Thursday, May 31, 2012

Jobless, hungry, poor ... and sad

By Winston A. Marbella

There are many ways of ranking a country’s performance: gross domestic product (GDP) is common.  Less common are  competitiveness index, governance index, freedom index.  

The new kid on the block in ranking countries is – Happiness Index. Because we are a naturally happy people, you might think we'd  do better by this measure.  Think again.

Gallup polls taken from 2005-2011 ranked countries in terms of happiness.

The ranking appears in the World Happiness Report (WHR), edited by three  economists: John Helliwell of the University of British Columbia, Richard Layard of the London School of Economics, and Jeffrey Sachs of the University of Columbia. 

Professor Sachs was in the Philippines recently for the Asian Development Bank’s 45th annual meeting. He described the Philippine economy very curiously as "complicated," or hard to fathom.

Using the usual GDP growth rate standard, the Philippines ranked worst among Southeast Asian nations. Among ASEAN-5 (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam)  nations, the country is expected to grow the slowest this year and over the next few years,   says the International Monetary Fund.


In unemployment rate, the Philippines ranked first with 7.2% jobless -- much higher than Indonesia’s 6.7% (Q32011), Vietnam’s 4.4% (2010), and Malaysia’s 3.0% (Q42011). Thailand has near full employment rate at 0.6% (Q32011).

In the war on poverty, our ASEAN-5 counterparts have long met the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving poverty before 2015.  

Official numbers show that poverty has largely remained the same over the last 10 years. In 2009, poverty incidence was 26.5%, slightly higher than the 26.4% in 2006 and 24.9% in 2003. But to reducing poverty by half in 2015,we need to reduce poverty incidence by 2 percentage points every year. 


In happiness level, we ranked last among  out neighbors.  We were 103rd while Malaysia was  51st, Thailand 52nd, Vietnam 65th, and Indonesia 83rd,  says the World Happiness Report. 

Singapore is the happiest country in the Asia Pacific region after New Zealand and Australia. The  most miserable countries in Asia Pacific are in South Asia: India 94th, Bangladesh 104th, Nepal 121st, Sri Lanka 130th and Afghanistan 131st.  The Philippines’ ranking is closer to to the miserable South Asia group of countries than to ASEAN-5.

Denmark is the happiest country in the world, followed by Finland, Norway, Netherlands, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia and Ireland in the top 10. The United States ranks 11th. 

A person’s happiness at a certain point is determined by "external" factors (income, work, community and governance and values and religion) and "personal" features (mental health, physical health, family experience, education, and gender and age). 

Managing happiness

For policy makers, the most important are the environmental factors affecting happiness,  because these can be managed. So they also seek to know how each factor impacts happiness.

Work is a major factor. "Unemployment causes as much unhappiness as bereavement or separation. At work, job security and good relationships do more for job satisfaction than high pay and convenient hours," according to the report.

"A key relationship comes through work. It provides not only a livelihood but a source of meaning -- feeling needed and able to contribute. But not everyone can get work, nor if they can, is it always satisfying," says the report.


"When people become unemployed they experience sharp falls in well-being and their well-being remains at this lower level until they are re-employed. The estimated effect is typically as large as the effect of bereavement or separation, and the unemployed share with these other experiences the characteristic of ceasing to be needed," the report adds.

"High unemployment also has spillover effects not only on the families of the unemployed but also on those in work, who feel less secure in their jobs.Thus, private sector employees are more affected than public sector employees, whose jobs are more secure. When we total up all the well-being effects of a rise in the unemployment rate, the loss to the rest of the population is twice as large as the loss to the unemployed themselves."

High income does not necessarily guarantee happiness.  Job security, interesting assignment, and autonomy are more satisfying.

Thus, employment is a major source of  happiness.  Conversely, unemployment fans unhappiness and ultimately discontent.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

After the trial, the hard work begins

People's Journal
June 2, 2012

By Winston A. Marbella

In Act 3, Scene 2 of Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare treated us to this immortal lament of Mark Antony after his fellow Roman senators assassinated his friend: "The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones." 

In the feeding frenzy that will follow the removal of Chief Justice Renato Corona from office, we run the very real risk of forgetting quickly the painful lessons of governance we just learned.  These lessons transcend the legal and constitutional issues that the trial exposed – frailties that several senators saw even as they  cast their votes to remove the Chief Justice.

Sen. Ralph Recto, an economist, warned that the removal of Mr. Corona will not create jobs, lessen hunger, or reduce poverty.  Those  problems remain ahead of us and in fact worsened over the past year as the government pursued its moral crusade.

Governance gaps

In casting the final vote which sealed Mr. Corona’s fate, 20-3, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile acknowledged that the trial exposed many governance issues that needed to be addressed, including gaps in the law and the conduct of the trial. 

“I have constantly held that those who face the judgment of imperfect and fallible mortals like us have recourse to the judgment of history, and, ultimately, of God,” he said.

“And so, with full trust that the Almighty will see us through the aftermath of this chapter in our nation’s history, I vote to hold the Chief Justice, Renato C. Corona, guilty as charged.”

'Political assassination'

Sen. Joker Arroyo voted for acquittal.  He said in explaining his vote: “Impeachment is a political process, not a political assassination. An impeachment aspires to be a judicial proceeding that makes imperative that it stick to judicial rules. An impeachment must ever uphold the due process that no citizen, high or low, can be denied.”  

“The Senate is being asked to remove the Chief Justice from office all because he submitted an allegedly erroneous SALN,” he said. “What has happened is the passage that to which the Senate President once warned: That we’re veering close to a bill of attainder.”

A bill of attainder, he explained, is a law that is submitted by one House and approved by another, “creating an offense where there was none, inventing a crime out of actions, willful or not, that were innocent when they were performed.”

'Naked power'

“This is not justice, political or legal. This is certainly not law; for sure it’s not the law of the Constitution. It’s only naked power as it was in 1972 (when martial law was declared),” he said.

“I have not thought I would see it again so brazenly performed but for what it is worth, I cast my vote, if not for innocence falsely accused, of offenses yet to exist and if not for the law and the Constitution that we were privileged to restore under Cory Aquino, then because it is dangerous not to do what is right when soon we shall stand before the Lord,”  Arroyo said.

Questionable evidence

 Also voting for acquittal, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. asserted that the Bill of Rights “stands supreme” over all government power, including the power to impeach.

“And nowhere is this precept more opposite than in this case, where the government has mustered all the resources at its disposal, not only to secure evidence against the Chief Justice but further to ensure his conviction,” he said.

While the evidence presented by the prosecution came from questionable sources, and was “grossly exaggerated,” Corona had “sufficiently addressed” the accusation against him on the filing of his SALN, as well the disclosure of his real properties, peso and dollar accounts, Marcos said.


Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, a former trial court judge, voted for acquittal.

Quoting the biblical passage that “he who is without sin cast the first stone,” Santiago accused the prosecution of pointing an accusing finger at the Chief Justice when the whole country was mired in corruption.

“Why is the Philippines always ranked as one of most corrupt countries in the whole world? Are you pretending to be faultless?” Santiago asked.

“What a hypocritical accusation! That’s a problem with this country! We’re all for honest government, but the world condemns us,” she said.  She concluded with a prayer to be given a second life to be able to go after all the crooks in government.

These are some of the tough governance  problems that need to be addressed to reap the fruits of the Corona impeachment.

Social media morph news into forms McLuhanesque

May 30, 2012

By Winston A. Marbella

Three powerful communication technologies are radically reshaping the news, changing both its format and content, and morphing it unto a form and shape that  the Canadian media visionary Marshall McLuhan foresaw decades ago but few of us thought we would see in our lifetime.

The social transformations ignited by the new media are also raising pressing questions on the economic viability of the traditional news media: television, radio and print.

Already many newspapers and magazines are shutting down in the United States, unable to stay afloat amid the raging sea change sweeping media consumption patterns.

Very recently, a worldwide study showed that the digital medium has overtaken radio and print.  Another  international study last year found that more people got their news from the Internet than from television. 

The driving forces of this communication revolution are the Internet and the social phenomenon it spawned, the social media, which  transformed the way people transmit and consume the news.

McLuhan's world

In turn, the news itself has evolved in form and substance, making true the prediction of futurist visionary McLuhan that, in simple terms, “the medium is the message.”

The way the social media and the Internet have transformed the news, in fact, has turned the new  technological processes of transmitting the news into powerful tools of radical social and political change.

The new arsenal of revolutionary change now includes social networking as its most potent weapon, evident in the radical changes that transformed the Islamic world in the Arab Spring of 2011.  

The social media replaced television news as the dominant tool of political change.  Only decades ago, television news was unchallenged in mobilizing American public opinion against the war in Vietnam.  

But  it took years for public opinion to jell political action.  Today it happens in months, weeks, or even days.   

These revolutionary changes could not have happened without the speed-of-light communication and mobilization provided by the news media, even as dictatorial regimes have learned recently to clamp down on news coverage by traditional media organizations.  But they have yet to learn an effective way to silence social media. 

Boundaries blurring 

Today the confluence of technology and socio-political change is transforming even the news itself as commonly understood.

In the interactive world of the Internet and social media networks, the traditional boundaries between news and opinion have been obliterated, with netizens  conveying news and opinion in an odd mixture of digital chatter.

In many cases, news is now only used as a medium for conveying the more important opinions that crisscross the digital universe  hundreds of millions of times per second.  

News has become the carrying medium of opinion in a sudden reversal of roles, with content in turn transforming the media that carry them.  

The world of McLuhan has turned full circle, with far-reaching implications on the economic viability of traditional media.

Celebrity gossip

For pure news search, Google and Google News lead the pack, accounting for 39 percent of traffic, according to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Facebook is fast becoming “a critical player in news,” driving seven to eight percent of traffic to major news organizations.

Twitter, with 175 million followers compared to Facebook’s 600 million, accounts for only one percent of traffic to news sites, but it has its strengths.

For keeping updated on celebrity gossip, nothing beats Twitter.

Radio, print overtaken
The digital medium has overtaken radio and print, according to TNS Digital Life 2012.  

The study by custom research firm TNS covered 93 percent of the world’s online population via interviews with 72,000 consumers in 60 countries, including the Philippines.

Daily, 89% of the respondents watch TV, 45% go online and 36% listen to the radio.

Only 12% of the respondents read newspapers and only 4% read magazines.

“The TNS Digital Life 2012 study found that the incidence of Internet usage is over 50% across urban Philippines,”  said Gary de Ocampo, managing director, TNS Philippines.

OFWs prefer online

Interestingly, the online medium, alongside the mobile phone, is now the primary communication channel for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and their families.

A total of 81% of families who have relatives abroad communicate with them using the Internet through their personal computers, with 77% using their mobile phones to call or send SMS and MMS messages.

 Majority of family members were likewise found to belong to social networking sites, primarily Facebook (90%) and Twitter (6%).

Friends doubling

Filipino digital consumers averaged 440 friends on social networks, noticeably higher than the 171 average number of friends from last year’s findings.

Filipino teenagers between 16 to 20 years old remain at the forefront of social networking with the most number of friends (with an average of 613 friends) compared to the other age groups.

(The author is president of a think tank specializing in transforming social and political trends into public policy and business strategy.  E-mail:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

23 senators ponder sacred duty

People's Journal
Mat 29, 2012

By Winston A. Marbella

It was providential that on the weekend the 23 senators reserved for formulating their decision on the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona, the liturgy was about Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit on the 11 apostles.

On Pentecost Sunday, the Good Book tells us that the apostles had locked themselves inside a room, trembling in fear that the lynch mob that had crucified Jesus Christ were out to get them, too.

Then, heralded by a howling gust of wind, the Holy Spirit descended as in “tongues of fire” and rested on their foreheads.  Church teachings proclaim that on this day the Holy Spirit bestowed seven gifts: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge piety and fear of God.


In Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas would write that the following correspondences existed between the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and 
the Capital Virtues:  

The gift of wisdom corresponds to the virtue of charity; the gifts of understanding and knowledge to faith; the gift of counsel (right judgment) to prudence; the gift of fortitude to courage; fear of the Lord to hope; and reverence to the virtue of justice. 

The 11 apostles received these gifts to arm them for the great work of evangelization that lay ahead. Without these gifts the work of redemption would fail.  

On the last few days before rendering a verdict, the 23 senators needed these gifts as well to guide them.  One of the American senators featured in President John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage, Robert A. Taft, faced a similar situation.  A summary:
Man of courage

After World War II many of the leaders of the Nazis in Germany were put on trial as war criminals by an international tribune. But imagine  if at the conclusion of the Vietnam War, an international court had tried to indict leaders from the U.S. for their role in waging that war. It was exactly that type of persecution that Republican Senator Robert A. Taft feared when he opposed the Nuremberg trials against the Nazi war criminals. 

During the Nuremberg Trials 11 Nazis were found guilty under an indictment for "waging an aggressive war" and sentenced to death. The verdict was a popular one especially in the United States, but Senator Taft was not a member of the majority. With nothing to gain and his political future to lose, Taft's conscience and political courage caused him to speak out against a verdict he believed to be an act of vengeance, compromising the American and European justice systems. 

Senator Taft led conservative Republican opposition to the Democratic administrations of presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman.  From 1939 until his death he served in the U.S. Senate. Despite his nickname "Mr. Republican," Taft was known to break party lines on issues such as education, housing, health and other welfare measures. 

In 1946, Robert Taft was chief spokesman for the Republican Party and it looked likely that Republicans would gain control of both Houses of Congress, paving the way for Taft's Republican nomination for the presidency in 1948. When a verdict was reached in the Nuremberg trials, the Senate was not in session and Senator Taft had no obligation to share his views. But Taft's strong belief that the trials were unjust caused him to speak out.

'Dangerous precedent' 

"The trial of the vanquished by the victors cannot be impartial no matter how it is hedged about with the forms of justice," Taft said. He believed the Nuremberg trials challenged both the legal structure and the Constitution of the United States and set a dangerous legal precedent worldwide. 

In 1946 Democrats and Republicans alike branded Taft a Nazi sympathizer. His views were highly unpopular with his constituents and the majority of American citizens. He said:

“I question whether the hanging of those, who, however despicable, were the leaders of the German people, will ever discourage the making of aggressive war, for no one makes aggressive war unless he expects to win. About this whole judgment there is the spirit of vengeance, and vengeance is seldom justice. The hanging of the eleven men convicted will be a blot on the American record, which we shall long regret.” 

Never president 

Characterized by Kennedy as an act of political courage, speaking out against the trials did not cost  Taft his career in the U.S. Senate.  But Taft never did accomplish his dream of becoming president, campaigning twice unsuccessfully for the presidential nomination of his party.

Kennedy believed Taft showed personal strength and conscientious action in his pursuit of justice and what he felt was the right path, in spite of the fact that his views were contrary to those of the majority of Americans. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

'One man of courage makes a majority'

People's Journal
May 28. 2012

By Winston A. Marbella

Chief Justice Renato Corona went back to the Senate impeachment court after leaving hospital intensive care, his broken body torn by months of vicious persecution.  But his spirit soars.  

He may not be as physically fit now as when the impeachment trial began almost six months ago. But that is of no import to him now.  He has said his piece to his people, and  that is all that really matters to him.

When he stood up to say, “Now, the Chief Justice of the Republic wishes to be excused,” he said it with finality.  He was not begging leave of the court – he was begging leave of his people. 

No matter how the impeachment verdict goes, we shall have learned many things about governance that will far outweigh the specific benefits of the trial.  Most of all, we  shall have learned about character – and courage – and decency -- beyond what the law says.

Flesh and blood

More than anything else, the trial gave us a real-world understanding of constitutional and legal concepts that were merely ideas in a civics book, and how these ideas give flesh and blood to our democracy.  Concepts like presumption of innocence, burden of proof, the rule of law, the rules of evidence and procedure, and how these precepts aid the search for truth and justice.  

We realized in the process that democracy is a precious gift that we must preserve and nurture for the generations yet to come.  We began to appreciate, too, the sacrifices that our forefathers endured to give us the freedoms we enjoy today.

In the short history of our republic, each generation has confronted choices that have led to the kind of democracy we have today.  The fathers of our nation shed copious blood in the struggle for  freedom.  We have stood at the crossroads of history on many occasions and made difficult decisions.

We stand before such a crossroad again today.  But it will take much more than our legendary skills for political combat -- or even our vaunted resiliency and ingenuity in the face of difficulties -- to secure our future.

Conscience and compromise

Those we elected to public office who now sit in judgment of the Chief Justice must accept the heavy burden of making difficult decisions no matter how unpopular – or they will make popular decisions no matter how foolish.  They must learn to distinguish between popularity and principle, between conscience and compromise, and be ready to forsake the fleeting acclamation of the thundering throng for the more lasting judgment of history.

In this historic task, our leaders must learn to put conscience over expedience, no matter how difficult, secure only in the belief that they will be redeemed ultimately by the wisdom of the people they have sworn to serve, or if not, at least by the enduring judgment of history.  They cannot choose the challenges they face, but they can certainly choose the decisions they make.

In turn, we, the people, will constantly need to affirm our belief in the inherent soundness of our political institutions to correct the wrong decisions we make, and to see the long view, to choose the right path, and to secure a regime of prosperity for our children.

Hopes and dreams

These are hopes worthy of our dreams.

To achieve them we need not only to mobilize the best and the brightest among us, but also to inspire the bravest and noblest within us.  We are only as noble as our dreams, and as brave as our convictions.  Each of us must find within our hearts the burning fervor for a country the forging of which our forefathers willingly gave up their lives.

Our road map to the future cannot be found in the wind-tossed popularity charts of public opinion polls, but in the breadth of our vision and the sincerity of our intentions.  Each of us must find in his own heart the wisdom to seek a better world for our children.

Courage and conviction

We need to put our contentious conflicts behind us and chart a new destiny for ourselves.  We need to test daily not only the courage of our convictions, but also the nobility of our purpose.

In the daily drudgery of making our democracy work, we must also participate in strengthening the foundations of our economic institutions – brick by brick, stone upon stone.

Occasionally, especially during elections, we are given the chance to begin historic changes that either preserve our future or doom it.  We make the choice.


A working democracy is as much a leap of faith as an act of sacrifice.  Greatness is impossible without heroes – and heroes are created as much by our own historical heritage as by our collective will to rise above our wretched politics and build a nation we can proudly call our own.  

We are what we are.  But we are also our dreams.  Surely we can make our dreams come true.  If only we could find a few good men – just a few good men of courage, conscience, and conviction.

Senator Robert F. Kennedy, in his introduction to President John F. Kennedy's Pulitzer Prize-winning Profiles in Courage, quoted President Andrew Jackson: “One man of courage makes a majority,”

We may yet find several in our Senate. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

At heart of tourism drive lies flag carrier's dream

Philippine Daily Inquirer
May 26, 2012
(Last of two parts)

By Winston A. Marbella

Targeting 10 million foreign tourists and 35.5 million domestic travelers as the core of a P266-billion tourism master plan is going to strain not only the country's tourism infrastructure.  

The Manila international airport, already stressed beyond capacity today, will burst at the seams.  So will the country's major carriers, especially the flag carrier, Philippine Air Lines, recently acquired by San Miguel Corporation.  Yes, the food and beverage conglomerate.

What is a food and beverage giant doing in airlines and airports?  It has a master plan that will make the showcase tourism project of the Aquino presidency fly by 2016.

No other government activity reaches the grass roots with more impact.   The industry's economic “ripple effects” directly provide employment to  close to seven million tourism workers, almost a  fifth of the work force.  And working for tourist dollars is actually a lot of fun.

The government's tourism master plan was presented at a parallel forum during the 45th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Asian Development Bank in Manila last week by Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. He also unveiled the department's “It's more fun the Philippines” worldwide marketing campaign.

Saving the flag carrier

In another blockbuster  move that seemed almost a twin of the tourism master plan, SMC  acquired management control of the  troubled flag carrier, PAL. 

Ramon S. Ang, SMC president, recently engineered the acquisition of a 49-percent stake, worth half a billion American dollars, in PAL.  That also gave him management control.

What would a food and beverage tycoon know about running a troubled airline?  Apparently much, because he is a certified pilot, besides being an engineer who restores and collects antique cars and can tune their engines. 

A dream city

But the acquisition of PAL is just the tip of the iceberg of a US $5-billion (around Php 210 billion) master plan that will make the P266-billion tourism plan take off by 2016.

Ang's core strategy envisions SMC investing in a new international airport that will have up to four    runways and can handle up to 100 million passengers a year on a 4,000-hectare site:  “This is one of the proposals we will put forward to the government,”   

The proposed airport will be closer to Metro Manila than Clark, and the undisclosed site will only be “five to 10 minutes’ drive from EDSA.”

For the immediate term, Ang plans to help the government regain Category 1 status for the country from the US Federal Aviation Administration, since this is crucial for the airline’s profitability and eventual expansion.  

Where to get the resources for all this?

“Not a problem,” he says.  “As of today, PAL is already healthy, financially, since we put $500 million in.  Another $500 million will come in the near future.”

Ang is in a hurry to break ground before the year ends on the 4,000-hectare airport project.  He already has a core tenant: a four-runway international airport and a modern air terminal capable of handling as many as 100 million passengers a year.  

So a lot is riding on the success of the tourism signature campaign, “It's more fun in the Philippines.”  The two mega-projects dovetail perfectly.

State of the art 

The development will also have its own business district, a commercial and residential area, and will target ecozone status to accommodate locators in the manufacturing site.

It will also supply its own electricity, which Ang says will be cheaper than power from existing technology from commercial producers.  The country's power rates are the highest in the region, discouraging foreign investors.

Passengers can reach the airport complex “in 10 minutes from EDSA” using SMC’s proposed elevated roadway that cuts across Metro Manila north to south.  

Ang says the project is meant to provide the country with an alternative to the aging Ninoy Aquino International Airport, which has reached the limit of its expansion, and the Clark International Airport, which is too far from Metro Manila.

“It will be a mini-city,” Ang says, with PAL moving its base of operations there.  Another sure tenant. 

Looking for $5 billion

The total project cost, including the elevated tollway, a modern air terminal, runways and the land will be around $5 billion.  “Can we afford it? Of course we can afford it,” Ang  asserts.

To understand the logic of what can only be best described as an unconventional leapfrog strategy, one has to peel away the layers of Ang's  business plans to get to the core of his leaps of vision.

The PAL strategy

He has several hands-on ideas about how to turn around the airline that has lost market share in recent years to aggressive budget carriers.  

“PAL is a good company with an excellent brand,  
Despite so many problems over the last 20 years, the company has always been above water,” Ang says, mixing his metaphors.  

Fuel is an airline's single most expensive operating cost item.  Airlines make or lose money on sheer turnaround efficiency, by cutting the hours planes stay on the ground and increasing flying time.

Simple does it

Ang’s  plans for PAL are simple and straightforward, which means they could work: Rationalize its operations together with  its sister firm Air Philippines, which SMC also bought into. 

In Ang's mind, Air Philippines is to take over all domestic and short-haul international routes using the budget carrier model, to allow the airline to compete directly with Cebu Pacific and Zest Air.

With Air Philippines taking over the short-haul routes, PAL will concentrate on long-haul routes like regional flights that take longer than three hours,    where passengers are willing to pay more for service and comfort.

Nuts and bolts

Ang also plans to acquire up to 100 new planes for both PAL and Air Philippines over the next five years.  New planes are more fuel-efficient.  

That's the nuts-and-bolts logic to turn around PAL and Air Philippines.

The airport complex is the hub of the strategy.  It is also the key to making the tourism master plan fly.

Apple's resident strategist, Allan Kay, best   articulated what has since become the  new mantra of strategic planning: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

Working in tandem with Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr., Ramon S. Ang plans to invent the future by making it fly up, up and away.  

(The author is president of a think tank specializing in transforming social and economic trends into public policy and business strategy. E-mail
Story location: Tourism campaign: At heart of gov't strategy lies flag carrier's dream

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Turning fun in PH into hard cash

May 25, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer
(First of two parts)

By Winston A. Marbella

The Department of Tourism has more than just hundreds of billions of pesos riding on its blockbuster campaign, “It's more fun in the Philippines.”  They've got the government's most visible and palpable showcase project riding on those six words and, ultimately, how the common people will rate the  performance of the Aquino presidency.

No other government activity reaches the grass roots with more impact.   The industry's economic “ripple effects” directly provide employment to  close to seven million tourism workers, almost a  fifth of the work force.  And working for tourist dollars is actually a lot of fun.

"It's more fun in the Philippines," declared Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, as the 4-day 45th annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) board of governors ended on Saturday.  "Manila 2012 has put the Philippines back on the radar screen of the international community," Purisima said.

Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. unveiled the National Tourism Development Plan, a P266-billion master plan aimed at increasing international tourist arrivals to 10 million, and domestic travelers to 35.5 million by 2016.

The Aquino administration is planning to spend some P74 billion beginning this year to reach those targeted arrivals. The funds will be poured into infrastructure, tourist site improvements, and marketing support over a four-year period until 2016, Jimenez said. 
Quick results

Jimenez  said initial promotion efforts  have   started  yielding results. In the first quarter of 2012, inbound tourism jumped by 16 percent to 1.15 million. This , brings the agency closer to its 4.6 million arrivals targeted for the year.

The increase is the market’s “quick response to promotion initiatives,” he said. Arrivals from China grew by 77 percent, Korea 16 percent, Taiwan 37 percent, Australia 18 percent, the United Kingdom 21 percent and Germany 18 percent.

With close to 4 million tourist arrivals in 2011, the country still ranks way behind its neighbors —Malaysia (25 million), Thailand (19 million), Singapore (13.2 million), Indonesia (7.6 million) and Vietnam (6 million).

6.8-M jobs

The DOT hopes to raise the contribution of the tourism sector to 8.1 percent of the gross domestic product from the current 5 percent; and “directly employ 6.8 million that will account for 17 percent of total employment.”  Most of these tourism workers will come from the poor sector, based on the cluster destination framework.

The planned investments versus the projected increase in tourist expenditures will result in an economic internal rate of return of 21.05 percent, and a net present value of P24.1 billion.

Around P50 billion will be spent by the government to build roads and bridges, says Rolando Canizal, director for the Office of Tourism Planning, Research and Information Management.  This year, P3 billion has been allotted to construct roads and airports, and P17 billion in 2013.

The plan was presented at a parallel forum during the 45th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Asian Development Bank.

Private sector support

The government investment represents 29 percent of the P266-billion total investments needed by the tourism sector.  Canizal said that most of the investments, or P191 billion,  will come from the private sector.

“The balance comprises private-sector investment in hotels, resorts, leisure-entertainment-shopping, health and wellness, convention, event/exhibition, cruise and transportation facilities,” he said.

An additional 50,867 hotel and resort units are being planned from 2012 to 2016.

The plan segments the country into 20 clusters, nine of which have been identified as priority clusters for investment and development.  This is based on the “identification of secondary gateways as premier entry points” to these areas, said Tourism Undersecretary Daniel Corpuz for Tourism Planning and Promotions.

The nine priority clusters are Central Visayas, Metro Manila and Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon), Central Luzon, Palawan, Western Visayas, Davao Gulf and Coast, Northern Mindanao, Bicol and Laoag-Vigan.

Going competitive 

Corpuz said that prior to the master plan, the goals of the tourism sector were hampered by “uncompetitive tourist destinations and products; limited flights and seat capacities, including the poor quality and limited capacity of international and domestic transportation and infrastructure destination, as well as other restrictions that have limited market access; and weak public-sector tourism governance and human-resources development policies and practices.”

To overcome these challenges, he said, the DOT will undertake strategic directions and programs—such as the development and marketing of competitive tourist products and destinations; improvement of market access, connectivity and destination infrastructure; and improvement of tourism institutional, governance and industry manpower capabilities.

The NTDP cluster development plan will be undertaken in   coordination with   government agencies like the departments of Public Works and Highways, and of Transportation and Communications, as well as local government units.

'Persuasive power'

Jimenez defended the agency’s slogan—“It’s more fun in the Philippines”—against critics who said that the problems of the sector couldn’t be solved with just a tagline.  “Those who say that have limited knowledge of the persuasive power of words, of communications,” he said.

Jimenez said the slogan “makes a compelling argument for choosing the Philippines as one of the world’s top tourist destinations. It is rooted in our competitive advantage, a ‘deliverable,’ where Filipinos put genuine value in being able to participate to make their guests feel at home.”

It is second nature to Filipinos, he said, “to be hospitable and seize every opportunity to make guests’ every visit to his home successful.” 

The slogan has “energized” the system and “contains one thing that works so well in an open competition…it is the truth. It is about Filipinos and their infectious love of things the world tends to forget: family, friends and communion with God and Nature,” he said.

Ads over CNN

The Aquino administration has just undertaken a P63-million advertising campaign over CNN. The DOT, and the departments of Budget and Management, Finance and Trade and Industry, and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas will shoulder the funding for the campaign.

The DOT said the 30-second spots on CNN cost about P19,000 each. The rollouts of the ads was timed for the ADB meet and CNN’s special Eye on the Philippines programming. It will run in key international markets until August.

(The author is president of a think tank specializing in transforming social and economic trends into public policy and business strategy. E-mail
Story location: Tourism campaign turning fun in PH into hard cash

Friday, May 25, 2012

Congress, Office of President worst SALN violators

By Winston A. Marbella

The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism looked at patterns of compliance by public officials with provisions of the Constitution and anti-graft laws requiring the full and prompt disclosure of their Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth or SALN.  In its latest report, the PCIJ said there was “creative defiance of the law” all round, especially by the Office of the President and members of Congress, particularly 185 of the 188 House impeachers.

The PCIJ reported: “By the records of the PCIJ in securing SALNs since 2006, the sorry picture that emerges is one of rank non-compliance -- or creative defiance of the law -- not just by the justices of the Supreme Court from 1992, but also by the members of the 15th Congress, the executives of the constitutional commissions, the Office of the Vice President, and the star-rank officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, among others.”

“And yet, in one of the eight articles of impeachment against Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, the 188 members of the House of Representatives who signed the complaint censured him for refusing to disclose his SALN,” the PCIJ said.

“By their act, the House members raised a virtual Sword of Damocles over those in public office who insist on keeping the full details of their SALNs secret. 

“But the House accusers could well be accused of a similar omission, and culpable violation of the Constitution and anti-graft laws.“

Senate exemplary

The PCIJ's records from 2006 to December 2011 reveal a pattern of non-disclosure of SALNs by senior officials from all the branches of the government, except for the Senate.  Most exemplary in its compliance with the law, the Senate has consistently disclosed copies of the asset records of all its members over the last decades, including of those who will now sit as judges in Corona's impeachment trial.

“Yet still, defiance of the SALN law has been shown as well by the Office of the Ombudsman under Aquino appointee Conchita Carpio-Morales, a retired Supreme Court associate justice who became Ombudsman in July 2011. Her office has rebuffed an omnibus request that the PCIJ filed in September 2011 to secure the SALNs of officials that many agencies had denied since 2006,” the PVIJ reported.  After the report, the Ombudsman complied.

“Carpio-Morales's office to this day also insists on the rule that SALN requests have to be subscribed and sworn to before a prosecutor of the Ombudsman's office, according to a controversial memorandum circular issued by her impeached predecessor Merceditas Gutierrez,” the PCIJ continued.

Only two congressmen

“If one’s failure to disclose his SALN is now an impeachable offense, then a long list of officials should also now be expunged from public office, including Ombudsman Carpio-Morales and by their own assertion, even 185 of the 188 members of the 15th Congress who filed the impeachment complaint against Corona but have not disclosed copies of their own SALNs.

“Thus far, only two of the 282 members of the 15th Congress have actually released copies of their 2010 SALN upon request: Mohammed Hussein P. Pangandaman (Lanao del Sur) and Maximo B. Rodriguez Jr. (PL-Abante Mindanao).  Neither is among the 188 signatories to the impeachment complaint that the House had submitted to the Senate impeachment court.”

The PCIJ was able to obtain the 2010 SALNs of five more members of the Lower House, including three who had signed the impeachment complaint against Corona. But that was only because their SALNs seem to have been mixed inadvertently with the asset records of the members of the 14th Congress that PCIJ was allowed to photocopy early this year.
Constitutional requirement

The legal requirement to file SALNs is found in the 1987 Constitution, in Republic Act 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees), and in Republic Act 3019 (Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act), writes Nepomuceno Malaluan, a co-director of the Institute for Freedom of Information.

“The earliest of these laws, RA 3019 (Sec. 7), requires that “every public officer, within thirty days after assuming office and, thereafter, on or before the fifteenth day of April following the close of every calendar year, as well as upon the expiration of his term of office, or upon his resignation or separation from office, shall prepare and file with the office of the corresponding 

Department Head, or in the case of a Head of Department of Chief of an independent office, with the Office of the President, a true detailed and sworn statement of assets and liabilities, including a statement of the amounts and sources of his income, the amounts of his personal and family expenses and the amount of income taxes paid for the next preceding calendar year.”

“While RA 3019 does not provide for an express duty to disclose SALNs to the public, this duty was subsequently made a requirement by the 1987 Constitution for the highest officials and for lower-ranking officials, by RA 6713.

Disclosure mandated

“Article XI, Section 17 of the 1987 Constitution, in addition to reiterating the requirement for public officers or employees to submit their SALNs, required that the declaration by the President, the Vice-President, the Members of the Cabinet, the Congress, the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Commissions and other constitutional offices, and officers of the armed forces with the general or flag rank, “shall be disclosed to the public in the manner provided by law.”

“The requirement to disclose was extended by RA 6713 to all public officials and employees. Section 8 of RA 6713 provides that “public officials and employees have an obligation to accomplish and submit declarations under oath of, and the public has the right to know, their assets, liabilities, net worth and financial and business interests including those of their spouses and of unmarried children under eighteen years of age living in their households.”

“The manner of disclosure of SALNs is in turn provided by Section 8 (C). Subtitled “accessibility of documents,” it provides that SALNs shall be made available for inspection at reasonable hours, and for copying or reproduction after 10 working days from the time they are filed, subject to the payment of a reasonable fee to cover the cost of reproduction and mailing of such statement, as well as the cost of certification. Complementing this duty to disclose is the people’s right to information guaranteed under the Bill of Rights.”

In short, the existing laws on SALNs of public officials impose at least three main obligations: to make a truthful declaration, to submit such declaration, and for the custodian to publicly disclose them in the manner provided by RA 6713.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Courage defies arrogance of power

By Winston A. Marbella

For Sen. Joker Arroyo, the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona goes far beyond that.  He has called the dangerous trajectory of the Aquino presidency a blatant grab for power “disguised as transparency.”

Senator Arroyo, a human rights lawyer who served as President Cory Aquino's first executive secretary, expressed his distaste for the direction the Aquino administration is taking toward one-man rule. 

After the House of Representatives voted to impeach Chief Justice Renato Corona in five hours without the usual hearings and debate, Senator Arroyo said the President was on his way “to becoming an autocrat,” a polite term for dictator.

One-man rule

“We have a one-man government now since PNoy has subjugated the House and is on his way to doing so to the judiciary,”  the outspoken senator said. 

“By focusing on the alleged crimes of (former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) and (Chief Justice) Corona, people are being entertained by the President's bid for power disguised as transparency.”

Naked power

President Aquino has not denied that he was behind the speedy House impeachment vote.   

As the Senate prepared to wind down the trial, the impeachers became even bolder.  They made no effort to hide that all the forces of the government would be harnessed to impeach Mr. Corona.

No less than half a dozen senators immediately  expressed fears over the possible abuse of State powers.  Sen. Gregorio Honasan worried about potential infringement of basic rights enshrined in the Constitution. 

'Law violated'

Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. was direct to the point.  He said that the probe conducted by the  AMLC on Chief Justice Corona’s dollar accounts violated the Bank Secrecy Act, a law that requires the formal consent of the depositor to have a bank account unlocked.

“They did it. The law here was violated. Why did they investigate it when there is a no predicate crime as required by law? That is a requisite. The release of information (on bank accounts) requires a court order,” Marcos said.

'Political terrorism'

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said, “Naikutan nila ang batas (They went around the law).”

Senate President Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada said that the revelation of Corona’s dollar accounts without the prescribed court order set a dangerous precedent that could be used by any administration to terrorize its political foes.

“The Ombudsman can just ask the AMLC about bank accounts of personalities (and publicize them),” Estrada said.

Connect the dots

Lawrence Agcaoili of the Philippine Star filed this report: “Amid an earlier denial that AMLC (Anti-Money Laundering Council) was the source of information used by (Ombudsman Conchita Carpio) Morales in her testimony, (AMLC Executive Director) Vicente Aquino was reportedly seen at the Office of the Ombudsman over the weekend in a meeting with Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza for hours ahead of Morales’ taking the witness stand.

“Reliable sources said Aquino and Jardeleza, former Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon, worked overtime from Saturday to Sunday supposedly in preparation for Morales’ testimony.

“There was no one else at the office when the two met except some security and janitorial service personnel.

“It is not clear, however, why Jardeleza – who is known to be close to Morales – was in the weekend meeting which happened two days after the Senate impeachment court directed the Ombudsman to take the witness stand as a hostile witness for the defense.”

Members of the prosecution panel were also photographed in Malacanang for a meeting.


What can the powerless do against a State that uses its awesome powers to oppress its own citizens?

In his foreword to President John F. Kennedy's award-winning historical biography Profiles in Courage, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy quoted US President Andrew Jackson: “One man of courage makes a majority.”

President Kennedy himself wrote:  “The stories of past courage can define that ingredient – they can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration.  But they cannot supply courage itself.  For that each man must look into his own soul.”

The 23 senator-judges can take comfort in that – and hopefully find courage.  Chief Justice Corona has found it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Meandering toward history

May 23, 2012

By Winston A. Marbella

Heading toward its third year, the Aquino 2 presidency still searches for a vision.  This is visible in how it goes about its work from day to dreary day and in the aggregate of some 700 days.

The euphoria of People Power 2 is gone, and there is no road map for what is yet to come – at least not a clearly articulated one.  The problems of an undefined vision are bursting out all over.

The President's net satisfaction rating has dropped 10 points from “very good” to “good.”   


The number of Filipino households that consider themselves poor has risen markedly, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) said.

Results of an SWS poll, conducted last March 10-13, found 55% of the respondents -- equivalent to an estimated 11.1 million families -- claiming to be mahirap, 10 points higher than December’s 45% or 9.1 million households.

The new levels are the highest to date for the Aquino administration, which has pledged to reduce poverty.


The hunger survey is more worrisome.  It shows  that families who have suffered involuntary hunger have risen significantly during the last four years:  4.8 million families experienced hunger at least once in the past three months, up from 4.5 million families last December.  This is the highest ever since hunger was tracked.

But the most worrisome numbers come from the administration itself.  They are most worrisome because they show an indolence of the spirit, a passionless toiling just to get through the day, lacking the burning fervor of the Yellow Revolution that swept it to power.


Serious underspending continues.  The budget department reports that "disbursements fall short of the P440.6-billion program by P45.7 billion, or 10.4% for the first quarter."

 Even more worrisome, serious underspending happened in infrastructure and other capital outlays, the  government spending that directly impacts the economy’s long-term growth.  P54.6 billion was allocated for infrastructure, but only P38.9 billion was spent, leaving  P15.7 billion untouched, or 28.8%.

A big part of the capital outlays budget remains unspent, awaiting the submission or approval of special budget requests and additional documents from the implementing agencies.


The major culprits in programs stalled are the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Program and the Department of Health, line department that directly impact basic social services. 

Government spending dropped in 2011. The   project delays were said to have contributed to 2011’s lackluster 3.7% economic growth, barely half of the record 7.6% in 2010.

If the government were a household, it would make sense to constrict spending when funds deplete.  But Philippines, Inc. is not an ordinary household.  Government spending can perk up the economy by creating jobs.

Jobs provide income for food on the table.  Jobs reduce poverty.

Underspending stops job creation.  No jobs create more poverty.  Poverty brings no food to the table.  Poverty kills.  Unemployment kills.  Underspending kills.  Neglect kills.

The biggest asset of the Aquino presidency is intangible---and that is why it is so elusive.  It resides in our collective memory as a nation eternally grateful to the first President Aquino for everything she did to restore our freedoms.  

But this intangibility is also the current Aquino presidency’s greatest weakness, for it could lead to an indolence of the spirit, with its revolutionary fervor reveling in the glories of the past, forgetting the hard challenges of making a country work and building a nation on the glorious foundations of the 1986 People Power revolution.

Some 700 days into his presidency, Benigno Simeon Aquino III muddles through with a vision nowhere in sight, with no apparent rhyme or reason for the long voyage ahead. 

Intuitively, people sense they need a clearly articulated vision to guide them, if not inspire them.   

With no vision to guide them, they meander, keeping busy with mundane tasks, hoping that trial and error would somehow make them lucky.  Having lost sight of their objectives, they redouble their efforts, hoping perhaps that motion---any kind of motion---would help them find their way through.

Day by day we hop from issue to issue, crisis to crisis,  groping to find some rhyme and rhythm to our existence and out of our misery.  “We are ready for takeoff!” just won’t cut it anymore.  Take off to where?


Each generation defines for itself its high purpose.  When a visionary leader crafts it for his generation, it becomes an article of faith, a beacon of hope that lights the way to destiny.

Once they realize they have lost their way, the people cast their leaders aside, and instinctively chart their own course.

President Aquino must do a better job of defining for his generation the high purpose of People Power---not merely ride it to a blazing sunset---or he will be consumed by the flames of the yellow revolution he himself rekindled.

Defining admissible evidence

People's Journal &
People's Tonight
May 24, 2012

By Winston A. Marbella

When the law books are rewritten after the historic impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, a revised definition of admissible evidence may be included.

What is admissible evidence?

It is a computer printout provided by a person with no name from which government accountants derive conclusions from a hodge-podge of numbers  labelled  “transaction balances” and presented in PowerPoint format for credibility by the Ombudsman in a “sui generis” proceeding called impeachment.

What is sui generis?

It is a quasi-judicial proceeding conducted by 23 senator-judges acting as a jury in a political trial that “liberally” disregards the Rules of Court, the rules of evidence, and your constitutional rights because it is a “class of its own.”  

As the impeachment trial of the Chief Justice   winds down, the Senate may decide to define a common quantum of evidence needed to render a verdict of guilt.  

Or it may not – because the senators may decide a common ground is not necessary or workable.  In which case, to each his own devices.   

Sen. Koko Pimentel calls his personal quantum of proof “Sufficient Credible Evidence.”   

“I will describe it as evidence falling somewhere higher than substantive evidence needed in administrative cases to below proof beyond reasonable doubt needed in criminal cases,” he says.

Enrile's quantum 

“I take cognizance of what the presiding officer, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, said: that, in his personal opinion, the quantum of evidence required is 'akin' – to use his words – to a criminal case because the crimes cited by the Constitution as bases for impeachment are criminal offenses: culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, and betrayal of public trust.

“For me, what people say in relation to the trial, I will not consider in arriving at my decision.  I will consider the evidence 100 percent, using my personal determination of 'Sufficient Credible Evidence.' 

“My verdict will be based on the credibility of evidence presented, the Constitution and our laws, and my appreciation of the evidence, according to my conscience,” Pimentel said.

Senator Pia's view 

Sen. Pia Cayetano define her guidelines this way:   

“... what is expected from a senator-judge? That he or she listens to every single opinion offered by friends, strangers or media? Or that we stay true to our oath and base our decisions on the evidence presented? 

“I humbly submit, that despite the interesting theories and conclusions that will surely come out of this trial, we are required to pass judgment based on the evidence presented in the impeachment court....”


A non-lawyer, Sen. Sonny Trillanes offers a down-to-earth approach:  “Having established that impeachment is a political process, therefore, my verdict should not be based solely on evidence as it now becomes a matter of public policy. And the over-arching policy issue in this whole impeachment episode is, whether the conviction or acquittal of Chief Justice Renato Corona would be good for our country? 

“As regards the appreciation of evidence, we have to bear in mind that the Constitution and the Senate Rules of Procedure on Impeachment Trials did not specify the quantum of evidence required to convict....

“Since it is not specified, therefore, a senator can just raise or lower the quantum of evidence required to suit his or her inclination....”

To Senator Trillanes the trial is political, period.

Fr. Bernas opinion

A constitutional law expert, the Jesuit Fr.Joaquin G. Bernas, a member of the 1986 commission that drafted our present Constitution, writes:

“In jurisprudence, there are three levels of proof – substantial evidence, preponderance of evidence, and proof beyond reasonable doubt. 

“Substantial evidence simply means evidence that a reasonable man can rely upon to make his decision. It calls for prudential judgment. 

“Preponderance of evidence means a quantity and quality of evidence that is enough to outweigh the quantity and quality of the evidence for the other side even if neither side is persuasive. 

“Proof beyond reasonable doubt is proof that convinces a judge or jury to exclude all other possibilities.

“When ... the presiding officer asked what quantum of evidence was needed to convict Chief Justice Corona, the prosecution chose substantial evidence, the lightest of the proofs needed. The defense, for its part, chose proof beyond reasonable doubt....

“When voting time comes, each senator will vote according to his or her lights,” Ft. Bernas predicted.

This may be the overriding practical reason why the Senate will not bother to define a common quantum of proof for all senators: There will be 23 versions anyway.

(The author is chief executive of a management think tank specializing in transforming political and social trends into public policy and business strategy; e-mail