Friday, October 17, 2008

“New Deal” vs. Raw Deal for Filipinos

The “New Deal” was Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s response to the last Great Depression in 1929. It used state intervention to rein in Big Business and bankers’ greed and stimulate the production side of the economy. It instituted such measure as the Glass-Steagall Act barring banks from investment functions, a law and a regulatory policy eroded during the 1970s when “universal banking”( banking with investment services) was forced on the rest of the world, as well as the Philippines. The US formally repealed the Glass-Steagall Act under Clinton, although Reagan had already begun to erode its application with his deregulation of the US economy. Now the world discovers this deregulation as a “raw deal” and victimized it.

The “raw deal” espouses the diminution of the role of the state and removal of affirmative action for the nation-state in economic activity. It ushered in the rule of the Western financial class which imposed on the world the removal of the state’s tariff protection (globalization); transfer of public utilities and assets to private corporations, removing profit limits and transparency requirements; gave license to speculative and predatory capital flow and speculation on exchange rates. The Philippines is one of the most damaged victims of the “raw deal” of the economic regime of liberalization, deregulation and privatization, thanks to the Cory Aquino-FVR-Arroyo triad’s eager-beaver embrace of the “globalization” of the economy.

It took 125 years in the Philippines for the grave inequities embedded in “raw deal” to surface. Now, the evil of that deal is painfully evident. Even much maligned and autocratic Myanmar has much lower hunger indicators compared to the Philippines, ranking 66 to the Philippines’ 67 in the 2007 Global Hunger Index, while nationalistic Indonesia fares even better at number 56 with a hunger rating of 11.57 compared to 15.8 and 16.23 of Myanmar and the Philippines. Under Arroyo, the height of globalization in the Philippines’ UN Human Development Index rank fell from No. 77 in 2000 to 90 in 2007. Only the obfuscation of Arroyo and her business, academic and government conspirators manage to hide these facts from the people.

The worse from the “raw deal” will come in early 2009, aggravating every month from thereon. The DoLE has admitted it is expecting 50,000 OFWs to lose their jobs and come back home, but we know the government cannot help but understate the figures to stall the outpouring of public rage. With the contracting economies in the OFW hiring economies in the West and the richer countries of Asia, we can definitely expect hundreds of thousands of OFWs to be let go by their employers for the rest of next year. We hate to be the bearer of such bad news, but it is better to know the truth now and prepare for the inevitable than to bury our head in the sand like Gloria Arroyo is doing. This column has consistently been correct in its political-economic projections.

We have been short only in our estimate of the Arroyo regime’s capacity for corrupting the system for survival. She’s exchanged every national treasure, including territory, for clinging to power. For this, the US has preferred to keep the regime on despite its increasing corruption and unpopularity - more averse to the idea of changing horses midstream and accepting some splatter of Arroyo’s scum on Uncle Sam’s shirt sleeves.

The year 2010 is fast approaching and the window for Charter change (Cha-Cha) and the Constituent options is closing. On foreign influence, the US is receding as an economic-political power and its tentacles in the Philippines are growing weak and weary.

One of the pillars of US influence in the Philippines, the AIG, has collapsed; its associated financial organizations and personalities on Ayala Avenue are also waning in power. The time to move against the corrupt regime is soon, but maybe the holiday months would not be conducive. The 2010 elections are also too close and some prefer to wait until then when victory is a forgone conclusion. The 2010 elections are less than two years away and it’s almost certain Gloria can’t pull her Cha-cha off or even the Con-Ass. Besides, a Con-Ass would bring the extra-constitutional action closer to reality and sooner, otherwise it is the 2010 elections.

In 2010, the only real prospect of uniting anti-Gloria forces and winning against the regime’s surrogates will be former President Joseph Estrada - if he decides to run. Whichever the final option for the opposition will be, it is definite that regime change is forthcoming and we better prepare to implement of a new financial-economic paradigm for the country. This is how we should implement the “New Deal for Filipinos”:

Restore political power to the people, rein in the greed of oligarchs and the corporatocracy; review and cut the national debt; re-nationalize the public utilities and strategic state corporations such as Petron and the National Power Corp. generating assets, particularly those from natural sources such as geothermal and hydro; prioritize indigenous energy, as well as rice and milk development and production; impose CEC (currency and exchange control a la Mahathir and Chavez); return to import-substitution and self-reliance economics; quash the foreign subversion in Mindanao and expose the leftist tools of Western imperialism. These would put on this nation on course towards stability, growth and prosperity - a new deal for a new Philippines.

Monday, October 13, 2008


There is a huge battle over Philex and its shares today. That gold mining company’s Board even took out an ad denouncing one of the directors representing government’s shares for demanding pre-emptive rights over its latest impending sale. Gold, as solid as its weight, has become the most prized commodity these days. Alert to global financial and economic trends, and seeking shelter from the turbulent winds that are blowing paper assets like autumn leaves, keen investors are now seeking to convert their soon-to-be completely worthless cash into solid and safe havens of value -- the safest of which is gold. And the only thing that comes close to matching gold in desirability as an investment are shares in gold mining companies that are expected to boom in the near future.

While gold still has a few ups and downs, as major gold hoarders try to coax small holders to release their little stash, the medium- to long-term trend is simply the inverse of how other stocks will be heading south for some time. Just recently, the name of Manny Pangilinan popped up as a quiet, creeping buyer of Philex stocks, paying an attractive premium for its loose shares. The word going around is that the group behind Pangilinan, the Indonesian Salim group, aims to gain over 40 percent of the mining company. Upon hearing this, the new CEO of the Social Security System (SSS), Romulo Neri, protested the sale of that block of Philex shares in view of his agency’s pre-emptive rights as a major stakeholder, owning 19 percent of the company. Not surprisingly, however, other Philex board members didn’t like this.

To ease their woes, they’ve begun to call for Neri’s sacking from the SSS. Yet from every aspect of this controversy, Neri is merely doing the right thing. As he was quoted in newspapers: “According to the country’s corporate law, this preemptive right would be waived only if it is stipulated in the company’s by-laws and ratified by shareholders… This did not happen in this case. If the SSS does not assert this right, then this would set a bad precedent that would put all Philex shareholders at a disadvantage in the future.” He added, “As we have said, we (only) aim to protect the interest of Philex shareholders and SSS members.”

While this controversy could be left to the Philex board and Neri to resolve, it must be stressed that the interest of all SSS members’ in this case is paramount. This early, though, rumor has it that ZTE-point man Jun Lozada will be drafted by “civil society” in the anti-Neri campaign.

As I started to study this, I called ACCESSS, the Alert and Concerned Employees of the SSS and talked to Jun San Andres over the phone Friday morning. Even as its board has yet to convene on the issue, the initial reaction I got was not averse to the actions taken by Neri thus far.

First, the SSS does have pre-emptive rights and Neri’s assertion of that right is only appropriate. Second, my view of the trend for gold finds support with Jun San Andres. Thus, selling or buying at this time can be both profitable for the SSS and its membership. Jun added that this may be the best time to invest since Neri’s predecessor simply didn’t have the acumen for investing and kept the SSS’ growth stymied.

Jun, though, raised only one concern: That the allowable limit to SSS’ investment in stocks -- already set by law -- not be breached. I checked that one out and I was told by one investment analyst that the SSS still has P15 billion pesos in investible funds. While conservatism in investing these funds, especially in highly volatile foreign markets, is imperative, local opportunities for supporting vital growth industries are as important and form part of the funds’ responsibility to society and its members.

Few can disagree that gold is a safe and very promising sector now, and that is why the oligarchs are also moving in to corner Philex today. But should we let these oligarchs reap the boon from gold or should be keep it for the people of this Republic?

My answer is obvious: We should have the whole nation of 90 million Filipinos benefit from this country’s patrimony, and any opportune investment by the SSS in getting this for its members is most welcome. However, latest reports say that Neri is not really considering buying the Philex shares at stake today. I, nonetheless, don’t think the country should give up the idea of taking for the people this natural wealth that forms part of our heritage.

Exploiters of this country’s gold throughout the decades, be they in the Mountain provinces or in Bicol or in Mindanao, have not improved the lives of people in these localities, much less the country as a whole -- despite having dug up hundreds of billions of dollars worth of mineral riches.

The world today is seeing a flurry of Western governments nationalizing private banks and corporations that have salted away wealth by swindling the general populations in their countries. The top shareholders and CEOs of these corporations exploited the companies to the hilt and have deliberately run these companies to the ground. While cohorts from the corporate cabal like Henry Paulson (formerly of Goldman Sachs) designed a “rescue” package, it nevertheless drowns the taxpayers in future debt, leaving the needy people out to hang.

In Philex, the oligarchs are quickly moving in to corner the huge bonanza for themselves and leave the people out, despite the leading role of public institutions such as the SSS in sustaining that company through the lean years.

Thus, in order to save this country’s future, we must push for the nationalization of these assets and much, much more -- such as the Malampaya natural gas and the Galoc oil fields, just as Latin American countries have done, from Bolivia to Ecuador , Venezuela to Argentina , spreading throughout that southern continent. We must not limit the discussion of the fate of Philex to SSS shares and its pre-emptive rights alone, for we must expand the debate to the issue of the nationalization of our nation’s increasingly valuable patrimony -- and one that we will pay for only at a fair, discounted value.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

SC’s betrayal of the people.

The Supreme Court’s denial of the Motion for Reconsideration (MR) of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV to attend Senate sessions and serve his mandate as senator of the Republic is an unashamed, blatant betrayal of the principles of democracy and the people’s will. The Supreme Court based its decision on its claimed risk of “flight” of the senator, even though the latter has never attempted to escape or evade his duties to the Constitution or the Law. In fact, he has dutifully fulfilled everything that he pledged to do as a citizen and soldier, which are to expose inequities and corruption, and defend the nation. We cannot say the same of the members of the SC today as they are heirs to the desecration of Davide, being handpicked by this corrupt Arroyo regime. While the revolution waits, there will be no law or justice in this land.

Adding the final insult and injury to Trillanes’ eleven million voters, the SC even denied Senator Trillanes the right to have his Senate staff visit him in his place of detention, which encumbers him from carrying out his duties. In the first place, Senator Trillanes is innocent of the crimes the Arroyo regime charged him with because voters have already absolved him through their expression of their democratic judgment in entrusting him with a Senate mandate. Secondly, even Arroyo’s court has yet to prove him guilty, which means Trillanes should be presumed innocent and no obstacle to his service to the nation can be justified. Thus, the SC has become criminal in doing this; though I doubt if Trillanes can be fully prevented from finding ways to serve the people.

In all, Senator Trillanes has continued to serve with distinction despite the severely constricted conditions imposed on him. He has filed 138 bills (making him the fifth most prolific in the Senate), nine resolutions, and one joint resolution. Of these, he is co-author of RA 9502, the Quality & Affordable Medicines Act of 2007, and RA 9500, the University of the Philippines Charter of 2007, which have been passed into law. Among my favorites of his legislative work are: SB 1448 - An Act Repealing the eVAT Law (which would reduce the burdens on the people); SB 2058 - An Act Providing Post-harvest Facilities to Rice Farmers; and SB 1591 - An Act Amending the Automatic Appropriations Law [PD 1177] to Augment IRAs of LGUs (to be taken away from the bankers for distribution to the people).

Here’s more: SB 2254 - An Act Providing for a Ceiling on All Public Debts of the Republic of the Philippines and for Other Purposes; SB 2273 - An Act That Seeks to Trim Down the Areas of Investments of GSIS (to only those that assure predictability in order to protect the mass of members from the vagaries of trade and commerce, and from enterprises with false pretensions of track record of profitability to stop speculative investments such as the GSIS’ foreign placements now being covered up); SB 2302 - An Act Setting Limits on the Power of the President to Reappoint By-passed Nominees; and SB 1467 – An Act Defining the Archipelagic Baselines of the Philippine Archipelago, Amending for the Purpose RA 3046 as Amended by RA 5446 (expanding RP’s economic zone).

Therefore, there’s no telling what greater contributions Senator Trillanes can make if he is allowed to fully serve in the Senate; but that is exactly what the Arroyo regime and its corrupt instrumentalities fear. In the face of such a dedicated, principled and creative young leader as Trillanes, all the appointees of Gloria in all branches of government, including the Supreme Court, would be exposed as the corrupt dead beats that they are.

Strange as it may sound to those oppressing Senator Trillanes today, the young soldier-senator actually believed that there is decency and integrity in the judicial system; hence, his faith in keeping with the processes of law. One can even accuse Faeldon of “danger of flight” for he escaped twice, yet Trillanes has always abided by the terms of his incarceration.

So the SC has become absolutely ridiculous in claiming the Manila Peninsula incident as an attempt at “flight” or escape. If that were Trillanes’ intention, he would have long been gone, taking the numerous transports available at that moment on Makati Avenue and the many hours available to whisk off to destinations unknown. He could have been free to roam around the country indefinitely, just as Faeldon is now, but Trillanes has chosen to keep the dignified stance of a prisoner of conscience and an active dissenter, and never once hid from the consequences of his actions. Even during the last hours of Manila Pen, Trillanes could have escaped; but a leader chooses not to do that. A leader stays with his people, as Trillanes correctly does up to this day.

The plain truth about that SC denial of Trillanes’ MR is that right from the start, the justices of Gloria were dead set on denying Trillanes’ eleven million voters their right to be represented by their chosen senator and preventing him from leading this broad following.

Consider this: The counsels of Trillanes received the first SC denial on July 10, 2008. They then had 15 days to file their answer, which they did on July 25, a Friday, at around 4:30 in the afternoon. Their answer would only have been distributed to SC members on a Monday, the 28th, since it was immediately calendared on the 29th, the following day, but this was the same date in which a decision was made -- which means the SC justices did not even read and consider the arguments or evidences raised in the motion!

To further illustrate the SC’s malice on Trillanes’ motion, consider that it took the court eight months to act on the MR on Neri’s “Executive Privilege” case, whereas it had kept quiet about its decision on the Trillanes case only until several Senators initiated moves to intervene, at which time media accidentally discovered the SC denial of Trillanes’ MR, thereby rendering the Senate’s interest on the issue moot and academic.

Here, the SC’s spite toward Trillanes’ petition is clear and incontrovertible, but should we still be surprised? Even as Puno tries to window-dress the SC’s record, his court has still been dismal in all crucial cases. However, in this Trillanes case, the political and corrupt Supreme Court has further upped the ante as it exposed its canine subservience to Gloria and its betrayal of the people -- a corruption worse than the Sabio episode in the Court of Appeals.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A brewing US Revolution

I cannot help but think that before Obama ends his first four years in office, a social revolution will take place in the US of A. This assumes that McCain will lose the election after two weeks of financial and economic ruin thanks to his party of deregulation and his inability to shake off this onus despite Palin’s Dionne Warwick-like debating skills -- Betcha by golly wow! Of course, this too discounts the possibility that Bush and company will pull off another 9/11 incident to “shock and awe” US citizens into embracing a new ultra-hawk mentality propagated by their party of war. Just the same, some US Americans already fear of a looming martial law as Bush deployed the 1st BCT from Iraq to the NorthCom on federal call for emergencies, including terrorist attacks.

Frankly, the US ’ ruling plutocracy is just like any ruling class of any society -- it will not give up its power willingly. We have seen evidence of this immovable licentiousness to exploit the US population by the second round approval of the $700-billion bailout in favor of predatory financial and banking interests over the objections of the majority there.

US Intellectuals like Michel Chossudovsky, activists like Alex Jones and reporters like Gina Cavallaro have reported the unprecedented assignment of active units to NorthCom, a joint command established in 2002 to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities. Yes, even US lawyers say they were told to pass the bailout or face martial law.

Brad Sherman of California’s 27th congressional district in a speech said he personally knew of several congressmen who said they were threatened with the prospect of all-out martial law should they oppose the $700-billion bailout: “Many of us were told in private conversations that if we voted against this bill on Monday that the sky would fall, the market would drop two or three thousand points the first day, another couple of thousand the second day, and a few members were even told that there would be martial law in America if we voted no.”

For skeptics of such planned grim scenarios who’ll dismiss such as a “conspiracy theory,” they should sober up by looking at the financial conspiracy among hedge fund managers and Reaganite politicians who have produced this global financial crisis today.

In the near future, Obama could be the instrument of a social revolution in the US just as the patrician Franklin Delano Roosevelt was despite being a Boston Brahmin, a member of the financial and power aristocracy in that country. FDR turned against his own class by instituting laws that regulated the power of the financial class which had caused the Great Depression and pump-primed the economy through social and public works programs.

While I do not have that much faith in the opportunistic Obama who has somersaulted on key policies on Iraq and showed his hawkish tendency in advocating violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, I have faith in the working class base of the Democratic Party with the likes of Michael Moore who’ll certainly keep pressuring Obama to help Main Street and stop the wars.

Main Street USA has been forced to swallow the bitter abuse of that country’s financial oligarchs and they’re not about to forget this. Last week, Fannie Mae felt compelled to lift the foreclosure on the home of 90-year old Addie Polk of Akron , Ohio , who shot herself in the chest as deputies were knocking on her door with eviction papers. Coupled with the growing evidence against Bush, Cheney, the neo-cons and the financial oligarchy’s complicity in the 9/11 terror attack, the growing movement against the Iraq War, the strengthening anti-war organizations and the widening audience on the Internet of intellectuals and activists for truth and change, the potential of social revolution is very real.

For the peoples of the world, this potential of changing the US from a power and war-mongering country to one based on justice and humanity can make it primus inter pares in the emerging multi-polar world for peace and genuine global prosperity. Benjamin Fulford write a piece on the Internet entitled, “US Crisis: An Historic Opportunity for World Peace,” calling on Asian governments with the money to demand the US to cooperate in building a peaceful world. The troubles ailing America should cut it down to size, create a humbler government that could still be the primus inter pares among peace-building, technology-sharing and prosperity growing multi-polar powers leading the rest of the 180 or so nations on Earth. Yes, the dream is possible.

Besides, the US has no choice as other regions are awakening to their destinies as part of the global destiny. South America, for example, under Chavez and Lula, will no longer submit to the old Monroe Doctrine of the South as a backyard of the US . I just watched an Al Jazeera special report of the US-backed coup against Chavez and how he was returned to power, and it reminded me of the crisis in Philippine leadership created by the US-backed Arroyo power grab because the injustice to Estrada’s voters have not yet been set aright and thus the nation remains subjugated; but still, it left me convinced justice will be done in the Philippines as our “Last Revolution” awaits. Only then can Asean be truly complete, when all its members are genuinely legitimate.

A revolution such as this is also apt for the US of A. Their 1776 Revolution and Constitution, which guarantee “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” for all their people, has been, for the past three decades since Reagan, only true for Wall Street moguls, oil powers and defense industries. The uncared for victims of Katrina and people like Addie Polk belie this US promise. For the rest of the world too, it seems the US has appropriated these riches and glories for itself. The presence of hunger, war, and disease -- wherever US corporate and political power sets foot -- is proof. The day the people of the US will be at peace with its own governance is the day the world will be at peace with the US of A.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Main Street vs Wall Street

Many Filipinos are still perplexed by the US Congress’ delay of the $700-billion bailout of finance companies and banks that went down in the latest financial collapse. Philippine media headlines, like those of the Inquirer (owned by oligarchic families) and Malaya (of our pro-business friend Jake Macasaet), reflect the anxiety the business sector is projecting over the delay as well. Why the delay if the world’s financial system depended on it? Why too, if people’s businesses, paychecks, pensions and consumer power depended on it? The answer is simple: The US public is already enraged that Bush’s plan will bail out the finance speculators and banks that created the collapse in the first place while making them -- the victims and taxpayers -- shell out for this bailout.

While media frantically focused on the actions of Bush, Obama and McCain, I watched instead film director Michael Moore, whose blockbuster social commentaries such as Fahrenheit 9/11 and Sicko have had far more impact on the US population than any of these politicians. On September 29, Day One of the US Congressional debate on Paulson’s bailout plan, Moore circulated an Internet letter opening thus: “The Rich are Staging a Coup This Morning… The biggest robbery in the history of this country is taking place as you read this… Make no mistake about it: After stealing a half trillion dollars to line the pockets of their war-profiteering backers for the past five years, after lining the pockets of their fellow oilmen to the tune of over a hundred billion dollars in just the last two years, Bush and his cronies are looting the US Treasury of every dollar they can grab.”

There is a financial and economic civil war now raging in the US , triggered by the subprime crisis -- a war between “ Main Street ” or the small business and working or middle class US citizens against “Wall Street” of Big Business, finance speculators and bankers.

Understandably, Main Street is against channeling more future taxpayer money to bail out Wall Street as Main Street folks have had their homes foreclosed and their businesses drained of credit and capital after Wall Street swindled them. What Main Street demands is that government bail out the people directly -- restore homeowners who’ve lost their mortgaged homes to these banks, and use these government bailout funds to refinance their homes while giving them affordable rent-to-own rates.

After Paulson was defeated, Moore sent another e-mail to his millions of supporters, congratulating them as “corporate crime fighters,” for stopping the Congressional approval of the plan. He followed up with his latest one entitled, “Here’s How to Fix the Wall Street Mess,” with his ten-point agenda as follows:

1. APPOINT A SPECIAL PROSECUTOR TO CRIMINALLY INDICT ANYONE ON WALL STREET WHO KNOWINGLY CONTRIBUTED TO THIS COLLAPSE. Before any new money is expended…criminally prosecute anyone who had anything to do with the attempted sacking of our economy.

2. THE RICH MUST PAY FOR THEIR OWN BAILOUT. They may have to live in 5 houses instead of 7…(and) there is no way in hell, after forcing family incomes to go down more than 2,000 dollars during the Bush years, that working people and the middle class are going to fork over one dime to underwrite the next yacht purchase. (Instead…)

a. Every couple who makes over a million dollars a year and every single taxpayer who makes over $500,000 a year will pay a 10 percent surcharge tax for five years.

b. Charge a 0.25 percent tax on every stock transaction…(and) raise more than $200 billion in a year.

c. (Have) stockholders…forgo receiving a dividend check for one quarter and instead, this money will go the Treasury to help pay for the bailout.

d. Raise the corporate income tax back to the level of the 1950s…(and get) an extra $500 billion.




6. IF IT’S TOO BIG TO FAIL, THEN THAT MEANS IT’S TOO BIG TO EXIST. Allowing the creation of these mega-mergers and not enforcing the monopoly and anti-trust laws has allowed a number of financial institutions and corporations to become so large, the very thought of their collapse means an even bigger collapse across the entire economy… Laws must be enacted to prevent companies from being so large… And no institution should be allowed to set up money schemes that no one can understand. If you can’t explain it in two sentences, you shouldn’t be taking anyone’s money.



9. EVERYBODY NEEDS TO TAKE A DEEP BREATH, CALM DOWN, AND NOT LET FEAR RULE THE DAY… Pundits and politicians are lying to us so fast and furious it’s hard not to be affected by all the fear mongering…the most amazing thing is that the American public hasn’t bought the scare campaign. The citizens didn’t blink, and instead told Congress to take that bailout and shove it.

10. CREATE A NATIONAL BANK, A “PEOPLE’S BANK.” If we really are itching to print up a trillion dollars, instead of giving it to a few rich people, why don’t we give it to ourselves? Now that we own Freddie and Fannie, why not set up a people’s bank? One that can provide low-interest loans for all sorts of people who want to own a home, start a small business, go to school, come up with the cure for cancer or create the next great invention. And now that we own AIG, the country’s largest insurance company, let’s take the next step and provide health insurance for everyone. Medicare for all…

Indeed, Michael Moore’s prescriptions apply to the world’s major capitalist economies -- London, Paris, Zurich, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Seoul and others; and particularly to pitiful Philippines where elite oppression and exploitation have gone on too long now.