BBM, stat authority are both right on inflation

ONE forever-Yellow opinion writer was delighted that President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. seemed to dispute the Philippine Statistics Authority’s report of a 6.1 percent June inflation when he said he “had to disagree with that number, we are not that high.” That writer even maliciously claimed that Marcos will arm-twist that PSA to change its numbers, or transfer its officials to some other post. His column’s title: “PSA to tweak 6.1% inflation for BBM?”

Obviously, that writer’s decades of writing had not changed at all his proclivity of commenting on something he really knows little about. To be fair though, I had been mainly an economic and business writer for most of my journalism career, and I know for a fact that even most reporters in this specialized beat are confused about this economic measure called “inflation.”

Okay, almost all know that inflation is the increase in prices of a chosen group (“basket”) of commodities and is measured as the percentage increase from one earlier period to a later one. For easier computation, a particular year is chosen as the “base” year with prices valued at 100 points. The PSA changed its base year from 2012 to 2018 as its base year in 2020.


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Just fine Rappler? Its officers should even be jailed, SEC thinks

YES, that’s what the Securities and Exchange Commission â€” consisting of five accomplished lawyers — said they would have ordered, jail the Rappler officers, on top of directing the foreign firm dissolved — if only it was empowered to do so. Such penalties are directed by Presidential Decree 1018, which remains part of the country’s body of laws.

This is of course in complete contrast to this newspaper’s editorial July 3, 2022 which claimed in its very first sentence that Rappler should just be fined for “violating the Constitution,” and not ordered closed. Right, just fine them just as the State would speeding drivers.

Mull a bit how terribly absurd that claim is. The Constitution is the very basic law of the land, the document that defines our nation, the primordial contract Filipinos have agreed to abide by. Its importance is such that it is really the most concrete thing to which Philippine presidents swear to:


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Now comes the hard part

INDEED, Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr.’s (PFRM) May victory was nearly a walk in the park, and as early as December last year, I wrote a column that the election in 2022 was likely to be the “first-ever boring election for two of the highest posts of the land.”

Backed up by data from surveys, I concluded that Bongbong would be getting the huge votes from Filipinos satisfied with the performance of President Duterte, as he was, even if unannounced, his political heir.


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The law finally catches up with Rappler

SIX years after it started investigating charges against Rappler for violating the constitutional provision banning foreign ownership in media, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last June 28 finally ruled Rappler incontestably guilty of the charges and ordered it closed. The decision was unanimous among the five SEC commissioners, who were either career people or had impeccable qualifications as attorneys and CPAS.

We are indeed moving toward building a Strong Republic, with a regulatory body demonstrating independence from powerful private entities, ignoring the shrieks of a grossly uninformed Western media alleging the press is being suppressed by a dictator in the country.

It declared Rappler as well as the holding company its investors used to evade the Constitution, to be non-existent as a corporation, and therefore without any authority to operate as an entity. Its CEO and founder, Maria Ressa, an American more than a Filipino citizen, of course pooh-poohed the SEC decision, saying it is business as usual for Rappler.


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An amazing presidency

PRESIDENT Duterte’s presidency has been an amazing one, which has changed the course of Philippine history. His breakthroughs though can still be reversed if  incoming President Ferdinand (“Bongbong”) Marcos slows down his predecessor’s momentum,  or even just moderates it. 

Already, I’ve heard of some calling the new president, “A  kinder, gentler Duterte.” If BBM indeed becomes that, he would be upending Duterte’s  huge achievements in building what political scientists call a “strong republic.” This is a nation-state independent of political and economic elites and with an efficient, law-based and robust  institutions. Without a strong republic, there can never be peace and prosperity in a nation: That is the incontestable lesson of global history. One cannot claim that with regard to democracy: Many nations, especially in Asia – China being emblematic of this  – have become developed without this cumbersome system.


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Regulatory capture vs Masungi Geopark project

“REGULATORY capture” is a political-science term, which its critics say, however, is merely a polite term for a specific instance of what we commonly refer to as “graft and corruption.”

It refers to the oh-so-common phenomenon of capitalists co-opting regulators — whether bribes are involved or not — to the extent of bending the rules and making the state agencies in charge of implementing regulations inutile and servile to the will of capitalists.

Officials — crooked or just sharing the capitalists’ ideology — mislead their superiors, divert the issue and delay action to protect the interests of their patrons.


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Meralco nearly drove me insane the other night

MORE precisely its repair crew’s unbelievable incompetence, or negligence, did.

Here’s what happened. The other day, at about 6 p.m., right after a thunderstorm in our village, power conked out in our part of the area. It usually does as Meralco’s corporate philosophy is: don’t fix it if ain’t broke. Never mind if many of the transformers and fuses in the area are over 30 years old and get busted in a severe rain or rush of lightning.

The repair crew did arrive at around 7 p.m., and in fact I would have even written a column praising their efficient system for reporting outages and acting on these, which is even faster than those in the banks that I use.

Meralco’s Indonesian owner. FROM FIRST PACIFIC CO. 2021 ANNUAL REPORT

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BBM as concurrent agri sec: Pros and cons

PRESIDENT-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. will be the country’s first president ever to be concurrently secretary of agriculture. It may have its advantages, but it also has serious disadvantages, and even risks.

There are three precedents for a president holding a portfolio during his term, but only for the Defense secretary post: Manuel Quezon (five months in 1941 just before the war); Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. (one year to January 1967); and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (for a month in 2003 and two months to Feb. 1, 2007).

In a way though, BBM is following the footsteps of his father, who assumed the defense post as soon as he became president on Dec. 31, 1965, to give it up about a year later in January 1967.

While Arroyo became Defense secretary twice, as she needed time to find the right person for the job, BBM appears to have decided to assume the agriculture post as a governance decision.


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If BBM implements arbitration ruling, he loses territory his father created

Three years after meeting Mao, Marcos created the Kalayaan Island Group, which the arbitration ruling claims should be dismantled.

I HOPE President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. was merely misquoted by CNN Philippines. Or perhaps with his busy schedule (he has to appoint over 1,000 important government posts, 3,000 minor ones), he hasn’t yet studied rigorously the South China Sea issue.

But his statement last May 25, as quoted by the local CNN, floored me: “We have a very important ruling in our favor. We will use it to continue to assert our territorial rights. It’s not a claim. It is already our territorial right, and that is what the arbitral ruling can do to help us.”

He was referring to the July 16 ruling by the dubious “arbitration panel” on the territorial and maritime-area claims of the Aquino regime against China with regard to the South China Sea.

I’m afraid BBM is totally misinformed here, and I strongly suggest he reads my book Debacle: The Aquino regime’s Scarborough fiasco and the South China Sea arbitration deception.* None of the pro-US, anti-China writers — including Antonio Carpio whom I have challenged on this issue — have questioned my assertions in that book.


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Local oil firms’ profits make up a huge chunk of fuel prices

GREED is really the engine of capitalism, global and local, as the current worldwide de facto oil crisis shows,  in which prices soared from $70 per barrel at the beginning of the year to last week’s $120. Everyone I know is shocked over the soaring, for instance, of the regular gasoline’s  price from P50 per liter in recent memory to P85 last week. 

What few people know is that while the country groans under the weight of fuel costs, the industry continues to making a killing. Its “industry take” – mostly net profits — account for 15 percent of diesel prices, 19 percent of gasoline, 22 percent of kerosene, and a scandalous 41 percent of LPG, the poor’s fuel,  according to a study of the Department of Energy. This is way above the 2.5 percent industry take in the US oil industry. (Taxes on the other hand (excise and the value-added taxes) account for 23 percent of gasoline prices, 15 percent for diesel, 17 percent for kerosene, and 14 percent for LPG.) \

No wonder that the newest players in the petroleum-distribution business, such as  Phoenix Petroleum owned by the Davao-based Dennis Uy have become unbelievably rich in just a few years. Ramon Ang’s Petron Corp., with the biggest market share of 26 percent  has generated profits way beyond the tycoon’s expectations. Dutch-owned Pilipinas Shell and Chevron Philippines (combined market share: 26 percent)  has been remitting hundreds of millions of dollars yearly to their headquarters.


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