Monday, July 25, 2016

The State Aquino III left Duterte

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President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is coming in at the best and the worst of times. The administration of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III has left the Duterte a well-oiled and full-tanked government machine – but one besieged with sclerosis, incapable of solving the congestion problem, and has grown too big to feel its extremities - a "manhid" government as one would say. 

The contradictions of Aquinomics has produced a government that already surpassed the size of Marcos’ in terms of consumption per capita[i] but is still afflicted with underspending[ii], not to mention a declining growth in tax effort[iii]. Aquinomics ushered the return of big government[iv] – but one that is so dependent on the private sector for service delivery and capital outlay[v] that when big investors played hard ball[vi], infrastructure development and maintenance suffered[vii], leading to congestion[viii] and public misery[ix].

Thursday, April 21, 2016


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Since Presidential candidates are beginning to reveal their preferences for some Cabinet members, citizens might as well reveal their own wish lists. Here is my list (in no particular order):

ES/PMS/OCS: Gov. Joey Salceda [why]
DILG: Former Sen. Richard "Dick" Gordon [why]
DND: Clarita Carlos [why]
DBM: Former Rep. Edcel Lagman [why]
DoF: BSP Gov. Amado Tetangco [why]
DFA: Former DND Sec. Gilbert Teodoro [why]
DSWD: Rep. Leni Robredo [why]
DPWH: Sec. Rogelio Singson [why]
NEDA: Manuel F. Montes [why]
DTI: Manuel V. Pangilinan [why]
DOLE: Former Rep. Walden Bello [why]
DOT (Transportation): USec. Teodoro Encarnacion [why]
DICT: Diosdado Banatao [why]
DoE: Rowaldo Del Mundo [why]
DA: Former Sec. Cielito Habito [why]
DAR: Rep. Neri Colmenares [why]
DENR: Antonio Oposa, Jr. [why]
DOH: Former USec. Madeleine Valera [why]
PCOO: Glenda Gloria [why]
PCDSPO: USec. Manuel "Manolo" Quezon III [why]
Deputy Presidential Spokesperson: Karen Jimeno [why]
DoJ: Solicitor-General Florin Hilbay [why]
DOST: Alfredo Mahar Lagmay [why]
DepEd: Randy David [why]
CHED: Former UPSE Dean Emmanuel De Dios [why]
DoT (Tourism): Yolanda Ong [why]

I have also in mind other individuals for major government posts which are not necessarily Cabinet rank, but deeply impacts the delivery of government services.

HUDCC: Felino A. Palafox, Jr. [why]
BSP: BSP Dep. Gov. Diwa Guinigundo [why]
NAPC: Former NAPC VC Ana Maria Nemenzo [why]
PhilHealth: UPSE Dean Orville Solon [why]
MMDA: Benjamin Dela Peña [why]
SSS: HDMF President and CEO Darlene Berberabe [why]

Note that I have not consulted these people when I made this list, though I sure hope they would agree to accept the Cabinet post if they are offered. I also have many people in mind as Undersecretaries or Deputy Director Generals or Vice Presidents, etc. of these institutions. Unfortunately, one blog post won't be enough.


Joey Salceda
Executive Secretary
Presidential Management Staff
Office of the Cabinet Secretary

Duterte offered Joey Salceda the post of NEDA Chief should he win, but it would be a disservice to the Filipino people if the vast array of competencies the Governor has - from economic, technical, political, local, etc. - will only be deployed in one specific aspect of government. Gov. Salceda can deliver more for the people as concurrent Executive Secretary, Chief of the Presidential Management Staff (the clearing house for all policy decisions of the President), and the Cabinet Secretary. These three positions are better lodged under one office, the OES, with undersecretaries manning the two major functions (PMS, OCS) and assistant secretaries manning the sub-functions.

Prior to his stint as Government of Albay, he was a three-term Representative, serving as Chair of the Committee on Trade and Industry and Vice Chair of the Committees on Ways and Means and Economic Affairs. In 2007, he became President Arroyo' Presidential Chief of Staff, and was often name-dropped as a member of President Arroyo's unofficial braintrust. Before he became a politician, the management engineering graduate from Ateneo was Research Director of UBS Warburg - a division of Swiss Bank Corporation, and was voted as one of the top five analysts in a 1996 survey of Philippine fund managers. [go back to top]

Monday, August 3, 2015

#NoyBi Failed Us, Blame the King Makers

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Vice President Jejomar Binay's True State of the Nation Address (TSONA) earlier marks a new low for the #NoyBi tandem that has dominated Philippine politics for the last five years. Much of what Binay has said is true: the woes of the MRT, the failure of crisis management in Zamboanga, the lethal ineptitude in the face of Yolanda, the breakdown of protocol in Mamasapano, the amateur handling of Luneta hostage crisis, and the return of fiscal dictatorship and discretionary spending via Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). And the truth - especially from a friend turned foe - will hurt.

But whatever little moral high ground Binay has is effectively obliterated by a single fact: he is part of the administration for the past five years, and he said nothing. His tarnished reputation is another thing, of course (Friendship Suites Hotel, Makati Homeville, Hacienda Binay, overpriced Makati City Hall parking building among other infra, the AMLC report; for others, check out former Sec. Rafael Alunan's long list). That he has the gall to speak against abuse of power when he won't even face his accusers in the Senate only demonstrates his cynical appreciation of corruption allegations as mere political spectacle, something one would throw when convenient, and something one should ignore as much as he can whenever possible.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Aquino’s Legacy: Exclusive Growth, Ineffectual Bureaucracy

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An Assessment of the Aquino III government (2010-2016)

James Matthew Miraflor
Vice President, Freedom from Debt Coalition
The verdict is in.

If there is one catch-phrase that can summarize the legacy of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III in his half-a-decade rule, it is this: “exclusive growth via an ineffectual bureaucracy”. A growth dictated by the moods of global market amid worsening poverty and stagnating inequality levels, and the failure of the bureaucracy to even spend the money it was able to collect to arrest poverty – these cap the legacy of who was once touted as a savior of Philippine democracy and commonweal from the dark years of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Did Aquino III measure up?
We argue that this is not just an accident of history that Aquino III failed to fulfill his mantra of “kung walang korap, walang mahirap”. Granting that we have made strides in the fight against corruption – a statement that is made with some reservation given the proliferation of patrimonialism in Congress and the national government agencies – it would have been simply illogical to assume that those strides alone will translate to better welfare for the rest of the Filipino people. Rather, we insist that the failures of Aquino III are deeply rooted to its philosophy of government – the vision it constructed when it translated its “social contract” into the 2010-2016 Philippine Development Plan (PDP).

Progressive groups such as the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) already criticized the 2010-2016 PDP from its inception, saying that it is weak on asset reform and fails to construct the economic underpinnings of a true “straight path” and “inclusive growth”. NEDA, under the neoliberal Director-General Cayetano Paderanga, basically ripped-off the agenda of Arangkada Philippines, a document prepared by the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines (see letter from JFC to Paderanga here). This meant that the resulting PDP basically champions the interest of big capital over the interest of the Filipino masses. That the Aquino administration would end its term with increasing number of poor citizens in a growing economy demonstrates the bias it has set for itself when it began.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Nash, Lichauco, and Steering a Post-EDSA Economy

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by James Matthew Miraflor

Deaths of great intellectuals diminish us all, but more so the scholars who are the main conduits of their work. In a span of a few days, students of the Philippine economy are shocked by the demise of two important paragons of the field – first, nationalist economist Alejandro Lichauco, and then game theory pioneer John Nash. The loss is simply incalculable.

Separated by miles and interests, the two celebrated economists used their Ivy League training to interpret and shape a world in conflict. Both are products of the Cold War, yet their ideas have persisted in a modern age of computer-driven, high-volume stock trading and post-WTO regional trade partnerships. While Nash is known mostly in microeconomics textbooks and Lichauco via word-of-mouth stories of Marcos dictatorship survivors, both have made their in impact in the minds of the Filipinos who keenly follow the country’s economic development.

Anyone interested in Philippine’s escape from the so-called “Middle Income trap” cannot afford to ignore the lives and contributions of these two illustrious economists. It is now more than ever – in a world of uncertainty, hegemonic overtures, and political machinations – that we should review the lessons of Nash and Lichauco. Game theory and nationalist economics are indispensable items in our toolbox as we chart the Philippine’s economic future amid multidimensional issues of China’s territorial expansionism, the Mindanao conflict amid ASEAN geopolitics (read this, and this), and America’s seductive offer for trans-Pacific trade.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Towards Fiscal Democracy

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Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) Statement on 2015 Budget Deliberations

The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) appeals to the 16th House of Representatives to push for crucial budget reforms in the last two years of the Aquino administration. Doing so will bring us closer to fiscal democracy and add credence to the administration’s maxim of “Tuwid na Daan”. Congress must assert its “power of the purse”, produce regular and transparent budgetary allocations, and work toward ending discretionary measures in the budget.