Saturday, September 03, 2011

At last, the Pinoy Solution

Many are trying to come up with solutions to the problems of the country. The problem is, no one can define the real problem, and hence, no one can come out with the ultimate solution.

Until perhaps, now. Click and read: The Ultimate Pinoy Solution.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Drill

One can now easily get the drill. First, mainstream mass media miraculously thought of some evil doings by the former (and the allies of the former) administration. Then the present administration, who of course is simply ‘reactive’ to questions by the media, confirms the evil doings with a sampling of confusing details. Then, when the masses are now convinced that the evil perpetrators are indeed evil, the same evil perpetrators, to be fair to them, are now given the chance to speak by the mainstream media. And to be more than fair to them, the ‘evil doers’ are even given more time to speak and to defend themselves in a long winded hearing in one of the highest court of the land with the most respected jurors in the country, the Senate. Since they have nothing for defense, the only thing the ‘evil doers’ can end up saying is “bring us to court”, which of course doesn’t matter anymore because they are ‘obviously’ ‘guilty as charged’.

We have seen this in a number of cases already. This is simply an improvement of older scandals which require whistle blowers. Perhaps now, whistle blowers are becoming harder to come by so the mass media starts the process on their own.
But what is not yet apparent is that it doesn’t and wouldn’t stop there. When the accused (or more properly the ‘guilty’) says “bring me to court”, he now may actually get what he wished for. Surely the next step, as requested by the ‘evil doers’ themselves, is perhaps the reinvestigation by the divine DOJ or, when they are ready, the Reinvigorated Office of the New Ombudsman. There’ll surely be more headline materials during these reinvestigations and the masses will surely understand better that the ‘evil doers’ are brazenly lying to their teeth.

Even less apparent is that it wouldn’t end there, still. The DOJ or the New Ombudsman, in their adherence to their sworn duties and in testament to their commitment to the public and for the truth, and at the right time, perhaps when there is a dying down of interest in the scandal, will surely file the charges in the proper courts. Also, by that time, the courts would have already been fully transformed for the people, a transformation that we already see in the Supreme Court with their latest decision on the Hacienda Luisita Stock Distribution Option case. By that time, one doesn’t need help from any fiction writer to know how the story would end.

By the way things are going, I suspect the ‘evil doers’ are still sleeping and are unaware of what is going on. They still do not get the drill. The question is: Will the ‘evil doers’ be able to awaken themselves early enough to be able to think what they could do to avoid getting ridiculed, diminished and embarrassed, or for the unluckiest of them even to save themselves from getting to their eventual penal destination? It is easy to see when one is as good as sleeping. If his reaction to the drill is to defend himself, then you know he is not fully awake.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Parliamentary System: Would it produce better leaders?

I am not a solid advocate of Constitutional Reform but I generally support the idea. However, while others support it primarily for the economic agenda, I on the other hand do so for my search-for-leaders agenda. I think that by getting the right leaders, we also solve the problem of our bad economy. Actually, to be more accurate, by getting the right (or at least better) leaders in control of government, it follows that those right (or at least better) leaders (not us directly) will also do the right (or at least better) things to improve the economy.

So to me, the prospect of Constitutional Reform is attractive primarily on the chance to reform the way we elect our leaders. It is for this reason that I am closely looking at the Parliamentary System for which, at this point, I still have not encountered any solid argument against. But the main question is: How was I able to say that we could have right (or at least better) leaders under a Parliamentary System?

In order to answer this question, let us see the differences on how we elect our leaders now and in a Parliamentary system. In our Presidential system, the people choose a President by direct vote. In a Parliamentary system, the people choose their representatives for the parliament who then choose among themselves the prime minister.

Under our present system therefore, a person who would like to be President would need to campaign in every corner of the country. He will need to visit all districts or at least have his posters all around everywhere. He will need to have advertisements in all possible mass media outlets, TV, radio, print and the internet. He will need to build his machinery, those who would campaign for him everywhere and those who would guard his votes. In short, he needs several billions of Pesos that he either has (he’s filthy rich, eg. Villar) or given to him (someone else controls him, eg. you-know-who). But Billions of pesos would not necessarily assure him of winning (eg. Villar again). He also needs mass media supporting him widely (translation, he needs Billions more or the prospects for mass media of Billions more).

Now if I am really a good person with good leadership and good policies in mind, suffice it to say that under the present system I wouldn’t be President. No, not in 6 years, not in 12, not in my lifetime.

On the other hand, in a parliamentary system, the potential Prime Minister or PM would need first to win in his district where he needs to spend perhaps only a few million pesos (P10M the most by some estimates). Then, when in parliament, he would need to convince his colleagues. If there are say 300 representatives, he would need to convince just 151 of them.

This brings us to the tricky part. If that were you, how can you convince 151 representatives to make you PM? Do you need money or talent? Do you need money, the ability to buy off your colleagues? Or do you need talent, the ability to show the stuff you are made of and convince your colleagues that it’ll bring them longer tenure if they are on your side?

In order to answer this second set of questions, we need to review further how the system works. In the present system, once budget is approved (and there will be budget whether congress likes it or not), the President holds the pot (the money). That is why the President holds more power than congress and the latter tends to follow wherever the former goes. Meanwhile, in a parliamentary system, it is parliament who holds the pot. To be more precise, it is the majority of people in parliament who holds the pot.

This means if a would-be PM plans to buy off the majority of his colleagues to make him their leader, he needs to have a bigger pot than what the parliament already has. By the way, the pot we are talking about here is in the Trillions, the entire Philippine budget plus more. So I am sure whoever has trillions can indeed become prime minister, that is until the next budget where he needs to spend another set of trillions more. So, I really doubt anyone would spend trillions to become PM. And that is where the opportunity for talent comes in. It is obvious that, in a Parliamentary System, a person with real talents has good if not better chances of winning than one who relies only on money.

So if I am a really talented person, I can say that I have better chances of being prime minister in a Parliamentary than in our present system. But of course, I cannot really be sure. I am saying I have talents, but that is according to myself. There could actually be more people more talented than I am, perhaps an older person who has more experience politically, perhaps a richer dude who has more business background and who knows finance better than I do, perhaps a better speaker who easily convinces more people than I can, or perhaps a party leader who started earlier than I did. You see, people with various talents would be encouraged by the system that more and more people who are better than I am could be competing. But if I am really good, that wouldn’t stop me from trying, nor would it stop me from learning and eventually be like or be even better than the best of my colleagues, and perhaps in the end be PM.

Hey, don’t get me wrong. I do not plan nor want to be Prime Minister. The search for leaders is my first agenda, and I think the parliamentary system given the above considerations simply and naturally produces better leaders than our present system, which consistently shows enough proof of producing mediocre ones.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Cost of Change. How much are you Willing to Invest?

Let us talk numbers this time. How much do you think you need to be able to definitively change the country’s course? Let us list four of the ‘how’s’ one can effect change, the size of change each ‘how’ could accomplish, the probability of success say in 10 years for each ‘how’ and compare the costs:

1. Be President. If you are President of the country, you definitely have a great chance to change the country’s course. Problem is, you cannot go one day and declare yourself President. So you have to start politicking right now and get yourself noticed, that is if you have the talent to do that. You may start as a local politician and then work your way up to be Senator, which is the best jumping board to becoming President. Or you may start becoming an actor. Aim to be an action star or a drama queen and be a box office champion for many years. Whatever you do, you still need a huge pot of campaign money in the end. But whatever amount of money (say P5B) you have, you still are not sure if it will get you somewhere. There is still a great chance that after spending a great fortune you still end up not being President. (Or instead of being President, you can make someone whom you can control President. However, the investment and chance of success is still the same.)
Solution proposed: Be President
If successful, chance for Change: Great
Chance of Success: Small
Investment required: PhP5B upwards
2. Change the Charter. Looking at the problems of the country leads many people to conclude that changing the constitution is the best way to go. With the kind of faulty elections we have and the faulty leaders we produce every three (or less) years, the only viable conclusion one can have is either change the rules of the game or change the game altogether. However, the choices one can take on how one can change the charter are few and expensive. In order to do it, you need to control the majority of congress (who has the power to initiate the change), and get the support of the mainstream media (who has the power to make the changes acceptable to the people). And we all know what moves congress: Pork Barrel. You therefore have to match that (at least P10B). You also have to push your cause to the mainstream via mass media costing you perhaps a couple of billions more. Still, your chance of success is small considering that people against your brand of change can match you peso per peso just to oppose you. Worse, your opponents are using money that is not even theirs (most probably tax money).
Solution proposed: Change the Charter
If successful, chance of Change: Great
Chance of Success: Small
Investment required: PhP10B upwards
3. Promote Change via FB. It is said that FaceBook (or Twitter, or the Internet as a whole) is a revolutionary way of communicating with others. Still, many are looking into its possibility as an effective way to launch a revolution (change) by influencing others. Promoting change via the internet virtually requires and costs nothing. And the best part is, you can just be about anyone and anywhere to promote change. As long as you can type on a keyboard and have some wonderful solutions (you think), you can immediately start your grand quest for a better country. Unfortunately, the same accessibility to the internet that you have is the same factor that works against you. On FaceBook for example, there are virtually thousands if not millions of people like you with thousands if not millions of ideas that are not necessarily like yours that you have to compete with. Worse, people against you can work with trolls (i.e. people who disrupt internet forums by posting irrelevant arguments and messages) or be trolls themselves or even employ spammers to sabotage and cancel your efforts, making your chance of success limited if not totally nil.
Solution proposed: Promote Change via FB
If successful, chance of Change: Not applicable, virtually no chance of success
Chance of Success: Virtually zero
Investment required: Virtually zero
4. Compete in the Mass Media. Another solution which mostly everyone ignores is changing the country by competing in the mass media. If people would just look at all the problems of the country, everyone will see that all the problems would not have happened if only the mass media has been doing its job properly. Let us take corruption for example: had the mass media been not corrupt themselves, they would have exposed anomalies before, during and after they are made, making sure they don’t happen again. Let us take the problem of our faulty elections: had the mass media been fair, we would have gotten better leaders with better solutions. Let us take poverty: had the mass media focused our leaders and everyone’s attention on the economy, we would have less poor people and more people with higher paying jobs locally. In fact, all the three solutions mentioned above would benefit much with the help of a fair and popular mass media entity. And the best part is, when you compete in the mass media, you can even make a profit. If you take into consideration that many people are frustrated in the state of the country as a whole and the state of the mainstream mass media in particular, a fair, honest and professional new player can easily acquire audience, audience that would all want this country changed. And in order to affect change, the mass media entity should simply be airing in a popular even in a less expensive medium such as radio, as long as that medium affords you the capability to address and question government officials directly and live in front of a number of audiences. Last time I heard, one can gain control of a popular FM radio station for about Php250M. Or, if that is too expensive, one can go on air on primetime in a popular AM station for merely Php20K per hour. And in the unlikely case you fail in changing the country, you can just settle with the extra money (profit) you gained in running the venture. On the other hand, if you succeed, you can use that success to even produce more programs and acquire more media stations, even newspapers, and effect change some more.
Solution proposed: Compete in the Mass media
If successful, chance of Change: High to Great
Chance of Success: Better
Investment Required: Php20K/hour to Php250M, depending on the chance for change wished.

It is obvious from the above that if we really want change in this country the best way to go is to compete in the Mass Media. No, don’t get me wrong. I do not oppose any of the solutions stated above. In fact I am always in the lookout for good leaders to support in the next elections. Meanwhile, the promotion of changing the charter is one of those advocacies I support and honestly believe in. And, I always check my Facebook and Twitter for any new ideas out there. However, from a businessman’s (such as I usually pretend to be) point of view, I think it is obvious that we have to compete first in the mass media even before we think of solving any of our problems. To me it is very clear that this is a necessary step. For we simply cannot swim where there is no water. We simply cannot breathe where there is no air.

Friday, April 29, 2011

With the Ombudsman gone, is CJ Corona next?

In the recent past, the embattled Ombudsman refuse to resign her post and succumb to pressure from the President. However, just after the holy week, and perhaps timed to coincide with the so called Royal wedding of the decade, the Ombudsman announced her resignation. What could have precipitated the change of heart?

The Ombudsman and her supposed master, the former President, has relentlessly been attacked by almost everyone in the mass media for quite some time already. As an observer, I saw that the mass media even increased its attack in the past couple of weeks, even when there are no actual updates on the Ombudsman’s impeachment. Surely, the Ombudsman saw what is happening and knew that no mortal in the Senate could withstand the pressure to find her guilt. Perhaps all she can really do now is to resign.

In my opinion, this proves that when the mass media and the President banded together for a certain cause, they can virtually do just about anything. The question is: What (or who) is their next cause?

For reasons many see only as for political gains, it is quite obvious that the ultimate target of the Aquino government is the former President Arroyo. One can even easily prove that getting at Arroyo may be the only promise Aquino has the determination to fulfill. Meanwhile, everyone knows that whatever stone they throw at the former President will ultimately need the Supreme Court’s concurrence. It is therefore quite simple really to conclude that in order to pin Arroyo down, the government must be able to control as to how the Supreme Court decides. Indeed, it could be noted that the President and the mass media has already been pounding on the SC, CJ Corona in particular, since day one. So far, the administration might have succeeded partly but not yet convincingly.

In order to force the issue against the Ombudsman, it was the House of Representatives who generated some news topics and issues via the impeachment which the mass media all so willingly propagated. In order to pound on the Supreme Court, I am sure a similar impeachment tact is considered. However, I think it is unnecessary. All the administration needed to do is to convert some of the justices to their own fold, albeit silently, and control the majority. With the power of the purse, it is quite easy to do. With the power of the mass media, the conclusion of the task is easy to tell.

This means that former President Arroyo will ultimately be toast whatever her sins are. It is just a matter of when. This is unless something happened with the Aquino government who given its incompetence has a good chance of again chomping on its own tail worse than how they did it in the hostage fiasco last year, or unless Arroyo supporters learn to compete where it matters – in the mass media.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The RH Bill, its intent and main issues

The Purpose of the Bill
There are so many poor families in the Philippines. Worse, poor families have more children, and therefore they have the tendency to become even poorer, resulting into even more and more families becoming poor.

Being poor, they need more help from government because they cannot pay for their own healthcare, education, housing, etc. And when there are more poor people, there are more people who go hungry and easily agitated that national security (peace and order) is also threatened. To put it bluntly, government sees it that the poor are a drain to government resources.

The plan of the RH bill (or RP bill) is to attract poor people into using contraceptives. Not just giving contraceptives for free, the bill will also promote it heavily including to young people from poor families, make it available everywhere, especially where there is a huge concentration of poor people, and give the poor people monetary incentives (tying the CCT program with it) to use them.

There is another purpose of the bill, which is to prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STD) including AIDS. However, again, this purpose is directed to the poor, whose related future healthcare expenses in case of STD are foreseen to be shouldered by the government.

Some people may be saying other purposes for the bill, say, “freedom to choose”, for “women's rights”, to “lessen abortion”, “maternal health”, etc. These are all misleading and merely used as arguments to promote the bill and nothing else.

Of course, it should be understood that the Catholic Church and others who teach against the use of contraceptives and prophylactics will be against the bill. On the other hand, the manufacturers of contraceptives and similar devices will surely support the bill. Rich countries, and owing to our special relationship with them, the US, also will support it as they don’t want the potential of more poor families from poor countries knocking on their doors, asking for help (jobs), competing against their own citizens and bringing security threats with them.

The question is, should we or should we not support the bill. In order to answer this question, we should be able to look into the issues.

First, how much does the bill really costs?
The first issue that must be understood is a question of economics. Those against the bill say this is another drain on the government’s resources. The money to be used here is a dole-out and dole-outs are never good. The money could be used instead in improving the education of our children or on infrastructures that could help make more jobs available. We cannot even be sure that the money used to finance the bill will be used properly and we are even less sure that it will bring the expected results. Costing at least a Billion Pesos a year (and it is not unreasonable to guess it could cost more than P20B per year), this argument is straightforward.

Meanwhile, those who are for the bill says this money is definitely worth it. They see it as an investment that will result in net savings to the government, savings gained from less government expenditures on education, healthcare, housing, security, etc. This argument is also plausible. However, for reasons unknown, the proponents do not present the economic impact (in figures) of the bill. Surely they would know that it is up to them to prove that the plan would work, economically that is. (Note: In fairness to the proponents, perhaps they have presented it but which was not picked up by the mass media).

One component of the bill that could also have a negative impact in the country’s economy and therefore needs clarification is the provision where employers are required to make available and provide Reproductive Health services free to their employees. This means that employers are partly financing the bill directly which surely is another addition to the cost of doing business in the country. The proponents of the bill therefore should also factor in this negative dent, when explaining the economic impact of the bill.

Sadly, this important issue is not discussed openly, leaving ordinary people both for and against the bill holding on straws to support their arguments.

Second, the Constitutional Issue.
Another issue, this one brought up by people against the bill, is its constitutionality. The Constitution of the Philippines expressly says that the State shall protect life from conception or from when life begins. The problem is we do not have a definition as to when life begins. Is it from fertilization (Catholic belief) or from implantation?

This became an issue because most if not all contraceptive pills now in the market have multiple modes of action, a fail-safe mechanism to decrease further the chance of pregnancy. This means that pills avoid ovulation, destroy the egg cell in case ovulation still occurs and prevent implantation if fertilization still occurs.

If the bill therefore does not make distinctions between those contraceptive pills with or without “abortifacient” properties, and endorses both, which the present form of the bill does, it runs into this constitutional issue.

At this point, everyone is ready to say he or she is against abortion. Even the bill is against abortion and expressly says so. The problem is, we do not have a definition of what constitutes abortion, making any express opinion against abortion less useful. If you believe in the Catholic teachings that life begins from fertilization, then perhaps you are against the bill. If not, this issue does not concern you as much.

Third, the freedom to exercise one’s religion.
The RH bill in its present form requires employers to provide their employees free access to reproductive health devices such as condoms and contraceptives. The bill, again in its present form, also requires healthcare providers, hospitals, institutions and individuals, to at least provide information on where such services can be availed of by whoever requires them. The problem is when the subject employer or the healthcare provider is a member of a religious organization whose teaching says that the provision of such services or information is against their beliefs. Shouldn’t the bill at least provide exemption in this case?

Again, if you are an employer or a healthcare provider who follows the teachings of the Catholic Church (e.g. Catholic-ran hospitals), you will be against the bill unless such provisions are removed or at least amended to exempt you. To support your cause, you will even surely point out that part of the constitution that protects your right to practice your religion. Of course, the proponents of the bill are not inclined to allow any or such an exemption considering that about 80% of the citizens are Catholics and may avail of such exemption (if there is). If on the other hand your beliefs do not limit you on such, this issue again does not concern you, except when an exception is included.

Aside from the above, I do not see any other major issue worth considering at this time. The Catholic leaders oppose for example the teaching of use of contraceptives to students. However, even without the bill, the Department of Education already has the power to do that and could be dealt with entirely as a different issue. Meanwhile, I have heard people rant against the dominant religious organization for blocking this bill. Of course, such ranting is useless and in fact misplaced. Everyone, including church leaders have the right to express their objection to and exert pressure against legislation that they deem wrong. Those who are for it has the right to do that as well. But people should not resort to spins and cheap propaganda. People must stick to issues and discuss the points on the bill that really matter.

Amazingly though, it deserves pointing out that even when the people are not provided enough information on the real issues for and against the RH bill, support for it and even vilification of those against it has gained ground. Even those who cannot find any good from government on practically all other issues, from both the executive and legislative branches, are joining the present administration to support the bill. It is quite obvious that the mass media supports the legislation, and is proving once again that wherever they go the rest of the country goes. So, it is easy to predict the bill will be passed sooner than later, but it does not mean as citizens we should not look at the issues.