Last Friday’s Nanka media forum in QC featured Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos, a week after her brother guested on the show. She dresses a bit young for her age, but she gets away with it because of her seemingly ageless good looks.
The governor fielded the usual unkind media questions with aplomb. When asked about her “moving on” remark, she conceded that her family was in fact willing to apologize, but would never admit guilt to anything. It’s a politically astute response that builds on her brother’s earlier comment that the courts—not to mention Edsa—have already passed definitive judgment on the Marcos era.
I was surprised to learn that Imee, a consistent honor student from grade school, has earned a PhD in Government from Yale. I remarked that she’s clearly taken after her father, who was quite possibly the brainiest president this country ever had. I think she liked the comparison.
At the same media forum, the redoubtable lawyer Larry Gadon (“Hindi kami bobo!”) issued his fearless forecast that Supreme Court chief justice Teresita de Castro will be replaced upon her retirement consecutively by associate justices Lucas Bersamin and Diosdado Peralta, in either order. The reason is simple: Both of them follow her in number of years within the judiciary.
Senior associate justice Tony Carpio may have served the longest inside the SC, but his stint in the judiciary is only 17 years. We wouldn’t be surprised if the President echoes Gadon when he chooses De Castro’s replacement in October. He won’t even need to bring up the perfectly acceptable reason of “differences in judicial philosophy” if he decides to turn down Carpio.
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We’re glad to note that the Philippines for the first time ever was rated above minimum investment grade, courtesy of RAM Rating Services Bhd, established in 1990 by the Malaysian central bank and today the ASEAN region’s largest rating agency as well as the world’s largest rater of Islamic-finance bonds, or sukuk.
RAM upgraded the country’s rating to “gBBB2(pi)”, the equivalent of S&P’s “BBB”, on the back of our “sustained growth momentum, persistent uptrend in foreign investment inflows, and continuous progress in reforms”. The only downside noted was that “fiscal incentives rationalization could hold back investments”.
The timing is perfect, with the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) poised to take a bow, not only as an unprecedentedly autonomous new region, but also as the only one uniquely positioned to access the multibillion-dollar global Islamic finance market, which it can then onlend to other regions of the country under a federal set-up.
Unfortunately, what one Malaysian hand gives, another hand takes away.
The government there has decided not to extend its amnesty and voluntary deportation program for illegal aliens beyond August. The impending crackdown will affect some 400,000 undocumented Filipinos, of whom only a handful of thousands have availed of the amnesty.
Our embassy there, under former DFA spokesman Charles Jose, has already been extending all kinds of support to our countrymen, such as free travel documents and assistance with exit fees and even airfare.
Looking farther out, though, we’re a bit more sanguine. Our border with Malaysia has always been extremely porous. Traders from both sides regularly take day trips by pumpboat to do business on the other side. In fact, smuggling from Malaysia is credited for keeping prices down in Mindanao on many commodities, including rice.
Besides, the drafters of the proposed new federal constitution cleverly left the door open for our longstanding claim on Sabah by defining our sovereignty to include “territories belonging to the Philippines by historic right.” Which of course would bring up the question, only half-jokingly: Who should then be calling whom “illegal aliens”?
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The hapless bureaucrats at the NFA are fast running out of supporters and options. Consider the latest developments:
Problems of not enough rice, spoiled rice, and/or too expensive rice have been hitting one province after another, the latest one being Zamboanga. Down in Bohol, the “rice bowl of Central Visayas,” rice farmers are praying for rain as a drought threatens their crop and presages another El Niño.
NFA administrator Jason Aquino and his accounting manager were charged with graft for using P5.1-B of funds meant for buying grain last year to pay off the agency’s debts, which resulted in soaring prices of rice and corn. On top of that, Congressman Karlo Nograles says they did the same thing again this year, bringing up to P10-B the total funds diverted from budgeted uses.
Senators Cynthia Villar and Win Gatchalian have already called for Aquino’s resignation and abolishing the NFA. Speaker GMA did not go that far, saying instead that she would not object to whatever may be necessary to restore stability in the domestic rice market.
The free marketeers at Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) have weighed in with their support for abolishing NFA as well as immediately implementing tariffication of open-market rice imports.
Rice security is clearly one area—and a very important one at that—where the President’s men have been unable to make good on his promises to our people. There’s only one direction non-performers should go, and we hope that Duterte hasn’t forgotten where it is.
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After taking a couple on the chin from Duterte’s economic managers, the idealistic men and women pushing for federalism have started to counter-punch.
For starters, they came up with their own estimate of P13.5 billion for the total costs of transitioning to federalism. This is only 5 percent of the humongous number of P250 billion that was floated by Neda, which apparently includes new buildings, a lot more staff, wholesale duplication of functions between federal and regional levels—in short, all the bureaucracy that central planners seem to love by instinct.
Perhaps in response, Neda has now come up with a proposal for an extended, 15-year “transition roadmap” toward federalism. It starts with a year-long detailed spatial and economic analysis of the proposed new regions, complete accounting of government workforce, and inventory of affected laws, regulations and policies.
These requirements are not unreasonable, but 15 years is too long. And inexplicably, the roadmap ends on the 15th year with the ratification of the proposed new federal constitution only at that time! In short, what should take place on Day One will be pushed back to Year-end 15. We don’t know if the Neda folks were really serious about being taken seriously on this.
Clearly, a lot more discussion needs to take place between both sides of the issue. The federalism folks have proposed setting up a technical working group to iron out their differences with the economic team and come up with a consensus number for the costs of transition. This will add more time to the process, but it will be worth the extra effort.
My own fearless forecast of transition costs (for the entire new charter, not just for federalism) is a consensus number of P40 billion. Let’s see how close we come to the mark.
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