Sunday, September 30, 2007

Prerequisites to the Singapore Model

Over at Manolo's, commenter Ramrod brought up the desirability of implementing the Singapore Model back home. Since my response is currently under moderation, i'm copying over the exchange here (as a placeholder until Manolo returns from Bacolod):

"Although a lot of people will disagree with me, I find the Singapore model attractive at this point. It has its imperfections if we look at it from the
'American' model of democracy, especially because we are used to a free media but why not look at it differently? There is cultural and religious tolerance, the economy is very strong, the public officials are paid enough to make it justifiable to 'inhumanly' punish those who steal, and the people have this common pride in themselves as 'Singaporeans' to the point that they appear snobbish or even 'elitists.' There are no rich landed class to influence government policies, just this pervasive attitude that there is not much time, more money must be made but through honest to goodness work, work, work.
" - Ramrod, September 30th, 2007 at 12:40 pm
I responded that in the Philippine context, suppressing press freedom might not be such a good idea:
"ramrod, one of the imperfections of Singapore’s system has to do with the lack of freedom of its media. i don’t see how replicating that lack of transparency would help us at home especially after seeing how Executive Privilege is used to cover up corruption at the highest levels." - cvj, September 30th, 2007 at 1:09 pm
Ramrod then offered the following suggestion:
"I see your point there. Unless we can come up with a team, a 'management team' if you will, that can be accountable to run this nation, that kind of power is very dangerous indeed. Is it possible then to manage this country as a business, based on balance sheets, profit and loss analysis,wherein the team must present periodically accurate figures on how the country is faring? I noticed that our SONAs were not satisfactory as I don’t see any concrete objectives, timelines, and measurable successes. Maybe its time to move out of the 'showbiz' type of politics wherein our extremely psywar and media savy politicians and political strategists prey on our emotions and misdirect our attention from 'real' and 'serious' issues?" -Ramrod, September 30th, 2007 at 1:24 pm
I responded with what i believe to be the prerequisites to implementing the Singapore (or any of our East Asian neighbors') Model:
"ramrod, a 'management team' implementing a sound industrial policy (e.g. Japan Inc., Korea Inc., Taiwan Inc.) is indeed what enabled our neighbors to take off economically. Unfortunately, giving dictatorial powers to the current management team means further enabling the Arroyos (or whoever from the elite replaces them) as well as technocrats like Romulo Neri. This is counterproductive since the best use of a dictatorship is to break the oligarchy, not to make them stronger. We need to go through this stage first before we can aspire to be like our neighbors.

As i previously blogged and commented, i think the missing step is the necessary springcleaning that would purge the current political and economic elite from their position in Philippine Society. In Japan, the Meiji had to eliminate the Samurai. In China, Mao had to drive away the warlords. In Taiwan, the ex-warlords from the mainland had to redristribute lands taken from the Taiwanese landlords and Japanese colonizers. In Singapore, they had the good fortune of having to skip this step.

After Stage 1 socialist reforms (land reform and industrial policy) is in place, then stage 2 market reforms would then have their desired effect. Over here, we went directly to stage 2.
" - cvj, September 30th, 2007 at 2:13 pm, comment currently under moderation
Update Sept-30-2007 3:28pm: My comment over mlq3's has been approved, thanks Manolo!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

M-Flo featuring Sowelu: So Exclusive & Jhett featuring Sowelu: Get Ready (Nite 2 Remember)

Another collaboration by rap group m-flo this time featuring a steamy performance by Sowelu.

Update Jan-21-2008:Unfortunately, the above video has been taken down so i'm replacing it with another Sowelu video, this time a remake of a disco classic by Shalamar.


Update Jan-25-2008: Found the So-Exclusive video again so i'm reposting. above

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

For Bong, It's Personal

As stated in his recent column, it seems that Bong Austero has no intention of moving on from the ZTE scandal:

"All of these may seem water under the bridge with the suspension of the ZTE deal giving a whole new dimension to the admonition 'back off'. The administration people are now saying people should back off already because the suspension has effectively brought closure to the whole stinking mess.

All’s well that ends well? I don’t think so."
I find this stand commendable and think publishing the above also takes a certain amount of courage considering the newspaper he works for. As with his earlier blog entry, i sense that this matter has become a personal and emotional one, particularly when he states that:

"What really gets my goat about this ZTE mess is that it happened after this administration has already gotten what it wanted, which is the chance to redeem itself."
I suppose he counts himself as one of those who gave Gloria Arroyo's administration a chance to redeem itself and with good reason. His sense of betrayal is therefore understandable and something i can relate to. As someone who voted for Gloria Arroyo in 2004, I felt the same way after learning of Hello Garci back in 2005. Back then, it became personal for me as well. It still is.

I gave Bong my reaction to his column, but since his comments section may still be having technical problems, i'm reposting it here:

"The problem is that this Administration had to reward those who helped it keep power. It's not for nothing that one of the officials at the center of the scandal happens to be the Chairman of the COMELEC. GMA's illegitimate stay is a continuing crime which in turn leads to other crimes, which is why i never agreed with your call to move on. It was never in their heart to redeem themselves."
I hope he stays on the same side in the coming days. Who knows? With enough people following his lead, the Center might finally hold.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Romulo Neri is the Second Envelope

At least Gloria Arroyo is acting like he is.

Update Sept-24-2007 3:39PM: Via Ellen, a call to protect Romulo Neri:

"Please join citizens and civil society groups in holding a vigil at his residence at No. 28 Palale St., Banawe, Quezon City to show our support and prevent the Palace from preventing Romy Neri from testifying on Wednesday.
(Update Sept-26-2007 11:43pm: Scratch that).

God bless our nation."
This is one of those times i wish i could be back home.

Update Sept-26-2007 8:41PM: From Manolo Quezon's liveblogging, it looks like the 'second envelope' has refused to open itself.

Update Oct-01-2007 11:23PM: Jarius Bondoc opens the envelope.

Update Oct-07-2007 2:23AM: I just read Randy David's Inquirer column for September 29 where he explains how a technocrat such as Neri is useful to GMA's illegitimate government:

"The usefulness of technical men like Neri to government, especially one with a severe legitimacy and trust problem, cannot be gainsaid. The social capital they have acquired from their previous engagement in academe serves as an effective smokescreen for all the sordid deals that are transacted daily in the higher echelons of government. Those who are aware of it are sometimes called whores of power. The naïve ones who don’t, sooner or later, wake up to the realities of power in which they are implicated."

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Utada Hikaru - Distance

Singer/songwriter Utada Hikaru performing one of her earlier works.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

National Broadband Network (NBN) Project Contract with ZTE: Preliiminary Analysis

The Inquirer Online has made available a scanned copy of the 39-page contract here. The price (in US Dollars) is broken down as follows:

Price of NBN Contract with ZTE
Contract ComponentPrice (US Dollars)
Engineering Services118,605,650
Managed Services14,875,507

Here are my preliminary observations, in particular, with regard to what is *not* included in the above price:

The price (as indicated above) and quantity of equipment delivered is subject to change upon mutual agreement between the contracting parties as indicated in Article 5 Bill of Quantities (BOQ):
"...The Priced Bill of Quantities shall be revised in accordance with the actual requirement of the project to be determined and approved by the Purchaser and the Contractor during the detailed engineering stage..."
As far as the Managed Services portion of the Contract is concerned, this only covers 18 months as stated in Article 6: Managed Services:
"...The Contractor shall provide the Managed Services to the Purchaser in respect of the Network for a period of one year and a half ('form of the Managed Services') commencing from the issuance of the Provisional Acceptance Certificate, provided that the contractor has received the advanced payment set out in Article 8.4.1 herein..."
That means that the cost of operating and managing the equipment and facilities after this 18 month period is over has not been not factored in. The above price also does not include any taxes or duties to be paid locally as stated in Article 9 Section 9.1:
"All taxes, import or customs duties and other taxes and duties, including without limitation VAT and Income tax in connection with or in respect of the performance of this Contract levied by the relevant authority in the Republic of the Philippines shall be borne and paid by the Purchaser."
Maintenance after the Warranty Period is also not included. The Contractor (ZTE) is given the option to provide this service as stated in Article 29 Post Warranty:
"The Contractor may, upon payment of mutually agreed prices, provide maintenance and technical support to the Purchaser in respect of all the Equipment and Services for at least three (3) years after the expiry of the relevant Warranty Period. The said post warranty services may include repair of boards, PC boards, and other components, modifications of the Software, supply of spare parts, and other maintenance and operation support required by the Purchasor."
Given the above exclusions to the price, it is unclear whether the contention of former CICT head Ramon Sales before the Senate that the "ZTE proposal would have reduced costs by 1 billion [pesos] a year from 4th to 20th year, saving 17 billion [pesos]." can be supported. The numbers for these items must be included in the computation of overall costs in order to determine either way.

Unfortunately, the Attachments detailing the Equipment, as well as the Scope of Engineering Services and Managed Services to be rendered are not available online so no further analysis can be done at this point. These are also part of the Contract and IMHO, the interesting stuff would be found there so i hope these are made these available online as well.

Update Sept-26-2007 11:56PM: From today's Senate hearing, there is a request to restrict access to the annexes. As per Manolo's liveblog transcript:
"Roxas: There was a compliance with information request pertaining to annexes of ZTE contract. Some requests for confidentiality and/or restricted access made, will be taken up by committee in caucus."
Why am i not surprised?

Housekeeping Update Oct-04-2007 2:28AM: A link to further discussions last Sept 21 (mostly with blogger Manilabaywatch) over at Manolo's.

Update Oct-04-2007 12:27PM: Senator Alan Peter Cayetano has decided to postpone the hearings under suspicious circumstances. On a brighter note, Senator Lacson has called for an autopsy of the cancelled contract.

Abalos Political Deathwatch: Day Thirteen

Kudos to Manolo for live-blogging yesterday's Senate hearings. Ellen Tordesillas deconstructs Abalos' reaction:
"Reacting to Joey’s Senate testimony. Abalos feigned ignorance and powerlessness: 'Do I have that kind of influence?'

If you made someone who was not elected by the people win as president, you have power over her. You can demand the whole Internet Highway and she is in no position to say 'No'. That is called payback.
This time around, Bong Austero no longer seems inclined to 'move on'.

Update Sept-19-2007 3:00AM: The Arroyo Family's lawyer in the blogosphere has just checked-in over at Manolo's and it appears that the GMA camp will definitely be going for the tried and tested deadma strategy. Maybe that will give the "Let's move on camp" time to recover their voice.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Abalos Political Deathwatch: Day Eleven

Amid speculations on tomorrow's Senate hearing where Joey de Venecia may finally reveal the "Mystery Man", (e.g. here and here), it is reported that Mike Arroyo has "flown to coop". Of course the proper attitude to take in these moments of great expectations is to hope for the best, but expect the worse.

Update Sept-18-2007 12:48pm: Mike Arroyo is the 'Mystery Man'. For those interested in near real-time updates, there is liveblogging over at mlq3's.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Tomiko Van, featured in this earlier post, performing a lighter, happier song with Mika Nakashima and Chikuzen Sato.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Roger Federer's Selective Focus

Via 3Quarksdaily, Asad Raza writes about Federer's 'conservationist' approach to concentration.

Update Sept-16-2007 2:09PM: Pimpuk, my friend and tennis enthusiast weighs in with her observations:

"As you may have guessed, I watched Federer's matches on TV. I'm not sure if I can confirm or disconfirm the article said, but for me, it is quite accurate. But of course, it is subjective how one perceive what is going in a tennis match when the shots are going at around 100mph.

Though some may say that he does not bring his A game to all the matches like he used to during 2004 and 2005. But I guess that is understandable, he is human after all. And the question that comes after that is whether he needs to bring it at all.

Many times after his winning matches in which he didn't play that well, there will be comments that said "he did just enough to win". When his opponents didn't play that well, so why should he? He did just enough, focused during the time he needed to (for example, to break his opponent just one game per set). So I guess it can be said the "conservationist" aspect is accurate.

My friend and I (and, I think, quite a number of his fans) used to be afraid of the 2nd set of the match. Because after winning the 1st set, Federer seemed turn off, somehow. We used to say that he went into a nap in his mind, and then he pull himself back together just in time when it matters.

Same thing applies, I think, to what is said in the article. When Federer lost a set (to someone whom he shouldn't), he just came back stronger. I remember quite a number of times that after he lost the set, he won the next set and the match in such a commanding manner.

Another thing that, I think, the fans or viewers have come to expect is that he can turn it on when he needs to. For example, when facing breakpoint and his serves weren't doing so well, he can pull a couple of very good serves to escape, or during tie-break of the set.

Last but not least, I think "the conservationist" aspect of his game is not just about the mind. If you watch his game, you will see that his movements and manner on court are very economical. He never seems rush, but somehow manages to be in position for most of the time. No running back to the chair after a game, no sprinting to the back of the court, nor unnecessary actions that will require him to spend his energy more that he should.

Maybe I just over-analyzed everything, and he is just what he is :-)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Final Victory for EDSA Dos

For someone like me who participated in EDSA Dos, such a victory would have been sweet. Now it is mostly an occassion for cognitive dissonance. As linked to by Manolo, blogger Bluepanjeet has expressed it best.

I hope those who marched for the ideals of EDSA Tres will similarly achieve their vindication. As DJB points out, the present Administration has provided many opportunities to do just that.

In the meantime, today's event has provided another occassion to showcase the cleavage between the two camps. Over at Ellen's, the commenters who are usually united (primarily by their opposition to Gloria) exhibited more than the usual divergence of opinion. In particular, when she posted the Black and White Movement's reaction to the verdict, commenter maarte had this to say...

"Both Black & White (Civil Society) and Bayan were among the participants in Edsa Two ousting Erap. Expectedly, they accepted the verdict. Why don’t they now conspire with other groups to oust Arroyo this time? Where’s Cory Aquino and the Catholic Church? Isang tambak kayong mga ipokrito ! Revolution na !"
...which was seconded by commenter emrjay...
"Yeah! i agree with maarte. Just ignore whatever they (Black and White and Bayan)said. Hypocrites!!!!"
and commenter Chi...
"Ako rin, same opinion here about Black and White Movement and Bayan. In fact, sila ang rason kung bakit ang Pinas ay nagkakaganito na niloloko lang ni Gloria.

Personally, I don’t expect more from them. They installed Gloria, they deserve Gloria!

Tama na ang mga press releases ninyo. Don’t justify anything dahil malaki ang kasalanan ninyo sa bayan for subverting the Constitution!
Gloria Arroyo, who is the proximate cause of such division, can very well exploit these resentments and mutual distrust to retain power. Just saying.

Update Sept-13-2007 1:16AM: At Uniffors, Manuel Buencamino reflects on the people's sense of justice (a blind spot for lawyers steeped in their profession), and mourns a lost opportunity.

Update Sept-15-2007 4:13PM: In his Inquirer column for today, Erap’s Conviction and the Rule of Law, Randy David explains the source of the cognitive dissonance that i referred to above:

"The legal system of any society is strengthened not so much when it succeeds in putting the high and mighty on trial, but when the law is applied consistently and predictably over time. We know there is rule of law when people have stable notions of what is legal and illegal, and know what to expect when laws are violated...

...The independence of the judiciary and the professional integrity of those who serve in the various agencies of government, including those in the police and the armed forces, are the minimum conditions needed to make the rule of law work in a democracy. Alas, under Ms Arroyo’s watch, we have seen the most blatant undermining of these institutions by the executive. The assault on the autonomy of the investigative and prosecutorial offices of government, in particular, has been so brazen one wonders if those in charge are still in possession of their wits. Investigations, prosecutions, and preventive suspensions have been utterly selective. The pace and pattern in which they have been conducted manifest an astonishing partisanship often bordering on sheer malice and whim. The law has plainly been used as a weapon to threaten and punish political enemies...

The result of all this has been the consistent erosion of public trust in the country’s legal system.
In his blog, Arbet furnishes specific examples of what David describes above. However, David also does not spare the Opposition as he also says that:

"...If blame must be allocated, it has to be laid at the door of those who have done everything, directly and indirectly, to prevent the Court from focusing on the strictly legal merits of the case. I’m afraid they come from all sides of the political equation [emphasis mine]. If we keep subverting the autonomy of our judicial system, or promote a cynical view of our courts, how much justice can we expect when it is GMA’s or Comelec Chair Benjamin Abalos’ turn to be tried?"
A fair enough question.

Update Sept-16-2007 3:51PM: Over at Ellen's, commenter maarte quotes Ninez Cacho Olivares:

" Predictably, the so-called elites, along with the Catholic bishops and, of course, the leftists, hailed the Erap guilty verdict, praised the Sandiganbayan court for proving to one and all that “no one is above the law” when it convicted the ousted president.

They then issued statements to the effect that the Erap conviction sends a strong warning to all those in government not to engage in corruption and other criminal acts because the rule of law is being observed.

What dreamy idiots they can be, if they think that a guilty verdict on Estrada handed by a politicized judiciary can scare off these corrupt officials under the Gloria regime
I agree that we're dreamy idiots if we think that Gloria Arroyo will be brought to justice by simply moving on. However, even the Tribune editorial for today says that:
"Consider it divine justice, but the conviction on questionable grounds of ousted President Joseph Estrada served to highlight more the excesses of the Arroyo administration."
I think it is in this sense that Erap's conviction can serve as a warning.

Update Oct-26-2007 2:11AM: Looks like Gloria Arroyo took the warning to heart.

Abalos Political Deathwatch: Day Six

Ellen Tordesillas explains how the ZTE Broadband Deal and Hello Garci (and by extension EDSA Dos) are interconnected.

Blogger Anna of Manilabaywatch believes that along with Abalos, the losing party - Joey de Venecia, is also liable. In an earlier post, she also thinks that a generalized deathwatch is in order. Not sure if the time is ripe for this though. Maybe today's event would help clarify the direction.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

World Bank Governance Indicators for the Philippines (1996 to 2006)

From the beginning, Gloria Arroyo has used the mantra of Good Governance to set her administration apart from her predecessor. In her inauguration speech before the EDSA Dos crowd, Gloria Arroyo declared that:
"To ensure that our gains are not dissipated through corruption, we must improve moral standards. As we do so, we create fertile ground for good governance based on a sound moral foundation, a philosophy of transparency, and an ethic of effective implementation."
Six years is more than enough time to judge her ability to deliver on the above which can now be evaluated using the World Bank's Governance Indicators that measures a Country's quality of governance based on six dimensions:
  • Control of Corruption
  • Government Effectiveness
  • Political Stability
  • Regulatory Quality
  • Rule of Law, and
  • Voice and Accountability
The country being measured is assigned a value between -2.5 and 2.5 on each of the above attributes, with the higher value representing better quality governance. These indices are computed using inputs from multiple sources. The most recent edition of this report is the...

Worldwide Governance Indicators: 1996-2006

...which was released in July 2007. The Report (pdf format) can be downloaded here. I have taken the index values for Philippines and converted these into line-graphs as follows (click on the images to enlarge):

Click on images to enlarge

By the above measures, Gloria Arroyo compares poorly with her predecessors as well as with her contemporaries in the other 212 countries being measured.

Abalos Political Deathwatch: Day Five

At Uniffors, check out Manuel Buencamino's account of Joey de Venecia's revelations made at the Black and White Forum.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Philippine GDP Growth Patterns by Industrial Origin: 1Q 1991 to 2Q 2007

[Source: NEDA Economic Indicators: Gross National Product and Gross Domestic Product by Industrial Origin at Constant 1985 Prices]

The above slides show the GDP growth trends per sector of the economy. The red dotted-line plots the the year-to-year quarterly GDP growth rate (as represented by the Y-Axis) over a given time period (as represented by the X-Axis). Vertical lines demarcate the Administrations of Corazon C. Aquino ('Cory'), Fidel V. Ramos ('FVR'), Joseph E. Estrada ('Erap') and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ('GMA'). The thick black horizontal line signifies the zero-percent (0%) mark. (On the diagram, click on the second arrow from the right to move forward to the next slide.)

Slide 1 Manufacturing: Manufacturing is the largest sector contributing 23% to total GDP in 2Q 2007. During the FVR Administration, this sector experienced both rapid acceleration and deceleration. After recovering during Erap's term, growth rate has so far remained flat during the Arroyo Administration.

Slide 2 Trade: Trade is the second largest sector comprising 17% of total GDP in 2Q 2007. The growth rate for this sector has been accelerating at a steady rate since the beginning of the Estrada Administration up to the present.

Slide 3 Agriculture and Fisheries: Agriculture and Fisheries which makes up 16% of the economy as of 2Q 2007 has exhibited a highly variable pattern of growth. At the aggregate level, no pattern of growth acceleration or decelaration can be detected regardless of the Administration.

Slide 4 Transportation, Communication & Storage: The Transportation, Communication & Storage sector, comprising 9% of total GDP in 2Q 2007, experienced its greatest growth acceleration during a major portion of the Ramos Administration. Since then, the growth rate in this sector has remained flat.

Slide 5 Private Services: Private Services, which also makes up 9% of GDP in 2Q 2007, has experienced accelerating growth which started in the first few years of the GMA Administration.

Slide 6 Finance: The growth rate of the Financial Sector started recovering from the Asian Financial Crisis during the tail-end of the Estrada Administration and the recovery has continued ever since. In 2Q 2007, this sector contributed 6% to the GDP.

Slide 7 Real Estate: The present growth rate of the Real Estate sector is at its highest within the period under consideration. It started accelerating early in the Arroyo Administration and has arrived at a plateau. In 2Q 2007, this sector contributed 5% to the GDP.

Slide 8 Construction: After peaking towards the middle of the FVR Administration, the growth rate of the Construction sector started to decline. Recovery started in the middle of Erap's Presidency and has continued up to the present.

Slide 9 Government Services: The growth rate in Government Services, which contributed 4% to the 2Q 2007 GDP, remained constant during FVR's time and declined during the Estrada Administration. Under GMA, it has resumed its upward trajectory and is now at its highest.

Slide 10 Electricity, Gas & Water: After peaking during the Ramos Administration, the growth rate of the Electricity, Gas and Water sector has remained constant throughout the Estrada and Arroyo administrations. This sector contributed 3% to the 2Q 2007 GDP.

Slide 11 Mining & Quarrying: The Mining and Quarrying sector comprises 2% of 2Q 2007 GDP. After remaining flat during previous Administrations, the growth rate of the sector has experienced an increase under Gloria Arroyo.

Slide 12 Forestry: Forestry, which is the smallest sector (contributing around 1/10 of one percent to GDP) has also experienced an acceleration of growth rate under the present administration.

The pie chart below gives a perspective on the relative contributions of each of the above sectors to the 2nd Quarter 2007 GDP.

[Source: NEDA (Click on image to enlarge.)

The fact that there have been no steep nor sustained declines in the growth rate in any of the sectors of the economy during GMA's time accounts for the comparatively healthy over-all GDP growth during this period. In order of importace, the past increases in GDP Growth rate has relied on the acceleration in growth rates of the Trade, Personal Services, Finance, Construction, Government Services, Mining & Quarrying and Forestry Sectors. On the other hand, the lack of acceleration in the growth rates of two out of the three biggest sectors, i.e. Manufacturing and Agriculture has discouraged further acceleration.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Abalos Political Deathwatch: Day Three

Excerpts from a news item in the the Philippine Star, many thanks to Yuko.

JDV's son confirms $10-M Abalos bribe
By Iris Gonzales and Rainier Allan Ronda

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The son of Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. confirmed yesterday that Chairman Benjamin Abalos of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) offered him $10 million to back out of competition with Chinese firm ZTE Corp. for a national broadband contract.

Jose de Venecia III, a director of ZTE's rival Amsterdam Holdings Inc., confirmed the story in an interview with ABS-CBN in its website, saying Abalos had told him, "Joey, umatras ka na lang, bibigyan kita ng $10 million (back out, I will give you $10 million)."

The younger De Venecia said he was shocked and immediately declined the bribe...

...the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), which claims to be the voice of the private business sector, is not about to call for the resignation of Abalos or the annulment of the ZTE contract.

"It is still too premature to say anything at this time," Sergio Ortiz-Luis, PCCI honorary chairman and president of the Philippine Exporters Confederation and Employers Confederation of the Philippines, said yesterday.

...Abalos has been widely criticized for allegedly brokering for ZTE and receiving cash and outlandish perks in China – including young women – in return.

Abalos admitted ZTE paid for his trip to China weeks before the last elections but denied brokering for the Chinese firm or receiving lavish gifts or sexual favors.

...Ortiz-Luis said it is wrong to pass judgment on Abalos or the broadband contract at this time since nobody has seen the contract yet or has really made a full measure of the competency of the parties that participated in the bidding.

Ortiz-Luis said the best thing to do at this time is to wait for the results of the investigations, including those that will be conducted by Malacañang and the Senate, before coming out with a position.

He said everything is still based on allegations and reports so it is not proper to say anything categorical.

China open to ZTE probe

The Chinese government may investigate ZTE officials for possible wrongdoing.

Liu Jien Chao, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, told ABS-CBN Australia News Bureau on Thursday that his government takes allegations of corruption seriously.

"We are firm in fighting against any kind of corruption no matter if it happened in the government or any of the enterprises and we are also against any corruption that cropped up in bilateral trade relations with our trade partners so we are firm on that," Liu said.

"I think if the Philippine side will raise this issue with the Chinese side the Chinese side will look seriously into this," he said. But he admitted he is not privy to the ZTE deal.

Gov't experts ignored

The government's own technology experts had vouched for the viability of a "free" national broadband network but had been ignored in favor of the expensive – and questionable – offer from ZTE.

Science Secretary Estrella Alabastro told the House committee on appropriations that no government official had consulted her office regarding the $329-million controversial broadband deal. The House committee is deliberating on the P5.28 billion proposed budget for the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

She said the broadband program is within the jurisdiction and expertise of the DOST.

She said the DOST has been pushing for an NBN project since 2001 and that the National Economic and Development Authority or NEDA has already been apprised of the proposal.

She added that NEDA has yet to act on her agency's request for funds from Official Development Assistance.

But she said that despite funding problems, the DOST was still able to establish online communications among 80 agencies using the existing network of the country's top telecommunications companies.

Meanwhile, Amsterdam Holdings Inc. refuted ZTE's accusations that the government stands to lose more if it chooses AHI or other contractors.

"ZTE's proposal will require the Philippine government to obtain a $330 million loan from the Chinese government at an interest rate of three percent per annum, payable in 15 years with a grace period of five years," AHI said in a statement.

"But the Philippine government will not have to pay a single cent towards the $240 million project cost of AHI," it said. "AHI will construct, operate, and maintain the NBN at no cost to government."

House will be fair

The House leadership is ready to let any impeachment case against Abalos take its course, a senior House member said.

"In fact, there are early preparations so as not to derail the proceedings in case a complaint is filed against chairman Abalos in the House," Baguio City Rep. Mauricio Domogan said.

"The House will be fair on any forthcoming impeachment complaint or complaints against him," he said.

Domogan said he is confident the involvement of Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr.'s son in the controversy would not affect impeachment proceedings.

"We believe the Speaker will not use his influence over the congressmen even with his son's involvement in the NBN deal controversy with the ZTE Corp. In fairness to the Speaker, he has observed delicadeza (propriety) and has not prejudged chairman Abalos," Domogan said. The Speaker's son, Jose de Venecia III co-founded AHI, ZTE's most vocal rival.

The Baguio City lawmaker said De Venecia even described the kickback issue against Abalos as "overkill."

"The Speaker has said that his son and his business associates are not interested in impeachment or in persecuting anybody and that they are only interested in business," Domogan said.

Threat of 'karma'

By shunning a bribe, he may have emerged with a clear conscience but by keeping silent about the misdeed he may ultimately lose his soul.

This was the message of a Catholic prelate to Commission on Higher Education chairman Romulo Neri in reaction to the latter's being tight-lipped about alleged bribery cases in government contracts.

Neri, former NEDA director general, said he couldn't be bribed but refused to confirm or deny if money clandestinely changed hands in the ZTE deal.

Fr. Ben Moraleda, of the Kaalagad Katipunan Kristyano said Neri should "do the right thing by telling the truth and save (his) soul before it's too late."

"Neri may have lost an opportunity to bail out of a 'sinking ship' when he refused to confirm or deny that he was offered a P200-million bribe to support the NBN project that ZTE won," Moraleda, who is also vice president of the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) said.

"This is not about politics. This is about his moral responsibility to expose or condemn a crime," he also said.

On Neri's boast over radio that he never accepted bribes because he believed in "bad karma," Moraleda explained that "karma is not only about avoiding what is wrong, but especially doing what is right."

"Bad karma, therefore, will still happen if you fail to do your duty to the people," Moraleda said. "Scratch a liar and you'll find a thief."

A report by ABS-CBN correspondent Ricky Carandang said Abalos talked to Neri about the ZTE deal and that the former NEDA chief voiced his opposition to the contract but not to the need for a broadband project. Neri also declined to comment on the bribe offer.

ABS-CBN said its sources alleged that Neri informed Mrs. Arroyo of the bribe offer and that she asked him to turn it down but insisted that the deal should be approved.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, for his part, denied that Neri's opposition to the ZTE deal cost him his job as NEDA chief. – with Delon Porcalla, Katherine Adraneda, Ma. Eliza Osorio, and Paolo Romero
Update Sept-09-2007 4:09PM: Via Ellen, the cornered rat is threatening to sue.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Abalos Political Deathwatch: Day Two

From some Civil Society groups...



Joint Statement

A Growing Culture of Impunity

We are appalled that the culture of impunity among certain government officials appears to have spread to an extent exceeding that of all past administrations. This impunity seems also increasingly evident in many agencies of government.

A glaring example is that of COMELEC Chairman Benjamin Abalos who had no business in allowing himself to be entertained by officials of ZTE Corporation, a potential contractor of the Republic, particularly considering he had an important electoral exercise to administer. His indiscreet conduct and absence from his official duties could only have happened if he believed he was immune from sanctions. We therefore reiterate our call for Chairman Abalos to resign.

Dept. of Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza needs to think very carefully about the charges leveled against him by Congressman Carlos Padilla. Like other questionable projects, the ZTE deal will be rejected by the court of public opinion and, sooner or later, evaluated and ruled on by our own independent courts of law. Sec. Mendoza should prove his worth and rescind it now.

Should he choose not to do these, we would support a full investigation by the Senate of this highly questionable project given the huge expenditure of public funds involved. We also demand that the government publicly release a copy of the contract as mandated by Article III, Sec. 7 of our Constitution which states that "The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized."

The secrecy about this project, despite repeated demands by the public, is contrary to the principle avowed by this Administration for complete transparency in matters of public interest and to the provisions of Republic Act 7925 which emphasizes that "public telecommunications services shall be provided by private enterprises."

We are heartened by the courage of journalists and fiscalizers who bring to light the anomalous activities of public officials who believe they are protected by their position. We join them and encourage others in expressing public outrage at these questionable acts and the growing culture of political impunity.

We call on President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to heed our pleas and take immediate action to rectify blatant wrongdoings of public officials, lest she be accused of condoning them.

Makati Business Club

Management Association of the Philippines
Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines
Foundation for Economic Freedom, Inc.

Action for Economic Reforms

7 September 2007 Copyright 2007 © Makati Business Club
IMHO, many of those who belong to the above organizations are partially complicit for allowing this growing culture of impunity. That's what we get for moving on. Oh well, at least they've belatedly added impunity to their vocabulary, and since the person they are calling into question happens to be the Chairman of the COMELEC, maybe the irony of addressing Gloria Arroyo as 'President' would eventually dawn on them.

Update Sept-15-2007 3:37pm: Blogger Chyt more thoroughly describes how the MBC have been a bunch of opportunists.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Abalos Political Deathwatch: Day One

Looks like things are coming to a head for COMELEC Chairman Benjamin Abalos. His troubles are mounting just as his usefulness to the Current Administration is ebbing. So now seems as good as time as any to start the clock for a political deathwatch. FWIW, i fully support Arbet's call for Abalos to resign or have him impeached.

Update Sept-07-2007 12:22pm: I don't think it's about loyalties. Rather, I think the person refered to in this PDI Editorial is justifiably scared. That's what otherwise decent folks get for turning a blind eye on this Administration's moral failings and consorting with a government of thugs. Now, he's in too deep.

Update Sept-26-2007 11:33pm: Neri confirms the above in a testimony before the Senate.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

American Protectorate

Uniffors features a column by Billy Esposo who speculates on the United States' intentions in Mindanao, his thesis being that "the US stands much to gain in being the Protector of an independent Moroland". As support, Esposo recounts a personal correspondence with members of a Think Tank:
"A Think Tank I meet with regularly (whose members are also consulted by top local leaders and important foreign policy advisers of many countries, including the US ) reported to me that since the term of George Bush Sr., the idea of reviving the idea of creating an independent Moroland was already seriously considered."
His views and those of the Think Tank's are in line with a belief i've had for some time now. In a comment over at Sassy Lawyer's (in the context of the VFA) early last year, i told her:
"Allow me a bit of ‘tin foil hat’ speculation. The VFA needs to be abrogated because for the USA, it is just a stepping stone to the establishment of new military bases. In a few years or decades, rivalry with China will escalate. Taiwan will probably be lost and Luzon and the Visayas will be subject to Finlandization. An independent Mindanao will allow US Bases to be established in General Santos, which will be the new US firebreak in South East Asia. As early as now, we must play no part in these dangerous games." - cvj 10. February 2006 at 10:58 PM
Later that year, over at Manolo's, i also told fellow commenter JM that
"JM, call me paranoid but my worry is that the United States, when faced with a Philippine government unfriendly to forward military bases, will then encourage secession in Mindanao so a friendlier government over there will agree to establish a US Base in General Santos. That is partly the reason why i am allergic all this talk of federalization as our disunity can easily be exploited by the big players. (I don’t think the forward base will be driven by confrontation with North Korea, i think it will be needed because of confrontation with China over Taiwan.)" - cvj October 10th, 2006 at 12:21 am
In contrast, blogger Dean Jorge Bocobo, a strong advocate of American presence in Mindanao, dismissed such speculation and is of the opinion that "the people who are loudly saying the US is building a secret base on Mindanao are really pitiable". However, less than an hour later in the same thread, in what appears to be a tounge-in-cheek endorsement for such an arrangement said that, "I think, like Cuba once did with Guantanamo, we ought to give Basilan to the US...". DJB is a Fil-Am so it is not surprising for him to uphold America's interests. It is up to us Filipinos (without hyphens) to make up our minds on which course of action best serves our own Nation's interest.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Philippine Quarterly GDP Growth Dashboard: 1Q 2004 to 2Q 2007

This is an update of the GDP Growth Dashboard from the previous entry to include the 2Q 2007 figures. The graphic below shows the quarterly growth per sector from 1Q 2004 to 2Q 2007:

The first thing that can be noticed is that the growth figures reported for the previous quarter (1Q 2007) have been revised as follows:

First Quarter 2007 GDP Figure Adjustments (by Productive Sector)*****

The improved growth for the Industrial sector from 6.3% in the first quarter to 8.0% in the second more than compensated for the decelerations in the Agriculture and Services Sector. Within the Industrial sector, the Construction and Mining Industry Groups contributed the most to the growth acceleration.

Growth Rate per Industry Group (2nd Quarter 2007)
Industry GroupGrowth Rate
Mining & Quarrying33.3%
Electricity, Gas & Water5.8%

I am unable to access the NSCB website as of now so i will have to update this entry later once i'm able to do so.

Update Sept-03-11:32PM: Unfortunately, the NSCB website is still inaccessible so i will have to make do with available data from the press releases to update the GDP Growth figures (expenditure approach):

Update Sept-06-8:30AM: Here is the updated graphic as derived from the NSCB Web Site data:

GDP Growth: Expenditure Approach (click on image to enlarge)

The following are the adjustments to the First Quarter 2007 figures:

First Quarter 2007 GDP Figure Adjustments (Expenditure Approach)*****
Government Consumption (gc)13.1%9.9%
Capital Formation (cf)0.6%6.9%
Exports (x)9.1%9.9%
Imports (m)-2.5%-2.1%

Both Personal Consumption (pce) and Government Consumption (gc) played a big role in boosting GDP and so did Capital Formation (cf). In contrast, export growth (x) and import growth (m) has been anemic.

*Very Good means that growth rate for a given period is greater than the median growth rate for the periods considered by equal or more than one standard deviation as computed using the 1Q 2004 to 1Q 2007 figures.
**Good means that the growth rate for a given period is equal or greater than the median growth rate for the periods considered as computed using the 1Q 2004 to 1Q 2007 figures.
***Poor means that the growth rate for a given period is less than the median growth rate for the periods considered as computed using the 1Q 2004 to 1Q 2007 figures.
****Very Poor means that growth rate for a given period is less than or equal to one standard deviation below the median growth rate for the periods considered as computed using the 1Q 2004 to 1Q 2007 figures.
*****Explanations for the adjustments can be found here.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Do As Infinity (D.A.I.): Fukai Mori 深い森 live

Not perfect, but heartfelt rendition from lead singer Tomiko Van who dedicated her performance to a friend who died. She breaks down early in the song but manages to recover. English translation below*:
I'm sure that the heart I left behind
still lies hidden in the heart of the deep, deep forest.

Exhausted, without the strength to search
people vanish into the infinite darkness.

If it's so small, I wonder if I can see it even now?

As we live on,
we lose a little bit more.
Shrouded in falsehoods and lies,
we stand frozen to the spot, unable to cry out

The days pass by and change,
without us even realizing how blue the sky really is.

Overcoming that made-up scheme, we live the present,
and our rusted hearts begin to beat again!

If we can find the rhythm of time, we can fly once again

We live our lives
wandering to the ends of the earth.
Believing (in you?), now I begin my journey with you,
in search of the light.

We live our lives
wandering to the ends of the earth.
Closing off
the way back,
we walk on for eternity.

We live our lives standing frozen to the spot,
unable to cry out, for eternity...

I've marked the stanzas she was unable to sing in purple.

*Taken from Anime Lyrics dot Com. You can go there for the Japanese lyrics as well.