Sunday, July 19, 2009

Right questions for the “presidentiables”

There have been several “presidential debates” in the past few months but no question or answer seemed outstanding enough for most people to remember. What only struck as noteworthy was the surprising enthusiasm UP students had for President Estrada, contrary to what many had expected. Call it his charm or wit, but that phenomenon was replicated later on, leaving one with a clear impression that the youth now have an open mind about Estrada. It seems none of the demonization of “civil society” has taken root, thanks in large part to “evil society” pet Gloria Arroyo’s dreadfully miserable performance the past nine years.

When I asked people to weigh in on these debates, everyone agreed that since discussions often involved motherhood questions, what could be elicited were only motherhood statements. Worse, pertinent questions on more pressing concerns were apparently being omitted.

In the ANC debates, for example, moderators didn’t ask at all what the presidentiables will do about RP electricity rates being the highest in Asia and among the highest in the world. Is it because it’s still taboo in the media network owned by those who continue to have a stake in the biggest Luzon power monopoly, Meralco? Is it similar to why, in the FVR-sponsored debate, the issue of the onerous independent power producers’ contracts was also skirted--obviously because Ramos is the biggest culprit?

Although in the PPCRV debate, slightly more insightful questions from several sectors were raised, all of these merely boiled down to issues of job availability and security, housing, price and tuition control, fuel price control, etc., with each sector wanting its respective problems solved but without tying everything together into a coherent, national response to the overall problem of economic backwardness and mis-distribution of resources.

Some would say that this is too “high level” an expectation, but isn’t that what debates are supposed to lead to--a level of discourse that will illuminate the road toward progress and prosperity? If we continue to treat each problem as a sectoral problem, then there will be no national solution and the sectors will just quarrel over the same-sized pie that’s always too small.

Other than asking the right questions, quite a number of issues that have recently cropped up also merit attention in successive debates. One such thing involves a new sweetheart deal between the Arroyo regime and one of its mega conglomerate-owning super-cronies (who many say is really fronting for Big Mike). This conglomerate, which took a huge bite out of Meralco recently and has entered the wireless broadband, as well as, infrastructure and mining industries, has reportedly bagged, in its latest foray into water utilities, the highly suspicious contract to build and run the P52 billion Laiban dam without the benefit of public bidding.

It is so fast-tracked and lopsidedly arranged for this conglomerate by the government water authority that proposals from other bidders were given only five days for submission--an impossibility, considering the enormity and complexity of the project.

Sure, the question about this deal was raised by an organization known to be supported by another conglomerate that’s also into water utilities, leaving one to wonder if this is just about competing oligarchic interests. But the bottom line is that this Laiban Dam deal would cost us an additional P20/cu. m. in water charges on top of the already horrendous P33 to P55/cu. m. already being charged by Manila Water and the DMCI-run Maynilad.

Checking on the Internet, I found that water rates in Bangkok are only $0.29/cu. m. or around P15/cu. m., and the ones in Kuala Lumpur are even cheaper at $0.22/cu. m. or just around P10/cu. m. Thus, Philippine power, as well as, water rates are now among the highest in the region!

Going into the future debates, it should be asked: Who among the presidential wannabes will stand against this onerous deal? And what would Chiz and Loren say when they are running under this conglomerate-potentate’s political party? Honestly, who among them will stand up to the oligarchs who have been exploiting the Filipino people for so long, with the highest cost in all the basic utilities--not only in water and electricity but also in tool ways, telecommunications, port handling and power transmission fees?

Let’s see if Villar and Roxas can answer these when they are themselves part of the oligarchic class. Let’s see if Noli de Castro can when he’s beholden to his puppet masters’ media mileage and doesn’t have much else between his ears, much less ask questions about public utility rates.

And then, here’s the final clincher: What will each wannabe do about the MILF problem? If the answer is the usual “peace talks,” then that’s no different from what has been done in the past decades, in keeping with the United States Institute for Peace’s veiled impositions. Verily, peace talks are only an ap-“peace”-ment that will end up with a capitulationist and treasonous Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain-type deal.

A country goes into peace talks only when the State gets the upper hand, the way President Estrada did by launching a strong-willed reassertion of our sovereignty in MILF-claimed areas--territories and riches which the group has since offered to partake with their new-found ally, the US .

Now who among Chiz, Loren, Villar, Roxas or Noli has ever shown any will for an honest-to-goodness fight?

It was only Erap who stood his ground in reclaiming all MILF-held territories back to the nation’s fold. It was also Erap who said “No” to the oligarchs when they sought a water rate hike during his term, leading them to get into the Edsa II coup. Let’s all ask the right questions to get to the right kind of leader. And with the proper leadership next time around, these oligarchs and traitors should be put in their proper places for good.

(Tune in to 1098AM, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m; Global News Network, Destiny Cable Channel 7, Tuesday, 8:15 p.m. to 9 p.m. and on the TVU Internet Channel 61713 with ret. Comm. Rex Robles on “Oakwood, Meiring and False Flags;” also visit