups.

God bless,


Thursday, July 10, 2008

7-11 @ DOTC

We continue with our Black Friday Silent Protest. For this coming Friday, the activity is dubbed as “7-11 at DOTC”.

This being 7-11-2008, we thought that we might assemble at the 7-11 store at the ground floor of DOTC, which coincidentally also houses the 7-11 Headquarter office. Then, at exactly 5:00 PM, we move to the building entrance of the DOTC where we conduct our usual Black Friday Protest Activity.

The DOTC building is located along Ortigas Ave. besides the POEA building, right across the La Salle Greenhills.

Our message for the event: “Corruption Kills!”. Remember that DOTC is the lead agency embroiled in the NBN-ZTE Scandal. It is the same agency that has oversight over commercial shipping, and its mismanagement resulted in the death of hundreds of passengers of the Sulpicio liner that sank.

Jun Lozada will be joining us in this protest action.

Plan of action:

1) Wear BLACK, preferably the "Patalsikin Na! NOW NA!" T-shirts. You can also design your own shirts with your own slogans like “Corruption Kills!” or “Remember the ZTE-NBN Scandal?”

2) Assemble at the 7-11 store at the ground floor of the DOTC building by around 4:45.

3) At exactly 5 PM, step out of the building, and gather in front of the DOTC building.

4) On cue, everybody should pose and do the "Patalsikin" sign. Take plenty of pictures we can disseminate to media.

5) On cue, disperse quietly.

Important reminders:
1) This is a SILENT PROTEST, not a rally. Please do not shout, sing, pass leaflets, or do anything to disturb the regular customers of 7-11.
2) Bring your cameras. The highlight of the protest action is the picture-taking of us doing the "patalsikin" pose

Forward this message to as many friends, relatives, colleagues, and egroups. I've also included below a brief description of the Black Friday Protest Movement, so those receiving your forwarded mail and hearing this for the first time will understand what we're trying to accomplish.

God bless,



The Black Friday Protest Movement was launched by the Black and White Movement on March 1 to give professionals, students, businessmen, and other sectors a venue to express their protest against the continuing and escalating acts of repression of the GMA administration as manifested in its series of proclamations – CPR, EO 464, and PP 1017 – all designed to curtail basic rights and oppress the people. Even after PP1017 has been lifted, the repressive measures continue.

Patterned after the flash mob concept, the Black Friday Protest calls on people to gather at a designated time and place every Friday wearing a black attire as a symbol of protest. There will be no programs or speeches. Instead, people will be given specific instructions on what to do, and the whole exercise should last about 30 minutes at most. It’s safe, non-confrontational, and within the bounds of the law, even under a repressive one like PP 1017. The mere “flash” gathering of the people is the expression of protest.

Where will people get instructions?

Details of the Black Friday Protest action for the week will be published at its blogsite – every Wednesday evening. Those who would like to receive instructions directly can also subscribe to the movement’s bulletin service by sending a blank email to


BY all accounts, Corazon de la Paz tried to do her job without surrendering the keys of the SSS to the administration. The SSS as a result, has not become a political and patronage tool like the GSIS.

However, something had to give and like most everything involving this administration, what gave out was the public good. Corazon dela Paz had to go. Her caginess regarding the reasons for her departure seems to confirm rumors that she was forced out of office.

The Black & White Movement is dismayed at the appointment of Romulo Neri to the SSS. Mr. Neri’s refusal to implicate his boss has led GMA to show her gratitude by moving him around from one post to another: first from NEDA to CHED and now to the SSS. Mr. Neri must be like one of those cheerful ticks that parasitically infest cattle: happily using his silence to swindle the woman he labels as "evil" into giving him what he wants.

The other "value added" in the latest Neri-related appointment would be the momentary restoration of calm at the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). It is no secret, the CHED workforce have no great love for their current commissioner. However, the agency may not be quiet for long ¬- Tessie Aquino Oreta could be assigned to the post. Throw that wrench in along with the appointments of Team Unity also-rans Tito Sotto as Dangerous Drugs czar and Mike Defensor as NAIA 3 Task Force head and you've got a president wielding her prerogative to appoint nobodies to do nothing.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

BnW Black Friday Protests Rise Again

Today, our people are on the verge of desperation, ravaged by calamities, both natural and man-made.

Reeling from the devastation wreaked by typhoon “Frank”, we see not only the ineptitude of the bureaucracy, but also the insensitivity of our leaders, preferring to hobnob with Washington officials and watching the Pacquiao match live, rather than attending to the urgent needs of its citizens. Were it not for the valiant efforts of the private sector, NGOs and other groups, our distressed people would never see relief.

Worse, rather than addressing the core problems and gut issues of the day, our government resorts to gimmickry like dole outs and pretentiously championing populist causes – lower electric bills and free text messaging, to project a false sense of compassion for our people.

But we know better. Our people have lost its trust on our leaders. And now, we risk losing hope.

The Black and White Movement condemns both the callousness of our leaders, and the policy of deception in addressing our problems. To reawaken our people to these stark realities, we will resume our Black Friday Silent Protest actions on July 4, 2008.

We will gather every Friday at a pre-determined location at a specified time, all of us wearing black. There will be no placards or flags, no speeches, and no program. Our presence will be our message of protest. We will quietly disperse after 30 minutes.

This Friday, the designated time and place is the COMELEC Headquarters, Intramuros, Manila, at 5 PM. This is to dramatize where our problems all started – the cheating in the 2004 elections. With 3 commissioners still to be appointed by GMA, we may see the same transgressions being executed in 2010 due to a lack of qualified overseers.

We call on every Filipino to join us. Let us not lose hope. Together, we can yet make a difference for the brighter future of our children.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


"The love we give away is the only love we keep." - Elbert Hubbard

It's been over a week since Typhoon Frank wrought havoc upon our nation. While news of the sinking of Sulpicio Lines' MV Princess of the Stars continue to occupy the front pages, the pleas for help from storm ravaged towns and provinces are beginning to fade from the headlines. Unfortunately, this lack of attention aids in the natural and rapid decline in donations and relief operations. Donations usually peter out within two weeks of a disaster, and this is the period wherein our help becomes vital.

There are a few dozen provinces in desperate need of attention and relief - Aklan is one of the hardest hit. Flashfloods and mudflows have claimed 50 lives and destroyed more than 40,000 homes. The estimated damage is now more than PhP1.5B. Ten days after the typhoon, many areas are still buried in mud, an outbreak of diarrhea is plaguing displaced residents, and the province still has no electricity. Relief workers say they still have enough rice to distribute for the next four days, but contributions and relief work are beginning to dwindle. What Aklan urgently needs at this time are canned goods and construction materials for Aklanons to start rebuilding.

Aware that as Filipinos we all have to pitch in and give life to the spirit of bayanihan, the Black and White Movement is doing its part. We have already given cash donations to Operation Compassion, an organization dedicated to this kind of work, to buy canned goods, enough to tide over some Aklanon families for a day or two. But there is still so much work to be done, lives to be saved, and spirits to be raised.

We cannot do this alone. We urgently appeal to your hearts for much needed support. We will be working with Operation Compassion, the Corporate Network for Disaster Response (CNDR), and other allied networks to channel your contributions, in cash or in kind, to the hardest hit areas so that relief goods and construction material can be delivered by relief workers.

For cash donations, you may deposit directly to the following Bank Account:

Account Name: Black and White Movement, Inc.
Account Number: CA 000712-01751-1
Bank: Equitable Savings Bank, Moonwalk-Merville Branch

After you have made your deposit, please write us at to inform us of the details so we can properly account for all donations. We shall keep a running tally on our website/blogsite so that you can keep track.

For the donation of goods, you may deliver them to drop-off points set up by CNDR:

• Petron Stations
• Ayala Foundation drop-off points at Glorietta 4 and Ayala Malls
• ABS-CBN Sagip Kapamilya at #11 Examiner St. in Quezon City
• Manila Water offices

As the initial outpouring of aid and support begins to slow down, the cries for help and relief continue unabated. Let our individual contributions sustain the much-needed relief effort. It is in times like these that we need to stand united as Filipinos, roll up our sleeves, and save lives.

Please pass this on to fellow countrymen. Together, we may yet see a better Philippines.

God bless,