Monday, July 30, 2012

WATER BILL: A Civil, Criminal, and Human Right Issue

A few days ago, former Miss International Aurora Pijuan, a friend both offline and on Facebook, brought to my attention a cause and a case that I consider serious and of prime importance.

It must be serious and important because One, Au is leading the advocacy; Two, it merited a special page on Facebook “Our Water Bill is TUBIG (TOO BIG)” which attracted several subscribers; Three, it generated a Congressional hearing and/or investigation; Four, it inspired a movement called WARM (Water for All Refund Movement); and more significantly, Five, it resulted in the filing of a criminal case.

Concessionaires “Trouble the WATER”

Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Manila Water Company, Inc. are the concessionaires who operate the Water System in Metropolitan Manila. As such, they were granted the right as well as the obligation to distribute the water supplied by the government (MWSS). They are also responsible for delivering clean and safe water to the consumers through certain methods and technologies which they committed to institute to win their respective bids.

For their concessionary right, they are supposed to pay the government what is called the concessionary fees. For their obligations, they are empowered to bill and collect from the water consumers an amount authorized by MWSS. From the amounts collected, they would be allowed to retain a reasonable amount of profit which public utilities are entitled to: 12%.

For projects benefiting the consumers and upon approval of MWSS, through the Regulatory Office, they are allowed to recover whatever they have actually invested in these projects.  The billing will be over a predetermined period.

Herein lies “the mischief made”. Maynilad and Manila Water have been collecting from the consumers advanced payments for several years. So far, at least P6 billion and counting have been forcibly extracted from the consumers, a lot of whom are just “keeping their heads above WATER”. The payments are supposed to be for investments made in two projects: The P45.3 billion Laiban Dam and the P5.4 billion Angat Dam Irrigation Replacement.

Yet, records show that the concessionaires have not invested a single cent on the supposed projects. Worse, the projects do not and have ceased to exist. Worst, the concessionaires continue to collect from a consuming public continuously threatened with disconnection.

“Still WATERS run deep”

Trampled upon by a privileged group still in possession of the so-called “Wang Wang” mentality, many consumers who were quiet but proved to be smart and wise, decided to join WARM and answer the Call To Action of Aurora Pijuan.

Concessionaires in “Hot WATER”

WARM, on behalf of the consumers, have repeatedly made demands for the refund of the payments that were illegally collected. The attempts were in vain. It was like, “making a hole into the WATER”.

The Regulatory Office who must have felt placed “In deep WATER”, decided “to throw WATER on fire” by ordering the concessionaires to refund all the money illegally collected.  The order has been ignored and the consumers continue to suffer.

WARM, refusing “to drown in a glass of WATER”, chose a legal remedy allowed in a democratic, fair and just society. On behalf of the suffering public, it filed a case of Syndicated Estafa as covered by Articles 315/316 of the Revised Penal Code and Presidential Decree No. 1689.

Based on the known facts, and an analysis of the elements we look for In Syndicated Estafa as a crime, there is reason to believe that the respondents could “be in bad WATERS”. Add the factors that include qualifying circumstances such as conspiracy by the executives of the concessionaires and selected public officials, and the amount allegedly misappropriated, it could mean detention without bail.


Water is so essential to human life that you can expect to live only a few days without it.

“Water is fundamental for life and health. The human right to water is indispensable for leading a healthy life in human dignity. It is a pre-requisite to the realization of all other human rights.” – The United Nations Committee on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights.

By a vote of 122 in favor and none against, the United Nations General Assembly has adopted a resolution “recognizing access to clean and safe water as a human right. “ The resolution calls on States and international organizations “to provide financial resources, build capacity and transfer technology, particularly to developing countries, in scaling up efforts to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all.”

The fight and advocacy that WARM and Our Water Bill Is Tubig (Too Big) are pursuing therefore, is not just a civil or a criminal case. It is a human right issue as well. 

Water, is essential to our bodily needs and “a pre-requisite to the realization of all other human rights”. The threat to deny consumers of this important right by disconnection for failure to pay an illegal bill, is an attempt to deprive a massive group of people rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

Congress is right in conducting hearings on the issue. Aurora Pijuan is right in calling the attention of as many people as possible and for creating a special page on Facebook. WARM is right in filing a Syndicated Estafa case against those responsible for this act of injustice. 

Every Filipino should support all efforts to fight for what is right. We should all join in solving our water worries. By doing so, we’re also helping “alleviate hunger, relieve poverty, lower disease burden, and preserve the biosphere.”

Time to “bring WATER to the sea” or not?

Sunday, July 22, 2012


By the time this column is published by Asian Journal USA, President Benigno Aquino III would have delivered his SONA (State of the Nation Address) before Congress and the rest of the world.

Except for those that can be verified by objective and independent sources, whatever achievements he would be reporting are expected to be criticized by what my barber calls NAY, NAYing, negativist naysayers.

As someone who always votes AYE to whatever positive reports are published outside of MalacaƱang Palace, I would like to venture my own assessment both objectively and subjectively.


ABS-CBN records, monitors and reports the performance of the PNoy Administration annually as compared to what they have as promises of the latter in their record. The broadcast conglomerate reports that of one hundred two (102) promises, seven (7) have been fulfilled; seventy-eight (78) are being fulfilled; two (2) are stalled; and two (2) were already broken.

The promises broken include the “doubling of the budget of the judiciary”, and “new taxes would not be imposed”. After the ouster of Renato Corona as Chief Justice, and having more aggressive efforts to cleanse the judiciary, I expect that the former’s budget would eventually be increased to render faster and fairer justice.  To fund and speed-up infrastructure, employment generating and poverty alleviation programs, sometimes it becomes necessary to impose new taxes.

The formation of the Truth Commission was stalled because the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional. I disagreed with the SC decision but I have argued that the Truth Commission was not necessary to serve the ends for which it was being established anyway. The Fiscal Responsibility Bill is also stalled due to Congress inaction. Sometimes, one finds it hard to deliver when its delivery is dependent upon co-equal branches of the government.

The good news is that according to the ABS-CBN ratings, after two years in a fixed six-year term of office, PNoy already fulfilled seven (7) promises, and has started and is progressing towards fulfilling seventy-eight (78) of them.

I am particularly impressed by the conversion of the promises into Programs of Action. In the field of Education, the plan or program to reintroduce and promote technical and vocational education is a welcome move. Efforts to improve science and mathematics education as well as making every child a reader by Grade 1 are commendable.

If PNoy also commits to support online education as a way of enhancing the skills of what I call the “digital natives”, (the young who were born in 1980 and after), the Philippines would have a more informed, enlightened, and educated citizenry.

I am also hopeful about chosen economic programs that are in progress. Some samples include targeting key industries with greatest potential for growth; promoting entrepreneurship; lowering the cost of doing business in the country; investments in the energy sector; and reviewing the policies on agriculture.

PNoy’s health programs for the Filipino people, which are underway, are notable: universal health care within 3 years; increasing health expenditure; improving health infrastructure; and putting up a National Health Development Fund.


The factors against which I base my ratings on PNoy’s performance are traits that could now be supported with some objective realities namely: HONESTY, HUMILITY, HONOR, and HOPE.

Going after corruption in the judiciary by making examples out of the GMA appointees as Chief Justice and Ombudsman; prosecuting GMA and her cohorts for acts inimical to the country’s interest; facilitating the upgrade of the country’s credit ratings several times; generating positive reports on the country’s GDP growth despite the sluggish performance in the other parts of the world; all support the 4Hs that I mentioned.

Based on the State of the Nation as assessed above, I vote AYE!

Friday, July 13, 2012

PROPAGANDA MOVEMENT: 19TH, 20TH, & 21st Centuries

I have traveled to several places in Asia, South America, Europe and North America as a student, business executive and lawyer.

For sometime now, my wife and I have been receiving invitations to join my sister and her husband on a cruise that is usually coupled with land tours.

We never got around to accepting first, because the cruises were too long (two weeks or more) and second, the cities involved in the land tours were places we had already visited.

But last month we accepted the invitation because the cruise was only 7 days with an additional 3 nights in Madrid, Spain.

I have never been to Madrid. I have always wanted to see, envision and trace the movements of Jose Rizal and the other members of the Propaganda Movement during a very important period in our history.

I was always interested in drawing parallelisms between and among the propagandists in the 19th Century led by the likes of Jose Rizal, Lopez Jaena, del Pilar, and other members of the Propaganda Movement who operated in Madrid; those in the 20th Century such as the members of Anti-Marcos groups led by Raul Manglapus and Ninoy Aquino who operated in Washington, D.C.; and today’s bloggers, columnists, Twitters, Facebook status updaters, commentators and other opinion-makers of both the main media and social networks in this 21st Century.

When I wrote an article entitled, “Old 4Gs to New 4Gs Gaining Ground,” It elicited a reaction from Danny Benavente, a resident of Southern California but born and raised in my hometown of Rosales, Pangasinan, Philippines.

He said, “Brilliant! Just plain brilliant!!! This one can resonate to as far and to the highest public office in the PI!”

He followed it by another comment, “Do we now have in you, a Dr Rizal of the 21st century? I BELIEVE SO!!”

I responded with the following: “Danny, thanks for your comments and great COMPLIMENT! I have been compared to some famous men before but Dr. Jose Rizal? Coming from you, I am taking it as a real compliment. Though this reminds me of San Beda Prof. Regalado (who obtained the highest grade in Bar exams history) when he told us, "A praise undeserved is a slander in disguise." Being abroad and still concerned about the Philippines, there is really a Rizal in all of us. It is not unlike the Propaganda Movement in Madrid, Spain crying for reforms during his and Lopez Jaena's time. So, thank you again for the compliment.”

During the darkest hours of Martial Law, when the Philippines was governed by a dictator named Ferdinand Marcos, there were also efforts abroad by both Filipino-Americans and exiled Filipinos to expose the atrocities and abuses of the dictatorial regime. Like the La Solidaridad during the time of Rizal, there were also publications, articles and books written to influence and advocate changes in U.S. policies that favored or supported dictatorial regimes. The targets for these advocacies and lobbying efforts were the U.S. Congress, the White House, and the U.S. State Department.

One active organization leading the propaganda efforts was the Movement for a Free Philippines (MFP) led by Raul S. Manglapus and later joined by Ninoy Aquino who was imprisoned by Marcos for several years. We all know what happened to Aquino at the airport in Manila while under the “care” of Marcos soldiers. Like Rizal, he also died for the Philippine cause.

What also impressed me during those years was the involvement of real Filipino doctors like Rizal. They campaigned, funded, and led without fear until the U.S. administration reversed its policies and supported the Filipino people’s desire to recapture their freedom and dignity through the People Power Revolution.

Subject to further additions in a future article that would also describe their respective roles, let me mention some of them as I remember them at this writing:

  1. Dr. Arturo Monteiro
  2. Dr. Renato Roxas
  3. Dr. Art Taca
  4. Dr. Cesar Climaco
  5. Dr. Augusto Climaco
  6. Dra. Climaco
  7. Dr. FariƱas
  8. Dr. Manolita Balasa
  9. Dr.  Butch Orbeta
  10. Dr. Mario Baguio
11.  Dr. Quiambao
12.  Dr. Cesar Candari
13.  Dr. Aurora Perez
14.  Dr. Rolando Perez
15.  Dr. Ecarma

They were the Dr. Jose Rizals of the 20th Century. There were of course, non-doctors who also fought and struggled fighting for the return of democracy in the Philippines. Bonifacio Gillego who led the research and exposure of Marcos’ Fake Medals and Gaston Ortigas, who was the Executive Director (Secretary-General) of the Movement for a Free Philippines and Alex Esclamado, editor/publisher of the Philippine News, which was virtually the propaganda arm of the Anti-Marcos movement.

While the Philippines had been politically freed from the tyrants of the 19th and 20th Centuries, it is still not economically free. Poverty, hunger, and corruption remain prevalent.

Overseas Filipinos, now heralded as modern day heroes, have kept the country economically afloat for years because of their money remittances.

The “Walang Corrupt, Walang Mahirap” policy of the current government seems to be working. Many Filipinos abroad support it and are quite optimistic about the country’s future.

Now, accorded with easier, faster, and more affordable, accessible and available forms of communication, Filipinos are asserting their rights and want more say in the way their country is governed.

Join the Propaganda Movement of the 21st Century.