Posts Tagged ‘gloria arroyo’

Check out Kontra Daya’s initial study of some 15 partylist groups with links to the Arroyo administration. There are some more partylists being studied for possible violations of the partylist law.

Most notorious of these groups are Ang Galing Pinoy, 1-Utak, PACYAW, Ang Kasangga, ALE, and BIDA.


Ang Galing Pinoy – First nominee is Pampanga congressman and presidential son Mikey Arroyo. Second nominee is Lubao Mayor Dennis Pineda and third nominee is Bacolor Mayor Romeo “Buddy” Dungca. It is strange that a partylist group claiming to represent the marginalized security guards have nominees all coming from Pampanga and are all Arroyo allies.

PACYAW – The partylist group Pilipino Association for Country / Urban Poor Youth Advancement and Welfare (PACYAW) has as its first nominee Department of Tourism Asst. Secretary Janet Rita B. Lazatin. She is a member of the Lakas-CMD party and hails from the first district of Pampanga. Its second nominee is former Los Angeles Consul and businessman Reynaldo Pineda, who is also based in Pampanga. PACYAW is advocating sports development.

Alliance of People’s Organizations (APO) –first nominee is Arroyo ally and former Ilocos representative Salacnib Baterina. It’s Facebook fan page reads “APO of Salacnib Baterina”. It’s advocacy is the “scrapping of the oil deregulation law”.

Sulong Barangay Movement – First nominee former vice-presidential candidate and Tarlac Vice Governor Herminio Aquino.

BUHAY Partylist – Fifth nominee is evangelist and real estate developer Bro. Mike Velarde

Military officials as partylist nominees

Abante Tribung Makabansa (ATM) – First nominee is former Army Col. Allen A. Capuyan. Capuyan was among those implicated by former T/Sgt. Vidal Doble in the “Hello Garci” controversy. According to Doble, Capuyan was among those who implemented “Project Lighthouse” or the wiretapping of personalities during his stint as head of the Intelligence Service of the AFP’s ‘special operations group’.

ANAKalusugan – First nominee is Col. Roland E. Kempis, a doctor and Commanding Officer of the AFP Medical Center. Kempis held the position under Gilbert Teodoro and Norberto Gonzales, according to the Department of National Defense website.

Confederation of Non-Stock Savings and Loan Associations, Inc. or CONSLA – nominees include former Air Force Col. Ricardo Nolasco, Jr. and former Navy Rear Admiral George T. Uy. The group represents savings and loan associations and their members. More study is needed on this type of partylist group.

BAGO partylist – Third nominee B/Gen. Manuel E. Mariano, Jr. who was the Asst. Division Commander of the 7th Infantry Division, Philippine Army in 2008

Of the initial names submitted to the Comelec, AGP has the most questionable nominees. The nominees of the group also put to serious question the eligibility of the partylist group itself. Also questionable are the nominees of the PACYAW partylist who seem to be Arroyo allies and officials, even if their sports advocacy appears to be legitimate.

More study is needed regarding the partylist groups and their nominees named above. This is only an initial research on who the nominees are and their affiliations.

To guide us in our study, we must go back to the law on the partylist system and the Supreme Court’s interpretation of that law.

Republic Act No. 7941, also known as the Party-List System Act, provides among other things that:

The State shall promote proportional representation in the election of representatives to the House of Representatives through a party-list system of registered national, regional and sectoral parties or organizations or coalitions thereof, which will enable Filipino citizens belonging to the marginalized and underrepresented sectors, organizations and parties, and who lack well-defined political constituencies but who could contribute to the formulation and enactment of appropriate legislation that will benefit the nation as a whole, to become members of the House of Representatives. Towards this end, the State shall develop and guarantee a full, free and open party system in order to attain the broadest possible representation of party, sectoral or group interests in the House of Representatives by enhancing their chances to compete for and win seats in the legislature, and shall provide the simplest scheme possible. (Sec. 2)

The Supreme Court, in its decision on the 2001 case Ang Bagong Bayani-OFW Labor Party v. Commission on Elections, et al, argued that:

x x x (The) party or organization must not be an adjunct of, or a project organized or an entity funded or assisted by, the government. By the very nature of the party-list system, the party or organization must be a group of citizens, organized by citizens and operated by citizens. It must be independent of the government. The participation of the government or its officials in the affairs of a party-list candidate is not only illegal and unfair to other parties, but also deleterious to the objective of the law: to enable citizens belonging to marginalized and underrepresented sectors and organizations to be elected to the House of Representatives.


“The fifth nominee of Buhay Hayaan Yumabong (Buhay) Party-List is Mariano “Mike” Velarde, who is not only the leader of the Catholic charismatic group El Shaddai but is also a millionaire who owns Amvel Land Development Corporation. Its first nominee is his son Mariano Michael. Buhay’s other nominees include William Irwin Tieng, whose family controls Solar Sports, and Ma. Carissa Coscolluella, whose family is in the construction business.

Bandila (Bagong Bayan na Nagtataguyod ng Demokratikong Ideolohiya at Layunin) Party-List has as its third nominee former actor Juan Miguel “Onemig” Bondoc, who hails from a family of wealthy businessmen and himself owns several businesses including the Benedictine International School of Quezon City.

The first nominee of the Alliance of Mindanao Elders (AME) is Alfonso Goking, a councilor of Cagayan de Oro City who is a member of the Lakas-Kampi coalition.

The Philippine Coconut Producers Federation (Cocofed) is comprised of both landlords and farmers, as well as businessmen, and counts among its nominees Jose Lobregat, a scion of the wealthy Lobregat clan of Zamboanga, who also owns a cable TV company.”

Press Statement
August 16, 2008

Renato M. Reyes, Jr.
BAYAN secretary general

The Arroyo regime welcomed and fully-supported United States intervention in the internal matter of peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Arroyo and her subalterns must be investigated and held accountable for their actions.

Based on the report of the United States Institute for Peace, the US-initiated and funded Philippine Facilitation Project was supported by both US President George W. Bush and Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The report also counts three meetings between officials of the USIP and Mrs. Arroyo, once in 2003 and twice in 2004.

The USIP was created and funded by the US Congress for peace advocacy that helps advance US economic, political and military interests worldwide. The USIP was a policy instrument for the U.S. government that served as a “channel of communication outside official policy mechanisms.”

To quote the report, “During an August 2003 visit to the Philippines, a PFP delegation met with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her senior advisers, military officers, senior Philippine senators, religious leaders, and representatives of civil society (NGOs, Moros, and educators.)”

“When President Macapagal-Arroyo visited the United Nations in September 2003, several senior advisers and USIP staff members met with her and her delegation (including the foreign secretary, executive secretary, and members of the Philippine congress) to review the status of the peace process and the role of the Institute. Ambassador Frank Wisner and USIP representatives also met with President Macapagal-Arroyo in California after her 2004 election to encourage a renewed GRP-wide effort to conclude an equitable settlement with the Moros.”

The PFP received $30 million in funding from the US Congress in 2003 as part of the Iraq War Supplemental Appropriations of 2003. The PFP sought to influence the outcome of the talks ,including the controversial issue of ancestral domain. The USIP used examples of ancestral domain conflict resolutions of the Native American Indians, the Anuit tribes in Canada, the Maori in New Zealand and other experiences that did not require secession from an oppressive regime. The USIP advocated an ancestral domain arrangement that would remain friendly with US interests.

United States involvement in the peace process bodes ill for the cause of the Bangsamoro people. The US has long sought to gain a solid foothold in Mindanao. It has sought to exploit the resources of Mindanao particularly oil and minerals. It has sought to strengthen US military hegemony and presence in the region through military exercises and the forward presence of its troops in Sulu and other provinces.

What does the US want in the peace process? The US does not want the genuine recognition of the rights of the Bangsamoro. The US seeks an end to the armed conflict in Mindanao to secure a stable area for its investments and troops. It seeks to curry favor with the MILF insofar as US investments and basing opportunities are concerned.

The US government has also made it clear that it does not support independence for the Bangsamoro.

An example of the interests being protected by the US is the $100 million off-shore oil exploration in Sulu recently announced by Exxon Mobil, the world’s biggest oil and gas producer.

According to the USIP report, the US government divided its work between the USIP, the USAID and the US embassy and State Department. The US embassy was tasked to “encourage” the Philippine government to pursue peace talks. The USAID was tasked with “economic development” of Mindanao while the USIP was tasked with engaging and influencing key players in the peace process. The report also states that the US embassy coordinated with the US Pacific Command in counter-terror training and in ensuring high visibility of US troops in Mindanao.

The US intervened in an internal affair, as it tried to influence key players in the peace process. The Arroyo government is guilty of allowing such brazen intervention.  Arroyo and US interests likely intersected on the issue of charter change and the prospect of US investments in Mindanao.

Early on, the USIP report already anticipated the issue of charter change because some provisions in the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain might be declared as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

The Arroyo government pounced on the opening for cha-cha as an opportunity to advance its own self-serving agenda of term extension.

US ambassador Kristie Kenney’s claims that the US does not intervene in the internal affairs of the Philippines is a pure lie. Her claim that she has not read the text of the MOA-AD is also quite unbelievable. From the USIP report, the US government, through various agencies, was involved in the peace process on many levels.

One of the most telling and disturbing statements found in the USIP report deals with forms of intervention available to the US.

The report describes U.S. policy instruments in Mindanao to include “diplomacy, conditionality of U.S. economic and military assistance programs, and more punitive measures on the counterterrorism front.”

The above statement could mean that the US government is also open to direct military intervention. ###

Ka Randy Echanis

Posted: August 5, 2008 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

I attended the hearing of the case of Randy Echanis today at the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 32.  Ka Randy, a long-time peasant organizer, is accused of being part of murders committed in the 80’s, which resulted in alleged mass graves in Leyte. Ka Randy’s co-accused include Satur Ocampo and Jose Ma. Sison. Interestingly, when the so-called mass graves happened, Ka Randy was in maximum security detention by the forces of the Marcos dictatorship, and was not in any position to carry out murders on a mass scale. The charges are therefore a part of the continuing political persecution of known activists and Arroyo foes.

The case of Ka Randy was again in the media after his transfer from the Philippine National Police detention facility in Camp Crame to the Manila City Jail. The ex-parte motion done by the PNP was granted by presiding judge Thelma Medina. Counsels for Ka Randy complained that they were not informed of the transfer. They also protested the move which would put Ka Randy together with “common criminals” despite his status as a political prisoner or “prisoner of conscience”. The issue of the proper detention place for Ka Randy will still be deliberated on by branch 32.

Ka Randy was late for his hearing, probably because he had to wait in line with around 150 other detainees at the Manila City Jail.

We saw him being held at the corridor along with the other detainees. He was handcuffed with another prisoner, and he wore the yellow shirt with DETAINEE written on it.

He was being treated like a common criminal.

But there was something in Ka Randy that made him stand out among the other prisoners. He stood there, his clenched fist raised, his bearings intact, his determination unflinching. He was happy to see family, friends and comrades from various organizations waiting for him and supporting his cause. He had been in detention since January in Leyte.

The Arroyo regime has been notorious for extrajudicial killings, abductions and now the filing of trumped up charges. Ka Randy’s case, and many others like it, should be vigorously protested. Everyone knows who should really be put behind bars.

Ka Randy while in the holding facility for detainees at Manila City Hall after his hearing.

Ka Randy while in the holding facility for detainees at Manila City Hall after his hearing. He's the one in a yellow shirt.


Krisis at kahirapan sa ilalim n ng rehimeng US-Arroyo

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Hulyo 2008

Ika-walong SONA na ni Gloria pero krisis ay lumala pa

Masyadong malala na ang inabot na pagkabulok ng rehimeng US-Arroyo.

Sumadsad ang “approval ratings” ni Gloria sa pinakamababang antas ng sinumang pangulo mula 1986. Nasa -38% ang popularidad ng pangulo dulot na rin ng patuloy na pagtaas ng presyo ng langis, krisis sa bigas at mapaniil na VAT. Hindi na nakabangon ang ratings ni Arroyo mula noong panahon ng dayaan sa eleksyon ng 2004, Hello Garci Scandal ng 2005, extrajudicial killings at alegasyon ng malawakan at malakihang mga kaso ng katiwalian.

Sa kabila nito, nagmamatigas pa rin ang administrasyon sa mga patakarang binabatikos na ng mayorya ng mamamayan bilang pahirap sa kanila. Isang halimbawa ang VAT sa langis, Sa kabila ng apela ng mga lider ng simbahang Katoliko at batikos ng mga mambabatas, ayaw pumayag ng rehimeng US-Arroyo na tanggalin ito dahil limpak ang koleksyon ng BIR mula sa VAT.

Hindi pa rin nakaka-alpas ang rehimen sa mga isyu ng katiwalian. Sariwa pa sa isip ng tao ang maanomalyang ZTE-NBN deal at inaabangan ang magiging testimonya ni dating House Speaker Jose de Venecia kung totoong isisiwalat niya ang kanyang nalalaman. Nagiging matunog din ang mga nakaraang kaso ng katiwalian tulad ng “Swine Scam” at ang Northrail contract.

Ang korapsyon sa panahon ng matinding krisis ay lalong magpapatindi sa galit ng mamamayan sa nakaupo sa Malacanang.

Ang pabigat na VAT ay binibigyang katwiran ng rehimen sa pamamagitan ng tinaguriang “subsidy” para sa mahihirap. Tinutuligsa ng marami ang pakanang ito bilang panandalian, di tunay na solusyon kundi panlilinlang at madaling mauwi sa korapsyon.

Nakakapanatili na lamang si Arroyo sa poder sa suporta ng mga heneral, big business (lokal na komprador kapitalista at dayuhang monopoly kapitalista), mga tagasunod at mga kaalyado sa lehislatura, sa local at pambansang pamahalaan at sa korte suprema.  . Nariyan pa rin ang suporta, ayuda at panunulsol ng US sa rehimen dahil sa masugid nitong pagtupad sa mga maka-imperyalistang polisiya, kabilang ang neo-liberal na globalisasyon at ang “gera laban sa terorismo”.

Desperado ang rehimeng Arroyo na bigyan ng “laman at sustansya” ang kanyang darating na SONA. Hindi kumagat ang islogan nilang “Ramdam ang kaunlaran” dahil sa tindi ng krisis. Hindi rin pinapaniwalaan ang islogan nilang “Labanan ang kahirapan” dahil hindi nga sapat ang mga ginagawa ng gobyerno para bigyang lunas ang krisis o kahit man lamang ibsan ang epekto nito. Naghahabol ng maaaring gamiting palusot si Arroyo sa gitna ng maraming mga bigong pangako at maling patakaran.

Sa huli ay mauuwi ang talumpati ni Arroyo sa litanya ng mga di-umanong “accomplishment” na walang batayan sa realidad, pawing kasinungalingan o kaya’y pinakikinabangan ng iilang naghahari. mamamayan,  kasabay ang mga planong “dole-out” at subsidyong ginagawa na sa kasalukuyan.

Kahirapan, di pag-unlad

Sa likod ng diumano’y paglago ng Gross Domestic Product, patuloy naman ang pagtindi ng kahirapan ng maraming Pilipino. Sa pinakahuling ulat ng NSCB, lumaki ang bilang ng mahihirap ng 3.8 milyon sa pagitan ng 2003 at 2006. Sa taya mismo ng gobyerno na malamang minemenos pa, umaabot na sa 27.6 milyon ang bilang ng mahihirap (o 33% ng populasyon) mula sa dating 23.8 milyon (30% ng populasyon).

Tandaang napakababa ng pamantayang ginagamit ng gobyerno upang sukatin ang kahirapan. Halimbawa, noong 2006, kailangan lamang daw ng isang pamilyang may limang kasapi ng P206 kada araw upang huwag maituring na mahirap. Napakalayo nito sa tinataya namang halagang kailangan ng isang pamilyang may parehong bilang ng kasapi na P894 kada araw upang mabuhay nang disente (i.e. batay sa family living wage ng NWPC) kung sa NCR. Kaya higit na marami pa ang maituturing na naghihikahos kumpara sa opisyal na datos ng gobyerno. Sa hiwalay na pagtaya, maaaring umabot sa 8-9 sa bawat 10 pamilya ang maituturing na mahirap.

Sinusukat lamang ng mga macroeconomic indicators gaya ng gross domestic product (GDP) growth ang paglago ng produksyon ng ekonomya sa loob ng isang takdang panahon. Pero hindi nito ipinapakita kung paano naipapamahagi ang yamang nililikha ng ekonomya upang pakinabangan ng higit na nakararami. Naipapamahagi ang yamang ito sa pamamagitan ng paglikha ng produktibo at sapat na bilang ng mga trabaho, pagseguro ng disenteng sahod at kita, maaasahang panlipunang serbisyo at iba pa. Pero ang mga ito rin mismo ang hindi tinutugunan ng rehimeng US-Arroyo.

Kawalan ng trabaho

Lumalala ang krisis sa kawalan at kakulangan ng trabaho sa bansa. Sa pinakahuling ulat ng NSO, mahigit 16 milyong manggagawang Pilipino (o halos 28% ng labor force) ang wala o kulang ang trabaho. Dinadaya pa nga ng gobyerno ang pagsukat sa kawalan ng trabaho dahil sinadya nitong baluktutin ang depinisyon ng empleyo upang itago ang tunay na kalagayan ng job scarcity sa bansa. Samantala, ang labor force participation rate (LFPR) na 63.2% noong April 2008 NSO survey ay siyang pinakamababa mula noong 1995.

Hindi nakakalikha ng sapat at produktibong trabaho ang mala-kolonyal at mala-pyudal na lipunang Pilipino. Ibayong pinalolobo ang bilang ng walang hanapbuhay ng patuloy na pagkawasak ng mga industriya sa bansa at patuloy na konsentrasyon ng mga lupang sakahan sa kanayunan. Sa April 2008 survey ng NSO, iniulat nitong umabot sa 168,000 netong trabaho ang nawala mula sa parehong panahon noong 2007 dahil sa 244,000 na nawalang trabaho sa industriya. Samantala, anumang trabaho ang nililikha ng ekonomya ay batay sa kung ano ang pangangailangan ng dayuhang pamumuhunan at hindi sa kung ano ang aktwal na pangangailangan ng ekonomya.

Bukod pa rito ang mga nalilikhang trabaho na di-produktibo, walang seguridad at napakababa ng kita gaya ng pangangatulong, pagtitingi, at iba pa dahil walang trabahong malikha ang industriya at agrikultura. Katunayan, halos 50% ng bilang ng may hanapbuhay sa bansa ang nasa sektor ng serbisyo kunsaan kabilang ang ganitong tipo ng mga trabaho gayundin ang mga negosyong call center at iba pa na siyang pinapaboran ng mga dayuhang imbestor.

Krisis pangkabuhayan

Hindi rin nakakatiyak ng disenteng pamumuhay ang mga Pilipinong may hanapbuhay. Nananatiling napakababa ng minimum wage at patuloy na iniiwanan ng umaalagwang pagtaas ng halaga ng pamumuhay. Sa NCR, umaabot lamang sa P345 hanggang P382 ang arawang minimum wage kasama na ang COLA, malayo sa itinuturing na ”living wage” na P894 kada araw.

Pumapatong sa kawalan ng hanapbuhay, disenteng sahod at kita at pangkalahatang pagkaatrasado ng ekonomya ang napakatinding pagtaas ng presyo ng mga pangunahing bilihin na bunga ng pagsasamantala ng mga dayuhan at lokal na monopolyo, maling patakaran ng gobyerno at mga pahirap na buwis gaya ng VAT.

Bunga halimbawa ng Oil Deregulation Law (RA 8479), hindi mapigilan ang pagsirit ng presyo ng mga produktong petrolyo. Mula nang ipatupad ang ODL, tumaas na ang presyo ng diesel, 738%; gasoline products, 554-572%, at LPG, 499%. Ngayong taon lamang, 19-20 ulit na OPH ang naitala na nagpataas sa presyo ng gasolina ng P19 kada litro; diesel, P24 kada litro; at kerosene, P22.50 kada litro. Mahalagang tumbukin din na mayroon mang OPH o wala, dati nang artipisyal na mataas ang presyo ng langis bunga ng pag-iral ng pandaigdigang kartel sa langis.

Pero pinalala pa ito nang patawan ng rehimeng US-Arroyo ng 12% VAT ang langis (RVAT Law) mula noong Nobyembre 2005 sa dikta ng IMF. Sa kasalukuyan, umaabot na sa mahigit P7 kada litro ang kuleksyon ng gobyerno sa VAT. Kailangan ng bangkaroteng rehimeng US-Arroyo ang VAT upang matiyak sa mga dayuhang creditor na patuloy itong makakapagbayad ng utang.

Magkasabwat ang rehimeng US-Arroyo at mga kumpanya ng langis sa pagpapahirap at pagpiga ng pakinabang sa mamamayan – ang gobyerno sa VAT sa langis at ang mga oil firms sa lumalaking tubo bunga ng OPH. Sa taya ng Kontra-KulimVAT, sa kada P1 kada litro na OPH, lumalaki ang koleksyon ng gobyerno mula sa VAT ng P5.5 milyon kada araw. Ipinapaliwanag nito ang pagmamatigas ni Arroyo sa VAT sa langis.

Upang bigyang katwiran ang VAT sa langis, ipinangangalandakan ng rehimeng US-Arroyo ang subsidy program nito na pinupondohan ng lumalaking koleksyon ng gobyerno mula sa VAT sa langis. Kabilang dito ang inanunsyong P4 bilyon na subsidyo (P1B power subsidy; P1B microfinancing para sa asawa ng mga tsuper at konduktor; P500M karagdagang benepisyo para sa mga senior citizens; P1B para sa mga lalawigang tinamaan ng kalamidad). Ngunit walang makabuluhang pakinabang dito ang mamamayan dahil sa bukod sa lubhang maliit, hindi rin ito naipapatupad sa buong bansa.

Samantala, kung aalisin ang VAT sa langis, agad na bababa ang presyo ng diesel ng hanggang P7.07 kada litro; gasolina (P6.93 hanggang P7.46); kerosene (P7.20); at LPG (P88.62 kada 11-kg tangke). Para sa mga tsuper, maaring madagdagan ang kanilang kita ng mahigit P212 kada maghapong pamamasada; tricycle driver, P29 kada pasada; maliit na mangingisdang gumagamit ng bangkang de-motor, hanggang P69 kada pangingisda. Ilan lamang ito sa mga kongkreto at direktang pakinabang ng ordinaryong mamamayan kung aalisin ang VAT sa mga produktong petrolyo.

Krisis sa bigas

Bunga naman ng patakarang liberalisasyon ng agrikultura at pribatisasyon ng NFA, hindi mapigilan ng gobyerno ang pagsasamantala ng kartel sa bigas. Balewala at pakitangtao lamang ang panapanahong raid na ginagawa nila sa mga warehouse ng mga rice wholesalers. Sa ilang bahagi ng Mindanao, umabot pa sa P50 kada kilo ang retail price ng bigas at walang palatandaang nag-iistabilisa ang presyo nito sa buong bansa. At kahit maging istable, sinasabi na ng NFA na nasa napakataas na P35-37 range ang magiging presyo ng commercial rice, malayung-malayo na sa P24-28 (maliban sa fancy) na presyo noon lamang Disyembre 2007.

Mula Disyembre 2007 hanggang nitong ikatlong linggo ng Hulyo 2008, tumaas ang retail price ng regular milled rice sa NCR ng 50%; well milled rice, 46%; at premium rice, 43 percent.

Patuloy na pagsandig sa importasyon at liberalisasyon ang tanging solusyon ng NFA sa krisis sa bigas at itinaas pa sa 2.4 milyon MT ang target nitong angkatin ngayong taon mula sa dating 2.1 milyon MT. Ginagamit din nitong palusot ang krisis sa bigas upang ituluy-tuloy ang pribatisasyon ng NFA at hikayatin ang mga pribadong trader na mag-angkat ng bigas. Lalo nitong pinalulubha ang kawalan ng seguridad sa bigas ng bansa habang ibayong pinalalakas ang lokal na kartel sa bigas.

Pagsirit ng presyo

Sa pangkalahatan, pumitik sa 11.4% ang inflation rate nitong Hunyo, pinakamataas sa loob ng 14 na taon. Itinulak ito nang husto ng 17.4% pagtaas ng presyo ng pagkain na bumubuo sa mahigit kalahati ng badyet ng isang pamilya.

Pinatitindi ng pagtaas ng presyo ang kahirapan sa bansa lalo’t sa kalagayang marami ang walang trabaho at kulang na kulang ang kita. Sa pag-aaral, halimbawa, ng ADB, sa bawat 10% pagtaas sa presyo ng pagkain, 2.3 milyon ang madadagdag sa bilang ng mahihirap. Sa kasalukuyang bilis ng pagtaas ng presyo ng bigas lamang, tinatayang madaragdagan ang bilang ng mahihirap ng 660,000. Samantala, sa bawat 10% pagtaas sa presyo ng langis, 160,000 Pilipino ang nadaragdag sa bilang ng mahihirap.

Pinahihirapan na nga ng husto ng kawalan ng maasahang programang lilikha ng trabaho, na pagpapanatili ng mababang sahod at kita, matinding pagtaas ng presyo ng mga pangunahing bilihin at pabigat na VAT, wala pang maasahang panlipunang serbisyo mula sa rehimeng US-Arroyo. Mula 2001 hanggang 2008, halos 28% ng taunang pambansang badyet ang inilalaan sa interest payments pa lamang samantalang napakaliit ng nakalaan para sa edukasyon (15%); kalusugan (1.7%); at pabahay (0.3%).

Sa halip na panlipunang serbisyo, karahasan at pagpapalayas ang dinaranas ng anakpawis at maralita sa kamay ng rehimeng US-Arroyo. Ayon sa tinipong datos ng KADAMAY, halimbawa, mula July 2007 hanggang February 2008, aabot na sa 24 na kaso ng demolisyon ang naitala sa NCR pa lamang na nagpalayas sa may 12,345 pamilya bukod pa sa 2,650 kabahayan.

Papanagutin ang rehimeng US-Arroyo

Walang aasahan ang mamamayan sa darating na SONA ni Gloria kundi pawing kasinungalingan.

Ipinapakita ng kasalukuyang sumasahol na kalagayan na dapat nang tapusin ang paghahari ng pahirap, korap, tuta at pasistang rehimeng US-Arroyo. Hindi dapat tiisin pa ng dalawang taon ang isang bulok na pamamahala.

Dapat managot ang kasalukuyang rehimen sa pagkawasak ng kabuhayan at pagdarahop ng milyun-milyong Pilipino.

Dapat managot ang rehimen sa patuloy na pandarambong sa kabang-yaman, ekonomya at patrimonya ng bansa sa gitna ng matinding krisis at kahirapan dinaranas ng mamamayan.

Even the mainstream economists can no longer ignore the gravity of the crisis.

The current economic crisis which saw inflation at a 9-year high, combined with widespread unemployment, has the makings of a “perfect economic storm”, according to economist Benjamin Diokno. There will be unrest he says. Prices of rice, fuel and other basic commodities are increasing every week and the government is not making any headway in protecting consumers.

No longer can the administration hide behind the rhetoric of “economic growth”, not when rice prices, fuel prices, power rates, tuition rates and other basic needs are rising. If anything, the current crisis exposes how shallow claims of growth were in the first place. Those figures, like the 7.3% GDP growth of 2007, are stacked like a house of cards, pretty to look at yet flimsy to begin with.

The current crisis is borne out of years of abuse of neoliberal policies such as liberalization, deregulation and privatization. The imposition of these policies on a basically backward, agrarian, semi-feudal and semi-colonial economy such as the Philippines proved disastrous in the long-term.

Agricultural liberalization, land-conversion and production for exports combined with semi- feudal relations in the countryside, severely undermined the country’s food self-sufficiency. Our reliance on imported rice put the country at the mercy of international price speculators amidst tightening global food supply. The rice crisis hasn’t eased as long lines to NFA warehouses continue to form.

The deregulation policy in the oil industry along with oppressive tax policies such as the VAT, have combined to raise fuel prices to unprecedented levels. It is believed that pump prices could reach up to P60/liter, even more. The current trend in global oil prices is also believed to be the product of speculation. Some say that as much as 60% of prices are speculative. This should be enough reason for the government to stop the policy of deregulation of prices. This should also be enough basis for the government to scrap the VAT on oil, as the tax take increases as prices go up.

The deregulated and privatized power industry on the other hand has given rise to high power rates and billions of pesos worth of unjust charges. Take-or-pay provisions in contracts with Independent Power Producers have allowed guaranteed profits for Filipino and, multinational firms. Unjust charges and high taxes have also combined to raise rates. Under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, an IMF-WB-ADB imposition, power rates are expected to remain high in the coming years. The policies embodied in this law have been used by Napocor, Meralco, and other distributors and IPP’s to enable them to gain huge profits at the expense of consumers. Given these conditions, the P500.00 one-time power subsidy is nothing more than a token measure aimed at appeasing growing public disgust.

If there is a “perfect economic storm”, government is readying its “Noah’s Ark” of economic measures. Many doubt that this is in any way a serious response to the crisis. Government measures have long been reduced to tokenism. The P20 wage hike, the fertilizer subsidy, the student tuition subsidy, the electricity subsidy, all short term measures that do not provide real and long-term solution.

And while people are desperately trying to make ends meet, the top officials of the administration are living the life off stolen wealth. Contracts and projects entered into by the Arroyo administration have been exposed as overpriced, a condition aimed at accommodating
systematic bureaucratic corruption. What makes this even more oppressive is that these overpriced projects used as milking cows of the corrupt are being paid for by taxpayers themselves. These same overpriced projects are used to justify such oppressive tax measures
as the Value Added Tax.

The long-awaited de Venecia testimony may shed light on the corrupt practices of the regime. This is perhaps the reason why Palace spin-doctors are busy trying to pre-empt the testimony.

The brewing storm will not just be a confluence of economic indicators. It would be the result of the people’s outrage over government’s anti-people policies, systematic corruption and decades-
old oppression and exploitation. Streets would be flooded with marchers, and righteous anger will rain on the oppressors.

And when the storm comes bearing down on Arroyo, the only boat or “Ark” available for her would be the one waiting along the Pasig river, just outside Malacañang. The same boat that ferried a former president out of the Palace in 2001. ###

The power debate rages on. This time, government officials are talking about systems losses and the “ghost deliveries” of electricity.

The case of the systems losses is an interesting one. There’s been so much finger-pointing and accusation, it tends to get confusing. What is this charge called “systems loss”? Who or what allowed it? Who should be made accountable for it?

The collection of systems losses is allowed by law, by the anti-pilferage act of 1994 as well as the Electric Power Industry Reform Act through its implementing rules and regulations. This item in our Meralco bill, which is around 8% of our total payments, has three components. First are the technical losses, then the pilferage losses then lastly, Meralco’s “company use”.

Technical losses represent electricity lost in the course of its delivery, from heat caused by friction or resistance in cables, or from worn-out equipment that are no longer as efficient as before. These leakages, according to engineers, are normal and can be limited by making the system more efficient. Still, this is electricity lost that we end up paying for.

Then there’s electricity lost to pilferage, lost to people who consume electricity but have no meters and therefore do not pay for their consumption. They don’t pay, but we do. Legitimate customers are actually shouldering the cost of electricity used by pilferers. Consumers ask, why do we pay for electricity stolen by other people? Why does Meralco and the government allow this?

It should be noted that Meralco, when it apprehends pilferers, is entitled to recover the lost payments from the offenders. This amount is supposed to be credited to customers through the lowering of rates.

Since Meralco can actually recover the cost of electricity lost to pilferage, then it can sit back and just wait for the collections to come instead of running after the pilferers. Someone told me that about 1/3 of Meralco’s systems loss charge actually covers pilfered electricity. That’s a huge amount of electricity we did not use but we end up paying for.

The last component of systems loss is what industry people call “company use”. Meralco passes on to consumers the cost of the company’s electricity consumption. In one year, Meralco passed on to consumers the cost of 75 million kWh or P427.5 million worth of electricity. First thing that comes to mind is, “Aren’t they lucky?”

Ok, to be fair, as in all businesses, the cost of electricity is computed as part of the operating expenses and is generally passed on to customers. If we buy a pair of tsinelas, chances are, the cost of electricity used in making the tsinelas is already computed in its selling price. I guess Meralco is entitled to pass on some of its electricity use to consumers if the consumed electricity is essential to the delivery of services. BUT, this doesn’t and should not reflect as systems losses. Second, and more importantly, how exactly do we know if the cost of electricity being passed on to us is actually essential in the delivery of Meralco’s services.

For example, I go to Ortigas in December and I see Meralco’s building having all these Christmas lights on its building façade. Is the electricity used for the Christmas lights essential to the delivery of services? Why should I pay for Meralco’s Christmas lights? Surely that sucks, especially if you yourself don’t have Christmas lights at home.

Meralco passed on to consumers 75 million kWh in one year. This is legal, they say. True, it is legal. Wanna know how much Meralco can legally pass on to consumers in the form of company use? Meralco is allowed to recover “company use” up to 1% of its total kWh sales. How much is the kWh sales? Just a whopping 25 billion kWh last year. One percent of that is 250 million kWh. Technically, Meralco is far away from the actual cap. It’s company use is probably less than 1/3 of the 250 million. And for all intents and purposes, they can turn on all their lights and air conditioning 24/7, and it still would fall within the allowable recoveries. The cap is just too high and Meralco can just pass on to consumers just about anything, including the electricity used by the Meralco theater when Tuck and Patti performed in the Philippines.

How did all of this happen? Well, the government let it happen. The regulators said it was ok. The authors of the anti-pilferage law said it’s ok. So when Meralco says that everything is legal, they are actual right. But as I said before, being legal doesn’t make it just.

Should technical losses be charged to consumers? Perhaps a portion of it can be allowable, though that still has to be determined. The cap has to be very low so as to encourage efficiency. At least that’s what some engineers think. But until they determine what constitutes this, they should stop charging technical losses to consumers.

Should the cost of pilfered electricity be passed on to consumers? Definitely not!

Should Meralco’s “company use” be passed on to consumers? Meralco first has to define what part of its electricity consumption is essential to the delivery of services. If ever they are allowed to recover some costs, it should not be as an item called systems loss but maybe as part of its operating costs (distribution). And only if it is truly essential in the delivery of services, and that excludes electricity for Christmas lights, the Meralco theater, and so on. This has to be limited and defined carefully. A sky-is-the-limit cap of 250 million kWh is out of the question.

And if you think charging systems losses is dumb, government has managed to do something dumber. It applied the Value Added Tax on systems losses. This made one businessman, Jess Arranza of the Federation of Philippine Industries to remark that the application was “absurd”. Former senator Ralph Recto, the author of the R-VAT also thought that the law did not provide for the taxing of systems losses.

We estimate the VAT on systems loss to be about P4 billion, from 2006-2007. Remember, systems losses comprise 8% of our bill. If you slap a 10.5% VAT on this, that’s already a significant amount. Remember also that Meralco sells 24-25 billion kWh a year so that’s a huge base from which to get the VAT.

Meralco enjoys the benefits of charging the systems losses so it is not blameless in this mess. Government meanwhile was the one who allowed the collection of these unjust charges, both systems losses and the VAT. What irks me is that the government pretends to be innocent when in fact it is the one supposedly regulating the industry and protecting consumers. If it weren’t for the political crisis and the need for the Arroyo government to score populist points, these matters would not have been given attention by the administration and its allies.