Short notes

Posted in Manuel Buencamino by uniffors on the July 26th, 2013

1. Dear Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon,

I was floored by your statement on politicians who protect corrupt customs employees.

“We have come across situations wherein the corrupt ones have the audacity because they know some people are backing them up. One of my proposals is to insulate Customs from political influence. How do we do that? We come up with a policy or a law prohibiting recommendations for employment in the bureau.”

Seriously? Don’t you know that the only two people who can order you to do anything relating to your job are the Finance secretary and the President? Anyway, don’t bother me with why you can’t do your job. You are being paid to perform and not to make excuses.

But since the president is willing to give you one more chance… here’s what you can do to restore our confidence in you…

Take the twenty or fifty most powerful customs men, the ones with the toughest political and/or religious backers, and fire them.

However, if for some legal reason you cannot just fire them – because there are a lot of crooked lawyers and justices with TRO powers out there – then take those twenty or fifty customs lords out of their present positions, assign them to desks inside your office, make them cut paper dolls all day everyday and have them mail the dolls to their influential backers. Show them who is the meanest bastard in customs. Remember, in the position you hold, it is better to be feared than loved.

2. Letter to the angry foreigner with red hair

Dear Thomas van Beerbum,

I read your letter to the crying policeman. Very impressive. Except you are a tourist and have no business participating in demonstrations aimed at destroying our democratic system. Being a part of an International Solidarity Mission, a delegate of the International Conference on Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines, and a fan of Joma Sison does not give you license to participate in a domestic disturbance.

You are a guest in my country. Weren’t you ever taught that when you visit someone else’s home you are supposed to be polite and civil to everyone who lives there, not only to the ones you like? Besides, who told you that you can waltz in to my home and act like you own the place?

Where does your arrogance come from, coming here to teach us Filipinos how to govern ourselves? Who appointed/elected/anointed you to be the great teacher to the Filipinos? Are you still tripping on that White Man’s burden thing?

I know you hate US-imperialism but what made you think Dutch-imperialism was something to be proud of? Did the Indonesians and Africans love being colonized by your people?

If you want to become a partisan and install a government led by Joma Sison then apply for Filipino citizenship first. Once you are a naturalized Filipino you can bitch as much as you want.

In the meantime, go back to where you came from and play with your arrogant self over there, before I give you the kind of bitch-slapping your mother should have given your red-head punk ass a long time ago.

3. Reality check for those who want pork abolished

It ain’t gonna happen. Congress will only change its name. We had CDF then PDF and now PDAF. Anybody want to suggest a name for pork’s next incarnation?

There is a legitimate reason for pork.

“The PDAF makes possible the implementation, in every congressional district, of small-scale but significant projects which can not be part of large-scale projects of national agencies. These projects, which are generally in the form of infrastructure, health, education and social aid packages, directly touch the lives of our district constituents and make the government a meaningful presence in their daily lives.”

Yes, PDAF can be the source of massive graft and corruption but it can also make a difference when used properly. Just because there are crooks in some districts is not reason to punish those districts that have honest public servants. Cynicism and simplistic thinking will not get us anywhere.

Abolishing pork is a simplistic solution that comes from a know it all mentality that has no respect for the constituents of a district. Simply eliminating pork disempowers citizens. It takes away their prerogative to deal with their representative as they see fit.

Citizens do not lack for a course of action. They can sue their representative or never vote for them again or better yet, salvage their representatives and hang a sign on their necks saying, Magnanakaw huwag tularan. Why take that power away from citizens, why do for them what they should be doing themselves?

How will our people learn, how will they develop into mature citizens if know-it-alls are always trying to impose what they think is best for those they deem too stupid and ignorant to know what’s best for themselves?

There is a legitimate reason for pork. Let those who need it learn how to make full use of it. Better to abolish know-it-all ism instead.

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Philip Gilmore: More senators profess innocence

Posted in Philip Gilmore Cartoons by uniffors on the July 16th, 2013


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Philip Gilmore: Sen. Bong Revilla explains

Posted in Philip Gilmore Cartoons by uniffors on the July 15th, 2013

pork scam2

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Genocide, environmental pollution, and sperm speed

Posted in Manuel Buencamino by uniffors on the July 15th, 2013

The Supreme Court last week began hearing the petitions against the RH law. First up was newspaper columnist Francisco Tatad who delivered the opening statement on behalf of all the 13 anti-RH petitions. He set the tone for the day when he argued that the RH law amounted to legislated genocide.

Tatad was followed by Maria Concepcion Noche, counsel for the Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines, who asked the Court to declare the RH law unconstitutional because it goes against Art. II sec 12 of the Constitution—the provision that mandates the State to give equal protection to a mother and her unborn child.

Noche claimed all hormonal contraceptives are abortifacient which is bad for the unborn at the same time also bad for the mother because they have harmful side effects. She tried to kill two birds with one pill. Unfortunately that was easier said than done and so anti-RH justices had to rush to her rescue.

After helping Noche argue for the protection of the unborn, Associate Justice Teresita de Castro (AJTC) moved to the protection of the mother, on the claim that hormonal contraceptives had harmful side effects.

    AJTC: So would you say pills should not be distributed without close medical supervision? … I ask this question because whenever I go to the grocery to buy chicken and livestock I always look at the notice there “organically raised” because I worry of eating something which has been raised through chemicals or unnatural natural foods. And I also think about doctors advising us not to take any substance or medicines without medical supervision so I’d like to find out if the indiscriminate distribution of contraceptives may harm the health of our women.

    MCN : Definitely. Definitely, Your Honor. And that’s one of the main reasons why we are objecting to the RH law, Your Honor.

    AJTC: We are protecting the environment from pollution, would you say that chemicals being ingested by women can also cause pollution of the human body because you are altering the natural…

    MCN: Of course, Your Honor. You alter the natural rhythm and harmony within the woman’s body and if we take to heart the ruling of the Honorable Court in Oposa vs DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) then that’s pollution of the environment inside the woman, Your Honor, destroying the natural rhythm and harmony within the woman’s body, Your Honor.

Where was Noche going?

If we extend her argument—that we should take to heart Oposa vs DENR because hormonal contraceptives pollute the environment inside the woman—then hormonal contraceptives will require not only FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approval but also an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) from the DENR.

Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin (AJLB) was next to interpellate Noche.

    AJLB: I wanted to be assured we understood each other all the while you have been talking about abortifacients and you made it very clear, to me at least, an abortifacient as defined by the law refers only to a zygote, to prevent that zygote from being implanted in the mother’s uterus..

    MCN: …or destroying the zygote…

    AJLB: …yes, yes…

    MCN : …yes…

    AJLB: …before the union of sperm and egg, do you factor that at all in your arguments?

    MCN: Before the union of the egg and the sperm there is no life yet…

    AJLB: …there is no life to be protected under sec.12 …so you have no objection to condoms?

    MCN: Ahm not under sec 12…

    AJLB: Okay now we talk about conception—that is your name by the way …

    MCN: Yes, Your Honor

    AJLB: …as the union of sperm and egg

    MCN: Yes, Your Honor.

    AJLB: Have we established at all in science at least how fast does the sperm travel to that union after the coitus?

    MCN: I understand, Your Honor, that the sperm only lives for one day…

    AJLB: No. I was asking about the speed

    MCN: I’m not so sure, Your Honor

    AJLB: You are not so sure, alright since it is not possible at all to establish the physical time when the union between sperm and egg happens or occurs…Have you surmised at all, surmised how long probably after the coitus did that union happen…is it in seconds or moments or a day or two?

    MCN: I think a day or two, Your Honor

    AJLB: A day or two and by then the sperm shall have died along the way. Hindi ba you said that the sperm can survive for only 24 hours?

Thank God for my father’s speedy little swimmers. It took them less than 24 hours to reach my mother’s egg. You should thank Him too.

Days after his appearance before the Court, Francisco Tatad wrote, “It was quite an experience.” It sure was.

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PNoy, Deng, and LeBron

Posted in Brownman's Posts by uniffors on the July 7th, 2013

PNoy, Deng, and LeBron
by Filomeno S. Sta. Ana III

Obviously, what Noynoy Aquino, Deng Xiaoping, and LeBron James have in common is leadership. Their fans claim they are not only leaders; they are heroes, they are superstars.

The successes of the Philippines (the recent big reforms), China (the economic miracle) and Miami Heat (its back-to-back championship) are attributed to PNoy, Deng, and LeBron, respectively.

Well, we need heroes. To quote the sociologist Charles Horton Cooley, “to have no heroes is to have no aspiration.”

We thus have Rizal and Bonifacio. The US has Washington, Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. Football has Pele, Zidane, and Messi. Basketball has Bill Russell, Jordan and LeBron. And the bandits have Bonnie and Clyde.

Iconic worship tends to attribute all the deeds to the leader. But as a working paper from the Harvard Kennedy School argues, we have to be careful about singling out the role of heroes. Matt Andrews in his paper titled “Going beyond heroic leaders in development” (June 2013) criticizes the “hero orthodoxy.” His arguments are capsulized as follows: “Heroes often end up being less than heroic; contextual factors shape opportunities for leadership and development; and multi-agent groups typically lead, not solitary heroes.”

To illustrate, Deng unleashed the productive forces, which have made China grow exponentially. But Deng was also responsible for the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of students at Tiananmen Square.

Deng’s reforms—expressed famously in his slogan “it doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white as long as it catches mice—arose from the context of the tragic outcomes of Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward and Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR). These man-made catastrophes led him to take a different socialist path. His trip to France, as the GPCR was winding down, left him a lasting impression on how a social market economy can bring about modernity and prosperity. These are some of the contextual factors that led him to rebuild “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” characterized by “an overwhelming abundance of material wealth.”

Which brings us to the role of “multi-agent groups.” Without the collective leadership of the post-Mao Chinese Communist Party, Deng’s vision would not have been realized. Hua Guofeng succeeded Mao, cracked down on the hardliners and opened the path for reforms. While Deng, provided the vision, the likes of Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang engineered the crossing of the river by “feeling the stones.” Moreover, the ascendancy of Deng’s line would not have happened without Mao’s thoughts being a counterpoint.

The circumstances of LeBron’s heroism are similar to Deng’s. LeBron’s personality is less than heroic. He is said to be arrogant and narcissistic. Notwithstanding his nasty traits, LeBron has won two consecutive National Basketball Association champions, and captured two finals most valuable player awards, to boot.

Even then, LeBron’s talent would not have sufficed to win the 2013 championship. He could have become the goat when he missed a clutch shot in the dying seconds of Game 6. Luckily his teammate Chris Bosh grabbed the rebound and found Rey Allen who calmly sank a three-pointer, forcing overtime, and paving the way for Miami’s winning Games 6 and 7. Again, this is a story of how different players, not a single hero, contributed to a spectacular victory.

Nate Silver, the econometrician who accurately predicted the outcomes of the US 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, played with stats to find out whether LeBron can match Michael Jordan’s winning six championships. He noted that both Le Bron and Michael won their two championships at the same age—the first when they were 27 years old and the second when they were 28.

His estimate of the odds is four chances out of thirteen, or roughly 30 percent. That LeBron is still at his peak suggests that chances are good next year to bag another championship. But in a few years, LeBron will no longer be at his best, and the odds against winning a championship are greater.

For LeBron to obtain four more titles, he has to recognize that sometime in the future, the team will not be built around him. He has to suppress his ego and join a high-caliber team where he will no longer play the stellar role.
Finally, we talk about PNoy’s leadership. We use the passage of the sin tax as an instructive example.

Much has been said about the leadership and political will of PNoy in having the sin tax passed. Indeed without his endorsement and intervention in critical junctures, it would have been far more difficult for Congress to have the sin tax legislated. The President’s support gave the champions the animating spirit and courage to fight for the bill.

Nevertheless, other factors explain the sin tax victory. The imposing yet charming presence of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares disarmed the bill’s opponents. Representative Sid Ungab used his obscurity—and his intelligence and wits—to outmaneuver the many pro-tobacco congressmen. Senator Frank Drilon had a hard time dealing with the Senate’s crafty bigwigs, but his political skills—uniting the many and turning the tables on the few sly ones—helped secure the bill’s passage. Last but not the least, civil society groups created a lot of noise and pressure that severely weakened pro-tobacco legislators like Senator Ralph Recto who was forced to resign from the chairmanship of the Senate Ways and Means committee.

The conditions also favored the sin tax measure. Government has to address a very low tax effort. Tobacco control has gained ground, as indicated by the country’s adherence to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. A new political force has emerged; the white army of doctors and nurses. Their message is the sin tax first and foremost serves health.

The lesson for those advocating reforms in the new Congress is this: The leadership of PNoy is essential. But everyone has to do his homework and work hard. The context and timing, the strategy, and the multi-agent coalitions likewise matter.

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Hold your hoses

Posted in Manuel Buencamino by uniffors on the July 5th, 2013

Republic Act 10586 (the Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act of 2013) repealed mandatory drug testing for applications and renewals of driver’s licenses. You can now get a permit to drive without having to pay P300–P400 to pee in a little plastic canister.

“Thank you Senator Tito Sotto for authoring the bill. Thank you President Noynoy Aquino for signing it into law. I’m going to zip my pants now,” I cried to the heavens.

“Don’t put away your hose yet,” boomed Land Transportation Office (LTO) chief Virginia Torres’ voice from above. “I issued a status quo order because we have yet to implement the new law. We are not done crafting the IRR (implementing rules and regulations) yet. There are so many interpretations but the IRR will settle all these.”

“Say what?” I exclaimed.

“You heard me,” she said.

“>I blew my top and turned lawyer on her.

“Read Section 19 of Republic Act 10586 . That’s the clause that repeals the provision on mandatory drug testing under Sec. 36 of RA 9165,” I said.

“I am familiar with both laws, I don’t have to read them again,” she said.

I read the provision to her anyway:

“Sec. 19. Repealing Clause. – Subparagraph (f)., Section 56, Article 1 of Republic Act No. 4136, otherwise known as the “Land Transportation and Traffic Code”, as amended; subparagraph (f), Section 5 of Republic Act No. 7924, otherwise known as “An Act Creating the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, Defining its Powers and Functions, Providing Funds Therefor and for Other Purposes;” SUBPARAGRAPH (A), SECTION 36 OF REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9165; and all other laws, orders, …regulations or parts thereof which are inconsistent with any provision of this Act are hereby repealed or modified accordingly.”

“So?” she replied.

“So that means you can’t conduct mandatory drug testing anymore!” I told her.

“No, it doesn’t,” she said. “Ang difference is the mandatory drug test is when you apply ng lisensiya. This RA 10586 means you have the license already, you are driving a motor vehicle under the influence of liquor or drugs.”

“Do you know what repeal means?” I asked her. I quoted from my online dictionary, “Repeal means to revoke, annul, rescind, cancel, reverse, abrogate, nullify, declare null and void, void, invalidate, render invalid, quash, abolish, set aside, countermand, retract, withdraw, overrule, override, vacate.”

“I know what repeal means,” she said. “But like I told you, it’s not clear exactly what RA 10586 repealed. We are going to thresh that out in our next technical working group meeting. Besides, we are given four months to come out with the IRR,” she added.

Why do you need an IRR and four months when all you have to do is issue an order to stop drug testing? Just implement the law. Fer crissakes,” I said.

“It’s not that easy,” she replied.

“It’s not a question of easy. Your mandate to conduct drug testing ended when President Aquino signed RA 10586 into law. You have no more mandate. It has been revoked, annulled, rescinded…It’s that simple,” I told her.

“I don’t see it that way,” she replied.

“There is no other way to see it,” I insisted.

“Oh yes there is and I’ll find it,” she insisted.

“Somebody shoot me please,” I cried out in exasperation.

Luckily a friend happened by. He explained the situation to me, “The LTO issued 4.6 million driver’s licenses and permits in 2012. Do the math, 4.6 million X P300 per drug test = P1.38 billion for last year alone and the LTO has been conducting drug tests since 2002.”

“I can see what you’re getting at, my friend,” I told him.

He said, “I’m not saying someone is making money from processing applications for those labs and for monitoring and certifying them. I’m just wondering how that system works. I’m also wondering how strict the rules are on who can own labs and who supplies them with testing kits and all their other requirements. Suppliers and products also need to be certified, right?”

“Well, that’s for suspicious minds to figure out,” I replied. “But what do I do with this?” I was more concerned about the little plastic canister I had in my hand.

He shrugged.

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Big Sticks, Chopsticks and a Cake

Posted in Manuel Buencamino by uniffors on the July 4th, 2013

In World War II Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Josef Stalin forged an alliance to defeat Adolf Hitler. It was a reality sandwich they had to eat—as distasteful to the capitalist leaders as it was to the communist leader—because there was nothing else on the table.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin served a similar sandwich last week. Thank God it was nowhere near as foul-tasting as the sandwich that those three WWII musketeers ate.

Gazmin said, “At this point in time, we can’t stand alone. We need an ally. If we do not do this, we will be belittled by bigger forces. That’s what’s happening now. China is already there, they are sitting on our territory. They are not leaving. What will we do? Will we just wait until they are already by our doorsteps? Right now, they are already at our garage…While we are filing cases and at the same time building up our capability to address our security concerns, it’s important that we collaborate with other countries friendly and sympathetic to us.”

That was a warning to China’s leadership, reminding them that although we may not carry a big stick, we have friends who do and are just dying for an excuse to bash Chinese heads. It’s about time, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, some Filipinos with a weakness for chopsticks believe that the administration’s policy of “speak softly but ride with friends who carry big sticks” is unpatriotic and should be opposed at every turn.

The Communist Party of the Philippines claimed we are “provoking China to be more aggressive in its defense of its territories and push beyond its sea borders.” So China’s behavior is our fault?

Bayan Muna’s Renato Reyes tried to scare us, “Is the Philippines really prepared to face a confrontation of that scale? Or will we be dragged into a war between two competing superpowers?” We’re shaking in our boots, Sherlock.

Party-lister Neri Colmenares went jingo-ballistic, “While we should strongly assert our territory against China we should not allow a bully to replace another bully. It also serves the imperialist agenda of the US making its pivot to Asia to reinforce its hegemony and promote the US war industry. We denounce President Benigno Aquino III’s subservience, undermining of our sovereignty and the peaceful resolution of the dispute. The U.S. troops should be pulled out and we will file a resolution to junk the Visiting Forces Agreement.”

He also used Gazmin’s statement to distract us, “This is an insult to our veterans and comfort women who suffered under the Japanese during World War II.” As if scars deserved more attention than the thousand cuts China is inflicting on us even as he speaks.

Gabriela’s Luzviminda Ilagan, thinking she was among pre-schoolers, played show and tell, “What’s in a name? Access arrangements, military exercises or routine port calls—they all mean the same thing, translating into unhampered use of facilities and structures in Philippine territory for foreign military use.”

KMP’s Antonio Flores turned constitutionalist and warned, “The President is courting an impeachment complaint for culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust for trampling our sovereignty and rabid puppetry to the US.” Seriously, dude, a puppet capable of betrayal and rabidity? I hate to be the guy to break the news to you but Pinocchio was not a real person.

However, in fairness to the CPP-NDF there is some bite behind their bark. Yes, there are potential downsides for the weakest member in a partnership where each party has to mind its selfish national interest even in the face of a common threat. Yes, the partnership with Japan and the US could leave us with the short stick.

But we are not going into the partnership with our eyes closed. We know the greater risk is not to do anything, especially in the face of threats from a country that lives by Erap’s code, “A hungry stomach knows no law.”

China will eat us up if we remain defenseless and alone. We need backup for now. Backup that carries bigger sticks than our adversary. That is why Secretary Gazmin enunciated the policy of partnering with big sticks who also see China as a threat to their national interest.

An alliance with Japan and the US against China may not be the ideal policy but it is the only one on the table. The CPP-NDF has not presented an alternate plan. All it has done so far is to tell us what we must not do and who we must not offend.

I suspect it is because a nationalistic CPP-NDF security plan will simply mirror the administration’s “subservient” plan. Once in power they will find that the Philippines is still the same defenseless little country at the mercy of big powers. It will still be unable to defend itself by itself.

Consequently, all that the CPP-NDF will be able to do is rearrange seating arrangements. Japan and the US will become the threat and the “friendly and sympathetic” country will be China. Sorry, but musical chairs is a parlor game, it is not a solution to our national security deficiencies.

I favor a plan that addresses the cause rather than the symptoms of a problem. Let’s stop the flag-waving for a minute and look for the root cause of the territorial disputes. It’s money. There is a lot of money beneath that sea, enough for all of us to live comfortably.

So let’s walk away from the “over our dead bodies” mentality. That insanity only leads to a lot of dead bodies and no money. Let’s all sit down and agree on an equal-sharing arrangement. Because a slice of the cake is better than nothing at all.

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