November 2010

Coloma replied to Palace Facebook debacle; Totanes responds

Sony Coloma responded to Chanco’s column. Here’s a snippet:

Our main concern was about the real possibility of confusion arising from official-looking postings that are actually not the official position of the President, but could have been made to appear official because an administrator posted it.

Evidently, Facebook management – after monitoring developments for almost three months – realized that indeed the continued co-existence of both the President’s official website and the campaign Facebook page may have sown confusion, thereby prompting its eventual decision to disable the campaign website.

It is also not true that the PCOO New Media Team screens out or censors negative comments. Anyone may visit the President’s website anytime and find out indeed negative comments are posted. During the aftermath of the Aug.23 hostage crisis, the President’s website was virtually deluged with negative comments. None of these were censored. Only the use of cuss words and profanity was curtailed, also in accordance with Facebook management policy.

Ben Totanes responded:

Going back to the reaction of Sec. Coloma to Boo Chanco’s column, there are several items I would like to clarify:

1. Sec. Coloma made it sound like Facebook was the one who initiated the disabling of BSAIII, while in fact the PCOO was the one who requested it, and Facebook just acted upon that request.

2. He also cited the following Facebook policy: “There is another policy of Facebook management which states clearly, ‘If you would like to create a Facebook presence for a celebrity or organization, and you are not officially authorized to do so, please create a Facebook group instead, as this may be created and maintained by any user.’ “

He seems to conveniently forget that BSAIII became the official campaign page for then Sen. Aquino. It was authenticated by Facebook and it was used by the campaign as the official Facebook page. It was even presented by PNoy himself on a few press conferences during the campaign. So why then would Sec. Coloma imply that I should have started a Facebook Group instead, when all Facebook policies were satisfied during that time as I was authorized to do so?

3. Lastly, contrary to Sec. Coloma’s statement, I did offer BSAIII back to Sec. Coloma’s office with one of the conditions being the comments made by the people should not be censored. In fact, my exact words to his people were: “We should not control or delete any type of opinion coming from the people. I would like them to be left on the wall or on the blog, as long as the comment/opinion is constructive and not lewd or derogatory”.

It is interesting to note that the PCOO probably committed the biggest human rights violation in cyber history, and at the very least, created an international incident by dispersing 2.2 million people living in different countries across the globe. I’m not just talking about Filipinos in the Philippines here. In October 9, 2010, BSAIII had 1.7M members living in the Philippines, 86K in the U.S., 37K in Saudi Arabia, 28K in UAE, 22K in Canada, 11K in the UK and rest scattered in many other countries. How fast can you say American Civil Liberties Union?

Anatomy of a failed tourism brand

This one from Business Mirror’s Ma. Stella Arnaldo:

So you made a proposal for P500,000?

Villapando: Basta early September, ’yun ang first siyempre, a proper proposal. So we made a proposal, did a quote, with the understanding na friendly-friendly ang rate. And then [we] sent it na and he said he’ll find a way to have it approved.

Ong: Medyo matagal, in fact, before we could even do anything about that. Tapos biglang kailangan naman nila ng initial “exploratory concept.” Now throughout this, meron naman na pala. Medyo may friction na between the Tourism Congress and them [DOT], and we knew about them only lately. Kasi may feeling yata ang Tourism Congress, they should be the one to spearhead the market. Of course, sina Enteng naman, “Ano?”

I think that may be the reason why suddenly from a strategic approach biglang naging “exploratory concept” ang hinihingi sa amin. In fact, ang bilis, bilis, bilis ng deadline. Umalis ako, October 27; bumalik ako sa Philippines, November 11. November 15 launch. When, in fact, nung umalis ako, akala ko hindi tuloy.

Villapando: Wala pang final, final approval….

This is just a snippet. It is a must read if you want to know more about it. The post is here.

Gawad Kalinga's Handbags of Hope

This one via @louisinguam:

Are you fond of designer bags? How about bags of the famous Philippine celebrities?

Why not go to this handbag auction by Gawad Kalinga. Below is an excerpt from

Handbags for Hope is the brainchild of TV newscaster Connie Sison.  While doing a segment on Gawad Kalinga, she interviewed GK champion Dylan Wilk, a British guy who left his rich lifestyle in England to come to the Philippines and help the poor.  It was Dylan’s life changing testimonial that planted the idea in Connie’s head.

Dylan was in the top 10 richest men list (under 30) in England when he met a Filipina who said that she could have built two homes back in the Philippines with the cost of her airline ticket.  He was intrigued.  “What houses are these that cost the price of a handbag?  Who are these people living in handbags?” Dylan said amazed. This statement lingered on Connie’s mind.

Connie was a fan of designer handbags and she knew other women who were fond of it too. She knew how it felt to give in and purchase a finely crafted, functional leather piece.  And sometimes these purses just sit inside the closet temporarily forgotten until the next spring cleaning.  These ladies find it difficult to part with their prized possession.

image via share your helping hand.

Daily Pill Greatly lowers AIDS risk, study finds

Donald McNeil Jr., for the New York Times wrote:

In the study, published Tuesday by the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that the men taking Truvada, a common combination of two antiretroviral drugs, were 44 percent less likely to get infected with the virus that causes AIDS than an equal number taking a placebo.

But when only the men whose blood tests showed that they had taken their pill faithfully every day were considered, the pill was more than 90 percent effective, said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, head of the infectious diseasesdivision of the National Institutes of Health, which paid for the study along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“That’s huge,” Dr. Fauci said. “That says it all for me.”

The ungovernable republic

There have been numerous controversies in recent days, and months. The rowdy militant left, for instance have struck in defense of state universities’s budget reductions. The recent debacle on “Pilipinas Kay Ganda,” remain in the forefront. The matter of the facebook debacle, the nature of public-private partnerships, freedom of information act and reproductive health bill remain on the sideline.

These issues have something in common, the whole of government and the media remain slow to inform. It is an indictment of the quality of our conversation. The public remain embroiled in minutiae, and whoever the president dates.

The organs of government— in general– remain lethargic. Congress in the six months it has been in office has not passed a significant measure. Congress did not fail to party with Representative Paquiao upon his return.

If one believes social media, it can be attributed to the president, an indictment of the presidency.

Yoly Ong pointed out a rowdy social media that was the source of the failed Department of Tourism campaign. The president himself lamented that mainstream media was slow to report his government’s work, preferring to talk about the women in his life.

Perhaps the lack of real controversy is keeping idle minds occupied?

In any case both the President and Ms. Ong speak from a corner where government and its allies have been slow to counter-act information– disinformation or misinformation– and at times, lack of information. It is a far cry from Aquino’s campaign when it pwned both mainstream and social media.

This is most troubling.

The government has been far too slow in sending its version of events to counteract public opinion— whether misplaced or not— and snowballs into hysterics and mob mentality.

An apology from Mai Mislang for example— very early on failed to stem the tide of negative opinion. It should have been over and done with after that yet it grew needlessly, and exaggerated a situation and devolved into mob mentality.

The case of Enteng Romano, is the latest example. In any reasonable world, his resignation and thus a signal of a redirection of DOT’s strategy should have silenced the critics. Did secretary lim fail to reach out to stakeholders?

A few years ago, in the Desert Transformation I wrote that it is the leadership at the highest level that must change. Everything else follows after that. The reality is that our people are willing to change.

“What’s lacking is direction. Leadership that inspires, that leads, that has vision, that is for the people.”

With Aquino’s election— the inspiring part got through.

Six months into office, by the mere fact of his election, Aquino stabilized a once untenable political leadership.

People voted for the straight road. That fundamental part— that head of state part of the political calculus— has been solved. To misunderstand this is to ignore Aquino’s electoral mandate, and an unprecedented trust rating.

Expectations are naturally high. Critics will not be silenced. The failure to pass laws is the president’s fault.

The reorganization of government and the tightening of the fiscal position while painful could not be understood by the people. Not when the obvious perks given to Congress remain.

It is a chicken and an egg problem, a compromise, an inherent part of our imperfect political calculus. The people expect Congress to let go of its pork, and the political fallout is Mr. Aquino’s fault.

Both critics and the people cannot be blamed for that mindset.

We cannot lay blame on Arroyo’s presidential-style. She took to Philippine presidential power the way a fish takes to water. The presidency in the Philippines though watered down by the 1987 constitution is fundamentally still an elected monarchy.

It is inherently an unconscious thought so embedded in Filipino-psyche. The President is monarch. Imperial power resides in Manila.

People know this isn’t the case. On paper of course it isn’t the case. The Constitution is clear on the balance of power, but our people’s reaction to August 23 botched hostage drama, indicting Aquino for not stepping in with the full force of the government solidifies this belief.

Here is a president so far different from Arroyo in wielding presidential power. Arroyo would have stepped in, guns blazing, Rambo-like. Aquino the Liberal preferred to delegate his Imperial presidential power. Aquino’s fault lie in trusting men who were incompetent. That and the system just isn’t built for decentralization of command functions.

You can see Aquino’s touch in how he wields presidential power. He is slowly decentralizing the government’s business.

The liberal President has a natural inclination to decentralize. The sketch of which can be seen in the president’s style of governance. An empowering of local governments and strengthening of government agencies is the right way to go. Of course the critics are correct in that it would depend on who the President appoints or gives his trust to, and in this government, the Jekyll and Hyde personality of the executive department exists.

There are obvious flaws. The biggest of which, for an Administration so expert in communicating, it hasn’t done that much communicating. There is an exception: is doing a splendid job of relaying official correspondence. The rest of the government seem so locked in the past, moving like 20th century dinosaurs.

Again we go back to Yoly Ong and the disastrous DOT campaign. A better and cohesive messaging that reframed the discussion would have served the government better. Instead it played catchup, and too late to stop the avalanche of negative opinion.

The President’s own lament that his government’s accomplishments are not being reported, while his private life is. A stronger social media presence would help stem the tide.

That’s not what’s glaring about what’s happening in government and what’s happening in both old and social media. It is an indictment of the quality of our media, the state of our discussion, and forgive me for being blunt and tactless— the level of our intelligence.

Could a government better inform its citizens through social media? Reframe the conversation?

Could mainstream media inform the public better on issues instead of inciting?

Could a more responsible social media help reframe the discussion towards a more responsible, and intelligence discourse?

Let us switch gears.

The militant struggle on the matter of education speaks from a corner of entitlement. “we are poor, we deserve to be educated by the state.”

Financially viable state universities are following the footsteps of the Department of Health hospitals. DOH has long since been decentralized. They have been meant to operate on their own. To make money on their own to keep operations going.

The same is being done for Higher Education and state universities.

Self-sustaining entities will serve the nation better down the road.

The fiscal reality is that this government is focusing its attention on basic education. It can be characterized as performing triage.

Militants are laying the blame on the president. The question is understandable: why this, and not pork?

Austerity is fine, but is this austerity punishing the poor, without so much as a consuelo de bobo from our politicians to the public?

Then again, if pork really mattered to them so much, why not protest in front of the Batasan? Why then do they not pressure their representatives in congress to give in, or campaign for better representation? Why then did our people vote in the old guard? Why then do we not have deeper benches? Why then did the likes of Ocampo and Masa lose their own recent campaigns?

Why all the pomp? Why all the hysterics?

Why all the noise, and the lack of signal?

Can a nation such us ours be so governed, and be so dedicated long endure? How then does one bring rationality, and reason; a strong signal, amidst the noise of this ungovernable republic?

Photo credit:

Some rights reserved by wili_hybrid

Yoly Ong reacts to Pilipinas Kay Ganda

Ms. Ong wrote in her column, Citizen Y, “Pilipinas, kay pangit!

When Undersecretary Vicente “Enteng” Romano exited with grace, he demonstrated a miracle of public office never witnessed in this country: a government official taking full ownership of a tempest-in-a-teacup-blown-up-into-a-Category-5-hurricane. Although his heroic gesture was praised by many, a malicious text immediately circulated: “Enteng Romano commissioned a company for P5M for the grand launch of the new DOT slogan. The company has reported ties to Enteng’s son. This is accdg to some sources in media.” I got this SMS three times.

What makes this so nauseating? First, the information is fundamentally wrong. Enteng has no son. Second, all the Media who attended the event said it was too lavish to be considered a “preview”. Therefore if P4.7M was really spent, every centavo must have gone to food, drinks, fireworks, talents, staging, etc. It didn’t line anyone’s pockets, much less an imagined son’s. Would a thinking man risk criminal jail-time to steal a paltry $105K? Were these braying critics just as indignant when “BurjerBen”, FG and cohorts were allegedly skimming $130M from NBN-ZTE?

Enteng cut a few corners because he instinctively saw what must be accomplished quickly. Last year, there were 3M+ tourists. Twenty-six percent were North Americans (60 percent of whom are FilAms), followed by the Koreans (20 percent), Chinese (13 percent) and Japanese (9 percent). Forty-two percent don’t speak English and couldn’t care less if the themeline was written in Aramaic.

If God gave the themeline in tablets, it still wouldn’t be accepted by the likes of net-dicts who fancy themselves divas of righteousness, but neglect to issue receipts for a lucrative pasta sideline. A Damaso-morality and a pathological need for attention? True, it’s all about you.

Majority of 8000 tourists who were surveyed said they visited the Philippines for its beautiful scenery, good food, shopping and above all the hospitable people. Sometimes, it’s hard to see our innate kindness. Vileness overwhelms virtue. Tearing down is more fun than building up. Detractors impact more than supporters. Pilipinas, kay pangit!

After weeks of this, Pilipinas Kay Ganda, I’m fairly convince, crowdsourcing DOT is a fail.

The country is ungovernable if you listen to the wisdom of crowds at certain times. This is one of those times.

Just ask Steve Jobs who doesn’t do focus testing.

How can you ask a crowd to judge with inadequate information?

You fight bad information with good.

The failure of DOT is to explain rapidly its position. The same problem exist with the whole brouhaha on education. This government for all its social media expertise is too slow in delivering information.

Very, slower than a turtle slow in countering bad information with good.

How then to determine when to listen and when to ignore the loud crowd?

What I’ve learned in the Philippines— in real life and in cyberspace, the best way to solve a problem is to simply solve it.

Results matter, and the crowd will shut up.

Students duped? No actual budget cuts for Education?

Ryan Chua of ABS-CBN News wrote:

Sen. Franklin Drilon said on Thursday there is actually no cut in the budget of state universities and colleges in the proposed 2011 national budget.

What was removed, he said, was around P2.8 billion in congressional insertions in the 2010 budget of SUCs, which President Gloria Arroyo vetoed until the government finds new sources of revenue.

The senate also realigned to the tune of 300M pesos budget/grant for research development in selected schools.

A double edged sword

A news bulletin was released earlier this week with very little fanfare on the latest round of results for the Family Income and Expenditure Survey (or FIES). It showed that between 2006 and 2009, there was an improvement in the overall incomes, savings and expenditures of families on average and a reduction of income disparities between the wealthiest and poorest of households.

Prof Winnie Monsod of the UP School of Economics attributes this to a sustained period of economic growth peaking at 7% in 2007, the longest and highest rate over the past 30 years. Augusto Santos of NEDA on the other hand credits the conditional cash transfers program initiated by the previous government in 2008 as one of the policy interventions that could have led to this outcome.

All this would have served the Arroyo regime well had it been reported prior to or during the last presidential election, when it was seeking a mandate for its anointed successor. Its economic credentials were tarnished by reports of poverty incidence worsening between 2003 and 2006 contrary to what you would expect following a period of sustained economic expansion under her stewardship.

Of course one could argue that the increase in the VAT rate in 2005 from 10-12% which while regressive was also deemed necessary to avert a fiscal crisis caused all the grief. Government planners then quickly realized that the fiscal space they created had to be used to counter the harsh impact of higher taxes on the most vulnerable. This is what led to many of the socially targeted interventions including the Conditional Cash Transfers program (or CCT) and the infrastructure plan that followed. It now appears that they got it right although hardly anyone will trumpet these successes now.

All this points to the problems associated with time lags in measuring and reporting social and economic indicators for the purpose of crafting public policy. Data gathering always comes at a cost, but without frequent and timely reporting, policymakers are practically flying blind not knowing what impact if any their programs are having on the ground. It may not suit PNoy’s government to acknowledge the policy successes of its predecessor and arch-nemesis in the house, but it can also serve its purpose given that it is pushing for the expansion of the CCT and infrastructure through the PPPs.

According to Prof Monsod, the Gini coefficient for 2009 which reflects income inequality is “the lowest it’s ever been as far as I can remember.” If that is the case then it could account for improvements in the mood of the people as reported by some public surveys (the science of happiness suggests there is a causal link between income equality and happiness). It would also point to the importance of maintaining the momentum for growth through investments in public infrastructure as well as social policies that reduce income disparity like the CCT.

Agrarian reform which has a spotty record globally was an attempt to correct poverty and social inequality through asset distribution. That has proved difficult to implement in the Philippines. Now the CCT and other social programs like improving education and health are attempting to do it through income and human capital distribution.

If the policy settings of the previous government were effective in bringing about an improvement in economic and social well-being, then it would be a sign of maturity for all parties to come together now and work towards expanding them in a responsible manner. Enough with the bickering: it is time for a development consensus to be formed about the way forward.

Skydive for life hopes to raise funds for Cancer Warriors Foundation

My Little Ways published that he would be skydiving for life:

I’ll be jumping from 9,000ft up in the sky on December 9. If we raise P10 for every foot of altitude – that’s P90,000 or US$2,047.32 in total – this will support one cancer warrior for 18 months. The amount will cover monthly medical supplies during chemotherapy, antibiotics, bone marrow aspirations and tests, laboratory procedures, and blood matching and transfusions.

If you’re interested and want to find out more, please check out his site and of course, Cancer Warriors Foundation.

Former Usec Enteng Romano III's resignation letter

A must-read in humility, accountability and love for country. I had the opportunity to work with Usec Romano during the Aquino presidential campaign. I can personally vouch for the sincerity of every word in his resignation letter. While I was among those who did not approve of the message, in the end, Enteng’s only fault was over-enthusiasm and a generosity of time and skill… typical of Enteng if you have had the honor of working with him.

Vicente R. Romano III – DOT

November 23, 2010

My name is Enteng Romano – Undersecretary for Planning and Promotions. And I’m responsible for the Pilipinas Kay Ganda Branding. Read more