Tuesday, August 27, 2013


The Voice of the People is the Voice of God.  The voice of both virtual and real people was heard, not one million as hoped.  But the voice was emphatic, loud and clear.  No more PORK BARREL!

Quo Vadis?  Where do we go from here?

PNoy’s response was as quick and as clear before, during, and after the march, “It is time to abolish the PDAF.”  Meanwhile, he announces the suspension of all releases of pork barrel funds, and “tasked the DOJ, together with all the agencies of the executive government under the Inter-Agency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council or IAAGCC to work together to accelerate the process from investigation, to prosecution, to putting people behind bars, and even to asset recovery.”

My reaction was that PNoy actually meant abolish the PDAF “as previously and currently practiced; as the Constitution permits; and as Real Politik and effective governance practically allow.”

As previously and currently practiced....

The Commission on Audit (COA) Report exposing the Pork Barrel Scam allegedly perpetrated by Janet Napoles and company as well as other culprits revealed the evil effects of the previous and possibly the current system.   These practices that produce the pernicious effects will be gone.

As the Constitution permits....

The pork barrel system, which is the process of “earmarking” by the legislators of funding certain projects to benefit his district and/or constituents, has been incorporated in the Constitution.  It is part of Congress’ Constitutional power to appropriate or  “power of the purse.”

Attempts had been made at least three times in the past to ask the Supreme Court to declare this power of Congress unconstitutional, but three times the high court reaffirmed Congress’ power of appropriation with this added reason, “The Countrywide Development Fund (Pork Barrel) attempts to make equal the unequal. It is also a recognition that individual members of Congress, far more than the President and their congressional colleagues are likely to be knowledgeable about the needs of their respective constituents and the priority to be given each project.”  

So what should PNoy do to, in effect, “abolish the PDAF” without violating the Constitution?  After consulting his legal advisers he proposes a  “new mechanism” that will be created “to address the needs of constituents and sectors, in a manner that is transparent, methodical and rational, and not susceptible to abuse or corruption.”

Specifically, “each legislator can identify and suggest projects for his district, and will have to go through the budgetary process.  If approved, these projects will be “earmarked” (sounds familiar) as line items, under the programs of the National Government.” 

Still sounds like “pork barrel” but this time with safeguards and protection from abuse and misuse.  This is why his critics are saying, “You can put a lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig.”

As Real Politik and effective governance practically allow....

In an article, legal luminary Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J. recently quoted the Supreme Court, “The Constitution is a framework of a workable government and its interpretation must take into account the complexities, realities and politics attendant to the operation of the political branches of government.”

Indeed, as I also wrote earlier, “Real Politik and effective governance sometimes demand some compromises without sacrificing public welfare, morals, and legal mandates.”  

Given his recent pronouncements and commitments, what would be the next move of the Luneta marchers and Facebook movers?

When my barber asked for my take on PNoy’s moves, I told him, “AYEs have it.”  The naysayers will always oppose whatever PNoy does or proposes.  Many of them joined the Luneta gathering.  Ousted CJ Renato Corona appeared at the event but was jeered and booed so loud that he had to leave the premises.  Many PNoy supporters, prosecutors, law enforcers, legitimate NGO representatives, Church leaders including future Pope ChitoTagle and many other well-meaning citizens also attended.

Quo Vadis?

We want PNoy to stop corruption because as he said, “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap”.  We want him to focus on poverty alleviation.  We want him to provide more classrooms, books and better education.  We want him to provide more universal and better health care.  We want faster, better and fairer administration of justice.  We want our economy to improve.  We want better law enforcement.  We want more peace not war in Mindanao and other places.  We want more tourists to come to our shores.  We want better defense against external invaders.  We want more assistance to overseas workers and their families.  We expect him to provide more accessibility to housing. We want him to stop public officials from abusing and misusing public funds.  We want him to protect us from various “acts of man” and even expect him to provide for emergencies during “acts of God” such as typhoons, storms, floods, earthquakes, fires and other unexpected and unavoidable events.  We want him “to abolish Pork Barrel” which the Supreme Court says he cannot.

These are responsibilities he currently pursues with all honesty, humility, honor, and hope. Given our history and the limitations, his achievements are quite satisfactory.  

Commensurate Responsibility comes with commensurate Power.  But commensurate Power also comes with commensurate Resources.   Unfortunately, the power to appropriate the commensurate Resources is vested upon a perceptively corrupt Congress – an institution composed of people that we elected.  Now we are asking PNoy to negotiate with them expecting unacceptable results.

Pork Barrel as a system is ultimately a matter of discretion and judgment.  Whom do we trust to have that discretion and make the judgment?   

At this point in our history, PNoy, son of Ninoy and Cory, is the best choice.  To aid and support him, we must show vigilance.  Let him execute and enforce the laws without fear!

Quo Vadis?  For me, AYEs should have it!

Friday, August 23, 2013

AYEs Have It! Caveat: "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig."

Reaction and response to PNoy’s latest move and statement on the Pork Barrel controversy/

AYEs have it!

First, because as of today, the releases of all pork barrel (PDAF) funds are frozen.

Second, because PNoy “tasked the DOJ, together with all the agencies of the executive government under the Inter-Agency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council or IAAGCC to work together to accelerate the process, from investigation, to prosecution, to putting people behind bars, and even to asset recovery.” His directives to all agencies and members of government are clear: “Extend your full aid and cooperation so that the truth may be uncovered, and so that the guilty may be held accountable.”

Third, because PNoy affirms that “It is time to abolish the PDAF.”  He really means abolish the PDAF as previously and currently practiced; as the Constitution permits; and as Real Politik and effective governance practically allow.

In short, a “new mechanism” will be created “to address the needs of constituents and sectors, in a manner that is transparent, methodical and rational, and not susceptible to abuse or corruption.”

Is it too vague?

He specified, “Each legislator can identify and suggest projects for his district, and will have to go through the budgetary process.  If approved, these projects will be “earmarked” (sounds familiar) as line items, under the programs of the National Government.” 

We know, of course, that the legislators are already empowered under the Constitution to do that now.

But he included restrictions to the projects such as:

1.             No “consumable soft projects, such as fertilizers, seeds, medicines, medical kits, dentures, funding for sports fests, training materials, and other such items—these projects whose results and impact we cannot conclusively identify, and who may only be ghost projects, used only as a source of income by the corrupt.”
2.             No temporary infrastructure.
3.             No dredging, desilting, regravelling, or asphalt overlay projects.
4.             The funds cannot be disbursed to NGOs and certain GOCCs such as ZREC and NABCOR. Both of these GOCCs will be abolished, along with others of their kind that have become notorious for anomalies, and which seem to serve no other purpose aside from being instruments of corruption.
5.             The funds must be limited to the district or sector of the legislator who sponsored it.
6.             All items will be subject to open and competitive bidding, with all bid notices and awards posted in the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System or PhilGEPS.

In effect, PNoy’s allies in the House led by Speaker Sonny Belmonte, and the Senate led by Senate President Frank Drilon will not pass any “earmark” that violates the restrictions.  PNoy shall veto them if it reaches his desk.

Fourth, because “Each item will be disclosed in the DBM and related agency websites and the National Data Portal of the government so that the public may monitor the implementation themselves.”

This is the best move that PNoy could do legally and practically to respond to the clamor of his “Bosses”.

AYEs have it with the caveat - "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig."  "A hog in a silk waistcoat is still a hog." 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pork In Government (PIG): PNoy’s Options

Born and raised in the rural town of Rosales, Pangasinan, Philippines, I grew up learning the valuable significance of the word “PIG”.  

First, it denoted SAVINGS.  My parents inculcated in my mind the value of saving for the future.  They encouraged me to have a “Piggy Bank” as a start, and then deposited the savings to a Postal Savings Account.  The passbook was the most valuable document that I possessed for a long, long, time.

Second, it meant INVESTMENTS.  Piggery is a household business that we were encouraged to invest in because of the high returns.  

Third, it meant EDUCATION.  I remember my parents “earmarking” one pig for my College Education Fund.  I made sure that the pig marked in the ear as “Ben” became “Big Ben” to generate a higher selling price for my fund.

Fourth, it also meant SHARING.  The pig also symbolized family and community participation and sharing of the bounties, grace, and luck bestowed upon us by the Lord.  Every so often, a pig had to be sacrificed for the family and the community to serve as “lechon, adobo, bacon, ham, nilaga at pinakbet.”

Fifth, it also meant a TEAMING ARRANGEMENT.  In our neighborhood, the owner of a male pig (hog) offers the latter to mate with the neighbor’s female pig.  A pre-arranged deal is contracted depending on the number of piglets that are eventually delivered.

When I went to school, the pig had positive significance for me as I learned the nursery rhyme about the “ little pigs that went to market, stayed at home, had roast beef, had none, or cried ‘wee wee wee’ all the way home.”

As I moved up the ladder of both education and age, I began to learn words and expressions that are identified with “pig”.  Suddenly, it connoted a different meaning and value.  Sadly, negative in many instances.

In fact, pigs are associated with greed and dirtiness.  Hogging as in hogging the ball or the road means monopolizing the ball or the road.   Eating like a hog means poor table manners and going hog wild is behaving wildly.

Your room is a pig’s sty. (Dirty).   
Don’t be a pig! (don’t overeat!)  
That’s hogwash! (Nonsense).  
It ain’t fitting to roll with a pig.  (Filthy or uncouth).  
Evolution of the Filipino Politician (forwarded by Vic Floresca
When a Congressman says he will give up his PDAF, it is in a pig’s eye – meaning no chance of that happening.   Radicals called the police a pig while the Women’s Liberation Movement called the male chauvinist also a pig.

Now because of the expose on the Pork Barrel Scam, the Filipino politicians are being called many names – from greedy pigs, representa-thieves, to Senatong and Tongressmen.  CONgress has become the opposite of PROgress!  As described by Manila Times columnist Tony Lopez, “Congress is the Philippines’ biggest criminal syndicate.”

The clamor from practically all sectors of society of all ages be they online or offline, is undeniably loud and clear  - ABOLISH the Pork Barrel!  

Like the million people march on August 28, 1964 led by Martin Luther King, Jr. who delivered his now famous “I have a dream” speech, Filipinos are also encouraged to gather at the Rizal park in Luneta on August 26, 2013, National Heroes Day. Attendees will protest this brazen display of shameless greed and “systemic diversion of public funds for private aggrandizement”.  They will demand its abolition!

PNoy has to respond to the cry of his “Bosses”.  His anti-corruption legacy is at stake.  What are his options?

Immediately, he should suspend the release of all pork barrel funds to all beneficiaries designated by all lawmakers.  It should stay suspended until 1) all criminal, civil, and administrative investigations are concluded; 2) corrective and/or remedial measures either legislative or administrative, are put forward and in place to safeguard and protect public funds; and 3) cases against co-conspirators (including lawmakers) are filed as soon as evidence is found to merit the filing to show sincerity and seriousness. 

Can PNoy abolish the pork barrel system of funding?  Unfortunately, in at least three occasions, the Supreme Court had ruled the constitutionality of such a system.  It had affirmed the power of Congress not just to make, amend and repeal laws but also to spend and appropriate money for projects.

PNoy, of course, may veto whatever Congress proposes.  Congress in turn may override the veto.  A greedy Congress may just do it.  

PNoy may submit a budget that Congress may reduce but not increase.  So, if PNoy does not propose PDAF funding, Congress cannot include it.  But it can also reduce the proposed budget for all the Executive Departments and for all the projects of the President.

This is why Real Politik and effective governance sometimes demand some compromises without sacrificing public welfare, morals, and legal mandates.  

In compliance, PNoy proposes a budget that includes PDAF funding.  Congress will approve it including most if not all his proposals.  The appropriation becomes law, and PNoy has the power and obligation to execute and enforce it.  Included in the power is the power to realign.

PNoy may not be able to legally abolish pork barrel funding, but he can prevent its pernicious effects.  First, he can suspend releases of pork barrel funding indefinitely subject to the conditions described above.  This he already did.  In effect, today there is no pork barrel funding!  Second, he must show his interest in an accelerated conclusion of all investigations and probes that must include both private and official culprits.  The filing of cases and the issuance of arrest warrants would serve as a warning as well as a preventive measure for any attempt to abuse and misuse public funds.

PNoy has been enjoying an upward momentum for the last three years because of his anti-corruption campaign.  With the expose on the Pork Barrel Scam, this momentum could reverse to downhill if PNoy makes the wrong moves.

PNoy might want to take a clue from the Washington Redskins football strategy in winning 3 Super Bowl Championships in a decade.  Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs strengthened the offensive line that ironically called themselves the Redskins Hogs (male pigs) to have a very effective running game.  He had starting tackles Joe Jacoby and George Starke, guards Russ Grimm and Mark May, center Jeff Bostic, and tight ends Don Warren and Rick Walker.

 The best defense is a good offense.   PNoy currently has a very good offensive line.  Composed of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, COA Chairperson Grace Pulido Tan, BIR Commissioner Kim Henares, and SEC Chair Teresita J. Herbosa, they must be provided with all the resources (human, material, logistical, and financial) to effectively function in a speedy manner.  They are an all female winning team but as Ninoy Aquino would say, “each has the heart of a lion.” In the case of de Lima, RED LION!

I have no doubt that, if the evidence warrants, Ombudsman Morales and DOJ Secretary de Lima would not hesitate and, without fear, to include even Senators, Congressmen and other high officials in any charge.

Who knows, PNoy through these women of courage might be able to do what several presidents have failed to do – criminally charge and imprison the son of Marcos and Enrile who illegally imprisoned Ninoy Aquino during Martial Law and whose assassination we commemorate on August 21

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

My Links to The Washington Post and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos

“If you don’t get it, you just don’t get it.” - The Washington Post.

“Jeff Bezos got it!  In fact, he totally got it.” - my barber.

The latest news that shocked Washington, D.C. is the sale of The Washington Post paper by the Graham family to Amazon’s founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jeff Bezos.

How will the change of ownership affect the paper itself, its employees, and its current policies and character as the provider of local, national, and international news?  Will it continue its role as a mover and shaker as it universalizes local knowledge and localizes universal knowledge?


My barber always hears this at the barbershop, “Nothing happens in the world without the knowledge or some influence, directly or indirectly, of Washington, DC”  

This explains the fact that almost all countries, especially the developing ones are represented in the Capital.  This is either through their embassies or even through law, lobby and PR firms who aggressively advocate for their causes.  So are non-government organizations, trade and business associations, religious, educational, and charitable institutions, large and multinational companies, and of course, political constituents.  Through them causes become known and debated on!

For academic and professional researchers, Washington, D.C. is always the place to go.  The Library of Congress has a copy of almost every book, fiction or non-fiction on earth.  The country desks at the State and Commerce departments give you access to information (demographics, economic, political, etc.) for every country.  For more details, the CIA makes the non-confidential data available to the public.  Of course stored and hidden, but retrievable when necessary, data collected by the National Security Agency (NSA) abroad and locally, affirms the overwhelming reach of Washington.


Every active player mentioned above could not have survived Washington without being affected by the indisputable influence of The Washington Post.  Either as subscriber, reader or most specifically, a recipient of what the paper provides namely: local, national, and international news, facts, and views.  It covers almost every field of endeavor – science, art, sports, entertainment, politics, business, and many more.

In fact, even passive players including residents have been and continue to be touched by the paper to their dying day depending on what Jeff Bezos would eventually do.

Personally, I did have exposure and links to The Washington Post.  It goes as far as when I was one of 6 among 2,882 American Field Service scholars from 59 countries gathered in Washington, who was interviewed by the paper.  It landed on Page A11 of the paper on July 19, 1964.

Then, in 1977 after my family and I escaped from the Marcos dictatorship, we came to Washington, D.C. recognized as “political refugees” both by the United Nations and the United States.  The Washington Post published our experience after an interview.

In the early 1980s Ferdinand Marcos had a U.S. State visit.  Working with The Washington Post we exposed two things on Marcos after extensive research.  First, was Marcos’ excessive spending during the visit.  David Valderrama worked with me in providing data to Donnie Radcliff of The Washington Post.  The paper published it during the visit.  The exposure helped propel Valderrama to become the first Filipino elected State official in mainland USA.  A top hotel executive who was introduced to us by the late Ninoy Aquino also helped us in obtaining accurate figures.

Second, was the exposure of Marcos’ Fake Medals.  A research team led by then Colonel Boni Gillego provided leads and testimonies of living Marcos’ commanding officers belying Marcos’ claims of heroism to John Sharkey of The Washington Post.  Ninoy Aquino and I signed as witnesses to the affidavits of the guerilla commanders. The latter’s article was also published during the State visit.  

In the early 1990s, The Washington Post Company was granted pioneer status to operate a wireless technology called Personal Communications Systems (PCS).  In the same period, I was able to negotiate a joint venture deal between SysCom of Silicon Valley, California and RCPI (Radio Communications of the Philippine Islands).  The latter was the largest telegraph company in the country while the former had a patented technology to transfer digitally telegrams, messages or mails several times faster than what RCPI was using then.  

Through my sister-in-law, Ria Manglapus who was with The Washington Post arranged for me to meet with the Vice-President of the Post company.  I proposed that the company join us in the Philippines to introduce its PCS wireless technology and operate a cellular phone business.  I offered the universal telecom franchise of RCPI.  Despite its initial interest, the Post decided not to do it.

In May 1999, JMS (James Martin Systems) Worldwide, Inc., an IT company and a wireless communications consulting firm hired me as a Project Manager.  JMS, which was named after James Martin, the grandfather of information technology, was partly owned by The Washington Post.  When I successfully landed a big contract on Y2K Contingency Planning in the Philippines, I was named Country Manager.  While we were there, we developed the Emergency Communications Network (ECN) and proposed the concept of a Philippine Rural Interconnection Development Enterprise (PRIDE) - a national broadband network.  I also called it the Rural “Electronification” Program.


After the EDSA Revolution, the digital revolution was concurrently moving at an exponential pace.  I wanted to take advantage of both revolutions by establishing operations in the Philippines.  I did not only introduce the new digital messaging and wireless voice technologies but digital sales and marketing concepts that proved successful by other companies later on.

First, I set-up a company called DivisoriaMarket.com.  The idea was to make accessible and available locally, nationally, and to the world products sold at Divisoria market at bargain prices.  Then, I negotiated a joint venture with the Alemar’s Bookstore to sell their books and other products online.  The venture included the sourcing of all our supplies from a trader in Divisoria.

This sounds like the business model of Jeff Bezos’ Amazon.com, right?  I went further.  I went into electronic publishing.  I procured the license to manufacture and exclusively distribute in the Philippines. Franklin’s eBookMan.  This is a device that combined the features of electronic organizer, eBook reader, MP3 player, Audio Book player, Voice recorder and others depending on the apps.

Given the eBook technologies we created eBooks and eLibraries for sale online and offline..  We called them “library in your pocket” and the law libraries as “law on the go”.   We jokingly told law students or lawyers, “you can now take the law in your own hands.”

Later on, Amazon.com bought Franklin’s eBook technology and the eBookMan became Kindle.  The rest is history!   Jeff Bezos is now a multi-billionaire spending 1% of his wealth to buy The Washington Post.

On my part, unfortunate and unavoidable circumstances prevented a successful outcome for my business model.  But as my father would say, “no such things as failure, only suspended success.”

What would be the direction of The Washington Post?  Bezos’ letter to the employees should give an indication.   He says, “The values of The Post do not need changing. The paper’s duty will remain to its readers and not to the private interests of owners.”

When a dissatisfied customer of the paper wrote to Bezos, “Thank god you’re getting involved, you understand customer services,” the latter immediately responded, “Thank you for your input.  Keep your ideas coming.”

We might see more space allotted to Letters to the Editor in both offline and online versions and an increase of Bloggers in the online edition – not unlike the comments, ratings and reviews in Amazon.com.