The Coming Fall of the “Noynoy Project”

noynoy

The writing is on the wall: “P-Noy” is losing support. As a result of the wrath of Typhoon Yolanda (aka “Haiyan”), Philippine President B.S. Aquino III has been exposed to the rest of the entire world as being irredeemably incompetent and even unconcerned about other people’s lives. He’s on his way out. The “Noynoy Project” is coming to a disastrous end.

The selfish Filipino oligarchs who propped up the obviously incompetent B.S. Aquino III to run for president on a purely name-recall “platform” to win the 2010 presidential elections with the intention of having their monopolistic interests looked after by Noynoy’s administration will eventually have to answer for their crime. Make no mistake, folks — pushing him to run for the highest office knowing fully well that Noynoy Aquino is a completely incapable and unempathetic individual was an act of evil and utter selfishness. They got him into a position of immense responsibility when all he really wanted to do was to play video games and spend time with his special nephew Josh. It is an unforgiveable crime. The evil oligarchs simply wanted Noynoy to do nothing that would create an inclusive economy that would promote competition, meritocracy, and provide upward mobility for hardworking Filipinos. Having the incompetent Noynoy doing nothing would mean protecting the rotten status quo that keeps the rich oligarchs rich, while preventing driven and hard-working individuals from moving up the ladder and later on engage in direct economic competition against the already entrenched old order of oligarchs.

special uncle

Noynoy’s only “job” (which he is doing, by the way) is to prevent the pro-oligarch and anti-poor 1987 Constitution from getting amended and improved. Every single time the president is asked about the need to fix the faulty constitution in order to attract more foreign investments to create jobs for ordinary Filipinos, his answer has always been “No.”

So yes, he’s fulfilling a role for the oligarchs and not much else. But what happens when crisis strikes?

Here’s what happens: Noynoy freezes. All the time!

In the Luneta Bus Hostage Crisis of August 23, 2010, he was totally absent even if the least he could have done was to briefly step in early on (within the first two hours of the bus hijacking) and announce that the National Government was taking over the resolution of that crisis. It was clearly beyond the capacity of the City of Manila to handle it since it involved coordinating with agencies such as the Office of the Ombudsman and other agencies which are “above its pay-grade.” (Vice Mayor Isko Moreno even had to travel through traffic all the way from Manila City Hall to the Office of the Ombudsman in Commonwealth Avenue just to try to meet the hostage taker’s easy-to-meet demands of reinstatement to his old job. But Isko Moreno did not have the authority to get that reinstatement order signed in time.) The National Government could have simply assigned a competent high-ranking national-level official and given him/her the appropriate “blanket authority” to take care of handling the crisis in a timely and efficient manner. But see, that’s why it all went to hell and people got killed. Noynoy did not step in at all to delegate all the necessary authority to someone competent while it was still early.

The same thing has been happening with this recent Yolanda/Haiyan typhoon disaster. TV News coverage – both local and foreign – repeatedly exposes how the national government is too slow to respond to the requests of the local governments of Tacloban and other affected places. There’s essentially no sense of urgency on the part of Noynoy to do anything right or at least temporarily assign someone who is experienced and competent enough to be the overall crisis-coordinator with all the necessary blanket authority to by-pass any bureaucratic processes. When a victim who had been held at gunpoint by looters at some point complained about the anarchy, the looting, and the violence that has spontaneously ensued as a result of desperation, and suggested declaring a limited “martial law” for the affected areas, Noynoy responded by saying “But you did not die, right?” Worse, he even walked out of that meeting!

Benigno Aquino III, Mar Roxas

There will always be disasters and emergencies and leaders will always be called upon to provide true leadership and the ability to organize the country’s resources, armed services, and bureaucracy to do whatever needs to get done. We do not deserve to have leaders who snap at victims who merely suggest certain courses of action based on what they know. We shouldn’t have leaders who totally “lose it” and walk out of meetings just because they can’t handle the stress. Leaders are supposed to handle stress. If Noynoy can’t handle stress, then he has no business being a leader!

I vividly recall how the pro-Noynoy campaign tried to brush aside the obvious fact that Noynoy Aquino was the most incompetent among all the candidates for president: “He may not be very competent, but at least he has a good heart and he is not corrupt,” so they said.

Yeah right. Not corrupt? Well what about the Pork Barrel scam? Not corrupt? What about his act of bribing legislators using the Priority Development Assistance Fund to get a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court ousted?

Let’s be honest. That whole point in misdirecting the gullible Filipino electorate’s attention away from Noynoy Aquino’s obvious lack of any leadership abilities or even any sign of personal achievement and talk about some non-existent quality (“incorruptibility”) was meant to get Filipinos forgetting about what was to happen when the incompetent Noynoy did win and thus defeated candidates way better than him.

Well, Filipinos, just look at who among last May 2010’s candidates for president is doing the greatest good right now: Richard Gordon – Chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross (and has always been with the Red Cross & Red Crescent Society even long before he got into politics). He’s been extremely active and on the scene in practically all disasters and emergencies, and the Philippine National Red Cross – under his leadership – has trained their personnel to be extremely competent in fulfilling their duties.

Noynoy Aquino has proven to be a total failure. His administration has done nothing other than to prop him up by releasing false reports of “economic growth” that even got foreign media fooled. What economic growth? There was no increase in productive capacity! Only an increase in consumption fueled by the desperation of more and more jobless, underemployed, or underpaid Filipinos forced to seek jobs in faraway countries so that as soon as they start earning salaries, they send remittances back. That is hardly the sign of a growing economy, especially if the real unemployment rate is likely to be somewhere along the lines of 30 to 40 percent of the total working-age population, but they make it look like our unemployment rates is only around 7%. What a lie!

But never mind. First things first: let’s go back to the typhoon victims.

Foreign volunteers have teared-up on TV when talking about the victims they saw and tried to help. A Turkish Chamber of Commerce leader who led the Turkish relief efforts delegation – Mr. Irfan Karabulut – was shown on GMA News tearing up and sobbing while he described the dire situation on the ground in Leyte.

Have we seen Noynoy Aquino cry or sob for Our People?

No. We’ve seen him smirk and smile! The guy is really abnormally incapable of any empathy towards fellow human beings. It’s not like we should be discriminating against people who have some kind of psychological disorder and can’t show empathy. We just simply shouldn’t have such a person as our country’s top leader!

No competence and no empathy and this guy is the Philippines’ leader?

Something has to be done at the systemic level. Our Presidential System whose winners emerge as a result of name-recall and popularity is at fault. After all, Noynoy won purely on the basis of his parents’ reputations. He won because people voted for his late parents Ninoy and Cory Aquino, and Noynoy got those votes win. We clearly need a better system.

Under a parliamentary system, Noynoy-types would hardly ever get a stab at becoming the top executive leader. And if someone like Noynoy ever did slip through, the system works in a way that a mishandled tragedy like the Bus Hostage Crisis that exposed his incompetence would have already gotten him thrown out and replaced. Immediately. No need for a long, drawn-out process of impeachment.

But we have a Presidential System so he’s still there, smirking and smiling and making excuses on Christiane Amanpour’s interview, talking about how he expected that the first responder in such an emergency would be the Local Government Units. Well, everyone knew that the Tacloban City local government was likely to be unable to function thanks to the overwhelming strength of that Typhoon, exacerbated by a Tsunami-like Storm Surge that is likely to have drowned and swept away lots of people.

How can anyone expect the Tacloban government to respond if they’re victims themselves? That’s why the National Government was supposed to step in immediately! All he did was to spew out excuses and cop-outs on Christiane Amanpour’s show, no different from how he made his first appearance in the news right after the Bus Hostage Massacre and used the hostage tragedy in Beslan, Northern Ossetia in Russia as an excuse to cover up his own ineptitude by saying “…but, as you know, even in Russia—they have resources and sophistication—when they had that theater hostage taking situation, the casualties were even more severe.”  What a freakin’ cop-out!

And Noynoy has even rubbed his bad habits off on Mar Roxas. Mar has recently been trying so hard to show his subservience to Noynoy, donning a yellow shirt instead of the national colors and reading off Noynoy’s cop-out script. Does Mar Roxas not remember how Noynoy’s inner circle screwed him over when they betrayed him and pushed for the Noynoy-Binay combination instead of what was supposed to be the Liberal Party’s solid Noynoy-Mar ticket?

Instead of sucking up to Noynoy, this disaster could have been Mar’s shining moment of stepping in as a real no-nonsense DILG Secretary, taking real control of the relief operations, taking initiative to disregard bureaucracy where Noynoy wouldn’t. But no… Even Mar Roxas talked about the need to fulfill certain bureaucratic procedures in front of CNN Reporter Andrew Stevens who retorted to Mar in exasperation “But surely you need to override bureaucracy in the light of this situation.”

This preoccupation with using “bureaucracy” as an excuse is part of the Noynoy script which has been used over and over again! When former Hong Kong Chief Executive Sir Donald Tsang tried calling Noynoy several times, Noynoy and his staff said something about how the HK Chief Executive “did not follow the proper protocol.” For crying out loud, Noynoy, that was an emergency situation! Suspend all this B.S. about protocol, paperwork, and bureaucratic procedure in order to save lives! Protocol and bureaucratic procedure are both done for normal situations, but during emergencies? The priority is saving lives!

It’s the same muddling up of priorities over and over again. And the Wharton-educated Mar Roxas who worked several years in the USA is supposed to be way more intelligent, more experienced, and more practical-minded than the grossly incompetent, unempathetic, and totally clueless Noynoy Aquino. But no, Mar Roxas is sucking it up to his lazy and sub-standard boss by wearing yellow, drinking the Noynoy Kool-Aid and mouthing all types of useless excuses and cop-outs, and generally just making himself a tool within a wider cover-up operation.

Mar doesn’t seem to realize it, but he’s now being turned into some kind of a scapegoat in all of this. A recent Inquirer news report came out trying to make it look as if the conflict was between him versus Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez, with Noynoy Aquino being presented as the peacemaking mediator who got both sides working together. Ultimately, Mar Roxas was merely following orders from Noynoy when asking the Mayor to declare that he could no longer function as Mayor. And now they’re trying to make it look like Noynoy is the good guy who’s bringing both together? Unbelievable how these people think they can fool the Filipino people!

The Noynoy Administration isn’t just incompetent. It’s evil!

People have talked about Noynoy going from Hero to Zero. His being totally unfit for the presidency has been exposed beyond reasonable doubt. He has single-handedly destroyed his family’s honor and now the Aquino-Cojuangco family’s good press has been totally eroded by his incompetence and ineptitude. Truth be told, Noynoy’s family and relatives knew the risks of making him president. But I guess they didn’t think he’d screw up big time and thus drag them down with him.

Noynoy is irretrievably on his way down and out. But before he gets thrown out, he can at least do the right thing and fix the flawed 1987 Constitution and regain the respect and honor he lost. He could at least try doing an F.W. De Klerk and fix the flawed status-quo.

Mandela_De_Klerk_309814b

Frederik Willem De Klerk was the last Apartheid Era leader of South Africa. Although he was a conservative member of the old white minority, he saw how Apartheid couldn’t be sustained anymore as his country continued to be ostracized in trade & economic relations, banned in many sporting events, and suffered from extremely negative press due to their institutionalized racism. He knew that the Apartheid era was coming to an end soon as it was losing support and relevance, so despite being the leader of the old order, he took the initiative to negotiate with the African National Congress and move to get Nelson Mandela freed. He presided over the dismantling of Apartheid, and the democratization of South Africa.

While De Klerk was from the same caste of people who had previously set-up the evil Apartheid system, instead of getting demonized, De Klerk is actually considered to be a hero as he was the one who helped to end it and paved the way for the equality of all South Africans and helped get Mandela becoming the next leader. He saw that Apartheid and the old order had to go, so he moved to get rid of it under his watch.

F.W. De Klerk got the Nobel Peace Prize together with Nelson Mandela in 1993 and in the election the year after, was named as Nelson Mandela’s deputy in what essentially became a unity government.

Despite being on the “way out”, Apartheid-era leader De Klerk became a hero and an acknowledged partner in the formation of the new South Africa.

Back to Noynoy Aquino…

The writing is pretty much on the wall:

מנא, מנא, תקל, ופרסין

Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin

(Modern translation of the biblical phrase: “You’re going down, boy!”)

Many of the people who used to be so supportive of him have suddenly gone silent on social media. All over social media, in taxi cabs, in open public spaces, the vast majority of people hate Noynoy & his administration for their incompetence in handling the Rescue & Disaster Relief Operations. The only few remaining ones who continue to support Noynoy look like a bunch of lunatics. Noynoy is truly on his way out. He has destroyed his clan’s name and whatever respect his late parents Ninoy and Cory Aquino used to get has gotten replaced by hatred and contempt all on Noynoy’s account.

He no longer has a political career. It’s over.

But instead of just simply giving up just like that, Noynoy can do an F.W. De Klerk and make sure that his eventual exit turns him into a respected figure – a transformative agent of reform. That’s something he can do to turn his life around.

2012 FDI in ASEANLook at how low the Philippines’ FDI-inflows are. They’re pathetic. And that’s because many would-be foreign investors get turned off by Constitutional Restrictions that explicitly discourage majority foreign-owned businesses from coming into the Philippines. When we start needing to rebuild and recover after this disaster is over, we won’t be able to do it alone and we’ll clearly need a lot of foreign direct investments to help create jobs for all those displaced people who lost everything.

To facilitate this post-disaster reconstruction, Noynoy must CoRRECT™ the flaws of the 1987 Constitution. The three things he needs to facilitate in order to earn the respect of all future generations are:

1) Economic Liberalization: Remove all the anti-FDI Restrictions in the Constitution in order that foreign investors can easily come in and create jobs for Filipinos. Local investors will never be enough given the massive devastation and loss of infrastructure resulting from the killer-typhoon. If we’re so happy to receive foreign aid, well, people will be much happier to stand on their own and work for a living, never mind that their employer is a foreign company. We’re doing it already anyway: OFW’s slave away working for foreigners in foreign lands. Well, how about opening up the economy to foreign companies so that our people won’t have to be OFW’s and instead can work for foreign companies while still based in the Philippines and be close to their loved ones?

2) Evolving Federalism: Set up the gradual region-based decentralization to eventually move towards regional autonomy to economically empower the regions and provinces to decongest the overcrowded National Capital Region. When regions are given the ability to determine their own economic policies, chances are they will more likely come up with more business-friendly policies since they are closer on the ground to the people in their areas. Most OFW’s come from the regions and provinces after all. Why not get the regions empowered to attract investors on their own and set their own tax policies and do whatever they see fit in bringing in more jobs?

3) Shift to the Parliamentary System: Shift to a system of government where incompetents do not emerge and in case they do, it is easy to remove and replace them with better people. In a Parliamentary System, competent statesmen like Richard Gordon, Gibo Teodoro, and others have better chances of becoming Prime Minister. In a Parliamentary System, transparency is higher while corruption is lower (assuming ceteris paribus, that is). It is no wonder that Parliamentary Systems by and large dominate the top ranks of global competitiveness, least corruption, highest GDP per capita, most economic freedom, best human development, etc. Elections are less expensive and are much more focused on platforms and parties rather than on candidates personalities and their surnames.

Noynoy has no choice. He has already lost the respect of the people. Outside the Philippines, he is seen to be an “empty suit” who simply rode on his dead parents’ reputations and cannot deliver. He has been exposed as an incompetent puppet and proxy of the evil oligarchy, and he has even used the disaster to get back at political opponents like Tacloban’s Romualdez family who come from the political opposition.

But that doesn’t mean he can’t regain respect and honor. He just needs to make the necessary reforms happen soon.

To President Noynoy Aquino: Your days are numbered. You are on the way out. But before you go, please make sure you do what you can to fix the flaws of your mother’s 1987 Constitution. If you do that, Noynoy, at least you can end your term on a positive note. Who knows, if you do get the ball rolling for Constitutional Reform, you can earn your place as a real hero and regain the respect and honor that many of your administration’s wrong decisions have caused you and your family to lose.

CoRRECT™ the Constitution!

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About the Author

OrionOrion Pérez Dumdum comes from an IT background and analyzes systems the way they should be: logically and objectively.

Being an Overseas Filipino Worker himself, he has seen firsthand how the dearth of investment – both local and foreign – is the cause of the high unemployment and underemployment that exists in the Philippines as well as the low salaries earned by people who do have jobs.Being Cebuano (half-Cebuano, half-Tagalog), and having lived in Cebu, he is a staunch supporter of Federalism.

Having lived in progressive countries which use parliamentary systems, Orion has seen first hand the difference in the quality of discussions and debates of both systems, finding that while discussions in the Philippines are mostly filled with polemical sophistry often focused on trivial and petty concerns, discussions and debates in the Parliamentary-based countries he’s lived in have often focused on the most practical and most important points.

He has a nephew and niece who are related to Noynoy Aquino which is why Orion really wants Noynoy to be able to succeed at reforming the flawed Philippine system via Constitutional Reform. Rather than having his nephew and niece suffer the consequences of being related to Noynoy who is turning out to be a failure, Orion would like Noynoy Aquino to do the right thing and regain the honor he has lost so that his own niece and nephew won’t have to suffer that stigma. Noynoy must get the ball rolling for Constitutional Reform.

Orion first achieved fame as one of the most remembered and most impressive  among the winners of the popular RPN-9 Quiz Show “Battle of the Brains”, and got a piece he wrote – “The Parable of the Mountain Bike” – featured in Bob Ong’s first bestselling compilation of essays “Bakit Baligtad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino?” He is the principal co-founder of the CoRRECT™ Movement to spearhead the campaign to inform the Filipino Public about the urgent need for Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation.

Nápoles & Pork Barrel: It’s the Lousy System

Jeane Napoles

There’s been a lot of anger expressed regarding Janet Nápoles, her daughter Jeane, their lavish lifestyles, and the Pork Barrel scam that funded it all. Everyone seems to be screaming about the need to abolish the Pork Barrel, which today bears the official name “Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

But before jumping into the “abolish the Pork Barrel” bandwagon, it is necessary for Filipinos to first understand why the Pork Barrel system exists, and why it was institutionalized the way it has been in the Philippines. Understanding this will allow us to see if merely abolishing the Pork Barrel fund will actually work, or whether it is actually part of a wider set of systemic problems that stem from a common set of root causes.

1987 Constitution Kicks FedEx Out

fedex

Perfect timing. Just what we needed for the Constitutional Reform campaign…

The Court of Appeals just recently reiterated its decision uphold the 1987 Constitution to ban FedEx from operating in the Philippines because its operations were deemed to be  “detrimental to the interest of local competitors and of the Philippine economy as a whole.” The CA based its decision on Article XII Section 11 of the Constitution, which provides that “operation of a public utility shall be granted to Filipino citizens or to corporations or associations organized under the laws of the Philippines.”

Painful as it is for so many Filipinos (particularly those in the nursing profession who are looking to apply for nursing positions in the USA as FedEx is the only accredited courier for the US nursing sector’s document handling) who rely on FedEx to send or receive important documents or parcels abroad, the Court of Appeals has  proven to be a perfect tool in proving just how flawed the 1987 Constitution is and just what role the Constitution’s anti-FDI restrictions play in actively discouraging MNCs and Foreign Direct Investors from coming into the country or kicking them out.

For a long time, a lot of not-so-informed people used to defend the anti-FDI restrictions in the Constitution by saying that “the Constitutional restrictions against foreign investors aren’t the main reason why MNCs and Foreign Direct Investments”, saying that “Red Tape and Corruption are the key reason for why MNCs choose not to come to the Philippines.” Well, unfortunately for these people, there are obvious examples of countries who are considered to be worse on the red-tape and the Corruption Perceptions Index ranking than the Philippines who are actually doing way better as far as attracting Foreign Direct Investments are concerned.

2012 FDI in ASEAN

Thanks to the anti-FDI restrictions in the Constitution, MNCs are few and FDI inflows are the lowest in the Philippines

Take Indonesia and Vietnam, for instance. Both those countries continue to beat the Philippines in terms of bringing FDI in, but a simple look into the Corruption Perceptions Index ranking for the year 2012 will reveal that the Philippines is considered to be “cleaner” or “less corrupt” than both Indonesia and Vietnam who are both considered to have worse corruption perception indices. Obviously, the argument that Corruption keeps MNCs away doesn’t hold water: Indonesia and Vietnam outperform the Philippines in FDI inflows by such high multiples that it is obvious that something else is making them more attractive to FDI: their Constitution’s and laws’ openness to foreign investors.

CPI ranking

The 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International shows that the Philippines is seen to be less corrupt than both Indonesia & Vietnam

This recent bit of news is just what we Constitutional Reform advocates needed to prove the DIRECT effect that the 1987 Constitution’s anti-FDI provisions have on Multinational Companies in the Philippines.

Because honestly, it’s not just that FedEx is being kicked out of the Philippines. FedEx is an extremely well-known company all around the world whose recent “expulsion” from the Philippines by the Court of Appeals will reverberate around the world scare away all other would-be MNCs and would-be foreign investors from ever considering the Philippines as a viable investment location.

If you think about it, most of the Constitution’s anti-FDI provision’s effects in discouraging MNCs tend to be indirect. Aside from the “Red Tape” and “Corruption” bogeyman excuses many point to as the causes for low FDIs, the other cause often mentioned is the high cost of electricity in the Philippines. Well, how did cost of electricity get that high anyway? Simple: Low power generating capacity caused by the dearth of investments in the power generation sector. Had the Philippines been more open to foreign direct investment in such public utilities, then we wouldn’t have to deal with such high costs in the first place.

Just the same, the FedEx case is a perfect example of the 1987 Constitution’s anti-FDI restrictions having a direct effect on discouraging multinational corporations from coming into the Philippines or kicking existing ones out.

FedEx is a company that thousands of other companies, local and foreign, rely on. With the 1987 Constitution’s anti-FDI restrictions, FedEx is clearly not going to be the only foreign-owned courier service to get kicked out from the Philippines. UPS and DHL are probably in the pipeline. Other MNCs who hear about this case – and this case is clearly going to be very well known around the world – are going to take note of how the Court of Appeals interpreted the Constitution’s anti-FDI restrictions. It’s just a matter of time before these MNCs currently in the Philippiens all decide to leave while they can, while those merely thinking of investing in the Philippines may just decide to avoid the Philippines altogether.

Let’s not forget what happens when an MNC closes shop or is forced out of a country: lots of people lose jobs. With a high profile company like FedEx getting kicked out of the Philippines, a lot of other MNCs might just follow suit. What’ll happen to their employees?

It’s quite ironic that the news of FedEx’s expulsion from the Philippines by the Court of Appeals had to happen on the day of Noynoy Aquino’s disappointing State of the Nation Address. Perhaps it’s about time Noynoy decided to study the issue of Constitutional Reform in greater detail, if he truly wants to leave a positive legacy for his name over in the history books.

And by the way, Abi Valte and Edwin Lacierda, please take note… If you two “spokespersons” do not want to be exposed as being ignorant about economics, it’s high time the both of you refrained from saying anything against the need for Constitutional Reform and go tell your boss Noynoy to start reading up on it so he can learn to do the right thing. Wagging the dog and fooling the Public with window dressing and SONA videos just ain’t gonna cut it.

CoRRECT™ the Constitution!

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About the Author

OrionOrion Pérez Dumdum comes from an IT background and analyzes systems the way they should be: logically and objectively.

Being an Overseas Filipino Worker himself, he has seen firsthand how the dearth of investment – both local and foreign – is the cause of the high unemployment and underemployment that exists in the Philippines as well as the low salaries earned by people who do have jobs. Being Cebuano (half-Cebuano, half-Tagalog), and having lived in Cebu, he is a staunch supporter of Federalism.

Having lived in progressive countries which use parliamentary systems, Orion has seen first hand the difference in the quality of discussions and debates of both systems, finding that while discussions in the Philippines are mostly filled with polemical sophistry often focused on trivial and petty concerns, discussions and debates in the Parliamentary-based countries he’s lived in have often focused on the most practical and most important points.

Orion first achieved fame as one of the most remembered and most impressive  among the winners of the popular RPN-9 Quiz Show “Battle of the Brains”, and got a piece he wrote – “The Parable of the Mountain Bike” – featured in Bob Ong’s first bestselling compilation of essays “Bakit Baligtad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino?” He is the principal co-founder of the CoRRECT™ Movement to spearhead the campaign to inform the Filipino Public about the urgent need for Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation.

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If you liked this, you might also like these articles by Orion Pérez Dumdum:

1. Exposing Esposo

2. Philippine Progress: Shift in Sports, Shift in System

3. Senator Pangilinan and the Parliamentary System

4. The Parliamentary System Fits the Philippines

5. Two Filipinos: A Football Legend & A Spanish Prime Minister

6. Eight Points in Enlightening the Élite

7. F to A: What P-Noy Needs to do in order to Succeed

Benign0 is just as clueless as “Benigno”

benign0-benigno - smaller

Yes, you read it right.

We’re talking about Benign0 (the “Get Real Philippines” guy who uses the “Jimi Hendrix” avatar on the left) being just as clueless as his “namesake” Benigno S. Aquino III. Why so?

Because just like his “namesake” Benigno S. Aquino III, benign0 is rabidly against Constitutional Reform, and just recently came out with a new article that highlights his total lack of insight and analytical ability when he attacks the notion of removing the blanket anti-Foreign Direct Investment restrictions found in the 1987 Constitution which actively discourage Multinational Corporations (aka “MNC’s”) and Foreign Direct Investments (aka “FDI”) from coming into the Philippines.

Check this screenshot out:

bobonign0

Oh wow. Really, benign0? Do you really think that your namesake’s point was “before you sell your building you need to fix its rotten floors first lest the new owner’s furniture fall through it?” Or did you not realize that your namesake is just simply clueless, doesn’t know anything about economics, and is simply out to protect the monopolistic vested interests of fellow members of the oligarch class that he was born into?

Wait a minute, benign0, did you not see the blatant error that your namesake Benigno S. Aquino III made? It’s this one here:

tanganign0

Did you not notice the error,  benign0?

Did your “critical thinking faculties” fail you when you could not see that your namesake Benigno S. Aquino III committed a major logical blunder when he introduced a fallacy in the form of a “red-herring?”

Perhaps you do not get it despite me pointing out to you in red what the fallacious snippet was…

You see,  benign0, it seems like you – just like your clueless namesake Benigno S. Aquino III aka “Noynoy” – are incapable of understanding the difference between:

(1) Business/Corporate Ownership by foreigners
(2) Land/Real Estate Property Ownership by foreigners

As it turns out, your namesake Benigno S. Aquino III was trying to mislead the Filipino Public that the whole “60/40” and “anti-Foreign Investor restrictions” issues are related to the whole Land Ownership issue. They are not.

One is about whether or not Foreigners are to be allowed to own businesses or perhaps limiting them to a small minority share of entire businesses, while the other one is about allowing Foreigners to own land. They’re totally different issues altogether.

What matters primarily to MNC’s and Foreign Direct Investors is whether the country in question freely allows or restricts foreign entities to own businesses in the country. As we all know, countries that are more open to allowing majority ownership of corporations and businesses or even allow up to 100% ownership by foreigners are more likely to be able to attract foreign direct investors than those countries that are more closed. That is obvious.

Allowing land ownership to foreigners on the other hand, is merely a secondary or “extra” feature that can help bring in more investors. It is possible for countries to allow 100% corporate ownership by foreigners, but ban the ownership of land by foreigners. China and Vietnam are countries that allow foreigners to own up to 100% of companies, but prohibit everybody – both foreigners and local citizens – from owning any free-hold real estate property.

President Benigno S. Aquino III  aka “Noynoy” simply couldn’t make the distinction between the two. He either didn’t know anything about the topic and made an erroneous statement showing his sheer ignorance and inability to distinguish between the two issues of “corporate ownership” versus “land ownership” or he was actively trying to distract the public by using the “land ownership issue” as a kind of smokescreen distraction to throw everyone off the real issue.

How could you miss that, benign0?

Weren’t you supposed to be intelligent? Aren’t you supposed to engage in critical thinking?

Looks to me like you were following “the other Benigno.” Don’t you remember Obi-wan’s famous words, eh benign0?

* * *

Here’s how it works, Ladies and Gentlemen:

For benign0, the Philippines should not even attempt to try to emulate the tried and tested best practices of Singapore’s “Third World to First” strategy in trying to create massive employment opportunities for their people by removing all sorts of anti-FDI restrictions and actively inviting as many Multinational Corporations and Foreign Direct Investors to set up local operations in order to hire as many local employees as possible, thus easing (and eventually eliminating) the persistent unemployment problem. GRP’s webmaster benign0 seems to have actively ignored (or perhaps forgotten) that Singapore was not the only country that actively employed the “actively invite MNC’s and FDI’s in by removing anti-FDI restrictions” strategy.

Let’s see… Aside from Singapore, here are examples of countries who actively dismantled anti-FDI restrictions in order to bring in massive MNC-and-FDI inflows that caused rapid job creation for their people, resulting in the step-by-step reduction of poverty and many of the other issues that result from poverty:

1) Malaysia under Mahathir bin Mohamad

2) China under Deng Xiaoping (邓小平)

3) India under Narasimha Rao

4) Vietnam under the current “Communist” Party of Vietnam

5) Indonesia under  Susilo Bambang Yudhyono

6) Cambodia under the late Norodom Sihanouk

Singapore started the ball-rolling.

It was Singapore that went against the grain of most people in the “Developmental Economics” field which had long since been dominated by Marxists and other ideologically-fixated proponents of the “closed economy”-centric and autarky-based “national industries” model of development which erroneously held the zero-sum theory that “economics means that if one makes money, someone else loses money” as opposed to the win-win theory that economics involves a free exchange of value wherein both parties have a net gain as a result of the exchange than prior to when the exchange occurred.

Thanks to the aggressive policy of bringing in MNC’s into Singapore and getting them to create so many jobs, the Singaporean public now gained a huge purchasing power and people who previously had little or no income now had incomes that would allow them to feed themselves and pay for their most basic needs.

It is no wonder that the rest of the ASEAN region and many in the wider Asian Region are emulating Singapore’s “bring-MNC’s-in” approach by removing anti-FDI restrictions in their laws and economic policies.

Let us review how things turned out on the FDI-inflows front in ASEAN back in the period of 2010-2011:

ASEAN with Singapore

Alright. Let’s look at those values so that we all have a good sense of comparison:

Singapore   113,000,000
Indonesia    32,000,000
Malaysia     21,000,000
Thailand     17,000,000
Vietnam      15,400,000
Philippines   3,500,000

As you can all see from the graph, Singapore is pretty much “off-the-charts.”

I colored it GREEN just to show that it is the leading country in the pack. The laggard is colored RED. Poor laggard. Poor us. We’re the unfortunate laggard: the “runt of the litter.”

And we’re the laggard because we are the weakest as far as FDI inflows are concerned. Oh wait a minute! Yes, that also corresponds with the fact that among all these countries listed in the graph, we also happen to be the country with the worst incidence of unemployment and underemployment. Oops!

And First World Singapore is the country that happens to have the highest FDI inflows. Hmmm… Is this a coincidence? Or is this clearly connected?

Well obviously it is connected! Attracting FDI’s and MNC’s to come to Singapore was precisely the reason why Singapore became a First World country in just around 30 years in the first place. Malaysia, for the longest time, also had the second best FDI-inflows, and that’s why Malaysia had also been one of the more dynamic and better countries in the region, seen as being second to Singapore, often “stealing opportunities” from Singapore by touting itself as a half-priced Singapore. It just so happens that Indonesia decided to really work hard at getting more FDI’s flowing in because their leadership is dead serious on job creation and real economic development.

Ok. Since Singapore is already a First World country and it pretty much is in the league of the Big Boys (the Western Countries plus Japan — oh wait… It bested Japan to become the richest country in Asia based on GDP per capita!), so to be fair, let’s compare ourselves among other third worlders. Let’s take Singapore out of the picture:

Asean minus Singapore

Geez, we’re looking really really bad here!

In the first graph where Singapore was around, the inclusion of the First World country, its FDI-attraction figures totally dwarfed everyone else’s, so in a way, the Philippines kind of didn’t look that bad since “everyone else was dwarfed by Singapore.”

But looking at this second graph, with Indonesia taking top spot (in GREEN) our status as the worst country in the region as far as unemployment and FDI-inflows is concerned should wake everyone up.

It should wake benign0 up, since it was he who said:

loser-benign0Thus spake the clueless one.

“Reliance on foreign capital and foreign commercial activity is an obsolete concept embraced by losers.”

Now that was one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever read coming from benign0

Clearly, benign0 just doesn’t get it.

He simply hasn’t read up on economics and economic history enough to realize that it is actually the AUTARKY-based “Import Substitution”, “Closed Economy” and “National Industries” economic model that is obsolete. It has already been proven time and time again to be the slower and more-prone-to-failure approach to economic development.

He simply hasn’t realized that it is the Open Market concept of freely allowing FDI’s and MNC’s to freely flow in that has worked the best and the fastest in transforming poorer countries to become richer countries.

benign0 also forgets that the country he emigrated to – Australia – is the result of a huge Foreign Direct Investment venture by the British Empire. Worse, he ignorantly forgets that many industries in Australia were started by British foreign direct investors and Australia’s mining industry was actually jumpstarted by foreign companies. Ho boy.

The guy needs to do some research (which, by the way he never does which is why he always loses to me in debates during the few chances that I have the time to engage that slacker), but of course, he is lazy to read. He hasn’t even read Lee Kuan Yew’s “From Third World to First” which he bought, and if he read it, he would have realized that the cornerstone of Singapore’s rapid rise to First World status was its openness to foreign direct investments.

Would you believe this was in Singapore?

Would you believe this was in Singapore back when it was still “Third World” — …Akala mo siguro nasa Pinas, ano?

(Take time to notice how the photo of Singapore back when it was still “Third World” looks very much like a scene from the rural Philippines. Well, obviously, just looking below, one can see just how Singapore got built up into a First World international hub of business all thanks to Foreign Direct Investments.)

Marina Bay Sands, the Singapore icon, is a Foreign Direct Investment by Sands of Las Vegas

Benign0 doesn’t realize that Marina Bay Sands, Singapore’s new representative landmark, is a Foreign Direct Investment by Sands of Las Vegas

Singapore is just one case in point, but in Western Europe, the old perennial laggard Ireland too became one among the fastest growing economies in the world at the time that the Asian Tigers (yes, including Singapore) were getting a whole lot of attention, giving it the monicker the “Celtic Tiger.”

How did Ireland do it? Simple: It did what Singapore did…

It allowed FDI and MNC’s to come in and create lots of jobs for their people!

In the end, FDI and MNC-attraction was the key in all these examples of fast-growing “former laggards” who got their acts together.

Even  benign0‘s ignorance of Philippine Economic history gets highlighted as he clearly doesn’t even realize that the very reason for why the Philippines was “second only to Japan” back in the 1950’s and 1960’s was because of the post-war reconstruction programmes that the Americans helped us out with. True, they sent us aid. They paid “rent” for the US military bases on Philippine soil back then. But most importantly, they sent in hundreds, even thousands of American investors and corporations to invest in the Philippines to create jobs.

Luckily, despite all the existing anti-FDI legislation that had been existing as well as the anti-FDI public utilities and natural resource provisions in the 1935 Constitution, the Philippines inserted a new amendment into the 1935 Constitution that allowed all American citizens and American entities to enjoy the same economic rights guaranteed to Filipino citizens and Filipino entities. This was known as the Parity Rights Amendment. As such, many American companies did not have to deal with whatever 60/40 rules existed in legislation in certain sectors. Whatever Filipinos could own, Americans could own too. There were just so many Americans and American companies in the Philippines at the time so that a lot of employment was generated by the massive hiring that American companies did.

Alright. So now it’s clear.

benign0 simply doens’t know what he’s talking about. (As usual. He comments about a lot of stuff he hasn’t done any research on)

Rather than actively looking for solutions that could make the Philippines a better place, he’d simply prefer to just yak and yak about how “Filipinos are destined to be losers” or how “Filipinos will never succeed” or how “Foreign Investments are a shortcut to success.”

That last idea is the whole point of why we are fighting for the removal of all those anti-FDI Constitutional restrictions! Yes indeed, Foreign DIRECT Investments are a shortcut to success! There’s nothing wrong with taking shortcuts that work and have no side-effects.

Why take the long and painful route of forcing autarky upon ourselves through the use of a closed economy when we can take the tried and tested faster way of rapidly creating massive employment for millions of Filipinos simply by removing all of those anti-FDI restrictions that shoo MNC’s and foreign investors away?

(I mean, come on, everyone else is using the short-cut route already! Everyone else in the ASEAN region is going with the MNC-attraction strategy. Why should we make things harder for ourselves than it should be?)

Is benign0 a masochist? Or does he just want Filipinos to continue to suffer when in fact bringing FDI’s in is one way of creating jobs and training opportunities that can jumpstart economic development?

As it turns out, it looks like benign0 just really prefers to see Filipinos continue to fail, because that justifies to him that his decision to leave the Philippines back in 2000 to emigrate over to Sydney was “the right one.” After all, should the Philippines improve itself after he left, it could make him and his wife Ilda think that they jumped the gun and quit.

How can benign0 actively go against Constitutional Reform (particularly economic liberalization as discussed in this article) when it is obviously the key missing ingredient in the Philippines’ quest to move up the value chain and get rid of its massive unemployment, poverty, overdependence on OFW Remittances, and its host of so many other social issues derived from all those I’ve just mentioned?

Oh well. The obvious conclusion anyone can get from reading this article is simply that the benign0 from GRP is just as clueless as the other Benigno (Aquino III) from Hacienda Luisita.

benign0-benigno - smaller

Constitutional Change Now

 

(originally published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, 21st November 2012)

by Peter Wallace

Let me give you a few points to ponder when considering whether or not we need to open up the economy by amending the Constitution. Because now is the time to discuss it. If we do, we can vote upon it in 2013.

In 1935, there was rudimentary AM radio, negligible commercial air travel, cars that could reach 100 kph if they struggled hard enough. TV was unheard of. The only household appliances were a simple refrigerator and toaster.

Fifteen years ago, we didn’t have cell phones; today, we can’t leave the house without them. Imagine if the Constitution had banned mobile communications in the name of protecting national security. Today, I can turn on the TV and CNN is right there in my living room. It doesn’t need a transmitter here, or even an office, so why not let it have one if it wants?

Technology has removed borders. Satellite communications, fiber optic cables, digital technology were all unheard of in 1935 and perhaps a rarity in 1987. They are a part of our lives today, so we may as well let the foreigners in as they’re already in.

The dream of many Filipinos is to gain a foreign education to add to what they’ve learnt here. They dream of going to Harvard, but the cost is prohibitive. Why not bring Harvard here? What it will have to charge will, alone, be enough to make it no threat to local colleges. Anyway, do we want to protect colleges or open up opportunities for students? Foreign colleges can bring research and new technologies to the Philippines, too, an area where we have been weak. Indonesia recently passed a law (it does not need constitutional change) to allow foreign ownership of educational establishments.

Maybe a 75-year lease on land seems enough, but would you want to be able to only lease the land for your house? No, you’d want to own it, passionately so. Well, foreigners don’t think in some strange foreign way; they want to own, too. Filipinos can, and do, own land in America and almost everywhere else, so why not here, at the very least on a reciprocal basis? For “own use” would be fair enough. The agrarian reform law has destroyed the ability to own agricultural land, so farmers are under no “threat.” And if limited to own use for house or factory, the amount of land taken would be infinitesimal.

I’m willing to bet many of those who are against foreign ownership of land have relatives who own land in other countries. So, apart from anything else, it would be only fair to have reciprocity. But that’s not so much the point. What is the point is that if we want to achieve more rapid growth, allowing foreigners to own land at least for their own house or factory will help achieve that. As it is now, that inability to own land is seen as a major deterrent to attracting investment.

The ideal way to review the Constitution is through a constitutional convention. The argument that it costs more and takes more time is true, but we are talking about the Constitution, the fundamental document of the nation. You don’t consider the cost, which is small on the national scale of things, anyway.

But the more practical way, given political realities, is for Congress as a constituent assembly to do the review, with both chambers voting separately before it goes to a plebiscite of the people. There’s also concern that the review would not be restricted to the economic provisions but would shift to the political arena as well, and end up extending the terms of politicians. Maybe, but it may also lead to a serious re-think of the whole system—something that I think is needed. For instance, a parliamentary system would better suit Philippine culture. Having come from one, I think it’s a better system, anyway. I don’t like the dictatorial power a president holds even in a democratic system, particularly in a country where hierarchy is a given. You don’t question, or disagree with, the boss, just because he’s the boss. Well, I disagree with that. Rising to the top through a political process does not make you a greater expert than everyone else. The fact that you need the president’s support if constitutional change is to be effected is a perfect example of this fundamental weakness in a presidential system, Philippine-style. Think about it: Why should you need (as in this system you do) the President’s—one man’s—support for something to succeed?

The problem with the presidential system is that it panders to the hierarchical nature of the Philippines. There’s a reverence for the boss (I like that) at a level not common elsewhere. A Philippine president is almost royalty. A parliamentary system somewhat levels the field. A prime minister is a first amongst equals, and may be taken out by a simple vote of confidence if he doesn’t perform.

In a parliamentary system, the majority decides, the prime minister can’t override it. That’s as it should be. So I wouldn’t object if the style of government were included in the review.

Everyone says, “Not now,” it’s too open to risk of political machination (to just extend terms, for example). But if not now, when? With a President disinterested in a continuance in power—something that’s unlikely to be ever repeated—this seems an ideal time. If a full review were to be agreed to, then a constitutional convention is the only way.

Whichever is agreed to—a full review, or just the economic sections—let’s do it now.

We’ll never have  a more favorable time.

* * *

Peter Wallace has been described as the most prominent foreign businessman in the Philippines, and an important voice for business within government. Peter has been conducting political, economic and business analysis for over two decades, advising multinationals, major Filipino companies, embassies and international agencies. Having covered 4 presidencies, 2 revolutions and some 8 attempted coups d ‘etats, Peter provides a balanced assessment of conditions and forecasts of what can be expected. Peter’s links into government, senior business groups, the academe and various political factions ensure some of the best insights available.

A Tale of Two Countries

(Borrowed from the Far Eastern Economic Review)

by William McGurn (June 1994)

Editor’s note: While it is true that this is an old article from June 1994, the author William McGurn’s analysis is so spot-on and remains extremely relevant today such that this article seems as if it was written just yesterday. If anything, it is worth noting that the Philippine situation is even far worse now (some 20 years after this article was written) so that whatever the author wrote in 1994 has become even worse in terms of degree. That this article was written in 1994 does not diminish the Truth that this article speaks.

The human costs of protectionism 

Teresa Concepcion had high hopes for her future.

Although her father was only a farmer with a grade-school education, things were looking bright for the new generation of Filipinos. By the time Teresa (not her real name) was born, the country had risen from the ashes of World War II to achieve not only independence and a working democracy but the second-highest standard of living in the Far East after Japan’s. In 1970 she entered a local university. Four years later, degree in hand, she took a job as a social worker supervising day-care centers. That’s when her dreams began to dissolve.

Teresa had expected only a modest salary. Upon entering the working world, however, she was stunned to find out exactly how low wages were, not only in her profession but throughout the Philippines. Her paycheck brought in barely $40 a month. By now she was married and had given birth to the first of three sons. Her husband, a surveyor’s assistant with the Bureau of Land and Natural Resources, made no more than she did. Even such basics as clothing and baby food became more than they could afford. And so, after eight years of incessant financial struggling, Teresa and her husband made a critical decision.

In the summer of 1983, she hugged her husband and three boys–ages 7, 5, and 3–and, with money borrowed from her in-laws, boarded a plane bound for Hong Kong at Manila Airport. At age 33, she was leaving her family behind to begin a completely new career: as a maid

Teresa was not alone. Some 105,000 Filipinas labor in Hong Kong as amahs, or maids. Almost a decade after the People’s Power revolution that toppled Ferdinand Marcos, the plight of these women remains a standing indictment of the Philippine government’s staunchly protectionist economic policies. Like Teresa, the amahs are for the most part smart, relatively well-educated women who found the door of opportunity slammed shut at home. They have college degrees in disciplines ranging from accounting to education, yet they find themselves cooking meals and scrubbing floors for Hong Kong shop clerks and secretaries. Like Teresa, many of them are mothers who are now raising other people’s children while their own grow up without them. Underscoring their predicament is a cruel irony: A generation ago, Filipino families imported Chinese maids.

Today the situation has reached crisis proportions. Within East Asia, disparities in prosperity have led to huge labor outflows, mostly from poorer countries such as the Philippines to richer ones such as Hong Kong, Singapore, and Korea. The maids are only the legal tip of a Filipino iceberg that includes such diverse occupations as nightclub dancers, construction workers, shop clerks, and mechanics. Their growing numbers and negative image have become sensitive issues both at home and abroad. When Teresa first arrived in Hong Kong 10 years ago, there were only 24,800 Filipina amahs at work; now there are more than four times that many, and locals complain that the women occupy the city center on Sundays, their one day off.

In the Philippines, the debased condition of these women has led to legislation calling for an end to the Overseas Worker Program. In 1993, Philippine public opinion was outraged by the death of a Filipina nightclub hostess in Japan whom Japanese authorities said died from hepatitis but whose family claimed she had been beaten. Filipinos are also upset by the virtual identification of domestic with Filipina throughout the region.

The current president, Fidel Ramos, has vowed to reverse some of the longstanding policies that have sent so many Filipinos abroad–a promise that the Philippine people have heard many times before. Ramos’s biggest obstacle is a reluctance among the Philippine establishment to admit that its self-perpetuating economic policies are largely responsible for the country’s descent into poverty.

Over the years, Philippine leaders have ascribed their abysmal economic failure to any number of root causes, including their colonial heritage, Marcos-era greed, and a series of natural disasters. The truth, however, is that the country’s poverty is no accident and the quandary in which Filipina maids find themselves owes itself almost directly to the most pernicious of economic sins: protectionism. For the past 40 years, under the guise of ensuring the country’s economic sovereignty, successive Philippine governments have enacted laws that have discouraged foreign investment, concentrated wealth in fewer and fewer hands, and diminished the standard of living for the average Filipino to the point where less than 50 percent of the country earns a subsistence wage. 

Nowhere is this clearer than in a comparison between the Philippines and Hong Kong, just a two-hour flight from Manila and the destination of so many Filipino laborers desperate for work. Just as the Philippines owes its current status as “the sick man of Asia” to longstanding protectionist policies, Hong Kong owes its stupendous wealth today to an ongoing commitment to open markets and a hands-off approach to business. For the past decade, Hong Kong has boasted an unemployment rate of under 2 percent, and its residents purchase more each year than the Japanese, other Asians, or Europeans. In 1993, Hong Kong’s per-capita income even surpassed that of its colonial protector, Great Britain.

But Hong Kong was no more destined to be wealthy than the Philippines was destined to be poor. If anything, it was a prime candidate for the sort of economic anemia that afflicts the Philippines. Lord Palmerston’s remark about Hong Kong upon its 1842 acquisition by the British–he called it “a barren island with hardly a house upon it”–was a fair description of its seeming promise, and even today its crowded population is spread over an inhospitable terrain that makes it utterly dependent on its neighbors even for basic resources such as water.

If Hong Kong’s natural obstacles to wealth were considerable, the man-made ones were downright staggering. No sooner had the colony begun to recover from the Japanese occupation of World War II than the Communist takeover of the mainland sent hundreds of thousands of desperate refugees to its shores. A few years later, a United Nations-imposed boycott of China saw Hong Kong lose its largest market overnight. Back in the 1950s and ’60s, the experts were not talking about the “Hong Kong miracle.” Back then, they were wondering if Hong Kong would survive.

Hong Kong withstood these pressures primarily by remaining open to foreign investment. While the Philippines and other East Asian nations chose to coddle their industries and put their faith in central planning, Hong Kong forced all its industries to compete with the rest of the world on their own merits and on a completely equal basis. And now, when countries such as South Korea are busy trying to pare down huge bureaucracies spawned by protectionism, Hong Kong is free to do productive business. There are no foreign exchange controls, and foreign companies are free to take their profits out if they choose. Taxes are stable and minimal, with none on capital gains and a flat tax on corporate profits. As Milton Friedman once quipped, “To see how the free market really works, Hong Kong is the place to go.”

This prosperity and freedom are largely the legacy of Hong Kong’s legendary financial secretary, John James Cowperthwaite. During the 1960s, Hong Kong was said to be governed “by the gospel of Adam Smith as expounded by his disciple John James Cowperthwaite.” Arriving in the colony as acadet officer in the civil service just three months after the Japanese surrender and charged with getting the economy back on its feet, Cowperthwaite immediately noted the degree to which Hong Kong’s resilient economy had already recovered without any government help. Cowperthwaite’s strength was that, more than most, he understood that even the most brilliant planner was no match for the collective genius of the market.

Whether it was water–which in those days was always in short supply–or food or energy, Cowperthwaite insisted that the best way around the problem was to allow free pricing among suppliers and to keep the doors open to anyone who wanted to enter. He did his part by keeping taxes low and refusing to spend more than he took in. “I see no reason,” he once said to a request for government to finance lower water rates, “why someone who is content with a cold shower should subsidize someone who is able to luxuriate in a deep hot bath.” Cowperthwaite, in fact, was so distrustful of intervention in the economy that he refused to allow the government to keep statistics on gross national product–on the grounds that if the government kept the statistics they would only misuse them.

This strategy was not simply do-nothingism. At the same time the government was keeping taxes low and spending under control, it embarked on a public housing scheme that would eventually shelter more than half the population. The difference was that Cowperthwaite could afford to do this since he maintained fiscal restraint and resisted calls to subsidize Hong Kong industry or give them any protection.

“Had Cowperthwaite taken the advice or yielded to all those who wanted more government intervention,” says Richard Wong of the Hong Kong Center for Economic Research, “Hong Kong would not have prospered. By keeping Hong Kong open he ensured that it would remain competitive.”

Certainly history has vindicated Cowperthwaite’s judgment. During the 10 years between 1961 and 1971 that Cowperthwaite was Hong Kong’s financial secretary, income grew faster there than anywhere else in Asia. The policy of keeping the door open to imports also fueled an export boom–at a phenomenal average annual rate of 13.8 percent over these years. Real wages increased by more than 50 percent over this period and remain roughly twice those of both Korea and Taiwan.

Hong Kong’s disavowal of protectionism extends to the lack of anti-dumping laws that are used even in the United States to keep competitors out. “Any economist will tell you that when you keep foreign business out you simply hurt your own people,” says Hong Kong treasury secretary and former trade negotiator, Donald Tsang. “All you are doing is cutting your nose off to spite your face. We keep our economy open because it is in our self-interest.”

(Note: Sir Donald “Bow-tie” Tsang went on to be Hong Kong Chief Executive at the time when Noynoy Aquino committed terrible embarrassing diplomatic blunders during the HK Tourist Bus Hostage Crisis.)

If Hong Kong owes its impressive wealth to a conscious political decision not to micro-manage the economy, the Philippines’ pervasive poverty represents the negative version of the same argument. There, a series of conscious economic choices made over the past four decades–especially a hostile attitude toward foreign investors–has allowed local monopolies to flourish at the expense of both workers and consumers.

Some have called it “crony capitalism.” But the preferences enjoyed under this arrangement have little in common with capitalism, and the cronies would lose their protected empires tomorrow if the state weren’t propping them up. The ruling elite in the Philippines has taken a country with a well-educated English-speaking work force and an enviable location smack dab in the midst of the world’s fastest growing market and turned it into an economic basket case.

This took some doing. Providence had bequeathed the Philippines many advantages, including an almost inexhaustible supply of natural resources: gold, iron ore, copper, cement, salt, granite, marble. Its soil was rich and its produce bountiful, including rice, sugar, coconuts, tobacco, bananas, and avocados. In the late 1950s and early ’60s, it was second in Asia only to Japan, and everyone assumed that its future would be as bountiful as its present.

As the World Bank put it in an upbeat report, “By comparison with most underdeveloped countries, the basic economic position of the Philippines is favorable…. |Apart from its~ generous endowment of material resources and high level of literacy, other favorable factors are the growth of the labor force, the availability of managerial and technical skills, the high level of savings and investment, rather good prospects for most of the Philippines exports, and considerable possibilities for import substitution.” The Philippines was considered so successful, in fact, that in the ’60s Manila was sending specialists to Korea to advise them on their development.

But the Philippines never realized its potential. Instead opening the door to foreign investors with the money and the wherewithal to make something of its resources, the Philippines wrapped itself in the cloak of protectionism. Under the guise of nationalism–the country had achieved independence in 1946–the Philippines passed a series of laws limiting what they called “alien” (foreign) involvement in the economy. It started with a limit imposed on alien-owned market stalls in Manila and soon covered everything from access to credit to quotas on imports. By the end of the ’50s, this had evolved into a full-fledged ideology called “Filipino First” that would figure prominently in the presidential elections for years to come.

In 1960, Philippine President Garcia summed up the Filipino First policy as merely “an honest-to-goodness effort of the Filipino people to be master of their own economic household.” His secretary for commerce and industry, Manuel Lim, likewise described the policy as simply an effort to ensure that Filipinos get some share of the benefits flowing to foreign investors. Of course, it was slightly more than this. Although both Garcia and Lim went out of their way to say the Filipino First policy would be fair to outsiders, they both saw foreign involvement in the economy as a “threat” and a cause for alarm. Although the policy was later relaxed somewhat, the emphasis remained on ensuring Philippine “supremacy.”

“It’s the classic mistake for developing countries,” says Richard Wong. “Despite all the populist rhetoric, whenever you make it more difficult for foreigners, all you are doing is taking money from the public and putting it into the hands of the vested interests.”

In the Philippines, protectionism was intertwined with racism. Many of the local entrepreneurs belonged to the country’s sizable Chinese minority, and many of the government regulations attempted to force them from their economic niches. Two of the most infamous regulated participation in retail selling and the corn and rice industries. In June 1954, President Ramon Magsaysay signed “An Act to Regulate the Retal Business,” which was followed by a 1964 measure that tightened the screws even more. The gist of the regulations was that no industry or store could sell directly to the public unless it was Filipino owned; otherwise the business had to sell to a Filipino first. The object was to make sure that Filipinos got a piece of the action on every sale. But in practice, the regulations simply created a middleman who raised the final cost to the consumer. The almost-immediate effects included a precipitous drop in the number of newly registered retail businesses and a sharp rise in general prices.

Much the same thing happened in 1961, when the Philippines passed another protectionist act, this one “Limiting the Right to Engage in the Rice and Corn Industry to Citizens of the Philippines.” Like the retail business law, this one took aim at the Chinese merchant population by decreeing that only Filipinos would be allowed to participate in rice and corn production. This was a big decision, because at the time rice was both the chief staple of Filipinos’ diet and a significant commercial export. In 1960 there had been 6,100 foreigners registered in the rice and corn business, but by the summer of 1962 the executive director of the Rice and Corn Board, E. V. Mendoza, reported that the program had “worked” in running foreigners out.

“Success,” however, was curiously defined. Apart from encouraging fraud–some foreigners simply put their companies in the names of their Philippine wives or friends–it had a disastrous effect on production and prices. Mendoza was correct in noting that by year’s end most of the rice and corn business was forced out of foreign hands. But the price paid by the population for that change was a severe rice shortage. The Philippines went from a country that exported rice to one that imported it, a situation that did not change until much later in the decade when scientific advances introduced a new, “miracle” rice capable of tremendous new yields.

The government’s continuing support of protectionist policies in the face of such abject failures is the reason why Max Soliven, editor of The Philippine Star and the country’s most popular columnist, blasts the Filipino First philosophy as “the pirate flag of convenience for vested interests.”

“Every big foreign investment project,” says Soliven, “is slandered as ‘a scam’ or labeled ‘imperialist exploitation,’ and thus those two cabals of conspiracy, the Old Rich and the nouveau riche, manage to fight off and repel ‘the enemy.'” Filipino First, says Soliven, should really be called “Filipino Last and Always.”

As far back as the early 1960s there were voices raised in warning. In 1962 the president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce, Alfonso Catalang, went on television to say that Filipino First was shooting the country in the foot. My magazine, the Far Eastern Economic Review, warned that “Filipino politicians seem to favor securing foreign loans instead of inviting foreign capital to come in.” The direct result of such choices were the bloated Philippine monopolies that still stand before us today, protected from foreign competition and unresponsive to the needs of the country.

Although myriad regulations restrict foreigners doing business in the Philippines–foreign banks, for example, have not been permitted to open new branches since 1948–the most effective way of keeping them out has been a law limiting the amount any foreigner can own in a business to 40 percent. At the start of his reign, President Marcos made some moves to open up the economy, but instead of busting the monopolies he merely put his own buddies in charge of them. Nor did things improve with the People Power revolution of Cory Aquino. By 1991 foreign investment in the Philippines totaled only $783 million–compared to about $5 billion for Thailand and almost $9 billion for Indonesia, which is just about as poor as the Philippines.

In many ways, in fact, Aquino only made the situation worse. The constitution drafted by her associates specifically blocks or severely limits access to vast segments of the economy by outside developers, especially in the area of natural resources. Section 12, for example, requires that the “State shall promote the preferential use of Filipino labor, domestic materials and locally produced goods.” In effect, the revised constitution applies the 40-percent limit to all but a few areas. Filipino First is back with a vengeance.

The reason the 40-percent limit is so debilitating is that as long as votes in a company are pegged to the owner’s share, no foreign investor will have control over his money. This is particularly distressing in a developing country such as the Philippines, where the economic climate is uncertain and the risks are already high. Foreigners are unlikely to invest millions of dollars if they don’t have a say over how the money will be spent.

“If I had to name one thing that has hurt the Philippines more than anything else, it’s this 40-percent limit,” says Peter Wallace, an international business consultant and economist who has lived in Manila for many years. “We had a similar problem in Australia years ago–we were resource rich but cash poor. Much of Australia’s development came about because it opened the door to those who had the money to develop, especially in the mining industry.” In testimony before the Philippine Congress, Wallace pointed out that if the Philippines followed Australia’s lead, the country’s abundant resources would finally start paying some dividends.

The development of natural resources is hardly the only area of the Philippines’ economy affected by the lack of foreign capital. The nation’s infrastructure, for example, remains one of the worst in Asia. President Ramos has recently eased the ongoing power shortage that just last summer was responsible for blackouts of 10 to 12 hours a day. But the shortage never would have occurred had the country opened energy development to foreigners. “Making yourself open to foreign investment does much more than bring in money,” says Wallace. “It brings in badly needed technology. It grows your exports. It creates jobs, and it generally also develops a host of industries that pop up to serve the new investors.”

The Philippines’ nationalism has, in fact, managed to strangle every aspect of economic development. Foreign goods remain a luxury that only the protected rich can hope to afford. Recently Philippine Sen. Blas Ople pointed to a study by the government’s own assistant secretary for trade documenting that no less than 167 signatures were necessary to release an imported car from the Bureau of Customs. Ople had a field day when the customs commissioner proudly announced he had greatly reduced the number of necessary signatures: to 50.

The regulatory choke hold is also responsible for a phone system so abysmal that it is an international embarrassment. In a November 1992 visit to Manila, Singapore’s senior minister, Lee Kuan Yew, publicly spoke out against the Philippine telephone company as “an example of a powerful vested interest … which has had a monopoly for 64 years.” He also cited a standing joke that “98 percent of Filipinos are waiting for a phone and the other 2 percent are waiting for a dial tone.” In fact, fewer than 2 out of 100 Filipinos have phones in this nation of 61 million people, and the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company controls more than 90 percent of the existing 600,000 lines. Their monopoly has been helped along by Supreme Court decisions that shut Eastern Telecommunications out of the market and awarded a contract to PLDT even though its foreign-backed competitor had outbid it by a factor of six.

Comparing the Philippines’ phone system to Hong Kong’s actually provides a thumbnail sketch of how two economic systems produce hugely different results. While the Philippines stagnates with one of the worst phone systems in the world, Hong Kong boasts one of the best: fully digitalized with about 63 phones per 100 population, about double the number of another East Asian powerhouse, South Korea. It is so easy to get a phone in Hong Kong that almost all the colony’s shops have a phone sitting out front that customers can use free. And with new developments in related technology (such as cellular phones) now becoming popular, the government reviewed its telecommunications policy and decided to open up additional networks to increase competition.

Beyond all the theoretical and statistical explanations, however, the painful human costs of the different economic strategies pursued by Hong Kong and the Philippines are dramatically illustrated by the booming growth of domestic helpers in Hong Kong. A generation ago, middle and upper-class Filipinos were likely to have poor Chinese as amahs. Today the situation has flip-flopped. Thousands of desperate Philippine women just like Teresa Concepcion–college educated and with children of their own–are forced by circumstances beyond their control to go abroad and work as domestics. The ones who are lucky go to Hong Kong. Many go to the Middle East or other parts of Asia, where the work is even more demanding and the environment even more difficult.

Despite their relative good fortune, their life in Hong Kong is not an easy one. According to a survey by Asian Labor Update Research, some 40 percent of these maids work 14 to 15 hours a day and 30 percent work 16 to 17 hours a day for a standard monthly wage of $415, much of which is sent back home. If they are “lucky,” as is Teresa, they have an “amah’s room” off the kitchen–a non-air-conditioned eight-foot-by-six-foot cell barely big enough for a twin bed. Less fortunate amahs sleep on a couch or share a room with the younger children of their employers.

Life on the bottom rung of society has its other problems as well. Filipinas often report that the Chinese look down on them and treat them harshly. Indeed, one of the colony’s biggest companies, Hong Kong Land, recently tried to bar them from sitting on its grounds on weekends when they congregate with their friends in the center of town.

Occasionally, their work may even prove fatal. One Filipina, Pascuela Destas, gave her life for her 5-year-old charge by pushing him out of the way of an out-of-control bus. But saving the life of her employers’ son meant that Destas left her own three boys back in the Philippines without abreadwinner.

Although life in Hong Kong may be difficult, the maids agree on one thing: It is better than being in the Philippines. Thirty-eight-year-old Eppie Cruz is typical. Ten years ago she received her B.S. in accounting from the Philippines’ University of the East. After her graduation, she came to Hong Kong to work as a domestic to support her sisters back home. “Of course we would like to stay in the Philippines if the opportunity was there,” says Eppie. “But the jobs are here.”

Eppie is wearing a Giordano blouse, a popular brand in Hong Kong roughly equivalent to the Gap in America. In the Philippines, she says, it would cost three times as much as it does in Hong Kong. The same goes for her Sony Walkman. Back in her tiny room, she has a telephone, an air conditioner, a JVC television, and a host of minor appliances that are standard in Hong Kong but would be regarded as luxuries in the Philippines.

Or consider 49-year-old Cora Alanunay. Cora is the mother of six children–two of whom are with her in Hong Kong, also working as domestics. One son, Ramon, is working in a hospital in Saudi Arabia. She came to Hong Kong shortly after she was widowed and needed work, and like her friends she is impressed by Hong Kong’s commercial openness and the opportunity it breeds. Although Cora makes only a minimal wage in Hong Kong, it’s far more than what another son makes back in the Philippines as a bank executive.

The incentives are as clear as they are heartbreaking. Today Teresa Concepcion’s children are 16, 14, and 12. Since leaving the Philippines nine years ago, she has seen her boys and her husband just once each year for a few weeks’ holiday. Yet she has little choice. Her salary of $520 per month is 13 times what she could hope to make in the Philippines, and each month she mails half of it back home. Like other Filipina exiles in Hong Kong, Teresa stoically accepts the trade-offs: “I constantly remind myself how important it is to send back the money to them. Otherwise I would get depressed thinking about the kind of work I’m forced to do.”

These amahs are not alone. Ever since the Philippines started its Overseas Employment Program in the mid-1970s, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos who would otherwise have stayed at home have gone into exile to provide for their families. They have also provided for their country. Last year, the 4.5 million Filipinos working abroad helped bail out their country’s cash shortages by sending home an estimated $2.5 billion in foreign exchange-more than the revenue from a number of important Philippine industries, including tourism.

Having inherited an economy that so demeans productive workers, President Ramos has moved to open up the banking system and, most recently, has vowed to fulfill promises to sell off state enterprises. But the problems remain formidable–particularly the protectionist constitution that walls off investment in any number of areas and a Filipino First legacy that endures. Perversely enough, at a time when the Philippines ought to be out begging for multinational investment, a major argument in the national legislature against the privatization of firms such as Petron Oil is that they may be bought by foreigners.

Ramos, too, for all his stated intentions to the contrary, is not above playing the old games. Back in 1975, Imelda Marcos erected pretty white fences so that the delegates to the annual IMF/World Bank meeting would not have to be offended by the sight of the very poor they were supposed to serve. Last year on May Day, President Ramos announced plans to close the Smoky Mountain garbage dump–long a favorite of foreign reporters looking for a symbol of the Philippines’ crushing poverty. The thousands of scavengers who eke out an average $3.00 per day picking through Smoky Mountain’s waste for anything they can sell, use, or eat are upset that the government is once again taking away what little livelihood they have. The Philippine poor will be forced to move out of sight, if not out of poverty.

And in Hong Kong, Filipina mothers and daughters continue to pay a devastating social and economic price for the protectionist schemes of their government. Most of these women started out with big dreams; Teresa Concepcion thought that with her college degree she’d have a fulfilling career in the Philippines, not a job scrubbing floors in Hong Kong. Today she just wants to go home. “I’d like to return to the Philippines in two or three years,” she says, “maybe to farm with my husband.” Even if she is lucky enough to do so, it will mean her children will have grown up without her. What kind of protection is that?

William McGurn is a senior editor at the Far Eastern Economic Review.

Here's how bad the level of FDI has been in the Philippines when compared to the rest of ASEAN.

Here’s how bad the level of FDI has been in the Philippines when compared to the rest of ASEAN.

Tale of Two Countries

Let’s Talk Basketball – by Figo Cantos

I’ve been an advocate of the CoRRECT™ Movement for almost a year now.

After getting in touch with Orion Pérez Dumdum during a Christmas Celebration of the Bagumbayan-VNP (Gordon-Bayani 2010) Party, I studied its 3-point agenda and realized that the changes it has proposed should be implemented.

Of course, every great idea does not come without great opposition; so I’ve been encouraging everyone around me to study the CoRRECT™ Movement, ask questions, debate and take a stand – but more impotantly to always keep an open mind. If this is implemented within our lifetime, we might only mostly see the change in direction but it will be the next generation of Filipinos who will benefit greatly from the results of such a change.

Now, among some of the most common reasons that opponents oppose the CoRRECT™ Movement are “it will never be applicable to us” or  “it’s not our culture” or even “it’s not in our character”; I believe that until a new and better system is implemented for us, our culture and character will remain as it is in the status quo. Let me make an analogy on how a system changes a culture and characters using a game that most Filipinos love – basketball.

In 1984, the Chicago Bulls drafted arguably the greatest player of all-time, Michael Jordan. As a young player, Jordan had already shown his great potential and awesome athleticism, but his team’s rivals (notably the Detroit Pistons) knew that if they stopped Jordan, the Bulls’ could be stopped as well. That was until Phil Jackson took over as coach, a proponent of Tex Winter’s Triangle Offense, changed the system and changed the team’s direction – resulting six championships (two 3-peats).

Tex Winter – the Coach who developed the “Triangle Offense” system and methodology of game-play

Most people believe that the Triangle Offense is “just a play”, but it is not – it is a system. It reads and adapts to the defense of the opposing team, its players moves are strategic (with or without the ball), and it distributes the scoring opportunity to everyone in the team.

Some might say that the Bulls have Jordan and it’s not applicable to other teams. But the Kobe Bryant-led Los Angeles Lakes proved them wrong. When Phil Jackson took over and applied the same system, it changed the culture and character of his new team and brought back its dynasty winning 5 more NBA titles.

Some might still say that Jordan and Bryant are Americans, and that the culture and characters are different and “it is not applicable” to other countries, where the situations may be different.

So let’s check out something local – our very own Philippine Basketball Association. In 1986, a young Alaska Team had a difficult time fitting in the league. That was until the arrival of Coach Tim Cone (another proponent of the Triangle Offense) gradually changed the culture of the Alaska team, and led them to a rare Grandslam of 1996.

Sure, some might still say that the Alaska Team has good players, but that would be grossly unfair to other teams who had good (if not great) players of the same era.

Coach Tim Cone taught the “Triangle Offense” system & methodology to the Philippine basketball teams he coached and made them winners

Fast-forward to this year, 2011. Coach Tim Cone jumped from Alaska to B-Meg Llamados and brought the Triangle System with him. They had a rocky start, the adjustment period was there, and they initially won only 2 of their 4 games – until they got used to the system, until their culture had changed, until their characters had changed: and by then they’d have won their 8th straight game!

Does this guarantee them a title this year? Most-likely, because no one can really count them out, so they have a good chance. Their main players’ (James Yap, Kirby Raymundo and PJ Simon) opportunity of scoring is shared, even way deeper to the bench.

Truth be told, I was a Jazz fan back in the 90’s, a Mavs fan since Mark Cuban’s ownership, and a Ginebra Fan back in the Jaworski-era; so the Triangle System hurt my teams back then (until the Mavs swept the Lakers last playoffs), but I’ve learned to respect it, and to understand its concept and the way it changes culture, character, playing style, and direction of a basketball team.

A change in the system can change a people’s culture and character. I need not specify what the changes will be if the CoRRECT™  Movement’s Three Point Agenda is applied to our country, and it’s really up to you to study it.

The bottom-line is this: Jordan, Kobe, Johnny A., James Yap and all those great players can be compared to the natural resources of our country, as well as the skills of our countrymen; but why are we trailing behind other countries? Changing the system, applying the CoRRECT™ Movement’s 3-point agenda may not catapult us immediately and instantaneously from being a Third World to a First World country, but if we at least make the proper system changes now, over a period of time, we’ll have a better chance of improving our country.

It worked for them, it can work for us.

Let us study and spread this link to other Filipinos: http://correctphilippines.org/

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Figo Cantos is an IT Systems Professional who has had a lot of exposure to the concept of how systems work. He is also a Red Cross Volunteer and is active with the Bagumbayan Volunteers for a New Philippines which campaigned for Dick Gordon and Bayani Fernando for the May 2010 Elections. Himself hailing from Marikina, he has witnessed the success of Bayani Fernando’s goal-oriented and management-by-objectives “engineering-oriented” system of governance.

He has also witnessed the effectiveness of Dick Gordon’s system (aka “management methodology”) in personally handling the Philippine Red Cross, making it a highly responsive and effective organization for disaster response, rescue operations, and emergency services.  As a basketball aficionado, Figo has also observed how different “systems of gameplay” have caused different teams to behave differently on the court, partly determining their chances of winning.

Crucifying Cruz

Neal H. Cruz at center: He is anti-Foreign Investment, anti-Constitutional Reform, but he is sipping Foreign Wine with pro-Foreign Investment, pro-Constitutional Reform Speaker Belmonte

After reading the article written by Neal Cruz last October 17, 2011  titled Cha-cha will let foreigners grab our lands, I couldn’t help but have the urge to reply to some of the claims made by Mr. Cruz on the aforementioned article.  Had not he been so serious about the claims he had made, I could have easily dismissed it but with the amount of vitriol he likes to throw against the “evils of foreigners” and other assorted nationalist rah rah, I felt I really needed to write this as a response.

In his article, he writes that the proposed ChaCha or Charter Change, which aims to amend provisions of the current 60/40 ownership restrictions placed on foreign investors, will allow foreigners to “grab land from the Filipinos.” Despite not having anything to back this statement up, for him it is a fact simply because it stirs nationalism in the hearts and minds of Filipinos against the much-dreaded “evil white man” and when most of the populace has to deal with the harsh realities of life, nothing is more comforting than the nationalistic wails of “Pinoy Pride” or “the Philippines belongs to Filipinos only.”

Let me explain why his statement of foreigners “grabbing” all the lands here is both dubious and ridiculous. Vietnam and China, both countries who have really large foreign investments, allow foreigners to fully own 100% of any company set up in these countries. Section 8 of Article 2 on the 1996 Law of Foreign Investment in Vietnam states that a foreign investor is defined as “An enterprise with one hundred (100) per cent foreign owned capital means an enterprise in Vietnam the capital of which is one hundred (100) per cent invested by foreign investor(s).” Clearly this states that any foreign company who wants to invest in Vietnam can invest with 100% foreign ownership. As per land ownership, Section 1 of Article 5 of the Vietnamese Law on Land states that “Land belongs to the entire people with the State as the representative owner” meaning that land ownership lies in the hands of the State, which then leases the land (or sells time-bound “land-use rights”) to foreign investors. That’s because the two countries aforementioned follow the principles of Georgism, which states that anything that is not created by man, in this case the earth, cannot be owned.  No evil white man grabbing land there.

Skyline of Hanoi, capital of Vietnam

Although his claim that marginalized local folks will “run out of land” if we allow the “evil white man” to own lands in the Philippines due to the country’s small size and ever-increasing population sounds academic to some, it is false since there are other countries that are smaller with lesser land area that allow foreign ownership of lands yet their citizens are neither “marginalized” nor “evicted” from their lands to pave way to foreign ownership. Singapore, which is a lot smaller compared to the entire island of Luzon (Singapore, with a total land area of 778 km2, is even smaller than Marinduque, which has a land area of around 963 km2), allows foreigners to own land under the 1973 Residential Property Act which states that “The Act seeks to strike a balance between giving Singaporeans a stake in the country by being able to buy and own residential properties at affordable prices, while attracting foreign talent by allowing permanent residents, foreign companies and limited liability partnerships that make an economic contribution to Singapore to purchase such properties for their occupation.” Yet you never hear of any “oppressed” or “marginalized” Singaporeans who cannot own land. Seems like there is something so special about the Philippines that makes “evil white men” want to grab all the land.

Adding more fuel to his “Pinoy Pride” ultra-nationalism is his statement about “European settlers grabbing the lands of Amerindians and confining them to reservations”, as nothing is more dreadful than instilling the thought that evil foreigners are out to get your land and have their way with the local women, despite being historically inaccurate. When the first batch of Europeans arrived in 1492, this vast land now known as America was not owned by the Amerindians as a nation as there was no “Amerindian or Cherokee” nation that existed during the time, despite claims made by these sponsors of White guilt. The land was inhabited by several Indian nations such as the Cherokee, Iroquois, Apache, Mohawk and others who among themselves fought for land ownership. Historical facts be damned in the name of “Pinoy Pride.”

This is the result of very little investment (foreign or local), resulting in very few jobs…

And his claim that the 40% limit of foreign ownership of companies and utilities here in the Philippines is for the “benefit” of the Filipino people is ludicrous as the results has proven to be detrimental to the Filipino people. Looking at utilities alone, the Philippines ranks as having the highest power rates in Asia, and among the highest power rates in the world. Why? Because power generation is monopolized by the state-owned NAPOCOR , which then provides little or no competition to other foreign/local energy generation firms which then gives little incentive for NAPOCOR to generate electricity at lower prices through the use of less fossil fuel/coal dependent means such as geothermal and hydroelectric power as they do not have to compete in the consumer market with lower power rates and value-added services, which is the very essence of competing companies in free markets. This in turn allows them to sell electricity at fixed rates to various electric providers, who in turn have the liberty of overcharging for their services as there is no one else competing with them. As a result, many Filipinos have to suffer as foreign investors are hesitant to set shop in the Philippines due to the high energy costs which in turn keeps most of the population jobless and local businesses too have to struggle with the high power costs to keep themselves operational and the regular Juan Dela Cruz has to endure paying high electric bills.

Another example is the Internet. According to SpeedTests.net, the Philippines ranks 121st in terms of internet speed (Average download speed/download rate) at 787 kbps (0.8 mbps) or 98 KB/sec, lower than its Southeast Asian neighbors(Malaysia at 1269kbps or 159kb/sec, Singapore at 4078kbps or 510kb/sec, Thailand at 3529 kbps or 441kb/sec) Want to know why? Since foreign investors have limited ownership and because foreign ISP’s cannot invest in the Philippine market, which also allows them to invest in the technology for high-speed internet, the populace is left with a few major internet providers who are free to jack up internet prices or provide cheap internet but with terrible service as these companies have no competition in the local market. I don’t think the average Filipino wants to pay higher electricity or live with mediocre internet connection all in the name of “Pinoy Pride.”

His third to the last statement made about Petron’s sale to ARAMCO smacks of his ignorance on the free market system. Free markets work through the basic law of supply and demand, which states that when the demand is low and the supply is high, prices are low and vice versa. By allowing the government to intervene, which is what he wants through price controls, this creates an artificial demand as lowering prices for the sake of the “poor” masa only allows for more demand, and when supply can’t keep up, you eventually run out of supply, the end result being long bread lines, just like in communist countries such as the USSR in the late 1980’s.

It is true and sad that most Filipinos cannot afford the means to buy housing and their own land, coupled with the skyrocketing costs of commodities and other necessities. But the solution does not lie in big government, corporate monopolies and autarky. By keeping out foreign investors and kicking them out, which at the end of the day is what Mr. Cruz wants, it will only worsen the plague as there will be no new jobs generated and we’ll end up with high costs of products & services and more poverty. Without a lot of lucrative job opportunities for local employees, it destroys both the ability of the local economy to grow through the multiplier effect and social mobility, meaning the ability of those who want to move up the financial food chain to do so, thus leaving us no choice but having to rely on our overseas workers for their dollars.

Looking at our more successful neighbors like Singapore, one of their formulas for success is by allowing foreign investors to invest in the country with 100% ownership and removing the protectionist and ultranationalist policies that were in place. As a result, Singapore is among the wealthiest nations in Asia and has truly gone “From Third World to First” alluding to the title of Lee Kuan Yew’s book on Singapore’s success. As the late Paramount Leader of China, Deng Xiaoping once said: “It doesn’t matter if it’s a black cat or a white cat, if it catches mice, that’s a good cat.”

In the age of globalization and advancing technologies, where whole economies are intertwined by free trade and the world is made even smaller by the internet through e-commerce, there is simply no room for such ultranationalistic backwardness. But unfortunately, many of the likes of Mr. Cruz will still push for over protectionist policies and kick out people who will bring further wealth to the country all in the name of “Pinoy Pride” or “Brown Power.

Too bad it neither puts food on the table nor buys the clothes on your back.

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About the Author: James Aron Mangun, known simply as James or “Jim” to colleagues, is a former BPO English Trainer in several companies and now a freelance BPO consultant/businessman who regularly visits political Philippine blogs and websites to offer his two cents on current events/affairs.

He is an ardent believer of the free market system and is an avid fan of Ludwig von Mises, Ayn Rand, and Milton Friedman. He currently runs the Mangun On Markets website with his father John where they offer advice/tips to people interested in investing in the PSE. You can visit his site at http://www.mangunonmarkets.com

 

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Philippine Progress: Shift in Sports, Shift in System

(First published on antipinoy.com on July 7, 2010)

At the time of this writing, millions of people around the world are obsessing about the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and the noise of the annoying Vuvuzela horn. From every continent, people speaking almost every language, coming from practically every race, creed, and color are excitedly watching the game called “Association Football.”  Unfortunately, there’s been relative calm in the Philippines, as hardly anyone, save for a few die-hard soccer fans, actually watched the World Cup closely.

Soccer, (coming from the word “association” in the sport’s full-name “Association Football”), called “Football” by everyone else, is also known as the world’s Beautiful Game. It is one of the most democratic sports ever – as Time Magazine recently described it. Anyone can play and excel in it: Rich or poor, light-skinned or dark-skinned, and most importantly, tall or short.  That last one is of utmost importance, considering that we Filipinos, most of whom are not very tall, are crazy about basketball – a sport that obviously favors tall players.

It has caused numerous ceasefires in many conflict zones as Israelis and Palestinians (Soccer is the biggest sport in the Middle East) or Rebel guerrillas and Government troops in continents like Africa or Latin America, often stop fighting just to watch the World Cup or other high-profile soccer matches on TV or listen to live commentaries on radio. During World War I, an informal Truce on Christmas Day in 1914 witnessed one of the most amazing displays of human fraternity as warring sides – British & French versus the Germans came together and played Soccer. After having played the game, made friends, and exchanged names & addresses, the soldiers simply could not shoot at each other once the truce ended, forcing their respective angry generals to send all of them to other fronts to fight against other enemies.

It’s a real shame because while Filipinos were glued to the NBA Finals at about the same time that the World Cup was just about starting, one unfortunate fact continues to be ignored by basketball-crazy Filipinos: We are never going to excel in sports that require height. Unlike most basketball-loving Filipinos, millions of average-height, barely middle-class, or even impoverished Africans and Latin Americans who play and practice soccer can actually dream of one day playing professionally for local or internationally-famous professional teams such as Manchester United (England), Juventus (Italy), Real Madrid (Spain), or Galatasaray (Turkey) – to name a few – and live a life of fame and fortune. These are dreams which are feasible as long as whoever plays and practices the sport has the competence, talent, and commitment, because the game-dynamics of soccer simply does not require height. It needs to be said that soccer legend Diego Maradona of Argentina became a soccer superstar with his very Filipino height of 5 ft 4.

In stark contrast to the meritocratic nature of soccer which does not care much about being born with the genes for height, the fixation that Filipinos have for basketball creates so many shattered dreams. Millions of young Filipinos are raised to love a sport that does not love them back. Many waste inordinate amounts of time practicing the game, wishing that they would be just like Kobe Bryant when they grow up, only to grow to their full height which might be just a few inches taller than Diego Maradona – a height that is just not cut for competitive basketball.

Filipinos even love to watch the NBA play-offs, but even if the Philippines is perhaps the most basketball-crazy country in the World (Americans are more obsessed with American Football and Baseball), countries with much more diversified sporting interests such as Mainland China and the former Yugoslav republics of Serbia, Croatia, etc, who all watch more soccer than they do basketball, have successfully sent players to the NBA. The Philippines has never sent a Filipino to the NBA!

Numerous honest discussions and debates have erupted about the need to shift the Philippines’ team sports focus from the excessively height-centric basketball towards the more height-agnostic soccer in order to focus on a sport in which every ordinary Filipino can excel. However, the rebuttals to the contrary range from such excuses as “The cultural temperament of Filipinos makes them prefer basketball because it has a faster-pace of point-scoring while soccer’s scores are low and goal-scoring is rare” to other excuses like“soccer requires a huge field in order to play while basketball needs a much smaller space.”

Who says you need a field to play soccer?

Both excuses fall flat considering that Filipinos are ethnically and even temperamentally similar to the Malays of Malaysia and Brunei (except in religion), both of whom enjoy and excel in soccer within the ASEAN region. It can be argued too that most Latin Americans, with whom Filipinos share common Spanish colonial history vis-à-vis Hispano-America and a very similar Iberian heritage with Portuguese-speaking Brazil, are somewhat culturally similar to Filipinos (especially in their sense of humor) and yet they too enjoy the sport immensely and are perhaps among the most excellent players of the Beautiful Game in the World. Most importantly, millions of impoverished Latin-Americans and Africans often practice playing soccer just about anywhere, be it on a small field, a dusty road, or even a small backyard. Some of the world’s highest-paid soccer stars come from such an impoverished background and they often cherish their childhood memories of growing up, playing soccer barefoot with plastic bottles or anything they can kick around as their ball, drawing lines on the ground to serve as their “goals.” It is just not true that Filipinos cannot shift to soccer.

The unfortunate fact is that Filipinos prefer to stick to whatever status quo they’ve grown used to. The real problem here is Inertia: the resistance to change.

Resistance to Change

Indeed, there is something really flawed about the situation, and Filipinos have to immediately correct it. Unfortunately, there seems to be something about us Filipinos that exacerbates our resistance to change: We have a tendency to refuse to admit that a problem exists, and often prefer to just ignore it and sweep the problem under the rug. In case that problem stares squarely at us, thereby making it impossible to ignore, quite often, we just outright refuse to do the work that would fix that problem and just endure the resulting mediocrity. Worse, many Filipinos prefer to make excuses that seek to justify such refusal to fix the problem, oftentimes reasoning – using intellectual dishonesty – that trying to fix the problem would actually make things worse.

We need not look far to see that this problem is not solely confined to the world of sports, in which increasing attention is being placed on the Soccer versus Basketball debate. Just recently, journalist and current Ambassador to Greece, Rigoberto Tiglao, recently wrote a two-part special on why Filipinos are not into Soccer.

The Tall Man’s Game

In it, he likened the need for Filipinos to carefully consider shifting from basketball to soccer and the difficulty in convincing Filipinos to do so, with the fact that many Filipinos still stubbornly refuse to at least attempt to consider the objective merits of the Parliamentary System as a possible option to replace the current Philippine Presidential System. It has been observed that the Philippine Presidential System’s skew towards popularity and name-recall , coupled with the Philippine Electorate’s preference for form over substance that unfortunately brought about perhaps the most embarrassing stain on the Philippines’ international reputation in 1998, when celebrity actor Joseph “Erap” Estrada won as President of the Philippines. The Philippines had another close call in 2004 when his fellow celebrity actor and close friend, the late Fernando Poe, Jr. almost won. And just recently in May 2010, the convicted-of-plunder ex-President Estrada who was deposed in 2001 ran again and took second place.

In the meantime, numerous politicians aspiring for the Presidency jockey for positions in the equally useless and non-representative Philippine Senate (whose Senators do not represent constituencies unlike in the USA, where Senators are elected per State), and as a result, the Philippine Senate has numerous “Senactors” (Senators who are actors) as well as politicians married to actresses or celebrities.

We continue to be a basketball-crazed society that is isolated from the soccer-loving rest of the world and yet we can’t even excel in this game we so love, nor can we send talented Filipino players to the NBA because basketball is a game that clearly favors height and we simply do not have the height that would at least give us a fighting chance.

In almost the exact same way, we continue to clamor for improvements in our lives, our economic livelihood, and the quality of our politics, yet because of a system of government whose electoral procedure (choosing the name of an individual candidate running for President) clearly favors “winnability” (popularity and name-recall) over competence, we end up with incompetent people who become President only because of their celebrity status or famous surnames. At other times, we also end up with leaders who – though sometimes competent – are forced to pander to the public lest they risk being unable to govern if they fail to play the popularity game.

When will we Filipinos realize that for us to excel in team sports, we need to choose a sport where competence and real talent are much more important than one’s height?

When will we Filipinos realize that for our society to be better-run, more efficient, and more responsive to our people’s needs, we need to choose a system of government in which quality policy-making, platform relevance, and competence take overwhelming precedence over petty traits such as celebrity-status, personal popularity, and name-recall?

Knowing that both basketball and the current Presidential System are not good for us, why then do we Filipinos continue to insist on sticking it out with the both of them instead of making the necessary changes that would correct the problems that these two Problematic American Imports continue to cause?

Once upon a time, Albert Einstein said that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.”

Basketball & the Presidential System: Problematic US Imports

There is absolutely no doubt that an objective and honest discussion on the merits of soccer over basketball most certainly parallels the discussion on the merits of a Parliamentary System over the Presidential System.

Both Basketball and the Presidential System are largely American inventions which they brought along with them during the almost 50 years that they occupied our country and we Filipinos took to both of them as if they were our own.

Unfortunately, both basketball and the Presidential System have pre-requisites that Americans often meet which Filipinos don’t: Basketball inherently favors height for a player to be considered eligible for competitive play because the hoops are high. On the other hand, the Presidential System requires that the electorate be naturally issues-centric and platform-oriented in order to counterbalance the inherent personality-centered exercise of voting for a presidential candidate.

They want to be like Kobe

Incidentally, both basketball and the Presidential System have brought Failure to Filipinos: Basketball has shattered the dreams and self-esteem of millions of young Filipinos who’ve continued to aspire to be just like their idols Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Michael Jordan, or Kobe Bryant, practicing basketball for hours on end, only to be rendered ineligible for competitive basketball all because they were too short.  On the other hand, the current Philippine Presidential System (based on the 1987 Constitution) has shattered the lives of millions of Filipinos who – because the system favors candidate winnability (popularity, and name-recall) over competence and a sound platform for governance – often end up with leaders who merely have popularity but no competence. Sometimes we end up with leaders and lawmakers who have no choice but to pander to the public instead of focusing on doing what is the correct and beneficial course of action in the long-term, even if it may appear to be unpopular in the short-term. Most politicians with presidential ambitions (except for a select few) therefore tend to focus too much on short-term popularity by engaging in publicity stunts in order to have the name-recall and media attention they need just to have a stab at the Presidency when the time comes to run for it.

In the end, Philippine Society as well as its Government is often unable to make the hard decisions necessary that would bring about a better economy, more jobs, more prosperity, and more improvements to the lives of the people, all because the focus on popularity-based personality-politics always manages to derail society away from focusing on the most important aspects of governance.

In a manner of speaking, it can be said that both basketball and the Presidential System are skewed towards traits which Filipinos either do not have in abundance (height for basketball) or towards traits that Filipinos are extremely obsessed about (popularity and celebrity-status for the Presidential System), both of which lead to Mediocrity and ultimately, towards Failure.

In the former case, Americans have a bigger pool of tall people to select from who may excel in professional basketball, while Filipinos clearly do not. In the latter, Americans have the required cultural and political maturity, policy and platform focus, issues focus, and the ability to zero-in more on the message rather than the messenger in order to counteract and counterbalance the inherent skew towards popularity and name-recall that is inherent in the Presidential System. Filipinos, sadly, are more culturally pre-disposed towards personality, celebrity-status, and popularity, so that winning Philippine presidential elections is more about fielding candidates who are deemed “winnable” rather than determining who among the prospective candidates is the most competent, possesses the necessary qualifications that would enable him to perform his duties successfully, and who has done the best job related to governance in the past and as such, is therefore most likely going to do a splendid job.

Regarding the sport of basketball, it is also no wonder that Filipino basketball players are not exactly NBA-quality (and therefore explains why no Filipino has ever gone to the NBA). In the Philippines, many basketball players who get chosen to go professional are often those who are of towering height, never mind that they may not exactly be the best among the entire pool of available players. There are oftentimes people who play basketball really well and can shoot hoops accurately, but simply because they are too short and unable to do slam-dunks, they are totally ignored by recruitment scouts for professional or semi-professional teams.

In fact, stories circulated in the past about some UAAP basketball teams whose alumni associations recruited players who were not really basketball prodigies, but just plain “tall giants” from their respective high schools. It was evident from their on-court performance: These were extremely tall players who always missed getting the ball through the basket during free throws. No mystery there: Such players were recruited for their height, not for their prowess in basketball.

Product of the Philippine Presidential System

Once again, this parallel zeroes in on the main problem that the Presidential System has brought on the Philippines. Very similar to basketball’s unfair preference for tall people, the  Presidential System has an inherent skew towards winnability  (popularity and name-recall), coupled with the cultural inclination of Filipinos to gossip more about popular celebrities and their private lives or marital woes, and discuss less about the most important issues related to the economy and governance. It is therefore not difficult to see why numerous actors and showbiz celebrities end up as politicians and why professional politicians often end up marrying famous actresses or TV personalities just to gain media mileage and rapport with the voting public. It also shows precisely why the discussions in Philippine Politics tend towards vacuity and pettiness, rather than on real practical problem-solving. For this reason, the Philippines continues to be unable to fix the same kinds of problems that have hounded it for decades, while other countries are zooming ahead leaving the Philippines in the dust.

In other words, the system of government in the Philippines is set up so that the people who are most favored to win in national elections tend to be those candidates who have the necessary popularity and the name-recall (actors, showbiz celebrities, children of well-known politicians, politicians married to celebrities, controversial public figures who get excessive media exposure, athletes and basketball stars, etc) required to win said popularity contests, to the detriment of those people who have the requisite expertise, competence, track record, vision, and most importantly, the relevant platform of governance that matches the needs of the country at a given point in time.

It doesn’t help much that the Philippines continues to make use of the direct popular vote in stark contrast to the more indirect voting system of the US Electoral College, which was set up by America’s Founding Fathers with the express intention of moderating and mitigating the tyranny of popularity, name-recall, and emotionalism that is the unfortunate negative tendency of direct democracy. In addition, there also is the fact that the two-party system of the USA makes use of party-based Caucuses & Primary Elections to ensure that – as much as possible – the best man (or woman) for the job is chosen by each party.

To be absolutely honest about it, there is a steadily increasing dissatisfaction and growing base of evidence worldwide against the dismal operational efficiency and low degree of accountability resulting from the Presidential System. Case in point: There is a large number of disadvantages that the Presidential System is described to possess by numerous political scientists and economists, particularly by renowned political scientist and expert on political systems Dr. Juan Linz, PhD of Yale in his famous essay “The Perils of Presidentialism) as well as a recent joint World Bank and University of Chicago study entitled “Accountability and Corruption: Political Institutions Matter” – authored by three Latin American economists namely, Dr. Daniel Lederman, PhD – Chile, Dr. Norman Loayza, PhD – Peru, and Dr. Rodrigo Soares, PhD – Brazil, correlating the Presidential System with greater levels of corruption on the one hand, and much lower incidences of corruption with the Parliamentary System on the other.

Notwithstanding all those operational disadvantages of the “separation-of-powers” Presidential System, coupled with the inherent tendency towards personality-politics found in it, at the very least, it can be said that the USA has specific safeguards such as the use of Primaries and the Electoral College which clearly mitigate the negative traits associated with the Presidential System’s popularity-centric electoral procedure.

Alas, no such safeguards such as a “Two-Party System”, “Party Primaries” and the reliance on an “Electoral College” exist for the current Philippine Presidential System based on the 1987 Constitution. It is for this reason that the full unadulterated impact of the tyranny of popularity bears down heavily on Philippine Society.

* * *

Defects of the 1987 Constitution’s Presidential System 

Fr. Joaquín Bernas, SJ: Forgot to consider the Problem of having a Minority President

Unfortunately for Filipinos, the Philippine Constitutional Commission of 1986 which created the current 1987 Constitution – of which one of the most vocal members is revered Constitutionalist and Jesuit Fr. Joaquín Bernas, SJ – set up a system that has consistently produced presidents who do not have a majority mandate. The 1987 Constitution did not support the creation of a two-party system which would enable the electoral winner to emerge with an absolute majority, and instead, allows for multiple candidates to run for president. The real dilemma here is that allowing multiple candidates to run for President of the Philippines invariably results in splitting the vote in three ways or more, in which there is a big possibility that the candidate who emerges with the most number of votes merely wins with a plurality but unfortunately does not have a majority (more than 50%) of all votes cast. A President who does not get a majority of all votes cast is a Minority President.

Having a minority president is obviously a major disadvantage and creates a crisis of governance. In fact, it is a curse. Minority Presidents are always disadvantaged, because Philippine media has always had the tendency to pander to the preferences of the public. A minority president with say, 40% of the vote, will have 60% of the electorate stacked against him as they did not vote for him, making him vulnerable to gripes, complaints, and negative articles published in the papers.

Every single Philippine President who came after the late President Cory C. Aquino has been a minority president. Former President Fidel Ramos only had 23.5% of the entire vote thanks to so many rival candidates running for the presidency in the 1992 elections. Ousted former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada was a minority president, having just around 40% of the entire number of votes cast. And in 2004, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was also a minority president with around 38% of all votes cast. It is no surprise, therefore, that all of them were often presented unfavorably by media during their term.

In fact, our popular new president, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III is himself a minority president as his mandate is said to be just around 42%, with roughly 58% of the electorate having voted for another candidate.

Now, lest we think that Minority Presidents are extremely common around the world, the fact is that in a majority of countries that allow for multiple candidates for President such as France, numerous countries in Latin America, countries using a presidential system in Eastern Europe, Indonesia, Afghanistan, and even East Timor, the prospect of a Minority President (a president with less than 50% of all total votes cast) is thoroughly avoided through provisions for a second round of elections called the “Run-Off.”

Le Pen took 16% versus Chirac’s 19% in 2002’s first round as the vote was split among 16 candidates. After the Run-off: Chirac won 82%, Le Pen took 18%

The dynamics for holding Two-Round elections are simple: The first round of elections pits all candidates, say, 3 or more candidates for President against each other. After they slug it out in the first round, the top 2 candidates who emerge from the first round are then pitted against each other in the Run-Off election, where a week or more after the first round, everyone goes back to the polling stations to vote in the second round “Run-Off.” Since there are only two candidates in a run-off, a clear majority-winner will emerge. It is in such an electoral system where people who voted for other candidates during the first round are then forced to “choose the lesser evil” during the “Run-Off” round. At the very least, voters can choose whom they really want during the first round, and if their favorite candidate was eliminated after the first round, it’s during the run-off where they throw their support behind one of the two candidates.

Here is an example: France’s 2002 Elections. The first round of elections saw numerous candidates slugging it out with Gaullist re-electionist Jacques Chirac coming out on top and with Right-wing “Neo-Nazi” and anti-immigration Front National candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen snatching second place. As there were too many candidates, Jacques Chirac did not get a majority of the vote, so a Run-Off had to be held exactly one week after, pitting the top two candidates from the first round  against each other. The Run-Off was an amazing display of solidarity among the French in order to avoid allowing a “Neo-Nazi” like Le Pen to emerge victorious. Everyone from the Left – Communists, Socialists, even people who had formerly hated the right-of-center Gaullists with a vengeance, went in all-out support for Jacques Chirac in order to ensure the defeat of far right, ultra-nationalist, anti-immigration Front National candidate Le Pen.

Alas, the 1987 Constitution made absolutely no provisions for a run-off election, nor did the Constitution’s framers find it important to avoid having a minority president. That is a major defect.

Unfortunately, this inherent defect in the 1987 Constitution cannot be fixed unless the Constitution is amended. That is exactly what a Constitutional Amendment is all about: If something is missing, needs to be removed, or changed in the Constitution (never mind if it’s a word or a punctuation mark), the Constitution needs to be amended. There is unfortunately no real way around it. The 1987 Constitution is defective and needs thorough revision, if not an overhaul.

The Better Way: Soccer and the Parliamentary System

Fortunately, since it is clear that both basketball and the current Philippine Presidential System are more and more proving to be inappropriate and extremely non-conducive to success for Filipinos, we now have the opportunity to look at the clear alternatives. For our “national team sport”, we definitely should consider soccer. For our form of government, we should bid Adieu to the Presidential System and move on towards the highly recommended Parliamentary System. (Recommended by Ivy League Political Scientists and Economists)

We already know the issue with basketball. Basketball requires height and average Filipinos just don’t have height. Rather than continuing to produce heart-broken basketball-loving youngsters whose dreams of going professional are shattered by their inability to grow to at least 6 ft tall, it’s about time our society – led by our Government, Media, Schools, and our Businesses who sponsor sporting events – decisively shifted over to soccer.

There should be no turning back. Soccer is clearly the World’s Beautiful Game, loved by almost everyone of all creeds, colors, cultures, languages, races, and continents. It is a sport that can allow Filipinos to excel because it does not require nor does it even favor height in order for players to be successful. It is a sport that promotes more teamwork as there is much more ball-passing that goes on than in basketball. In soccer, most goals are scored as a result of teamwork and last-minute ball-passing, in contrast to basketball’s tendency to promote keeping the ball to oneself selfishly in order to reap the glory of scoring.

We also know that the Presidential System has the tendency to promote personality politics due largely to the electoral procedure of choosing an individual candidate to become President. During such Presidential campaigns especially in the Philippines, candidates are extremely likely to promote and differentiate themselves from their opponents by talking more about their own personal traits. Instead of playing up their party-affiliations and their party platforms, advocacies, and policy proposals, Presidential candidates in the Philippines, are forced to play the popularity game simply because it is ultimately popularity, winnability, and name-recall that gets voters picking a candidate’s name on the Presidential System’s ballot. Worse, the Philippine Presidential System creates Minority Presidents.

Question Time: You need to know your stuff well to be Prime Minister

In stark contrast, the Parliamentary System requires the formation of majority governments, through either of two ways: a party can win an overwhelming majority of parliamentary seats, and immediately, the majority party’s leader immediately becomes the Prime Minister. Another way such a majority government is formed is through coalition-building. Coalition-blocs can be formed, so that if one bloc gains a majority of all seats in parliament, that coalition then forms the government, and the leader of the party with the most seats within that majority bloc emerges as Prime Minister. Prime Ministers in a Parliamentary System, therefore tend to have more majority-support and therefore a clearer mandate than minority Presidents emerging from the runoff-less Philippine Presidential Elections.

Moreover, the Parliamentary System is a much more party-centric system whose campaigns tend to be much more issues-advocacy, ideas-centric (as opposed to personality-centric), and platform-focused as the electoral dynamics do not involve the Pubic Electorate directly choosing who the Prime Minister will be. This does not even talk about the Parliamentary System’s bias towards leaders with competence and solid knowledge of all the relevant details regarding the country’s affairs: A Parliamentary System features a weekly Question Time session where the Prime Minister and his Front Benchers (Cabinet) are grilled by members of the opposition to make sure that all angles relating to policy-making and functioning of the government and cabinet have considered the best options and are also running properly. A Prime Minister must therefore be on his toes, totally knowledgeable, and able to respond extemporaneously as he is often expected to answer most questions without deferring to other members. For this reason, not all ordinary MP’s aspire to become PM and members of the majority party often cooperate to help brief the PM and the front bench on what they need to know so that they can properly respond. This Parliamentary feature further promotes more solid team dynamics as party members close-ranks to support their PM and party front-benchers.

Listed below are two ways in which the Philippines can develop a True Party System where the politicians rally around ideas, platforms, and consistent policies, and form a loyalty to their parties and their core principles, and where the voting public can be made to look less at personalities and look more at the collective nature of parties and vote accordingly:

  1. Dr. Kasuya´s observation: 1 term only limit = weaker parties

     Removal of Term Limits – Allowing the top leader to continue to stand for elections more than once (removal of term limits) actually promotes stronger party dynamics as parties cease to be ad-hoc election clubs that get formed only to defray election-period campaign costs, and become more long-standing and consistent in rallying around a stable policy-platform in order to maintain continuity. This was the observation made in a research paper entitled “Presidential Term Limits and Party-System Stability in New Democracies as well as the book “Presidential Bandwagon: Parties and Party Systems in the Philippines“, both authored by Japanese political scientist Dr. Yuko Kasuya, PhD when she observed that the party structure of the Philippines rapidly deteriorated after the idea of presidential re-election was banned by the 1987 Constitution, thus preventing an elected President (or Head of Government) from standing for more than one term.  This has caused presidential aspirants as well as those people running together with them in their parties to unfortunately regard each election as essentially a one-shot deal. In case a presidential candidate does win and becomes President, there is hardly any real sense of continuity as that President and his staff only look at the specific 6 year term he has. One-shot deal thinking of that sort turns parties into ad-hoc “cliques of convenience” (my term), thereby eroding whatever sense of continuity and working for the same goals may have existed during the campaign. In short, the idea that an incumbent President may run for re-election develops a better focus on continuity among members of a party to act in support of the incumbent party-mate. Since Parliamentary Systems do not have term limits for Prime Ministers, the tendency for parties to act like one-shot, ad hoc, and temporary “cliques of convenience” is greatly reduced and in fact, practically eliminated, and it is thus no wonder that the party system is much stronger in countries using Parliamentary Systems. A Prime Minister who continues to enjoy his own party’s (or coalition’s) internal support, and whose party (or coalition) continues to enjoy a parliamentary majority stays on as Prime Minister. (Technically, under the Parliamentary System, the parties are bigger than the personalities involved, and so it does not matter who the Prime Minister should be, because it is the party or coalition and its accompanying platform that truly matters.)

  2. Strong Parties: a section of a US Ballot from the 1908 polls – Mark a circle in order to choose a Straight Party Ticket

    Forced “Straight Ticket Voting”– Superior party-dynamics emerges (or is further enhanced) when the ability to choose different candidates vying for different positions is eliminated, and replaced with a system that forces “Straight Ticket Voting” or “Straight Party Voting(sometimes confusingly called “bloc-voting” as that term may also mean groups voting as a “bloc” as in the INC’s tendency towards telling their members whom to vote for: “voting as a bloc”) The use of the term “Forced Straight Ticket Voting” clearly refers to the scenario where voters are not able to split the ticket across to vote  for a candidate from party A to be President, a candidate from party B to be Vice-President, and a candidate from party C for their local district representative.  “Straight Ticket Voting” in the USA would clearly refer to voting straight Republican (for all positions) or voting straight Democrat (for all positions).  Modifying the ballots to remove the ability to choose different candidates from different parties for each position and instead determine the party that the voter chooses and all candidates from the same party are assumed to be selected for all the relevant positions. This feature forces the electorate to cease looking at individual candidates and instead forces the voters to look at entire parties. Since political parties are not human beings with “individual personalities”, the key differentiator between political parties then becomes their Party Platforms.

Mahathir: Product of Parliamentarism

When one carefully looks at both, it is obvious that number 1 forces Strict Party Dynamics among the Politicians themselves, as they end up having better party discipline as they seek to allow for more continuity of their party’s programs instead of seeing their “parties” as mere ad-hoc cliques that stand for nothing and come together every 3 or 6 years with the sole purpose of simply pooling campaign financial resources together to share and defray the costs of their poster printing, TV and Radio advertising, etc. Number 2, on the other hand forces Strict Party Voting among the Electorate. As mentioned, the inability of the voters to “extricate” the personalities from the parties forces the electorate to look at parties as a whole, rather than rely on the default Filipino tendency which is to look for individual superstars.

Both these features which promote better Political Party Dynamics can be done within a Presidential System. Term-limits can be removed *and* the ballots can be redesigned to force voters to choose only straight party tickets. In order to do this, ballots should no longer have individual names of candidates, and instead, only party names will be written down and selected by the voters.

However, when you do both 1 and 2 within a Presidential System, you’ve essentially turned that Presidential System into a Parliamentary System, because this time, the voting system fuses the choice of Executive (President) and Legislative (Senate and Local District Representative) together so that both choices come from the same party.

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