Monthly Archives: February 2008

Alternative solutions to the oil crisis

Global oil prices will keep on rising even if supply remains stable. Oil prices are determined by intense speculation in the futures markets which have nothing to do with oil production. Everyday, speculators trade “paper barrels of oil” which influence oil prices in the spot market.

As a country dependent on oil imports, the Philippines should devise strategies on how to cope with rising oil prices. Removing the tax on petroleum products will give immediate but short-term relief. There should be alternative solutions to the looming oil crisis.

In response to the successive rounds of oil price hikes, left-leaning partylist groups have come up with concrete legislative proposals which can be adopted by the government. Unfortunately, their proposed measures were not included in Speaker Prospero Nograles’ social reform agenda.

Below are the house bills filed by partylist groups Bayan Muna, Gabriela and Anakpawis:

1. HB 1126 – Adding LPG and diesel to the Price Control Act
2. HB 1724 – Repealing the Oil Deregulation Law
3. HB 3029 – Regulating the downstream oil industry
4. HB 3030 – Mandating centralized procurement of oil
5. HB 3031 – Buying back Petron

A Petroleum Regulatory Council is proposed which will be composed of six persons from the private and public sectors. This body will monitor, regulate and hold hearings on oil and petroleum prices; maintain a comprehensive database on the industry; and manage the Oil Price Buffer Fund (OPBF).

The OPBF is for the "strict and unique purpose of cushioning the impact of frequent and drastic price fluctuations." To prevent abuse, the bill prohibits all other reimbursements from the OPBF and disallows the President from tapping the fund. After five years, the funds may be invested in secure instruments.

A National Petroleum Exchange Corporation will formulate the Centralized Petroleum Procurement Plan. It is proposed that this body will become subsidiary of the Philippine National Oil Company. This agency will determine the total oil requirements of the country and negotiate with oil suppliers for the best prices and terms. It will become the sole supplier in-charge of importation, storage, sale and distribution of all petroleum products in the country.

A centralized procurement will assure the public of steady and accessible supply of crude oil. This will also eradicate the practice of transfer pricing by greedy oil companies. Recently, President Arroyo ordered a centralized procurement of oil for the needs of government agencies. Why limit the scope of the directive to government agencies?

Renationalization of Petron Corporation makes a lot of sense. As early as 2004, Rep. Robert Barbers is proposing a buy-back of Petron.

Petron is the local market leader supplying more than one-third of the country’s petroleum needs. Petron has the biggest refining capacity in the country, operates the biggest local lubeoil blending plant and controls almost half of the LPG industry. The problem is that the government has sold 60 percent of Petron shares to private investors in 1994. The long-term welfare of Filipinos was sacrificed while multinational oil companies have been given more freedom to manipulate local oil prices.

The government needs to become a major player in the oil industry. Petron can become a “valuable government asset that can truly fulfill the responsibility of the state to ensure public welfare through fair and regulated prices.”

Renewable energy

Senator Edgardo Angara is urging the immediate passage of the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 which he believes is a "vital step towards the development of our country’s vast alternative energy resources that will eventually benefit both the present and future generation."

He noted that at least 56 countries, including 11 developing nations, have some type of renewable energy promotion policy.

A paper written by Dr. Ganni Tapang of Agham defined renewable energy as "energy sources that can be obtained from continuously recurring energy processes and cycles in the natural environment, including energy sources from waste materials and the technologies that utilize these energy sources."

Example of these are hydropower, solar energy, biomass energy (energy from waste materials), geothermal energy, wind energy, tidal power, wave tidal power, wave energy, ocean thermal energy, ocean thermal energy, fuel cells and energy, fuel cells and hydrogen technologies.

Dr. Tapang explained that geothermal power accounts for the country’s largest share of indigenous energy production, followed by hydropower, coal, oil and gas. In fact, The Philippines is the world’s second largest producer of geothermal power, after the United States.

Dr. Tapang also noted that the country has a good potential for wind energy applications. In 2003, a study identified 1,038 wind sites with a possible potential total of 7,404MW. The Department of Science and Technology estimates that wind resources could generate 70,000 MW of power.

Dr. Tapang added that with its extensive agriculture, livestock, and forestry activities, the Philippines has a significant biomass energy potential. Contributors to this biomass potential are fuelwood, bagasse, coconut residues, ricehull, animal waste and municipal solid wastes.

It is laudable that the government is pursuing projects that seek to tap the country’s vast potential in clean and renewable energy resources. This will reduce the country’s dependence on oil imports.

However, government should rethink the promotion of biofuels and jathropa production. This may worsen the hunger situation in the country as planting of food crops continue to decline.

Policymakers should also reverse the privatization of energy assets. It is in the long-term interest of Filipinos that the state should continue to manage the country’s power industries. What’s the use of promoting cheap and clean renewable energy resources when multinational greedy companies continue to dictate energy prices?

Related entries:

Coping with climate change
Zero VAT
Oil deregulation law
Stink republic

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Kidneys for sale

The Philippine government claims the number of people living below the poverty level has been decreasing in recent years. However, this is still an imprecise indicator to measure the extent of inequality in Philippine society. This does not measure the distribution of income among the poor.

Some are poorer than others. Some are more undernourished and hungry than the rest of the population. Some have more body parts than others since a large number of desperate poor people have been selling their kidneys to foreign buyers.

The selling of kidneys in the Philippines has already reached an alarming level. The Department of Health avers it has no database on organ donations in the country. But there is a consensus that something must be done to minimize, regulate or even ban the trading of kidneys in the country.

In almost all urban poor communities in the Philippines, scores of young men and women have scars on the side of their bodies. These are indelible proof that they donated one of their two kidneys to local and foreign recipients.

Selling of body organs is against the law but this practice is thriving in the country. Why? Humans need to survive. Persons suffering from end-stage renal diseases need a kidney transplant to become healthy again. The lack of access to renal care and the high cost of dialysis increase the demand for kidney donors. On the other hand, the starving poor need money to buy food, clothing and other basic commodities.

A kidney costs only US$2,000 – $5,000 in the Philippines. Sometimes children of organ donors are given scholarships and other health allowances. But the money is a pittance compared to what the donors lose. Their lifestyles have to change since they cannot function as well as before. If they suffer from renal disease in the future, they may need a transplant too. Most of the time, donors are not properly informed about the negative impact on their bodies if they agree to sell their kidneys.

Kidney recipients are also not assured of becoming healthy again. They risk getting HIV, hepatitis or infection from the donors. The medicines they need to take may increase cardiac risk, hypertension and lipid disorders.

Those who profit from the trading of body organs are the government, hospitals, doctors and kidney brokers. Hospitals benefit from an increase in the number of paying patients. Doctors can practice their skills and enjoy higher compensation without leaving the country. Kidney brokers act as the middlemen who scout potential kidney donors in the slums.

The government has included kidney transplants in its medical tourism program. A senator estimates that the Philippines can expect to earn US$300 million per year if it focuses on improving the business opportunities for medical tourism. At present, there are 25 partner hospitals offering medical tourism services and they expect 175,000 medical tourists each year.

However, a former senator is against the proposal of the health department to double the number of foreigners being given kidney transplants in the Philippines. This was also the sentiment of a member of the House of Representatives who filed a bill seeking to "regulate the living non-related organ donations in the country to protect and promote the right to health of the people and instil health consciousness among them."

The lawmaker pointed out that "the organized practice of organ donation for profit is against ethical standards and is not within the commerce of man."

Even the influential Catholic Church has issued a statement condemning organ sales in the country. A bishop reminded the public that there is a "whale of moral difference" between organ donation and organ sales.

Church officials said "Our body ought not to be treated as a commodity or object of commerce, which would amount to the dispossession or plundering of the human body." They added that human organ sales or trade is morally unacceptable since it is contrary to the dignity of the human person. Instead of kidney selling, the church encourages voluntary organ donation from cadavers and also from living donors.

The former Speaker of the Philippine Congress delivered a privileged speech early this month lamenting the extent of corruption in government. He complained that "everything is for sale in this country." He was right. Even kidneys are sold in hospitals at bargain prices.

It is poverty which has forced more than 8 million Filipinos to work in other countries. The cheap labor cost in the Philippines has enticed foreign investors and employers to hire Filipino workers. Now, Filipinos are selling body parts to foreigners. This is the face of poverty in modern Philippines. The desperate poor may even be tempted to trade their souls if this was only possible.

The government insists the Philippines has registered the highest economic growth in the last 31 years. But it has failed to mention that more people are hungry today, more people are migrating to other countries and more people are living with only one kidney. Is this progress? Is this freedom?

Related entries:

Exporting nurses
The doctor is out
Brain hemorrhage

Zero VAT on oil

Check the new pictures in my webshots album: click here, here and here.

A tale of corruption and bribery, my article for Global Voices.

A few days ago, Senators Mar Roxas and Chiz Escudero announced that the senate is prepared to endorse the proposal to suspend the collection of Value Added Taxes on petroleum products. But this is a futile endorsement since a similar measure has yet to be tackled by the Lower House.

Oil prices will continue to rise. What is the government doing to cushion the social impact of rising oil prices?

The recently concluded energy summit offered various alternatives to address the looming oil crisis. But so far, the government has refused to entertain proposals that will immediately give relief to millions of consumers.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is in favor of VAT refund instead of the proposed zero VAT on oil. The president did not outline the specifics of her suggestion. Senator Roxas immediately rejected the idea since he believes it is confusing, complicated and ineffective.

Why is the president opposing the proposed zero VAT on oil? Revenues from oil taxes are easing the fiscal woes of the government. It is more convenient for an inefficient government to impose higher taxes to plug the loopholes in the tax collection rather than go after big-time tax evaders.

In 2006, total VAT collection was P76 billion, of which P49 billion came from VAT on petroleum products. During the first half of 2007, VAT collection was P43 billion, of which P18 billion came from VAT on oil.

Why are senators and consumer groups demanding the suspension of VAT collection on petroleum products?

Zero VAT on oil products will benefit the consumers and the economy as a whole. Oil taxes are shouldered mainly by poor and middle class Filipinos. Consumers bear the brunt of skyrocketing oil price increases. Oil companies and manufacturing firms are passing the VAT, which is a consumption tax, to helpless consumers.

Escalating oil prices are the reason why cost of living is getting more expensive. High oil prices lead to higher cost of generating electricity, which affects production of other consumer goods

According to Senator Migz Zubiri, the expanded VAT increased household expenditures by 1.4 percent, prices of commodities by average 1.8 percent, and total cost of production by 1.5 percent in 2006.

During a public hearing at the senate last month, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said low-income groups are feeling the brunt of runaway oil prices especially after the higher VAT was implemented in November 2005. Jeepney drivers had to spend an additional P175; tricycle drivers, P27; and LPG users, P134 on various petroleum products.

Zero VAT will bring down oil prices by at least P4 pesos. Bayan explains this will increase the income of jeepney drivers by P123. This will benefit 426,572 drivers or 2.1 million families in the country. Tricycle drivers will earn an additional P19. This is good news for the 581,572 tricycle drivers. Small fisherfolks numbering about 708,000 will gain P24-P49.

The cost of LPG will go down by P59. LPG spending will decrease by P169. This will benefit 8.6 million households in the country.

But the Department of Finance insists that zero VAT will benefit higher income groups. It also warns that targeted revenues will not be met. It estimates that the government will lose P54 billion if VAT on oil is removed. The DOF further states:

“That in the short term, decreased tax collection could improve economic growth on a very marginal basis via personal consumption, but, since the fiscal position is weakened by the exemption, the economy weakens in the long run because the tax cut’s expansionary effect is not large enough to cause long term increase in revenues.”

Senator Roxas disagrees with the DOF’s assertion that the rich will benefit from the proposed zero VAT on oil. He adds that the estimated foregone revenues represent a decimal point in the gross domestic product of the country. He reminds the government that there will be a second round of VAT collection since the people will spend their money on other consumer goods.

Zero VAT on oil is even more necessary today if we take note of the cascading effect and misapplication of VAT. Mr. Dean Dela Paz wrote about this matter in the Businessmirror newspaper. He argued that VAT “is not supposed to apply a tax on a tax, nor should it tax items whose taxes have been paid” already.

Dela Paz warns that a cascade effect happens when an establishment applies 12 percent VAT on all totals, and then the next establishment in the value chain also slaps an additional 12 percent on all totals out of computational convenience. He estimates that the 12- percent VAT on oil at the higher end of the value chain, should this cascade, the 12 percent warps into an inflationary retail sales tax of 30 percent. In short, consumers pay higher taxes.

Suspending or removing VAT on oil also disrupts the cascade effect which gives consumers more income and the opportunity to buy other economic goods. Tax collections may go down if zero VAT on oil is implemented but consumer spending on other products can bring back the revenues for the government; and more importantly, oil prices will go down.

It was Senator Roxas who articulated the need for “burden sharing” to solve the country’s economic woes. In 2004, the government appealed for sacrifice to ease the fiscal deficit. The VAT was increased and three years later, the fiscal situation is already manageable. As oil prices continue to rise, the public is confronted with rising cost of living. It’s time for social payback. It’s time to suspend the VAT on oil.

These are extraordinary times demanding bold actions from the government and great sacrifices from all people. The poor, middle class and ordinary Filipino consumers are already carrying the heavier burden by paying so many taxes. Removing the VAT on oil can bring immediate relief to Filipino families.

Related article: Political economy of transport strike

Economic doctrines of the church

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church is an interesting and significant document published by the Vatican. Through this book, the church gives an overview of its teachings on how to transform social realities through the power of the gospel. The compendium is an instrument of evangelization which calls all “men and women to discover themselves as transcendent beings, in every dimension of their lives, including those related to social, economic, and political contexts.”

Filipino bishops usually quote passages from the compendium to remind the faithful of their moral and civic duties. The church has been successful in articulating its teachings on good governance, human rights and family values. Sometimes church dignitaries are very aggressive in opposing state-sponsored programs like charter change and reproductive health measures.

Many people are curious about the economic doctrines of the church. What constitutes a good economic policy? Do we need free market solutions to address economic woes? What is the role of the state under a globalized economy? Since there is a looming global economic recession, it is not surprising that many people seek guidance through the gospel. Economic uncertainties are encouraging more people to embrace the teachings of religious groups.

Today is an opportune time for the Catholic Church to disseminate its views on economic life. The compendium is a valuable reference which can elucidate the economic doctrines of the church.

Wealth creation or accumulation is not wrong. The church has a useful lesson on this issue:

“Wealth, explains Saint Basil, is like water that issues forth from the fountain: the greater the frequency with which it is drawn, the purer it is, while it becomes foul if the fountain remain unused.” (Social Doctrine, 329)

This means that “private and public property must be oriented to an economy of service to mankind” The church frowns on the culture of consumerism:

“The church warns against the treachery hidden within a development that is only quantitative, for the excessive availability of every kind of material goods for the benefit of certain social groups, easily makes people slaves of ‘possession’ and immediate gratification.” (334)

To put it in another way: “It would not be acceptable to achieve economic growth at the expense of human beings, entire populations or social groups, condemning them to indigence.” (332)

Economic initiatives are encouraged. Business opportunities should be allowed to flourish. But business should not just be reduced as a “society of capital goods.” It should also be treated as a “society of persons.” Profit is not bad; it reflects that business is functioning well. But the church insists that usury is to be morally condemned.

The church views the free market as “the most efficient instrument for utilizing resources and effectively responding to needs.” But this should be a competitive market where excessive profits of individual businesses are moderated and consumer demands are fulfilled.

The church elaborates further:

“The market is an irreplaceable instrument for regulating the inner workings of the economic system…but faced with the concrete ‘risk of an idolatry’ of the market, the church’s social doctrine underlines its limits, which are easily seen in its proven inability to satisfy important human needs, which require goods that by their nature are not and cannot be mere commodities.” (349)

To counter blind worship of the market, “freedom in the economic sector must be regulated by appropriate legal norms so that it will be placed at the service of integral human freedom.” The church believes “free market can have a beneficial influence on the general public only when the state is organized in such a manner that it defines and gives direction to economic development.”

The church outlines the role of the state to foster progress in society:

“The state has a duty to sustain business activities by creating conditions which will ensure job opportunities….The state has the further right to intervene when particular monopolies create delays or obstacles to development.” (351)

The dignity of work is recognized by recognizing that “labour has an intrinsic priority over capital” and by opposing various instruments of exploitation:

“Any form of materialism or economic tenet that tries to reduce the worker to being a mere instrument of production, a simple labour force with an exclusively material value, would end up hopelessly distorting the essence of work and stripping it of its most noble and basic human finality.” (271)

The church is worried over the “disquieting” new forms of unfair labour practices in the “unrestrained quest for productivity.” The church adds that “full employment remains a mandatory objective for every economic system oriented towards justice and the common good.”

It is curious that agrarian reform is justified using free market dictum:

“Agrarian reform is a moral obligation than a political necessity, since the failure to enact such reform is a hindrance in poor countries to the benefits arising from the opening of markets and, generally, from the abundant growth opportunities offered by the current process of globalization.” (300)

The church enumerates the rights of workers which need to be recognized, promoted and protected. Special attention was given to women workers, child labourers, immigrants and informal workers in the hidden economy. The church should review or clarify its appeal for greater flexibility in the labour market.

To sum up the economic doctrines of the church, “economic activity and material progress must be placed at the service of man and society.”

The church recognizes that globalization is responsible for the “growing economic wealth” but at the same time it is accompanied by an “increase in relative poverty” in the world. Therefore, the church is proposing a “globalization in solidarity or a globalization without marginalization.”

Church authorities can be engaged to speak out on various economic issues like rising prices of commodities, monopolies in the market, scandalous profiteering of some businesses, feudal control of land, human rights violations in the labour sector and the pauperization of Filipino workers. The compendium can be used to challenge the silence of the bishops.

Some would say the church has no business interfering with the economic affairs of the country. The clergy has little expertise on economic issues. But the church is an “expert in humanity.” It has more than two thousand years of accumulated experience on how to improve societies. We trust unmarried priests during marriage counselling. We can trust the same priests to shed light on issues dealing with jobs, incomes, capital or other topics on human affairs.

However, priests commit mistakes from time to time. Some of them may use the compendium to justify the anti-poor economic policies of the state. The church remains one of the biggest landlords in the country. Many priests are not practicing the vows of poverty and celibacy.

Recently, the bishops called for a “communal action” against corruption which was warmly received by both the administration and opposition blocs. The bishops are unable to send a clear-cut message on a very basic issue such as corruption perpetrated by Malacanang officials. Can we trust the same bishops to issue a statement against oil price hikes when most of them are even reluctant to remind President Gloria Arroyo on her accountability in the pervasive corruption in government?

Related entries:

Divine interventions
Church and population
Altar Knights
Labour rights
Bishop bloggers of the Philippines

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Probably inspired by the compendium, consumer groups sent a letter to Philippine bishops last month in the hope that the latter will draft a statement against runaway oil prices. So far, the bishops have not yet responded. Below is the open letter of the People’s Unity Against Oil Price Hikes:

An Open Letter To Our Dear Bishops

We belong to different sectors, social groups, and parishes who are deeply affected by the rising prices of petroleum products. More and more people, especially the poorest of the poor, are unable to cope with the inflationary impact of runaway oil prices.

We ask our dear bishops to intervene in behalf of struggling poor and middle class consumers by reminding the government of its sworn duty to ease the burden of the people.

Oil prices are rising because oil monopolies want to earn more profits at the expense of ordinary citizens. Speculation in the market is distorting the real value of oil products. This is why oil prices in the world markets have reached $100 per barrel. Greed is the reason why oil prices continue to increase, thereby exacerbating poverty in the country.

Meanwhile, politicians refuse to take drastic measures to control oil prices because tax revenues from oil are big sources of corruption. The Value Added Tax (VAT) on oil comprises the main bulk of total VAT collections and is used primarily to finance debt servicing not social services.

During these difficult times, we are reminded by the social doctrine of the Catholic Church which puts economic activity and material progress at the service of man and society. (Social Doctrine of the Church, 326).

The insensitivity of oil companies to the plight of the people by raising prices as high as the market can bear is morally condemnable. We are guided by the Catechism of the Catholic Church which describes usurious and avaricious dealings as among the causes of hunger and death in society. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2269).

The Catholic Church has a relevant reminder on what constitutes a competitive market:

"A truly competitive market is an effective instrument for attaining important objectives of justice: moderating the excessive profits of individual businesses, reponding to consumers’ demands…so that it is really possible to compare and purchase products in an atmosphere of healthy competition." (Social Doctrine of the Church, 347).

The oil industry, far from being competitive, is under the control of a cartel which dictates oil prices in the local and international markets. The government should heed the teaching of the Catholic Church which recognizes the right of the state "to intervene when particular monopolies create delays or obstacles to development." (Social Doctrine of the Church, 351). Prices of socially-sensitive products like oil should be regulated by the state.

We think the government’s response to offset the new rounds of oil price increases is not enough. The tariff reduction will not redound to the benefit of consumers. Aside from appealing for energy conservation and promotion of renewable sources of energy, we believe the government can do more to control runaway oil prices.

We ask Congress to repeal the Oil Deregulation Law which allows oil companies to arbitrarily increase oil prices. We urge the suspension or removal of VAT on petroleum products since this will immediately reduce oil prices by as much as P4.00 per liter. We demand government to control oil price hikes by imposing a moratorium on these increases and by placing national interest ahead of the interests of a few monopolies.

We appeal to our dear bishops to make a stand against the immoral profiteering schemes of oil companies. The Catholic Church can advise politicians to implement bold steps against unjust oil price hikes.

It is morally reprehensible that a few oil companies are earning super profits while majority of the people are condemned to indigence. The government’s claim of helplessness over the issue is inciting outrage among the people.

We appeal for the guidance of our dear bishops. We ask them to assist the faithful who are seeking relief from the rising prices of oil and other commodities.

Government versus the media

Filipino politicians always boast that the Philippines’ press is one of the freest in Asia. But local media practitioners insist the Philippines continues to be one of the most dangerous countries for journalists.

Censorship is enforced by killing radio broadcasters and hard-hitting journalists in the provinces. Seventy journalists have been killed in the Philippines since democracy was restored in 1986. Ever since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo became chief executive seven years ago, 33 journalists have been murdered in the line of duty. Only two cases have resulted in convictions.

Journalists and the public in general are prevented from accessing vital official documents which could pinpoint highly irregular government deals. The citizens’ right to information is violated every time the government suppresses official reports which could prove damaging to the reputation of top leaders of the country. Arroyo disallows Cabinet members from testifying in senate investigations if the latter is spearheaded by opposition lawmakers.

Arroyo’s allies often castigate the media for failing to report the achievements of the administration. The president herself displays her irritation and famous temper every time a reporter asks an embarrassing question. The president only wants to answer questions about her economic programs. Once, she accused a TV reporter of "abetting terrorism" in the country.

The First Family has sued hundreds of journalists for libel. The First Gentleman asserts he is a private citizen whose privacy rights must be respected by the media. After the First Gentleman underwent major heart surgery last year, he withdrew all his libel cases against journalists.

The president dislikes the media’s failure to articulate all of her political and economic agenda. The media resents attempts by the government to suppress and distort the truth.

The brewing conflict between media and government simmered last Nov. 29 when more than 30 rebel soldiers occupied a luxury hotel in the country’s financial district. The media covered the event even when police forces were attacking the rebels inside the hotel. After the capture of all mutineers, police began arresting members of media. The arrested journalists were detained in a police camp. The journalists were "processed" to determine if some of them aided the coup plotters.

Media groups lambasted the handcuffing and detention of journalists. They complained that even during the darkest days of martial law, journalists did not suffer the same degrading treatment at the hands of police enforcers. The government claimed it has the right to arrest anybody who is wittingly or unwittingly obstructing the work of police forces.

Arrested journalists said the police did not inform them of their rights, nor did they inform them of the offences for which they were being arrested. They added that officers ordered them to raise their arms in surrender, despite the fact that tear gas fumes which the police had earlier deployed had yet to dissipate.

The Nov. 29 incident was originally about a failed coup attempt by young idealist soldiers; but it later became an issue of a government attack on press freedom.

Government officials continued to threaten journalists even after the Nov. 29 fiasco. Authorities warned media personnel that they would be arrested if they covered the activities of destabilizers, terrorists and communists. Last month, the Secretary of Justice issued an advisory addressed to the Chief Executive Officers of media networks and press organizations, written in all capital letters, which read:

"Please be reminded that your respective companies, networks or organizations may incur criminal liabilities under the law if any one of your field reporters, news gatherers, photographers, cameramen and other media practitioners will disobey lawful orders from duly authorized government officers and personnel during emergencies, which may lead to collateral damage to properties and civilian casualties in case of authorized police or military operations."

Media groups believe the advisory is meant to "intimidate, cow and muzzle the media" which violates the "most sacred of rights of citizens in a democratic society." They also decided that it is already time to fight back by asking the courts to intervene.

More than a hundred journalists and four media organizations filed two separate suits against officials of the Arroyo administration for "gravely abusing their discretion and making statements that tend to threaten, stifle, intimidate or convey warnings to the press that they will incur possible criminal liabilities or face arrest should they refuse to toe the government line in the coverage of news developments."

In the first suit, the petitioners were immediately granted a temporary restraining order against the respondents "to refrain and desist from issuing threats of arrests or from implementing such threats against plaintiffs and/or members of the media."

The petitioners are demanding P10 million (US$245, 600) in damages. If they win the case, the petitioners said the money would go to a trust fund for the defense of journalists facing legal action related to the performance of their jobs.

Media groups have clarified that they do not wish to be above the law. They will follow government orders as long as these rules do not impinge on their constitutional right to know the truth. Journalists insist they have not been obstructing the duties of police forces. They appeal to the government to respect the right of media groups to decide whether or not to cover an event.

It is fitting that media groups quoted American Chief Justice Hughes in the prefatory statement of their petition to the Supreme Court. Here is how Hughes explained the role of media in examining the conduct of public affairs:

"The greater the importance of safeguarding the community from incitements to the overthrow of our institutions by force and violence, the more imperative is the need to preserve inviolate the constitutional rights of free speech, free press and free assembly in order to maintain the opportunity for free political discussion, to the end that government may be responsive to the will of the people and that changes, if desired, may be obtained by peaceful means. Therein lies the security of the Republic, the very foundation of constitutional government."

Related entries:

Messengers in distress
Corruption and the Right to Information
Gonzales siraulo

Sulyap kabataan

Talumpating binigay sa Alternative Education Program ng Ateneo de Naga, Pebrero 7, 2008….

Natatandaan ninyo pa ba ang insidente sa Peninsula Hotel noong Nobyembre 29? Ano ang naaalala ninyo? Tiyak si Senador Antonio Trillanes at Brigadier General Danilo Lim. Maraming sibilyan ang hinuli at kinasuhan nung araw na yun. Tampok sa mga inaresto ay mga senior citizen. Halimbawa sina Dr. Dodong Nemenzo, Bishop Julio Labayen at Vice President Tito Guingona. Ang mga sikat na kritiko ng pamahalaan ay matatanda.

Bakit walang kabataan sa tabi ni Trillanes at Lim nang magpresscon sila sa Makati? Bakit senior citizens ang lumalaban? Bakit mga trapo at sundalo ang nagsasalita para sa atin?

Nasaan ang mga kabataan? Maaaring andito sila: nakapila sa mga embassy, nag-aapply na makakuha ng visa para makapagtrabaho sa ibang bansa. Maaaring ang iba ay subsob sa pag-aaral. O kaya ay natutulog dahil gabi pa ang kanilang pasok bilang mga call center agent. O baka naman nasa mga katabing mall, naglalaro sa arcade, nanonood ng sine, nag-uukay. Yung iba naman ay nakaharap sa computer, may dinadownload na kanta, naghahanap ng magandang video clip sa you tube o may ka-chat na kaibigan o kapamilya.

Inaakusahan ang mga kabataan ng mga nakakatanda. Apathetic daw ang bagong henerasyon ng mga Pilipino. Walang pakialam sa nangyayari sa gobyerno. Tahimik sa mga isyung panlipunan. Hindi na kritikal, hindi na nagtatanong, hindi na nagrereklamo. Totoo ba ito? Ano sa tingin ninyo?

Sikat ang mga market study na ginagamit ng mga advertising company upang makuha ang atensiyon ng mga kabataan. Ang mga kabataan daw ngayon ay nabibilang sa tinatawag nilang virtual o networked generation. Mahilig sa panonood ng TV, makinig ng mga kanta sa ipod, magtext bawat minuto at laging nasa cyberworld.

Kung gagawin pa nating mas partikular: 55 milyon ang may cell phone sa bansa, mahigit isang daang milyon ang napapadalang text bawat araw, mahigit 5 milyon ang friendster account sa Pilipinas. Higit na pinaniniwalaan ng mga kabataan ang lumalabas sa TV kaysa mga turo sa bahay, simbahan o eskuwela.

Nag-iiba na rin daw ang moralidad ng mga kabataan. Mas maraming kabataan ngayon ang may positibong tingin sa premarital sex, paggamit ng condom at kahit sa abortion.

Sabi nila ang pangarap daw ng mga kabataan ay pitong C: career, cash, car, credit card, condominium, at country club membership. Hindi pa dito kasama ang citizenship sa Canada, Australia at Estados Unidos.

Kahit ang mga guro nagrereklamo sa study habits ng mga mag-aaral. Maikli na daw ang attention span, hindi na nagbabasa, hindi na marunong gumawa ng mga sulat – negatibong epekto diumano ng email at texting. Dati nangongopya sa mga kaklase, ngayon pare-pareho ang sagot ng lahat dahil sa google at wikipedia. Kailangan palaging may litrato sa pagtuturo para maintindihan ang usapin.

Madaling akusahan ang kabataan. Nakakaaliw tukuyin ang mga kahinaan ng bagong henerasyon. Marahil nakakabuti sa kalusugan ng matatanda ang magsermon at pagalitan ang mga bata. Pero dapat ilagay ito sa konteksto.

Kasi kapag sasabihin lang na apathetic ang kabataan, nang hindi inuunawa ang konkretong kalagayan ng mga kabataan, mauuwi ito sa unproductive na pangangaral. Ito ay pessimist na aktitud. Tuluyan ng mawawalan ng saysay ang sinabi ni Rizal noon. Hindi ko na babanggitin ang sinabi ni Rizal, masyado na kasing palasak.

Ang mungkahi ko, imbes na magpokus sa iniisip nating kakulangan o kalabisan ng kabataan, dapat alamin ang kalagayan ng kabataan.

Bakit nga ba ganito na ang aktitud, gawi at pag-iisip ng kabataan? Ano ang nagtutulak sa kanila palabas ng bansa? Natutugunan ba natin ang mga pangangailangan ng kabataan? Sila ba, kayo ba, tayo ba, ay binibigyan ng sapat na edukasyon, wastong kasanayan, maayos na kalusugan, disenteng pananamit, pabahay, at iba pang batayang serbisyo? Sa madaling salita, empowered, enlightened, educated ba ang mga kabataan?

Bahagya kong tatalakayin ang partikular na sitwasyon ng kabataan. Tatlong paksa ito: edukasyon, trabaho at sekswalidad.

Pero bago yan, kilalanin muna natin kung sinu-sino ang kabataan. (refer to powerpoint presentation)

Aabot ng 1/3 ng populasyon ang kabataan. Bata ang populasyon ng Pilipinas. Malaki itong consumer market para sa mga negosyante. May sobrang suplay ng mga manggagawa. Higit sa lahat, ispesyal at epektibong grupo ito na mainam na mapakilos para sa panlipunang pagbabago. Nakikita niyo ba ang potensiyal ng sama-sama nating pagkilos? Kapag milyun-milyong kabataan ang magmamartsa laban sa korupsiyon, tiyak mapaparusahan ang mga magnanakaw. Kapag milyun-milyon ang magtetext o susulat sa mga pulitikong pulpol, may maipagwawagi tayong mga kampanya.

Kapag sinabi nating kabataan, hindi lang estudyante ang ating tinutukoy. May iba’t ibang kategorya ng kabataan: In-school youth, out of school youth, working youth, youth with special needs. (refer to powerpoint presentation)

Unahin natin ang sitwasyon ng edukasyon sa bansa. Mababa ang kalidad, tumataas ang gastusin, lumiliit ang enrolment at kapos ang badyet ng mga public school. (refer to powerpoint presentation)

Nais kong bigyang pansin ang problema ng pag-alis sa bansa ng mga batang propesyunal. Taun-taon, mahigit isang milyong Pilipino ang nangingibang-bayan. Karamihan sa kanila ay mga kabataan. Hindi na brain drain ang suliranin, isa na itong brain hemorrhage. (refer to powerpoint presentation)

May pananagutan din ang mga eskuwelahan sa nilalaman ng kanilang tinuturo. Dapat hindi tinuturo ang selfish individualism, sobrang pagmamahal sa mga materyal na bagay at makitid na pagturing sa edukasyon bilang susi sa pagkuha ng trabaho na may mataas na sahod. Dapat ang edukasyon ay naglalayong magsanay ng mga holistikong indibidwal na nagmamahal sa bayan; naghuhubog ng mga kabataang maglilingkod sa mahihirap.

Natatandaan ninyo pa ba ang inyong yearbook noong hayskul? Ano ang sinulat ninyong pangarap o target na propesyon? May nagsulat ba na gusto kong maging magsasaka? Maging duktor o nurse sa malayong baryo sa kanayunan? Ang maging social worker?

Pag-usapan naman natin ang sitwasyon ng mga batang manggagawa. Karamihan sa mga Pilipinong walang trabaho ay mga kabataan. Higit na madami ang mga kabataang underemployed. Mababa ang pasahod, kaunti ang benepisyo, hindi nakakabuhay ang kinikita ng manggagawa. Isang insulto sa dignidad ng tao ang kontraktuwalisasyon. Maraming batang manggagawa, lalo na sa service sector, ay hindi kabilang sa unyon. Kadalasan, kapag walang unyon, madaling nalalabag ang karapatan ng mga batang manggagawa. Nakakaalarma ang bilang ng mga unfair labor practice. Pero higit na nakakaalarma ang walang kibong pagtanggap sa mga paglabag na ito.

Isang kontrobersiyal sa usapin ang sekswalidad. Pero dapat natin itong pag-usapan. Humikit-kumulang kalahating milyon ang mga kaso ng abortion sa bansa. Halos 1/3 ng mga kaso ay nabibilang sa may edad na 15-24. Tatlo sa bawat apat na namamatay sa panganganak ay mga teenager.

Kapag sinabi nating reproductive health, hindi lang premarital sex ang isyu. Nariyan ang maagang pagbubuntis at panganganak, abortion, rape, violence at sexual harassment.

Maraming kabataan ang hindi inuulat sa mga duktor ang kanilang mga problema sa reproductive health. Dysmenorrhea sa mga kababaihan at masakit na pag-ihi sa mga kalalakihan.

Nakakatakot ang sarbey na pinapakita ang pagtaas ng bilang ng mga teenager na iniisip na mayroon ng gamot sa AIDS. Nakakatakot din ang kanilang iniisip na hindi sila vulnerable sa sakit na ito. May tsismis na tumataas daw ang bilang ng may AIDS sa mga call center.

Aabot ng 13 percent ang bilang ng mga teenager ang nag-isip at nagtangkang magpakamatay. Kalahati ng bilang ay may kinalaman sa paglalaslas ng pulso. Aabot ng 11 percent ang gumagamit ng ilegal na droga. Pinakapopular ang marijuana, rugby, shabu, ecstasy at cough syrup.

Nailahad natin ang pahapyaw na pagsilip sa kalagayan ng kabataan: may problema sa kalidad at kantidad ng edukasyon, marami ang walang trabaho, may diskriminasyon sa mga batang propesyunal, hindi nasasagot ang problema sa kalusugan ng mga kabataan.

Paano maayos at tuluy-tuloy na maisasakatuparan ng kabataan ang kanyang dakilang misyon na maging pag-asa ng bayan kung hindi natin siya nabibigyan ng sapat na pagkalinga? Dapat itaguyod muna ang kapakanan ng kabataan.

Pero hindi lang ito ang mga dahilan kung bakit tumatalikod ang maraming kabataan sa pulitika. Nariyan ang korupsiyon, karahasan ng pulitika at mababang kalidad at moralidad ng ating mga lider. Magulo sa Kongreso, laging may bangayan sa Senado, kinikidnap ang mga testigo, pugad ng mga ahas ang Malakanyang.

Kadalasan, isang reaksiyon ng kabataan sa mabahong sistema ng pulitika ay talikuran ang pangangailangang makisangkot. Imbes na aktibong ayusin ang nakikitang kapalpakan sa pamahalaan, nagiging madali para sa mga bata ang pag-iwas sa kanilang tungkulin.

“Aayusin ko na lang ang buhay ko, ito na ang kontribusyon ko sa lipunan. Magbabayad ako ng tamang buwis,” ang laging sambit ng maraming kabataan.

May problema sa bayan, alam ito ng marami. Kaso anumang oras pwedeng piliin ang desisyon na mangibang-bayan. Iniiwan sa iba ang hamon na makialam at itama ang mali. May iba naman na ayaw madungisan ang kanilang budhi ng bulok na pulitika sa bansa.

Sa isang banda, masisisi ba natin ang kabataan na umalis ng bansa kung hindi naman mabubuhay ng disente ang kanilang pamilya? Paano natin sila mahihikayat na manatili samantalang totoo naman ang kanilang hinaing na hindi makakabuti sa pagpapalaki ng anak ang ganitong klase ng sistema sa bansa? Tunay na kasuklam-suklam ang pagnanakaw sa bayan, pang-aabuso ng kapangyarihan at kainutilan ng mga lider.

Ano ang dapat unahin? Ano ang pwedeng gawin ng kabataan? (refer to powerpoint presentation)

Malaki ang papel ng mga lider. Dapat bigyan nila ng inspirasyon at motibasyon ang mga kabataan na mag-alay muna ng talino, giting at lakas sa ating bansa bago makipagsapalaran sa ibayong dagat. Dapat may mga lider tayo na titindig at hihimok sa kabataan na manatili sa bansa.

Bilang isang komunidad at lahi, kailangang pag-usapan kung uubra ba na ipagpatuloy ang pagsandig sa perang pinapadala ng mga overseas Filipino worker upang manatiling buhay ang ating ekonomiya. Ito ba talaga ang tanging paraan para makalikom ng salapi? Ibebenta natin ang ating murang lakas paggawa, iiwan ang ating minamahal sa buhay, makikipamuhay sa ibang lupain, para lang isalba ang ating ekonomiya?

Anong tipo ng lipunan ang gusto nating iwan sa susunod na henerasyon? Ano ang ipapamana nating aral: wasakin ang mga pamilya, magbenta ng mga kidney organ, mangibang-bayan para lang mabuhay?

Kailangang pagbutihin ang uri ng pulitika at ekonomiya sa bansa. Kailangan ng isang kalakarang paghuhusayin ang kapakanan ng kabataan. Dapat pwede nating makumbinsi ang mga kabataan na pwede nilang matupad ang kanilang pangarap kahit hindi umalis ng bansa.

Higit sa lahat, mahalaga ang pagkausap mismo sa kabataan. Huwag tumigil sa panunuyo sa kanilang makabayang damdamin. Dapat ulit-ulitin: huwag sumuko sa kawalang pag-asa. Huwag magpatalo sa cynicism at pessimism. Ibalik ang tiwala sa sarili at kapwa na pwede ang pagbabago kung sama-sama, kung nagkakaisa palagi ang kabataan at mamamayan.

Dapat tukuyin din ang mga aksiyon na pwede nating isulong. Hangga’t maaari, resolbahin ang ugat ng mga problema. Walang masama ang maging matulunging karpintero. Sige, gumawa tayo ng mga bahay. Pero dapat kilalanin na may higit pa tayong maaambag. Higit pa ang pagbabago kung aayusin din ang pamamahala sa pambansang lebel.

Malalim ang ugat ng kahirapan. Dambuhala ang hamon ng pagbabago. Sopistikado ang pang-aapi sa lipunan. Ano ang ituturo natin sa kabataan? Pulutin ang candy wrapper sa corridor? Ok lang yun. Pero dapat handa din tayong tumugon sa mga mapangahas na aksiyon. Maging matapang, mapanlikha, mapanuri. Huwag matakot magtakda ng mga dambuhalang tugon sa mga dambuhalang suliranin.

Bawat henerasyon ay may kanya-kanyang sagot sa tawag ng panahon. Ang dami-daming nananawagan ng pagbabago. Tiyak nauuyam na kayo. Moral revolution daw. Social change. System change. Charter change. Character change. Sex change.

Patuloy na sumugal sa kakayahan ng kabataan. Huwag nating biguin ang mga umaasa sa atin. Milyun-milyon tayo samantalang iilang libo lamang ang kalaban natin. Iilang daang pamilya lamang ang nagkokontrol ng ating lipunan.

Sige na nga sasabihin ko na rin ang payo ni Rizal: Kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan. Dingdagan yan ni dating senador Raul Roco. Wika niya: Kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan ngayon.

Ngayon ang panahon para tumindig. Hindi bukas, hindi sa susunod na semestre. May senate hearing bukas ukol sa ZTE scandal. Ano ang pwedeng gawin ng mge estudyante ng Ateneo de Naga?

Related articles:

Tayo Kabataan
Krisis ng edukasyon
Defining youth
Defending human rights

Reviewing Arroyo’s promises

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is already the second longest-serving president of the Philippines since the country regained its independence in 1946. Only former dictator Ferdinand Marcos has ruled the country for a longer period.

The daughter of a former president, Arroyo was an economics teacher before becoming an officer of an economic planning agency of the government in the late 1980s. She was elected senator in 1992 and topped the senate race in 1995. Three years later, she became the vice president of the country.

After a people’s uprising ousted President Joseph Estrada from power, Arroyo was catapulted to the presidency in 2001. She ran for president in 2004 and managed to get a fresh mandate to serve the country for another six years.

Arroyo is vocal about her plan to leave a lasting legacy to the Filipino nation. She often refers to her economic and social programs, which she believes would make the Philippines a peaceful, vibrant and prosperous country.

As Arroyo’s term is about to end in 2010, it is sensible to review what the president promised at the start of her presidency and compare it with what she accomplished after seven years in power. The best sources of information are Arroyo’s inaugural speeches in 2001 and 2004.

Arroyo said she accepted the privilege and responsibility of becoming president in 2001 with feelings of trepidation and a sense of awe. She hailed the birthing of a new Philippines and the heroism of the people. Arroyo was proud of the People Power uprising, called the Edsa Revolution after the Manila highway where thousands of people marched. She even asserted that "Filipinos of unborn generations will look back with pride to Edsa 2001."

Seven years later, Arroyo’s spokesman appealed to the people to forget the "divisive" Edsa 2001.

In her inaugural address, Arroyo made mention of the major groups and individuals who led the uprising in 2001. She expressed her gratitude to the legislators and witnesses who supported the impeachment process, the youth and students who walked out of their classrooms to participate in Edsa, the generals in the armed forces, and the Filipinos "who stood up to be counted" during those "troubled times."

In the past seven years, Arroyo never forgot to thank the generals by appointing them to juicy positions in the government. She exaggerated the role of the generals and downplayed the participation of the left and the poor in Edsa 2001. Arroyo’s revisionism is echoed by armchair political analysts who continue to insist that the uprising in 2001 was nothing more than a successful conspiracy of the tiny Arroyo clique.

In 2001, Arroyo set down four core beliefs of her administration:

1. Be bold in national ambition to win the fight against poverty;

2. Improve moral standards in government and society in order to provide a strong foundation for good governance;

3. Change the character of politics, create fertile ground for true reforms. Politics of personality and patronage must give way to a new politics of party programs; and

4. Leadership by example. Promote solid traits such as a work ethic and a dignified lifestyle, matching action to rhetoric, performing rather than grandstanding.

The Philippines remains a poor country, but this is not the fault of Arroyo alone. It would take more than seven years to reverse the poverty situation in the Philippines. What Arroyo should be held accountable for is her failure to improve the moral standards in government. The Catholic Church and peoples’ organizations have accused the president of practicing a "morally bankrupt" leadership. Even Arroyo’s political allies have launched a crusade for a "moral revolution." These are all an indictment against Arroyo’s brand of leadership.

In 2001, Arroyo emphasized that "traditional politics is the politics of the status quo" and is a structural part of the problem. This was her argument for promoting a new politics of party programs. Seven years after she made this speech, patronage politics is still strong in the country and Arroyo has become like a Mafia lady boss who gives out taxpayers’ money to loyal politicians.

During her inaugural speech as a re-elected president in 2004, Arroyo focused on what she wished to accomplish in the next six years. She was very confident that her government could fulfil the following:

"I shall have created more than 6 million jobs, perhaps, even 10 million jobs. I shall have supported 3 million entrepreneurs by giving them loans. That way, we shall be establishing a deep foundation for a broad middle class.

"I shall have developed 1 million hectares, if possible 2 million, of agribusiness land by making them productive and transporting their products to the markets efficiently. Everyone of school age will be in school in uncrowded classrooms, in surroundings conducive to learning.

"I shall have balanced the budget by collecting the right revenues and spending on the right things. Elections will no longer raise a single doubt about their integrity. The electoral process will be completely computerized. Power and water will be regularly provided to all villages.

"Peace will have come to Mindanao. All insurgents shall have turned their swords into ploughshares. They will have become so absorbed into one society that the struggles of the past will be just the stuff of legend."

Arroyo pledged to bring "a pro-poor agenda that will lift up the poor and imbue them with hope." She promised to "crack down on wasteful and abusive officials and influence peddlers."

What has Arroyo accomplished after finishing the first half of her six-year term?

Each year 1 million people are forced to leave the country since there are inadequate job opportunities. The middle classes are vanishing since they are migrating to other nations. Agribusiness is booming for big capitalists but the farmers remain landless and hungry.

The classroom shortage was solved by adopting a classroom-to-student ratio of 1:100. A balanced budget was achieved by raising the consumption tax. Elections are still inefficient, slow and fraud-prone. Power and water are regularly provided by private companies to all villages which can afford the high rates.

A civil war is still ongoing in the countryside. The government refuses to engage in peace talks that address the roots of insurgency.

Many political analysts, and even the opposition, believe that Arroyo will step down voluntarily in 2010. They should remember that in 2001 Arroyo said she would win the war against poverty in one decade. That should have alerted the opposition that Arroyo intended to remain in power until 2010. Instead, they naively assumed that she would not run for president in 2004.

To all those who believe Arroyo will step down in 2010, don’t forget her promise that she would make the Philippines a first-world nation in 2020. Arroyo wants to remain president for life.

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Brokeback politics

There are 106 first termers in the House of Representatives today. These lawmakers never received past favours from Speaker Jose De Venecia. They have no compelling or even sentimental reason to remain loyal to De Venecia. In fact, the new members of Congress are more likely to complain that senior members of the Lower House are prioritized for membership in juicy committees. The neophyte solons are easily persuaded to support the “Oust De Venecia” plot.

Ever since the 14th Congress opened its first session last July, Kampi has always challenged the leadership of De Venecia. But De Venecia managed to secure the speakership since he had the backing of Malacanang. De Venecia’s ouster was sealed when he lost the vote of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

It is ironic and tragic that De Venecia’s political fortunes will end this way. De Venecia is often referred to as the quintessential trapo in post-Marcos Philippine politics. De Venecia perfected the art of political compromises, otherwise known as the “win-win solution.” The same system of unprincipled wheeling and dealing has now caused the downfall of De Venecia as one of the most powerful men in the country. What happened to the master politician who could make impossible things possible?

De Venecia has every right to feel slighted. He was correct to hit back against his enemies. He should concentrate his attacks against the ungrateful president.

De Venecia made Arroyo his running mate in the 1998 polls. He was the campaign manager of Arroyo during the 2004 presidential elections. When Arroyo was almost removed from power in July 2005, it was De Venecia’s decisive leadership which saved the president. For three times, De Venecia has thwarted impeachment attempts against the president. Since 2001, De Venecia has proven his loyalty to the president and Lakas-Kampi coalition. The De Venecias and Arroyos are close family friends. Indeed, there are no permanent friends in politics.

A few months ago, De Venecia had many allies in Congress. Now they are nowhere to be found. De Venecia could not rely on allies whom he had appointed in different strategic positions in the Lower House. De Venecia suddenly lost the confidence of politicians whom he supported in past elections. De Venecia is disappointed that the Cabinet members whom he had recommended could easily abandon him today.

De Venecia is a dangerous enemy. He has brokered too many deals with past and present governments. He knows too many embarrassing state secrets. He could expose more political scandals involving the First Family. De Venecia is not a stupid politician. He will refuse to become a lameduck figure. He can hit back; he can humiliate the president; he can cause the downfall of the administration.

But De Venecia should recognize that in order to be more credible, he should admit his shortcomings as a leader. He should confess his sins to the people. He should not deny his corrupt and criminal activities. Chavit Singson became a reliable witness because he admitted that he was an accomplice in pocketing jueteng money. Will De Venecia do a Chavit Singson? Is he the right person to lead a moral revolution?

De Venecia should start reflecting about his role in perpetuating a corrupt political system. He should probe his weaknesses as a leader. He should ask why some of his kababayan in northern Luzon voted for his ouster.

De Venecia is confident of his achievements as leader of Congress. But he should not brush aside the accusations that were hurled against him. Is there really no transparency in the disbursement of funds in Congress? What was his real involvement in the controversial Northrail project?

De Venecia should clarify his legacy to the Filipino people. If surveys are to be believed, Congress has very low public trust ratings. De Venecia’s image as a trapo could be a major factor why many Filipinos have negative perception towards the Lower House. For the new generation of Filipinos, De Venecia is almost the only recognizable and known Speaker of the House of Representatives. De Venecia should make amends and clean his tarnished political reputation.

If De Venecia intends to fight Arroyo all the way, he should first stop underestimating the political shrewdness of the president. Arroyo will not drop De Venecia if she knows she will not survive the political backlash of her decision. De Venecia has met his match.

De Venecia’s fall from grace should teach others about the harshness of politics. In particular, this should remind Rep. Prospero Nograles, the new Speaker of Congress, that he will also be in danger of losing his position if he decides to antagonize the First Family. Nograles should remember that in spite of De Venecia’s numerous contributions to the Arroyo administration, the latter was still abandoned in the end by the ruling coalition. What has Nograles accomplished in behalf of the president? How long will Kampi tolerate the dominance of Lakas in Congress? Where is former president Fidel Ramos?

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Krisis ng edukasyon, si Arroyo ang sisihin

*Talumpating binigay sa Regional Education Summit ng Southern Tagalog, Enero 31, 2008, UP Los Baños.

Magandang umaga sa inyong lahat! Hindi na ako bagong bisita ng Regional Education Summit ng Southern Tagalog. Taun-taon kasama ninyo ako sa pagtitilad ng samu’t-saring problema ng sektor ng edukasyon sa bansa. Taun-taon hinahapag natin ang ating mga panukalang reporma upang hanguin ang edukasyon mula sa pagkakalugmok nito sa kasalukuyan. Ako ay nagpapasalamat at patuloy ninyong pinagkakatiwalaan ang aking mga opinyon.

Nakapagtataka’t mayroong krisis sa edukasyon. Sabi ng ating magulang, ang kanilang pamana sa atin ay magandang edukasyon. Banggit ng ating mga guro, edukasyon ang susi sa kaunlaran. Tuwing eleksiyon halos lahat ng mga pulitiko ay edukasyon ang kanilang nangungunang plataporma. Kapag pinag-uusapan ang pambansang badyet, o pork barrel, laging palusot ng gobyerno at mga mambabatas na edukasyon daw ang kanilang pangunahing prayoridad.

Pero bakit sa kabila ng abot-langit na pagtatangi sa edukasyon, mababa pa rin ang kalidad ng pag-aaral sa bansa? Ano itong nirereklamong kakapusan ng edukasyon na tugunan ang pangangailangan ng ating lipunan? Bakit marami ang di nakakapag-aral? Bakit may mga Marianette Amper na lumiliban sa mga eskuwelahan?

Naniniwala ako sa pahayag ng mga ekonomista, burukrata, iskolar, guro at mga aktibista na may krisis, may malubhang problema ang sektor ng edukasyon. Lahat naman ata ay nagkakaisa sa argumento na kailangang iligtas ang edukasyong Pilipino.

At dahil may iisang hatol sa kalidad ng edukasyon, lahat ng inisyatiba upang paunlarin ang edukasyon sa bansa ay malugod na tinatanggap, dinadakila, at ginagalang. Gayunpaman, hindi lahat ng pinapatupad na reporma ay nakakabuti. Hindi lahat ay epektibong natutumbok ang ugat ng krisis.

Halimbawa, mababa ang kalidad ng pagtuturo sa Math at Science. Ang sagot: Cyber Education Program? Kulang-kulang ang pasilidad ng mga pampublikong paaralan. Ang solusyon: ibenta ang ari-arian ng mga eskuwelahan, isapribado ang mga pamantasang pampubliko? Walang makuhang trabaho ang mga bagong graduate. Ang tugon: gamitin ang Ingles bilang wikang panturo sa lahat ng lebel ng edukasyon.

Oo, may krisis ang edukasyon. Pero hindi nangangahulugang dapat nating bulag na tanggapin ang lahat ng mga panukalang reporma ng mga grupo’t indibidwal mula sa pribado o pampublikong sektor. Dapat maingat nating suriin ang mga solusyon na kanilang nirerekomenda. Baka mamaya ito pa ang dahilan upang higit na masadlak sa kawalang pag-asa ang edukasyon sa Pilipinas.

Napakamakabuluhan ng ating pagtitipon ngayon. Kasabay ng ating aktibidad ay ang National Education Summit na pinatawag ng Malakanyang. Ito ay ginaganap sa Manila Hotel. Buti naman at kinikilala ng pamahalaan ang pangangailangan na ayusin ang edukasyon sa bansa. Pero natitiyak kong mabibigo ang summit nina Pangulong Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo na magbuo ng mga susing reporma na magpapabuti sa kalagayan ng edukasyon.

Paano nila ito gagawin eh panay mga kapitalista-edukador ang kanilang kaharap? Paano tapat at matapang na mapag-uusapan ang mga bumabagabag sa mga eskuwelahan eh samantalang duwag namang harapin ang simpleng public hearing ng Senado ukol sa kontrobersiya ng ZTE broadband project? Bakit ba ginagawang bagsakan ang Deped, Ched at Tesda ng mga trapo at mga retiradong pulitiko? Paano magiging solusyon ang summit samantalang ang keynote speaker, si Pangulong Gloria, ay siya mismo ang dahilan kung bakit bagsak ang grado ng edukasyon sa bansa.

Pangunahing pananagutan ni Arroyo ang pagbulusok ng kalidad sa edukasyon. Nitong nakalipas na pitong taon, lalong lumubha ang kalagayan ng edukasyon. Dahil sa taunang pagkaltas ng badyet ng mga eskuwelahan at ang pagbibigay ni Arroyo ng laya sa mga pribadong paaralan na maningil ng matataas na matrikula, dumami ang mga kabataang hindi makatuntong sa kolehiyo.

Kinikilala ng Saligang Batas ang mahalagang papel ng kabataan sa pag-unlad ng lipunan. Itinatalaga sa Artikulo IV Seksiyon I ng 1986 Konstitusyon na “dapat pangalagaan ng Estado ang karapatan ng lahat ng mamamayan sa mahusay na edukasyon sa lahat ng antas at dapat magsagawa ng angkop na mga hakbang upang matamo ng lahat ang gayong edukasyon.”

Ngunit dalawa’t kalahating milyon lamang ang nag-aaral sa kolehiyo na dapat sana ay walong milyon, 10 milyong kabataan ang nabibilang sa kategoryang out-of-school youth, at 12 milyon ang kabataang manggagawa. Isang milyong kabataang Pilipino naman ang umalis ng bansa noong nakaraan taon upang magkaroon ng higit na mabuting kabuhayan.

Pangunahing problema ng kabataan ang palpak at elitistang sistema ng edukasyon. Komersyalisado, kapos ang badyet na inilalaan ng gobyerno, pasista at tumutugon sa pangangailangan ng dayuhan ang kinakatangian ng edukasyon sa bansa.

Ito ang dahilan kung bakit mababa ang kalidad ng karunungan sa mga eskuwelahan. Ito ang may kasalanan kung bakit maraming kabataan ang hindi nakakapag-aral. Ito ang nagbubunsod sa ating mga propesyunal na mangibang-bayan upang mapakinabangan ang kanilang kasanayan.

Mababang badyet

Tutukan natin ang lubhang napakababang badyet ng pamahalaan sa edukasyon. Kung kulang ang pondo ng mga eskuwelahan, saan napupunta ang buwis ng mamamayan?

Napupunta ang kalakhan ng pambansang badyet sa utang panlabas. Nilalabag ng pamahalaan ang Artikulo XIV, Seksyon 5 ng ating Konstitusyon na “dapat mag-ukol ang Estado ng pinakamataas na prayoridad sa pagbabadyet sa edukasyon.”

Ayon sa pamahalaan, kailangan daw magbayad ng utang panlabas para makautang ulit na magpopondo sa mga serbisyong panlipunan. Ganito mag-isip ang ating mga opisyal. Pangungutang ang prayoridad sa paglikom ng salapi at hindi ang pagsugpo sa korupsiyon at ang pag-aayos sa palpak na pangongolekta ng buwis sa bansa.

Mananatiling mababa ang badyet sa edukasyon habang nakaluklok ang ekonomistang si Arroyo na nais pagsilbihan ang kagustuhan ng mga dayuhang mananalapi kaysa ang kapakanan ng sambayanang Pilipino.

Sulyapan natin ang epekto ng kapos na badyet sa kalidad ng edukasyon sa bansa. (refer to powerpoint presentation)

Elitista

Numero unong suliranin ng mga estudyante sa mga pribadong paaralan ang taunang pagtaas ng matrikula. Sa nakalipas na pitong taon ay pinayagan ng pamahalaang Arroyo ang mga eskuwelahan na maningil ng mas mataas na bayarin.

Sa kabila ng napakamahal na matrikulang binabayad ng mga estudyante, patuloy namang bumababa ang kalidad ng pagtuturo sa mga eskuwelahan. Napakababa ng passing rate sa mga board exam. Kung may tiwala tayo sa kalidad ng edukasyon sa kolehiyo, bakit kailangan pang mag-enroll sa mga review center?

Dahil negosyo at hindi na serbisyo ang edukasyon, wala ng pakialam ang mga kapitalista-edukador sa mataas ang drop-out rate sa kolehiyo sanhi ng taunang sobrang pagtaas ng matrikula. Napipilitang tumigil sa pag-aaral ang maraming kabataan dahil hindi sapat ang maliit na sinasahod ng kanilang mga magulang upang mabayaran ang mataas na sinisingil ng mga pribadong eskuwelahan.

(refer to powerpoint presentation)

Pilosopiya ng edukasyon

Nagrereklamo ang mga negosyante dahil nahihirapan daw silang maghanap ng mga batang manggagawang may sapat na kasanayan. Sinisisi nila ang mga eskuwelahan kung bakit tila hindi handa ang mga bagong graduate na sumabak sa mundo ng paggawa. Sa isang banda, totoo itong akusasyon ng mga negosyante. Hindi maikakaila ang kahinaan ng mga eskuwelahan.

Pero hindi ako komportable sa pilosopiya na dapat maging pokus lamang ng mga eskuwelahan ang pagsasanay sa mga kabataan na maging mahusay na manggagawa. Sa tingin ko ito ay makitid na pamantayan. Nag-aaral ba tayo upang maging episyenteng robot sa loob ng opisina? Nagsusunog ba tayo ng kilay upang maging milyonaryo sa hinaharap? Maaaring oo. At sinisisi ko ang mga eskuwelahan, ang dominanteng kultura na nagtuturo sa mga kabataan na maging ganid sa materyal na bagay, na maging indibidwalista, at gamitin ang mga eskuwelahan bilang kasangkapan sa makasariling pagpapayaman sa hinaharap.

Hindi ba’t ang higit na mainam na pilosopiya ng pagtuturo ay yung naglalayong humubog ng mga holistikong indibidwal? Hindi ba’t higit na makabuluhan na sukatan ng tagumpay ng eskuwelahan ay batay sa bilang ng mga kabataang may malasakit sa bayan, pagmamahal sa kapwa at dedikasyon na paunlarin ang komunidad?

Kaso nangunguna ang mekanikal at makitid na kaisipan na magsanay ng mga kabataan na pakikinabangan ng mga kumpanya. Ganito dapat ang pormulasyon: magsanay ng mga dalubhasa sa IT para sa inobasyon at higit pang pag-unlad ng buhay ng mga tao. Kaso ganito ang kalakaran: magsanay ng mga dalubhasa sa IT para pakinabangan ng mga call center company.

Kaugnay nito ay ang patakaran ng pamahalaan na maghikayat sa mga batang propesyunal na mangibang bayan at mag-uwi ng maraming pera sa bansa. Ito ang dahilan kung bakit ang mga popular na kurso sa mga eskuwelahan ngayon ay nakatuon sa malaking demand na trabaho sa ibang bansa tulad ng nursing at caregiver kahit na hindi ito ang kailangan ng domestikong ekonomiya.

Ilang beses naglabas ng direktiba si Arroyo na nag-uutos sa mga eskuwelahan na gamitin ang ingles bilang midyum ng pagtuturo. Gusto niyang maging kapaki-pakinabang ang mga Pilipino para sa mga dayuhang bansa at korporasyon.

Binago ang kurikulum sa elementarya at hayskul alinsunod sa pangangailangan ng mga dambuhalang korporasyon na nasa flexible production. Nais hubugin ang isang populasyong may kaunting kasanayan sa ingles, aritmetika at agham kahit na hindi holistiko ang nakuhang edukasyon.

(refer to powerpoint presentation)

Terorista

Maraming terorista sa bansa. Maraming teroristang eskuwelahan. Mula nang panatikong suportahan ng pamahalaang Arroyo ang ‘gera laban sa terorismo’ ng Estados Unidos ay mabilis na inangkop sa mga eskuwelahan ang lengguwahe, pamamaraan at gawi ng militar upang supilin ang demokratikong karapatan ng mga mag-aaral, guro at kawani.

Ginigipit ang mga publikasyong pangkampus na kritikal sa mga awtoridad. Pinapatalsik ang mga palabang lider ng mga konseho ng mag-aaral. Tumitindi at lalong nagiging absurdo ang mga mapanupil na pulisiya: no long hair policy, bawal ang PDA, bawal ang mga pagtitipon sa quadrangle, bawal ang aktibista, bawal ang fraternity.

Umiikot ang militar at pulis sa mga pamantasan upang takutin, siraan at huliin ang mga kumakalaban sa gobyerno ni Arroyo. Nagpapadala ng mga armadong sundalo sa loob ng kampus upang harangin ang pagkilos ng kabataan.

Sinusuportahan ng maraming kapitalista-edukador ang mga mapanupil na batas ng estado dahil lumalakas din ang paglaban ng estudyante sa pulisiya ng mga eskuwelahan.

Alternatibo

Gusto natin ng isang makabayang edukasyon na tumutugon sa pangangailangan ng bansa. Ito ay tumutulong sa pag-unlad ng ekonomiya at nagpapaunlad ng sining at kulturang Pilipino. Mali ang bulag na pagkopya ng mga modelo mula sa mga kanluraning bansa. Bagkus, dapat itong nakabatay sa kongkretong kalagayan at pangangailangan ng mamamayang Pilipino.

Gusto natin ng isang siyentipikong edukasyon tungo sa direksiyon ng pambansang industriyalisasyon. Siyentipiko ang sistema ng edukasyon kung ito ay nagpapalaganap ng mga demokratikong pananaw na babaka sa diskriminasyon batay sa uri, lahi, kasarian, relihiyon at iba pang mapang-aping pananaw.

Gusto natin ng edukasyong pangmasa. Ito ay makakamit lamang natin kung handa ang gobyerno na kilalanin at tupdin ang kanyang tungkulin sa mamamayan na pag-aralin ang mga ito.

Ano ang ating adyenda para sa makabuluhang reporma sa edukasyon? (refer to article below)

Palitan na

Pitong taong na si Arroyo sa Malakanyang. Ano ang kanyang ambag sa pagpapaunlad ng edukasyon? Naging inspirasyon ba siya ng mga estudyante na huwag mandaya sa mga eksam? Tumigil ba ang korupsiyon sa sektor ng edukasyon? Payag ba tayong manatili siya sa puwesto hanggang 2010? Kayo po ang sasagot nito.

Magandang umaga ulit! Mabuhay ang kabataan!

Related entries:

Education for all
Sputnik and RP education 
Neoliberalismo sa edukasyon 

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Students, teachers and youth groups have drafted an alternative agenda to the bankrupt policies of Arroyo…

8-point Education Reform Agenda

The crisis of Philippine education is worsening. Quality of learning is deteriorating; school facilities are inadequate and obsolete; cost of education is rising; and campus repression is reaching an alarming level. Education is failing in its mission to equip young Filipinos with relevant life skills and knowledge to enable them to confront the challenges of nation-building.

Education reforms initiated by the private and public sectors do not address the roots of the crisis. Corruption defeats the efforts to improve delivery of education. State policies exacerbate the colonial, commercialized, elitist and fascist features of Philippine education.

It is true that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo inherited a flawed education system. But Arroyo is also responsible for aggravating the crisis of education. A relevant, robust and efficient education system is not one of Arroyo’s legacies in the past seven years. Arroyo’s education program has further diminished the capability of schools and decreased the opportunities for learning in the country.

A deficient education system heightens social discontent and poverty. Thus, education policies should be overhauled immediately. New programs must address the basic problems of education. Failure to implement key reform measures will intensify the education crisis.

Different stakeholders of education have drafted an 8-point education agenda which highlights the crucial role of the government in reversing the decline of Philippine education.

1. Increase the budget of education. National spending on education should be equivalent to 6 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. The education sector should receive at least 20 percent of the national budget. Increased government revenues should be used to fill the various gaps in the education sector like the shortages in classrooms, books, computers and other learning tools.

Public education, both formal and alternative systems, should be strengthened. More schools should be established in the country. Scholarship funds should be increased. The government should revamp its policy of reducing the budget of state universities and colleges. Dwindling funds lead to wholesale and subtle forms of insidious commercialization in public schools.

The government has enough resources to allocate higher funding for education. Lawmakers can give up a portion of their pork barrel in favor of education investments. Payment for anomalous debt contracts should be cancelled outright. A significant fraction of debt servicing and intelligence funds of Malacanang should be realigned to education services.

2. Use Filipino as medium of instruction. Language is an important factor in the cognitive development of children. Students learn better and faster if the national language is used in schools. Over the years, Arroyo has made the English language as the only medium of instruction in the country. Congress is supportive of this policy. Education agencies have prioritized programs that would improve English language proficiency. Arroyo’s language policy, aside from reinforcing the colonial character of Philippine education, restricts the learning ability of students. Policymakers need to understand the pedagogic value of using the Filipino language in schools.

3. Improve teachers’ welfare. Teachers are the most important human resource in Philippine education. Yet they continue to suffer from work overload while receiving low wages. Many times their salaries are even delayed. Congress should pass the bill that would raise the salaries of public school teachers and other government employees by P3,000. The Magna Carta of Private School Teachers should be enacted. Training and re-training of teachers should be given priority. Opportunities for graduate education or research activities by teachers should be enhanced.

4. Moratorium on tuition and other fee increases. Rising school fees are forcing hundreds of thousands of students to drop out from schools. (drop out rate) Millions (figure) of young Filipinos could not afford the high cost of education today. Education officials are not seriously performing their duty to regulate school fees. At a time when prices of commodities are rising, and when household incomes continue to fall, a moratorium on tuition increases in both private and public schools can bring immediate relief to poor families. Congress can pass a law that will clarify and strengthen the mandate of the government to regulate school fees.

5. Develop a nationalist and relevant curriculum. School courses or subjects should prioritize the country’s needs over the manpower requirements of other countries and multinational corporations. Vocational/Technical education should match the actual needs of the local economy. Science education should be pursued to promote national industrialization and develop a productive agricultural system. Medical and nursing education should be reformed to meet community health needs. School courses should inculcate patriotism and inspire students to serve the people. History and other social sciences, humanities and the arts should continue to be taught in schools.

6. Invest in science, research and technology development. The country’s rich natural resources can be developed through sufficient investments in research and development, along the line of national industrialization and advancement of the agricultural sector. National spending on research and development should be equivalent to 1 percent of the GDP. Government should grant generous incentives to scientists, promote R&D in schools and use science and technology to solve hunger and poverty in the country. R&D should also be directed towards the protection of natural resources against exploitation by big companies.

7. Promote transparency in education programs. There are various initiatives to improve Philippine education. However, many of these programs are tainted with corruption. Taxpayers’ money is wasted when corrupt bureaucrats take the lead in sponsoring programs with minimal or even dubious benefit to the public. The Cyber Education Program is an example of an overpriced, redundant and scandal-ridden project. There should be transparency in implementing education reforms. Stakeholders should be consulted first before approving major education programs. Other ongoing projects like the Call Center Training Academy of the Commission on Higher Education should be reviewed by the public.

8. Uphold democratic rights in schools. Teachers and students are among the victims of extrajudicial killings, forced abductions and other forms of political repression. Democratic rights should be respected inside campuses. Soldiers and police forces deployed or operating inside schools should be pulled out at once.

Academic freedom and the right to organize should be respected in schools. Congress should probe school authorities that implement rules and guidelines that violate basic rights provided by law.

The government should refrain from undermining the independence of the student movement. The establishment of government-sponsored national student organizations is highly condemnable since this compromises student welfare and autonomy of student politics.