Wake Up, Philippines!

Abu Sayyaf turning Mindanao into a wasteland

Posted in Crime, Kidnapping, Killing/Murder, Laws, Mindanao by Erineus on March 6, 2009

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:10:00 03/05/2009

I think the appeal of the Commission on Human Rights to the Abu Sayyaf to free the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) volunteers serves no purpose at this point. Diplomacy is strange to the Abu Sayyaf bandits, who behead their captives without any “introductory statement.” The very fact that the bandits targeted neutral volunteers who have selflessly given their time and energy to help the marginalized sectors of Philippine society is a clear indication that they have no respect for the Red Cross symbol and everything it represents.

Already, very few volunteers and NGOs operate in the provinces of Basilan and Sulu; and the plight of the three ICRC workers tells us what happens to those who do. After this, who else would want to serve these beautiful but terror-laden islands of Mindanao? The remaining teachers of Landang Gua in Zamboanga are already deserting their school, fearing that what happened to their co-teachers could readily happen to them. What will become of the students they leave behind? But can we really blame them? While already facing many challenges, the price of their dedicated service is very steep — their personal safety. People who seek to serve humbly and honestly do not deserve this kind of treatment.

I believe that, at this point, the much-opposed “military solution” is the best remedy against the abysmally violent Abu Sayyaf. Giving the Abu Sayyaf (through negotiations) just a hint of a possible ransom payment for the hostages’ release would only encourage its members and those who idolize them to engage in kidnapping as a profitable vocation.

Of course, this means that the Armed Forces of the Philippines should perfectly execute its rescue mission. We certainly do not need another “Martin Burnham” here. Then after this crisis, perhaps the government can focus on development efforts to reduce the “appeal” of the Abu Sayyaf’s banditry.

I don’t want to watch or hear any more stories of kidnappings and beheadings. And, I believe, so do the rest of the Filipino people. But for this to happen, every single Abu Sayyaf bandit must be hunted down. We should never allow the Abu Sayyaf to turn the culturally diverse and naturally rich island of Mindanao into a wasteland.

FRANCIS ERIC ALABA, 437-A Bayabas Extension, Punta Princesa, Cebu City


How much does it cost to kill a man?

Posted in Crime, Killing/Murder, Wars by Erineus on February 24, 2009

How much does it cost to kill a man? The late Bishop Fulton Sheen posed this question during a replayed 1968 episode of his internationally followed television series.

In the 1960s, Catholic schools used to assign pupils to watch Bishop Sheen’s TV show as homework. As a kid, I would have protested such homework which interferes with viewing my favorite programs.

Ironically, I find myself viewing Bishop Sheen replays these days on the two Catholic Cable TV Networks, EWTN and Familyland Network. It is not for the preaching of Catholic dogma that glues me to Bishop Sheen replays whenever I happen to chance upon it. It is for the timeless values he talked about in his show.

I was never keen on dogma, rituals and ceremonies that we see too much in the Catholic Church. Many times, I have called the Church hierarchy to task for being too “ceremonious” like the Pharisees Jesus Christ used to denounce and I’ve suggested to them to be more involved with the communities, especially the poorest of the poor.

I have always espoused that Filipinos need to overhaul their values if they are to move forward. This should be one of the top priorities of the Catholic Church — to help reform the values of the poor that conspire to keep them trapped in their station in life.

“How much does it cost to kill a man?” Bishop Sheen asked in that 1968 telecast. He proceeded to list the facts and figures that painted a grim picture of the destructive tendencies of man which, from Cain and Abel and up to this day and age, continue to be the darkest side of mankind.

Bishop Sheen explained that it needed Cain a mere branch of a tree to kill Abel. From this first murder (according to Christian faith), the concept of weaponry evolved — the sword, the arrow and the spear. Bishop Sheen presented what it cost warriors (based on 1968 value of money) through the centuries to kill their fellow man.

For Julius Caesar, it cost an estimated 75 cents. For Napoleon, to kill a man cost him US$700. In World War I, despite the existence of the capacity for wholesale killing, Bishop Sheen said it averaged to $21,000. In World War II, where more nations were involved and where even more deaths occurred, the cost to kill a man averaged $200,000. As of 1968 when the telecast was done, the US spent $1 million an hour in the Vietnam War, according to Bishop Sheen.

Of course, the cost in money terms is one aspect — the least mankind should be concerned with. Money can be recovered but not human lives. The toll in human lives and human misery must never be accepted as collateral for war.

But what mankind should worry about is the tracked tendency to engage in war even when times have improved in terms of economic standard of living, health and education. In many cases, of course, the more developed country adopts an imperial inclination and decides to make vassal States of the weak ones.

Bishop Sheen cited several periods of peace between wars that became shorter and shorter. Between the Napoleonic Wars and the Franco-Prussian War, Bishop Sheen said that there was an interval of 55 years. Between the Franco-Prussian War and World War I, there was a shorter interval of 43 years. Between World War I and World War II, the interval was only 21 years. Progress, it appears, increases instead of decreases the likelihood and incidence of war.

In the case of two European powers, Great Britain went to war 76 times during the last 100 years (note that reference point here is 1968). France went to war during the last 100 years — 16 times. Of course, after Napoleon, France became less imperial.

In 2007, US President George W. Bush asked for a Defense Appropriation of $493 billion, a 7% increase from that of 2006. At its height, the US spent an average of $40 billion a month in the Iraq invasion. These are monies that could easily go to health care, a thorny issue during the recently concluded US presidential election.

Let’s not go far from home. Over here, Dictator Ferdinand Marcos sent his First Lady, Imelda Marcos, to charm Muammar Khaddafi in Libya in order to seek a resolution to the Mindanao War. Marcos realized that the cost of the war could destabilize his martial law regime. The Tripoli Agreement resulted in that trip of Imelda Marcos and we had peace, albeit temporary.

If wide scale hostilities erupt anew in Mindanao, the Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo regime will find it extremely difficult to cope with the cost of a full scale war in addition to the economic crisis we are already encountering. A full scale Mindanao War could undo her just as World War I brought the end of the Romanov Tsars in Russia.

The sum of Bishop Sheen’s presentation is the dark side of man that is focused on using technology for things that can kill better and faster instead of using technology and resources to foster peace, harmony and development. After all, prosperity and development is the best insurance that a nation will not go to war.

Normally, a nation that is enjoying prosperity and peace will not willingly want to go to war. Japan today, an aggressor in World War II, is the best proof of that. The only reason why Japan is now rearming is because of signs of the US weakening and the looming threat of North Korea and China — both being Japan’s enemies in the past.

War as an instrument of foreign policy is too unpredictable. Who would imagine that a superpower like the US will run away from Vietnam with its tail between its legs? On the other hand, look at what the Great Depression created — the dawn of Fascist regimes in Spain, Italy and Germany under Franco, Mussolini and Hitler, respectively. Look at the casualties and devastated cities of Hitler’s World War II.

Invariably, the extreme income disparity in a society where many are miserably poor and too few are filthy rich proves to be the best promoter of conflict. A strong man emerges when there is a down trodden class in society, a big brother who promises to spread the wealth.

This is the reason why up to now we have not resolved our issues with our Communist rebels. Nothing promotes the ideas of Karl Marx better than a Wealth Gap such as the one that festers in our society.

* * *

Chair   Wrecker   e-mail   and   web site: macesposo@yahoo.com and www.chairwrecker.com
View previous articles of this column.

By William M. Esposo

Updated November 16, 2008 12:00 AM

Easy Money

Posted in Crime, Gambling, Graft and Corruption, Poverty by Erineus on February 3, 2009

By Michael Tan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 11:38:00 01/15/2009

Filed Under: Graft & Corruption, Crime, Poverty, Gaming & Lotteries, Investments

DRIVE around the streets of the Metro and once you see a line, you immediately know it’s people queuing for lotto tickets. And with some 2,000 said to have joined the Lotto Millionaires Club, with winnings ranging from P3 million to P249 million, the number of hopeful lotto buyers will continue to grow.

Do the thriving lotto sales reflect a Filipino tendency to look for an easy way to wealth? Only partially, and I’d say this happens all over the world. People do have a weakness for lotteries, and governments have cashed in, setting up sweepstakes and lottos, with the proceeds purportedly going to charity to calm down people who see this as a form of gambling.

Dreams of instant wealth are shared across cultures, hich is why, besides the lotteries, we have all kinds of swindlers and scam artists offering untold riches from magic boxes (“Put money in this box and I will multiply it for you.”) to pyramid schemes. What does vary is the intensity of these aspirations, and the kind of scams peddled.

In the Philippines, we have a tendency to think of the poor as the most gullible, and attribute this to indolence. But look hard enough and you’ll realize that there really isn’t that much for con artists to take from the poor in the first place. Smart swindlers target the gullible among the middle and upper classes.

If Filipinos often talk about hopes for easy money and instant wealth, it’s because people do have to work so hard in the Philippines, and get so very little. Yet Filipinos also see others who get rich quickly with relatively little effort, so they begin to ask, “Why can’t I do that too?”

Foremost reason for the instant wealth, of course, is corruption. Ask young men from lower or even middle-class families what their dream job is, and they’d most likely answer, “police” or “customs inspector.” Probe a bit more and they will be quite candid in saying “that’s where the easy money is.”

Talk with business people handling government contracts and you’ll encounter two extremes. The honest ones will be talking about how exasperating it can be to chase after government payments, with very small profit margins. Talk with the “smart” ones and they’ll tell you all it takes is one major contract to make money enough to last you a lifetime, as long as you play the game right with commissions—your own as well as the host politicians. And these commissions—as we have been seeing in recent exposés in the Senate—make the lotto multi-million peso winnings look like loose change.

Easy money? Only for those on top of these syndicates. Profits trickle down. Just look at the well-documented jueteng (numbers game) industry showing how huge election spending can be funded by jueteng, while the kubrador or small collectors live in poverty.

Let’s move out of the area of graft and corruption and look at the private sector where get-rich activities thrive as well, often legally. The other day I was driving in one of the side streets of Quezon Boulevard and saw a large sign in front of one of the clubs, offering “up to P100,000 a month” to “attractive ladies.” Some overseas recruitment agencies also lure applicants with these amazing salary offers.

But most promises of instant money involve marketing. There are so many pyramid marketing schemes offering people a chance to earn lots of money selling everything from cosmetics to water purifiers. Initially, the schemes work because you’re able to sell to relatives, friends and neighbors, until you realize there’s a limit to the people in your network. The quick profits evaporate, eventually eating into the capital and people end up the poorer for it, sometimes with over-priced merchandise no one wants to buy.

The last five years or so have also featured another kind of easy money made available to the upper class: giant financial investment schemes in stocks and government bonds, brokered by banks. People were raking in up to 60 percent of their investment within a year, not doing anything except investing in the funds. Word spread and even little old grandmothers eventually began to play the game.

There were some warning signs about two or three years ago when investments began to falter, but the markets recovered… until this year. It turns out now that there was much speculation going on, foreign investors playing with our stock markets and our financial institutions, then withdrawing when the going got bad. The global financial crisis, we know now, came about in part because of all this speculation.

If anything good is going to come out of this global crisis, it might be a sobering of our aspirations, and a return to the old adage about easy money being suspicious money. Radical changes are going to come around the next year, as governments try to clean up capitalism. Meanwhile, lotto sales will remain brisk, maybe even picking up, with buyers taking things philosophically. Because in a way, they shrug, you always win. If you lose, well, the loss can still be seen as a donation to charity.

Counting the cost of corruption in the Philippines

“…Elections are like a sponge, it sucks up all the money, most of it from corruption.”

Among the very first lessons in business is that “THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH”. Somebody is bound to pay, Always. Especially when it comes to corruption. So how does corruption get to us? Let’s count the ways.

1. Loss of Government Revenue

The first victim of corruption is government revenue. In a developing economy like the Philippines, this can be extremely debilitating. The continuing budgetary deficit of the government results into cutbacks in expenditures for much needed social services.

2. Education

The gap of classrooms in public elementary schools is estimated to be about 40,000 this coming school year. The case is even more pathetic, as the lack of qualified teachers further confound the problems. While student population keeps on growing year after year, these gaps in classroom, books and teachers is widening. What do these lead to? Poor quality education of the future citizens of the Republic further undermining their prospects of contributing to nation building. THAT IS A VERY HIGH PRICE TO PAY FOR CORRUPTION.

3. Infrastructure

With tightening sources of funding for infrastructure development, government has to resort to partnership with the private sector. A public good like roads, bridges, ports and airports will necessarily be charging user fees to be able to earn profit and recover capital. Nothing wrong with because he who benefits should share the cost. But a lot of these projects require performance undertaking from the government to be financiable to lenders. This results into the contingent liabilities of the national government burgeoning the levels no one wants to even find out. Remember the NAIA III Terminal? an edifice that can’t be operated until now. The MACAPAGAL BOULEVARD which can easily enter the Guiness Book as the world’s most expensive boulevard? THE SMOKEY MOUNTAIN PROJECT where almost a billion of OFW’s money was invested and has not been repaid until now? Last count in 2003, it stood to over P500 Billion. That’s about over 30,000 pesos per household. THAT IS NO LOOSE CHANGE TO PAY FOR CORRUPTION.

4. Environment

Because government resources are constrained, environment protection programs are neglected. We passed the Clean Air Act and yet we cannot put our acts together in ensuring clean air. The law is toothless because the government has no money to invest in monitoring equipment. Even garbage it cannot collect. Remember the PAYATAS TRAGEDY? Meanwhile, to be able to generate power and run our heavy industries, less desirable Plants are allowed to be established. ASK THE PEOPLE from CALACA, BATANGAS, PAGBILAO QUEZON, and SUAL PANGASINAN, all sites of COAL FIRED POWER PLANTS that contribute to withdrawals from our deposit of breathable air, potable water and liveable communities. The resource balance of our children’s future is rapidly depleting, A COST OF CORRUPTION THAT WE MAY NEVER BE ABLE TO ACCOUNT FOR.

5. Government Debt and Poverty

Again due to budget deficit, government keeps on accumulating debt, which at end of 2003 stood at over 2.4 trillion pesos. That’s over 30,000 pesos for every Filipino man, woman and child. At an average interest cost of 10% per year for both short and long term loans, that is equivalent to a staggering P240 Billion in interest payment alone every year. That’s the amount of money taken away form the mouth of the poor, who account to more than half of the Philippine population. TURNING OUR BACKS FROM OUR MARGINALIZED CITIZEN IS A STEEP PRICE TO PAY FOR CORRUPTION.

6. Political Patronage

Corruption doesn’t prosper without protection. Those who practice realize that to keep themselves in their lucrative posts, somebody politically powerful should be able to stop any attempts to cut him from illicit money flow. In return, he lavishes his patrons with gifts. Gifts in no small terms, which further corrupt him and his patron. His patron, in order to accumulate more gifts has to increase his influence. To increase his influence, he needs to milk his corrupt benefactors. And it goes on deeper and deeper.

Elections are like a sponge, it sucks up all the money, most of it from corruption. Election in the Philippines are nothing but patronage politics. How else does one explain the millions spent in a campaign in exchange for a few measly thousand pesos in the salary of a public servant? There is only one explanation I have, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH, SOMEONE IS BOUND TO PAY FOR IT.

How do campaign contributors expect to recover their investments? In the form of political protection to allow them to continue with their illegal activities. In the form of rigged government contracts. In the form of economic rents taxpayers eventually pay for.

7. Crime

Corruption corrupts and the deeper one gets into the mire, the more desperate one becomes in defending the well from where he draws his booty. He will be prepared to use trick, treat and threats to keep his business. And since corruption, like stale food attract flies and worms, criminal syndicates are not very far from them. So do their violent means of doing business.

The problem with the proliferation of illegal drugs can be linked solidly to corruption. How else do drug lords and pushers do their business under the noses of law enforcers and local government officials except that they pay-off this public servants or work in cahoots with them. Remember Mayor Mitra of Quezon Province? He was caught red handed transporting a ton of shabu using the town ambulance.

This social ill has led to the commission of many a heinous crime is prospering and multiplying in every Barangay of this country because of corruption. RAPES, MURDERS, and KIDNAPPING FOR RANSOM ARE TOO MUCH TO PAY FOR CORRUPTION.

8. High Cost of Doing Business

It is sometimes beyond our imagination for a businessman to spend three full days in the crowded city hall of a highly urbanized city trying to get a business license. And he was just going to buy and sell eggs. How much more if he wants to operate a industrial project. If there are 20 government offices he needs to go through for various permits, licenses, certificates, approvals and signatures, he needs an entire army of fixers to handle them. Precious hours are lost among senior officers of the firm who have to wine and dine to the whims and caprices of government officials. Remember the stinking IMPSA and PIATCO deals?

Those companies whose code of conduct does not permit them to provide bribes and pseudo-bribes end up spending tons of money just to end up deciding to leave the country in exasperation.

On the other hand, many of those who stay to do business have gotten used to government people scratching their heads as they show up in their offices asking for all sorts of gifts for every known relatives of a mayor, congressman, senator, department secretary, bureau director or chief of police. What does the businessman do? He just passes on to his customers this extra cost incurred in doing business in the Philippines. Remember the Power Purchase Adjustment (PPA)? This is one bloody scheme that sucks us dry!!!

9. Loss of Investor Confidence

As Judge W.H. Heath said, if we cannot manage our money and assets, how can we be expected to manage other people’s money? Investors demand that there be a reasonable level of assurance that they will get their investment back. That their investment will in fact make money. And that it will not be taken over by political forces.

It becomes extremely challenging to attract investors to do business in a country where a fugitive from the FBI and convicted pedophile gets elected in Congress. Or where tax evasion case with very clear outcomes is lost to technicalities.

Multilateral donors find it hard to give us loans and technical assistance grants when they know that a large portion of their money will be used to line up the stomachs of politicians. They will have to invest in additional personnel, incur additional costs just to watch us spend their money. Every time we submit receipts they spend thrice the time just verifying whether they are genuine or not. This is the only country in the world whose AUTHENTIC DOCUMENTS (as declared and sealed from Malacanang) has one year expiry date. Believe me it can be tiring to do these things.

When many in the International community considers your country as corrupt, it does not feel good. It does not buy you goodwill. Jeers and sneers YES. But respect? NO!!! Just look at how we PINOYS are treated in foreign airports. Who would forget Senate President DRILON being forced to remove his shoes in a US airport despite showing his Diplomatic Passport. I myself had a very disgusting experience in SCHIPOL airport in the Netherlands (CARLO BUTALID & GRACE CABACTULAN MAY NOT AGREE WITH ME) and at Charles de Gaulle in France. But can we blame them? Of course not. There’s simply too much Pinoys who are going out of the country with spurious documents, escorted and facilitated by no less than BID personnel from NAIA. THAT IS WHAT WIDESPREAD CORRUPTION IS COSTING US.

We have only just began counting the cost of corruption. It cost us the prostitution of our political institutions. We have now hoodlums in uniforms and hoodlums in robes. It costs us many lives and honor lost to crime. It costs us our self respect. And it costs us lost opportunities for a better future of our children.


Author: Jun S. Aguilar
Date: March 12, 2004

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