Wake Up, Philippines!

QC councilors are squatter coddlers

Posted in Laws, LGUs, Poverty, Social Issues/Concerns, Social Reform, Squatting by Erineus on February 2, 2009

WHAT is this? The Quezon City Council has proposed an ordinance declaring a moratorium on the eviction of squatters in the city “until there are enough relocation sites for affected families.” That means squatters from all over the Philippines, professional squatters or otherwise, will flock to Quezon City because here councilors coddle squatters. QC is already known as the “squatter capital of the Philippines.” It has the most number of squatters and it has the biggest squatter colonies. The new QC ordinance will make the city named after President Manuel Quezon the “squatter capital of the world.” I think this is the QC Council’s gimmick to gain entry to the Guinness Book of World Records.

Why are the councilors doing this? Simple. Next year is election year and squatters are voters. And politicians will do anything, even sell their own mothers, to get votes.

It won’t only be the squatters already in place who would vote for the councilors who passed the ordinance but also the new squatters from other parts of Metro Manila and the Philippines. So you see, the incumbent councilors would have the advantage over all other candidates because of the squatter votes. The ordinance, the councilors would say, is for humane considerations. But it is actually in aid of political considerations.

The presiding officer of the QC Council is Vice Mayor Herbert Bautista. Herbert is the heir apparent of Mayor Sonny Belmonte and is expected to be the next QC mayor, there being no announced aspirants except Rep. Mary Ann Susano of the second district. But if this is the way the QC Council is performing under him, then it bodes ill for the city. How can Herbert and the councilors have the temerity to ask the people of Quezon City to vote for them when they are selling them, the taxpayers, down the river?

The taxpayers, the homeowners and businessmen, have made QC the richest city in the Philippines, richer than Makati with its high-rise condos and even higher real estate prices. Thanks to these taxpayers, QC has more than P3 billion in the bank—and growing. Think of the commissions the grateful banks give to those who decide where to deposit the funds.

Where does the money go? The government spends it for the millions of squatters in the city who do not pay taxes at all. And for the councilors. Those useless tarpaulins polluting the city, greeting GMA and INC Bishop Eraño Manalo happy birthday, congratulating graduating students, wishing “happy valentine” and “happy fiesta” to nobody in particular—they were all paid with the taxes you paid. And all for what? To remind the voters of the names and faces of the councilors.

Those basketball courts and pool halls in the squatter colonies—they were paid with your money. Those concrete semi-arches with the names of the councilors etched in stone like the Ten Commandments at the boundaries of each barangay—they were paid with your taxes. Those unnecessary waiting sheds (unnecessary because the Metro Manila Development Authority is already putting up better waiting sheds) with the names of councilors painted in big bold letters on them—they were all paid with your taxes.

What do you, the taxpayers, get in return for the taxes you pay? Nothing. You would expect the city government to at least help you reclaim your property from the squatters because you are a taxpayer and they are not. (They use up your taxes instead.) But does the city government help you? Are you kidding? I have been trying to get the QC government to recover my lot from squatters since the time of Mayor Adelina Rodriguez. Did any of the mayors help? Ha ha ha. If they did, why are the squatters still there and I am still here looking from the outside?

What do the councilors do to help the homeowners? Help the homeowners? On the contrary, they pass ordinances increasing the real estate taxes for lots squatted on. The owners pay those taxes, not the squatters who use the lots. They may pass more ordinances prohibiting the ejectment of squatters.

Can the councilors pass an ordinance overturning the rights of ownership? Can the council prevent lot owners from ejecting squatters from their properties by the mere passage of an ordinance? Can the council prevent the city government or the MMDA from performing their duties of ejecting squatters and restoring law and order? Of course they cannot, but why do they try to block the enforcement of laws? Because of votes.

When there is a squatter demolition in any part of the metropolis, who are the first to show up to stop the law enforcers from doing their duty? The councilors—and the congressmen, especially Rep. Bingbong Crisologo. They will berate the law enforcers and play up to the squatters, not realizing that they are actually guilty of obstruction of justice. Because of votes. Votes are actually more powerful than the law or justice. Politicians will beg, steal or borrow, sell their own mothers and violate the laws in exchange for votes.

What can we taxpayers do? Well, aside from a tax revolt, the best way is the ballot. Do not vote for the squatter coddlers. If a councilor or congressman tries to stop a demolition, remember his name and don’t vote for him in next year’s election. Vote for his rival, whoever he is, so long as he is not a squatter coddler himself. Don’t vote for the politicians whose tarpaulins you see polluting the city. They are stealing your taxes to pay for those tarpaulins. Don’t vote for politicians whose names you see painted on waiting sheds. They did not pay for those waiting sheds. You did. Don’t vote for politicians whose names you see on the backboards of basketball goals erected in the middle of streets so that squatters can play basketball, instead of working, and preventing the public from using the street.

Don’t vote for squatter coddlers. By the way, the author of the proposed ordinance granting a moratorium on the eviction of squatters is Councilor Bernadette Herrera-Dy.

By Neal Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:16:00 02/02/2009

Fighting poverty: The missing element

Posted in Poverty, Tips by Erineus on February 2, 2009

FOR YEARS, I HAVE ENDED MY speeches and public presentations to every new audience with a challenge for each of them to help at least one poor family get out of poverty. I call attention to the current official poverty incidence figure of 26.9 percent (as of 2006), which means roughly one out of every four Filipino families is poor. I then point out that this also implies that three out of four are not poor. Thus, to wipe out poverty, we need only one in every three nonpoor Filipino families to care enough to help one poor family get out of poverty. Perhaps, I surmise, if we take our efforts to combat poverty to this individual (“micro”) level of caring and sharing, we could be much more successful at reducing poverty in our midst, as against the more grandiose macro-level programs that government is known for.

Macro interventions

What would it take to help lift a poor family out of poverty? We all know the saying attributed to the Chinese philosopher Confucius: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

Outright dole-outs, of the kind government has lately been handing out a lot of, are clearly merely palliative and will not reduce poverty in the long run. Thus, we’ve also seen a plethora of poverty reduction programs that attempt to provide the things expected to make a long-term difference: Improved education and health services, microfinance and livelihood assistance, housing, safe water and sanitation, and so on. These things have figured in the government plans, programs and annual budgets for decades, and yet widespread poverty has persisted, and reducing poverty has remained the country’s foremost challenge. Indeed, poverty actually worsened since 2003, even in the face of supposedly record economic growth—proving that unqualified economic growth does not necessarily provide the solution either.

Teaching to fish

On a micro level, what would a willing family need to do to “teach another family to fish?” The late Sen. Raul Roco used to profess that having at least one college graduate in a family would surely get it out of poverty, and thus stressed the critical importance of widely accessible education up to the tertiary level. For those who can afford it, a concrete way of helping, then, is to support a promising child of the family through school all the way to the tertiary level, whether college or vocational/technical training as appropriate. My own father has done so almost all of his professional life and on through his retirement, and has reaped the satisfaction of seeing his successful protégés uplift their lives and their families’ well-being and standard of living.

Gawad Kalinga sees decent housing as the critical entry point. Founder Tony Meloto espouses the conviction that once you give poor people middle-class surroundings, they begin to have middle-class dreams. Indeed, the barrier often keeping many of the poor from uplifting their lives is their own selves, when they keep their aspirations low. A foreign colleague told me of a conversation he had with the young son of his Filipino driver, who, when asked what he hoped to be when he grew up, unhesitatingly replied that he wanted to be a driver just like his father. No wonder, my colleague remarked, that too many Filipinos remain poor.

Still another concrete way of helping is to equip a poor family with the means (including skills, values and financial capital) to start and sustain a livelihood enterprise. But time and again, government and nongovernment organizations get a mixed record of success when they try to do this en masse for groups of beneficiaries. My own sense is that such assistance will more likely achieve lasting outcomes when there is a one-to-one nurturing relationship involved, such as what a personal family-to-family hand-holding involvement would provide.

Sharing the Cross

This kind of direct involvement, to my mind, is key. We tend to focus on the receiver and overlook the giver. People who care and are willing to share find greater meaning in their sharing when they are able to somehow share in the pain and suffering of those whom they help. True sharing, in other words, goes both ways. I’m convinced that this is the ingredient that has made Gawad Kalinga catch fire not only in the Philippines but overseas as well. When people are urged to spend weekends enduring pain and strain by literally helping build homes alongside those who will receive them, sharing is brought to a totally different level from simply writing out a check to one’s favored charity. Giving a scholarship directly to one’s chosen poor child and taking a direct concern and involvement in his/her progress through the years is quite different from sending a regular contribution to a scholarship-granting foundation. An entrepreneurial family that hand-holds a poor family into starting and growing an enterprise of their own finds greater meaning in sharing than just pledging a portion of their profits to a livelihood development NGO.

When a disaster-based organization I am part of sought to draw Christian churches into our cause by asking each church to donate a target sum, I suggested that they go beyond that by urging the church members to actually come to our beneficiary sites in Albay, Infanta and Aurora. That way, they could share first hand in the pain of those whose lives they are helping rebuild. Only then do we Christians truly partake of the Cross of Jesus Christ, which is the true meaning of caring and sharing in Christian love. This, to my mind, could very well be the missing element in our poverty reduction efforts all these years.

Comments welcome at chabito@ateneo.edu.

By Cielito Habito
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:09:00 02/01/2009

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.

If you ask me, THAT’S TOO MUCH TO PAY FOR FREE LUNCH!!!


Author: Jun S. Aguilar
Date: March 12, 2004
Link:
http://www.samarnews.com/Insight/insight5.htm

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Cost of corruption

Posted in Editorial, Graft and Corruption, Poverty by Erineus on February 1, 2009

The failed attempt of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration to prevent Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr., former president of Philippine Forest Corp., from testifying on the $329-million National Broadband Network project has once again focused public attention on the perennial problem of corruption.

Graft and corruption has been a fact of national life since post-Liberation days. Almost every administration has had its big and sensational graft cases. At every presidential election, one major issue that is always raised is graft and corruption. Opposition leaders denounce the graft being committed by the administration, but once they take over the reins of government, they also commit graft. It’s just a case of different sets of people pigging out at the trough that is the national treasury at different times.

Economist Alejandro Lichauco has said the Philippines is perennially in crisis because of “the mortal mix of corruption and poverty and a consequent loss of popular confidence in government and the electoral process as instruments of change.” The fatal mix, he said, is poverty so massive and so intense as to have degenerated into a problem of mass hunger, and corruption that is as massive as the massive poverty. A deadly mix, indeed, that is killing tens of thousands of people.

Starting with the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship, the Philippine crisis has been characterized not only by corruption and poverty but also by human rights abuses and a culture of impunity. Bruce Van Voorhis, a member of the Asian Human Rights Commission, said that these aspects of the life of the nation are linked: “People are poor to a large extent because of widespread corruption; those who wield political power violate people’s rights to attain and maintain that power; a lack of judicial punishment in the courts ensures impunity that permits corruption and human rights violations to continue. The cycle has sadly repeated itself for years.”

Corruption retards economic and social development, lowers the quality of public services and infrastructure and raises the prices of goods and services. In all these aspects, it is the poor who suffer the most because they cannot avail themselves, for instance, of the services of private doctors and hospitals or buy expensive goods. In some cases, corruption literally kills: for instance, a ship sinks and hundreds of people die because a coast guard officer was bribed to allow the overloaded, non-seaworthy vessel to leave port.

In 2000, the World Bank estimated that the Philippines had lost $48 billion (P1.968 trillion) to corruption from 1977 to 1997. Think how many kilometers of roads and bridges and how many schoolhouses and hospitals that money could have built. Think of the other public infrastructure and public services that could have been improved with that kind of money. But all that public money went into the private pockets of corrupt, greedy government officials.

Graft and corruption flourishes because of the culture of impunity. Have you heard of any big fish being convicted of corruption and plunder, except deposed president Joseph Estrada? Yes, Estrada was convicted of plunder, but he did not spend even a day in a real prison. Only six weeks after his conviction, he was pardoned by President Arroyo. Was that any way to set an example for the other grafters in government and to would-be grafters and plunderers?

And so the graft and corruption continues. But from time to time a ray of light pierces the darkness and gives the nation hope that we might yet be able to start punishing the grafters. Such a ray was Lozada, whose courageous and forthright testimony at the Senate may yet save the nation from the grip of scandalous, graft-ridden deals.

But whistleblowers like Lozada cannot, just by themselves, ensure a successful campaign against corruption. Graft and corruption has become so ingrained in the national life that it is considered “normal.” Even people like Lozada are ready to consider a 20-percent “commission” on government deals acceptable. But that should not be acceptable. A 20-percent “commission” is an illegal and immoral “tax” on a poor and overburdened people. They have to realize this, watch every government transaction that may be tainted with graft, and denounce officials who are stealing taxpayers’ money — their money.

Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer
Date: First Posted 00:43:00 02/12/2008