Bad Girls

Posted in Brownman's Posts by uniffors on the March 29th, 2009

Here is another good one from Patricia Evangelista.

    Method To Madness
    Bad girls
    By Patricia Evangelista

    You know the story, about the girl who goes for a night out, who is carried off, drunk and helpless, to be raped in a waiting van. You know what happens after, and where she is found: along a pier, disoriented, her pants down around her feet. You know where the story takes a different turn, because the girl, unlike the woman who is raped every hour in this country, goes to court and testifies that she was raped on the night of Nov. 1, 2005. This is what she said in a July 2006 hearing: “They took away my dignity … Smith raped me and his companions even encouraged him. They were enjoying it as if they were watching a private show. Then they just unloaded me [from the van] like a pig.” Court evidence established the lacerations and tenderness of her vagina as consistent with rape. Nicole testified in court that she was drunk and too weak to stop the assault. The trial court, in a decision that made international headlines, declared Lance Cpl. Daniel J. Smith guilty of raping the girl the nation knew as simply “Nicole.”

    There were many, of course, who were quick to point out that Nicole herself may have been to blame. Good girls, whispered the slit-eyed, tight-lipped few, do not go to bars to drink with foreign boys with baby faces.

    But there were many who took up the cudgels for Nicole. Her story became everyone’s story. Here is the Filipina raped and disowned by the vicious American. Here is the living, breathing image of the Filipino nation, raped by capitalist America. That Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith was a serviceman brought to the Philippines by virtue of the controversial Philippine-US Visiting Forces Agreement made the parallelism complete. “Nicole” is not a name but an issue, a concept, a word painted in red letters on a cardboard banner. This was the Nicole of the local media, this is the Nicole of the politicians and the human rights groups: Joan of Arc, banner flying, armor glinting, the light of battle in her eyes.

    And then, recently, Nicole’s affidavit, what some have called a recantation. “My conscience continues to bother me,” she said, “realizing that I may have in fact been so friendly and intimate with Daniel Smith at the Neptune Club that he was led to believe that I was amenable to having sex or that we simply just got carried away,” she said. It was all that was necessary for the whispers to become shouts of righteous anger. We knew it, they said. We said she was a whore.

    It was suddenly another Nicole who strutted into the Neptune Club on the night of Nov. 1, 2005. This was the girl who wore short skirts and pursued blue-eyed boys with their buzz cuts and pockets thick with US dollars, the girl with an ear cocked to the marching tune of the American Dream. This is Nicole, who sat on the laps of GIs and let them ply her with cocktails, first the Vodka Sprite, then the B52, the Singaporean Sling, the B53, the Long Island Iced Tea. That night, she sat on the lap of American Daniel Smith, a good-looking young serviceman she met on the dance floor. They say she kissed him, that she let him touch her on the dance floor, that they danced thrice, that she threw herself at him. This is the same Nicole that the defense team of Daniel Smith introduced to the Philippine public.

    I have been told by many people who Nicole is, what Nicole is, whom she represents, what she should have stood for. I’ll tell you who I am, and why it does not matter to me who Nicole is. I am a 23-year-old girl who wears short skirts, who knows intimately the contents of a Long Island Iced Tea, and who has, on more than one occasion, discovered that a college degree is very little protection against stupidity. I do not walk into a bar expecting to be raped, and if my moronic belief in that men are not animals does get me raped, it does not make it any less a crime.

    Nicole had it coming, they say. She was no virgin, she had an American boyfriend, she had drink after drink and was sprawled on Daniel Smith’s lap. There was tongue and lips and a hand up a skirt, she was in a dimly-lit bar in Olongapo City, the bright, bright city where women in tight cropped blouses and lipsticked smiles go to offer their charms to the brave boys of the US Army. Nicole wanted it, or she wouldn’t be there at all. How dare she, said the man who picked up the newspaper and saw her face. How dare she, said the activist who stood in front of the United States embassy. How dare she, said the college girl who shook her head at Nicole’s audacity. To cry rape, then to deny it, to cry rape, after inviting it — that was the betrayal.

    Unlike murder or assault or kidnapping, a rape case puts a victim on trial. Her past is raked up, her virginity made an issue, her sexual history a matter for public scrutiny, as if having an engorged male organ rip into unwilling flesh is any less an assault than a gunshot to the chest. The media cannot reveal her name, because society will condemn her—as if she is a criminal, not a victim. To follow the argument that women should be held responsible for rape is to open the floodgates for all kinds of ridiculous analogies — similar to holding Ninoy Aquino responsible for his own assassination (he was warned after all) and to blaming Jonas Burgos for being outspoken. To say any woman invites rape means any male with a hard-on can say a girl batted her eyelashes, that stiletto heels are a come-on, and that a lack of self-control is justified by a kiss goodnight. It is to say some women should be raped, and some shouldn’t.

    Even marriage — which is essentially also consent to marital relations — does not permit a man to take a woman whenever he wants her. I’ll tell you where I stand: that rape is still rape, whether or not the girl invites it, whether or not the woman is a Nursing graduate from Ateneo de Manila University or a paid escort in a halter top dancing for a clapping expatriate on the tables of Café Havana.

    That Nicole was raped seems no longer the issue. The courts have determined that a man who has sex with a drunk, unconscious girl is a rapist just the same. The recent affidavit, written in a manner Nicole does not employ, notarized by the firm representing her assailant, paints a picture of a girl who won the battle but lost the brutal war: Smith was behind bars, but so was Nicole — without money, without a future, and with very little help from a government stretching its fingertips to reach the coattails of Uncle Sam. She folded, she quit, she did not hold the line. Signing that affidavit was neither brave nor heroic, but then again, unlike so many who have fallen, it was not Nicole who claimed to be a hero.

Vigilante justice

Posted in Manuel Buencamino by uniffors on the March 25th, 2009

My column for today is about due process and the rule of Glo.

Vigilante justice
Dispatches from the Enchanted Kingdom

The tabloid’s headline said, “Arroyo orders raps vs DOJ, PDEA personnel. Also criminal charges vs ‘Alabang Boys’.” I read the story and I don’t know what to make of it.

Did Arroyo believe the Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors were bribed?

Did she think the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) agents carried out a buy-bust without an operations manual, used excessive force, maltreated unarmed suspects, failed to follow proper procedure in the handling of evidence, and freed the driver of the car where the alleged drug transaction took place?

Did she find probable cause to charge the Alabang Boys?

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s spokesman claimed she “took into very serious consideration the input” of the fact-finding body she formed after a PDEA agent alleged that DOJ prosecutors were paid to throw the case. Unfortunately, the commission’s report was kept confidential.

Neither a copy of the panel’s report nor of Arroyo’s subsequent order was made available to the suspected drug pushers, the DOJ or the PDEA.

The suspects wanted to know the basis for Arroyo’s reversal of the DOJ resolution to dismiss their case. They wanted due process, the right to reply, but they didn’t get it. They’re not happy.

The DOJ is not happy, either. Justice chief Raul Gonzalez always believed he had the last word on the resolution of the case.

“Under the law, actually, it should be my resolution. That is what is provided by law,” said Gonzalez a week before the panel submitted its report to the Palace.

Two weeks later, Arroyo issued her directive and Gonzalez could only say, “That is the order of the President. You have to obey that. She is the boss.” The hurt feelings are palpable.

Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuño, charged with negligence for the “cursory conduct of review” of the resolution on the case against the Alabang Boys, said, “My only reaction is that the resolution we approved was also approved and adopted by Secretary Gonzalez. That’s all.”

Gonzalez confirmed Zuño’s statement. He said, “In my review of the resolution, I did not just uphold the findings. I modified it and concentrated on bribery. There was no bribery.”

Indeed there was no bribery. When panel members Justice Raoul Victorino and Dean Fr. Ranhilio Aquino asked PDEA chief Dionisio Santiago if he had any direct evidence of bribery, Santiago had to admit, “There’s none. We have no evidence, no information to confirm that they received the bribe. We don’t have direct knowledge.”

He added, “We were told before that the case would be filed, then so suddenly it was dismissed, we wondered why?”

Why? Because the case will not stand up in court, that’s why.

Santiago’s agents didn’t have an operations manual to guide them. Their affidavits and after-operations reports were a mess. The arrest was illegal. The evidence was mishandled. Excessive force was used against unarmed suspects, who were not even properly informed of their rights. One of the agents, asked by Justice Victorino to recite the Miranda rights, could not even do it in either English or Pilipino.

That’s why only the PDEA is happy about the nondisclosure of the panel’s report. It was able to claim partial “vindication” based solely on Arroyo’s directive.

Without the panel’s report, the PDEA’s psy-war tactics turned vigilantes into heroes, DOJ prosecutors into heels, and suspected drug pushers into poster boys for Arroyo’s war on drugs.

The Alabang Boys will be charged with a nonbailable offense. Their case will be dismissed, eventually, but they will have to wait in a cell for a long time. Their only consolation will be that they are still alive, unlike those suspected car thieves on Ortigas Avenue and Edsa who were murdered, gangland style, by thugs who fancied themselves judge-executioners.

Moral certainty and righteous indignation are no substitutes for due process and the rule of law. Vigilante justice has no place in civilized societies.

Dahil kay Gloria

Posted in Brownman's Posts by uniffors on the March 24th, 2009

Got this in my e-mail from an Assumptionista. This proves that one rotten Gloria does not spoil the entire Assumption barrel.

    On my way to work, I saw MMDA workers wearing pink shirts that said “Kaminero, Pa-trabaho ni Gloria” (something like that)… How kapal to take credit for giving people government jobs…She might as well give the cabinet ministers shirts that say “Muchacho ni Gloria”.

    I thought to myself, well if she’s taking credit, she should also take the blame… someone should distribute shirts to beggars that say “Walang trabaho dahil kay Gloria”.

    I went with my Assumption batchmates to do outreach in Navotas last Sunday. The people there live under the bridge with nothing to shelter them but tarpaulins. Parang I want to give them tarps that say “Pabahay ni Gloria”.

you do the crime you don’t do the time (updated)

Posted in Philip Gilmore Cartoons by uniffors on the March 19th, 2009

Well, Gloria’s political ally from Zamboanga del Nort is now a free man. She commuted his double life sentence for child rape, His island resort of Dakak will once again be filled with the sounds of happy children frolicking on the beach..


Convicted double murderer Claudio Teehankee is now a free man, thanks to Gloria.
Rolito Go convicted murderer is expecting to be released soon. Again thanks to Gloria.
Who’s next, convicted rapist/double-murderer Mayor Sanchez of Laguna?
And here’s the story behind the strange acquittal of the husband of Gloria’s frequent traveling companion.

Power, Politics & Influence
The Untold Truths on the Acquittal of Rep. Jose Tapales Villarosa

1. The Government, through the Department of Justice, found probable cause to file two (2) separate Informations against Jose T. Villarosa and his gang for the murder of Paul Quintos and Michael Quintos, sons of former Cong. Ricardo Quintos, the political rival of Villarosa in Occidental Mindoro.

2. After eight (8) years of trial, Hon. Judge Ma. Theresa Yadao of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City rendered a Decision finding Villarosa and his gang, GUILTY of double murder and imposed upon them the mandatory penalty of DEATH;

3. Jose Tapales Villarosa is the spouse of Congresswoman Girlie Villarosa, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, KAMPI Officer, President GMA’s rapid ally and constant travel companion. The public remembers Congresswoman Villarosa as the same “fall guy” who voluntarily and publicly admitted that KAMPI was the source of the P500K “assistance” to each governor and congressman present in Malacanang last October 11;

4. Jose Tapales Villarosa and his gang appealed the Decision of Judge Yadao to the Court of Appeals. On December 2006, Ex-Congressman and then Solicitor General Antonio Nachura filed a Manifestation recommending the acquittal of Jose Tapales Villarosa. Less than 60 days from the filing of said Manifestation, SolGen Nachura was elevated to the Supreme Court.

5. While supposedly being detained at the National Bilibid Prisons, Jose Tapales Villarosa enjoyed special privileges such as numerous “hospital leaves” without the prior consent of or knowledge of the Court of Appeals.

6. Jose Tapales Villarosa’s appeal was assigned to Justice Tijam of the 5th Division of the Court of Appeals, for study and report. As there were very disturbing reports on the partiality of Justice Tijam in favor of Jose Tapales Villarosa, a Motion to Inhibit Justice Tijam was filed by the Quintos family. A motion to suspend proceedings was also filed by the Quintos family.

7. The acquittal was handed out even though there were two (2) separate pending incidents, namely the Motion for Inhibition before the Supreme Court and the Motion to Suspend Proceedings before the 5th Division;

8. Justice Tijam and the 5th Division reasoned that while conspiracy existed and that gunmen and look-outs played out their respective roles and therefore deserved to be convicted, THERE WAS NO MASTERMIND. More importantly, while the confession of the gunman was entitled to full credence and was sufficient to uphold his conviction and those of his co-conspirators, insofar as powerful Villarosa was concerned, said confession cannot be used;

9. Justice Tijam and the 5th Division plainly disregarded the conspiratorial facts such as the established linkage between Villarosa and the gunmen before, during and after the murders, and that Villarosa gave financial assistance to the gunmen as proven by encahsed checks that were presented in evidence;

10. Justice Tijam and the 5th Division completely disregarded the testimony of Co. Winston Ebersole recounting how four (4) months prior to the murders, he attempted to arrest one of the gunmen on a robbery charge, only to be prevented by Villarosa. This gunman eventually disappeared only to be seen again on the night of December 13, 1997 repeatedly shooting Michael Quintos until his gun ran out of bullets. (A few weeks after his damaging testimony against Villarosa , Col. Ebersole was murdered.)

11. Justice Tijam and the 5th Division completely ignored and disregarded the confession of the one of the look-outs who disappeared from Mindoro right after the murders, only to be arrested in 2002 working as a security guard for an agency where Congresswoman Girlie Villarosa had been a long-time officer. Moreover, while in NBI custody by virtue of an outstanding warrant of arrest, Congresswoman Villarosa and her lawyer rushed to the NBI and tried to have the self-confessed look-out released to their custody, but this was aborted due to the timely arrival and vigorous protest of former Congressman Quintos.

12. Meanwhile, Malacanang in rather bad taste, considering the sensitiveness of the issue, immediately congratulated Congresswoman Villarosa on her “early Easter gift”.(Emphasis mine) The acquittal apparently did wonders for Villarosa’s health, since he had been confined at the Makati Medical Center for months recuperating from “major lung surgery”: He walked out of the hospital smiling the afternoon the CA decision was handed down;

13. Under the Administration, the perception grown that there are two types of justice in this country, one for the rich and well connected, another for the hoi polloi. Those in the first category are granted bail for murder, never serve time in prison for corruption, and see their convictions for double murder overturned by the Court of Appeals. To the second category belong those who rot in prison for picking pockets to feed their family (Editorial, Philippine Star March 31, 2007).

14. Congressman Jose T. Villarosa is more equal than others. Established rules and jurisprudence may be twisted to suit his needs. Power, Politics and Influence have once again reared their ugly heads;
To the Quintos family, we sympathize and share your pain in the senseless loss of Paul and Michael.
To our dear friends Paul and Michael Quintos, we will continue to pray and soldier on for you. DIVINE JUSTICE will be yours.

Concerned Citizens of Occidental Mindoro , Friends and Fraternity Brothers, Class of 1983 and 1988, Xavier School , University of the Asia & Pacific (Pioneer Batch) 1993

Nicole’s affidavit

Posted in Manuel Buencamino by uniffors on the March 18th, 2009

Three paragraphs from Nicole’s affidavit READ HERE IN FULL are very curious.

    Par. 8 With the events at the Neptune Club in mind, I keep on asking myself, if Daniel Smith wanted to rape me, why would he carry me out of the Neptune Club using the main entrance in full view of the security guard and the other sources? Why would the van park right in front of Neptune Club? Why would Daniel Smith and his companions bring me to the seawall of Alaba Pier and casually leave this area that was well lighted and with many people roaming around? If they believed that I was raped, would they have not dumped me instead in a dimly lit area along the highway going to Alaba Pier to avoid detection?

Those questions can be answered very simply with “maybe they didn’t give a shit.”

    Par 9 “Recalling my testimony, I ask myself now how could I have remembered this if witnesses told the court that I passed out and looked unconscious when I was brought to the van by Daniel Smith. How could I have resisted his advances given this condition? Daniel Smith and I were alone on the third row of the van which had limited space and I do not recall anyone inside the van who held my hand or any part of my body. What I can recall is that there was very loud music and shouting inside the van.”

So she was so out of it she’s not sure she was fucked? DATE RAPE is what you call that. How can an unconscious or semi-conscious woman give consent? Absence of resistance or the ability to resist does not necessarily mean consent. It could mean fear or inability to exercise judgment due to extraneous factors like too much alcohol.

    Par. 10 “If the travel from Neptune Club took only several minutes and with the driver of the van trying to beat the curfew time of his passengers, how could I have instantly regained my consciousness and talked to the people upon reaching the seawall of Alaba Pier? When people gathered around me at the seawall, everyone seemed to have drawn the conclusion that I was raped except for one who called me a bitch.”

Doesn’t this paragraph confirm what she said about her state of consciousness in par.9? “How could I have instantly regained my consciousness and talked to the people upon reaching the seawall of Alaba Pier?”

So Nicole could still not bring herself around to categorically stating that she either engaged in consensual sex or she was raped. I was so drunk I’m not sure anymore what happened is what her affidavit says.

The case is People of the Philippines vs. Daniel Smith not Nicole vs. Daniel Smith. Nicole was the People’s witness against Smith. Her testimony plus evidence of sexual activity is what led to Smith’s conviction. In other words, there was evidence that she was fucked. Smith admitted fucking her. Now. her recantation said she was barely conscious when the fucking happened. In that case, it was still rape. How can a barely conscious or super drunk person give consent?

Let’s leave Nicole in peace and Smith in jail.

From Bunye to worst

Posted in Manuel Buencamino by uniffors on the March 18th, 2009

My Dispatch from the Enchanted Kingdom in today’s Business Mirror is on Press Secretary Cerge Remonde.

    Dispatches from the Enchanted Kingdom
    From Bunye to worse

    Dear Secretary Cerge Remonde:

    Your official statement on US President Barack Obama’s call to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was good. It was concise.

    “We thank the US President for the courtesy of his call, and we look forward to continuing to work together with him on issues of common interest.”

    That, plus a reprint of the 84-word White House “readout” or summary of the phone conversation would have sufficed.

    Unfortunately, you could not leave well enough alone; when the press prodded you for more, you obliged with spin. And that’s where you screwed up.

    You went on to surmise that Obama finally called Arroyo because “he has found more time to look at the larger role of the United States now that he has addressed the internal problems of his country. Maybe he has finally realized the importance of maintaining good relations with us.”

    From what part of your anatomy did you pull out the supposition that Obama was too preoccupied with domestic affairs to call up foreign leaders? The White House web site posted about 20 readouts of Obama’s calls to foreign leaders from January 23 up to March 14.

    In addition, a recent article from The New York Times—“To keep in touch, Obama picks up the phone”—reported:

    “Mr. Obama’s first [call] came barely an hour after stepping into the office for the first time on the morning of January 21, as he reached out to four Middle Eastern leaders to talk about the peace process.

    “Since then, according to an official record, Mr. Obama has called the presidents of China, Lebanon, Colombia and South Africa. He has talked to the prime ministers of Japan, Australia, Canada and Iraq, and the king of Saudi Arabia.”

    So, what were you thinking when you said Obama was too busy with internal problems to attend to “the larger role of the United States?”

    Now, as to why Obama called.

    He called just when the clamor to revisit the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) was turning up. It could not have been a pure coincidence, but you wanted us to believe it was.

    “It’s not necessarily because of the VFA. That’s one of the high points of Philippine-American relations, and talking about it is unavoidable,” you said.

    Here’s an excerpt from the White House readout of Obama’s call to Arroyo:

    “The President called President Arroyo of the Philippines this morning. They reaffirmed their commitment to the long-standing US-Philippines alliance, including the Visiting Forces Agreement, which remains critical to the bilateral relationship and our strategic interests.”

    The timing of the call and the specific mention of the VFA in the second sentence of the White House summary indicated it was at the top of Obama’s agenda. Ano ka ba naman, Mr. Remonde, ginagago mo na ang taong bayan.

    You want the public to believe Obama called Arroyo from out of the blue to renew their bilateral vows for no reason at all? Why would Arroyo and Obama have to reaffirm their commitment to the VFA if all was well?

    Besides, what is the point of denying that the VFA has turned into a sore point in Philippine-American relations?

    Mr. Remonde, the critical aspect of that phone conversation was Arroyo’s response to whatever Obama told her about the VFA. Did she tell him she would do what she thought was best, or did she tell him what she thought he wanted to hear?

    Her response is what you must pass on to the public. They have a right to know.

    And now, for an unsolicited but caring piece of advice: Don’t try to outdo your predecessors Toting Bunye and Jess Dureza; that would be going from bad to worse.

    Hugs and kisses,

Gloria’s solution

Posted in Philip Gilmore Cartoons by uniffors on the March 17th, 2009

In an attempt to do away with bribe takers at the SEC, Gloria appointed a bribe giver.

The never-ending story

Posted in Philip Gilmore Cartoons by uniffors on the March 15th, 2009


Vicky Boy Dingdong

Posted in Manuel Buencamino by uniffors on the March 13th, 2009

We wuz down for a couple of days, don’t know what happened…

This is my column for Business Mirror, last Wednesday, 11 March 2009.

    Dispatches from the Enchanted Kingdom
    Vicki Boy Dingdong

    I was fed up with news about corruption and human-rights violations, so I switched to a program doing showbiz chismis.

    The chismoso were discussing something that Vicki Belo, owner of the country’s leading face- and body-repair shop, said on TV.

    “What’s that about?” I asked my traveling companion.

    “Vicki had said, if you want to look like Boy Abunda , go to Calayan, but if you want to look like Dingdong Dantes and Piolo Pascual, come to Belo,” my traveling companion recounted.

    She explained, “Vicki Belo was only taking a swipe at her leading competitor, the Calayan Surgicenter.”

    “Oh, but isn’t some Fil-Am woman suing the Belo Medical Group over a messed face job?” I asked.

    “Yes,” she replied. “The poor woman now looks like Dingdong Dantes after a fistfight.”

    “Wasn’t Belo also sued by a Fil-Am for a penile-enlargement operation gone wrong?” I continued.

    “No,” she corrected me. “That was Calayan’s patient, but he lost the case.”

    “Oh, poor guy. Now all he’s got is a dinged dong,” I cracked a pun.

    “Moving on,” she said firmly, “Boy Abunda said he was insulted and hurt by Vicki’s remark. He went on a super self-pity trip.”

    “Why, what did he say?”

    “I don’t remember,” she said.

    As luck would have it, the station replayed Abunda’s response.

    “Vicki, if you are watching, you know that I didn’t do anything bad to you to deserve this insult,” Abunda said.

    He added in Pilipino, “You know I never ever capitalized on my looks because I don’t have it. My success comes from hard work, perseverance and prayer. I have no illusions that I’m handsome, but no one has a right to ridicule me because of my looks.”

    I was beginning to feel as sorry for Boy as he was for himself, until I drove past a billboard with a photo of Boy looking like a character out of the movie The Matrix, asking, “Nagpabango ka na ba?”

    I was driving quite fast so I didn’t get the point of the ad.

    “What was that all about?” I asked my traveling companion.

    She said, “He’s marketing a cologne called Boy Abunda For All Sexes.”


    “It’s for all sexes—male, female, gay, straight, bi, transvestite, trans-sexual, metro, whatever,” she explained.

    “So it’s for everybody,” I said.

    “No, not really,” she replied. “It’s only for those who want to spend P199 to smell like Boy Abunda.”

    “Huh? Boy Abunda’s smell is marketable?”

    “Apparently,” she said. “I read an interview of Boy last year and he said his fragrance is selling like hotcakes.”

    “Wow! Maybe he can also sell Boy Abunda Scented Candles For All Occasions,” I said.

    “Yes, like Somber for Funerals, Solemn for Churches, Festive for Parties, Romantic for….”

    It was turning into a game. So I interrupted, “How about Boy Abunda Aromatic Oils?”

    “Bath soaps?” she interjected.

    “Yeah, bath soaps, shampoos and conditioners!” I said excitedly.

    “Nope, shampoos and conditioners won’t do. Sorry, game over,” she announced.

    “Why? Why can’t we expand into shampoos and conditioners?” I wanted to keep the game going.

    “Because he’s bald, you idiot!” she hmmped.

Global collective action (part two)

Posted in Brownman's Posts by uniffors on the March 10th, 2009

This article for Business World’s Yellow Pad is an extension of the article on global collective action, written last week by Filomeno S. Sta. Ana III.

Global Collective Action
by Filomeno S. Sta. Ana III

Leaders of developed and developing countries all recognize the need for collective action to tame the worldwide recession.

But collective action is easier said than done. Protectionism is tempting as jobs and incomes at home are vanishing.

Topnotch economists, including Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke and Barry Eichengreen (University of California, Berkeley), say that mercantilist policies during times of world recession did work. See for example Bernanke’s Essays on the Great Depression (2000) and Eichengreen’s Golden Fetters: The Gold Standard and the Great Depression, 1919-1939 (1992).

That is, mercantilism can work from a limited, purely one- country perspective. Mercantilism advances one country’s economic interest at the expense of other countries. Bernanke and Eichengreen found out that the countries that abandoned the gold standard, effectively devaluing their currencies, had a quicker recovery than those countries that stuck to the gold standard.

A corollary finding was that the countries with devalued currencies posted higher net exports, arising from a strong export boost even as imports did not significantly decline, in comparison to other countries. This suggested that the beggar-thy-neighbor practices increased incomes, enabling home consumers to buy imported goods.

That protectionism worked amidst the depression in the 1930s does not however mean that it should be applied nowadays. To repeat, mercantilism only benefits one country at the expense of other. In abnormal times like a global recession, the effects are catastrophic. In the 1930s, the protectionism of one country led other countries to follow suit, igniting a vicious cycle.

Just imagine a small community engulfed by a wild fire. Without collective action (the absence of a fire department), each homeowner insulates his own home. That is to say, everyone is minding his structure and no one is controlling the spread of the fire. In the end, the fire guts all houses in the community.

Now substitute that small community with a globally integrated economy. The message is this: A public bad (a fire or an economic crisis) requires collective or coordinated action. During bad times, internationally coordinated efforts are superior to country-first approaches.

This is admittedly difficult to do. A president of one country is elected to protect the citizens of his country, not to serve the whole of humanity. But as the example of the community fire illustrates, self-interest necessitates collective action.

Even Barack Obama, the calculating, clear-headed, strategic-thinking leader, faces the dilemma—save the US first or act as a global leader first and foremost. A friend who listened to Obama’s inaugural address quipped that the US president’s speech was inward-looking, best summarized by his speech’s ending: “God bless America.”

But joking aside, what constitutes global collective action?

The immediate priority measure is to put in place an internationally coordinated fiscal stimulus plan. Even a large economy like the US cannot solely depend on its own fiscal stimulus. The US fiscal stimulus will undeniably boost consumption. But given that the US has a relatively high marginal propensity to import, Americans will tend to use a significant share of new income to buy imported goods. The marginal propensity to import lowers the multiplier effect of the fiscal stimulus.

Thus, instead of resorting to protectionism, the US should take the lead to engineer a global fiscal stimulus. In this manner, US imports are offset by US exports as the global stimulus encourages citizens of other countries to buy goods from the US and the rest of the world. In a word, everyone gains.

Despite the G-20’s call for coordinated responses to the crisis, the global fiscal stimulus plan is far from sufficient. A survey on fiscal stimulus plans done by Kelvin Gallagher and his students at Boston University reveals these facts:

Less than 30 countries are engaged in fiscal stimulus. The majority of these countries are advanced economies. The big emerging market economies like China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Egypt, and several Southeast Asian countries also have stimulus programs. By the way, the Philippines does not appear on Gallagher’s list. My naughty mind leads me to ask if Gallagher is not convinced about the authenticity of Gloria Arroyo’s “resiliency plan.”

The total amount involved in the fiscal stimulus of the countries covered by the Gallagher survey has reached US$3.067.8 trillion, equivalent to 4.86 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP). As a percentage of GDP, the fiscal stimulus package of China (16.23 percent), Brazil (14 percent) Japan (11.7 percent), Hungary (11 percent), or Singapore (8.4 percent) dwarfs the US plan (5.69 percent).

It appears that many developing countries, especially the poorer ones, do not have the liquidity or the fiscal ammunition to undertake stimulus plans. Thus, a critical element of internationally coordinated action is for the advanced economies and the multilateral institutions, especially the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to support the poor countries.

The IMF has come to the rescue of several countries. But the problem with the IMF funding is that some of its loan packages especially to high-risk developing countries contain the usual conditionalities that constrict growth. But what countries need now are expansionary policies.

Hence, the IMF must not only be aggressive in providing loans or allocating special drawing rights to the developing countries. It must likewise eschew the stiff eligibility criteria and harsh policy conditionalities.

It is partly their wariness toward IMF packages—their negative experience during the 1997 financial crisis—that led the Southeast Asian countries (ASEAN) to establish the Chiang Mai Initiative (CMI). The CMI is a regional reserve fund that ASEAN countries can tap in times of economic turbulence. The funds for CMI mainly come from China, Japan, and Korea. (Thus, the facility is called the “ASEAN + 3” initiative.) As part of the regionally coordinated response to the global crisis, ASEAN +3 agreed to increase the facility from US$80 billion to US$120 billion.

However, in its transition period, the CMI requires a troubled member country that seeks to draw from the regional fund to have a program with the IMF. A rule states that 80 percent of the CMI financial assistance will still be linked to IMF conditions.

Developing countries will need additional sources of international financing, other than the conventional IMF and official development packages. Dani Rodrik sees the introduction of some sort of a Tobin tax as a novel way of generating funds at the same time regulating volatile capital flows. In times of crises, capital suddenly pulls out of higher-risk countries, thus worsening the distress of the aggrieved countries.

Economists across the ideological spectrum see the soundness of international rules on capital control. Kenneth Rogoff, former chief economist of the IMF and adviser to Republican John McCain, has called for such global rules. Joseph Stiglitz, the nemesis of neo-liberals and conservatives, has consistently advocated the reshaping of global institutions to fight poverty and economic crises. Stiglitz’s proposals have a wide scope, from introducing innovative regulation to restore the integrity of financial institutions to increasing and strengthening the voice of developing countries.

Stiglitz defines the current crisis as a “’Bretton Woods moment’ a moment where the international community may be able to come together, put aside parochial concerns and special interests and design a new global institutional structure for the twenty first century. It would be a shame if we let this moment pass.”

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