Category: Inquirer Columns

Economics of Martial Law and People Power

Never forget!

Did Filipinos one day in 1986 suddenly become enlightened to demand the toppling of a dictatorship?  Maybe so, but we forget that there were gut issues that broke out in 1983, which prodded Philippine oligarchs that had supported Marcos for more than a decade, to decide to junk him.  

I wrote the following piece last year in my column at the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Economics of Martial Law and People Power

Thursday, 04 October 2012 08:08
By Rigoberto Tiglao
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Every year in September, in a ritualistic way the tale is told: A Dark Lord imposed his will on a hapless people, but then a messiah sacrificed his life to embolden Filipinos to topple the regime in 1986.

That’s a fairy tale, its old, overused storyline that of a Lord-of-the-Rings kind of entertainment, enough for medieval men, and for small minds today to explain the past. But reality is always, and in all ways, complex. Continue reading

Filed under: Economics & Business, Inquirer Columns, Politics

The year of damaged institutions

This paper’s recent banner story described 2012 “as one of the best years ever for the Philippines.”  Déjà vu: Businessmen were euphoric over the “surprising” economic growth right after martial law was imposed—nearly 10 percent in 1973, still an unbeaten record. The stock market boomed in 1973, with volumes growing five times, and indices by 115 percent (compared to 50 percent last year). The economy boomed, posting a 6-percent annual average GDP growth from 1972 to 1980.

But that was at colossal cost: Marcos’ one-man rule damaged our country’s democratic institutions so severely that we are still rebuilding it.

Déjà vu:  President Aquino throughout last year was on a rampage of damaging many of our democratic “inclusive” institutions, which the widely acclaimed book “Why Nations Fail” claim have historically been the prerequisite for prosperity in any country in the world.

Let’s start with the main “inclusive political institution”: republican representative democracy, which is based on the principle that not one of its three pillars—the presidency, Congress, and the Supreme Court—can dominate the other two. Aquino last year tried mightily to dominate the other two branches.

He spent nearly half of 2012 removing Chief Justice Renato Corona to put the Supreme Court under his thumb. Then he replaced Corona with somebody like Lourdes Sereno, whose advocacy for a P10-billion compensation for the Aquino clan’s Hacienda Luisita was the longest legal brief she ever wrote. He next appointed another minion, the 49-year-old Marvic Leonen, perhaps a PR-savvy academic but certainly not a legal luminary.

“Why Nations Fail” in fact devoted many pages (but not a single page on corruption) narrating a similar episode when the American Congress blocked the popular President Roosevelt’s attempt in 1937 to control the Supreme Court.

The book contrasted that case with the Argentine dictator Juan Peron’s subjugation in 1947 of his nation’s Supreme Court, after he got his Chamber of Deputies (House of Representatives) to successfully impeach three of the five justices, and replace them with his Serenos and Leonens. The book says this explains much of Argentina’s authoritarian history in the last century and its consequent economic decline.

As in Argentina, our House of Representatives clearly showed its servility to Aquino when it rushed—within a weekend—the filing of the impeachment complaint against Corona. No debates, no papers to read: “Line up to sign, or forget your pork barrel” was the command. Watch how Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile will soon be removed to complete Aquino’s control of Congress.

It’s certainly not only the Supreme Court that has been damaged by Aquino:

• The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the Anti-Money Laundering Council: Bank secrecy laws were openly flouted in Corona’s impeachment trial, and the spineless BSP just looked the other way. The AMLC—chaired by the BSP governor—gave, without a court order, Corona’s confidential bank accounts to the Ombudsman. More recently, it again proved to be Aquino’s hitman by freezing—without any hearing at all—the bank accounts of tycoon Roberto Ongpin and 24 others.

• The Ombudsman, who misinterpreted in the televised impeachment trial Corona’s bank accounts in order to spectacularly but falsely claim that he had $10 million hidden away.

• In a tag-team with the Ombudsman, the justice department, which despite the Augean stables that is the country’s justice system and that it has to clean up, has devoted its energies to jail the former president, never mind how flimsy its allegations are.

• The Commission on Elections, which for the first time in its 72-year-old history, has been used to persecute the current President’s predecessor, on the sole basis of the testimony of a suspect in the Ampatuan massacre.

• The foreign affairs department, whose head amazingly has not understood that Aquino’s appointment of an amateurish, megalomaniac back-channel to address the country’s most urgent foreign affairs issue—the territorial dispute with China—has made him the diplomatic world’s laughingstock.

• The Armed Forces of the Philippines, which was totally ignored in the peace negotiations with the group that has killed hundreds of its soldiers, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Undamaged? Tell that to the commanders of soldiers ambushed by the MILF, who were court-martialed upon the demand of the Muslim insurgents.

• The Philippine National Police: Just as Marcos handpicked his former bodyguard Fabian Ver as the overlord of his security force, Aquino appointed as his PNP chief his bodyguard during his mother’s presidency—Alan Purisima (PMA Class ’81) who thereby leapfrogged over a dozen other senior officers.

• The interior and local government department, which obviously has been converted as Mar Roxas’ vehicle—and weapon—for his 2016 presidential ambitions. It has ordered the Cebu governor removed, five months before the 2013 elections and two years after the administrative charges were filed. Couldn’t the motive be more obvious?

• The Commission on Audit, to which Aquino appointed a holier-than-thou member who twisted AMLC data to portray Corona as having huge wealth, and whose “mission impossible” is to revive the charges against Vice President Jejomar Binay, so far the shoo-in as the next president.

Why does the wrecking of our institutions outrage only a few? Take it from “Why Nations Fail”: “A free media makes it more likely that threats against inclusive economic and political institutions will be widely known and resisted.” And being free is essentially a matter of mind.

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AMLC politicized, now Aquino’s deadly hit man

The Anti-Money Laundering Law (AMLC), amended in 2003, was enacted  mainly to prevent organized crime and global terrorists from using the banking system. President Aquino however has debased it, turning it into his deadly weapon against his enemies.

In 2011, under orders from Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Development Bank of the Philippines chair Jose Nuñez accused the bank’s seven directors appointed by former President Gloria Arroyo, former bank president Rey David and 24 bank officials of conspiring to extend P660 million of “behest loans” to tycoon Roberto Ongpin, whom he alleged was former First Gentleman Miguel Arroyo’s “crony.”Continue reading

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Aquino’s brazen blitzkrieg in Cebu

IN THE ’70s, Cebu was heroically defiant of Marcos’ dictatorship. By some quirk of fate, it is again proving to be the nemesis of a more modern type of one-man rule, this time mainly based on the power of media and with a Machiavellian expertise in manipulating laws for its vile aims.

For nearly two weeks now, Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia has resisted President Aquino’s brazen move to remove her from office on the basis of flimsy charges—five months before the May elections. It is undoubtedly a plot to weaken her camp and strengthen the Liberal Party’s weak candidate for governor Hilario Davide III, the former chief justice’s son who lost in the 2010 elections.

The bigger booty though for Aquino’s Liberal Party: Next to Metro Manila, Cebu has the biggest number of voters in the country, and it would be a crucial edge for its senatorial slate if the reins of the provincial government were held by Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale, sister of Aquino’s Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras.

Garcia’s defiance has turned into a historic showdown, with the country’s second and third most powerful political figures—Vice President Jejomar Binay and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile—together with the still-popular former President Joseph Estrada supporting Garcia.  If the three leaders turn tail now, it would be an ignominious setback for their United Nationalist Alliance, even before the real fight, the May elections, has started.

Mainstream media have been burying the game-changing political battle in the country’s second most strategic area. There hasn’t even been a press outrage over Magpale’s order to close down—to review its budget, she claimed—Cebu’s popular Sugbo TV and Sugbo newsmagazine, which have been supportive of the governor.

The President’s spokespersons think Filipinos are stupid when they claimed that  “there’s no politics involved” in Aquino’s Christmas blitzkrieg. But Aquino’s strategists even executed the assault during the holiday season, calculating—wrongly it has turned out—that fun-loving Cebuanos wouldn’t give up their parties for some inconvenience as resisting an emerging despot.

Aquino’s political spokesperson Ben Evardone claimed that Garcia was being penalized just as Kalinga governor and Liberal Party stalwart Joel Baac was.  But Baac stormed the government’s Radyo ng Bayan station with his five goons, and bloodied the broadcaster who was critical of the politician with his microphone.  Instead of being forever banned from public office for attempted manslaughter and for attacking the press, Baac was given a month’s suspension.

In sharp contrast, the charges against Garcia—for which Aquino wants her suspended for six months—did not involve graft or any crime, but essentially technical issues as whether she has the authority to appoint new staff at the Office of the Vice Governor or to reduce an office’s budget.  I’ve posted Garcia’s defense in the website, so you can judge for yourself. Just to summarize two of the most important points:

• Believe it not: The charges against Garcia mainly involves her appointment of staff in the Office of the Vice Governor and in the provincial board which the complainant, the late vice governor Gregorio Sanchez, alleged was an “abuse of authority.”  But not only has the Civil Service Commission but the Supreme Court itself ruled in other cases that a provincial governor has the authority to do so.

• In order to prevent a president from using administrative cases as a Damocles’ sword against those unsupportive of him, the Local Government Code prescribed that investigation of a complaint must be completed in 90 days, and the President must issue a decision 30 days after.  In Garcia’s case this should have been on Sept. 30, 2011.  Believe it or not:  Aquino issued his decision on  Dec. 27, 2012—474 days after the investigation and more than two years after it was filed in October 2010.  (The complainant Sanchez  had also passed away in May last year, with no other person or entity taking over as complainant, as required by the Rules of Court).  The move against Garcia was obviously decided after the candidacies had been filed, after Aquino’s camp evaluated the Cebu political landscape, and realized that the Liberal Party’s bets had a chance of winning only if Garcia were taken out in the runup to the elections.

The widely acclaimed book “Why Nations Fail” emphasized that one crucial factor for a nation’s economic success is its embrace of the rule of law. It emphasized, however: “The rule of law is not the same as rule by law.”  It explained that despots—especially modern ones—seldom rule by the sheer force of arms: Laws are passed and invoked to crush their enemies.   In our case, it is a myth that Marcos ruled through the military, as Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile elaborated in his autobiography. His dictatorship was based on his interpretation of martial law, which the Supreme Court upheld, and  on the  5,000 presidential decrees and letters of instructions he issued which  up to this day remain laws of the land.

Mr. Aquino’s regime is not a rule of law, but a rule by law: The selective use of laws and legal technicalities to take out his enemies, which is what the case against Garcia is all about. It is also what the removal of former Chief Justice Renato Corona (which was based on his understating of his assets) was all about, what the imprisonment of former President Arroyo (which is based on the “non-bailable” charge of electoral sabotage, which totally hinges on the sole testimony of an Ampatuan massacre suspect) is about.

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SC in crisis: What did they expect?

Barely six months after President Aquino removed Renato Corona as chief justice, his replacement—the grossly inexperienced Lourdes Sereno who had boasted of “18 years of judicial stability”—created a crisis in the Supreme Court that has dented its integrity as the bastion of the rule of law.

In a move that stunned the Court, Sereno ordered on Nov. 27 the Clerk of Court to issue a notice that declared that the Court en banc ratified her decision to set up a Regional Court Administration in Region 7 and to appoint the deputy clerk of court to head the office. That shocked the magistrates: There was no such decision by the Court to organize the regional office, only to study the proposal.Continue reading

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Is Aquino breaking anti-smoking rules daily?

Being an ex-smoker, I certainly commiserate with President Benigno Aquino’s failure to free himself from nicotine. But he is the President of the Republic, whose sworn duty is to implement the Constitution, and every law and rule that flow out from that basic law. And illegal cigarette stubs shouldn’t after all be littering the straight path.

Mr. Aquino’s disclosure that he hasn’t stopped smoking raises important questions I hope the spectacularly timid Malacañang Press Corps can ask him.Continue reading

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Foreign investments steeply fall under Aquino

Foreign direct investments into the Philippines during President Aquino’s first two years in office have steeply fallen, putting the country only a notch above Cambodia as the least-favored site in East Asia for offshore investors.

The annual average inflow of net foreign direct investments (FDI) under Mr. Aquino amounted to only $1,367 million, compared to the $2,171 million under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s watch from 2005 until June 2010, and the $1,746 million during Joseph Estrada’s years. These figures are from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the World Bank.Continue reading

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Akbayan’s OFW parasite and con man

When President Aquino needs to hit his enemies, and make it appear as if the “masses” are doing it, he calls on his fake party-list Akbayan. Aping its boss, when Akbayan needs to badmouth its critics, it calls on its letter-to-the-editor-writing trolls, and in my case recently, on a bogus OFW leader in Greece, one Jose Valencia.

I was hoping that Akbayan would have principled leaders who would explain why its report on contributors to its electoral campaign kitty in 2010 showed a handful of “ruling-class” contributors, mainly  Mr. Aquino’s sisters and cousins and Chinese-Filipino tycoons close to the President. I thought they could explain why a dead man and individuals living in poor neighborhoods could donate as much as P1 million individually for Akbayan.Continue reading

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Smuggling at its worst under Aquino

Smuggling in the Philippines is at its worst under President Aquino’s administration, with the smuggled value averaging $19.6 billion annually, an explosion from the comparable figures of $3.1 billion and $3.8 billion yearly during the terms of Presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, respectively.

In Mr. Aquino’s first two years in office, the value of smuggling totaled $39.2 billion, more than the $35.6 billion during Arroyo’s nine years in office. Continue reading

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Unmasked: Akbayan is Aquino’s ‘dilawan’

THE REPORT on financial contributors to Akbayan’s 2010 election kitty is an exposé: President Aquino’s family, supporters, and big businessmen allied to him gave this miniscule group the electoral war chest to win two seats in Congress.

Out of the 115 donors who gave Akbayan’s P110-million campaign funds, only 24 families, groups, or tycoons accounted for 90 percent of its electoral kitty.

Contributing the biggest chunk of P17 million were Mr. Aquino’s sisters Kris (P10 million), Victoria with her husband Richard (P5 million), and Ma. Elena Cruz (P2 million). Mr. Aquino’s Lopa cousins (Christina, Jaime, Rafael, Michael and Anna) contributed P2 million. Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office chair Margarita Juico gave P1 million.

Apparently, since few of Mr. Aquino’s supporters would agree to be put on record as donors to Akbayan, his fund managers had to scramble for names. One “Edgardo Aguas” contributed P500,000. He is the pro-Cojuangco chair of a barangay in Hacienda Luisita, who was initially tipped by Mr. Aquino’s PR people to swear him into office. One Francis Hernando, who gave P1 million to the party, now occupies a key position in the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. as vice president for gaming and licensing.

If one believes Akbayan’s report, Chinese-Filipino tycoons and big-business executives, now believe in the proletarian cause to contribute substantial amounts to this group that professes to be a socialist party. The simpler explanation: They are Mr. Aquino’s financiers who were asked to fund what would be his lynch mob. Among them:

• The  “Discovery” hotel-chain owners—Bansan Choa, Ben Tiu, and Ruben Tiu—gave P15 million.

• The “Belle Corp. group” gave P10 million. Willy Ocier together with Jaime Dichavez controlled Belle when then President Joseph Estrada for a P200-million commission ordered SSS and GSIS to buy its shares at an inflated P2 billion price. Ocier is also president of Pacific Online Systems, the supplier of the PCSO’s lottery terminals. While Ocier is not listed as an Akbayan donor, sources claimed that his contributions totaling P5 million were coursed through his executives such as Belle chief financial officer and Pacific Online director Manuel Gana. Another associate, former Belle president and now GSIS trustee Gregorio Yu, gave P5 million.

• Willibaldo J. Uy, who gave P1 million, is president of Phinma Properties Corp. of the Ramon del Rosario family.

• Johnip Cua, who gave P2 million, was Procter and Gamble Philippines president for several years and director of Macro Asia and Philippine Airlines until Lucio Tan gave up control of these two firms.

• Antonio Moncupa, who gave P2 million, was a cadre during martial law of Akbayan’s archenemy, the Maoist Communist Party. Moncupa changed careers to eventually become president of East West Bank, controlled by the Gotianun family. He claimed, though, that his contribution was “personal” and that the Gotianuns had nothing to do with it. Kris Aquino in March was named main brand endorser for the Gotianuns’ Filinvest Properties.

• Antonio Samson, who gave P2 million, has been an executive since the 1980s of Mr. Aquino’s cousin Antonio Cojuangco.

Some of Akbayan’s donors can even be fictitious to conceal more funding from Mr. Aquino’s camp, which would be perjury and a matter for the Comelec to investigate. One Antonio Correa donated P2.5 million, even if his residence is a decrepit house in “6 Bulusan St., Mandaluyong.” Joel Rocamora (now National Anti-Poverty Commission head) gave P1 million on the same day that Akbayan got P1 million from a “Princess Costales” who lives in a lower middle class neighborhood in Biñan, Laguna. The only information I found regarding one “Efren Berioso” who gave P1 million was that he was a Samar barangay official who died in 2011.

We belabor the point. Akbayan is a small association of mostly armchair revolutionaries who had been living off donations from leftist European NGOs. They are skilled in media work, though, with Walden Bello for instance being the only congressman to have a regular opinion column in the Internet edition of this paper. The marginalized sector Akbayan represents consists merely of its leaders who defected from the Maoist party which marginalized them out of the Left mainstream.

There is no way Akbayan could have raised P110 million on its own. Bayan Muna, whose mass base is that of the nationwide 44-year-old New People’s Army, could raise only P1.3 million.  Akbayan spent P100 million or nearly all of its Aquino-source funds for expensive TV advertising, an amount no other “party-list” could ever dream of having, thereby assuring its victory.

No wonder that rather than pursuing a socialist agenda, Akbayan has been stretching its very thin resources to be always at the lead of Mr. Aquino’s lynch mob against President Arroyo, former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, and Chief Justice Renato Corona. Why would a tiny “socialist” party spend its energies against such persons, against whom the entire apparatus of government has already been thrown?

They’ve been paid that role, as the lynch mob to falsely portray in media that the “masses” support Mr. Aquino in his witch-hunts. Akbayan even shamelessly uses cheap agitprop tricks of having old women and children at the forefront of their Aquino-supported demonstrations.
Continue reading

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