My oral history as a journalist as recorded by La Salle students at the National Press Club of the Philippines.

Subject: Manuel F. Almario
Date of Interview: December 7, 2000
Interviewers: Noreen Young and Nicholas Siy

YOUNG. Good afternoon Sir. I’m Noreen Young and I’m from La Salle. Sir, for the record could you state your name and present employment. 
ALMARIO. Well, I am Manuel F. Almario. At present, the editor of the Philippine Graphic, a weekly magazine on politics, business, culture, society and everything else.

Q. So sir, could you please describe how you started as a journalist? 
A. Well, I started as a journalist after graduating from high school, where I was the editor- in chief of the school paper. And the reason why I immediately started working is because my brother and I were studying college together. My brother was taking up medicine. My parents said they couldn’t afford to send two children simultaneouslyto college so I was forced to take a job as a reporter in the Philippines Herald which was then restarting publication.

Q. Did you have any influence why you became a newspaper journalist? 
A. Well, perhaps my father, also a lawyer, knowing that I was interested in journalism recommended me. And it so happened that the owner of the newspaper was Senator Madrigal. His family was a client of my father which I was particularly close so we used this influence to get me in there. But I believe that it was really the right job for me because I really wanted to be a writer or a journalist. In high school, I told my teachers that I want to be a journalist and I like it that way. So, I was actually a working student. But in the Herald, I was very lucky to have the editor at that time, the managing editor, Jose Lansang, one of the best writers in English and Filipino, a respected journalist, editorial writer, essayist. He was a progressive in thinking. Before the war and during the war, he was really respected as a writer and journalist. Working under him, I learned a lot. The publisher of the Philippines Herald then was Modesto Farolan, who later became ambassador of the Philippines to Indonesia. And before that, the publisher of the Philippines Herald was Carlos P. Romulo. Before the war, as writer for the Herald, he won the Pulitzer Prize in journalism for his series of articles about the Philippine-American war. Herald was a nationalist newspaper then because it was set up by President Quezon during the Commonwealth years to answer his critics, most of whom wrote against Philippine Independence.

Q. Sir, can you describe the physical facilities of the building. Where was it located? 
A. The facilities were all right. Actually, when we started in the Herald, they had built this new building. During the war, the Herald was bombed by the Japanese so it was in ruins. But before they republished the newspaper, they built a new building now beside the Letran. That would be in Muralla in Intramuros. They built it especially for newspaper. It was a four story building and it had new presses at that time. And of course, the presses at that time compared to the present are rather not up-to-date. We were using the linotype machines.

Q. How about the ventilation? Was it air-conditioned? 
A. No, it was not air-conditioned. There was no air conditioner. It was really then built for newspapers. The open space for the editorial, everybody can be seen except the editor who has his air-conditioned room.

Q. What about the working condition? How many hours did you work? 
A. Working conditions, I think that the working salaries of the newsmen then could compared to the middle level professionals and compared to the present, although in absolute terms, the salaries might be small but compared to purchasing power, they had better purchasing power.

Q. How much per day? 
A. The level was between or above that of the teacher or a lawyer who was starting. They started at P150. It was above the minimum wage. P150 a month, just above the minimum wage but we had an allowance of P60 for transportation. That’s about P210. Anyway, it sent me to school.

Q. You said you worked with…were you able to work with Carlos P. Romulo? 
A. No, at that time he was already our United Nations ambassador. I only said that he was the first editor. When I came in, the editor then was Modesto Farolan. He was also a very respected intellectual.

Q. How was it working with him? 
A. I did not really work with him closely but I worked with Joe Lansang, the managing editor. The editor in chief and publisher does not really have any contact with the writers. The managing editor has direct contact with the reporters and desk editors.

Q. So, when you entered the Philippines Herald, were you a cub reporter? 
A. First, I was assigned to the desk, just running errands. I came in there and they started giving me a salary without working. Later on, they noticed me and said “Hey, why don’t you cover a beat.” So I covered the labor department and later on because they found out that I could write better than some of the reporters, they made me assistant desk editor and assistant provincial editor also. What I did was to receive phone calls from reporters. We wrote the stories and gave it to the desk. At that time as assistant provincial editor, I used to receive…our provincial correspondents sent their stories through telegrams and telephone. They go to the post office, send the telegrams or by the telephone and I rewrite them and give them to the desk. That is after I became a reporter of the labor beat. I also wrote a column in the provincial page of the newspaper.

Q. How long did you stay in their labor …? 
A. About a year or two. In fact, one of the best stories I wrote was when I interviewed Saulo. He was then a member of the communist party but I did not know that. Alfredo B. Saulo was another prewar journalist and a labor leader. When I interviewed him, I did not know he was a member of the Politburo…Hukbalahap Political Bureau. After I interviewed him, he disappeared. And then it turned out that he joined Luis Taruc and the Lavas. You remember them, you know the Lavas – Jesus Lava, the head of the Communist Party of the Philippines which was the political arm of the Hukbalahap then, and his brother, Jose Lava. This was during the 1950s. The Hukbalahaps were fighting a guerilla war against the government of Quirino, then President Quirino. They almost took over the government. Later on, they were also in Manila. As a young reporter in Herald, I was very excited at that time when I thought that they were about to get into Manila. Anyway, after I interviewed him, Saulo disappeared but I had a very good story. Later on, he was captured. Now, I think he became a professor in the Ateneo but he died recently.

Q. What important lesson did you learn when you were in the labor beat? 
A. Many important lessons. Actually I did not stay long there. Actually, in the labor beat, you get to cover the Department of Labor. And of course there are old politicians in the labor department and there was also corruption there.

Q. Sir, do you have any memorable editors? 
A. At that time as a labor reporter?

Q. No. In you’re entire career as a journalist, do you have any memorable editors? 
A. Actually in the Philippine News Service, I stayed 20 years there. Then I was studying in the college of law. But as an editor, I used to cover important events. And also as a writer for the Graphic, I made it a point to cover important events especially during the pre-martial law days, during the first quarter storm, the demonstrations. I used to cover those demonstrations and one time I was caught in a demonstration in Mendiola. After the siege of Malacanang, I and a group of reporters were caught in the crossfire between the military and the students. The most memorable time was when I was arrested when martial law was clamped down by Marcos and charged with subversion. I stayed more than 3 months in the Camp Crame detention camp with lots of other journalists, and politicians, assemblymen, governors, congressman, and mayors. When the uprising took place in Mindanao in 1972, many Muslim officials were detained along with us in Camp Crame. I had the occasion to talk with them, to mix socially with them. And then I found out about the mutual distrust and lack of understanding between the Muslims and the Christians. When we were in prison, we learned a lot of things there also. And of course, you know people get to do some heroic things and cowardly things but mostly heroism.

Q. Who were some of the people who were with you? 
A. Amando Doronila, Luis Beltran, Bobby Ordonez, then a reporter for Philippines Herald. He was then head of the Herald Union. And because he was head of the Herald Union, he was arrested as a subversive. Maximo Soliven and a lot of many other journalists and politicians like Teofisto Guingona.

Q. What was life like inside the detention camp? 
A. Well, they were some times when we were tense. Many of us thought that our life might be in danger like for instance the first time I came in. I was arrested in the middle of the night. It was actually a knock in the night because I hid for about 1 week. I used to come here (National Press Club) everyday but then one time when I was in the NPC bar, somebody told me that the military was looking for me here. So, I did not come here anymore but I went to other places like the Front Page Restaurant in front of the U.S. embassy. So, they were not able to arrest me for a week while some of my friends went there (to PC headquarters) directly, almost immediately. And then one night, they came knocking on my door in my house in Project 6. And so I have to go with them, 3 military police. Anyway when I woke up in the morning, I saw some of the familiar faces there. One of them was an old man. He was a leader of a government employees’ union. And he said if we were going to be shot, he wanted the first one to be shot. When I asked him why, he said because being an old man, he had few years more to live and if he was shot by the martial law forces, the authorities might be satiated and they won’t kill us anymore. There I saw some heroism.

Q. Who was that old man? Do you remember his name? 
A. Ummm…he was well known. He’s dead already. I couldn’t remember him eh. Yeah, I forgot his name. Actually, he was a famous man but being dead for a long time, people tend to forget him. And then the most memorable of course was when we were taken to the Supreme Court for the hearing of our petition on habeas corpus. After a while, the president of the National Press Club, then Eddie Monteclaro, filed a petition of habeas corpus asking the government to release us. The petition for habeas corpus is a petition saying that the authorities of the court should produce the body of a person detained and explain why they are detaining him. The lawyer then of the National Press Club was Joker Arroyo. Joker was the lawyer also of the Philippine Press Institute. That is why he became our lawyer. Nene Pimentel was also a lawyer for one of the detainees, Ernesto Rondon, a former assemblyman, no, a former delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1972 and a radio commentator. We were all brought to the Supreme Court. And when we arrived there, we were given by the justices, I think it was the October of 1972, breakfast in the anteroom. The chief justice was Concepcion and one of the justices then invited us. But before we reached the anteroom, I heard somebody tell Joker that we were all withdrawing from our petition of habeas corpus. But then I told Joker that even if I was the only one left in that petition I am not going to withdraw my name from that petition because I’m not going to retract any of what I have written for or against the administration of Marcos. And I said that this is our time as journalist to stand up for what we have written and for what we are always saying that we stand for the constitution and the rights of the citizens. Well, I was able to convince one or two including Mr. Ernesto Rondon who did not withdraw, Bobby Ordonez and another one from the Chinese Commercial News. You know, the Chinese Commercial News, a Chinese newspaper, was the first paper that was closed even before martial law because it was suspected of being sympathetic to the red Chinese. Marcos closed down the newspaper and deported the publisher and the editor but the paper continued publishing and when martial law was declared, some of the writers of this Chinese newspaper were arrested. I was happy to see that one of them that was arrested did not withdraw as a result of which, the hearing on habeas corpus was continued by the Supreme Court. The chief justice was quite surprised why some of the newspapermen, most of them very vociferous in defending the rights and the freedom of the press during peaceful time, easy times, withdrew from the petition. But you know, you could not…They believe at that time there was no need to pursue the petition in court because according to them, it was already heard before and aside from that, they feared was that the government would continue to hold them in detention. But being a lawyer, I know that there is nothing wrong with a citizen invoking the law or the constitution for his right so the hearing was continued and I was pleased with myself that I’m able to stand up for the articles that I have written.

Q. Sir, do you remember what article you have wrote about Marcos which led to your being caught? 
A. Yeah, they were many articles during and even before the Martial Law days. I was very critical then and being a young man…One time, my editor, Luis Mauricio was called to the palace. Marcos was very angry because he saw the article I have written about the Corrigedor massacre, the massacre of Muslims in Corregidor and he was very mad and he said that this was very libelous and he asked Mauricio who is the guy who wrote this and he said, “It was Almario, your kababayan from Ilocos.” And then after that I went to Malacanang, I was told by one of the press officers of Marcos that I was in the anti-Marcos list. Even before that, as editor of the PNS, I allowed the anti-Marcos elements especially the activists students to use our facilities, our wires to give out press releases to the newspapers because you know the Philippine News Service, PNS, was then the only Filipino news service at that time. It’s been closed and replaced by the Philippine News agency in this government.

Q. When was PNS closed down? 
A. 1972.

Q. Why? 
A. Because Marcos wanted to control all the media and it was a privately-owned news service. It was actually owned by the publishers of all the major newspapers so that the president and members of the board were rotated. The President of PNS then when Martial Law was Chino Roces of the Manila Times but we have as our members and the board of directors, the Lopezes of the Manila Chronicle, the publisher of the Philippines Herald, the Evening News, Daily Mirror and all the major newspaper. They actually owned the PNS. It was a pool which gathered news reports from the provinces. We had our office down here (National Press Club) in the second floor. The provincial correspondents sent their reports to the service and then we edited the, and sent them to the newspapers and radio. We were the only news service that covered the Philippines nationwide. Just like now, the Associated Press and the AFP that is for international news services. After Martial Law, no private news agency has ever been reestablished. I supposed that now the newspaper do not want to spend money on the provincial coverage. Most of them are losing eh. They can’t afford and at that time many of them, most of them are making money and they can afford to put up a pool, a news service that would serve their needs, especially provincial coverage and special events.

Q. Sir, what happened to the Philippines Herald? 
A. It was closed also during the Martial Law. It was never reopened.

Q. So after Philippines News Service was closed down, what followed Philippine News Service? 
A. Well, it so happened that my cousin became commissioner of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and because I needed a job, he took me in as information assistant. Then at the same time, I have some activist groups that were coming out with a underground newspaper.

Q. What was that newspaper? 
A. I think it was Balita ng Bayan but in Tagalog. It circulated for a while and because some of my friends disappeared…. One friend in Herald was killed in an encounter in Isabela and another one disappeared after being detained by the authorities so we finally stop the publication.

Q. So after Philippine News Service, you worked at Manila Times? 
A. Yes, after Marcos was deposed by the 1986 Edsa Revolution. In 1987, I think, I joined the Manila Times as a columnist.

Q. What was life after being detained in Camp Crame? 
A. When we were being detained, as I told you, sometimes you were tense and sometimes you were a little bit happy because inside you had a lot of friends to talk with but you know it was also frustrating because some of those who were detained with you were afraid to discuss political matters and politics is always in my mind. It’s good I had a friend with me, Alejandro Lichauco, Ding Lichauco, our steel beds were beside each other. He was an economist, and ConCon delegate and also Carlos Padilla, former student activist and now congressman from Nueva Vizcaya. We had nice conversations and also some friends like Mr. Angel Baking and Sanny Rodriguez. They spent 20 years in prison as members of the Huk polit bureau and they were released shortly before Martial Law and when Martial Law was declared, they were again imprisoned. We were there together and we had a nice time talking with each other and actually, you don’t get bored with that kind of company.

Q. Were you ever tortured? 
A. No. As I told you, there are two kinds of prisoner, the torturable and the non-torturable. The non-torturable are those that come from the upper classes of society like businessmen, politicians and journalists. They were afraid of journalists because journalists talk too much and they can write about their experiences so they didn’t torture us. Although, there was a time when Louie Beltran was taken out of the detention camp and later on was brought in and they said he was given some punches because it was found out that in his house they got some firearms but I was not able to verify this report. Yet one day, there were student activists who were brought in who had signs of torture. There was one student activist who told me that he nearly committed suicide in his detention cell because he was tortured and he was brought in with bandages all over his face. We had to feed him through the opening of the bandages in his mouth. Those were the torturable, the poor, the defenseless, those suspected of communists leadings and the armed struggle.

Q. So after the hearing you were released, right? 
A. Yes.

Q. What did you do after that? 
A. I did some, what I always do, PR jobs for some personalities and also Mr Teodoro Valencia, a very well-known columnist at that time gave me a job ghostwriting for him. As a ghostwriter, I was forced to write pieces praising Marcos and Martial Law government. One time, Mr. Valencia told me, “O Almario, you seem like you were sleeping when you were writing this piece because it was a piece especially for Marcos. If there’s one thing that you should be when you’re a professional, you should write convincingly even if you do not believe in what you’re doing. ” Well, at the same time, I was helping my friends in the other side.

Q. Sir, since you’re an editor yourself.. 
A. Yeah.

Q. What’s your attitude toward deadlies? 
A. Deadlines?

Q. Yeah, grammars… 
A. Deadlines are the most important thing in a newspaper. You know no matter how good a writer you are, if you don’t meet the deadline, you will be bullshitted by your editor and that’s also happening to me. Usually, I have some good writers but they don’t meet the deadline, I always get mad because you can’t delay the press. The moment you don’t meet the deadline, you are bothering a lot of people. You are bothering your editor, you’re bothering the typesetter, you’re bothering everybody who are waiting and a lot of people in the media get fired when they do not meet their deadline. You know deadline is like the 10 Commandments. You don’t beat it…ah you don’t ignore it unless of course you really have a big news to break……. (Side A ran out of tape) 
A. By the way, what I said about Doroy, Doroy Valencia. I found out later that this friend of mine was helping a lot of poor people and even anti-Martial Law workers, anti-Martial Law activists. As a matter of fact, I just want to be put it in the record because as I told you I was a ghostwriter for Valencia but at the same time Ka Doroy and Sanny Rodriguez were helping the anti-Marcos activist in Pampanga They were very close associates and I know for a fact that at one time Valencia told me…complained to me that Ka Sanny was asking sometimes money for help of those downtrodden in Luzon. The two collaborated in the…because my friend Sonny was a producer of shows at the PICC. He died a very poor man. All the money he ever made, he gave over to the farmers, peasants and the anti-Marcos activist and he got a lot of money, he got money from Doroy and Doroy knew that. Although, he (Doroy) was a very, in fact seemed to be a partisan for Marcos, he was also fighting the rich oligarchs of Marcos.

Q. Sir, could you share some significant, important events you covered when you were a journalist? 
A. Actually, there are many significant events I covered. While being editor of the PNS, I also covered events. I was contacted by a politician from Central Luzon to interview Commander Sumulong of the Huks. Well, Commander Sumulong at that time was the most notorious Huk commander. He took over after Taruc and Lavas surrendered. He was the mentor of Dante, Commander Dante. At the same time, the rich landowners of Pampanga complained that he was a bandit and an extortionist and actually, his real motivation, according to them, was to make money but not to promote movement that is supposed to defend the masses. He was a very controversial figure. Anyway, I was the only reporter I think who interviewed him in Central Luzon. I was able to bring his message through the media to the people and he said what his objectives were in fighting the government. Commander Sumulong was one of those arrested during the Martial Law and I saw him in Camp Crame when Martial Law was declared.

Q. What about during the Edsa Revolution? 
A. The Edsa Revolution, I was then with the BIR. But you know even at that time, I was very active with these group of newspaper people and politicians. Just before Secretary of Defense Enrile defected, that very day I was having coffee with him at the Atrium in Makati and he did not tell that he was going to defect. But in the afternoon, I learned that he defected so during the four days of the Edsa Revolution, I was always in Edsa with the group.

Q. Now with the jueteng scandal? 
A. Jueteng scan?

Q. Jueteng scandal? 
A. What’s my opinion?

Q. Yeah. 
A. Well, as editor, I try to be very impartial. I try to give both sides because I believe that the work of a journalist is not just to give an opinion but also to give the facts, to give the readers the relevant facts on which the readers can form their opinion. You see, there are two kinds of journalistic practices. One is opinion and the other one is reportage. But in the case of opinion, I would insist that the opinions should be informed, informed opinion. It’s not just enough that you have an opinion that is why to be a columnist you must be discriminating because everybody has an opinion. The janitor has an opinion, the housewife has an opinion, the taxi driver has an opinion, even the sophomore college students have an opinion but the question is: Is the opinion informed? Is it based on facts? Is it intelligent? Is it reasonable? You see, so when you write for a newspaper as a columnist, an opinion, you must first harness your facts. In giving your opinion, base it on relevant matters and also cite the opinion of others. It’s not just opinion but in the case of reportage, you must give both sides. So in the Graphic, we don’t have editorials. I prefer that as an editor not to give so much opinion but to give the facts. Then, we have of course, opinion columnist but then as I said, I make a distinction between an informed opinion and an uninformed opinion.

Q. Sir, in conclusion, could you please describe the state of the press in our country? Has it flourished or has it been stuck in its position? 
A. You know, when I started in journalist as an editor of the Philippines News Service even as a provincial editor of the Philippines Herald, we had many of the regular reporters who started as provincial correspondents, diba? Provincial correspondents. Doroy Valencia, Joe Guevarra, they were correspondents from Batangas and many of them started as high school. Few of them ever finished college, you see. Because in my case, when I joined the Philippine News Service, for instance, I was out of a job because two editions of the Herald had to close so they had to lay-off people and being the youngest they took me out. And then I had no job; I went to the manager of the Philippines News Service. The manager them was Baldomero Olivera. He was a writer and a reporter of the Associated Press. He was a graduate of a journalism school in the United States, an old journalist and during the time of President Qurino, he was the press secretary. He’s very well versed in journalism and I went to him and said, “Sir, I’m applying for a job as editor, as deskman.” And he said, “Ok!” And he referred me to the news editor and said, “You try this guy.” So what he did was to give me a contribution, report contribution from one of the correspondents who didn’t know how to write. He has all the facts but everything was jumbled so I had to write it the way it was supposed to be written. So when Olivera saw it, he said, “You’re hired!” But that’s the way they do it in newspapers. And then of course as an editor, I also get these kinds of reporters. But if they get the facts right and when the readers are informed, that’s the most important thing that we give a comprehensive, balanced reporting of public events to you readers. Now, what we have are mostly graduates from colleges, journalism schools. Well, in the Graphic, I prefer college graduates because they are better prepared. College education makes you a better writer and more qualified as a journalist. But my personal opinion is that, you know, I just came from a conference from Singapore. The conference of the Confederation of Asean Journalist and there was this journalist from Europe and also from Sri Lanka, Myanmar who said that in their countries, journalists do not come from journalism schools but come from other college courses, AB Political Science, Economics, etc. They don’t have schools of journalism and I think that a really good journalist must not really come from a journalism school but must have a wide background and must be a wide reader and have a keen interest in politics, beside economics, etc. He should be well rounded so that he is able to judge what is relevant to the public and explain the rather complicated things that are happening in the society. Writing is not taught. You learn more on the job than when you are in a classroom and you are told how to make a lead, etc., etc. When you go and write in journalism, you forget everything about that and that’s when you really learn how to write. Learning how to write is just a craft, what is important is what you learned. You can get it by reading.

Q. So, has the press improved? 
A. Improved? Well, you know, old journalists say that the old journalists are better. Young journalists think that the young journalists are better. If you listen to old fogies here, which includes me, they say that journalists were better then. Well, there were a lot of giants of journalism then. Like Soliongco, Jose Reyes and even Ernesto Granada who was with me in the detention camp. Yes, Renato Constantino was a columnist. But at the same time, there are a lot of good journalists and columnists now. Well, I suppose that they balance each other although I would say that there were some really good old journalists that I really still admire. It’s very hard to make a judgment on how journalism has improved. Journalism is said to be a reflection of the society but let me tell you about my ideas on journalism. Journalism, to me, is not just a livelihood although it is that to many people. It’s a kind of work like clerking, being a stenographer in a courtroom, being a lawyer or a doctor. It’s a means of livelihood but it’s more than that. A journalist must promote change in society. You cannot just report things but you should report for the purpose of making changes for the better. And in my mind, the best groups of journalists were still those who worked for La Solidaridad. Jose Rizal, Lopez-Jaena, Del Pilar. Well, the newspaper was called propaganda but it was not propaganda. It was political, yes, but then the issue then was politics, independence, and nationalism and the abuses of the Spanish government. What we have now among the professors and those calling for objective journalism is that if you are a person who is political in your writings and you have some ideologies, you are not a journalist because you are not objective but of course, is there such a thing as objectivity? Were not Rizal, Lopez-Jaena, Del Pilar objective in denouncing Spanish abuses in wanting us to be free of Spanish rule and yet they call them propagandists. I think that ultimately, journalism to be really worthwhile and relevant has to work for change. Change in society, change in individual thinking, progressive thinking and clear thinking and work for freedom and justice system. But I don’t want to use these words because everybody uses them. They have different meanings to a lot of people.

Q. Sir, lastly, do you have any message for us aspiring journalist? 
A. Well, as I said journalism is a lousy means of livelihood, a lousy way of making money to have a comfortable life. If you really want to be a good journalist, you have to have a mission in life. But I don’t think that you should also in these times want to live a life of poverty. You have to balance things out but journalism will not have its attractiveness if it’s only a means of livelihood. It’s attractions, excitement are gone if you don’t have some mission, some purpose to change life for the better.

YOUNG. In behalf of my partner Nicholas Siy, we thank you for your time for granting us this time to interview you. 
A. Thank you very much

 


Atty. Manuel Almario was born on November 19, 1930 in Masbate, and studied at the Lyceum of the Philippines. He has worked for various newspapers since 1949 and, at the time of this interview, was editor of the Philippine Graphic.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Jose Rizal’s Curt Advice

Commentary

Rizal’s curt advice

By MANUEL F. ALMARIO
Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:05 pm | Sunday, December 29th, 2013

Ads by Google

Great men of history are usually remembered for what they can teach even though they may have lived long in the past. Thus, we recall what Socrates and Aristotle said thousands of years ago for the lessons they give on politics and morality. The Philippines has its own great men, foremost among them Jose Rizal, whose martyrdom we commemorate every Dec. 30. What can he teach us regarding our most urgent problem today—a stagnant economy and its consequence, abject poverty?

 

Rizal is more widely known for his fight for the equality and freedom of Filipinos. But what were his views on economics? In his two novels, “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo,” he dramatized the injustices of Spanish colonial rule through the travails of their characters. Sisa, the unfortunate mother of two children brutalized by a Church deacon, was the very snapshot of poverty.

 

In a brief scene in the “Fili,” Rizal made known his thinking on economic development through the protagonist, Simoun, a well-travelled and wealthy Filipino businessman. When asked by a group of Chinese merchants, who were bewailing the poor economic conditions then in the Philippines, for his opinion on what it should do in order to prosper, Simoun huffed, “My opinion? Study how other nations prosper, and then do what they do!”

 

It seems that Philippine officials and their economic advisers, like the Spanish administrators then, have ignored this commonsense advice. What they have been following since the 1960s is neoliberalism, a theory of economic development initiated and directed by rich Western countries.

Advocates of neoliberalism back economic liberalization, free trade and open markets, deregulation, and privatization. In short, less government, as championed by US and UK leaders Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

 

The privatization of our power and water industries is an example of neoliberalism, which is also known as “globalization.” Among the reasons given by neoliberal economists for privatization is that government-run industries are inefficient. Inefficiency leads to higher costs, and therefore to higher prices, whereas privatization results in greater efficiency, less production costs, and lower prices.

 

But what we have seen is that the privatization of our power generation and water distribution has led to higher rates. Informed critics say our power rates are the highest, not just in Asia, but in the world. The cost of water services has also somersaulted upward many times, causing consumers, which include everybody, to protest loudly. The prohibitive costs of these essential services make our industries less competitive and lower our productivity drastically.

 

 

In the United States, the biggest power utility is owned by the federal government. The Tennessee Valley Authority, built at the height of the Great Depression in 1933, now runs 29 hydroelectric power dams, three nuclear power plants, nine combustion turbine plants, and five combined cycle gas plants. It provides cheap electricity to seven states. Numerous petitions to privatize it have been dismissed by the US Supreme Court on the ground that regulation of public utilities is in the public interest. On the other hand, the privatization of power in California by Enron turned out to be a disaster, resulting in blackouts and higher rates.

 

A look at the rise of rich nations will show that they all went through a process of economic protectionism under state direction—the opposite of liberalization—before becoming rich. Ha Joon Chang, a professor of economics at Cambridge, wrote in his book “The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism” that the United States, now the world’s richest economy, and Britain, once the richest, were both protectionist for long periods before they became rich.

 

Citing historical facts and statistics, Chang wrote that “the two champions of free trade, Britain and the US, were not only not free trade economies, but had been the most protectionist economies—that is, until they each in succession became the world’s dominant industrial power.” It was then that they “kicked away the ladder,” to prevent other nations from following and competing with them. During their protectionist period, from the mid-19th century to the end of the 20th, they charged the highest tariffs, 50-55 percent, versus 0-5 percent in the Philippines now.

What Rizal was telling Filipinos was that in striving for self-sufficiency and prosperity, they should look at what successful countries had done, rather than just listen to what they preached. In the postwar era, many countries emerging from colonization, like Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Taiwan, followed Rizal’s advice. In the early 19th century, Japan went ahead and followed the protectionist footsteps of the prosperous Western countries which organized state-owned enterprises (SOEs) to monopolize strategic industries.

 

According to Chang, Singapore’s SOE sector is “twice as big” as South Korea’s, and the latter is “five times bigger than that of the Philippines.” If state ownership of strategic industries is bad for development, and privatization is good, then the Philippines should be ahead of these two other countries in economic growth.

 

In the 1950s, the Philippines, under Presidents Magsaysay and Garcia, adopted import and exchange controls to push industrialization, in defiance of the “open market” championed by neoliberalism. This lifted our country next to Japan in economic growth. There were full employment and high wages. But when the protectionist measures were scrapped at the beginning of the 1960s, the Philippines started sinking and is now at the bottom of the economic scale in Southeast Asia.

 

In La Liga Filipina, which he founded on July 3, 1892, Rizal introduced the rule of “mutual protection” of Filipinos. It also stipulated that “the introduction of machines and industries, new or necessary, shall be favored.” He learned from his travels and historical readings that without mechanization and technological competence, nations would fail. He was envisioning a Filipino society that is highly industrialized, like America and Europe. His idea of economic development was not derived from theory but from observation. It’s time we adopted Rizal’s pragmatic and curt advice.

 

Manuel F. Almario (mfalmario@yahoo.com) is a veteran, semiretired journalist. He is also spokesman for the Movement for Truth in History, Rizal’s MOTH.

 

 

Comment

tekawait 

• 12 minutes ago

  •  
  •  

“(1) Study how other nations prosper, and then (2) do what they do!”
There’s no shortage of part (1), sadly, could we ever get past part (2)? If only leaders listen to wise men like Dr. Rizal and George Santayana, and actually learn from history, we probably would have evolved to humanity 2.0 by now

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

1935 Constitution did not legitimize pork barrel as claimed by Bernas

THE 1935 CONSTITUTION DID NOT ‘LEGITIMIZE’ PORK BARREL          

 

In his front-age commentary in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, titled, SC decision restores normal constitutional order (PDI, 11/20/13), Joaquin G. Bernas, SJ, wrote: “Prior to the approval of the 1994 General Appropriations Act (GAA), pork barrel, which was recognized by the 1935 Constitution as a legitimate institution, had not received much attention.”

 

After reading this, I read anew the 1935 Constitution and found no justification for Father Bernas’s conclusiuon that the 1935 charter had “recognized the pork barrel as a legitimate institution.”  Bernas also did not cite any provision of the 1935 Charter which would appear to legitimize the “pork barrel”. 

 

Neither did the 1987 Constitution – in which Fr. Bernas participated in making as member of the Constitutional Commission – authorize the pork barrel as the Supreme Court wisely ruled.

 

To say that the pork barrel was “legitimized” by the 1935 Constitution is to insult the elected members of the 1934 constitutional convention which was presided by the widely acknowledged statesman Senator Claro M. Recto, and included respected leaders like Senators Jose P. Laurel, Manuel Roxas, Manuel Briones and Miguel Cuaderno. 

 

Neither did the U.S. Constitution (from which many of our charter provisions were copied) authorize the “pork barrel”.  According to Wikipedia, pork barrel “usually refers to spending which is intended to benefit constituents of a politician in return for their political support.”  In the current Philippine context, the bulk of these pork barrel funds are pocketed by the politicians and their accomplices in government and in the private sector, like the nongovernment organizations (NGOs).

 

The Supreme Court in its November 19 decision defined “congressional pork barrel laws” as those “which authorized legislators – whether individuals or collectively organized into committees – to intervene, assume or participate in any of the various postenactment identification, modification and revision of project identification, fund release and/or fund realignment, unrelated to the power of congressional oversight.” (PDI, 11/10/13)

 

In other words, any law which authorized legislators, whether individually or in committees, to intervene in the spending of public funds already appropriated by Congress and approved by the President is unconstitutional.  This is because the President under the Constitution has the sole authority to spend funds in accordance with the guidelines fixed by the budget as approved by both Houses of Congress.

 

This is not to say that the President is not complicit in the enactment of the “pork barrel laws.”  After all, he and Congress must sign the annual GAA before it can be implemented.  The President also initiates these pork barrel laws through the Department of Budget and Management which prepares the budget for submission to Congress. Under the DBM’s budget proposal, the Presidents gets the power to withhold or allocate the pork barrel funds to compel legislators to do his bidding.

 

The practice was introduced by President Marcos after he declared martial law, and abolished both Congress and the 1935 Constitution, and ruled by decree.  One of these decrees was PD 1177, known as the Budget Reform Decree of 1977, which was intended to boost the dictator’s “New Society” government.  The decree provided for lump sum appropriations which the president could release or suspend in his discretion.  The “sin” of successive presidents after Marcos is that they continued the practice because it enhanced their powers at the expense of Congress. 

 

PD 1177 was not declared unconstitutional because it was not raised as an issue.  The SC merely concentrated on those provisions of the GAA of 2013 that violated the Constitution, like the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for legislators, and the president’s discretionary funds from the Malampaya gas project under PD 910, and the Pagcor Gaming Coporation under PD 1993. 

The ground was that there was an “undue delegation of legislative powers” to the President, because these funds were to be spent solely on the discretion of the President without any limitations made by Congress. 

 

The Supreme Court’s Nov. 19 decision, reversing its previous decisions supporting the “pork barrel laws”, was a triumph of public opinion expressed in the street through public rallies, the traditional media of press and broadcast, and the social media of the Internet.

=30=

 

 

 

 

                                                                      

 

           

 

             

 

                                                                      

 

           

 

             

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Cause of Social Dysfunction

Expanded presidential powers cause of society’s dysfunction
By MANUEL F. ALMARIO

Philippine Daily Inquirer
9:27 pm | Sunday, November 17th, 2013
0 6 1
In my commentary of Nov. 4, 2013, titled “The Philippines’ debt hole,” I failed to mention that in the United States all members, including the chair and the vice chair, of the Federal Reserve System or Federal Reserve which is the US central banking system, are appointed by the president but confirmed by the Senate. This secures the independence of the agency, whose main functions are to promote employment and prevent inflation through monetary regulations.

On the other hand, all seven members of our Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) are appointed by the president without confirmation by the Commission on Appointments, which is composed of senators and congressmen. The BSP has also the power to incur foreign loans with the “prior concurrence” of the president and to approve borrowings by local government units. The power to borrow money, both from local and foreign sources, is thus lodged exclusively in the chief executive.
In the United States, the power to raise money through loans is exercised exclusively by Congress. This is only rational because it is Congress that is empowered to pass laws to raise tax revenues for government expenses,
including debt payment.

Our public debt is now estimated to be at least 50 percent of our gross domestic product, requiring the allocation of 34 percent of our national budget to debt service.

Ever since the English Magna Carta of 1215, the “power of the purse” was lodged in the representatives of the people. The Magna Carta required the king (the executive) to get the consent of the people through the barons before levying taxes. Our 1935 and 1987 constitutions provide that “bills authorizing increase of the public debt” must originate from the House of Representatives, but “the Senate may propose or concur with amendments.” This has been ignored by Presidential Decree No. 1177 issued by Ferdinand Marcos, and by Republic Act No. 7553, the New Central Bank Act.

Further, the independence of the third branch of government, the judiciary, was also undermined when the 1987 Constitution removed from Congress the power to confirm the president’s appointments of the Supreme Court justices and the lower court judges. Under the 1935 Constitution, all appointments of justices and judges by the president must be approved by the Commission on Appointments.

But under the 1987 Constitution, appointments to the judiciary must be confirmed only by the Judicial and Bar Council, all seven members of whom, except one (a member of Congress), are appointees of the president. This is a farce.

Hence, the powers of the president have been enhanced resulting in the emasculation of the countervailing powers of the legislature and the judiciary. The cart of checks and balances between supposedly coequal and independent branches of government, necessary to prevent official abuses, has been overturned.

This is the main cause of the dysfunction and imbalance of our society, leading to massive corruption and widespread poverty that are now
agitating our people.

—MANUEL F. ALMARIO,
spokesman,
Movement for Truth in History (MOTH), mfalmario@yahoo.com

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/65547/expanded-presidential-powers-cause-of-societys-dysfunction#ixzz2kxFw2N7p
Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The difference between PDAF and DAP

The difference between PDAF and DAP

 

Oct. 25, 2013

The Editor

Philippine Daily Inquirer

 

Dear Editor:

 

          In his column of Oct. 25, 2013, titled “Conspiracy theories”, Mr. Amando Doronila failed to make an important distinction between the Priority Assistance Development Fund (PDAF) and the Development Accelerated Program (DAP), which is what really concerns the public.

  

          Billions of PDAF or “pork barrel funds”, which were intended for public projects and services, were allegedly stolen or pocketed by private persons through fake NGOs (nongovernment organizations) with the connivance of certain senators and congressmen who also allegedly benefited from the scam.  Some or all of them (in the Napoles cases) have been formally accused of “plunder” by the Department of Justice before the Ombudsman.

 

          On the other hand, there is no allegation either by Senator Jinggoy Estrada, who first “exposed” the DAP in a Senate privilege speech, nor by former Senator Joker Arroyo, that the P50 million in DAP funds which were released for public projects upon the advice of certain senators or congressmen were stolen or pocketed by them. 

 

          Estrada had called the DAP funds a “bribe” to legislators who actively supported the impeachment of former Chef Justice Renato Corona.  But he did not assert  that the money went to the pockets of the legislators, or to persons not authorized by law.   The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) affirms that the money was spent for public projects and services designated by the legislators concerned. 

 

           Senator Arroyo, whose hands had never been greased by pork barrel funds, admitted that he had requested for the release of P47 million by DBM for the building of classrooms in Iriga and Baao, Camarines Sur, which cost P10 million each, and for medical aid to indigent patients at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute, the Lung Center of the Philippines, the Philippine Heart Center, and the Bicol Medical Center in Naga.

 

          Arroyo did not complain that the DAP funds which were released on his advice did not go to the institutions which he had designated.  Neither is there any allegation or suspicion that any of these P47 million DAP funds ended in the pockets of Joker, who would not even receive the allowances intended for the maintenance of his Senate office.  We can assume that the money was spent as Joker advised it to be. 

 

          What Joker was complaining about was that the funds from the DAP came from “savings” which he claimed could not be disbursed by the Executive without an appropriation by Congress.  He therefore believes that the DAP is unconstitutional, to which the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) disagrees.  Now that is an issue that still has to be settled by the Supreme Court.

 

          This difference is what President Aquino – in his speech before the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines – meant when he said the media should “keep their eyes on the ball.”  The “ball”, insofar as the public is concerned, are the billions of PDAF funds which were misappropriated for private use.  It is a criminal matter.  The public  wants it prosecuted as fast as possible and the guilty parties sent to jail for plunder.

 

          The DAP is solely a constitutional issue, barring any suggestion or complaint that it was used to cover up the theft or malversation of public funds.  The PDAF may also be raised as a constitutional issue on the ground that the appropriation of public funds is a collective congressional decision, and should not be left to the individual discretion of legislators.  

 

          However, the President is right to be worried that certain quarters are deliberately confusing the issues in order to divert the public’s attention to another ball game. Further, the new ball game has him on its sights. 

 

 

MANUEL F. ALMARIO

Spokesman, Movement for Truth in History

(Email, mfalmario@yahoo.com)

 

The difference between PDAF and DAP

 

Oct. 25, 2013

The Editor

Philippine Daily Inquirer

 

Dear Editor:

 

          In his column of Oct. 25, 2013, titled “Conspiracy theories”, Mr. Amando Doronila failed to make an important distinction between the Priority Assistance Development Fund (PDAF) and the Development Accelerated Program (DAP), which is what really concerns the public.

  

          Billions of PDAF or “pork barrel funds”, which were intended for public projects and services, were allegedly stolen or pocketed by private persons through fake NGOs (nongovernment organizations) with the connivance of certain senators and congressmen who also allegedly benefited from the scam.  Some or all of them (in the Napoles cases) have been formally accused of “plunder” by the Department of Justice before the Ombudsman.

 

          On the other hand, there is no allegation either by Senator Jinggoy Estrada, who first “exposed” the DAP in a Senate privilege speech, nor by former Senator Joker Arroyo, that the P50 million in DAP funds which were released for public projects upon the advice of certain senators or congressmen were stolen or pocketed by them. 

 

          Estrada had called the DAP funds a “bribe” to legislators who actively supported the impeachment of former Chef Justice Renato Corona.  But he did not assert  that the money went to the pockets of the legislators, or to persons not authorized by law.   The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) affirms that the money was spent for public projects and services designated by the legislators concerned. 

 

           Senator Arroyo, whose hands had never been greased by pork barrel funds, admitted that he had requested for the release of P47 million by DBM for the building of classrooms in Iriga and Baao, Camarines Sur, which cost P10 million each, and for medical aid to indigent patients at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute, the Lung Center of the Philippines, the Philippine Heart Center, and the Bicol Medical Center in Naga.

 

          Arroyo did not complain that the DAP funds which were released on his advice did not go to the institutions which he had designated.  Neither is there any allegation or suspicion that any of these P47 million DAP funds ended in the pockets of Joker, who would not even receive the allowances intended for the maintenance of his Senate office.  We can assume that the money was spent as Joker advised it to be. 

 

          What Joker was complaining about was that the funds from the DAP came from “savings” which he claimed could not be disbursed by the Executive without an appropriation by Congress.  He therefore believes that the DAP is unconstitutional, to which the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) disagrees.  Now that is an issue that still has to be settled by the Supreme Court.

 

          This difference is what President Aquino – in his speech before the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines – meant when he said the media should “keep their eyes on the ball.”  The “ball”, insofar as the public is concerned, are the billions of PDAF funds which were misappropriated for private use.  It is a criminal matter.  The public  wants it prosecuted as fast as possible and the guilty parties sent to jail for plunder.

 

          The DAP is solely a constitutional issue, barring any suggestion or complaint that it was used to cover up the theft or malversation of public funds.  The PDAF may also be raised as a constitutional issue on the ground that the appropriation of public funds is a collective congressional decision, and should not be left to the individual discretion of legislators.  

 

          However, the President is right to be worried that certain quarters are deliberately confusing the issues in order to divert the public’s attention to another ball game. Further, the new ball game has him on its sights. 

 

 

MANUEL F. ALMARIO

Spokesman, Movement for Truth in History

(Email, mfalmario@yahoo.com)

The difference between PDAF and DAP

 

Oct. 25, 2013

The Editor

Philippine Daily Inquirer

 

Dear Editor:

 

          In his column of Oct. 25, 2013, titled “Conspiracy theories”, Mr. Amando Doronila failed to make an important distinction between the Priority Assistance Development Fund (PDAF) and the Development Accelerated Program (DAP), which is what really concerns the public.

  

          Billions of PDAF or “pork barrel funds”, which were intended for public projects and services, were allegedly stolen or pocketed by private persons through fake NGOs (nongovernment organizations) with the connivance of certain senators and congressmen who also allegedly benefited from the scam.  Some or all of them (in the Napoles cases) have been formally accused of “plunder” by the Department of Justice before the Ombudsman.

 

          On the other hand, there is no allegation either by Senator Jinggoy Estrada, who first “exposed” the DAP in a Senate privilege speech, nor by former Senator Joker Arroyo, that the P50 million in DAP funds which were released for public projects upon the advice of certain senators or congressmen were stolen or pocketed by them. 

 

          Estrada had called the DAP funds a “bribe” to legislators who actively supported the impeachment of former Chef Justice Renato Corona.  But he did not assert  that the money went to the pockets of the legislators, or to persons not authorized by law.   The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) affirms that the money was spent for public projects and services designated by the legislators concerned. 

 

           Senator Arroyo, whose hands had never been greased by pork barrel funds, admitted that he had requested for the release of P47 million by DBM for the building of classrooms in Iriga and Baao, Camarines Sur, which cost P10 million each, and for medical aid to indigent patients at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute, the Lung Center of the Philippines, the Philippine Heart Center, and the Bicol Medical Center in Naga.

 

          Arroyo did not complain that the DAP funds which were released on his advice did not go to the institutions which he had designated.  Neither is there any allegation or suspicion that any of these P47 million DAP funds ended in the pockets of Joker, who would not even receive the allowances intended for the maintenance of his Senate office.  We can assume that the money was spent as Joker advised it to be. 

 

          What Joker was complaining about was that the funds from the DAP came from “savings” which he claimed could not be disbursed by the Executive without an appropriation by Congress.  He therefore believes that the DAP is unconstitutional, to which the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) disagrees.  Now that is an issue that still has to be settled by the Supreme Court.

 

          This difference is what President Aquino – in his speech before the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines – meant when he said the media should “keep their eyes on the ball.”  The “ball”, insofar as the public is concerned, are the billions of PDAF funds which were misappropriated for private use.  It is a criminal matter.  The public  wants it prosecuted as fast as possible and the guilty parties sent to jail for plunder.

 

          The DAP is solely a constitutional issue, barring any suggestion or complaint that it was used to cover up the theft or malversation of public funds.  The PDAF may also be raised as a constitutional issue on the ground that the appropriation of public funds is a collective congressional decision, and should not be left to the individual discretion of legislators.  

 

          However, the President is right to be worried that certain quarters are deliberately confusing the issues in order to divert the public’s attention to another ball game. Further, the new ball game has him on its sights. 

 

 

MANUEL F. ALMARIO

Spokesman, Movement for Truth in History

(Email, mfalmario@yahoo.com)

 

The difference between PDAF and DAP

 

Oct. 25, 2013

The Editor

Philippine Daily Inquirer

 

Dear Editor:

 

          In his column of Oct. 25, 2013, titled “Conspiracy theories”, Mr. Amando Doronila failed to make an important distinction between the Priority Assistance Development Fund (PDAF) and the Development Accelerated Program (DAP), which is what really concerns the public.

  

          Billions of PDAF or “pork barrel funds”, which were intended for public projects and services, were allegedly stolen or pocketed by private persons through fake NGOs (nongovernment organizations) with the connivance of certain senators and congressmen who also allegedly benefited from the scam.  Some or all of them (in the Napoles cases) have been formally accused of “plunder” by the Department of Justice before the Ombudsman.

 

          On the other hand, there is no allegation either by Senator Jinggoy Estrada, who first “exposed” the DAP in a Senate privilege speech, nor by former Senator Joker Arroyo, that the P50 million in DAP funds which were released for public projects upon the advice of certain senators or congressmen were stolen or pocketed by them. 

 

          Estrada had called the DAP funds a “bribe” to legislators who actively supported the impeachment of former Chef Justice Renato Corona.  But he did not assert  that the money went to the pockets of the legislators, or to persons not authorized by law.   The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) affirms that the money was spent for public projects and services designated by the legislators concerned. 

 

           Senator Arroyo, whose hands had never been greased by pork barrel funds, admitted that he had requested for the release of P47 million by DBM for the building of classrooms in Iriga and Baao, Camarines Sur, which cost P10 million each, and for medical aid to indigent patients at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute, the Lung Center of the Philippines, the Philippine Heart Center, and the Bicol Medical Center in Naga.

 

          Arroyo did not complain that the DAP funds which were released on his advice did not go to the institutions which he had designated.  Neither is there any allegation or suspicion that any of these P47 million DAP funds ended in the pockets of Joker, who would not even receive the allowances intended for the maintenance of his Senate office.  We can assume that the money was spent as Joker advised it to be. 

 

          What Joker was complaining about was that the funds from the DAP came from “savings” which he claimed could not be disbursed by the Executive without an appropriation by Congress.  He therefore believes that the DAP is unconstitutional, to which the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) disagrees.  Now that is an issue that still has to be settled by the Supreme Court.

 

          This difference is what President Aquino – in his speech before the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines – meant when he said the media should “keep their eyes on the ball.”  The “ball”, insofar as the public is concerned, are the billions of PDAF funds which were misappropriated for private use.  It is a criminal matter.  The public  wants it prosecuted as fast as possible and the guilty parties sent to jail for plunder.

 

          The DAP is solely a constitutional issue, barring any suggestion or complaint that it was used to cover up the theft or malversation of public funds.  The PDAF may also be raised as a constitutional issue on the ground that the appropriation of public funds is a collective congressional decision, and should not be left to the individual discretion of legislators.  

 

          However, the President is right to be worried that certain quarters are deliberately confusing the issues in order to divert the public’s attention to another ball game. Further, the new ball game has him on its sights. 

 

 

MANUEL F. ALMARIO

Spokesman, Movement for Truth in History

(Email, mfalmario@yahoo.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The difference between PDAF and DAP

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Commentary

The Philippines’ debt hole

By MANUEL F. ALMARIO

11:34 pm | Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

 1 59 3

The embarrassing and scary government shutdown in the United States won’t happen in the Philippines. The reason? We don’t have a debt ceiling, unlike in America. Here, the sky’s the limit for public borrowing. The president is authorized to borrow money as much and for as long as he/she wants.

 

Under Sec. 20, Art. VII of the 1987 Constitution, the president has the power to “contract or guarantee foreign loans on behalf of the Republic of the Philippines with the prior concurrence of the Monetary Board, and subject to such limitations as may be provided by law.”

 

Also, under Republic Act No. 7553, the New Central Bank Act, all internal and local borrowing by the national government and its political subdivisions, including cities and municipalities, shall be subject only to the approval of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. All seven members of the Bangko Sentral, including five from the private sector, are appointed by the president, and so what he/she says goes.

 

This is despite Sec. 24, Art. VII, which states: “All appropriation, revenue or tariff bills,  bills  authorizing  increase  of  the  public  debt, bills of local application, and private bills, shall originate exclusively in the House of Representatives, but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments.”

 

Presidential Decree 1177, issued by Ferdinand Marcos in 1977, provides for the automatic appropriation in the national budget of the payment of the principal and interest of the public debt. Marcos signed the decree to bolster his authoritarian “New Society.” Our foreign debt rose from $7 billion in 1965 when Marcos was first elected to $27 billion in 1986 when he was ousted. As of the first quarter of 2012, our foreign debt was $62.9 billion, up by 3.3 percent from that of the previous year (Inquirer, 6/22/12), constituting 50 percent of our gross domestic product (GDP).

 

Because of PD 1177, the international credit rating agencies have always given the Philippines a favorable rating. Unlike the United States and other countries, the Philippines cannot default because it has guaranteed debt payment from our taxes. As our borrowings go up, more and higher taxes are imposed to pay for them—thus the onerous 12-percent VAT and higher taxes on cigarettes and liquor.

 

According to the Department of Finance, the government is allocating P791.5 billion for public debt servicing in 2014, which is 34 percent of the proposed P2.2-trillion national budget for next year. Every P34 of every P100 in our budget goes to payment of the public debt.

The appropriation for debt payment in the 2014 budget is more than the combined allocation for the Departments of Education (P336.9 billion) and of Public Works and Highways (P213.5 billion).

 

Total public debt as of May this year was P5.36 trillion. It is expected to rise to P5.78 trillion by the yearend, equivalent to 48 percent of the GDP. By Dec. 31, every Filipino man, woman and child will owe P55,195.65 in government debt (estimating the population at 92 million), up from P51,675 just two years ago.

 

 

The Philippines’ bottomless debt hole perpetuates our annual budgetary deficit that requires us to borrow more money and raise more taxes, bonding us like feudal peons to financial landlords for as long as the current debt policy persists.

 

In their 1991 petition questioning the constitutionality of the automatic appropriation of the debt service, then Senators Teofisto Guingona Jr. and Aquilino Pimentel Jr. pointed out that it was in violation of Sec. 5, Art. XIV of the Constitution which mandates the “highest budgetary priority to education.”

 

Voting 8-4, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition, citing Sec. 3, Art. XVIII of the Constitution which states: “All existing laws, decrees, executive orders, proclamations, letters of instructions and other executive issuances not inconsistent with the Constitution shall remain operative until amended, repealed or revoked.”

 

Thus, a decree issued by a dead dictator remains in force more than three decades after his overthrow. PD 1177, introducing the “budgetary reforms” of the “New Society,” is the same vicious decree that originated the pork barrel, now the Priority Development Assistance Fund and the Disbursement Acceleration Program, which have ravaged our national finances and diverted billions of pesos in public money to private wallets.

 

Associate Justice Edgardo Paras wrote a strong dissenting opinion to the high court’s majority decision in the 1991 Pimentel-Guingona challenge: “I dissent. Any law that undermines our economy and therefore our security is per se unconstitutional.”

 

Justice Isagani Cruz, also dissenting, affirmed: “I think it is a mistake for this government to justify its acts on the basis of the decrees of President Marcos. These are on the whole tainted with authoritarianism and enfeebled by lack of proper study and draftsmanship, let alone suspect motives.” Justice Abraham Sarmiento concurred.

 

Justice Teodoro Padilla, likewise dissenting, said:  “[T]hese decrees issued by President Marcos relative to debt service were tailored for the periods covered by said decrees. Today it is Congress that should determine and approve the proper appropriations for debt servicing…”

 

Unless PD 1177 is  repealed by Congress, the Philippines will always be overburdened by debt, especially the foreign debt which drains our national resources, including the remittances of more than a million overseas workers. Despite their remittances of more than P1 billion a month, our debt burden continues to balloon.

 

Doubtless, international banks and even local banks are happy with our automatic payment of debt service, for their lending to our government is practically risk-free. So long as PD 1177 is in the books, they will never suffer the jitters of China and Japan, the biggest creditors of the United States, when they faced the prospect of a US default due to the debt-ceiling impasse between President Barack Obama and the US Congress.

Yet we are less capable of paying, because our nominal per capita GDP is just $2,614, while that of America is a whopping $49,999.

 

Manuel F. Almario (mfalmario@yahoo.com) is a veteran journalist and spokesman of the Movement for Truth in History, Rizal’s MOTH.

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/64639/the-philippines-debt-hole#ixzz2jdK10DB6 
Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

Leave a comment

November 4, 2013 · 1:14 am