Monday, July 30, 2007


The State of the Nation Address delivered by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo last 23 July 2007 provided us again with a window for scrutinizing the state of governance of this country.

Ms. Arroyo projected the image of a politician fully conscious of the playing field. She knows what it takes to keep her allies loyal. One strategy is public recognition of this or that politician requesting this or that project. She played well the role of a patron or "matron" dispensing projects and funds as if these were personally hers. But at the same time, she is also trying hard to project the image of her stability and sustainability in power. In short, she is avoiding to be seen as "lame duck" president particularly because the 2010 elections is barely three years away.

On the development framework that she outlined, Ms. Arroyo must be reminded that the poverty in the Philippines is not simply an economic problem to be solved by constructing more bridges and roads. In fact, the investments she talked about will be like droplets of water in a wide parched land area. Big spending and expensive infrastructure awes an impoverished community but they never ease the suffering.

Moreover, focus on the so-called super-regions is a strategy that may eventually lead to the neglect and disregard of other more impoverished areas. And inordinate dependence on the private sector to propel growth in the selected areas may also lead to the neglect of state responsibilities.

Most importantly, the release of governmental resources must be done as part of a coherent development strategy from the national to the local level. Otherwise, such resources will be wasted or simply used as instrument for political patronage, without any clear developmental impact.

On the newly-enacted human security act, it will be better if the Supreme Court will finally step in and resolve once and for all the constitutional issues involved in the implementation of this law. Otherwise, the recommendations of the supreme court-sponsored summit on extrajudicial killings may be severely affected.

On electoral reforms, it must be noted that Congress has passed the election modernization law. The ball is now in the hands of COMELEC. But if significant reforms are not instituted in this commission, I doubt the realization of a credible election come 2010. And this will be worsened by the setbacks in the uphill battle against the culture of corruption.

Finally, talks about social services delivered by the government must be tinged with the insight that there is a need to dissociate service delivery from partisan political interest. In other words, the empowerment of an efficient bureaucracy must be a central concern for any public official who is conscious of the governments responsibility to the citizens.

The SONA is supposed to give us an idea of the national situation and the policy directions which the government will take to handle that situation. This 2007 SONA gave us a taste of what may be, and left us asking ourselves: "What respite will be given by all these plans and dreams to the suffering Filipino people ?"

Monday, July 16, 2007

Terrorizing the terrorists?!

The "Human Security Act of 2007" (HSA) or Republic Act No. 9372 took effect 15th of July 2007. This piece of legislation is supposed to protect the people and the state from terrorists.

Unfortunately, it is not being embraced joyfully by the people it purports to protect. There are fears about the possibility of abuse and political persecution, as well as violation of basic human and constitutional rights.

FLAG President Atty. Diokno cites: Worse, the HSA is a dangerous law. It authorizes preventive detention,expands the power of warrantless arrest, and allows for unchecked invasion of our privacy, liberty and other basic rights. Persons merely suspected of engaging in terrorism may be arrested without warrant and detained without charges.

They may be placed under house arrest, prohibited from using their cell phones, computers and any other means of communication, even when they are granted bail on the ground that evidence of guilt is not strong. They may also be subjected to surveillance and wiretapping, as well as examination, sequestration and freezing of bank deposits and other assets, on mere suspicion that they are members of a "terrorist organization."

The polarity being presented at the moment is the choice between sustained human and political rights or imposing effective restraint to terrorists through the HSA. This will not be an easy predicament, particularly for Filipinos who vehemently fight any form of political repression while being all too familiar with terroristic atrocities.

This is compounded by a situation wherein the incumbent administration is trying to steer away from political controversies. Thus, the HSA aside from being an affront to human rights is also turning out to be a potent instrument for the preservation of the status quo. There is pervasive fear that these campaign against terrorism may just be an excuse for a campaign against political opponents of the present administration.

Ultimately, the issues surrounding the controversial law must be settled in the Supreme Court. We can only hope that the justices will uphold Constitutional provisions over political exigencies. Otherwise, the struggle against a repressive political regime may rear its head again.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

On electric cooperatives

IP, CCD and KDC-ADNU host RTD on Electric Cooperatives
The Knowledge for Development Center(KDC)-ADNU, Institute of Politics, and the Center for Community Development sponsored the roundtable discussion on THE ROLE OF ELECTRIC COOPERATIVES IN LOCAL DEVELOPMENT 10:00am last Saturday, 23 June 2007 at the KDC, O’Brien Library, Ateneo de Naga University.

Among the participants in the said discussion are Mr. Beda Priela of the Metro Naga Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Butch Dela Torre and Ms. Bernadette Gavino of the Naga City Consumers Group, Mr. Nono Aquino of the Naga City Jaycees, Mr. Elmer Sto Domingo of the ADNU Center for Community Development, Mr. Dax Plopinio of the Institute for Small and Medium Enterprise Development Inc., Atty. Manny Teoxon as a consumer and advocate of consumer rights, Mr. Alec of the local newspaper Vox Bicol, Mr. Clark Batac, Ms. Jovy Dy, and Ms. Lany Botor as employees and union leaders of the Camarines Sur 2 Electric Cooperative.

Mr. Renne Gumba, KDC member and Institute of Politics Executive Director acted as the discussion moderator. He started by explaining the background/context of the gathering, including what the KDC as a partnership of the ADNU and Word Bank is all about. He then proceeded to present the guide for discussion which revolved around the following themes: 1.)EPIRA law and the electric cooperatives, 2.)the local electric cooperative/CASURECO2 and local development, 3.)role of the consumer groups/other orgs.

The discussion ended with the participants resolving to strengthen the local consumers group, and work on the various electricity cooperative-related issues and concerns affecting the public in general, and the consumers in particular. This will include action on the alleged irregularities in the management of the electric cooperative. It was also agreed upon by the participants to have a regular meeting/discussion and to open up the group to participation of other interested individuals and organizations.