Monday, February 7, 2011

The art of the perfect rubout

The testimony of one police officer pinning down the principal accused of one of the primary victims’ families (the Dacers) has been debunked by a second round of judicial determination by the Court of Appeals’ Sixth Division — a body that some lawyers say has a very checkered reputation.

That division’s judgment was based on its claimed “contradictions” in police officer Cezar Mancao’s testimony, despite the prosecution’s assertion that his initial statements were committed under duress while the final ones were freely and, therefore, truthfully executed. After considering from a layman’s point of view the arguments of both sides, I believe that the court was within bounds to have made that judgment.

Reconsideration and elevation to higher courts by the prosecution will certainly be in the offing; but it’s beginning to look like this murder mystery may just end as a cold case. After all, the defense will simply raise the issue of corpus delicti, which, in the now perfected art of the rubout, will probably never be produced at all.

Some fear that if Lacson is acquitted, the focus of attention will shift to President Joseph Estrada. For a while, I had this concern, too, knowing the many elements that have consistently and indefatigably subjected the former President to character assassination. This is especially true in light of the many US operatives who haven’t forgotten the slight to their country’s hegemony by Estrada’s campaign against US military bases, as well as his rejection of former President Clinton’s demand for a stop to his government’s determined moves against MILF and Abu Sayyaf operations in Mindanao.

For sure, the public mind is one that’s never comfortable with any vacuum. Once left with a Lacson acquittal, it will seek other personages to fill that void. But I have a No. 1 suspect. Not only is he well-connected to police and military assets, but a key piece of information that no one else wants to touch, the revelation of Fr. Baldostamon as told through Bishop Teodoro Bacani’s columns years ago, still rings loud.

Admittedly, the last remaining element that could be used against President Estrada in the Dacer-Corbito double-murder is Michael Ray Aquino. A theory being bruited about says that some forces may be dangling before Michael Ray a possible release from his iron-clad US prison cell for a return to the very slack justice system in the Philippines — provided that he points to Estrada as having given the direct orders.

This is a theory that Lacson himself insinuated in his speeches at the Senate to divert attention from himself at the height of the Dacers’ legal offensives. Lacson’s problem is that few, if any, believe him. To make matters worse, he (of the “Be Not Afraid” fame) eventually absconded, took flight, and gave the impression that he is indeed guilty.

Lacson’s few remaining supporters argue that the senator faced real mortal threat if he chose not go underground. For a while there, Lacson’s fear seemed justified, especially when the specter of his sworn enemies, Gloria and Mike Arroyo (who reportedly spent huge sums to build the case against him), still loomed large.

But what else can the public make today of his continued refusal to submit to the law when there now sits a more Lacson-friendly government? And this, despite repeated assurances from his colleagues, such as Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile, of his protection under the Senate’s ambit.

Some say that Lacson was just buying time to “settle matters” with the courts. If this is to be believed, then he was clearly successful. But it will take a whole lot more to erase that impression of guilt, if it can be done at all.

Obviously, I am not ready to swallow that latest court decision. I prefer to keep the public wary of the potential of rogue cops who have perfected the art of the rubout and of other rogue police networks continuing to make their pile, exacting revenge, or creating politically-turbulent situations.

The recent murder-cremation of the car dealers is an example. After seeing the illogical pieces of the puzzle — from an inexplicable motive to the apparent burning of vehicles to remove evidence while leaving behind a trail of IDs and the quick link to an identifiable suspect — don’t these all smack of a rogue operation that’s intended to distract and destabilize for a multitude of reasons?

I also prefer to keep the public wary of hoodlums in robes as we’ve had enough of them in the past year alone. All these wouldn’t have been as evident if Lacson never took flight; now we are better informed.

The Michael Ray Aquino threat I have brought up may just be a phantasmagoric fear. After all, it would be his word against the others. Further, admitting to be the most guilty is neither going to be likely nor necessary for him, as dentures can be replicated. So far, it still seems to be a “perfect crime” as there is no corpus delicti. With acid being the preferred “eraser,” the blank space can be easily sketched upon by rogue cops and courts.

Meanwhile, let’s go to the vital issue of the day: Mang Naro Lualhati and lawyer Mel “Batas” Maurico are presenting their opposition to the P92-billion Performance Based Rate (PBR) pricing scheme of the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) at the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) later at 2 p.m. We are mobilizing to present as many consumers at the Pacific Center Bldg., San Miguel Ave., Pasig City in support of their petition — this as Meralco sends lawyers to prop up the ERC commissioners. Please join us. Text me at 0917-8658664 on how to join.

Monday, January 24, 2011

‘Competitiveness,’ GDP and other BS

Charter change (Cha-cha) proponents are foisting their battle cry of economic “competitiveness” to hoodwink our people into letting down their guard like a boxer lowering his arms. This BS has prevailed in the country for the last 25 years ever since the Yellow fever took hold, with the Makati Business Club behind it. Just look at how much clobbering the Philippine economy and population has taken--beaten to a pulp, in the ICU--while countries which kept up their guard such as Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, China, India et al. have not only kept up their sparring form but have taken crown after crown in the ascending economic weight divisions.

Like the Philippines , the US is now being beaten to the canvass by the likes of China because, in its bigness, it led down its guard as China did the famous Ali “rope-a-dope.” So who’s the dope now?

This is what economist Paul Krugman had to say when Obama, in a crucial address, dwelt on the matter: “Sigh. So it appears that President Obama is going to make ‘competitiveness’ his main economic theme… But this is hackneyed stuff, and involves a fundamental misconception about the nature of our economic problems. It’s OK to talk about competitiveness when you’re specifically asking whether a country’s exports and import-competing industries have low enough costs to sell stuff in competition with rivals in other countries… But the idea that broader economic performance is about being better than other countries at something or other--that a country is like a corporation--is just wrong… As Robert Reich says, this could all too easily turn into a validation of the claim that what’s good for corporations is good for America , which is even less true now than it used to be.”

Last week we focused on the incontrovertible fact that the Philippines is fully equipped to achieve success in its national economic recovery aspirations, particularly in the availability of domestic capital, as the idle P1.22-trillion Special Deposit Account managed by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas shows. Hiro Vaswani, forensic finance process consultant and research chief of KME (Kilusan para sa Makabansang Ekonomiya), pointed this out--something that we shared in our last column. Well, Hiro just sent us another e-mail on the subject of competitiveness and the Cha-cha:

“Maintaining nationalist (partial bars to foreign ownership) provisions in the Constitution in some sectors of the economy and qualified restrictions of land ownership for foreigners is not a bar to economic development. The present 1987 Constitution in many ways calls for a developmental state model that has not been clearly established by the government itself. The calls for changes to the Constitution, in the alleged face of the emergence of a borderless economy, are stupid and insane at best. Firstly, countries do not and cannot compete like corporations. Countries do not have a bottom line that, if not achieved, they die like corporations. Furthermore, the recent financial crisis has already put the lie to the ideas of this so-called borderless world economy led by the more developed economies of the world.

“Countries all over the world today are putting in place domestic policy measures to grow their domestic economies. Amongst the emerging market economies, strong state developmental policy paradigms are driving their economic development. The problem in the Philippines remains with the policy of importing demand (i.e. export market dependence) deeply imbedded in the Filipino psyche. The economist Simon Kuznets who is credited with the creation of national income accounts (such as GDP or Gross Domestic Product) warned the government then that this measurement does not measure the general welfare of the people in the country. He further warned that there will be a huge disparity in income with developing economies as they transition from agrarian economies… (which) can only be avoided if an industrialization process happens…

“Figures from the government today reveal that income from deployed foreign employment is greater than domestic employment. The so-called ‘employed,’ consisting of self-employed and unpaid family workers, comprise the bulk of the true unemployed in the country (30 percent to 40 percent).”

Simply put, competition as an exemplar only emerged from “corporate economics,” along with its myth of the “private sector”-led growth. Of this Vaswani says: “An economic system that depends on individual selfishness and greed without qualifications will always lead to perverse incentives. Lying, cheating and corruption in both public and private sectors become institutionalized. Individual and familial interests prevail over a non-existing national psyche. Economic systems are morally neutral. This is where politics come in. Any student of political economy knows that the material base will greatly influence the political structure. It is in the rational self interest of a poor man to sell his vote for lugaw to survive the day…

“Economic history has proven that the selfish motive of man to create a better life for himself with ever decreasing levels of effort was directed by men who established state institutions to direct this effort over the last three centuries with resounding success.

“These state institutions are still mainly national in character. The idea of competitiveness in a borderless economy is a utopian dream of nuts and carpetbaggers. Taking it in hook, line and sinker has created a dystopian situation in the country.”

So let’s cut the BS and get back to the National Development Economics paradigm. Let’s all junk the GDP mantra and replace it with a National Development Index of human, ecological, industrial and sovereign growth!