Joey Salceda

BFFs, NO! Developmental State, YES!

For all its talk of good governance and economic reform, PNoy’s government seems to be struggling at both. It needs a circuit breaker to change its current trajectory.

Last week, two surprise announcements were made. Well perhaps one was a surprise, the other was to be expected, but shocked a lot of people nonetheless. The first had to do with the resignation of Jose “Ping” De Jesus as secretary of the DOTC (Transport and Communications). The second was the less than stellar growth rate recorded in the first quarter of the year of 4.9%.

According to “Mareng Winnie” Monsod, Ping De Jesus her former colleague in Cory Aquino’s cabinet resigned due to his distaste for the shenanigans of his assistant secretary, Virgie Torres, a political appointee and shooting buddy of the Benign One himself. It appears that Mrs Torres who was already on the nose for two scandals involving her alleged abuse of authority was causing interference in the way Sec De Jesus wanted to run things at the department.

What’s more is that the DOJ Sec Leila De Lima, another highly esteemed member of PNoy’s cabinet had recommended suspension for Mrs Torres pending investigation of her latest infringement. What broke the proverbial camel’s back for Sec De Jesus, was PNoy’s decision to just ask Torres to go on leave for awhile, disregarding the DOJ’s recommendation.

A pattern emerges

This case mirrors the treatment of Sec Jesse Robredo, a highly decorated public official. In that instance another shooting buddy of PNoy in the person of Ricardo Puno was appointed undersecretary and was preventing Robredo from running the agency effectively. Despite the Luneta debacle involving Puno, who again was found liable by the DOJ secretary for mishandling the rescue of hostages, PNoy once again came to the aid of his BFF (best friends forever!).

At some point surmises Mareng Winnie, Robredo and De Lima might follow De Jesus and leave the PNoy administration.

It could not happen at a worse time as the economy seems to be slowing as a result of government underspending by a magnitude of 70 billion or three and a half conditional cash transfer programs in the first quarter alone. This according to the nation’s chief statistician NSCB Sec Gen Virola dragged the growth of the economy down from 5.1% supposedly to 4.9% effectively causing the NEDA to rethink its growth forecasts for the year.

Despite the approval given by Congress before the start of the year and the zero based budgeting approach instituted which presumably cleansed the roster of projects of wasteful anomalous spending, the current administration still found itself stumbling at the gate with a review of costings delaying its spend. Senator Ralph Recto a former NEDA director general says, “Use it, or lose it.”

Unfortunately, these two events are just symptomatic of a dysfunctional state and set of institutions that continue to hound the Philippines.

The BFF phenomenon

Ferdie had his cronies. Cory had her kamag-anaks (close relatives or Kamaganak Inc), Eddie had his fellow generals. Erap had his drinking kumpadres, Ate Glo had her husband’s classmates, and Noy has his shooting barkada (update: or Kaibigan Inc as the Inquirer has put it). It’s a BFF phenomenon replicating itself with each successive administration. Despite their rhetorical flourishes, they just can’t help but stick to the same playbook.

What’s the reason for this?

Well it goes to the heart of what institutions are about, which in economic theory is all about reducing transactions costs. Let me break it down for you…

In a nation like the Philippines, where business transactions are lubricated through personal relationships and kinships, using close friends and connections are one way to minimize costs associated with screening and monitoring business contracts, partnerships and joint ventures.

So it is in running a government, the sheer size of it makes it necessary for the one appointing to efficiently select appointees to help him share the burden. So often the shortest possible route to that is appointing BFFs.

The use of personal ties does not always lead to dysfunction. In post-war Japan where the top graduates from the premier law schools were often recruited into the economic bureaucracy, a member of an incoming “cohort” would often rely on school ties to forward his or her career. In fact, companies were wont to recruit graduates from the same universities mainly because of the close connections they had with public servants in these powerful agencies.

Todai Law School, University of Tokyo: has one of the most powerful of school cliques in Japan. Alumni are well-placed in the upper echelons of government, banking and industry.

The term they used for this was gakubatsu or school cliques which are ensconced in the upper echelons not only of government, but banking and industry. Within this batsu, is the Todaibatsu, or the “bastu of all batsus” which refers to alumni of the University of Tokyo Todai Law School, whose education features a heavy dose of public administration, more like political science, and economics.

This mixture of a merit based appointment and school/class based loyalty system enabled these bureaucrats to work cohesively and professionally, which in turn permitted policy to be developed independent of local as well as international pressure or influence, to strengthen economic policy and manage public-private cooperation.

The developmental state model

In his widely celebrated book on the powerful Ministry of Trade and Industry, MITI and the Japanese Miracle, the late Prof Chalmers Johnson outlined how the Japanese bureaucratic model worked

The first element of the model is the existence of a small, inexpensive, but elite bureaucracy staffed by the best managerial talent available in the system…they should be educated in law and economics, but it would be preferrable if they were not professional lawyers or economists, since as a general rule professionals make poor organization men…

The second element of the model is a political system in which the bureaucracy is given sufficient scope to take initiative and operate effectively. This means, concretely, that the legislative and judicial branches of government must be restricted to “safety valve” functions…to intervene in the work of the bureaucracy and to restrain it when it has gone too far…

The third element of the model is the perfection of market-conforming methods of state intervention in the economy. In implementing industrial policy, the state must take care to preserve competition to as high a degree as is compatible with its priorities. This is necessary to avoid the deadening hand of state control and the inevitable inefficiency, loss of incentives, corruption, and bureaucratism that it generates.

The fourth and final element of the model is a pilot organization like MITI. The problem here is to find the mix of powers needed by the pilot agency without either giving it control over so many sectors as to make it all-powerful or so few as to make it ineffective.

What Johnson was describing is basically the East Asian economic model based on the developmental state or the BeST Consensus (BeST stands for Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo). The Commission on Growth and Development in its findings covering the factors that gave rise to rapid and sustainable growth gave a tip of the hat to the fourth element. Its term for this is “reform teams”. According to the report

The business of “feeling for stones” in fast-growing economies was often carried out by highly qualified technocrats in small, dedicated “reform teams”. Singapore had its Economic Development Board, Korea its Economic Planning Board, and Japan its Ministry of Trade and Industry.

Reform teams were not burdened with adminstrative duties, but they were given direct access to the top of the government. Malaysia’s Economic Planning Unit reported directly to the prime minister. Taiwan, China’s…Council for Economic Planning and Development, reported directly to the president. Indeed, several future heads of government sprang from their ranks: the second chairman of the Council later became president of the country.

From this unique position…the reform teams helped coordinate the government’s efforts and overcome administrative opposition and inertia.

Although technocrats unchecked by political forces can fail to balance economic with political and social concerns, political forces unchecked by technocratic knowledge can be disruptive.

In the Philippines, the closest resemblance to a “reform team” is the NEDA which creates the revolving five year medium term plans and screens development projects. The latest roll-out is the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016.

Unfortunately, while the director general of this agency does sit within cabinet, his stature is often relegated to a planning or “secretariat” function. We also witnessed in the case of Sec Romulo Neri how the clout of the NEDA chief could get superceded by political players and personalities outside of government.

The NEDA in its original design was meant to perform the function that the cabinet cluster under EO#43 sets out to do. Under this over-arching framework, the NEDA’s sole job is to act as secretariat for one of the clusters, on economic development leaving social development, climate change, governance and justice to be handled by other lead agencies.

The Philippine reform experience

If we look at our own track record at performing economic reform, the reform teams have traditionally been held by players close to the president, a Joe Almonte under Mr Ramos or a Joey Salceda under Mrs Arroyo.  Love them or loathe them, the reforming credentials earned by their presidents (whether you agree or disagree with the type of reform is immaterial) can be credited to them and the teams that worked with them.

Following in that tradition, I formed the view that the person best placed for this role would be Mar Roxas, the president’s failed vice presidential running mate. Although EO#43 has been branded a power play on the part of the opposing faction to “cluster out” the incoming chief of staff, I believe that it has the exact opposite effect. A reforming team requires a strategic “helicopter view” of the world.

Had the E.O. pigeonholed the chief of staff like it has the NEDA chief, the occupant would be unable to move out of this administrative strait jacket. Perhaps the strongest suit of Mar is his being a former DTI secretary, which puts him in good stead with the various industry groups and the economic bureaucracy. Given his skill sets, he should be able to drive a number of key reforms across all five cabinet clusters.

It is reported in today’s Inquirer that his rivals within the office of the Executive Secretary want Mar Roxas to take the DOTC secretaryship supposedly to keep him away from the Palace. Given the shambolic state that the administration currently is in, with its rookie student council style of governance, the presence of a veteran like Roxas might help steady the ship and keep it on course.

Conclusion

If the government of the Benign One ever hopes to dig itself out of the rabbit hole it has dug itself in, now is the time to do it. It will have to show its reformist credentials soon. The paternalistic state was one where BFFs thrived. It was compatible with the misplaced faith in “the Market” to deliver its citizens into the promised land of economic prosperity wherein the state played a diminished role.

As inconsistencies between the outcomes of this model and what it predicts has become apparent, perhaps our leaders will realize that the responsibility for charting our own path lies in our hands and not that of foreign aid donors and advisors. Perhaps this “re-awakened sense” of self-determination is the vision lacking in all our plans.

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics: Or why De Quiros is a bit of a crank

In his two most recent op-ed pieces published successively in the Inquirer between Monday and Tuesday this week, Conrado De Quiros proves why his writing should be taken with a grain of salt.

Apologist

In Repetitions, Mr De Quiros talks of parallels between the two Aquino administrations and uses the argument that history may be repeating itself against those who despair at the current lackluster performance of PNoy in his freshman year. The implicit parallelism here is between the Marcos and Arroyo loyalists who claim that life deteriorated under their successors.

De Quiros uses a number of “lies, damned lies and statistics” in making his case. These fibs undermine his credibility. He states first of all that

(o)ne year after he came to power, the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) loyalists are out saying how things have gotten worse from GMA’s time. Proof of it is that unemployment is rife, prices are higher and the hungry are getting hungrier. And they have the figures to show it.
What they forget to say is that Gloria borrowed more than Tabako (President Fidel V. Ramos) and Erap (President Joseph Estrada) combined in the course of her long, vicious and illegitimate rule from January 2001 to May 2010 which did not keep prices from soaring anyway, and which debt has added immeasurably to an already gigantic one the people are paying during P-Noy’s time and will continue to pay well past P-Noy’s time.

Ok, let us subject the first part of the argument to the Truth-o-meter. What was the level of external debt during the presidencies of Messrs Ramos and Estrada in contrast to Madame Arroyo? The chart below is taken from World Bank data which is hosted on Google Data Explorer.

It shows that the total external debt stock in 1991 prior to the election of Pres Ramos stood at 32.5 billion current US dollars. In 2000, the year before Mrs Arroyo succeeded Mr Estrada in office it rose to 58.3 billion dollars. That is a jump of about 25.8 billion. In 2009, the year before Mrs Arroyo handed power to Mr Aquino, the total external debt stock was 62.9 billion dollars or an increase of a mere 4.6 billion!

So on point one, Mr De Quiros’s claim that GMA had borrowed more than Messrs Ramos and Estrada combined is not only untrue, it misses the truth by a longshot. The growth of debt during the latter was 5.6 times more than under the former.

Let us examine the second part of the argument about price inflation under the Arroyo administration. The chart below shows inflation from the same data source. I am afraid that again in this case, the data conflicts with De Quiros’s claim. It shows that under GMA, inflation was tame. The country experienced some of the lowest price rises that it experienced since the 1970s, much of this is a result of the economic reforms instituted since the mid-80s of course.

So on point two, once again Mr De Quiros is caught fiddling with the truth.

Moving on to the rest of his argument, De Quiros states that

The economy Gloria left to P-Noy is not a rundown restaurant that has been sold to a new owner who with unlimited funds can renovate it and open with the sign, “Under new management.” It is a horse that has been starved and flogged to near-death and bequeathed to an impoverished nephew by a good-for-nothing aunt upon her death. You cannot make that horse spring back to life overnight, especially when it’s all you can do to keep body and soul together. It will take a great deal of nursing to make it so. Along with a great deal of cursing the departed.

You can’t blame everything that is wrong with the economy on Gloria. But you can, and ought to, blame her for a great deal. The people of this country did not start getting unemployed during P-Noy’s time, they started getting unemployed during Gloria’s time. Hell, they started getting hungry—yet another statistic a few months ago said people had gotten hungry of late—during Gloria’s time, as a result of abandoning the farmers completely and relying on importations of rice. And stealing billions of bukols along with the rice.
Gloria is the cause, this is the effect.

So, to verify these claims, let us look first of all at the level of income during Mrs Arroyo’s presidency. The chart here shows that per capita incomes grew quite rapidly and consistently for the most part during her term from $899 in 2001 to $1,752 in 2009, an increase of about 95%.

In a comparable period from 1991 to 2001, GDP per capita only rose from $710 to $899 or an increase of a mere 27%. Again, it seems that calling the economy a rundown hand-me-down does not seem appropriate.

Well, you might say, De Quiros is really talking about the hardships suffered by the most marginal sectors of society getting worse under Mrs Arroyo. So, let us examine the income share of the poorest quintile of the population in the following chart.

We find here that the lowest 20% of the population had a 6.5% share of total income in 1988 and this dropped down to 5.36% in 1997 and remained steady at 5.37% in 2000. From there it rose to 5.6% in 2006 where the time series stops. So it seems that for the greater part of GMA’s term, the decline was arrested. The time series unfortunately ends there, right before the surge of rice importation.

As a sidebar, it is worth noting that the economic liberalization instituted since the mid-80s as prodded by the Washington Consensus may have moderated inflation but failed to provide protection to the most vulnerable. Mrs Arroyo’s rice program was also aimed at limiting the effects of price rises, but may have impacted the farming sector adversely. In that case, it was simply extending the existing policies further.

Revisionist

In Visions and Revisions, the second thesis of De Quiros is a stab at economic revisionism. His very first line exposes him to this charge:

P-noy isn’t making things worse, economically or otherwise, but he’s missing a lot of chances to make things better.

Unfortunately, the first quarter results say otherwise. The latest 4.9% GDP growth figure reported by the National Statistical Coordination Board, while nothing to sneeze at, was at the lower end of the expected range that analysts had predicted of between 4.8% and 5.6%. It was almost half the 8.4% growth registered in the same period of the previous year under Mrs Arroyo and a far cry from the government’s own target of 7-8% for the year. Given the recent tweaking of the way GDP is computed, the growth rate of 4.9% is actually higher than it would have been under the previous method.

PNoy tried to remain upbeat and blame the less than targeted performance on economic headwinds coming from conflicts in the Middle East and North African region as well as natural disasters closer to home. He also sought to paint a favorable picture by comparing it to the milder growth experienced by our ASEAN neighbors.

What he conveniently failed to mention was that the growth could have been higher had his government not contracted spending by 17%. Today’s banner headline of the Businessworld says it all, Underspending Curbs Growth. What this means is that the higher unemployment, hunger and poverty reported during the period is partly the government’s doing.

None other than Budget Sec Buth Abad confirmed that the first quarter was “not regular” in that government spending slowed as a result of project costings being reviewed. While he claims they can play catch up during the remainder of the year, Prof Ben Diokno, a former budget secretary, and Gov Joey Salceda, a former analyst and political advisor to Mrs Arroyo think otherwise.

Unfortunately, not only is “PNoy missing a lot of chances to make things better”, he is also “making things worse, economically”. No amount of economic revisionism can change that fact.

In bolstering his claims, Mr De Quiros needs to steer away from using spurious statistics. He has failed the truth-o-meter on all counts. Such flagrant misrepresentations do not aid his cause one bit. They merely expose the hollowness of his arguments.

That Vision Thing part 2: Curing dysfunctionalism

Apart from discarding outdated mental models, the president needs to address personality-based factionalism that has led to organizational dysfunction within his team.

In part one of this series, we uncovered the problem of an inadequate framing of the strategic role of government. In this second part, we look at the organizational fault-lines that have skewed the president’s role as chief executive and let him down in his first year.

It was evident even before he assumed office. The president’s team was hampered unduly by factions vying for influence within his government. What is disheartening about these factions is not that they existed, but that they were drawn along the lines of personality and not based on philosophical tensions that could have led to more considered policymaking.

Having belatedly entered the 2010 derby, the president had to cobble together a coalition built on the political aspirations of candidates that had either withdrawn from the race or slid-down to accommodate him at the top spot of the ticket. The fault lines in his team ran along the lines of personalities that had to train their sites on succeeding him in 2016.

Overlaying this stratum of political maneuvering is the presence of the president’s own pals who do not belong to any of the factions. Their appointment was his way of building a power base independent of them. Unfortunately, these pals either became vulnerable to attacks or suffered from the Peter Principle of being promoted to roles they were incompetent to fill.

Baggage and rumors

Complicating matters was the baggage handed down by the Inglorious One who left behind a cabal of her supporters ensconced in corporate boards and constitutional bodies with fixed terms of office that almost run concurrent to that of the president. Exposing their abuses and missteps to shame them into resignation has been a time consuming process. The first year of the administration has almost been absorbed by it.

As the one year ban on appointing losing candidates from the field of 2010 approaches, talks of a reshuffle are inevitable. Rumors are rife that one cabinet official whose managerial style has not agreed with the president is on his way out. The man in question would have been eminently qualified to stay in his present role, had it not been for personality clashes with the benign one. His replacement is meant to be a legislator who came out of hiding as a fugitive from the law after being exonerated.

The current cabinet secretary saw his authority undermined by a presidential bossom buddy who was given exclusive direction over a huge chunk of his agency and given direct reportorial access to the president. Having been stripped of formal authority over half of his portfolio the estranged cabinet official was being made responsible and accountable for its poor performance.

Benign form of Erap?

This dysfunctional organizational style has hampered another president before. Erap Estrada’s cabinet was beset not only by personality-based factions vying for ascendancy but by a coterie of cronies that performed the informal role of a shadow cabinet. The present crop may be less malignant, more benign, than the previous kind they nevertheless have created more problems than solutions for the president.

Estrada showed a distaste for formal cabinet meetings to conduct policy development and took to the more informal ways of wheeling and dealing with associates over several bouts of drinking. The current president similarly sought to limit the frequency of meetings by his full cabinet but rather focused on dividing them to more manageable clusters. Although his particular style was more benign than the former leader’s, it showed if anything a penchant for involving himself in sub-committee discussions where specific detail rather than broad strategy get threshed out.

The role of chief executive

Honing a common vision and strategy means that differences over operational or implementational details can be finessed. The lack of a clear, crisp direction from the top leads to organizational incoherency. Good chief executives are able to stick to “that vision thing” while working with individuals with whom a strong personality clash exists. In fact good ones do not mind subordinates who are stylistically different from them, but who possess unique, critical skill sets for running their organization.

At this point, the president needs to demonstrate that capacity. No amount of cabinet reshuffling will work, unless he re-defines more clearly what his role is and that of his official family. Year two of his presidency needs to learn the lessons of year one where a steep learning curve had to be scaled.

They say that the window for creating change only exists during the first 18 months of the presidency. Beyond that, the wheels of official duty will simply overrun much of the president’s agenda. The benevolent one needs to assemble a team around a common vision and lay personality issues aside if it is to get itself across the line on a number of important issues.

A separate unit within the Office of the President needs to take charge of developing strategy, coordinating and monitoring its implementation. It needs to take on the role that former national security adviser Jose Almonte played under the Ramos administration or that governor Joey Salceda performed under Gloria Arroyo.

<<<go back to part 1: That Vision thing

>>> go to part 3: Credible Commitment

Salceda: Noynoy to become country's 1st majority president after Edsa ’86

Salceda: Noynoy to become country’s 1st majority president after Edsa ’86
By Philip Tubeza
Philippine Daily Inquirer

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines—With the surveys showing him leading in the presidential race, Liberal Party standard-bearer Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III is on his way to becoming the country’s first majority President since the return of democracy in 1986, Albay Governor Joey Salceda said.

“Noynoy will be the first majority president after 1986. That is what we see and it will be good for the economy,” Salceda, a former economic adviser of President Macapagal-Arroyo, said in a press conference Monday.

“A landslide victory of Noynoy Aquino probably offers the best prospect for the Philippine economy,” he added.

Aquino also said that it would be “very difficult” for his competitors to catch up with his lead with only seven days left before Election Day.

“Is there a possibility of losing? You know, that 20-percent spread—can I just round it off? It’s 19 but if I can beg you the one percent—the 20 percent in a 40 million turnout translates into about 8 million advance. So, they have to recover 8 million and then they have to add more votes on top of the eight million to overcome our lead,” Aquino said.

“And with five days left in the campaign, that’s practically two million votes a day that they will have to be getting and I think that’s very difficult,” he added.

Villar loses support among poor: survey

Villar loses support among poor: survey
By Carmela Fonbuena
abs-cbnNews.com/ Newsbreak

Erap ties NP standard-bearer for 2nd place

MANILA, Philippines—The new Pulse Asia survey conducted 2 weeks before the May 10 polls is double whammy for Nacionalista Party (NP) standard-bearers Senators Manuel.In the April 23-25 survey, Villar and Legarda plunged 5 points and 3 points, respectively.

With 2 points margin of error, that means Villar lost from 3 to 7 percentage points. At 500,000 voters per statistical point, the drop is equivalent to 1.5 million to 3.5 million votes.

The numbers of Liberal Party (LP) bet Senator Benigno Aquino III and Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) bet former President Joseph Estrada were steady. Their 2-point gains are within the margin error.

“We’re not really surprised that President Estrada’s ratings rose. We stuck to our strategy of going directly to the people, and they have realized that Estrada is the real leader of the poor,” said PMP spokesperson Ralph Calinisan.

“I think people are starting to realize…that Estrada is the real ally of the masses…. We’re winning back the D and E votes, which are really the Estrada votes,” said Navotas City Mayor Toby Tiangco, PMP spokesman in Metro Manila.

Aquino stays on top with 39 points. It’s 1-percentage point less than the combined numbers of Villar and Estrada, who are tied at 20 points.

Administration bet former Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. is stuck at 7 percentage points.

The undecided group is also steady at 9 percentage points. It’s equivalent to 4.5 million voters.

NP not discouraged

But NP spokesmen and senatorial candidates Adel Tamano and Gilbert Remulla said they are not discouraged by the survey results.“Five points going down is not fatal. We are very confident hahabol kami (we are going to catch up),” Tamano told abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak in a phone interview.

“There is a false perception that Noynoy is going to win. I tell you, expect some surprises. This is going to be the longest 10 days,” he said. Tamano said the NP is counting on endorsements and their local machinery to deliver votes for Villar.

Remulla also accused the survey firm of being biased against Villar. “Pulse Asia surveys have never been kind to Senator Villar from what we believe is due to its ownership structure,” he told abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak in a mobile text message.

Aquino’s first cousin, Rapa Lopa, was former president of Pulse Asia. But Lopa has divested in the survey firm since Aquino joined the presidential race.

But Villar supporter political analyst Prospero De Vera acknowledges that the new survey is bad news.

“The numbers are bad. It’s the result of a concentrated black propaganda from both Erap and Noynoy camps. The attack has been so vicious in the past few weeks,” De Vera told abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak in a phone interview.

Binay’s dramatic increase

In the vice presidential race, Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay has overtaken Legarda with his dramatic increase of 9 percentage points, or the equivalent of 4.5 million voters.Binay registered 28 points compared to Legarda’s 20 points.

According to the analysis of Pulse Asia, the vice presidential race is now between Senator Manuel Roxas II of the Liberal Party and Binay. Roxas remains on top with 37 points.

But Roxas is already confident of the LP’s big win in May. “I am happy that Noynoy Aquino and I will become the next president and vice-president of this country. We pledge to pursue our commitment to reform our government so that our people can enjoy the fruits of good governance as this will result in true progress and development for all the peoples of this country,” Roxas said in a statement.

Noynoy gets poor, Erap gets Mindanao

Villar’s numbers show he is losing the support across the board—in all regional breakdowns and all socio-demographics.

Candidates’ gains and losses
Error margin
Aquino
Villar Estrada
Nationwide
2 2 -5 2
NCR 7 -3 -2 2
Balance Luzon 3 4 -5 1
Visayas 5 6 -7 3
Mindanao 5 -1 -7 5
ABC Not available -4 -1 -1
D Not available 2 -6 4
E Not available 3 -4 0

Villar is losing to Aquino and Estrada his support base among the poor.Villar dropped 6-percentage points and 4-percentage points in classes D and E, respectively. Aquino gained 2 percentage points in Class D and 3 percentage points in Class E. Estrada gained 4 points in Class D.

The foundation of Villar’s campaign has always been his rags-to-riches story. He says that if he can get himself out of poverty, he can also do it for the rest of the Filipinos.

But this claim was put in question when various camps starting in March belied Villar’s poverty. (See Aquino joins ‘Villar is not poor’ chorus)

“Maybe the poor voters are getting confused. Probably they got confused by all these accusations,” said Villar supporter, De Vera. “Our messaging has been drowned out by negative attacks. It’s not anymore issues.”

By region, Villar is losing to Aquino his supporters in Balance Luzon and the Visayas. Estrada continues to shrink Villar’s support base in Mindanao.

In the March 2010 survey, Estrada registered a big gain in Mindanao at the expense of Villar.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who is vice president for Mindanao of Estrada’s PMP, said the supporters of Estrada are returning to his side after the Supreme Court’s decision in January 2010 to junk the disqualification case against him. (See Erap, not C-5, caused Villar’s survey drop)

The other candidates, including disqualified bet Vetellano Acosta, got 1 point to 3 points increases across the board.

Victim of black propaganda?

Villar’s camp said the surveys numbers are a result of a concentrated black propaganda against Villar.

“In the past few weeks, we have seen intensified black propaganda and vicious attacks from both the Erap and Aquino camps,” Remulla said.

“Jamby, si Erap, si Gordon, and the Liberal Party, they’re all hitting Manny [Villar] at the same time. There has been a flurry of negative campaigning. It’s below the belt,” Tamano added.

Among the key developments identified by Pulse Asia during the survey period are the following:

  • Defections from Lakas-Kampi CMD to NP and LP
  • Allegations made by Estrada and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile that while serving Senate President in 2007, Villar used his position to pressure the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) to decide in his favor on a matter concerning the public offering of his real estate company’s shares

De Vera assailed the LP camp for “concocting” the alleged “Villaroyo” alliance between President Arroyo and Villar.“All evidence show that it’s (defections from Lakas-Kampi CMD) practically equal. And they got Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, the most notorious and most loyal adviser of President Arroyo. While he joined LP, he said he is still loyal to President Arroyo. What other proof of a distorted politician is that?” De Vera said. (See Lakas-Kampi defections: ‘Villaroyo’ or ‘Gloriaquino’?)

He also challenged Estrada to file a case against Villar in allegedly exerting his pressure on the PSE. “The PSE has cleared Villar. Why don’t they file a case?” he said.

Blaming the media

De Vera also laments what he calls “media’s bias” against Villar.

“It’s the black propaganda peddled through accusations in press conferences, the media, and the SMS. These have been driving the campaign since 2 weeks ago,” De Vera said.

“The Noynoy camp has a significant advantage in the media. They are backed up by ABS-CBN. They are also backed up by columnists, who hide behind their columns. Villar doesn’t have any of this,” he said.

In a press conference on Monday, Villar’s family also blamed the media for the negative stories on Villar (See Villar’s mom: Stop picking on my son)

While Villar has dominated political advertising in television and radio, Tamano said the ads are powerless against all the attacks.

“It’s very difficult to answer all allegations. It’s not one-on-one. It’s one side versus four,” Tamano said.

Tamano said in the remaining days in the campaign period, the NP will stress their message on competence. “The real debate should be who is most competent. If we go back to that, I believe we are going to get the undecided voters,” he said.

“Our voters have shifted to the undecided and we are doing all that we can to win them back. We believe there is enough time. Once that is done, it will be back to manageable levels and our party machinery will see us to victory,” said Remulla. (abs-cbnNews.com/Newsbreak).

Perlas: Better a delayed election than a failed election

Perlas: Better a delayed election than a failed election
By Michelle Cristobal
abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines – Why hold an automated election for the country’s highest office if there is a large possibility that it will fail?

Independent presidential candidate Nicanor “Nick” Perlas said this is the question that the Commission on Elections should consider when deciding on his petition to postpone the May 10 nationwide polls for 3 months.

“Instead of waiting for failure to happen on election day, we have to preempt it. We have to be active,” Perlas told radio dzMM.

The presidential bet, a known environmentalist, said he filed a petition before Comelec last week asking the poll body to address 20 technical defects in the automated elections. He said failure to address the defects could mean “disenfranchisement of voters, which would lead to violence and chaos.”

“Many IT experts have already pointed out that we are the only country that is attempting to go from manual to automated [elections] at one go. This is usually done gradually because the system has to be tested but that wasn’t done. And then we have problems with transmission and erratic signals…,” he said.

He said he is also backing calls to conduct a parallel manual count in the May 10 poll but only for the results of the presidential and vice-presidential races. He said conducting a manual audit of the two races would allow election officials to iron out possible technical defects in the country’s first ever automated polls.

Perlas said a parallel manual count is the easiest solution for the Comelec to allay fears of a possible failure of elections next month. He added that he is willing to go to the Supreme Court to exhaust all legal remedies for the possible conduct of a manual audit of the May 10 automated poll.

He also denied the statement of Comelec Chairman Jose Melo that postponing the elections is not provided for under the 1987 Constitution. He said Section 5 of the Omnibus Election Code states that the Comelec can postpone an election “for any serious cause such as violence, terrorism, loss or destruction of election paraphernalia or records, force majeure, and other analogous causes of such a nature that the holding of a free, orderly and honest election should become impossible in any political subdivision.”

‘Anti-trapo’ platform

Perlas, meanwhile, urged voters to disregard results of pre-election surveys as their basis for deciding who they should vote for in the May 10 polls. “All those who are leading in the surveys are traditional politicians, or are surrounded by traditional politicians. So we have to ask ourselves – if they win, will anything in the country change or will corruption and poverty continue?” he asked.

He said that unlike his rivals, he is a not a tried-and-tested politician and has no record of corruption.

Perlas said he does support any of the survey frontrunners– Noynoy Aquino, Manny Villar, Joseph Estrada or Gilbert Teodoro — since he does not expect that they could bring any lasting change to the country.

He said he particularly felt bad that Aquino, whom he described as “honest”, has surrounded himself with traditional politicians.

“Nasasayangan ako actually kay Noynoy. I don’t think he has found a way to deal with the traditional politicians that have now joined him,” he said.

He added that one Aquino supporter that he considers a traditional politician is Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, President Arroyo’s former economic adviser. He said Salceda helped Mrs. Arroyo achieve continuous economic growth, which only benefited the rich but did not help the poor.

Perlas also said Aquino’s “honesty” will not be enough to effect real change in government. He cited as an example Aquino’s mother, former president Cory Aquino, whose government was riddled with corruption despite being honest herself.

“Cory was honest but her government was far from perfect. I was a technical adviser to the Cory government and I had to stop corruption at the Department of Agriculture because of corruption inside. So you can be honest pero pag hindi ka marunong magdala ng sistema, ng larger system, hindi mo mahihinto yung corruption,” he said.

Solon turns Teodoro green to Villar orange in a snap

Solon turns Teodoro green to Villar orange in a snap
By TJ Burgonio, Jhunnex Napallacan
Philippine Daily Inquirer, Inquirer Visayas

MANILA, Philippines—He made it as easy as changing campaign baller IDs.

Romblon Rep. Eleandro Jesus Madrona took his oath before Sen. Manuel Villar on Monday afternoon only hours after he attended a meeting of Lakas-Kampi-CMD lawmakers presenting a show of force for Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro Jr.

“He was there with us to pledge support for Teodoro,” the ruling party’s secretary general Raymundo Roquero said over the phone, expressing disbelief at Madrona’s turnaround. “It’s his problem to explain himself to his constituents.”

Party officials were pleasantly surprised by the turnout of 130 lawmakers at the meeting despite short notice. But Madrona’s defection to Villar’s Nacionalista Party (NP) spoiled the mood.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stopped by the hastily called meeting at Dusit Thani Manila hotel at around 2 p.m., and exhorted party mates and allies to “stick together” for the administration standard-bearer.

Teodoro himself showed up at the meeting. But he left before Ms Arroyo arrived, saying he had to travel to Antipolo City for an earlier scheduled lunch with local officials.

Later, Madrona, along with Romblon Gov. Natalio Beltran, the vice gubernatorial candidate, and 16 mayoral candidates took their oath before Villar at the NP headquarters in StarMall in Mandaluyong City.

Madrona, who chaired the House committee on accounts during Villar’s term as Speaker, did not return calls from the Inquirer.

No funds

Villar’s camp issued a press statement confirming Madrona’s presence at the oath-taking, as did reelectionist Mayor Nanette Tansingco of San Fernando town.

Beltran is the Lakas-Kampi-CMD provincial chair, and Madrona, the district chair.

But Tansingco said Madrona, Beltran and the rest of the administration’s local candidates filed letters of resignation from the party as early as April 3.

“The funds aren’t trickling down to our level; we’re not being given agriculture projects. And we are the administration candidates,” Tansingco rued on the phone.

House Deputy Speaker Amelita Villarosa, party chair, confirmed seeing Madrona at the Dusit Thani meeting.

“But I didn’t see him sign the manifesto,” she said by phone, referring to the lawmakers’ manifesto declaring loyalty to the party and “all-out” support for Teodoro.

The meeting was called in the wake of the recent defections of Albay Gov. Joey Salceda and Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali Gonzales II to the Liberal Party (LP), and the threat by Speaker Prospero Nograles to defect to Villar’s camp.

Madrona’s beef

Roquero said Madrona had complained that acting Agriculture Secretary Bernie Fondevilla was “campaigning” for his rival, incumbent Vice Gov. Alice Fetalvero of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), who is seeking a House seat.

But Villarosa said Madrona was concerned about “agriculture projects.”

She declined to go into specifics beyond saying: “He has valid concerns. But I told him this isn’t something that can be resolved by his transfer. That’s his personal choice. But whether he comes back or not, we will fix his problem.”

She did not discount the possibility that the issue would eventually reach Ms Arroyo.

According to Roquero, party mates were “inspired” by the turnout of 130 congressmen at the meeting, even though only 80 had confirmed attendance.

“We talked about strategies. Everyone was very enthusiastic,” he said, pointing out that the campaign was “catching fire” as more groups of youth, workers, farmers and drivers were volunteering to campaign for Teodoro.

Roquero dismissed as black propaganda a reported move to dump Edu Manzano as Teodoro’s running mate in favor of Bagumbayan vice presidential candidate Bayani Fernando.

“This is just an attempt to drive a wedge between Edu and Gibo and the senatorial candidates, but this won’t prosper,” he said.

Human chain

There was another show of force Tuesday for Teodoro, this time at Cebu Marco Polo Hotel.

At one point, 31 incumbent governors and 12 candidates for governor who called themselves “Team Palabra de Honor” formed a human chain around Teodoro to reaffirm their support.

They also signed a manifesto expressing their commitment to him.

Villarosa announced that Lakas-Kampi-CMD had a new member in the person of Negros Oriental Gov. George Arnaiz, formerly of the NPC.

She said Teodoro now had the support of 56 governors and candidates for governors, though some were not present at Tuesday’s gathering.

Teodoro’s visit to Cebu came at a time when Villar was himself in the city for an earlier scheduled rally at the Cebu Coliseum.

Villar declined to comment on the governors’ show of support for Teodoro, and only said he was grateful that a number of Cebu leaders, notably Representatives Eduardo Gullas (first district) and Nerissa Soon-Ruiz (6th district), had bolted the ruling party and endorsed his candidacy.

Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, who organized the meeting of governors to reaffirm support for Teodoro, had herself been kept busy by the defection of a number of her local allies to Villar’s camp.

She called for a series of meetings last week to keep her One Cebu party members in line—mayors, mayoral candidates and even congressmen who were earlier reported to have defected, or were about to shift their support, to Villar.

Disinformation etc.

Speaking with reporters after meeting the governors, Teodoro said the past weeks had been filled with “disinformation, misinformation, mal-information and all other information.”

But he said that with the governors’ strong support, the public would see the truth.

“Today, once again … our people will know something, the simple truth—who supports whom, who has defected, who has not. But besides that and more importantly, this is a reaffirmation of a covenant … for genuine local autonomy, community-based development, sustainable development and strong partnership between the national and local governments,” Teodoro said.

“Undeniably, this has national political impact because this will clear the air [of] those who want to destroy good intentions. We have never engaged in mudslinging or bad politics, so we appeal to the public that this is the truth of who supports whom, the bond that we have together—One Visayas, One Cebu and One Philippines,” he said.

He added that the governors’ support was a humbling experience, expressed his and his family’s profound gratitude to all of them.

After Teodoro’s speech, Governor Garcia read aloud the manifesto in which the governors pledged to work for Teodoro’s election.

Salimbangon

Teodoro visited Cebu amid speculation that another One Cebu member, Rep. Benhur Salimbangon (4th district), would defect to Villar’s camp.

On Tuesday, Cebu Daily News ran a photo showing Salimbangon’s hand being raised by Villar’s wife, Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar, together with Gullas, Soon-Ruiz (who is running for mayor of Mandaue City) and her husband Lito Ruiz, who is running for the post that she would vacate.

The photo was taken at the house of Soon-Ruiz during a meeting last week, according to one of her allies who provided the photo to CDN.

Another photo showed Salimbangon and other officials in the 4th district posing with Cynthia Villar and showing the Villar hand sign.

But Salimbangon Tuesday insisted that he was not bolting Lakas-Kampi-CMD and would continue to back Teodoro.

In turn, Teodoro said he trusted Salimbangon, whom he described as a “friend and kumpare.”

Noynoy to retain GMA's bad policies if he wins – NP

Noynoy to retain GMA’s bad policies if he wins – NP
By Marvin Sy
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Sen. Benigno Aquino III would retain the Arroyo administration’s failed policies if he wins the presidency on May 10, since many LP members and supporters had come from President Arroyo’s Cabinet, the Nacionalista Party (NP) said yesterday.

Speaking to reporters in Pasay City, NP spokesman Adel Tamano said former members of the Arroyo Cabinet would re-emerge in an Aquino Cabinet.

“You are also voting for people forming part of the administration,” he said.

“The head may be Noynoy but the body is Arroyo. If you have the same Cabinet as GMA had, you will have the same failed policies.”

Tamano, also an NP senatorial candidate, said that it does not suffice to make decisions based on the merits of an individual alone.

Aquino might run the country in the same way Mrs. Arroyo is doing because the same people would be around him, he added.

Poverty was at its highest under the Arroyo administration and education failed to improve during the past nine years, Tamano said.

Gilbert Remulla, the other NP spokesman, said the architects of suffering and poverty are still around and they are with Aquino.

“The biggest sanctuary of hardcore Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo allies-turned-critics and former Cabinet apologists-turned-traitors,” he said.

“Today, the Liberals are nothing more than a reunion of the failed GMA-Liberal Party regime of 2001-2005, minus GMA.”

Remulla said voters should expect Aquino’s relatives to continue their presence in government just like what is happening right now, if he becomes president.

The “dreaded” Kamaganak Inc. or Relatives Inc. would re-emerge under an Aquino administration, he added.

Remulla said Aquino was involved in the establishment of a private security agency during the term of his mother, the late President Corazon Aquino.

He presented the articles of incorporation of Best Security Agency, dated November 1986, which showed Aquino as one of its incorporators.

Remulla said that the agency clearly had among its goals securing government contracts and training government security personnel.

The document showed Aquino as one of the directors of the corporation which include his uncle Antolin Oreta Jr., Cipriano Lacson, George Gaddi, Bienvenido Reyes, Jacob Acuña and Alexander Lopez.

Remulla said that there was a clear conflict of interest in Aquino’s involvement in the security agency when his mother was president.

“The agency was incorporated nine months after his mother became president,” he said.

Remulla said Aquino did not tell the whole truth when he said that he had already divested his shares in the company by the time his mother became president.

It was only when the articles of incorporation were updated in 2002 that Aquino’s name disappeared from the list of directors, he added.

Remulla noted that Aquino was the third biggest shareholder of the corporation and had listed address as 1670 Arlegui Street., San Miguel, Manila, which is within the Malacañang compound.

“There is a huge tendency to have a Kamaganak Inc. again,” he said.

The NP said Aquino’s two aunts are in the Arroyo administration: Tessie Aquino-Oreta, chair of the Early Child Care and Development Council, and Lupita Aquino-Kashiwahara who serves as the image consultant of Mrs. Arroyo.

The NP said the presence of Aquino’s relatives in the Arroyo administration is a clear sign of the links between the two families, the NP added.

The NP has repeatedly hit the LP for having the most number of former Arroyo Cabinet members under its wing, starting with the so-called Hyatt 10.

The LP also has a more recent Cabinet member, former socioeconomic planning secretary Ralph Recto, and Mrs. Arroyo’s economic adviser Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, the NP said.

Mar says Salceda won't be Noynoy's economic adviser

Mar says Salceda won’t be Noynoy’s economic adviser
abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines – Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas II has denied allegations of Senator Manny Villar that the defection of one of President Arroyo’s economic advisers to the Liberal Party will mean a continuation of the current government’s economic policies under a possible Aquino-Roxas administration.

He also denied that Albay Governor Joey Salceda’s move to join their party would mean that the former Lakas-Kampi stalwart will be a key economic adviser of Aquino.

In an interview on radio dzMM Saturday morning, Roxas said Salceda is an independent thinker who pointed out flaws in the economic policies of the Arroyo administration.

“He did not join [LP] to become Sen. Noynoy Aquino’s economic adviser,” Roxas said over radio dzMM’s “Magandang Morning” program.

Roxas, Arroyo’s former trade secretary, insisted that Aquino, who has an economics degree from Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), has his own economic team.

He added that Salceda’s inclusion in Aquino’s team does not mean his administration will adopt President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s economic policies.

“Hindi naman parang kung anong policy ngayon ay itutuloy. Hindi po, babaguhin nga. (We will not adopt the current administration’s economic policy. No, we intend to change it),” Roxas said.

The Nacionalista Party (NP) standard-bearer on Friday warned voters that Aquino might adopt Mrs. Arroyo’s failed economic policies given the fact that the LP presidential candidate has recruited members of her economic team.

Villar said members of the Arroyo economic team in Aquino’s camp are former Arroyo Trade Secretaries Roxas and Johnny Santos, former Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, and former Socio-economic planning Secretary Ralph Recto.

Defections not as bad as expected–Lakas

Defections not as bad as expected–Lakas
By Cathy C. Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—No need to press the panic button, the chief recruitment officer of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD declared Thursday, as he noted that only two percent of the candidates fielded by the party nationwide had defected to other camps.

“We are not really that alarmed,” said Rep. Prospero “Butch” Pichay, Lakas-Kampi vice president for recruitment and membership in downplaying the apparent bleeding of the administration party.

“We were expecting a fatality rate of around 10 percent at this point of the campaign,” he added, suggesting that the party could well manage a two-percent attrition rate.

Pichay said that since its candidates were contesting 75 percent of local elected positions nationwide, Lakas-Kampi “remains the dominant party as of now.”

Pichay was moving to present a brave front after the successive departures from the ruling party of stalwarts including Bukidnon Gov. Jose Zubiri, Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali Gonzales Jr., former Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson and most recently, Albay Gov. Jose “Joey” Salceda.

Speaker Prospero Nograles, another ranking Lakas-Kampi member, is at loggerheads with party standard-bearer Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro, triggering speculations that he will also leave shortly.

“The perception is that many are leaving but the command votes (that come) with those who did are not really that much,” Pichay said.

He explained to reporters how he arrived at the two-percent figure: “Out of the candidates in that 75 percent, only four so far have defected. If we’re talking about their districts, that’s only 150,000 to 200,000 votes.”

Pichay said a meeting of the remaining Lakas-Kampi members would be called but failed to give its date.

“We’re going to call (for) a meeting (where members would be) asked to renew their loyalty to the party. I’m sure (the President) is sad about (the defections) but she will always respect any decision to stay or to go. We are a democratic country and we have a democratic party,” he said.

Pichay also said that he did not believe the defections were harmful to Teodoro’s candidacy.

Since the two leading presidential candidates, Senators Benigno Aquino III and Manuel Villar, were now “engaged in mudslinging,” Pichay said, it was possible that voters would become disenchanted, pushing them to switch to Teodoro.

“They (Aquino and Villar) are throwing mud at each other. I think Gibo’s rating would still go up while that of his opponents have already peaked and could go down in the remaining weeks,” Pichay said.