Tag archive for "Corruption"

15 ANNOYING THINGS ABOUT LIVING IN THE ISLANDS

Lifestyle

15 ANNOYING THINGS ABOUT LIVING IN THE ISLANDS

No Comments 02 September 2014

BY NIKI YARTE

No doubt there have been remarkable strides in our effort to catch up with the rest of the world, particularly in adopting modern technology and best practices of advanced countries to make life in the Philippines manageable, if not comfortable. CCTV cameras are sprouting in every street corner, motorists have become accepting of cyclists sharing the road, green technology is fast making inroads in homes and industries. But alas, we are lagging behind in many areas as some bad old habits have taken deep roots and simply refuse to fade away. There are just some characters and situations that drive many Filipinos up the wall and out of the country faster than the promise of earning greenback. We chose only 15 that easily came off our mind or we’ll take forever . . .

1. Ugly Oldies Need Not Apply

You are not likely to see this employer unless you meet his requirements: “Female with pleasing personality and good moral character, age 25 to 35”. Such discriminatory job vacancy announcement is so common that Filipinos have learned to accept it as the norm. In advanced countries, these requirements are a no-no; workers are not even required to divulge their age, religion, sexual orientation and marital status.

2. Divine Intercession

In blatant disregard for the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state, religious groups such as the Iglesia Ni Cristo and El Shaddai compel their members to vote as one bloc and campaign for candidates that support their sectarian and political agenda. But don’t tell that to politicians who move heaven and earth to receive the “divine blessing” of the INC Supremo and Brother Mike every election time.

Bro. Mike Velarde, leader of El Shaddai, raises the hands of his anointed senatorial candidates in 2010.

Bro. Mike Velarde, leader of El Shaddai, raises the hands of his anointed senatorial candidates in 2010.

3. Knock on Wood

You’re lucky if you happen to get on the handful of jeepneys and buses that have buttons or levers installed on them that signal to the driver when to pull over, otherwise you’ll to project your voice and shout Para! or knock on the bus or jeepney ceiling to signal that you’re getting off. This would all be unnecessary if the country would just follow the rest of the world and implement proper loading and unloading zones.

4. In God We Trust

Whether one is a Muslim, Christian, or of another faith altogether or however one conceives God to be, it’s immaterial because the government is supposed to be neutral to any religious belief as mandated by the Constitution. But lo and behold, many government offices and public schools are adorned with Catholic symbols, primarily the cross and other religious icons. First Friday Masses are observed in some government offices, and Christian prayers are routinely conducted in public schools.

5. Slow Walk to Salvation

As if the horrendous traffic conditions in big cities aren’t bad enough, some groups and individuals make it a habit to turn our main streets into their private domain by holding religious rituals and funeral processions on main roads. Honoring the saints and the dead is fine but can’t people use the side streets so as to minimize chaos on major roads?

A religious procession on a busy thoroughfare, a common practice that is exempt from traffic ordinances.

A religious procession on a busy thoroughfare, a common practice that is exempt from traffic ordinances.

6. What Are We in Power For?

Whether you applied for a new passport or license for your business, any request from any government agency, chances are that the government employee who processed your documents would find some trivial and often subjective reason to needlessly prolong the process of your application, prompting you to come back or, worse, fork over grease money to facilitate the transaction.

7. Gusto ko happy ka!

That’s not the title of a sitcom, it’s actually a campaign slogan that helped propel an aspirant to the Senate! During elections, you will encounter candidates and parties with no clear-cut political distinctions. Candidates preach the same promises and pro-poor agenda while dishing out catchy slogans. Philippine politics and elections are not really be a contest of platforms and principles but a battle of personality, popularity, and political machinery (spelled money).

8. Kayo Ang Boss Namin!

Perhaps the sight of the Supreme Court rank and file holding vigils and prayer rallies for Chief Justice Renato Corona at the height of his impeachment trial left a sour taste in your mouth. After all, government employees were hired by the state, through a non-partisan process overseen by the Civil Service Commission, and not by the officials who would be appointed or elected to the office they work for.

Then Chief Justice Renato Corona addresses supporters, mostly Supreme Court employees, during a prayer rally in front of the SC building at the height of his impeachment trial.

Then Chief Justice Renato Corona addresses supporters, mostly Supreme Court employees, during a prayer rally in front of the SC building at the height of his impeachment trial.

9. Hello, How May We Help You?

You will encounter this character at the lobby of an office or at the sales counter of a store. The receptionist or clerk will answer a call even as he or she is in the middle of transacting business with a customer. The proper course of action would have been for the employee to mute or put the call on hold until he or she is done attending to the customer who took time to personally do business at the office or store.

10. Welcome to the Neighborhood

You might have noticed the unassuming office or the unmistakable warehouse on your way home. While this lax implementation of zoning laws allowed sari-sari stores and bakeries to be conveniently located in your neighborhood, it also sets dangerous precedents for small factories, repair shops and KTV night clubs to be set up in your area, or convert the narrow street into a parking lot for trucks.

11. Slow Men at Work

‘Slow’ is used here as an adjective, as in slow-moving men doing road repair on busy streets during the day when traffic congestion is at its peak. In other instances, the repair crew tears the road up and in the middle of their job they mysteriously disappear, making the potholes even bigger and deeper and snarling traffic.

Like regular office work, road repairs are done during the day and stops just before sunset.

Like regular office work, road repairs are done during the day and stops just before sunset.

12. By Appointment Only

At one point you probably found that your phone or electric bill was mysteriously jacked up. Or that you’re suffering from a dismal Internet connection. While these are frustrating enough by themselves, what’s even more infuriating is that instead of resolving anything via phone or email, you are directed to take time out of your busy schedule to visit your service provider’s offices.

13. Point of No Return

If you find yourself unhappy with a purchase beyond matters of factory defects, you will be hard-pressed to find a store that will refund your payment. They will only offer store credit, forcing you to choose between an item of equal or lower value, lest you pay the difference for a higher priced but significantly better product.

14. For Your Eyes Only

Turn to your right, there’s Angel Locsin teasing you in her skimpy bikini; look up and there’s John Lloyd Cruz staring at you, as if making a pass. Here, there and everywhere on Edsa and other main roads are gigantic billboards featuring celebrities hawking all sorts of merchandise and services – from cellphones and men’s briefs to sardines and liposuction. For heaven’s sake, isn’t the metropolis ugly and dangerous than it already is?

Giant billboards dot Edsa, defying regulation, posing risk to commuters and making the urban landscape even uglier than it already is.

Giant billboards dot Edsa, defying regulation, posing risk to commuters and making the urban landscape even uglier than it already is.

15. Ganito Kami Dito, Paano Kayo Dyan?

Tricycles are meant for short trips in the neighborhood; pets are supposed to be kept at home; vendors are allotted stalls in the market to hawk their wares. But alas, they are everywhere except in their proper places – tricycles racing on highways, stray dogs on every street corner, vendors taking over the sidewalks. Add clogged drainage, uncollected garbage, kotong cops, unresponsive officials . . . and you’ll have an idea of life back home.

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FIGHTING CORRUPTION ONE FIXER AT A TIME

Culture

FIGHTING CORRUPTION ONE FIXER AT A TIME

No Comments 28 February 2014

Henry Motte Muñoz and his childhood friend Happy Feraren are on a crusade against corruption, the small-scale pervasive kind that bedevils the life of every Filipino. They founded Bantay PH, which focuses on educating the customer, so they can better guard themselves against paying bribes, and know what to do when they’re asked for one. READ FULL STORY

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PNOY’S ANGELS

People

PNOY’S ANGELS

No Comments 19 October 2013

By Niki Yarte –

President Benigno Aquino III certainly has an eye for the ladies. And it has nothing to do with being the country’s most eligible bachelor. In 2012 he named Maria Lourdes Sereno, 52, as the first female and youngest chief justice. In October this year he appointed Amparo Cabotaje-Tang presiding justice of Sandiganbayan, the anti-graft court. Earlier the President had tasked four women in four key agencies to enforce the administration’s daang matuwid initiative (a straight path to governance). Except for the Bureau of Internal Revenue, these agencies form part of the Interagency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council, the special body created to look into the misuse of the pork barrel funds of lawmakers.

Defiant

Conchita Carpio-MoralesAs associate justice, Conchita Carpio-Morales was handpicked by Mr. Aquino to administer his oath of office as president on June 30, 2010 – a function normally performed by the chief justice. The incoming president’s move was a testament to Morales’s courage, integrity and sterling record in the Supreme Court where she and Associate Justice Antonio Carpio were often the lone dissenting voices in highly controversial cases, as when the high court upheld then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s appointment of Renato Corona as chief justice two days after the May 10, 2010 presidential elections.

One year later, after Morales retired from the Supreme Court, President Aquino named her Ombudsman, replacing Mrs. Arroyo’s appointee, Merceditas Gutierrez who was forced to resigned amid threat of an impeachment. While some considered this a demotion from her previous office, she saw it the other way: “I’m not a title-conscious person. Going to the Ombudsman would not diminish my self-respect”. As Ombudsman, Morales heads the agency that investigates anomalies and inefficiency in government, and prosecutes graft and corruption cases.

She figured prominently during the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Corona, when she testified about his dollar accounts, the most damning evidence that that eventually led to Corona’s impeachment. In jest, the 72-year-old former magistrate once observed that people would usually say, “So young yet so corrupt”, to describe dishonest government officials, adding that she felt insulted that no would say, “So old yet so upright”, to describe her.

Morales is confident that based on evidence presented by the Department of Justice, her office can resolve the plunder charges against 38 lawmakers and other respondents involved in the pork barrel scam in less than a year.

Feisty

De LimaAppointed as chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights in 2008, Leila de Lima has been a steadfast and vocal defender of human rights in the country, launching investigations into numerous human rights violations, including the so-called ‘death squads’ in Davao City. Human rights lawyer Theodore Te described De Lima as “a revelation in the sense that she was known simply as an election lawyer for the opposition and was not known as a human rights person. Yet, from her appointment she has managed to transform the CHR into a high-profile watchdog.”

It was her impressive stint at CHR that moved President Aquino to appoint her secretary of justice in 2010. In 2011, she made headlines when she prevented then ex-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from leaving the country despite the Supreme Court’s temporary restraining order against a hold-departure order on Mrs. Arroyo.

As justice secretary she is at the forefront of the prosecution of members of the Ampatuan clan for the heinous Maguindanao massacre, a task she began as CHR chair when the incident happened in 2009. She considers herself a failure if not a single conviction would be made before her term expires in 2016.

De Lima caused the filing of numerous graft cases against top police officials for various anomalous transactions at the National Police. She is also cleaning up her own stable at the National Bureau of Investigation and Bureau of Immigration, replacing top officials involved in nefarious activities. She is in the news lately spearheading the prosecution of erring lawmakers and their cohorts in the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

Unforgiving

Grace Pulido-TanMataray ako,” admits Commission on Audit (COA) Chair Grace Pulido Tan. “I’m very unforgiving sa mga pasaway, especially the corrupt, doble-kara, hindi marunong lumugar at iyong sipsip. They don’t appeal to me.” A lawyer, certified public accountant and tax expert, Tan’s impressive credentials already speak for themselves but she said that it was her fiery disposition — mataray and nang-aaway, as she puts it — that convinced Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima she was the right person for the COA post.

Tan and her staff were nearly finished with the special audit of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), commonly known as pork barrel, covering the years 2007 to 2009 when the so-called P10-billion pork barrel scam exploded. Not surprisingly, COA’s findings dovetail with the revelations of the whistle-blowers. She promises that their nearly finished audit of the Malampaya funds is “explosive” and the amount involved is much bigger than the pork barrel scam.

Suddenly, Tan, who abhors media attention, and her little known agency were thrust into the spotlight and became the target of people determined to derail the investigation into the anomalies, including some lawmakers hurt by COA’s findings. A few bullets found their way into the COA offices during the height of the Senate hearing on the pork barrel scam.

But Tan is undeterred. “I will not allow the incident to cow us into silence nor deter us from faithfully discharging our constitutional duty,” she declared.

She has received death threats as well as threats of an impeachment complaint but she considers them part of the territory. “I live by the day. Hey, I’m still alive! Okay, next!”

Straight Shooter

Kim HenaresAs the country’s top tax collector, Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares thinks by the numbers. “I don’t understand why 97 million Filipinos cannot control 1.3 million public and civil officers,” she wondered aloud when asked about corruption in government. Turning to tax evaders, she declared, “Out of the estimated 1.7 million professionals registered with the Professional Regulation Commission, only about 400,000 have registered as taxpayers.” She cites a BIR report that says self-employed professionals pay an average annual income of less than P6,000 when they should be paying at least P100,000.

Henares had been assigned four bodyguards but learned to shoot a gun nonetheless to prepare herself for the worst possible scenario. She carries a semi-automatic pistol but the rest of her arsenal is locked away in a cabinet. Henares also knows how to fire the shots at her job. She claims not to have received nor been offered any bribe so far, or any security threat despite going after big game like Mikey Arroyo and Manny Pacquiao, as well as celebrities such as Judy Ann Santos, Regine Velasquez, and Richard Gomez. She has filed close to 200 tax-evasion complaints and boosted collection by 14.5% in 2012 – more than double that year’s economic growth rate.

Recently Henares was pilloried by professional groups for suggesting that lawyers and doctors should display their fees in their offices so clients – and the BIR – can be guided properly.  “I didn’t take this job to become popular,” she said in an interview. “My job is to implement the tax code and collect revenue that must be collected. If people don’t like me, that’s fine.”

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PORK BY ANY NAME

Current Affairs

PORK BY ANY NAME

No Comments 26 August 2013

Whether they come in large or small amounts, pork barrel allocations have generated a lot of controversy since they were first introduced in the Philippines in 1922. In 1925, Senate Minority Leader Juan Sumulong charged that the ruling party had “misused public funds in the form of pork barrel appropriations.” READ FULL STORY

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COUNTRY WELL ON ITS WAY TO BEING HEALED

Current Affairs

COUNTRY WELL ON ITS WAY TO BEING HEALED

No Comments 27 March 2012

Speech delivered by President Benigno Aquino III at Euromoney’s Philippine Investment Forum, held on March 27, 2012 at the Manila Peninsula, Makati City.

Once upon a time, the consensus among you was that we were the sick man of Asia. The diagnosis for this illness was as simple as it seemed insurmountable: a lack of political will; an entrenched system of corruption that could not be weeded out; and a feeling of utter impossibility among Filipinos and their leaders alike.

Since I am addressing you at a time when Filipinos are gearing up for Holy Week, I hope you permit me to state in a biblical vein: all it took was faith-healing to invoke, in political terms, the biblical injunction from the Gospel of Luke chapter 4 verse 23: “Physician, Heal Thyself.”

Let no one doubt that we are doing the three things which were previously thought of as impossible: we are calling people to account; we are putting closure to the controversies that had sapped our institutions of their vigor and had diminished their legitimacy in the eyes of our countrymen; in other words, we are exercising political will. We have reformed the manner in which we allocate and dispense public funds; we have thrown the book at the thieves; and we are collecting what the government is due. That is how we are fighting corruption, and making a mark. We have fought the culture of naysaying and negativity, and have given a sense of empowerment to our people, replacing the hopelessness of the past with a steadfast commitment to building a society that works. We have put an end to business as usual and proclaimed a country open for real business

And this, simply, has done wonders for our economy. Two years ago, for example, none of us could imagine the Philippine Stock Exchange index breaking the 4,000 barrier. Now, we have breached not just 4,000, but 5,000 as well. The PSEi closed at another record high just eleven days ago at 5,145.89 points. For those of you keeping score: that’s 21 record highs in the 21 months of our administration.

In our relatively short time in office, a significant number of respected international organizations have also given us thumbs up signs. The World Economic Forum, for one, bumped the Philippines ten places up—from 85th to 75th—in their latest Competitiveness Index. The Japan External Trade Organization, after conducting a survey among companies in our region, named us the best place to do business in Asia-Oceania, whether in manufacturing or service. HSBC even recently predicted that, by the year 2050, we will be the sixteenth largest economy in the world. And these are only a few of the companies and organizations that have already changed their mind about the Philippines—and have been very vocal about it.

This renewed confidence from the global community has reflected itself in real pesos and centavos invested in the country. Since we took office in July of 2010, we have seen 449.7 billion pesos in investments in the Philippine Economic Zone Authority. This accounts for 22 percent of all investments in PEZA since it was established in 1995—seventeen years ago. Likewise, in 2011, investment promotion agency-approved foreign direct investments grew by 30.6 percent to 256.1 billion pesos—the highest recorded level in sixteen years.

We are also performing quite well in the bond market. In January of this year, we issued 1.5 billion dollars in global bonds with a coupon rate of five percent—the lowest for an Asian sovereign for that tenor, and at better rates than several other investment grade sovereigns like Indonesia, Mexico, Brazil, and even some EU countries like Spain.

Might I add: all this is happening amidst global economic uncertainty. If these facts and figures tell us anything, it is that the Philippines’ success has been nothing less than heroic—that we have experienced high after high in our investment story.

So many people in government continue to work endless nights to make certain that we build on our momentum—that we continue along this path to progress.

Suffice to say: we are proud of the progress we have made, but we are not satisfied with just this. We Filipinos know just how much potential this country has; and we are working even longer nights to fulfill this potential.

So what’s next for the Philippines? The plan for this year involves focusing on three specific sectors—sectors that will have the largest impact on our economy, and in the lives of our people—that will create much-needed jobs in the timeliest manner, namely: agriculture, infrastructure, and tourism.

I have always maintained that our farmers should be given enough incentive to do their jobs well. Right now, while our farmers account for 33 percent of total employment, they only account for 13 percent of GDP. This isn’t right; and our administration fully intends to increase farmer productivity and help facilitate the trade of produce.

We have increased the budget of the Department of Agriculture by more than fifty percent to 53.3 billion pesos. The bulk of this money will go to more irrigation projects, more farm-to-market roads, and more buying posts—projects that will directly impact the lives of those who find their livelihoods in agriculture, and will move us closer to our goal of reaching rice self-sufficiency in 2013, which we believe extremely doable.

Our infrastructure programs have been getting a move on as well. As of the 15th of March, I am told that the Department of Public Works and Highways has bidded out nearly ninety percent of their 2,128 projects worth 63 billion pesos this year. 91% percent of these projects have already been issued notices to proceed; and we are confident that, very soon, we will reach 100 percent.

I am also happy to report that last week, that our administration has approved 133 billion pesos worth of projects for different sectors. Most prominent among them is the LRT Line 1 South Extension Project, worth 61.53 billion pesos. The plan is to extend LRT Line 1 by almost twelve kilometers, from Baclaran, through Paranaque and Las Pinas, to Bacoor, Cavite. I have full faith that Transportation and Communication Secretary Mar Roxas will have this extension operational at the soonest possible time. That, in a little while, we will be able to expand transportation, and open the gates a little wider between Metro Manila’s and Cavite’s economies.

Tourism is another industry that has made leaps and bounds. I’ve always said that tourism is a low-lying fruit for the Philippine economy that has long gone unpicked. But thanks to a re-energized Department of Tourism care of Secretary Mon Jimenez—and thanks to an excellent marketing campaign, coupled with a liberalized aviation industry—in January alone, the Philippines welcomed more than 400,000 visitors. This is the highest monthly visitor count in our history. And if we can sustain this, we are set to welcome almost 4.8 million visitors this year. This is really close to five million. We are still quite a way from our target of 10 million yearly visitors by 2016, but imagine: two years ago we were expecting just around three million visitors a year; and now there is the possibility of welcoming five million. We still have four years and three months left to reach our target—and we know that, each year, we can grow our number of visitors closer and closer to our goal.

From the beginning, the secret to our success has been simple: we want to make it easier for people to do business here; and that means creating a level playing field, curbing corruption, and eliminating inefficiencies. This explains many of our initiatives, particularly the Philippine Business Registry. Instead of our entrepreneurs running around from agency to agency just so they can set up shop here, we have given them a one-stop-shop, where they can transact with multiple government agencies at once. This reduces the time it takes to register a business from several days to just twenty to thirty minutes. More than that, it vastly reduces opportunities for corruption.

The bottom line here is: if we want businesses to set up shop here and create jobs for our people, we have to be competitive. We have to focus on industries where there are actual opportunities for mutual benefit. The world is getting increasingly smaller, and we find ourselves pitted against countries who have very competitive business propositions. We cannot compromise our position by making life more difficult for companies because of corruption or red tape. We cannot sacrifice the jobs created by these businesses, because it is our people who will take the brunt of the hit if these businesses choose to operate elsewhere. We need to continue fostering a good environment for business—one that is both stable and predictable. I assure everyone here today: this belief will always be a core principle of our administration; and I invite all of you to ride this wave of optimism early, and invest in our country, be it in agriculture, infrastructure, tourism, or any other sector. We are eager to work with all of you.

Investors have always been a significant component of our vision for this country. But perhaps we go by a more expansive definition of the word investor. While we value the confidence of potential investors; and while we value the businesses that have chosen to set up shop here; above all, we value those who have invested their lives, their work, and their families in this country—the Filipino people.

As their government, the people are our ultimate shareholders. And we are bound to work in their interest. This is the driving principle behind all our efforts to be competitive. At the end of the day, we want our economy’s growth to redound to better lives for people. We want to leave no one behind on the straight and narrow path to progress, because we know that the success of our story—of the Philippines’ story—is dependent on the success of each and every one of the characters who play a part in it: from the farmer who gets up before sunrise every day, to the men and women who clock into work at 9AM, to you, the investors who have placed your bets on the Philippines.

Thank you and good morning. May you have a productive forum.

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CORRUPTION IS STILL THE ISSUE

Politics

CORRUPTION IS STILL THE ISSUE

No Comments 09 March 2010

By Juan T. Gatbonton

To geezers like me, whose memory runs back to the postwar period, it is striking—and sad—that corruption should remain the main election issue during all this time.  Right now, a presidential candidate, also a real-estate magnate, stands accused of engineering the diversion of an arterial road through his property; and the greatest qualification of another candidate for president is his claim to probity: the moral guarantee that “he will not steal.” READ FULL STORY.

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ARROYO’S FEAR

Current Affairs

ARROYO’S FEAR

1 Comment 03 March 2010

By Marites Dañguilan Vitug

What is happening in two countries not far from us must be giving President Arroyo the chills. Last week, Thailand’s Supreme Court ruled that former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra should be stripped of more than half of his contested $2.3 billion fortune. These assets, the Court said, were gained illegally when Thaksin was prime minister. He abused his power to benefit the companies that he owned. Earlier, in January, Pakistan’s Supreme Court ordered the government to reopen cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, citing President Ferdinand Marcos and other heads of state who were taken to court to answer corruption charges. The Supreme Court asked the government to account for $600 million in Zardari’s bank accounts in Switzerland. FULL STORY.

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