Monthly Archives: June 2009

I have a new blog!

I have a new blog: www.mongpalatino.com

Please make the necessary adjustments in your blog links and RSS feeds. This old blog will still be maintained as an archive of my blog articles from 2004-2009.

 

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Blog announcement: New URL, New blog

Starting June 19, motime will change its name to splinder. Our blog URLs will be affected. This is very inconvenient. A drastic change. The new URL of my blog will now be http://mongpalatino.us.splinder.com.

I’m now going to set up a new blog. Please wait for my announcement on my twitter, plurk, Global Voices, and facebook pages. By the way, have you seen my membership profile in the website of the House of Representatives?

This old blog will not be deleted. This has been my blog since 2004.

Thank you and goodbye motime.

The case of the disappearing load

Majority of cellphone users in the Philippines are prepaid owners. We experience from time to time the disappearance of our loads; we always receive unsolicited text ads sent by mobile phone companies; and we always thought that setting expiration dates in prepaid cards is legal since it has been implemented ever since texting became a popular activity among Filipinos. The extrajudicial load disappearances are no longer mysterious today.

When Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile delivered a privilege speech about how his load became a victim of dagdag-bawas, majority of Filipinos empathized with him since they also experience the same thing everyday.

Congress, through the ongoing public hearings, can address the following issues:

1. Determine once and for all the legality of imposing an expiration date on prepaid loads. Prepaid cards last 2-3months. But e-loads, which are popular in our communities, are only valid for 1-3 days.

2. Regulate or eliminate the sending of unsolicited text ads to cellphone subscribers. These ads, which entice subscribers to download multimedia icons, are sent almost every hour, sometimes twice every hour, everyday. Subscribers are charged when they read these ads.

3. Set up a mechanism (like a hotline) to properly address customer complaints regarding the loss of their load balance, dropped calls, delayed messages, text ads.

There are two types of cellphone users: Those who check their load balance from time to time – again if you check your balance, the subscriber is charged; and those who do not check the remaining value of their load.

For those who experience load disappearances, subscribers behave in different ways:

1. There are those who do nothing about the loss of their loads. Majority of subscribers behave this way. They are the silent majority. They disregard the loss of P10, P15 since they think they are just small amounts. But if they add up the losses in a month, the peso equivalent of the stolen value becomes higher.

2. There are many frustrated subscribers who don’t know where to lodge their complaint. They end up buying a new prepaid load.

3. There are subscribers who blame themselves for the loss of their loads. They think it has to do with their old cellphone units. Some replace their SIM cards.

4. There are subscribers who assert their right by demanding the replacement of their disappeared load. Only few are aware that subscribers can call the customer service units of mobile phone companies to inquire about their lost load. But calling customer service can be time-consuming, tiresome, and inconvenient.

One of our staff members lost P50 load. a few weeks ago She called the customer service demanding the return of her disappeared load. She was asked to provide her name, address, and cell phone unit. The customer service agent repeatedly asked the caller about the texting and calling record of the complainant for the past 24 hours. The call lasted for more than ten minutes. After 6 hours, the disappeared load was restored. The following day her load balance mysteriously disappeared again. She no longer called customer service again.

There is one subscriber who has been patiently and diligently calling customer service regarding his disappearing load. In fairness to the mobile phone company, his complaint is always acknowledged. But during his last call, his disappeared load was no longer restored because of his frequent calls. Lesson: Don’t always complain. Pero paano kapag talagang laging nawawala ang load mo?

This representation has filed a counterpart resolution in the Lower House to Senate Resolution 1120 that aims to investigate the questionable services provided by some of our telecommunication companies.

A few hours ago I attended a Senate hearing which tackled the speech of Senate President Enrile. Among the invited guests were representatives from major telecommunication companies and the National Telecommunications Commission. Consumer group Txtpower was also in the hearing.

Globe recognized that it has been receiving complaints about the vanishing loads. They received 59 complaints this year, 77 last year, 32 in 2007 and 70 in 2006. Unbelievably and unrealistically small figures! On the other hand, Smart confirmed that they are receiving 100 complaints everyday, or roughly 35,000 a year, about the problem of the vanishing loads.

The NTC has reportedly set-up a hotline since 2002. They claimed that most of the complaints involve requests for assistance on stolen cellphones. For example, only 206 complaints on vanishing loads were registered last year while the total number of complaints was 11,917.

Senators were brutally frank during the public hearing. They warned that Congress can always revise the franchise awarded to telcos if the latter will not rethink their business practices. There will be another hearing next week.

Landlords’ CARPER

“Now the CARP has become a corpse, we, the defunct sponsors of House Bill No. 400, are called upon to render our final function; to serve as pallbearers in the funeral rites of the original House Bill No. 400. As the principal sponsor of the deceased House Bill No. 400, my task is to deliver a final oration on CARP.” – Rep. Bonifacio Gillego, in withdrawing his sponsorship of the CARP bill twenty years ago.

House Bill No. 4077 or the CARPER bill was passed on Third Reading by the House of Representatives last week. A similar bill was also passed by the Senate. The measure is a certified priority bill of President Gloria Arroyo.

I am not a supporter of CARPER. Why would I endorse a measure which will only extend a pro-landlord agrarian reform program? Rep. Edcel Lagman, the principal sponsor, admitted during interpellation that CARPER will not correct the congenital defects of the original CARP.

The weaknesses of CARP are not unknown. There are numerous studies which highlight the institutional failures of the Department of Agrarian Reform and also the inherent defects of CARP. There are many (inserted) loopholes in CARP which favor the interests of hacienderos and multinational corporations. CARP provides legal basis for the displacement of farmers from their lands. CARP allows big landlords to retain ownership and possession of their vast landholdings through land use conversion, crop conversion, and the infamous stock distribution option. Hacienderos can easily appeal for the exemption of their lands from CARP coverage. For example, they can set up an agribusiness or convert their farms into prawn farms and fishponds. Even irrigated rice lands can be converted by landlords which probably contributed to the rice crisis.

It is not surprising that the original CARP has become an effective instrument to protect the property rights of the landed class. CARP was drafted and passed by a Congress dominated by landlords. CARP was signed into law by President Cory Aquino whose family owns the biggest hacienda in Luzon Island. CARP was designed to fail by its proponents.

Today it is almost unanimously recognized that CARP is a failure. Eh bakit natin ngayon gustong pahabain pa ang buhay ng CARP? Why do self-styled progressives and good-natured individuals insist that extending CARP (and introducing token reforms) is the best and only feasible approach to implement a better agrarian reform in the country? It is indicative of a mentality which lacks a proper radical imagination.

I’ve read the original CARPER bill. There is a clear provision for CARP’s extension but there are no well-defined proposals for reforms. It’s CARP extension with no reforms. There is an interesting entry on Rural Women and Gender Responsive Support Services which provides for the protection of rural women rights. But the section does not contain any clear mechanism on how to improve the plight of women workers in the countryside. Motherhood statements are not enough.

Ownership of land is the basic social question in the Philippines. Land disputes fuel the armed discontent in the country. We should abandon our NGO mentality in drafting a bill on agrarian reform. It may work on our other rackets and pet bills but it is not funny when we apply it on agrarian reform. There is no compromise when it comes to land distribution.

Landlord insertions

Landlords were initially opposed to CARPER. They do not want any land reform law, defective or not, which threatens their economic and political interests. During the interpellation period, the landlord bloc was aggressive in pointing out the inconsistencies of CARP and CARPER. They wanted to prevent or delay the passage of CARPER. They were even questioning the quorum of the House from time to time.

But something miraculous and funny happened last week. Landlords stood on the floor to defend and vote for the passage of CARPER. Even the Arroyos spoke in favor of CARPER. During the period of committee and individual amendments, the sponsor enumerated the accepted amendments proposed by the landlord bloc. Since all of the substantial landlord insertions were accepted, the landlords (including the sugar bloc) gave up their opposition to CARPER and ended up voting and defending the Arroyo-backed measure in the floor. These landlords never spoke to defend Con-Ass but they were inspired to rise and express support for CARPER.

The landlord bloc has cleverly inserted amendments which would further dilute the components of CARP. Their accepted proposals will give them more legal basis to exempt their lands from CARP coverage. The amendments will still allow land conversion in favor of landlords, local bureaucrats and foreign corporations. Consider this sweet-sounding, technically precise, seemingly neutral insertion:

“Sec 6…The determination of the size of the land for distribution shall consider crop type, soil type, weather patterns and other pertinent variables or factors which are deemed critical for the success of the beneficiaries.”

“…The DAR shall pursue and implement alternative forms of distribution and ownership.”

Landlords and their powerful friends in the bureaucracy can always come up with a believable land use plan justifying the exclusion of their lands from the distribution component of CARP. Now they can cite crop type, soil type, weather patterns to protect their landholdings. Peasant groups should draft a serious critique to the CARPER amendments inserted by the landlords hours before Congress voted in favor of the bill.

Progressives should not rejoice over the CARPER passage. It is unfortunate that some farmers were deceived into believing that CARPER was passed to serve their interests. We should expose the collaboration of the Arroyos, sugar bloc, and some partylist lawmakers in drafting a bill which further enhances feudal control in the countryside.

During one memorable instance, Rep. Ilagan of Gabriela proposed the nationalization of the vast landholdings owned by multinational corporations. It was a radical suggestion. But the concept of economic nationalization is becoming popular again even in the United States and some European countries. While Ilagan was explaining the rationale of her proposal, I tried to determine the reaction of a lawmaker who is known in some circles as a leftist intellectual. This lawmaker has nice words to say about Hugo Chavez and other Latin American leftist leaders who are nationalizing many industries in their countries. The lawmaker never stood up to defend or reject the Ilagan proposal. The lawmaker also never objected to the landlord insertions.

They said the Philippines has been implementing the longest land reform program in the world. In other countries land reform is swift, revolutionary, and productive. But our concept of land reform is flawed and skewed in favor of traditional elites. Our policymakers are not serious in distributing the agricultural lands; they do not want to lose the lands which are the principal sources of their political and economic domination in the countryside. Are you still surprised why agrarian unrests persist until today?

Instead of the Arroyo-landlord-backed CARPER bill, I am supporting House Bill 3059 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill.