Friday, August 31, 2012

Myanmar Removes 2,082 Names from Blacklist

The 2011-2012 Burma Democratic Reforms takes another step towards the path of democracy as its government has today removes thousands of individuals from a government-sanctioned blacklist, presumably consisting of persons considered as undesirables and persona non-grata.

Major steps taken in the massive reform program was the release of Aung San Suu Kyi from house detention in 2010 and just two weeks ago, press censorship had been greatly eased there.

The blacklist contains exactly 2,082 names which includes some highly distinguishable names such as the late Corazon C. Aquino. Other names include former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, U.S. singer-turned-politician Sonny Bono and Kim and Alexander Aris, the sons of Nobel laureate Aung SanSuu Kyi.

Other notable persons in the black list were CNN reporter Dan Rivers and British investigative reporter John Pilger. Most notable is American John Yettaw, who had swum across a lake 2009 in order to inform Aung San Suu Kyi of an assassination plot against her.

The majority of those in the list were Burmese activists, journalists, academicians and human rights campaigners, who are mostly exiled from their country.

According to the New Light of Myanmar, a government publication, the total number of persons in the blacklist is 6,165. Thereon, nearly 4,000 persons remained in the blacklist.

These reforms were commenced in relation to its aim for ASEAN chairmanship on 2014. It should be taken into consideration that ASEAN as a collegial body of nations, one that is becoming more and more relevant in international relations area, both in socio-political and economic terms, strongly pursues the principle of consultation and democracy as evoked in its three-pronged ASEAN Way.

This recent move by the government in Myanmar was also based upon the desire by President Thein Sein for exiles to come back to their home country, especially foreign-trained experts that could help in the development and reform programs of the country.

The reforms have received applause from the international community that Japan for one had resumed its aid programs towards Myanmar. But the United States remains wary and demands more palpable actions such as the release of all political prisoners, as a condition for lifting economic sanction it had imposed on the Southeast Asian country.  


PNoy Appoints Mar Roxas as New Interior Secretary

After supervising the search and rescue operations for his friend, former Senator Mar Roxas takes over the latter's position as the new DILG Secretary. There is a steep sense of sentimentality in the appointment as the nation is reeling from the loss of one who has proven to be so effective and capable at the helm of the department in the person of Secretary Jessie Robredo.

Moving over to replace Roxas as head of the Department of Transportation and Communication is Cavite representative Joseph E.A. Abaya.

There was intense clamor and apprehension about who should replace the late Secretary Robredo as Interior Secretary especially that it is now widely known how irreplaceable he was being such a sincere and hardworking chief in the department.

Perhaps, this would be the main concern of President Aquino when he chose Secretary Roxas to take over at the vacated position, as Roxas had been immersed so deeply into the whole tragedy that led to the demise of Secretary Robredo, being the one person to have finally declared, that for certain, Secretary Robredo’s lifeless body had been recovered and that he has already passed away.

Roxas now has the heaviest responsibility, a tough task to fulfill, following in the footstep of an individual who had shown extraordinary prowess of work and dedication, that now, it gradually enters the national colloquial vocabulary the term, “magpaka-Robredo ka naman”, which would mean “please work with extreme dedication and hardwork”, or something to that effect.

It was widely known before that Vice-President Jejomar Binay, the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity brod of Secretary Robredo, had desperately sought the position after he won the election in 2010. But this was of course disapproved by President Aquino himself. But lately, Binay had disavowed being selected to the DILG post when his name emerged as one of the possible and most apt replacement for Secretary Robredo.
The DILG position is one of the most important and sensitive position in the cabinet considering that it holds clout and control over all LGU’s in the country, from provincial government towards the barangay units. And it becomes even more salient that the PNP is subsisting under its leadership.

One could say, the DILG Secreatary is responsible in running the entire local government system.
And if one aspires for national positions, like the presidency for that matter, then the DILG position would enable one to harness public relations and influence over a very wide framework of officialdom, those that could matter in a nationwide elections.

So this appointment should be all the most gainful to Secretary Mar Roxas that if he does his job well, as excellently as how Secretary Robredo did, then he would be benefitted the most.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The West Philippine Sea Dispute in APEC

Trade among international players would definitely hinge on security as a main basis for further growth and progress but would APEC involve the West Philippine Sea dispute, and other conflicts within the South China Sea region at the APEC Leader’s Summit in Russia early next month?

Reports have stated that President Aquino and Chinese President Hu Jintao may discuss the situation in the West Philippine Sea , especially that potentialities for armed clashes have reached its peak there when for several months Chinese vessels were positioning in the area, in highly provocative stances.

Japan and China are also expected to touch on the similarly heated dispute over islands known as Senkaku.
The discussion may come up if China would broach it up in a sideline bilateral meeting but APEC would not have it in its main agenda.

APEC is primarily an economic body and forum and so far had distance itself from involvement in socio-political issues appertaining in the region that consist of 21 Pacific Rim countries, this despite that it had delve into the climate change issue when it included in the discussion the Kyoto Protocol several years ago.

The Philippines had long held its inclination to submit the West Philippine Sea disputes to an international court, most probably at the International Tribunal for Law of the Sea in Hamburg but China had repeatedly and vehemently refused to give its consent, which is a requirement before any such dispute may be put up for hearing in consonance with international law standards.

In July, ASEAN had failed to issue a joint communiqué on the conduct of nations in the South China Sea region after its annual ministerial meeting Phnom Penh. Following in this trend, APEC may similarly decide to distance itself from the issue.

China is such an economic force that it easily gains favor, such as the non-inclusion of the West Philippine Sea disputes in APEC main agenda.

But we all hope President Aquino would handle things well in his scheduled bilateral meeting with President Hu Jintao albeit that this may be against diplomatic protocol, to discuss matters not set in the agenda.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

U.S. Government Peeps Into Millions of Emails of It's Own Citizens

U.S. Government Peeps Into Millions of Emails of It's Own Citizens

An irony in democracy becomes of the United States of America when its own government becomes intense controller and monitor of free speech, and more so, of private communications. A former National Security Agency (NSA) official makes an exposé in an interview with Democracy Now! on his former agency’s unusual routine of peeping into trillionss of emails, phone calls and other messages within America, by citizens and foreign individuals who are deemed inclined to be involved in acts threatening security.

William Binney had become a whistle-blower resulting in FBI raiding his home. According to Binney, domestic surveillance have become increased tremendously in President Barack Obama’s regime, about 320 million personal profiles were created as a result of the data gathering activity by NSA, all these without any warrant.

Binney – who is known to be one of the best code breaker and mathematician in NSA’s history - claimed that he had left NSA in 2001 after he had learned that the government was planning to use a program he had helped create for domestic surveillance on private citizens.

An 8 minute video by Laura Poitras in New York Times detailed Binney’s explanation how the program could virtually sum up a subjects life “in every type of activity and build a profile based on that data.
"So that now I can pull your entire life together from all those domains and map it out and show your entire life over time," Binney says.

Poitras herself had been detained and questioned upon forty times by U.S. authorities.

Binney had scoffed at this idea primarily calling such process “totalitarian” that reminds everyone the vicious acts of KGB, the Stasi and Gestapo.

The dometic surveillance activity is so prevalent that for certain it is one for the books. And before you make that next email or phone messages, especially into and out of America, be aware that it might be cc copied into NSA’s data profile vaults.
Questions Arise on CJ Sereno’s Appointment by Pnoy

Questions Arise on CJ Sereno’s Appointment by Pnoy

The appointment of CJ Maria Lourdes Serano almost came unnoticed, as the nation was greatly mourning the death of Secretary Jessie Robredo by the time she received her official letters from President Benigno Aquino III.

But such high appointment from Pnoy, especially after the position of the highest judicial officer was vacated due to a prolonged and dragging impeachment proceeding against former CJ Renato Corona, would have certainly enticed some form of apprehension and even protestation.

Hacienda Luisita farmers the other day went to the streets to question the verity of her appointment, alleging that she had lobbied for a higher pay-up for the owners of Hacienda Luisita, which includes Pnoy for that matter, which would have granted a much higher 2006 price of P 170,000 per hectare for the vast landholding rather than the 1989 valuation of P 40,000 per hectare.

Church leaders have also signaled their uneasiness with CJ Sereno as her close affiliation with Pnoy would render any future legal debate on the RH Bill issue unfavorable to their cause, anticipating that if the RH Bill would be approve, it’s constitutionality would certainly be against at the highest court.

“She has a lot of time, almost two decades… a lot of time to prove herself in terms of making the administration of justice much faster than it is now, which is a primary concern and agenda for her as Chief Justice,” said retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz.

The latest question on her appointment is the query about her passing mark in the psychological test given by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) in connection with her nomination to the Chief Justice position weeks ago.

Fortunately, JBC have responded quickly and affirmed her passing mark, albeit not high. Jose Mejia, representing the academe in the JBC had stated that she would not have been short-listed for final selection by the President if she did not pass the psychological test.

With all these queries and protestations, the most emphatic aspect of CJ Sereno’s appointment was her very close affiliation to the appointing officer, being a batchmate in Ateneo de Manila University during her student days there, taking up Economics, the same course Pnoy had taken up there.

One can only imagine how close they were. They might as well have been former classmates.

Being a female nominee and one of the youngest, Senator Edgardo Angara termed her appointment as “unique and unprecedented’ that there is great apprehension among senior members of the Supreme Court, about how they would adjust to this nascent situation, especially now that they have a new boss, a female boss, and one who is merely new in their roster.

I had expected more from Pnoy, to make a clear and crystalline appointment, one that would not be questioned upon for partisanship, to be suspected as serve serving, to be neutral in every way you see it. But CJ Sereno’s appointment was far from that.

And therefore, despite’s CJ Sereno’s exemplary record of service and achievement, this one appointment of Pnoy may be questioned and protested in days or even months from now, or even throughout his presidency. And that’s a bad thing.
Secretary Robredo is the Epitome of Great Governance

Secretary Robredo is the Epitome of Great Governance

Secretary Florencio Abad had hit the point right on the mark about Secretary Jessie Robredo’s demise, about how endeared he is to his own people, and by the nation as well, and how exemplary was his work with the government.

Secretary Abad was wary, in a eulogy he had given one night, in honor of his departed friend and colleague at work, that it would be such an uneasy situation that if he or others dies – referring perhaps to people in high government such as him and the late Interior Secretary – and there would be no outpouring of sadness and sympathy from the public.

Such accolade and tribute of course are reserved merely for great men, those that have made significant work and efforts to uplift the life of the people they had served, with great passion and sincerity. These are heroes, and Secretary Jessie is already one even if I do not feel I have the authority to grant a person such title, dead or still alive.

He was “champion of the poor’ a missionary priest called him. More than that, he was an exemplary icon in terms of governance, the ‘mayor in slippers’ his constituents had dearly referred to him. he was "a brilliant man", a "man of vision", a religious devout - he was everything positive for a government man.He was a "trailblazer" according to Pnoy himself.

Secretary Robredo’s death is just like any other national hero’s death, such as that of the vigorous fighter in Ninoy Aquino, who had died similarly from a flight towards home, in the same month, just days wide in difference, and similarly that of the sublime defender of the nation’s freedom, Jose Rizal, whose death have awakened the nation’s fervor for freedom and self-determination.

The demise of the late Secretary, no matter how unpleasant and horrid it was, dying in a crashing aircraft, did not come to naught at all, for it had awaken the nation, especially to all servers and workers in government, that there is one man in Secretary Jessie Robredo that harbors all the high qualities of what a public servant ought to be, sensitive to the plight of those who suffer in the streets, who works with fervor and need not seek great monetary reward, and exerts effort to the fullest to see to it that the people he serves would attain what government ought to deliver to them, upliftment and great welfare.

We all should learn from the man. Every government servant for that matter, from the lowly clerk to the high senator, should learn greatly from the life and works of Secretary Jessie Robredo.

May the soul of the great man, a man of honor and service, rest in peace.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Lance Armstrong Quits Fighting USADA Charges, Stripped of 7 Tour de France Titles

Lance Armstrong Quits Fighting USADA Charges, Stripped of 7 Tour de France Titles

This should be a very sad day for sports, in any which way, whether he is guilty of doping or even if he is not.
Lance Armstrong had just been stripped by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) of all the seven Tour de France titles he won since August 1, 1998 and would be banned from competing for life.
In June, USADA had formally filed doping charges against Armstrong, a move consolidating years of speculations and accusation brought against the legendary American cyclist for use of performance enhancing drugs. Armstrong countered with a lawsuit against USADA in July before a federal court in Texas but the judge threw it out the following day. A revised lawsuit earlier this month had similarly been set aside by the courts there, leaving Armstrong the option of whether or not he would enter into arbitration to fight USADA's charges.
Armstrong had refused to head into arbitration and decided to finally stop fighting USADA , finally declaring "enough is enough", a decision which now leads to the stripping of his phenomenal 7 Tour de France titles, which he won through a stunning streak of incomparable cycling prowess, one that is unparalleled in the cycling world  or even in any other international sports for that matter --- as phenomenal as the Boston Celtics 8 consecutive title run in the 60's. Seven titles in seven years, a feat that had made Lance Armstrong a byword in every nook and cranny of the sporting world, even among those who were not cycling fans.
Sanctions against the legendary American cyclist would now end a mythical career that had the world gripping and tremendously awed for almost a decade. His wins captivated audience all over the world and Tour de France had reached peak popularity because of his fascinating wins, stage after stage. And fans the world over wore the highly-identifiable Livestrong yellow bracelet in support of the fabled cyclist.
In finally deciding to quit fighting this latest and most serious charges to date against him, Armstrong reiterated that his refusal for arbitration  does not mean that he is guilty; he is merely opting to redirect his focus on his family and his foundation Livestrong, an organization he founded in 1997 in relation to his ailment of testicular cancer, which he battled through against successfully.
Armstrong had only fiery words for USADA especially against its head, CEO Travis Tygart.
"USADA cannot assert control of a professional international sport and attempt to strip my seven Tour de France titles. I know who won those seven Tours, my teammates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours. We all raced together. For three weeks over the same roads, the same mountains, and against all the weather and elements that we had to confront. There were no shortcuts, there was no special treatment. The same courses, the same rules. The toughest event in the world where the strongest man wins. Nobody can ever change that. Especially not Travis Tygart." Armstrong stated in an official pronouncement he released in his website.
And with this, the phenomenal cycling career of one of the most splendid cyclist in the world, if not the most splendid of all, and who could have been one of the finest athletes ever, except for these doping charges that strips him off the most memorable and significant wins in his career, finally comes to a heartrending end.
PNoy Appoints First Female Chief Justice in CJ Sereno

PNoy Appoints First Female Chief Justice in CJ Sereno

President Benigno Aquino III ends days of speculations and appoints the first lady Chief Justice in Supreme Court Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, beating the constitutional deadline of August 27 by which he is required to fill the position vacated by the impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona last month.

CJ Sereno would officially assume office today, August 25 and becomes the second youngest head of judiciary in history aside from being the first female Chief Justice. And she would be poised to serve the longest term for a Philippine Chief Justice.

While President Aquino had previously expressed his disappointment to the list of nominees submitted by the Judicial Bar Council, his selection of Sereno appears to be astute and well-received by the public. Sereno is a lawyer-academician who had a long and stellar career teaching International Trade Law and Commercial Laws in U.P. and among international schools of law and economics. Being gained a degree in economics, CJ Sereno does forte seem to be in commercial and trade laws. And to be sure, she would be so keen with economic issues.
President Pnoy himself was an Economics graduate from the same school she had earned her degree, at the Ateneo de Manila University (ADZU). And with both having almost the same age, they would have had been colleagues from way back in their Ateneo days. Or they could have been classmates before.

All in all, she exemplifies excellence in terms of education and professional career achievements. She should be most qualified and most able especially that as our nation pushes forward towards economic progress, our courts may be encountering series of economic and trade issues and CJ Sereno would just be so well-prepared to meet with these challenges.

And for that, Pnoy has made the right choice. Maybe not the best – but she should be a good choice.


Friday, August 24, 2012

What is the Guinness World Record for the Most Number of People Arrested in One Instance?

What is the Guinness World Record for the Most Number of People Arrested in One Instance?

What is the Guinness world record for the most number of people arrested in one instance of police operation? I couldn’t find it on the net. Most probably there should be one, but information is just not available.

But Manila cops had arrested 357 foreigners in simultaneous raids in Quezon City, Marikina City, and Cainta and Antipolo City in Rizal province on Thursday.

According to Director Samuel Pagdilao Jr., CIDG chief, the raid was the “biggest and most resolute operation carried out by law enforcement units in the history of anticyber crime drive [in the Philippines],”.

And due to the huge number of people arrested in just one instance, the nabbed suspects were housed in the police training school’s gym instead of the usual detention utilities.

For one, I have never heard in prior instance where cops had made such large number of arrest on one occasion, for the same crime, and of foreigners at that. This should be one for the books.

The 357 arrested persons were mostly of Chinese and Taiwanese citizenship taken in committing online frauds and scam, violating the Access Devices Regulation Act of 1998.

We’ve heard about Nigerian syndicates and this group conducts their modus operandi in the same vein, using online channels to defraud their victims. The syndicate accordingly makes 20M a day, and this should be way much too much.

The group’s modus operandi involves threat of their victims that their bank accounts have been put under investigation for money laundering and terrorists’ activities and that they should be put in one account for safekeeping. Under threat of hazard, their unsuspecting victims would oblige to their demands only to find out that this group are impostors and fakes.

Most of the victims would be of Chinese descent since the group often represent themselves as members of police, prosecutor’s office, courts, insurance companies, banks and other financial institutions.

According to the CIDG’s deputy director for operations, Senior Supt. Keith Singian, the group’s modus operandi “is a classic example of the operations of criminal syndicate in China, only this time, the suspects who are foreigners have used the Philippines as base of operations.”

Well, their modus is as easily determined as bogus by just looking at it yetr many felt victims to their machinations. Naivety often leads to misfortune. Tsk,tsk.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Plagiarism in the Senate: Should it be Commonplace or Should it be Penalized?

Plagiarism in the Senate: Should it be Commonplace or Should it be Penalized?

Plagiarism is such a bad thing, we all know that. Especially in the academics, lifting original content into one’s work, such as theses and research papers are considered mortal sin. In the publishing world, plagiarizing someone else’s work will definitely result to criminal accountability.

But apparently, plagiarism in the Philippine Senate is merely an everyday occurrence, this according to Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III. This is some sort of exposé after the senator was caught red-handed last week when his speech against the passing of the Reproductive Health Bill had been found to contain materials lifted entirely from the content of an American blog site.

According to the beleaguered senator, even contents of bills that have not been passed or enacted are entirely copied and inserted into new legislative propositions, as if reviving dead bills and re-inventing them into an entirely new set of bills to be presented anew for approval, but this time around, with different credits for authorship.

According to Hector Villacorta, Sotto’s chief of staff, “Copying is a common practice. Why do you need to think of a brand-new measure when a good one that was not enacted already exists?”

Villacorta added and reiterated that there is no law penalizing unoriginal content in the speeches of senators and congressmen and that even our Constitution is a plagiarized version of the United States Constitution.
Now these revelations seem to counter common notion about plagiarism or piracy of original work. It should be highly unexpected for lawmakers to see such inappropriateness to be common place and all too prevalent.

From Wikipedia, plagiarism is defined as the "wrongful appropriation," "close imitation," or "purloining and publication" of another author's "language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions," and the representation of them as one's own original work.

In legal parlance, plagiarism does not take place in Philippine laws or even in American laws. The closest regulation about it would be found  in the Intellectual Property Laws especially on copyright infringement.

The Law on Copyright, Chapter 2, Section 172, the following shall be considered protected from replication:

(a) Books, pamphlets, articles and other writings;
(b) Periodicals and newspapers;
(c) Lectures, sermons, addresses, dissertations prepared for oral delivery, whether or not reduced in writing or other material form;
(d) Letters;
(e) Dramatic or dramatico-musical compositions; choreographic works or entertainment in dumb shows;
(f) Musical compositions, with or without words;
(g) Works of drawing, painting, architecture, sculpture, engraving, lithography or other works of art; models or designs for works of art;
(h) Original ornamental designs or models for articles of manufacture, whether or not registrable as an industrial design, and other works of applied art;
(i) Illustrations, maps, plans, sketches, charts and three-dimensional works relative to geography, topography, architecture or science;
(j) Drawings or plastic works of a scientific or technical character;
(k) Photographic works including works produced by a process analogous to photography; lantern slides;
(l) Audiovisual works and cinematographic works and works produced by a process analogous to cinematography or any process for making audio-visual recordings;
(m) Pictorial illustrations and advertisements;
(n) Computer programs; and
(o) Other literary, scholarly, scientific and artistic works.

There is emphasis in the Law on Copyright that:

“Works are protected by the sole fact of their creation, irrespective of their mode or form of expression, as well as of their content, quality and purpose.” (Section 172.2)

Therefore, content in the web, whether they are from blog sites or are from regular websites, information and materials contained in them shall be considered as original intellectual creations, from the moment of creation, notwithstanding its registration for copyright protection in the Intellectual Property Office.

Works of government, which unenacted bills should belong to, are not within the contemplation of items protected from copyright infringement that they can be utilized in so long as permissions are requested and thereafter granted. To this, reviving dead bills shall not fall under copyright infringement as determined by the Law on Copyright where authorship in lawmaking does not become closely associated with authorship in terms of published materials.

But definitely, lifted contents from a website, to be used for a speech, if not granted prior permission by the author, shall be considered as unlawful and therefore a violation of the law, the Law on Copyright to be specific.
Filipinos Mourn a Great Man in Secretary Robredo

Filipinos Mourn a Great Man in Secretary Robredo

Six days after his chartered flight went down into the depths of Masbate bay, it now finally sinks in for his loved ones, and to the entire nation for that matter, that DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo is finally gone into the netherworld.

A highly intense and watched search-and-rescue operation have gripped the nation for several days, hoping and wishing that the secretary would still be found alive and survived this tragedy. But divers could only produce his body, disappointing the entire nation.

This tragedy has irony so written all over it that it took this unexpected turn in order for many to know and realized how a great man in government has just been lost, to the regret of all.

In a time when we need the kind of technocrat like Secretary Robredo, we still have to lose him. He was an achiever in every aspect of his endeavor, a young government executive at the very age of 29, becoming youngest at that, transforming a underdeveloped and tumultuous city into one that is the envy of many local governments.

And his gait and character speaks so much about the man, his simplicity and humility shines like no other. Picture collages about him on news television shows a man who had worked so hard and so passionately that he is seen combing the streets of his city, mingling with his constituents, as if he is just one of them, an unpretentious and an unassuming entity, who in reality is full of ability and guile.

He could have just been a future president of this nation if this tragedy had not happened. I would have voted for him and would have egged on the greater population of this nation to rally behind him. Secretary Robredo is just the kind of leader that this nation needs.

And yet we have to lose him in this unexpected event, a tragic accident.

Perhaps, we are wishing that his death would not be in great vain; that this great man should continue to inspire a nation now that he is in the other life.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Press Freedom in Myanmar Finally Augurs In

Press Freedom in Myanmar Finally Augurs In

Just four years ago, Myanmar had ranked very high at 169th among 179 countries in the 2011-2012 Reporters Without Borders worldwide Press Freedom Index. But thanks to government’s decision on Monday, press censorship is ease out by the Myanmar government, ending decades of stringent and often punishing regulations of authorities there over published materials.

From now on, any written materials aimed for publication will not anymore pass the so-called “pre-scrutinizing” process by the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRB) of the Ministry of Information. However, after publication such materials would still be submitted to the said board in order to ascertain that they did not violate any law or regulations, especially on the content and motivations of written items.

Although the hands of the government in controlling media is still looming and apparent, still this is a great milestone for a country whose press freedom and human rights records had been lambasted all the world over for decades now.

This easing up on censorship is said to be part of the 2011–2012 Burmese democratic reforms, an ongoing series of moves and actions by the Myanmar government towards the path of democracy. This series had started in the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest and subsequent dialogues with her, establishment of the National Human Rights Commission, general amnesties of more than 200 political prisoner. Other reforms include institution of new labor laws that allow labour unions and strikes, relaxation of press censorship, and regulations of currency practices.

Probably, Myanmar is feeling the pressure of its ASEAN neighbors as for years now, the regional group had egged on members that are not fully democratized to make reforms in terms of human freedom and social reforms, in consonance with ASEAN general dictum of forum, consultaion and democracy. This would be in line with ASEAN’s aim for further integration with its Vision 2020 program, aiming for further cohesion in terms of political organization and economy.


Thursday, August 09, 2012

The Middle Class: The Key to Our Nation’s Progress

The Middle Class: The Key to Our Nation’s Progress

There were many talks about the middle class before---who are they and where are they found? In the Philippine settings, identifying this sector of our society is never an easy task for this idiom, which has found its root in western economic theories, does not easily apply to our own principalities.

Who are the members of our middle class? Where are they? How can we identify them?

Generally, the determining factor in ascertaining the middle level of our society is primarily the earning capacity of a certain group of people and secondarily their social mindset. In a society like us, where for many centuries we were in virtual serfdom, we are mainly a nation of the rich on one side and the rest of the poor in the other. There is nothing much in between. We had at many times in the past a classless society.

We must only remember that even as we speak and while we kept again and again to break away from this stranglehold of unfair distribution of wealth in our nation, we have not effectively evolved from the virtual serfdom society that we have inherited from our Spanish colonizers of many centuries ago and if there were changes, they came in stifling trickles. We tried our best to escape this ugly past by adopting two versions of comprehensive land reform programs, one during the Marcs years and one in the freedom government of President Corazon Aquino, yet we are still presently hounded by the sad state of gregarious amount of land in the hands of a meager few.

I remember too well the lasting images that I have seen in the not too distant movie “Far and Away” which featured Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman as protagonists and chronicles in a fictitious manner the onset of emigrants in a time of the birth of a nation, the land of milk and honey, America. Irish settlers and some other nationalities, were lined up in a multitude by the authorities with their horses and cavalcades readying themselves in a mad rush towards a wide open plains to which each family unit was given a white flag to identify the territory they have gotten for themselves. As they rush along towards more favorable plains, the very site that they could plunge their flags to the soft ground would immediately be theirs and theirs alone for eternity as long as they hold on to it and nobody, not even the State could take it away from them. The actors who took part in the rushing multitude of men, women and children perhaps captured so well the elation and joy of many American settlers who became part of such exercise, when as each flag was trusted to the ground, tears would roll down from their eyes and relief was all too apparent on their faces. The movie made me appreciate all the more the power of land and its role as the sustainer of life. What I saw in the movie was perhaps the most singular reason to the astounding progress that America has attained even up to the present, especially in the 20th century.

The government in America of past centuries had made sure that each men and women of their society became able to produce by themselves and become contributors to their young nation’s productivity. In short, the ordinary man was empowered with an economic capacity that was best brought for by the ownership of land. Thereon, everyone was capacitated to etched their own living and with money in their pockets, they had become voracious buyers that for every garment and T-Model Ford vehicles manufactured in Industrial Age America, a horde of middle class have the money to consume them. When there are many potential buyers who waits in the by side, bloating with consumer power, any product or material put on sale will surely find their own buyers and thereon, more and more factories would rise from the ground to produce more and more products with waiting consumers ready to pounce and more and more hands are hired to man these rising industries. The end effect of this would be more and more money in the hands of a growing middle class, consuming perniciously the produce of the nation’s productivity and thereon sustaining the economic cycle.

In the 1990’s, the economic world were parading the term “consumer power” and it is consumer power of the population that becomes one of the primary motivations for any foreign investor that aims to put money in any developing nation. We have seen the rise of new tiger economies and the most recent among them are Malaysia and Thailand. One of the veritable characteristic of their economies was a better than fair consumer appetite. It is mainly an illusion or perhaps a passing exception to think that multinational companies are putting shop in our shores just because they just want to manufacture products aimed at other markets. They come thinking partly that whatever they produce, the local market is mature enough to help consume them. This is the main reason for China’s economic juggernaut. American companies started trooping to the star of the orient as early as the late 80’s initially because they were staring at one billion possible drinkers of softdrinks and one billion eaters of burgers and one billion possible drivers of Chevrolets. Cheap and skilled labor in that territory of course remains a great come-on for companies who aims to save on overhead costs. A bludgeoning local consumer made it easier for many multinationals to decide on locating their businesses in China.

How we always go back to that most basic economic law of supply and demand even in a world of gargantuan complications. As the demand grows, supply rises in collateral amount and still remains that when supply overlaps demand, prices would certainly go down. Increase in the unit of supply certainly generates the expectation that more economic activity is done and when economic activity is humming with enough fervor, more labor is needed and employment statistics improved greatly. Aside from this, resources are much more sought after, especially raw materials one gets from low-end sectors like farmers and sea traders and therefore the GDP ticks at a higher scale.

We must now see more closely at the “demand factor”, for in my view, demand is the key to the upswings in the supply and demand curve. We must create demand if need be and every economic manager should be looking at this x-factor in the equation of things. I have no professional training in economics except for a couple of economics subjects that I was forced-fed in college. My only wish is that creating demand is unlike creating a bridge when there is no river or lake. (I remember that joke about a politician who had promised his constituents in an election campaign that he would build a bridge in their locality while addressing a crowd. When someone in the crowd blurted out that there was no river in their place, the politician then declared rather pompously that in that case, he will build a river.) What I mean is that, does it take a genius to find out the way to finding demand blissfulness?

My view on the matter of supply and demand is more of that of a layman’s and yet I believe that the ordinary eye can at certain point see some complicated perspectives with a clearer vista.

This is where my soliloquy on the middle class comes in. We must keep on building and rebuilding our middle class which should compose every man and woman who puts his or her hand in labor, as apart from the excessively rich who doesn’t need to sweat anymore to make their life uplifted and from the extremely poor who at most times do not toil anymore for lack of capital or capacity to make a living. This is the Philippine middle class and almost every one of us belongs to this class—the farmer and the fishermen, the lawyer and doctors, the middle politicians, the tricycle drivers, teachers and government workers, the sellers of food in the market and of everyday gadgets in city sidewalks, the restaurateurs and those who are paid to act as clowns in many children’s’ parties, the cotton candy maker, the cigarette peddlers, the media men in some local news station, the cook and the chef, the athlete who are paid a measly allowance by the state, the radio announcer, the factory workers, the planters of camotes and cassavas, the harvesters of coconuts and the struggling artist. You name it and we got it.

We need to find a way on how to harness the potential power of the middle class. Like water rushing from a cliff, the hidden energy is just there to be discovered.

The most practical mode of developing the consumer power of the middle class is by encouraging some growth in their income and benefits. This may make our capitalists and our economic planners squirm even while they sleep yet there is no better alternative to this. It is one of those challenges that connote some sacrifices and many hardships especially in the initial stages. Our economic managers would look at this view with great disfavor since raising minimum wage so sharply would make us less competitive with our other Asian neighbors in attracting foreign investments. As a countermeasure to this apprehension, I suggest that the key towards higher take home pays of the labor sector is not by legislating a wage increase all too often (which would scare away foreign capital) but by enacting or initiating a selective and pro-active compensation scheme for the private sector where the increases would come by way of bonuses and supplemental benefits like for example such items as productivity pay and performance bonuses. The government could offer tax rebates and credits to companies who adhere to the payments of particular supplemental wages and afford them major discounts in importing duties and such other similar rewards. In this manner, the minimum wage is not disturb by sharp increases and only companies whose net incomes are in the upswing are more inclined to raise the level of income of their workers. So in lieu of a legislated wage increase, the state could enact a pro-active scheme where the pay of the workers is supplemented not by direct wage increases but by an assortment of benefits. Like for example, a company with substantial financial success could offer their workers benefits like monthly supply of a sack of rice or scholarships for the workers’ dependents. This manner of compensation, although not in terms of wage increases, would certainly alleviate the plight of our workers and increases their buying capacity.

The business world needs buyers and we can develop many more aggressive buyers through our laborers, the soul of the middle class. This is the ideal cycle of a healthy economy and not a cycle where the fruits of a nation’s economic upswing are stagnated in the hands of the few who stashes profits into some Swiss bank account. As a result, the profits gained do not redound to more resources poured into the economy by way of generated investments and higher benefits for labor. Earnings should be rolled over by putting them back into the capital market and one of the capital expenses are labor expenses.

In corporate and financial laws, companies are prohibited from retaining more than enough earnings in order to evade the circumstances where companies hide their true earning numbers by secluding a great portion of their income as retained earnings for research or development. Retaining too much earnings is considered in fraud of stockholders as well as of creditors. In the same breath, although not as prohibited, if many capitalists retain their private earnings by not distributing them back into the economy and instead hide them away in some foreign bank accounts, this is tantamount to economic sabotage where they could be acting as if they are leeches just out there to fattened themselves and run away when they have siphoned already more than enough blood. This is like a hit-and run in broad daylight.

When any growth in economy does not redound to a more uplifted living standard for our laborers, it becomes meaningless in the general scheme of things but is merely appreciated by the few who have capital in their hands.

Another mode of harnessing the consuming potential of the middle class is by a government-led widespread capacitating program by penetrating the root bases of our society—the rural dwellers and the urban poor—and instructing them on various livelihood activities. This is actually being done by the state even as we speak through the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) and through many other agencies, at many times in coordination with NGOs and international organizations like the World Bank and JAICA. This particular effort by the state should need to be more energized and spread out.

In any sense, we must invoke a fairer social justice in the distribution of our nation’s wealth in order that we reach the next level of industrialization. An economy without a powerful middle class would lack the instigating factors that could generate more and more business activity and growth is slow if not in a stand still. Our capitalists should begin to trust our economy and not keep on testing the water where they only shell out their money when they have ultimate certainty of return.

The cycle that we see the most fair is as simple as this: when the laborers and many other members of our middle class begin to have more than sufficient income, they begin to buy more cigarettes and beer and electronic appliances and toys and fancy garments and would begin to eat more in fastfood centers So we ask, isn’t it the capitalists themselves who will reap the fruits of a middle class with a vast consumer power? The answer is of course a resounding yes.
Project NOAH Aims to Enhance Government's Disaster Risk Reduction  and Management

Project NOAH Aims to Enhance Government's Disaster Risk Reduction and Management

As a response to President Aquino’s call for a responsive disaster prevention and mitigation program, the Department of Science & Technology (DOST) had launched Project NOAH last July 6, 2012, aimed primarily at strengthening disaster risk reduction efforts.

NOAH or the Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards is a widespread module that is designed at monitoring and watching for extreme hazard conditions as brought by weather disturbances and other form of calamities such as earthquakes and massive fire.

According to DOST, NOAH is equipped with seven vital components that would thoroughly enhanced preparedness and alertness of government units to respond to disaster scenario in the most responsive and efficient manner. These components include Hydromet sensors development, DRAM-Lidar, FloodNET, Hazards information media, Landslide hazards mapping, Doppler system development, and Storm surge inundation mapping.

In detail, Project NOAH involves the following specific components:

  • Distribution of Hydrometeorological Devices in hard-hit areas in the Philippines (Hydromet). A total of 600 automated rain gauges (ARG) and 400 water level monitoring stations (WLMS) will be installed along the country’s 18 major river basins (RBs) by December 2013 to provide a better picture of the country’s surface water in relation to flooding.

  • Disaster Risk Exposure Assessment for Mitigation – Light Detection and Ranging (DREAM-LIDAR) Project. The project, which is targeted to be completed by December 2013, aims to produce more accurate flood inundation and hazard maps in 3D for the country’s flood-prone and major river systems and watersheds.

  • Enhancing Geohazards Mapping through LIDAR. The project, which is targeted to be completed by December 2014, shall use LIDAR technology and computer-assisted analyses to identify exact areas prone to landslides.

  • Coastal Hazards and Storm Surge Assessment and Mitigation (CHASSAM).  CHASSAM, which is targeted to be completed by December 2014, will generate wave surge, wave refraction, and coastal circulation models to understand and recommend solutions for coastal erosion.

  • Flood Information Network (FloodNET) Project. Targeted to be completed by December 2013 is a flood center that will provide timely and accurate information for flood early warning systems. The FloodNET  Project will come up with computer models for the critical RBs, automate the process of data gathering, modeling and information output, and release flood forecasts.

  • Local Development of Doppler Radar Systems (LaDDeRS). LaDDeRS seeks to develop local capacity to design, fabricate, and operate sub-systems of Doppler radars for remotely sensing the dynamic parameters of sea surface such as wave, wind field, and surface current velocity.

  • Landslide Sensors Development Project. This project is a low-cost, locally developed, sensor-based early monitoring and warning system for landslides, slope failures, and debris flow. As of May 2012, ten sensors have been installed in San Francisco, Surigao del Norte; Tago, Surigao del Sur; Tublay, Bugias, and Bokod in Benguet; Guihulngan City, Negros Occidental; St. Bernard, Southern Leyte;  and Tubungan, Iloilo. Additional sensors are expected to be deployed to not less than 50 sites by 2013.

  • Weather Hazard Information Project (WHIP). WHIP involves the utilization of platforms such as television (DOSTv) and a web portal (,  which display real-time satellite, Doppler radar, ARG, and WLMS data to empower LGUs and communities to prepare against extreme natural hazards. This is complemented by activities, such as: a) conducting of IEC (Information, Education, and Communication) activities; and b) the processing and packaging of relevant and up-to-date information for public use.

This should be well-timely as the country, especially in the northern part of the Philippines, is experiencing a major debacle brought about extremely brisk torrential rains; one that had caused unprecedented damage in terms of lives and properties, resulting from immense and widespread flooding.

For more information and details, visit Project NOAH’s homepage.


Wednesday, August 08, 2012

DEUTERIUM : The White Gold of The Philippines

DEUTERIUM : The White Gold of The Philippines

When I was in highschool, Michael Petralba, an old neighborhood friend from Carmen Street but who is now residing in Los Angeles, once spoke to me in a very animated fashion how the Philippines could one day become the richest country in the world. As a prelude, Michael said to me that his father had some vital information why a number of foreigners were in the country for a very secret purpose. I wondered loudly to him how secret it was and asked him if he could actually let me know some of the “secret’. He then informed me without hesitation that the foreigners were here mainly to study and find out ways on how to extract deuterium from the Philippine seas. I asked how come his father knew about all those stuff and what “deuterium” was in the first place. With gasping breath, and with gleaming pride for that matter, Michael told me as a matter of fact that his father was a war veteran and because of this, he had American contacts in the CIA. The CIA thing sounded preposterous to me at that time but when I recently read some articles in the Internet about deuterium, I started to wonder if the CIAtalk of Michael was plausible after all and that maybe the CIA was behind the sudden departure of Michael’s whole family to Los Angeles later that year, where in a year’s time he was already driving a very exotic looking red corvette (might be from second hand store) as evidenced by a picture that he had sent to the neighborhood kids through a very kind uncle. This story may start to sound like a brimming Tom Clancy thriller but before anything gets out of hand, that CIA talk of Michael is just that and nothing else to it I am pretty sure on that and their immigration to America was due mainly to his father being a USAFFE during World War II. But Michael’s rambling on deuterium was completely a different matter—-it sounded to me then so awfully good that I had wished it to be true already even though it wasn’t true at all at that time, and even now.
There is really something to this issue on deuterium that lingers long and never goes away completely. It had been virtually popping and bobbing up in the local media every now and then—-especially in the last couple of decades. The Cebu-based news outfit The Freeman published the most recent news article on deuterium. In that article, Freeman publicized a certain study on deuterium by a Filipino scientist working in a Canadian agency. Canada by the way is the world’s leading producer and consumer of deuterium as an energy source. There had been many rumors and hush-hush talks before about certain groups of foreigners, possibly American and sometimes German, that were in the country to initiate drilling projects that should siphon-off the coveted deuterium from the Philippine seas. All those talks just died down however and nobody really minded them, perhaps everyone just disregarded some weird-sounding element that is supposedly found in the Philippines in great volume. In fact, even as we speak now, I would not be surprised if Exxon or Shell has some of its people working night and day trying to unravel the key to gathering the millions of barrels of “white gold” underneath our seas.
It was reported several years ago that the United States Government, through the Department of Energy and General Motors had unveiled an $88 Million joint project in order to put a fleet of hydrogen-fuelled cars on the streets of Washington D.C., New York and Los Angeles within a year’s time. The fleet would consist merely of 40 of such cars but most of the money would be spent on putting up a number of hydrogen refueling stations all over the streets of those pilot cities since the main cause why consumers are not buying too many hydrogen-fuelled cars these days is basically due to the lack of gas stations peddling or selling hydrogen gas or liquid hydrogen. Come to think of it, even if any of us had all the money to buy this car stuff right now, like for example if some of us are sons and daughters of Taipans with money to burn, we wouldn’t be able to use them anyway, at least not for long, unless we all fly all the way to America to buy gallons and gallons of hydrogen fuel.
But again come to think about the possibilities. If only there were enough hydrogen-refueling stations all over our city streets, our days of being dependent on crude oil (freshly-drilled from the dusty sands of Sahara) would soon be over and our atmosphere would be a lot more livable since the only end product of hydrogen fuels is water. Water, instead of carbon dioxides that make our urban landscape looked orange or yellow at dusk.
I really hope that this project of GM and the United States Government would entirely succeed for reasons that we all should know by now.
And so this bit of news on hydrogen-fuelled cars reminded me of the high school talk I had with an old friend from the neighborhood concerning deuterium. What is deuterium and how does it become an energy source? Deuterium is the end product when a common tap water (H2O) is subjected to enormous pressurize of gigantic proportion that the oxygen element in the H2O compound is forced out of the combination, making the hydrogen element to purify and consolidated all the more. Since in deuterium, the hydrogen becomes so solid and unadulterated, hydrogen gas can be easily obtained from it since a natural electrolysis happens immediately the moment deuterium is exposed to room temperature. Meaning to say, when deuterium is used as a base in obtaining hydrogen gas, the generation process is much less expensive. Right now, hydrogen gas and liquid hydrogen that are often used to power jets and giant trucks, are sold at very steep prices (much more expensive than gasoline) because it is so costly to produce them, necessitating an energy-consuming and lengthy electrolysis process that are undertaken in order to separate the hydrogen compound from common water. When deuterium is used, the very expensive process of electrolysis would be bypassed and set aside in the production of hydrogen gas and therefore, obtaining hydrogen fuel becomes more efficient and less expensive by a mile.
The Philippines is identified to hold the greatest amount of deuterium deposit, somewhere in the area known as Mindanao Trench, the part of the Pacific Ocean just off the shores of Surigao. Deuterium is most prevalent in an area more widely known in the whole world as The Philipppine Deep. In the Freeman news article (dated August 2004), Dr. Anthony B. Halog, the Filipino scientist working at the Sustainable Technology Office of the Institute for Chemical Process and Environmental Technology, and the National Research Council of Canada described the Philippine deuterium wealth in this manner:
“A big deposit of 868 miles long, 52 miles at widest point, and 3 miles at deepest point, replenished by nature 24 hours a day after deuterium travels more than 12,000 kilometers from Central America to the Philippines through the span of the Pacific Ocean when Planet Earth turns on its axis from West to East in unending perpetual motion.”
And it’s potential in this breathe:
“At 12 million barrels per day capacity priced at US$7.00 per barrel, this is US$84 million per day or US$30.66 billion per year, enough to wipe out all existing foreign debts of the Government in one year, revenue-wise in foreign exchange.Public works, private construction, economic and financial booms are expected to happen in the Philippines in the same manner as those which happened in the Middle East and financial centers of the world from 1974 to 1984, with everybody earning their respective comfortable livelihood, while pricing basic prime necessities at reasonable and affordable levels.”
At present, deuterium seems to be produce exclusively through an expensive synthesizing process, by subjecting ordinary tap water to enormous pressure using some highly-advanced machinery or equipment and thus the price of hydrogen fuel remain relatively out of reach from the ordinary consumers of fuels. But if the deuterium deposit under the Philippine seas can be obtained, hydrogen gas prices could become far more reasonable and affordable. If natural deuterium is utilized as the base in the production of hydrogen fuel—-in both its most widely used form as hydrogen gas and liquid hydrogen—-the generation process would become more efficient and much cheaper. And mind you, deuterium as a source of energy is not only useful to power cars, trucks and planes. It is also being utilized to power factories and power plants in the same manner that nuclear power plants are operated. With deuterium as moderator, nuclear power plants could do away with enriched uranium as a main fuel source and this means, deuterium use could generate a whole new species of power plants that are a lot safer—-safer by a grand mile.
The problem faced by those who wants to extract natural deuterium from the Philippines seas is probably the enormous pressure that is existing in the very area where deuterium are supposed to be found. To reach the area of deuterium concentration, a drilling system should reach a level of at least 30,000 feet deep into the ocean, where the water pressure could reach as high as 10,000 psi, or the equivalent of 10,000 tons of load pressuring from all direction. Apparently, there is no material known today that could withstand such enormous amount of pressure. Maybe diamonds could be strong enough to endure the extraordinary pressure down there but imagine how much diamonds should be needed in order to manufacture a very long tube. That’ll be unimaginable in both cost and expanse. But scientists nowadays always finds a way and when the time comes that a kind of metal could actually be developed, one that could reach ten thousand meters underwater without breaking apart and efficiently drill out barrels and barrels of sea water that contains deuterium, then that’ll be the time the Philippines could become the main hawker of fuels for the world’s cars, airplanes, buses, factories, power plants and whatever that runs and hums not by its own accord.
So deuterium may be the gasoline of the future, the main energy source of the next millennium, and the Philippines is the only country that has them naturally tucked under its seabed in an amount and breathe that replenishes on its own every time the Earth rotates and the sea shifts from side to side.

Reinvigoration of the Public Sector

Reinvigoration of the Public Sector

I do not mean re-engineering or even re-structuring. Maybe all we need is merely to invigorate the government system in order for it to achieve the maximum efficiency that is expected of it.

We have tried such modes of re-invention as re-engineering and re-structuring, at great cost in time and money, and yet improvements have not been substantial or palpable. The public continues to languish in long queues every time a license or a passport is needed. Bribes are ever pernicious, and even more open today, like it is not anymore a secret that should be tucked inside the pocket or a key thrown into the deepest ocean.

The public continues to encounter lazy faces of public servants seemingly tired of their day job and daydreaming of life in beaches almost all day long. At the slightest error, the public who is merely seeking public service get squirmed at by those who are especially employed by the government in order to serve the public, and in order that the common person have the convenience that the government owes them.

What is the aim of the public sector now? This is one vital question that should be addressed before everything can be settled. Is the public servant merely holding position just in order to make a living? He or she should rather be selling vegetables or meat in the market, at least thereat, there would be wider potentiality for the improvement of wealth. Nobody could really get rich in the government service, even serving for a long time.

Is the public servant merely holding position for social status and pride? He or she would rather be joining pageants and spectacles on television, for he or she would be known better there.

The public office is a public trust. This dogma had even been institutionalized in our most fundamental set of laws – our Constitution – and this is most encompassing of all, where no one should be allowed to forget the essence of public service, which is in order to serve the people, and not merely for self aggrandizement.

In view of the foregoing issues, therefore it is but time to realigned our views about the public sector, starting from the people within it. That for every employee of the government, whether national or local, every time he or she sees an individual, riding a Mercedes Benz or wearing no shoes and in tattered clothes, it should not matter, because that person, whether rich or poor, famous or unknown, is the very public sector he or she is aimed to serve.

In this manner, improvement of government service and the government system could be initiated, entering its nascent stages.

Despite the improvements in work environment, like air-conditioned areas, new buildings, expensive vehicles and increase in pay and bonuses, government service remains the same old horse, who is lackluster in movement, lacks dynamism and most of all, deficient towards its main aim of serving the public dutifully and with vigor. The government remains a system that is prone to stagnation and inefficiency, misappropriation, abuse of authority and lack of direction.

We have tried re-engineering the government system in the past and yet even the best re-engineers couldn’t tame the wild river that is the Philippine government system. Maybe we need a rocket scientist for this. We have tried re-structuring but even if our re-structurers could build a pyramid or an Eiffel Tower out of a molehill, the government system remains an ancient nipa hut.

Maybe it’s time that we should try re-invigoration.

It’s not as complicated to do as re-structuring does or as expensive as a re-engineering would demand. It only takes will, political will and cooperation from the people in the system. There are a number of factors that would be put in focus in this aim of putting the government service in the right track, one is leadership, two is awareness, three is competition, four incentive, and five public choice.

In LEADERSHIP, I mean to say political leadership. When we all almost agree that politics and the bureaucracy could not really be separated and is intertwined almost all the time, leadership becomes a most important factor in putting vigor and integrity back into the government service. In choosing our political leaders, especially in the next election activities in the coming years, the people should now aim for leaders who have proven capacity to lead and carry an entire workforce towards the improvement of service. It starts with the people then. If the electorate fails in the first place to change our leadership from the highest level, towards the root level, then re-invigorization of the government system would remain an illusion.

AWARENESS is two-pronged, first there should be awareness or a high level of consciousness among our public servants that their holding of their respective positions is not meant for self-aggrandizement alone, as a form of livelihood above all, but in order to serve the public well, and this should become a passionate and patriotic mission in every individual that would be integrated into the government service. Secondly, there should be similar level of awareness as to the PUBLIC being the CLIENT that the government is aimed to served, (the private sector prefer to call them CUSTOMERS) and the government system is aimed at primarily serving the needs of the CLIENT, that when the client is dissatisfied, public service becomes irrelevant and inefficient in every sensible sense possible. The CLIENT becomes the reason for existence, without it, there is no public service in the first place. This way, every client that enters the halls of a government office should be served well, for the moment that no one would anymore enter the halls of government offices, is just about the time that public service should eradicated.

COMPETITION could be injected into the public sector so that improvement of service could pertain. If the public could be given a choice as to the locus of a better service that they are necessitating, then every public servant would aim to proffer the better form or kind of service. This would entail privatization or semi-privatization of some government agencies or giving the public more stake in the government system, where there is increased community involvement in public service. Competition would entail the heightened accountability and responsibility factor, where the government service would become directly accountable towards the community, that there is really not one that is indispensable, that the public would always have a better place to go when someone in the public sector doesn’t want to serve the people anymore, but only wants to receive salaries and bonuses. This is where PUBLIC CHOICE comes. This element of re-invigorization is the most complicated of all, but it could be done through medium term action plan, like say five years in the process, incrementally achieved by phases. And of course, this would entail a more detailed document and methodology. Competition also would bring forth to the adjustment of tenures in public service where at present, there is that seemingly extreme bias in favor of security of tenure, so extreme that even if a public servant would go to his or her work in drag and sleep all day, the government system could not take him or her away, resulting to mass demoralization and low-level performances. Public service should straightened out its merit system that only a good performance could lead to promotions and increase in compensation, that not one indispensable that for whenever a public servant does not want to serve the public anymore, as expected of him or her, then other more competent or more able individuals from the workforce should be recruited in his or her stead.

INCENTIVES of course remains a very important element, just like in re-structuring or re-engineering, that for every PUBLIC CHOICE of a government service, the better service would gain performance incentives, such as quota bonuses for a certain level unit of work, like for example if this government cashier had served 100 clients in a day, then performance credits and bonuses would inure or if this inspector had visited more areas or locations in a month than all the rest, he or she receives a hefty amount. It could be done in a larger scale that for example if this government agency branch had performed well in a particular year, more than the others in the same field, the whole workforce of that branch would get bonuses and be lauded with public acclaim. They do that in private sector, that’s why the private sector had been able to build the grand Makati skyline over the years, and is establishing another in Fort Bonifacio and in Ortigas, aside from the busting urban scene in Cebu and Davao, and they do not receive any subsidy from taxpayers, unlike the government service system.

The private sector had not been fraught with issues of grand corruption because employees in the private sector do not attain such level of indispensability like that in the public service, where those who performed well are credited well and remain in the service for long, while those who are lackluster and lack integrity in work is taken out of the system. And besides, if one reaches a managerial or administrative level in the private sector, one is assured of hefty compensation that is why, in recent years, managers and executives of private companies have been able to increased sales in dramatic proportions. There are a lot of things that the government service could learn from the private sector in terms of methodologies, form of work structure, incentive system, recruitment and promotion system, tenures of employees, work ethics and level of competency and most of all in their treatment of the CLIENT, which they often call as the CUSTOMER.

In public service, the CLIENT may not always be right, but for certain they are the reason for being. A population that is served better by the government, in terms of public service—- like education, licenses, security of food, public order and safety, health and welfare, livelihood opportunities, housing, job placements, communication and technology, etc.—- is a population that can make a better government and thereon, a more vibrant State.


Saturday, August 04, 2012

Deped Spearheads Celebration of ASEAN Week

Deped Spearheads Celebration of ASEAN Week

From August 7 to 13, the Philippines, spearheaded by the Department of Education (Deped), will celebrate the ASEAN Week. This is compliance with Proclamation no. 1008, signed in 1997, enjoining government agencies to commemorate the founding date of ASEAN, the socio-economic and political organization by which the Philippines is not only a member, but also one of its founding fathers.

From the original five (5) member countries - the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore - ASEAN now comprises a total of 10 member-states to include Brunei, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos & Myanmar.

East Timor is currently has an observer status and is aiming to be a full-pledged member in the immediate coming years. Papua New Guinea is also contending to become a member.

Formed in the midst of political turmoil in the Southeast Asia region, from the ill-anticipation of the Domino Effect Theory, to incessant territorial conflicts between and among member states such as the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia, ASEAN was born on August 8, 1967 when five (5) foreign ministers sat down and signed the Bangkok Declaration in Bangkok, Thailand.

Prior to ASEAN, the five (5) aforementioned member-states were organized in the now-defunct Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and Association of Southeast Asia (ASA). The common fear of communism, distrust against foreign powers and the unified desire for nation-building had motivated the five (5) founding states to organized ASEAN.

Today, ASEAN is not only a very significant political organization in the world, but also had attained wide economic leverage due to significant economic gains by several of its member states and of course the collective economic consumer force that has potentialities similar to China.

The primary aims of ASEAN are:

  1. To accelerate the economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region through joint endeavours in the spirit of equality and partnership in order to strengthen the foundation for a prosperous and peaceful community of Southeast Asian Nations;
  2. To promote regional peace and stability through abiding respect for justice and the rule of law in the relationship among countries of the region and adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter;
  3. To promote active collaboration and mutual assistance on matters of common interest in the economic, social, cultural, technical, scientific and administrative fields;
  4. To provide assistance to each other in the form of training and research facilities in the educational, professional, technical and administrative spheres;
  5. To collaborate more effectively for the greater utilisation of their agriculture and industries, the expansion of their trade, including the study of the problems of international commodity trade, the improvement of their transportation and communications facilities and the raising of the living standards of their peoples;
  6. To promote Southeast Asian studies; and
  7. To maintain close and beneficial cooperation with existing international and regional organisations with similar aims and purposes, and explore all avenues for even closer cooperation among themselves.

And promotes the following principles as the ASEAN Way:

  1. Mutual respect for the independence, sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity, and national identity of all nations;
  2. The right of every State to lead its national existence free from external interference, subversion or coercion;
  3. Non-interference in the internal affairs of one another;
  4. Settlement of differences or disputes by peaceful manner;
  5. Renunciation of the threat or use of force; and
  6. Effective cooperation among themselves.

It is most interesting to note that ASEAN is moving closer and closer to further integration with ASEAN Vision 2020 that has bold ambitions of unified political, social and economic systems that would be as integrated as the European Union, with a single currency and more cohesive political and territorial integration.

As one, ASEAN countries could better meet up to the challenges of the future in global political and economic environment.