All posts by: Cocoy

Cocoy is an Internet entrepreneur, technology enthusiast, political junkie and social observer who enjoys a good cup of coffee, comic books, and tweets as @cocoy on twitter. He publishes a personal blog called The Geeking, a weblog on geekery, pop culture, and sometimes Apple, and technology.

Cocoy is also the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the ProPinoy Project. He regularly contributes political commentary at BlogWatch.ph.

Cocoy is a founding member of democracy.net.ph, a think tank. Cocoy also helped draft the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom.

Cocoy considers himself to be Liberal.

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Undeserved harshness

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Randy David:

“Poor Secretary Roxas seems unable to do anything correct in the eyes of people who have made up their minds about his suitability for higher office. Rather than view his presence in Borongan, Samar—the site of Ruby’s expected first landfall—as a public official’s gesture of responsibility and solidarity with the affected communities, his critics opted to see it as a cheap ploy aimed at raising his political profile as a potential presidential candidate. This undeserved harshness became magnified when he unfortunately tipped over on a borrowed motorbike while he was rushing to reach the town of Dolores in Samar before dark on roads strewn with debris. Instead of appreciating his zeal, social media began bashing him for riding without a helmet! It is a risk that every politician has to contend with. “One need only name a value that in given circumstances is only unsatisfactorily met—and in the case of risk policy this would constitute ‘safety,’” wrote Niklas Luhmann, “and a topic is born.” How true!

Last night, I asked my son, CP, a geologist who works with the Department of Science and Technology’s Project Noah, what new lessons we have gained from our experience with Ruby. His pithy reply intrigued me: “I think the public was overwhelmed by an oversupply of information.” That was a scientist’s view, obviously, not a politician’s.”

Joe Am calls this “a weakness in the Filipino’s character“.

I agree with Mr. David, and Joe Am. Mr. Roxas did not deserve this harshness.

MRTaccident

Grace Poe and the MRT

Earlier today, Senator Grace Poe took the MRT without fuss, without bodyguards, just like an ordinary citizen would. The lines were long, as they typically were. The senator, whether it was a calculated political move, or not, did what others could not. Perhaps, it was easier for her to brave the lines, to ride the carriage of the masses. Perhaps, it was a fact-finding mission to better frame herself ahead of a hearing on the MRT at the Senate. So she get praised for rubbing elbows with mere mortals. She gets praised for sympathizing with pain.

President Aquino did the same when he first took office. He banned the wang wang, and chose to stop at all intersections. He took to eat at sidewalk vendors while visiting the United States— in stark contrast to the opulent dinners by the previous regime. Along the way, people forget this side of the President. People forget this side of the story.

Jesse Robredo too is fondly remembered as being a simple man. He rode public transport home. He took no airs, and was a humble man. What a nation would ours be with a man like Robredo at the helm?

The lesson of the Aquino presidency is lost to many. The simple lesson it brings is that what kind of man we elect on top sets the tone, and sets the direction. The policies come less so. They, much to many’s dismay come into second place to the quality of the leader’s moral fiber. It is what it is, for now, at least until the nation is more cosmopolitan than provincial.

Many critics will disagree, of course, with Aquino’s style of reform. Corruption of course is far from eradicated. We have many weaknesses that are only now coming to light. Many of the changes are in the form of layers, but many expect the reform agenda to be loud, and big. My expectation of Aquino’s agenda has been grounded, and well formed from the beginning. So I understand where he and his men come from. With Mr. Aquino, I knew from the get go— by intuition— this was the guy who would drive us forward, however imperfect, into the next tier.

I sympathize with many of Aquino’s critics because I find myself in the position that they are in now, at least, when considering a hypothetical Ms. Poe as president. Without doubt, Senator Poe is doing all the right things I have come to expect of a President of the Philippines. She is perhaps the kind of leader I’d like to see on top of the food chain. Better than the Binays’ who have shown such fervent desire for being the top dog, but none of the humility.

Grace Poe seems to make populist choices from the get go. She seems to do what Mr. Estrada should have done. I liked her championing the Freedom of Information bill. Didn’t really like that she didn’t add much substance to the bill. It seemed to me something that needs more beef (but I have settled on the idea that that is but a pipe dream). Her taking up the MRT route is another that suggest she has taken a populist stance, certainly, but the difference is, Ms. Poe seems have a tad more substance than Mr. Estrada does. (If anyone needs a reminder of the Estrada Presidency he needs to look no farther than what’s happening in Manila now).

So this is where my intuition kicks in. It kicks in to push hard on the breaks. I have never been a fan of populist positions. Well, populist in the sense that the policy panders to people, and that’s it. [Mr. Aquino’s policy also seems to favor people first, but very little pandering.]

The MRT is a broken system, of course. It is obvious. What isn’t is the systematic understanding of the problem. Many of its problems stem from its conception, and exasperated by pandering to the people needlessly such as a subsidy driven by political choices. Many of the problems of the MRT originate from the fact that this ought to have been a locally executed project— by the governments of Metro Manila, and in a sane, and rational world the Senate of the Philippines shouldn’t be operating on solving. This is a local matter that should have been initiated, and as problems arose, repaired locally.

Metro Manila is not the Philippines.

Such concept eludes many, and unlikely to change anytime soon.

While it is admirable that Ms. Poe rode the MRT, with certainly good, and great intentions to help solve a problem, I hope it would lead to the untying of a problem of epic proportion without pandering to the public.

Why Militant Left needs to explain their PDAF use

There seem to be this misconception about PDAF— pork in general. Having pork is not the same as being evil. Using pork for evil— getting kickbacks from it is evil. Can you see the difference between it? The existence of pork is not per se proof of nefariousness. Again: the mere fact a legislator has pork, and used it, does not imply wrong doing.

Take for example reading the DBM website. In 2009, Rep. Binay spent 12 million on vermiculture (product or process of composting using various worms) for the 2nd district of Makati. She also spent 200,000 pesos for indigent patients for Rizal Medical Center, and another 1 million pesos for National Kidney Transplant Institute.

Binay PDAF

These in itself do not suggest wrong doing. It does not suggest she spent her PDAF on nefarious purposes. These are the questions you can ask:

  1. Why does the 2nd district of Makati need to train in composting, and how effective was it for backyard vegetable and herbs gardening?

  2. Did that training go to actual training, or ghost project?

  3. How did the 2nd district of Makati benefit from this sort of training?

  4. Did the NGO/Implementing Agency of the vermiculture project— real?

  5. Is it true that the recipient were indigent patients? Can show proof?

How about this? Bayan Muna spent 100,000 pesos in 2013 for monoblock chairs. They also spent 700,000 for “Financial assistance for the implementation of CIDSS Program (Livelihood Program-Training on Organic Farming & Demo Farm and Alternative Learning System)”

Bayan Muna - PDAF

Again, this in itself is not indicative of wrong doing. It does open up questions such as:

  1. Where those received by the targeted school (Am pretty sure if someone calls up that school they can answer yes or no, right?)

  2. Are these monoblock chairs being used?

  3. What is level of quality of those mono block chairs— and do they meet standards set by the Department of Education (or whomever sets standard for it).

  4. On Livelihood program: farmers learn? Did they get info needed? Is it kulang, or do they need more training?

Again— in on itself— this data from DBM is not indicative of wrong doing.

Then you get testimony from the whistleblowers. Is Revilla telling the truth? Is Mr. Estrada? Well, you can look at the DBM data and if they correlate to what the government, the whistleblowers have to say, maybe there is something there to demand an investigation or indictment, don’t you think?

In the case of Rep. Binay— Rep. Edgar Erice’s allegations do correlate with some of Rep. Binay’s PDAF disbursement. While that in itself doesn’t imply wrong doing— it does suggest someone should investigate if these allegation are indeed true, don’t you think?

This is the problem with how the militant left frames the question. Everyone is a crook because pork is evil. Well, they used pork too. If pork was used to buy chairs for kids, I think we can all agree that shouldn’t be an issue, yes? If pork was used to cheat the people, then that’s why we punish crooks. How hard can it be for the militant left to also publish their accounting of how they spent PDAF like what Raissa Robles is asking in her post?

So all this talk that the DBM data doesn’t provide color? Of course, it doesn’t. It only provides part of the puzzle. It does not generate more color than straight cold facts. It does however get you to ask questions, like what Raissa Robles is doing, and other journalists because if this data is out there, and we citizens can’t ask our elected officials how they spent their monies, then what good is it? Put it simply, the DBM data is a data point that leads you to ask questions.

The BIR and Doctors

The Bureau of Internal Revenue embarked on a shame campaign to force doctors to pay their taxes. The ad campaign compares doctors to teachers. Not only does the ad campaign shame doctors, they try to compare two professions that have distinct training and suggests that the medical profession rides on the backs of other professions or people. The ad suggests one is better than the other. Which is a false assumption, and even false comparison.

The practice of medicine is an exacting one. It has to be because you have to take human life seriously. It is training that not only goes beyond the four years of collage, four years of proper, a year of internship, another four years of residency, four years of specialty training and pretty soon you find yourself an old person, with nary money in your wallet to show for it. That’s also not counting the thousands of hours in loss sleep, loss of friendship, partnership, because the medical profession is an exacting one that demands you think on your feet when you’re sleep deprived. That’s the whole point of going on duty. You can see why many from the medical profession find the whole ad— insulting.

To compare this to the teaching profession for example, is not only comparing apples to oranges but inflicts an insult to both profession. There is without doubt that teachers are important. They shape young minds. People who grow up to be doctors, to be exact. Yes, they spend the traditional four years of collage, and non of the bootcamp like conditions required of the practice of medicine, but again— to compare the level of training between two professions is a false comparison. Teachers too have to prepare lesson plans, find ways to captivate young minds, go through days filled with kids of all sort of personality that is certain to test the greatest of resolve, and deepest of patience. And with nary money to show for it.

It is like comparing two different lives, and the troubles they encounter. It is like saying the person to your right had it better, and his life is greener than yours when you haven’t walked on the other’s shoes.

The practice of medicine in the Philippines— to set up your own clinic— has more in common with the calling of small businesses, or a small law firm or design studio. Even when the clinic is attached to a hospital, this is how doctors make their bread and cheese. Profit rises and falls depending on how many people get sick, or how hard the doctor works. A surgeon gets pay with how many people he cuts open. An anesthesiologist gets paid depending how many operations happen. A psychiatrist gets paid with how many crazy people there are. So it is a mom and pop operation. And yes, like in every profession there are those who do skip in paying their taxes or those who don’t declare their income.

For the teacher, as an example— they have no choice. The same goes with the office grunt, the secretary, the mailman, the police and so many other people whose lives depend on an assured salary, no matter how much the school, the business, the government makes money. They get paid no matter what. (Well, most of the time, anyway). So the revenue collector has already cut of the monies from the teacher long before the teacher gets it. There is a clear cut revenue stream.

A doctor can teach, and many do since that profession requires some doctors to be teachers and lecturers too, but a teacher can’t be a doctor without first going through the extensive training processes. So there is already a specialization.

So again, to compare one over the other is a false comparison. It is apples or oranges and the required training, and subsequent pay bracket are different.

Hence, why it is both insulting to medical profession, and sets a different, and rather false tone. Why incite jealousy and differentiation between different people? Obviously they choose different path.

Yes, there is a connotation that doctors are rich. They drive expensive cars, take fancy trips. There is without doubt that there are rich doctors. And there is without doubt doctors who slave away like grunts especially in far flung areas. Obviously the training and required degree of labor while different in each, is no less hard on both. Don’t teachers slave away? Don’t surgeons spend hours and hours on the operating table?

There is no doubt that the government needs its fair share of the revenue. How else to pay for all the social service and infrastructure needs of the people. That’s why income is taxed. That’s why we have VAT and so many other taxes.

If we stared to blame doctors for not paying their taxes pretty soon people are going to ask, oh, hey, why single us out when the Philippine underground economy averaged 34.8% of GDP? How nearly 4 billion dollars were lost due to smuggling in 2011 alone. Pretty soon the blame game will descend to the lost of income due to the alleged wastes of the Pork Barrel scam. How many billions of pesos were lost in ghost projects.

The doctors and lawyers and other professions will ask: why us when you got all this waste that you can’t patch up? Do that first, then we’ll pay taxes. Don’t you think it is a chicken and egg problem? One does not preclude the other, after all doesn’t it?

Just because others aren’t good, why should you be good?

Why us, Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla, and Juan Ponce Enrile asked too in the Senate for all the persecution they get from the pork barrel scam. Guess, the doctors have been singled out simply because the BIR can’t get Manny Pacquiao to pay. Or Janet Napoles. Or politicians involved in scam after scam. Why us, the doctors and lawyers and other professions ask? Well, because it doesn’t take much to screw you over, just like the teachers, policemen, soldiers, office grunts, you’re easy prey to be screwed over. Because the real thieves and abusers are unpunished by society that feeds on the small. Because when the taxman comes, if you don’t pay, you go to jail. Do you want to go to jail? Well, except if you are richer than doctors, and powerful swimming in wealth. Except when you’re old, handsome, or sexy. Tough luck. That’s the real shame campaign. Whoever said that life was fair?