GOCCs for sale

For Blogwatch.ph

In keeping with its twisted austerity vow, the Aquino administration sharply cut state subsidies to government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs) and government financial institutions (GFIs) in its first three months. For the millions of Filipinos who demand adequate social services from the government, this is certainly not a welcome sign.

Recent data from the Bureau of Treasury reveals that the government cut its subsidies to GOCCs and GFIs by almost half, from P4.14 billion in the second quarter to P2.21 billion during the third quarter. This amount is also smaller compared to what was disbursed during the same quarter last year which stood at P5.58 billion. The report however did not provide a breakdown of subsidies for each GOCC.

What is troubling is that such drastic cut was done in the spirit of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s anti-corruption crusade rather than as consequence any comprehensive performance review of GOCCs. Worse, the huge cut serves as a prelude for the enactment of the 2011 budget, which contains a sharp 40.7 percent cut on allocations to GOCCs.

In his budget message, President Aquino said the reduction in allocations to GOCCs is “in view of the need to rethink government support of questionable GOCC programs.” Aquino pointed out the National Food Authority (NFA), Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA), and Metro Rail Transit Corporation (MRTC) – which are ironically providers of basic social services – as examples of what he describes “questionable GOCC programs.”

That was not the first time Aquino put such vital GOCCs in a bad light. It can be remembered that in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July, the President also put the NFA and MRTC, plus the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and the National Power Corporation (Napocor), in the hot seat. Again, it should be noted that these public corporations are vital to the delivery of social services, regardless of the alleged corrupt schemes of their executives.

Dangerously enough, the Aquino administration stretched its corruption expose in GOCCs to legitimize its abolition plan of some state firms. In September, Malacañang warned that some GOCCS that are either losing money or have huge debts need to be abolished in the name of teaching them “discipline.” At least 14 GOCCs were immediately put under tight monitoring following the Palace pronouncement: Continue reading

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On board the train with love

It was October 19, 5:20 a.m. She was wide awake (a little nervous, I guess) even without caffeine just as everybody else in the neighborhood was comfortably dozing off. Che-che was all set to get through the storm to greet the man of her life “Happy Birthday” in a very heart-warming way.

As she hurriedly went down the stairs of the apartment, a distant horn blare echoed through the muted four-storey buildings in Manila. Her heartbeat even pounced harder, mistaking the blare for the arrival of the train a few kilometers away. She really wanted to catch the first trip, or else the plan fails.

On her way to the nearest standby pedicab, she opened her black umbrella, braving the stormy winds and rain. The morning sun was nowhere to be found as Typhoon Juan had already enveloped the horizon with dark clouds. After getting in place inside the pedicab, she carefully placed the birthday cake on her lap and set her eyes on the flooded road ahead.

Minutes later, she was already at the railway station just in front of a university. Che-Che was too focused to catch the first train that she did not notice the bleak state of the place. Perhaps she was determined more than ever to wish all her sadness away on that historic day.

Che-Che hurriedly though carefully got across the railway tracks as the rain subsided at the moment. By the time she set her shoes on the platform, no trace of any train was at sight. Across her, several more commuters were waiting.

After getting a train ticket, she went up the elevated platform and patiently waited for the first train. It was still raining, with the cold wind sweeping through the queue of waiting commuters. Che-Che remained unaffected even as she wore only denim shorts and a cotton top without any jacket on.

A few minutes later, bright headlights showed up at the horizon. The real blare of train horns pierced through the gloomy railway station. Finally, she would be on her speedy way to Taguig, hoping that she’d arrive on Kristoffer’s home just before he opens his eyes.

***

She managed to get inside the house, thanks to the Kristoffer’s mom. Just as she woke up Kristoffer, the surprise was already in place. A cartolina with an artsy birthday greeting hung on the wall (Che-Che requested a friend in Cavite to do it for her). Sparkling candles on top the birthday cake were already lit up. Baller wristbands with custom markings were laid down on the bed. Then she uttered the sweetest greeting on that day.

Her three years of “New York and Miami” finally ended.  🙂

Frenzy over the conditional cash transfer scheme

First published in The Philippine Online Chronicles
(First of two parts)

Strange “realignments” marked the budget deliberations over the past few weeks as both chambers of Congress tackled the P21.9 billion Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT)program, a major item under the President’s proposed budget for next year. Curiously enough, some lawmakers issued a conditional position over the issue, while others transferred to the other camp within 24 hours.

In the latest development, the House of Representatives approved on second reading the P1.645-trillion 2011 budget shortly before Saturday dawn, leaving the CCT program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) untouched. The budget bill is expected to pass third and final reading when Congress resumes session on Nov. 8 after a three-week recess.

Prior to the budget’s approval, the cash transfer scheme went under scrutiny and intense deliberations at both chambers of Congress.

The militant party-list bloc led the opposition to DSWD’s program as they protested the doubling of the CCT fund “at the expense of health, education, power, palay procurement and irrigation which suffered significant cuts.”

“Not only does the P21-billion dole-out offer an empty promise of alleviating poverty, it further contributes to the country’s worsening financial health with its added burden of multi-billion loans from international financial institutions,” read the joint statement by militant lawmakers from Bayan Muna party-list,Anakpawis party-listGabriela party-listACT Teachers party-list and Kabataan  party-list.

$400-million ADB loan

Under the CCT program, the government will directly provide a monthly stipend of P1,400 to poor families with kids ages 14 years and below on the condition that parents send their children to school and mothers get regular prenatal or postnatal care.

The number of beneficiaries from DSWD’s cash transfer program, which started in 2008 by the Arroyo regime under Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), is expected to reach 2.3 million by next year with the help of a $400-million loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved in September, according to a report.

On top of the CCT, the DSWD will implement a P4.2 billion rice subsidy program and a P2.8 billion feeding program.

Rep. Walden Bello of Akbayan party-list, which is allied to President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, alsocriticized what he called “dole-outs” and warned the government against allowing the power play of foreign agencies.

“What is even more disturbing is that this program’s emerging central position in the administration’s anti-poverty strategy has come because of a coordinated strategy of pressure by external agencies,” Rep. Bello said in his privilege speech at the onset of budget deliberations early October.

Ironically, the lawmaker would later back off from his strong opposition to the CCT. Continue reading

Rediscovering Sufjan Stevens

It was in 2006 when I first got a slice of American multi-intrumentalist Sufjan Stevens’ unique music (thanks to my college roommate for sharing). Back then, I only knew three of his songs (“Chicago”, “The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts”, and the “Henney Buggy Band”), and yet this limited exposure was enough to keep his name etched in my brain (probably because of his non-conformist sound). Four years later, I would subsconsciously google his name in search for a soothing companion to my writing tasks. I found the musical texture of his other songs impressive, but other than that, all is rubbish.

I first stumbled upon his album “Run Rabbit Run” (released 2009), a collection of songs infused with rich strings. Actually the album was a rehash of an earlier album (“Enjoy Your Rabbit,” 2002). Track titles are based on the animals of the Chinese Zodiac, save for the “Year of Our Lord,” a crescendo-decresendo play on strings.

The next album I got into, “Illinois” (released 2005), contains a set of instrument-rich songs with references to Sufjan’s personal life. Actually, the album’s liner notes enumerated the musical instruments:

“SUFJAN STEVENS plays the following instruments: acoustic guitar, piano, wurlitzer, electric bass, drum kit, electric guitar, oboe, Miriam’s alto saxophone, Summin’s flute, Daniel’s banjo and/or Matt’s banjo (depending on which one was in tune), Shara’s glockenspiel, Laura’s rickety accordion, a rented vibraphone, various recorders (Sufjan owns the tenor, soprano, and sopranino, but he borrowed Monique’s alto), a Casiotone MT-70, sleigh bells, shakers, tambourine, triangle, and a Baldwin electric church organ. Oh Lord, help us!”

Musical postmodernism

(A piece of “Chicago”)

Included in the album is “Chicago,” an introspective take on one’s faith and mistakes but whose deeper meanings are still out there for debate. Most, if not all, of Sufjan’s songs are actually like this, dwelling on abstractions laced with personal stories. He obviously prefers the obscure, the unseen, the intangible inasmuch as he nurtures unconditional faith for the Almighty God. As a progressive materialist, this is certainly the part that I don’t like about his songs. Continue reading

Magical 100 days

First published in Blogwatch.ph

Noynoy Aquino

More than one hundred days since the President’s star-studded inauguration and post-inaugural street party, the nation has witnessed perverted magic which is far more troubling than the delusions of the previous regime.

In his report on the first 100 days of his administration, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III said the nation inherited many deep and widespread problems which are rooted in a government that is “deaf and blind” and one that makes its own version of truth. Seconds later, he would simply wish away that kind of government:

Ang natamasa po natin ngayong unang isandaang araw ng ating panunungkulan: Mayroon na po kayong gobyernong hindi kayo binabalewala o inaapi [What we’ve achieved in the first 100 days of my administration: We now have a government that does not ignore or abuse you].”

It takes no less than dead bodies to dispute such grand assertion. Since Aquino rose to presidency, there have been 16 cases of extrajudicial killings and two victims of enforced disappearances according to human rights group Karapatan. The victims include Bayan Muna coordinator Fernando Baldomero, who was shot dead just four days after Aquino assumed the presidency. Continue reading

Patay-gutom

Salamat sa putak ng nag-aastang
land lady sa baba ng bintana,
Bangungot ay napatid, nagising ang diwa.
Pero tila bangungot din na magising na
walang gasul, walang bigas, ni itlog ay wala.

Pambihira si kumare.
Hose ng gasul nga pala’y nginatngat kamakailan,
kaya ilang lutuan lamang ang
itinagal ng gasul.
Naobligang palitan
ang hose.
Dagdag kaltas sa kakarampot
na kinsenas na di
mapag-
dugtung-
dugtong.

Ngayong sahod ay ubos na,
pambili ng gasul ay hindi mahagilap.
Walang kapitbahay na pwedeng utangan.
Walang tago sa bangko na pwedeng i-withdraw.
Ni walang ipit sa pitaka na pandagdag sana.

Binuksan ang papunding ilaw, baka sakaling
ang isip ay luminaw.
Mamatay ba ako ng dilat
Habang ang ilaw ay paindap-indap?