Thursday, February 24, 2011


(Speech delivered at the Philippine Embassy Commemorating the EDSA Event on Thursday, February 24, 2011)

First let me thank Corina or Bubbles as I call her casually for inviting me to be a speaker in tonight’s event. I was introduced as Ben Maynigo. What I sometimes like about being a speaker is that critics are forced to listen not just to Ben but also to another ego which is mine-mine-ego (Mayn-igo). Having lived in America for so long, I have accumulated many friends - in school, work, Facebook, Twitter, My Space and other community-based organizations. My friends in the black community call me Ben My Negro and those in the Hispanic community call me Ben Mi Amigo. In the most recent Christmas, my friends in common with those of Ambassador GAA were happily greeted with Mali-GAAng Pasko at MAYNIGOng Bagong Taon!
The first President of the United Nations General Assembly and former Secretary of Foreign Affairs Carlos P. Romulo once said, “I am a Filipino – inheritor of a glorious past, and hostage to an uncertain future. As such, I must prove equal to a two-fold task – the task of fulfilling my obligations of the past, and the task of meeting my responsibilities of the future.”
I too am a Filipino. Also an inheritor of a glorious past but unlike Romulo I am not a hostage to an uncertain future. In this evening’s affair, I also have a two-fold task – that of relating to you some portions of our glorious past and how they relate to yesterday’s and today’s tomorrow.
The remote and the recent past was really all about “bubbles” – Economic and Political Bubbles that blew up. From perceived stability and transformed them into temporary crisis hoping to attain longer-term prosperity.
Economically, we heard, read and /or experienced the DOT.COM bubble, the Mortgage bubble and what they call  the “Bailout” bubble.
Politically, we had the Stability bubble represented by the dictatorships from both the Left and the Right..
If you Google People Power Revolution or if you go to and search for People Power, you would find out that it is pretty much identified with the EDSA Revolution that deposed the 20-year dictatorial regime of Marcos in the Philippines. You would discover that along the Epifanio de los Santos boulevard otherwise known as EDSA, gathered hundreds of thousands of Filipinos, young and old, rich and poor, converged, first, to protest the fraudulent Presidential elections and second, to support the defection of then General Fidel Ramos and Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and their military faction. It was a great demonstration and display of the utmost desire and fearless dedication of the sovereign people to obtain democracy as opposed to dictatorship.
Filipinos should be very proud of this glorious historic past. Even prouder because it became a model for other dictatorships that transitioned to democracy subsequently, either from the Left such as some Eastern European countries like Poland, Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Romania, etc. or from the Right such as some Asian and Latin American countries like Taiwan, South Korea, Chile, Peru, Guatemala, etc.
The People Power Revolution in the Philippines was a political bubble bound to burst. It was delayed for a long period of time because of the wrong perception by policy makers that Stability was preferred over Democracy.
Marcos became President of the Philippines in 1965. He was deposed more than 20 years later. Perceptively, the struggle for a more democratic Philippines started and ended during his dictatorial regime. My involvement was for the entire period. From being a Student Council President and co-organizer of the largest rally for Constitutional Reforms in front of the Philippine Congress which was followed by what is now known historically as First Quarter Storm and the Battle of Mendiola; to escaping as a UN-registered political refugee by kumpit or pump boat via Southern Mindanao, reaching the small island of Sabah, Malaysia after several days and nights evading the chasing pirates, and lived there for several months until paroled into the United States by then President Jimmy Carter. We arrived in the United States on March 3, 1977.
I immediately joined the Movement for a Free Philippines and chaired the committee that organized the first rally and march to the DuPont Circle where we had a lived-in picket for several days and nights; a Death of Democracy March parading a coffin marked “Democracy” accompanied by a Marching Band; and a mock trial which culminated in the hanging and burning of Marcos’ effigy.
The struggle continued for several more years by questioning and lobbying against the policies of the US government in supporting dictatorships under the guise of Stability. The opposition to fascist and communist regimes gave birth to a group called The Democracy International. Its first President was then former Senator and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Raul Manglapus who was also the head of the Movement for a Free Philippines.
When Ninoy Aquino was released from detention for heart surgery in Houston, he joined our cause after his recovery until his decision to go back home. He was assassinated as he was being escorted by soldiers going down the plane.
This gave birth to several more groups both in the Philippines and the U.S.A. - the JAJA (JUSTICE FOR AQUINO, JUSTICE FOR ALL), the ATOM (August Twenty One Movement), the NAM (Ninoy Aquino Movement) and many others.
The continued pressure from the groups, pro-democracy governments and the media eventually forced Marcos to call for SNAP Presidential Elections. The opposition chose Cory Aquino as Marcos’ opponent. The common knowledge was that Cory won and that Marcos cheated massively.
This prompted continuous protests which culminated in the now EDSA Revolution. Marcos’ control over the military had to be neutralized and this became a reality with the defection of then Deputy Chief of Staff General Fidel Ramos and Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and their followers.
While this was happening in the Philippines, our groups in the US were busy demonstrating at the White House and convincing Embassy and Consulate staffers nationwide to defect in favor of People Power.
My assignment was to see and talk to then Consul General Raul Rabe in Honolulu, Hawaii. He did not need convincing. Before I could even talk to him he had already scheduled a press conference announcing his defection.  I enjoyed Hawaiian singer Don Ho's rendition of Tiny Bubbles and Pearly Shells. I enjoyed the sound of Rabe's defection even more. The rest is history.
Yesterday’s tomorrow is today. And today we are witnessing what is unraveling in the Middle East. As my article stated, “from dictatorship to democracy, by demonstration and display of desire and dedication, expect no defeat.”
Tomorrow is you. The future is in the hands of the young – in your hands. As one political prisoner once said, “The future lies in the hands of those who are strong enough to give reasons for living and hoping.”

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Management By PESO (Political, Economic & Social Objectives)

Inherent in every human being is a management skill. The difference is how it is nurtured as the individual grows and develops to control his environment. Control is a management function that must accompany efficient and effective planning, organizing and leading if we expect excellent results.

These management functions are honed by experience, education and empirical studies coupled with a natural gift called “common sense”. Depending on your developed objectives and expected results, your performance is measured against pre-set standards.

Every human endeavor or activity, no matter how simple or complex, is managed. Whether expressed or implied, planning is a must. As simple as shopping, for example, requires listing what to buy, knowing where to go, how much should you bring or what credit card to use. Dating or managing a relationship is a little more “complicated” but organizational skills and an effective exercise of leadership through communication, inspiration and motivation would most likely do the job.

Managing the United States of America and all its inhabitants; the executive department of the government bureaucracy and its relationships with the other departments; political parties (both your own and the opposition); private sector groups that include the mainstream and social media monitoring and questioning every move; relationships with foreign governments; the defense and protection from enemies of the State that include terrorists and criminals; and of course, foreign wars, is an awesome responsibility with all its complications and risks.

I do not envy President Barack Obama. He must manage under certain controls. Limited by the Constitution, Federal laws, State and local laws, Federal regulations, judicial decisions, and the inherent rights of the sovereign citizenry, he must plan, organize and lead to achieve his objectives subject to those controls.

But he sought the job. He said, “Yes, we can.” And he could do it from “Day 1”. Commensurate with the aforementioned responsibilities are awesome powers and resources provided by the same entities that define the controls. He manages all the financial and human resources of practically every executive agency that affects every facet of American life. Every year he is called upon to report to Congress as representatives of the people the “State of the Union” at the time and also to define his plans for the next year and the near future.

We all heard his “State of the Union” speech. He plans to “out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build” the competition in the global market place. In a subsequent speech he added to “out-hustle” as an objective. Of course, reducing the debt and the deficit is a primary concern as well.

Budgeting is a unique management function.  As a rule, it is included as a control mechanism. It limits operating and capital costs and expenses. It measures achievement or performance as against set financial standards.

But it also performs planning, organizing and leading functions.  By submitting his proposed budget, President Obama defined his goals and the program steps to “out-innovate, out-educate, out-build and out-hustle the competition. He also identified the organizational structures, institutions, and steps needed. He must now lead by setting the priorities, motivate and inspire his subordinates to follow his example and together convince the sovereign people to accept the required sacrifices to “win the future”.

For the defined objectives on innovation, education, infrastructure and competition, President Obama’s budget seems to reflect them. “Put your money where your mouth is”, is the determining factor of one’s commitment.

Obama increased the budget of Education from $49.1B to $68B. That’s an increase of 38.5 %. Increases also merited the following departments: Homeland Security by 1.8%; Transportation by 68.1%; Treasury by 11.4; Veterans by 4.5%; Legislative Branch by 6.9%; and the Judiciary by 4.3%. Most of the agencies had reductions in their budgets. Defense, for example, got a budget reduced by 5.8%.

Reducing Federal spending is not enough. So Obama also proposes modest tax hikes on Wall Street, Oil Companies and the Rich. He is also instituting a five-year freeze of many domestic programs. Many of the social programs including one that deals with community organizing were cut.

The proposed Republican (GOP) budget reflects a different set of priorities. Expectedly, the focus is to reduce the deficit through decreased spending. Definitely no tax hikes and none of that “out-innovate, out-educate and out-build” stuff. The cuts run across the board. It addresses the concern that borrowing should be substantially reduced if not completely stopped. It gave the Republicans control of the House. They expect that it would give them control of the White House in a couple of years.

Borrowing is something discouraged even in every day life. During the financial crisis, I was forced to use my business credit line to cover partially our family needs. My wife was forced to learn and gained the expertise of managing her own investments. I enjoyed being relegated to  research assistant analyzing the financials of companies whose stocks she  considered  buying. Listening to Mad Money’s Jim Cramer and CNBC was also a way for her to monitor the financial market.

When the financial crisis ended and the market recovered, one of my wife’s investments was Apple stocks. She originally bought it at $140 per share. When it went up to $220, she had more than enough to pay off the money borrowed using my business credit line. Should she have paid off or at least reduce the debt?

First there was the IPOD; then, the IPHONE; the Mac Book Air; now the IPAD and more innovations coming. Is investing in innovation a risky venture? My wife did not think so. I did not think so. We still have that payable and paying a reasonably low interest rate. But the Apple stock is now $362.

My parents sent all their children to school mostly on borrowed money. They considered the costs as investments for the future. We all became successful professionals and correspondingly raised our children in the same way.

The samples are simple but no different when applied on a national scale. While the interest rates for debts could be fixed even for a longer term, the effects of innovation, education and infrastructure building are exponential and lingering.

As President, Obama is Managing By PESO (Political, Economic and Social Objectives). Hope we all win!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

From D (Dictatorship) to D (Democracy) by D (Demonstration) and D (Display), of D (Desire) and D (Dedication)

My barber was at the People Power Revolution led by Cory Aquino and Jaime Cardinal Sin. He was one of those who answered a call to protest the fraudulent Presidential elections and to end the long oppressive dictatorial regime of Marcos.
 The call was also to reinforce the withdrawal of support by General Fidel Ramos and Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and their followers in the military against the Marcos regime.

I was not at the historic revolution. I was here in the United States as an active officer of the Movement for a Free Philippines (MFP) portraying a different role in support of the revolution. More specifically, I was in Honolulu, Hawaii with the mission to convince then Consul-General Raul Rabe to defect and support the military faction of Ramos and Enrile and of course, the People Power Revolution. He did not need convincing. Even before I could see and talk to him, he had already scheduled a press conference to announce his defection.
People Power in the Philippines
A lot of books and articles had been written about this historic event so no need for me to repeat them. What is worth remembering and “repeating it again and again once more for the nth time” is the courageous display and demonstration of desire and dedication by the Filipino people in the struggle against dictatorship to achieve democracy.

This became a showcase for all countries that transitioned from dictatorial regimes to democratic governments subsequently.

The case of Egypt, which is now a major candidate for a similar transition, would be a quick study. Political analysts would say that the demonstrations and rallies would have to continue and grow in numbers to display the people’s will and desire for freedom. A well-disciplined and trained military would have to eventually withdraw its support to the dictator and side with the Egyptian people. The United States which has been heavily funding and training the Egyptian military must also clearly signal to the latter that the “Pharaoh must let the people go.” The free world should and would support such a transition by quickly recognizing the new Egyptian government organized with the consent of the governed.

People Power in Egypt
Deposing the dictatorship is actually only the first part of a long and usually uncertain democratic future. A Constitutional framework of governance would have to be established; clean, fair and democratic elections would have to be held; and an honest, humble and honorable leadership would have to deal with the high hopes of the Egyptian people. Many would have high expectations and some would be easy to please. Definitely, many would be disappointed. The silver lining is, that everybody would have this various set of feelings FREELY.


My barber tells me about a customer of his who was an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) who came from the Middle East. He saved so much to be able to build a new house, buy a VCR, a TV and a Video Camera. Noticeable despite his relative lack of education was his regained confidence especially on the geography of the Middle East where he was assigned for many years.

My barber asked him, “Can you tell us about Egypt, Iraq and Iran?”

The OFW answered with utmost confidence still with his native accent, “E-Jeep is not e car. Neither is it e bus. E-Rock is not e small stone. E-Ran is not e-Walk.”

When asked about the Kuwait-Iraq War, the OFW also confidently said that Iraq would eventually win over Kuwait. “Why?”

The OFW replied, “Like Manuel Uy, a Kuwaiter never wins, a Winner never Kuwaits.”


We now know the role of the United States in eventually freeing Kuwait from the invading Iraqis.

“Why did Iraq decide to invade and keep Kuwait in the first place?” again the OFW was asked.

Now venturing into a difficult foreign policy, he went ahead and gave his own historical interpretation of the event leading to the invasion.

A White House briefing regarding the Middle East for several Arab diplomats was being held. According to the OFW, the Iraqi diplomat kept interrupting the briefing and discussions. This prompted the White House Middle East expert to shout, “KEEP QUIET” which the Iraqi diplomat understood as “KEEP KUWAIT.”

A call was made to Saddam Hussein immediately letting him know that the United States had given the GO SIGNAL.

My barber was taking it from an OFW!


Egypt’s President Mubarak, his ardent supporters, the Egyptian military, the Egyptian people and the free world are looking for a clear signal from the United States. History is being re-written and re-played. The U.S. must be on the right side of history.

The formula for a similar situation has been available and tested a number of times. From D (Dictatorship) to D (Democracy), by D (Demonstration) and D (Display), of D (Desire) and D (Dedication), expect no D (Defeat)!!!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

May the Porsche and the 4s Be With You

I will never forget what my philosophy professor, San Beda College Dean and ex-Jesuit Recaredo Enriquez said; “E gustibus non est disputandum.” Translated more literally, “there is not to be discussion regarding tastes”; but less literally, “in matters of taste there is no dispute.”

In her book, “Molly Bawn” which was written in 1878, Margaret Wolfe Hungerford (nee Hamilton) wrote the line “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Obviously we all have different tastes. What appears beautiful to one individual may seem ugly to another.

These two lines have found universal acceptance so much so that they were virtually incorporated in the diplomatic, ethics and etiquette rules governing diplomatic, political and social circles worldwide.

That’s why I read with  amusement the columns, articles and comments of writers, reporters, politicians, bloggers and readers (who are either known critics or supposed supporters) on P-Noy’s acquisition of a third-hand 2007 Porsche 911 Turbo Carrera sports car for P4.5M; his personal preference to dating younger, smart and beautiful ladies; and his personal interest in guns.

Yet in front of them are the following reports:

(1) “The Bureau of Customs collected P20.224 billion in duties and taxes in January, exceeding by P2.62 billion or 14.9% of what it earned during the same period last year………The collection was the second highest collection in BOC history. The highest was recorded in July 2010 (P21.5) and the third highest was attained last December (P20.185), all during the Aquino Administration.”
(2)PHILIPPINES GDP SIZZLED to its Highest Growth Rate in the Post Marcos Era at 7.3 Percent.”
(3)”A total of P29.25 billion were remitted by 19 government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) to the national government (NG) on Friday. This is an increase of more than 100% from last year’s remittance of over P9 billion.”

As a boy growing up, I was full of hopes and dreams. So did all of my childhood friends, classmates and relatives. Indeed, each of us had visions and missions to fulfill, and goals to accomplish. To many, “mataas ang pangarap” (high expectations) and to some, “mababaw ang kaligayahan” (easy to please) would be the appropriate description. What differentiates them? It is really more a matter of taste.

Not recognizing it would be “insensitivity” of the highest order!


I have two sisters who are still very much alive. One is a retired nurse and the other a retired CPA. Like most Filipinos, they share a similar no.1 priority: educating and preparing their children to live independently and happily. All their children are now successful professionals living as they both had envisioned.

But as expected, they have different tastes. One prefers spending most of her hard-earned money traveling to all the places in the world which she dreamt of visiting since childhood. Name it: Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, the Holy Land, Latin America……she is not finished yet. She will continue doing it for as long her health allows it. She also donated her inherited lands in the Philippines to the only daughter of our late eldest sister, a struggling teacher.

My other sister has a different take. She is spending most of her money building new homes on lots which she and her late first husband bought earlier. She is also remodeling the homes that she already built earlier. She also helps the daughter of our late eldest sister by letting the latter use for free the house and lot which she (the former) inherited in the Philippines.

But the bigger difference is this: my other sister (the builder) bought a Rolls Royce which she still has to this day. It has been used to drive a Philippine Presidential candidate and a U.S Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Director. I have also driven it.

Would I have bought it? My honest answer would be, probably not. Would I have questioned her taste? My answer is both honest and definite: NO. She always had a taste for mansions, castles and luxury cars.

Sometime in 1983, I saw this movie “Risky Business” which starred Tom Cruise. The most memorable moment in the movie is the appearance of the 1981 PORSCHE 928 driven by Tom Cruise. The famous line by Cruise in describing the car was, “PORSCHE. There is no substitute.”

Not too long after that, my brother-in-law was driving a PORSCHE of the same model and year. He just had to have it. His taste for the car had no substitute.

On the way to a campaign meeting for Delegate Kris, daughter of our common friend, David Valderrama, I was picked up to ride in a very expensive Convertible Supercar Mercedes Benz by a companero who was also a former President of the Philippine Lawyers Association here in Washington, D.C. He told me he always wanted to have one like it since childhood. He decided to finally buy it after retirement.

My wife and I still share driving a 1996 Toyota Camry. We have been and still are very happy with it. It brings us everywhere we want to go safely and inexpensively. It would be another two years until the next emission inspection.  Hence, there is no pressure to replace it.

After looking at the electric cars displayed at the most recent International Consumer Electronic Show (ICES) and the current Auto Show 2011 at the Washington Convention Center, we are now seriously looking at an electric car as our next automobile.  But still no pressure to buy one at this point.

As you realize by now, our taste is a little different from the others

When I joined the clamor for Noynoy to run for President, I never asked him to change or give up his personal tastes, his personal dreams and personal preferences. As stated in the following link:  he was my choice for President because he brought Hope, Honesty, Humility and Honor (4Hs) to the position.

I committed to support him not only as a candidate but most especially as a governing President for six years. As written in the following link:                                                                                                                                                                                                                    the Philippines is beset with so many problems that it would really take more than six years to solve them. The solution and desired results lie in the several 4Ps mentioned such as “Prayers; Panacea; P-Noy; People with Power;  Pacquiao; Prelates, Priests and/or Preachers; Passionate people; Point men; Plans; Programs; Projects; Proposals; Policies; Procedures; Preparation; Perspiration; Parental authority and responsibility; Patents (creativity & inventions); Peace; Poverty alleviation; Patriotism;  Pedagogy; Portable computers & phones; Pens; Pencils; Paper; Pilots; Patrons; Papal and/or Pastoral teachings”

I will monitor his Presidency based on the above factors.

I never questioned the right and taste of my sisters, my brother-in-law and my lawyer friend.  I do not intend to question my elected Philippine President’s personal taste in cars, in ladies and in self-protection either. “E gustibus non est disputandum.”

When I mentioned to my barber re P-Noy’s Porsche, and the corresponding criticisms, his reaction was, “That’s it? P-Noy was given the powers and discretion to disburse billions and billions of pesos affecting millions and millions of people presently and  in the future by the Constitution, and these people are more concerned about a third-hand 2007 sports car that’s costing the tax payer ZERO PESOS? Do they expect him to drive a slow-moving and cheap vehicle instead?” Take it from my barber!

Running a country like the Philippines is a “risky business”. Required of the leader is excellent physical, mental and emotional health. Excellent tools and “vehicles” for peace and prosperity plus all the 4s mentioned above are needed. We wish our leader well and want him to have the best of everything.  Presidency must equal Excellence. “There is no substitute.” That’s why the President is called “His Excellency”.

The Filipino people voted for Fernando Poe, Jr and Joseph Estrada partly because they were perceived (via movie roles) as macho, ladies’ men, and sharp shooters. Marcos, Ramos and Noynoy were elected also partly because they were macho, ladies’ men and sharp shooters. In the U.S. the right to bear arms is a constitutional right. In the Philippines where enemies of the State such as NPA rebels and Muslim terrorists and secessionists are many, being a sharp-shooter should be praised and not criticized.

PH is now the internet domain for the Philippines. For me, it’s all about Ps and Hs. More specifically, the 4Hs and the many 4Ps as described above and in the links.

The proper greeting to P-Noy and the Philippines therefore is, “May the Porsche and the 4s be with you!”