Archive for the ‘Economy’ Category

pagcor-turns-over-p7-billion-in-cash-dividends-and-remittances-to-national-governmentHere’s something totally fucked up. While working people have been demanding tax relief and a restructuring of the income tax system, our government generously paid for the corporate income taxes of big casinos.

The national government practically lost P1.914 billion and US$7.629 million (P335 million) in revenues because the state-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) gave some questionable perks to the big gaming firms in the Pagcor Entertainment City. Pagcor took a huge revenue cut so that it could pay for the corporate income taxes of some of the richest casino operators in the country. You read that right. Government just paid for the corporate income taxes of Solaire, City of Dreams and other licensees in the Entertainment City.

The findings of foregone Pagcor revenues appear in the latest Commission on Audit Report for 2014. Pagcor is run by President Benigno Aquino III’s classmate, Cristino “Bong” Naguiat.

Last year, Pagcor reduced the license fees of several Pagcor Entertainment City casinos by 10%, a move that stemmed from new tax policies laid down by the Bureau of Internal Revenue. Under the new policy, Pagcor licensees were no longer exempt from paying corporate income tax. The four licensees in the Entertainment City of course complained, arguing that their provisional licenses made them tax exempt.

As a response to complaints by the Entertainment City licensees, Pagcor agreed to reduce license fee payments of the casinos and allocate these to paying the corporate income taxes of the same casinos. Government paid for the taxes of these billionaires.

The four Pagcor licensees that benefited from the reduction in license fees were Travelers International Hotel Group affiliated with Andrew Tan, Bloomberry Resorts and Hotel which operates Solaire and is affiliated with Enrique Razon, Tiger Resorts Leisure and Entertainment of Kazuo Okada and partner Tonyboy Cojuangco, and the MCE Leisure Corporation affiliated with the SM group of Henry Sy which operates City of Dreams.

Sy of course is well known as the richest Filipino based on the Forbes List of Filipino billionaires. Tan and Razon are also part of that elite group of Filipino billionaires. Okada meanwhile is a well known Japanese gaming casino and slot machine mogul and ranks number 28 in Forbes list of Japan’s richest.

The reduction in license fees turned out to have a significant impact on Pagcor’s revenues and consequently, government tax collections.

According to the COA report, “Pagcor could have earned a total of P1.914 billion and US$7.629 million during CY 2014 and the Government could have collected franchise tax in the same amount had it not reduced by 10% the license fees being collected from certain licensees.”

“In view of the foregone opportunity to raise revenues, we recommend that the (Pagcor) Management revisit or reconsider its decision in reducing license fees that is inconsistent with its mandate of raising funds for the government’s socio-civic and national development efforts,” says the report.

So Pagcor’s P2 billion revenue cut was used to pay for the 2014 corporate income tax of the big gaming firms. The policy has not ended though. From January to August 2015, industry insiders estimate that Pagcor losses due to the license fee reduction could have already reached P2.27 billion.

The move is unconscionable as most likely illegal. There is no ruling, not even by the Supreme Court, that supports the government’s fee reduction.


License fee reduction for income tax payments

On April 17, 2013, the BIR issued Revenue Memorandum Circular 33-2013 subjecting PAGCOR’s gaming income and those from the operation of related services to both franchise and income tax. The same RMC stated that PAGCOR’s contractees and licensees are also subject to income tax under the NIRC.

The four big gaming companies argued that the provisional license granted to them by PAGCOR gives them the privilege of being exempt from corporate income tax. They complained that the BIR memorandum would result in a 10-12% tax exposure for their firms.

To address this, PAGCOR agreed to cut the monthly fees of the gaming firms by as much as 10% and allocate these to the payment of the corporate income tax of the licensees for the taxable year. The cut includes gaming revenues from high roller tables, non-high roller tables, slot machines and electronic and junket operations.

The Supreme Court, on December 10, 2014, eventually upheld the tax exemptions and privileges of Pagcor but did not rule on the so-called privileges being claimed by the Pagcor licensees and contractees. In its decision, the SC noted:

“As to whether petitioner’s (PAGCOR) tax privilege of paying five percent (5%) franchise tax inures to the benefit of third parties with contractual relationship with petitioner in connection with the operation of casinos, we find no reason to rule upon the same. The resolution of the instant petition is limited to clarifying the tax treatment of petitioner’s income vis-à-vis our Decision dated March 15, 2011. This Decision is not meant to expand our original Decision by delving into new issues involving petitioner’s contractees and licensees. For one, the latter are not parties to the instant case, and may not therefore stand to benefit or bear the consequences of this resolution. For another, to answer the fourth issue raised by petitioner relative to its contractees and licensees would be downright premature and iniquitous as the same would effectively countenance sidesteps to judicial process.”

Previously on September 4, 2014, the Governance Commission on GOCC’s asked the Pagcor Board to explain its decision of reducing the license fees of the big casinos. In its letter, the GCG wrote, “While GOCC Governing Boards are not expected to be infallible in the exercise of their business judgment, the precepts of public accountability and good governance require that at the very least they demonstrate in clear and specific terms how their business judgment was exercised with extraordinary diligence.”

“Based on your response, there appears to be no clear indication of what the adverse effects would have been had the PAGCOR Board not opted to reduce the license fees, especially since the clarification or amendment of tax laws resulting in new or prospective impositions is a regular risk of doing business in any jurisdiction. It is not clear how PAGCOR balanced the conflicting interests between its stakeholders in this case i.e. the investors and the national government.”

Clearly Pagcor and the Aquino government have only the interests of big business in mind.

Various groups are calling for a Black Payday protest on October 15 to demand tax reforms. Tax reform advocates assert that working people have been overburdened and overtaxed. Meanwhile, big business, like these casinos, have been given so many perks. It is time for working people to get some relief.

Bayan o negosyo? The answer should be very clear and obvious.



Last December 12, as the country reeled from the effects of Yolanda, a massive power rate hike, and increases in the prices of LPG, the Department of Transportation and Communication decided to hold a “one-time” public consultation on the “proposed” MRT-LRT fare hike. The so-called consultation would be a venue for government to present the new fare matrix and the basis for the new fares. Or so we thought.

Bayan and other cause-oriented groups such as RILES Network, PISTON and Anakbayan had asked the DOTC for copies of documents related to the fare increase as early as June 24, 2013. A letter was sent to the Secretary of the DOTC. We received a reply dated July 2, 2013 which included some links to websites but did not include any of the documents that would explain the basis of the fare increase or the process by which the fares are determined.

Six months later, DOTC calls for a consultation and still we have not been provided with any documents. What the DOTC presented last December 12 was a 64-slide Powerpoint presentation. It was definitely not a proper public hearing.

What have we learned so far? Not much has changed with the proposed increase since it was first presented in 2011. The increase is still very significant as the maximum fares would double in some cases.


Stations SV Fare SV Fare  SJ FARE SJ FARE
Baclaran Baclaran 29 Bclrn 30
EDSA 12 29 15 30
Libertad 13 28 15 30
Gil Puyat 13 27 15 30
Vito Cruz 14 26 15 30
Quirino 15 25 15 30
Pedro Gil 16 24 20 30
UN Ave. 17 23 20 30
Central 18 22 20 30
Carriedo 19 22 20 30
D. Jose 19 21 20 30
Blumentrit 20 20 20 20
Tayuman 21 20 30 20
Bambang 21 19 30 20
Abad Santos 22 18 30 20
R. Papa 23 17 30 20
5th Avenue 24 16 30 20
Monumento 25 15 30 15
Balintawak 27 13 30 15
Roosevelt 29 Rsvlt 30 Rsvlt

The current maximum fare for LRT 1 is P20 for stored value tickets. Under the proposed scheme, the new maximum fare would be P29 for stored value and P30 for single journey tickets, a 50% increase from the current maximum fare. The LRTA says the average increase per commuter per trip, based on the average distance traveled, would be P4.70 per trip or P9.40 for a round trip. Single journey tickets will come in P15, P20 and P30 and will be significantly more expensive than the fares for stored value tickets.


Stations SVFare SVFare SJFare SJFare
Recto Recto 24 Recto 25
Legarda 12 23 15 25
Pureza 14 22 15 25
V. Mapa 15 21 15 25
J. Ruiz 16 19 20 20
Gilmore 17 18 20 20
Betty-Go B 18 17 20 20
Cubao 19 15 20 15
Anonas 21 14 25 15
Katipunan 22 13 25 15
Santolan 24 Sntln 25 Sntln

For the LRT 2, the new maximum fare would be P24 for stored value tickets and P25 for single journey tickets, an increase of 66% from the current maximum fare of P15. Single journey tickets will come in P15, P20 and P25 values. The LRTA estimates that the average impact on commuters, given the average distance traveled, will be P5.60 per trip. That’s P11.20 increase if you go round trip. Those who have taken the LRT 2 know that most of its passengers are actually students studying in the university belt in Manila.


Stations Fare Fare
North Avenue North Avenue 28
Quezon Avenue 13 28
Kamuning 13 24
Cubao 16 24
Santolan 16 24
Oritgas 20 20
Shaw 20 20
Boni 20 20
Guadalupe 24 16
Buendia 24 16
Ayala 24 13
Magallanes 28 13
Taft 28 Taft

The maximum fare of the MRT 3 will go up from P15 to P28 for single journey and stored value tickets. That’s an 87% increase from the current maximum fare. The minimum fare also goes up from P10 to P13. According to the DOTC, the average increase per passenger per trip of the new fare matrix, based on the average distance traveled, would be a whopping P7.92 per trip or P15.84 for a round trip. That’s nearly P16 increase for a round trip.

As we said, the increase is significant. Coming on the heels of increases in electricity rates, oil prices and premiums for SSS and Philhealth, and without any significant wage increase, the new fares will burn a hole in the pockets of commuters.

Let us now examine the basis for the increase. Is there a legitimate ground for such fares? How did the new fares come to be? What is the basis of the computations? How were the rates approved?

The DOTC justified the increase by saying that the government should be reducing its subsidy for the train lines and that commuters should be the ones paying for the real cost of transportation (users pay principle). It also said that the train fares need to be adjusted so that they would be closer to the fares of other land transport such as buses and AUV/FX. However, the DOTC failed to present any basis for their computations, other than the so called need to reduce government subsidy and the need to continue paying debts incurred in the construction of the train lines.


Let’s first address the argument that the train fares need to approximate the fares of other land transport. This is obviously without basis, the comparison is between apples and oranges. Land transport such as buses and AUV/FX are being operated for private profits. The train lines receive subsidy and are considered part of government’s service. These train lines are the fastest and cheapest means of transportation to bring workers and employees to their workplaces and to bring students to their schools. It is government’s obligation to provide this kind of service for working people and students because in the end, the whole economy benefits.

As for the question of subsidy, government says that the actual fare for the MRT is P53.96 but that commuters only pay an average fare of P12.40 while government subsidizes P41.56. How and why the “actual fare” reached P53.96, they do not explain.

What they do say is that government has been subsidizing the MRT at about P6-7 billion a year and that this subsidy should be reduced. What they do not sufficiently explain is why the need for a P6-7 billion yearly subsidy. What is government subsidizing here?

Under the MRT’s Build Lease Transfer Agreement, the train line has financial obligations in the form of Equity Rental Payments and Administrative Costs amounting to P5.504 billion and Taxes, Duties and Fees amounting to P2.088 billion. These debts are the result of an onerous contract during the Ramos administration that guaranteed the profits of the private developers. For example, the private developers were given a 15% guaranteed return on investment even if the trains were filled or not. Such were the demands of the private developers before “investing” in this so-called public-private partnership venture. In fact the loans of these private developers were also guaranteed by the Philippine government.

If the government thinks the subsidy is too much, then it should stop honoring the patently disadvantageous BLT Agreement which is the source of the financial woes of the MRT. It is this debt which is being passed on to the commuters via the proposed fare hike. It is this debt which government wants us to shoulder.

As for the LRT 1 and 2, this is a slightly different situation. The people at the LRTA combined the financial standing of LRT 1 and 2 (amounting to P4 billion) to make it appear that both trains were bleeding financially and therefore an increase is necessary for both.

However, in this presentation in 2011, the LRTA showed that even without a fare increase, the LRT 1 would do just fine. It would still have an excess of P23 million at the end of the year. It is the LRT 2 which has a deficit.

It is not clear how much LRT 1 and 2 have respectively in terms of obligations. During the consultation, the LRTA admitted that it is LRT 2 which has the bigger debt. Based on the LRTA’s estimates, LRT 1 will have the bigger revenue from the fare hike at P621 million compared to LRT 2’s P321 million revenues. This is because LRT 1 has a bigger ridership than LRT 2.  By combining financial obligations and revenues of the two different train lines, the effect is that commuters of LRT 1 are also paying for the debts of LRT 2.


Meanwhile, the MRT 3 hopes to generate an additional P1.122 billion in revenues from the fare hike. All in all, the fare hike from LRT 1 and 2 and MRT 3 will give the government P2.06 billion in additional revenues.

The additional revenues will be used to compensate for the subsidy reduction for the trains. When we asked the MRT officials how much would the subsidy reduction be under the 2014 budget, they said P200 million. So where will the P1.2 billion in additional MRT revenues go? They did not say.

Also noticeable from the presentation was the very low non-rail revenues of the LRT 1 and 2 and MRT3. The non-rail revenues are generated from advertising and development of commercial space in train stations and other facilities. The LRT 1 and 2 had a combined non-rail revenue of P227 million, or just 6.1% of total revenues. For MRT3, non-rail revenues comprise a measly P27 million or 1.2% of total revenues. In other countries, non-rail revenues comprise up to 20% of total revenues. This is indeed strange since so many malls and commercial establishments are connected to the LRT and MRT. The trains themselves are moving billboards. What we know in the case of MRT3 is that the revenues from ads and development of commercial space go not to the government but to a private corporation owned by the original developers. This is another result of the onerous contract between the government and the private developers.


Photo Retuers

The dictionary defines the word “hijack” to mean to take control of a moving vehicle such as a plane. I have been hearing  the word quite often in reference to rallies against the pork barrel system. Every time there is a rally, there seems to be the unfounded fear that the Left would “hijack” the event. I have come across such accusations on social media, on Twitter and Facebook. Some questions are well meaning, while others are just plain malicious with no other intention but to see the mass action fail.

I have tried my best to answer the well-meaning questions on Twitter and FB. I appreciate the efforts of  other netizens who try to put some sense into the discussions, not because they are leftists or anything but because they have enough common sense to know that we need a united front.

I say that the fear is often unfounded because this is hardly ever substantiated by anything other than one’s bias, or by an insidious motive to divide the broad front against pork corruption. One version of this is that the Left will hijack the rally and use it as a platform to attack Aquino. The anti-pork rally will become an anti-Aquino rally.

There are some issues we must answer here. Can the Left indeed hijack a rally such as the one in Luneta or Ayala? So how does one hijack a rally?  And what’s wrong in directing the protest at Aquino?

Yesterday, someone posted that a group of about 500 people at Ayala were hijacking the event by unfurling placards calling for the ouster of Aquino. I personally did not see this group that was being referred to so I doubt its accuracy. But assuming the report was true, I seriously doubt that a group of 500 people can hijack an event, not when there is an organizing committee that takes charge of the program and the conduct of the rally. The Left is part of that organizing committee as it works among the various groups and individuals helping out the event. The program committee is also supported by professional artists. We had an excellent director and various support staff. The program line up was more or less fixed. Unless the so-called 500 people got a bigger stage a, louder sound system and a bigger mobilization than the one that was already in Ayala, they couldn’t really do much in terms of hijacking the event.

Photo Val Rodriguez, Phil Star

The same fear was also raised in Luneta last August 26, that the Leftists with their streamers and placards and loud sound system, would hijack the rally. Well, there wasn’t much to “hijack” during the first Luneta rally since for the most part, there wasn’t even a centralized program as rally organizers did not want to have one. People could basically just do their own thing and find their own spot in the park. Unless you had a crowd and sound system as big as an El Shaddai Sunday gathering, hijacking Luneta would not be possible.

Rallies have organizing committees that prepare the program and conduct of the event. Groups discuss how the rally will take place. The Left is often part of the organizing committee. And the Left has always been upfront with its intentions. For example during the first Luneta rally, we informed other organizers early on that we would be marching to Mendoza after Luneta. We wanted to address our demands straight to the President.

I’ve seen a lot of ridiculous reactions in the run up to rallies, often coming as attempts to divide or scare people.

For example before the first Luneta rally, I got asked regarding the burning of an effigy. Apparently some folks saw a media report on a “pork” effigy which would be brought to Luneta. Some folks started raising the alarm that an effigy would be burned. They made a big deal out of it. When I checked what they were referring to, it turned out to be a papier mache’ of a small pig and it was not meant to be burned. (Some questions were well-meaning but others were just far-out).

Pero may mas OA pang reaksyon.

At the command tent in Luenta, as we were preparing for the rally, one person exclaimed, “Oh no, they’re burning an effigy!” When we looked, it turned out to be a group using incense for a morning prayer. OA di ba? Pero buti sana kung simpleng OA lang ang problema. Making a big deal out of these issues is a calculated attempt to scare and confuse people, a move that would serve the interests of Malacanang and the pork defenders.

A  day before the August 26 Luneta rally, a malicious and anonymous “Ibagsak and rehimeng  US-Aquino”  SMS  started circulating. The text said that the uprising was to start in Luneta and end in Mendiola. The text message was obviously a scare tactic. Bayan had no problem denouncing the SMS since it was never ours to begin with. Other netizens reposted our disclaimer. A similar SMS circulated a day before the Ayala rally, again designed to make it appear that the text came from the Left. Some netizens quickly exposed the scare tactic even before we even had to. (Meanwhile, a tweet by one Leah Navarro, staunch supporter of Aquino, said that that SMS was proof that the rally had already been hijacked. So gets nyo na sino nakikinabang sa mga ganung text?)

Our group has always been upfront with our position on the Aquino regime. We never hid the fact that we are opposed to this regime on many issues such as land reform, human rights, sovereignty, economic development and so on. We hold protests during Aquino’s State of the Nation Address, and that’s no secret. So expect that the participation of the Left in these broad anti-pork rallies will also include a sharper critique of and a more direct message addressed to the President.

And why not? The pork barrel issue clearly calls for it.

Aquino is THE biggest hindrance to the removal of the pork barrel system. We have enumerated the reasons in our previous public statements.

  1. Aquino refuses to scrap the pork barrel system, both the congressional pork and the much bigger presidential pork. In the 2014 budget, while PDAF is no longer there, the funds were merely transferred to other line agencies while lawmakers retained the “right” to nominate their pet projects which will appear as line items in the budget. That’s still pork, no matter how you cook it.
  2. Aquino has asked the Supreme Court to lift the TRO on the release of the remaining 2012 PDAF and the Malamapaya funds.
  3. Aquino has given special treatment to Janet Napoles, threatening to undermine the investigation and prosecution of those involved in the scam. This may lead to selective prosecution.
  4. Aquino has been caught red-handed in disbursing so-called government “savings” as a form of pork and incentive for politicians. Many have pointed out the unconstitutionality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program, yet the Palace is sticking to its defense. Aquino wants to preserve the system of lump sum discretionary funds and the corrupt system of patronage that pork makes possible.

Which brings us to the next point. Why shouldn’t the rally be critical of Aquino? What’s wrong if groups carry placards that say Aquino is the Pork Barrel King? What’s wrong with directing the demand to abolish pork squarely at Malacanang?

(Of course the event itself has a common theme and all participating groups and individuals agree to that. However, the common theme is just that. It’s a common theme but it is not the ONLY call nor is it the maximum demand that some groups  can push. The common theme or call is not a ceiling or a cap. It is the minimum basis of unity for holding the event. )

Now, the usual modus of the die-hard Aquino supporter is this: they spread on social media that the protest against pork will be turned into a venue to attack Aquino. They believe that since Aquino is SO popular, portraying an event as ANTI-Aquino will make the event flop. It will turn off people. Grabe din ang arrogance no?

Now some folks easily fall for this trap for one reason or another. They will make the unnecessary disclaimer that this is NOT an anti-Aquino rally in order to pacify the die-hard pro-Aquino intrigeros on social media who keep saying that an anti-Aquino call would prevent others from joining. They sometimes fail to see that the intention of the intrigue is to force the organizers to say that the rally is NOT anti-Aquino, NOT oppositional to Aquino, in order to blunt the message. So that later on, the President can say that he and the protesters are on the same side. The rally is in fact in support of the Daang Matuwid and the President. The President’s officials are even willing to meet with the rally organizers so they can sit down and discuss alternatives. We’re all in this together. Damay-damay na etc etc. .

Galing di ba? So who’s  hijacking the rally now?

What I also find bothersome and insulting is that in the attempt to appease these so-called “pro-Aquino yet anti-pork netizens”, some protest organizers, wittingly or unwittingly, reinforce the unfounded allegations and biases against the Left.

So what if some groups carry anti-Aquino calls, isn’t that within their right to express themselves? That doesn’t negate the character of the Ayala event as an anti-pork rally. So why make a disclaimer that can be turned and used against the rally organizers? Why make a disclaimer that can be used to attack one of the participants of the rally, particularly the Left?

I saw one accusation, though no direct reference was made, that the Left was “nakikisakay at nanggagamit” and that they are no different from politicians. If indeed it was the left that was being referred to, I would want that person to know what the Left did for the Ayala rally so that the person could be disabused of the notion that the Left was “nakikisakay at nanggagamit”.

The Left brought in people early to the Ayala rally, occupying a huge space that was there when the program was about to start and the Makati employees had not arrived. Kumakalog ang Paseo nung simula dahil wala pang tao. The Left also brought in other allies and anti-pork groups and personalities, some of whom were hesitant to join the Ayala rally because they thought that the message was too soft on Malacanang. (Yes there are those types too.) We mobilized artists, support staff, speakers as well as resources. It was the Bayan forces who stayed throughout the program at Ayala, even when the heavy rains started pouring. They stayed up to the end of the rally. Hindi sila bumitiw.

For those not familiar with organizing rallies, mobilizing people is difficult work. You prepare transportation, food, marshals, placards and stuff. It’s not as easy as writing a press release or making a Facebook meme. And these groups, the workers, the farmers, urban poor, professionals; they all made their own sacrifices to make the event a success by mobilizing their members from the communities and workplaces that were relatively far from Makati.

Contrast the efforts of the workers and farmers say to one Jim Paredes who is noisy on social media but admitted in one of the meetings for the first Million People March in Luneta that he was NOT for the abolition of PDAF (because it can be used for good) but was only supportive of prosecuting Napoles.

Contrast the efforts of the students and urban poor groups mobilizing to folks such as those in the Black and White Movement who during the anti-Arroyo protests only mobilized enough people to fill a van, yet they get to be interviewed all over the place as if they mobilized the entire rally in Ayala. (Ask any of the groups active in the anti-GMA movement and they’ll tell you the same).

The good thing though with these protests is that those actively involved have “leveled-up” so to speak. Hats off to the commitment displayed by netizens, bloggers, artists such as Juana Change and many others, who really worked to make the rally successful. Sila yung totoong nagtatrabaho. Hindi tulad nung nagte-text o retweet lang ng kung anu-anung kabalbalan, kunwari concerned sa kalalabasan ng rally pero sa totoo lang wala naman silang intensyong dumalo ng rally, at ang gusto lang ay manggulo at manghati.

Our understanding of the issue has also developed. The first Luneta rally was expectedly focused on Napoles and PDAF. The succeeding rallies tried to raise the discussion to lump sum discretionary spending. In Ayala, we’ve seen how participants of the rally gained the understanding that pork is not just PDAF. It also includes DAP and other forms of discretionary spending. The call to abolish ALL pork became clearer.

This movement is progressing. This cannot be prevented. The defenders of pork can only hope to divide the movement by attacking the Left, or by arousing some irrational fear of an evil opposition take-over.

The defenders of pork have grown desperate. They will ultimately fail.

Photo Philippine Daily Inquirer

(Mga bagay na asahan nating ibibida ng mahal na Pangulo)


The annual State of the Nation Address is just around the corner. Will Aquino’s speech this year be any different from his previous speeches? What are the likely accomplishments he hopes to announce on this important occasion.

Here are my guesses.

10. The 6.4% first quarter GDP growth – Aquino will say that this is proof that the country is poised for takeoff, that we’re reaping the benefits of the ‘daang matuwid’ etc. But he also did promise to bring about “inclusive growth” which sadly, the GDP growth rate does not reflect. During this period, it was the rich that got richer. Growth was focused mainly on business process outsourcing and manufacturing for exports but not so much agriculture. Only big business benefited from this so-called growth. Hunger and unemployment were still high during this period.

9. Stock market index at an all time high- He said this before in his previous SONA. Very obvious that the poor have nothing to gain from this.

8. Credit upgrade from Standard & Poor. – Like #9, the poor have nothing to gain from this since the credit upgrade only shows the country can borrow more because it can pay more (no thanks to revenue measures such as the VAT on oil and power).

7. Increased number of CCT beneficiaries – Having more CCT beneficiaries now doesn’t doesn’t exactly indicate a healthy economy. It just means that there are more poor people relying on government dole-outs because government and the domestic economy can’t create new jobs.
6. $1 billion loan to IMF – Aquino will probably praise the fact that the country is now a lender, no longer just a borrower. Imagine the Philippines doing its share to bail out Europe. While this may look good for the foreign business community, this has no impact on the poor and does not change our status as a country deep in debt.

5. Gross international reserves at an all time high- While true, this is largely because of the remittances/ forex coming from OFW’s. Noynoy can’t claim credit for that.

4. New Mining EO – It’s clear that only the mining firms were happy with this (no matter how hard PDI tries to make it look like anti-mining groups “cheered” this EO). Unlike previous items on this list, this one will surely have an impact on the poor. The measure will make lives more miserable for affected communities.

3. Plunder raps filed, finally, vs. GMA- After two years in office, the first plunder case vs. GMA has finally been filed in court. It would be good to see other cases filed soon, and not just during the period before the SONA. Still missing however are the cases involving gross human rights violations of GMA and her cohorts.

2. The Corona impeachment – Expect Aquino to thank Congress for he’s now on the verge of controlling all three branches of government.

1. The people now trust government – With so few accomplishments during the past two years, expect the President to fall back on the intangibles; “Pwede na uli mangarap”, “trust in government restored”, among other motherhood statements which again, have no impact on the poor.



See you in the streets on July 23.

The EU and the Philippines recently signed a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement which hopes to pave the way for an eventual Free Trade Agreement between the two, The move comes amid the worsening crisis of the Euro-zone and amid fresh proposals to change the Philippine Constitution removing  its protectionist provisions.

Here we examine the speech of the EU high representative as she hails the singing of the pact. What does she really mean? Text in bold from Like a Rolling Stone..

Phnom Penh, 11 July 2012

Remarks by High Representative Catherine Ashton at the signature of  the EU-Philippines Partnership and Cooperation Agreement


Mr Foreign Secretary, Ambassadors, dear colleagues and guests,

I am very happy to be here to sign the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) between the EU and the Philippines that will give a new impetus to an old friendship. It also underlines the European Union’s commitment to invigorate our relations with Asia, and ASEAN in particular. (We are happy for this opportunity to open up your markets and squeeze more profits from your economy, especially now that Europe is in a prolonged recession of which there is no immediate relief in sight).

With the Philippines, Europe has a relationship going far back in history. (Seriously, Spanish colonialism was THE high point of your historical development). We share many common beliefs, such as on human rights and on democracy (token practice notwithstanding). We both support the International Criminal Court and we stand united against the death penalty.

Because of the many personal linkages (more like business ties) which have been established over a very long time we take a particular interest in developments in the Philippines. (We have investments in your country and more than ever, we need your economy to bail us out of this crisis).

Our relations continue to grow and diversify. For example through the EU’s participation in the International Monitoring Team in Mindanao; and through our growing cooperation, for example on building capacity to address Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear challenges.

We are looking forward to the possibility of deepening our trade relations through a Free Trade Agreement.  (We’re being totally honest here. This is really what we want to get from all of this).

This Partnership and Cooperation Agreement is the first agreement between our two sides since the 1980 EU cooperation agreement with ASEAN. Since then, the world has profoundly changed, both politically and economically. (By profound change, we mean we’re in some really deep shiz right now).  We also face new challenges, on peace and security, economic development, poverty reduction and environmental concerns. (Really, really deep shiz…here in Europe….most of it our fault.)

This agreement allows us to address the challenges in a coherent and methodical way – through both dialogue and real cooperation. (No matter how one-sided it may get, the important thing here is “dialogue and cooperation”)

This combination of common beliefs and specific action is at the heart of our future partnership, and indeed, our friendship – not only with the Philippines, but with ASEAN as a whole. (We’ve signed PCA’s with Vietnam and Indonesia too).  

So I hope we will continue to get together to enhance our mutual understanding and to learn from each other and that we can work together find the common solutions to common problems.  (Really appreciate your Charter change efforts. We can’t wait to start plundering your economy). 

Photo by PDI

First thing I read today was the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s shocking banner story “Cory Aquino’s ‘glowing legacy’: Aquino kin back immediate distribution of land”.

The headline somehow makes it appear that land distribution was the intention all along of former president Cory Aquino when she embarked on the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program some 25 years ago. That all this time, the Luisita landlords had the best intentions for the farm workers. And that, by implication, if the first Aquino regime wanted this, then surely the second Aquino regime shared the same vision.

The statements of the counsel for the Hacienda Luisita made me sick to my stomach, as I’m sure it did other farmer advocates.

“The Cojuangco family expresses its full confidence that the Supreme Court decision regarding the fate of Hacienda Luisita is a just resolution for all parties concerned,” said Antonio Ligon, hacienda counsel and spokesperson.

“Now that the high court maintains that land distribution is the only resolution, the Cojuangco family guarantees its full cooperation in the expeditious completion of this process and put all other issues to rest,” he said.

While the family had sought a reconsideration of the high tribunal’s Nov. 22, 2011, ruling, Ligon said the court’s final decision on the decades-old dispute was “a verdict the Cojuangco family embraces.”

“(This) should be a glowing legacy for the late former President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino,” he said.

“It cannot be argued that Mrs. Aquino made decisive moves to place Hacienda Luisita in the 1980s under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program although the preference of farmer-beneficiaries for stock distribution option (SDO) prevailed in at least three referendums over land distribution.”

Now that the farmers are on the verge of claiming the land that is rightfully theirs, the Luisita management wants to rewrite history, give itself a pat on the back, and perhaps make the current president look good in the process. (Why PDI editors dignify and give so much space to HLI’s gratuitous and self-serving statements, I really don’t know.)

“Glowing legacy” ba kamo? How about a legacy of deception and failure? Because that’s what the last 25 years of Mrs. Aquino’s CARP has amounted to for the farmers of Luisita. The way the Luisita management speaks, it’s as if they had the best intentions for the farmers at the onset; that the management, like Cory, really wanted land reform.

Cripes, if this were true, then the farmers were wrong to rise up against the Cojuangco-Aquinos. The strike in 2004 was totally unncecessary. The massacre of strikers and the assassination of farmers’ supporters, all those were for naught because, as Ligon says, Mrs. Aquino had wanted to place the sugar estate under her government’s land reform program from the start.

Wow, that’s even worse than Joel Rocamora claiming that this is a victory for Benigno Aquino’s land reform program. (Isa pa itong mga nakikisakay na tagumpay daw ng CARPER itong Luisita ruling).

Anyone familiar with Cory Aquino’s CARP knows that a provision in the law allowed landlords to retain control of their estates by subjecting these to a “Stock Distribution Option”. Under this scheme, farmers will be given shares of stocks instead of actual land. The scheme ensured that effective control of the land remained with the big landlords. Such was the case in Luisita where the shares of the farmers amounted to only 33% while the Cojuangco-Aquino management was able to bloat its shares to 66%. From that time on, farmers worked in miserable and oppressive conditions.

The failure of the SDO to improve the lives of farmers became the subject of a strike by farmworkers, a decision by the DAR, the PARC and eventually, the Supreme Court. The final ruling of the SC effectively junked the SDO and paved the way for actual land distribution. The SC ruling is a partial rebuke of the SDO of Cory Aquino’s CARP.

Now that farmers are getting their due, the Luisita management wishes us to believe in its benevolence.  HLI tries to assure us of its full cooperation with the decision. It is after all, a decision that the Cojuangco family “embraces”.


The statement that HLI will cooperate is also calibrated to take the heat off President Benigno Aquino III who up to now has not released a statement on the matter. Ligon wants to end public speculation on whether Aquino will press his family to comply with the decision.

For the record, the HLI management has never stopped scheming and maneuvering to retain their vast estate. They are notorious for not showing good faith. One time, it drafted a sham “compromise agreement” and gave token amounts of money to the farmers for them to sign the pact, in order to preempt the decision the High Court. We have not forgotten that. Up to the end, the HLI management even makes mention of three sham referendums that allegedly affirmed the farmers’ support for the SDO.

If there appears to be a change of tone in the statements of HLI, it’s because they know that there a very little legal options left for them at the moment. They know that they have been soundly defeated in the main legal arena. They know that there is overwhelming public support for the farmers of Luisita.

I end this piece by paraphrasing a message from a journalist friend who has watched the legal developments closely. He says that the victory of the Luisita struggle “is a glowing legacy of the national democratic peasant movement” in forwarding the cause of genuine land reform.

This victory belongs to the farmers and the people, and not to any landlord/president, past or present. To those like Ligon and the HLI management who are claiming otherwise, di na kayo nahiya. Ang kupal lang.

Today farmers of Hacienda Luisita were overcome with tears of joy as they waited for the announcement of the Supreme Court’s final ruling on the Luisita dispute. The SC voted 14-0 in favor of land distribution, upholding an earlier ruling. The court also voted 8-6 in its decision to peg the value of the Luisita land at 1989 levels, instead of the 2006 valuation that management was pushing for. Obviously management wanted a bigger “just compensation” before they lose control of the land. Their motion however was denied.

Many have sacrificed their lives in the course of the struggle. A memorial marker stands at the Gate 1 of the Luisita Central Azucarera de Tarlac, where the names of the Luisita martyrs are inscribed.

The battle for land that has raged on for decades now reaches another turning point. The Luisita management said they will comply with the SC ruling, though they have yet to get a copy of the decision. Luisita lawyer Atty.  Antonio Ligon said that the valuation of the land, even if done based on the 1989 period of reckoning, will have to undergo a process. He hinted that even in 1989, the land had undergone “improvements”. So it is possible that HLI will still attempt to get more than what they should.  They may use these arguments to further delay land distribution until they get more for the land. “The actual value of the land will still be determined by the Special Agrarian Court because that is what is in the law. It is not automatic,” Ligon said. He cited “other factors that will be considered” and that this is “subject to study and investigation”.

When asked if HLI can still challenge the valuation done by the Special Agrarian Court, the Luisita lawyer answered in the affirmative.

This whole concept of “just compensation”, which has been echoed by President Aquino himself whose family owns Luisita, will likely remain a thorny issue.

In an attempt to downplay the importance of and distribution, Ligon said that once land is distributed to the farmers, “they’re on their own”.

The fight of the farmers is not yet over. Collective vigilance is now necessary in ensuring that the HLI management and the Aquino government comply with the SC ruling.Maneuvers of the management and the government to delay land distribution should be exposed and opposed.

We do intend to prove Ligon wrong. The farmers are not “on their own” since many continue to support them and their just struggle for land. The farmers will be fine even if they are divorced from HLI. And along with land distribution, government should provide support services to the farmers.

The road ahead for Luisita remains full of challenges, but on this day, the Luisita farmers have earned every right to celebrate their victory.