Philippine Government . . . You’re Fired!

My advocacy is to reduce the Philippine Government (the “Government”) to its bare essentials. That means I will do everything I can to minimize the taxes I pay the Government and to encourage every taxpayer, individual and/or corporate, to do the same until the Government relearns its sole purpose and function—to serve the taxpayers.

The reason is simple. Since my birth nearly half a century ago, the Government has consistently proven itself to be an utterly negligent administrator of the assets of the Filipino people. The Government is not only useless, it’s downright damaging. Under any decent standard of accountability, I would have fired the Government several times over since my birth. However, given the infirmities of the Philippine Constitution (then and now) and the apparent absence of the Government’s ability to amend the Constitution (another manifestation of a dysfunctional Government), there is really no way I can “fire” the Government. No matter how negligent, how incompetent, how corrupt the Government is, I cannot fire the Government. All I can do is throw my vote (which is usually contrary to the vote of the super-majority of non-tax paying Filipinos) on a few politicians, who are mostly shady and mediocre in the first place. In essence, I am forced to pay taxes to pay people I would not even consider hiring in my own organization. And I cannot fire them. So, my solution is to pay them as little as I possibly can. Pay as little tax as possible without going to jail.

I have spent my entire adult life as a productive economic citizen paying fulsome taxes supporting a Government that does me a great disservice. So now that I am no longer employed, I will resort to guerilla tactics to destroy in my own very limited way no less than a monster leech of Philippine society—the Government. Imagine the ultimate potential when all taxpayers come together to stop paying taxes to cripple the Government and to finally dictate what the Government should do for the taxpayers—instead of the Government throwing away our hard earned money and resources to programs that are unimportant to taxpayers but merely perpetuate the parasitic existence of Government.

Let’s start with the mismanagement of Philippine forests. The total land area of the Philippines is roughly 30 million hectares. In 1955, approximately 15 million hectares were covered in forests. Philippine forest land is under the ownership of the Government and has been managed mainly for timber production. Usufructory rights to timber resources have been awarded to the private sector through leasehold contracts called logging concessions or timber license agreements (“TLA”). Poor monitoring and enforcement of such logging concessions, including kickback schemes between government officials and private concessionaires, led to the rape and pillage of such forests, thereby diminishing severely the forest resource base (and its contribution to the economy) of the Philippines and causing serious long-term environmental damage—including the destruction of aquifers, massive soil erosion and catastrophic flooding. Today (2011), the Philippines may have less than 2 million hectares of forests left. The Government will refute this and say it has more. It’s a lie like most declarations of the Government to cover its filthy ass. Every year, during the summer season, it is increasingly difficult to tap into natural water sources and, during the rainy season, massive landslides occur in many denuded areas, burying whole towns and killing hundreds of individuals at a time. Downstream, prime agricultural lands are experiencing increasingly severe floods, destroying billions of pesos of crops and pushing our farmers deeper into poverty. For more than half a century, the Government, in cahoots with the political and military leadership, has systematically stolen a priceless resource from the Filipino taxpayer and, in fact, is responsible for all the unnecessary loss of life, property and crops in connection with landslides and floods due to denudation.

The question is, why is the Government still in charge of taking care of our forests, when it clearly has bungled the job from the outset and continues to bungle the job today? Short of an amendment to the Constitution yanking out the Government as the administrator of forests and assigning the job to some reputable non-profit NGO to re-establish 15 million hectares of Philippine forest again, then each centavo spent on this Government to care for our forest is wasted money.

Another example of the Government’s extreme wastage is evident in the evolution of the Philippine power sector. The National Power Corporation or NAPOCOR was like most national/government integrated power utilities that was responsible for supplying electricity (power generation), transmitting electricity over long distances at high voltages (power transmission) and distributing electricity to customers (power distribution). This was most apparent during the Marcos Dictatorship in which NAPOCOR took over the Manila Electric Company (MERALCO, the power distribution utility in Metro Manila), thereby having virtual control over the three (3) sub-sectors of the power utility infrastructure: generation, transmission and distribution.

The tenure of NAPOCOR, representing the Government’s control of the power sector, saw the systemic degradation of the entire power utility infrastructure in the Philippines. NAPOCOR evolved into a bloated, inefficient, incompetent and unresponsive government organization that ran its facilities to the ground. In the early 1990’s, the Philippines experienced 12-hour power outages everyday, which was eventually fixed after legislation allowed the private sector to build, operate and own power plants that sell electricity to NAPOCOR—at a premium price. In the meantime, NAPOCOR incurred over 20% of the total National Government debt by 2001 (i.e., US$9.355 of the total government debt of US$46.31).

At this time, another critical law on the power sector was passed (EPIRA of 2001). Unfortunately, it was practically drafted by the most powerful vested interest in the Philippine power sector—the Lopez Group, which had by then recovered MERALCO from the Government. EPIRA allowed cross-ownership between power generation and power distribution, permitting the Lopez Group to self-deal by way of selling electricity from a subsidiary power plant to a subsidiary power distributor at the expense of the consumer. To make matters worse, when the Lopez Group lost control of MERALCO and the legislature could finally plug the cross-ownership hole in EPIRA, the lawmakers sat idle while another business group (Salim et al and a foreign group at that through the money laundering enterprise of Manny Pangilinan) took control of MERALCO and set-up their own power generation enterprise to continue self-dealing at the expense of consumers.

In the absence of true competition in the power generation sector, it is no wonder the electricity rates in the Philippines are now the highest in Asia. In short, the Government ran our entire power utility infrastructure into the ground, brought in the private sector to fix its problems (albeit at a premium price to consumers), contributed substantially to the hemorrhaging national debt, and sits idly while vested interests promulgated and perpetuated legislation and policies that limit true competition in power generation for the benefit of consumers. It takes several decades to mess-up such a critical sector in an economy and the Government did just that with the Philippine power sector over the past 60 years. As if that wasn’t enough, this is the same Government responsible for the over-priced and unutilized Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.

The good news is NAPOCOR has actually been fired, over ten (10) years ago, when EPIRA became law and the privatization of NAPOCOR commenced. The question is, why does NAPOCOR still exist? The answer is, to mismanage again at the expense of taxpayers whatever little is left for it to manage, which is the Small Power Utility Group or SPUG. Even SPUG should be privatized, so that electricity supplied to far flung islands and areas is done with the minimum intervention of the Government. If SPUG needs to be subsidized, then the Government should just subsidize the electricity rate of the private enterprises providing the service—just get the Government out of the way.

Another question is, how much longer will the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM, a new government corporation) exist, when it has had over 10 years (as of June 2011) to privatize the assets of NAPOCOR and program the still very substantial “residual” debt that is left behind in spite of (or maybe because of) all these years of machinations? Will PSALM evolve into another leech in Government with an over-extended life, using up taxes for nothing?

What about plugging the hole of self-dealing between affiliated companies in power generation and power distribution, and creating a truly competitive power generation sub-sector? PSALM is even more liable than the legislature for standing idle as the Lopez Group lost control of MERALCO, as it is suppose to make the Philippine power sector more competitive and consumer-friendly. Nee haa nee hoe. There is no cross-ownership allowed in the transmission sub-sector, and the same should have applied between the generation and the distribution sub-sectors from the outset of EPIRA. Then, Government should stay the hell out of the way.

Government should be out of everything in the power sector except in regulation. Taxes should be invested in improving the skills, competence and integrity of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC). The irony is this, the more deregulated the power industry, the more sophisticated regulation is required of the regulatory body—and that is the ERC, which remains a political lapdog at its current stage of evolution.

Government land and squatters—these two elements consistently go hand in hand. That is because the Government is a lazy and corrupt caretaker of public land. Instead of diligently securing public land under its care, government officials ignore and even encourage the encroachment of informal settlers into such public lands—often exacting a bribe for the use of such public land—until the same is jam-packed with squatters like sardines. As if devaluing public lands with squatters is not enough, the same squatters are then paid by government officials to vacate public land using—you guessed it—taxpayers’ money. Just look at the experience of the Philippine National Railway. Talk about being raped then sodomized by Government.

Philippine forests, power infrastructure and government land are a few examples of precious and tangible assets that have been mismanaged and wasted by the Government at the grave expense of the Filipinos. Yet, greater damage has been done on more precious (albeit intangible) resources. For instance, the integrity of our judiciary, the third branch and last bastion of the Government, has been so completely eroded that our judicial system is not only a failed system but one that continues to bring us to ever increasing heights of institutional perversity.

It was well-known within the inner sanctum of Government that Chief Justice Narvasa was on the payroll of Lucio Tan; hence, the landmark Supreme Court decision to acquit Lucio Tan’s companies of P26 billion of taxes (when the exchange rate was about P26 = US$1). That marked an all time low in the history of the Philippine judiciary, which appears to be reprised in recent events by no less than the same star studded cast of Lucio Tan and, premier attorney for super-crooks, Estelito Mendoza.

No wonder none of the Marcoses have been jailed for either their ill-gotten wealth or for their crimes against humanity. Not a single word of apology from the Marcos brethren who are back in power with a vengeance, a fully-loaded war chest and an overwhelming arrogance that will stop at nothing to revise Philippine history. Even Marcos cronies like Bobby Ongpin can launder money, secure behest loans and engage in insider trading with impunity and with the characteristic arrogance and offensive tact of the Marcos regime. No wonder Erap continues to brush aside the judiciary that had adjudged him guilty of plunder by unilaterally insisting on his righteousness without any hint of remorse. No wonder GMA and the rest of her family continue to make a mockery of the pending graft cases against them. These are but a few grand manifestations of a cancer that has metastasized extensively into the farthest reaches and tiniest nooks and crannies of the Philippine judiciary.

I cannot articulate any better than Conrado de Quiros my disgust for the Philippine Supreme Court in his Philippine Daily Inquirer editorial dated October 11, 2011 entitled “Impeach Them” which I reprint in its entirety below.

Only a month ago, the Supreme Court spoke thus:

“PAL appeared to have deliberately omitted the portions of the Court’s Resolution…that not only referred to our original finding that PAL failed to observe the proper procedures and requirements of a valid retrenchment but…also reaffirmed (it). Thus, PAL appears to us to be less than honest in its claim.”

“Wherefore it resolves to deny with finality respondent PAL’s second motion for reconsideration. No further pleadings shall be entertained.”

Now it squeaks thus:

The wrong division ruled on the case. Wherefore, “pursuant to the internal rules of the Supreme Court, the court en banc resolves to accept (the case). The court en banc further resolves to recall the resolution dated Sept. 7, 2011, issued by the Second Division.”

What did it take for the Court to go in but one cycle of the moon from its Olympian stance to this head-scratching, idiot-faced grinning, “Ay mali”-spouting dance today?

A letter from Estelito Mendoza, Lucio Tan’s lawyer.

It was not a dramatic revelation that it was Fasap in fact and not PAL management that had been “less than honest in its claim.” It was not a thunderous presentation of new evidence that the flight attendants had in fact been falsifying documents or making erroneous calculations. It was not an earthshaking demonstration that PAL in fact had been overpaying its flight crew or inundating them with benefits.

It was in fact: A letter from Estelito Mendoza, Lucio Tan’s lawyer. A letter that said the wrong division ruled on the case. A letter that had the justices piously saying, “Amen.”

That cynical, mindless, sniveling stupidity cannot possibly come from a Supreme Court. There is no other way to explain this barefaced, in-your-face, dirty-finger-shoving display of naked perfidy. It does not show how much the justices thought about this, it shows how much the justices were paid for this.

The issue here is no longer about labor, it is about integrity. The issue is no longer about Fasap, it is about the Supreme Court. The issue is no longer about whether the flight attendants, who have been dismissed unjustly, have a right to be paid what they lost. The issue is whether the justices, who have been dishing out injustice for so long, have a right to exist.

They do not. They have no right to exist on three grounds.

One is for making a mockery of justice. Or more to the point, for assuring that no one can possibly get any justice. Or still more to the point, for assuring that the rich can get away with murder. That is what their decision to open a case that has been ruled upon “with finality” means. Final means end. There is no such thing as “more final,” or “most final,” or “most most final,” ad infinitum. This is by no means the first time the Supreme Court has done this, to the monumental chagrin of the poor plaintiff or defendant who thought he had won his case. I’ve written about this before and vituperated against this before. In the case of Fasap, this is the third time they’ve won their case only to see that victory dashed to pieces. Bob Anduiza, the Fasap president, has a point: That is like having three overtimes in a basketball game not with the score tied but with one team having already won. That is not a game, that is a joke. There can be no justice with a finality that has no finality. Who stands to gain from this? The rich. They can always get a case that has gone against them reopened by buying off the justices. Yes, buying off, let’s call a spade a spade. Or bloody murder, which is what they will quite literally get away with. Time is on their side. Money is on their side. The crooks are on their side.

Two is for having no business being justices. What idiocy is this that the Second Division had been deliberating on PAL’s second motion without knowing all along that the Third Division should really be doing it? You hold the life of people in your hands and don’t even know you have no right to? If so, then the justices should be stripped of their robes and sent back to law school to learn the basics of court procedure, quite apart from the basics of human decency. If so, then the culprits should have nothing to do with the Supreme Court, they should have to do only with Lucky Me Supreme. My apologies to Lucky Me. While at that, even on a procedural note, isn’t there a rule that says that someone might challenge the ruling of a division—whether it is the right division or not, or indeed whether the proper forum is a division or the Court en banc—only before it has ruled and not after?

Three is for being a–hole. That is the most solid ground of all. That is the most compelling reason of all. Do they have any idea what they’re doing to people who have already been victims of a humongous injustice? I don’t know which is worse, an owner who runs an airline like a taho factory or judges who run their courts like a talipapa, rulings sell cheaper by the dozen. I do know what’s worse than flight attendants being tossed away like used condoms after they’ve served faithfully and well. That is being told they’ll finally get justice and restitution, only to have those snatched away from them at the last minute. Again and again. That is subjecting them to a roller-coaster ride of joy and grief with no end in sight. To appreciate how that feels, the justices should have their pay—or forget their pay, their bribes—withheld from them at the last minute. Again and again. With no end in sight.

We have only three options. One is to abolish the Supreme Court. Two is to scrap the justices and just appoint Estelito Mendoza, the lawyer of Lucio Tan, Supreme Arbiter. Three, and far more sanely: Freaking impeach them.

Amen! However, since we are really unable to fire any branch of the Government, I say we, the individual and corporate taxpayer, do everything we can to minimize the taxes we pay the Government and to encourage every taxpayer, individual and/or corporate, to do the same until the Government agrees to do the bidding of the taxpayers. If this doesn’t work, then the next step is a coordinated and swift course of action to stop paying taxes altogether to paralyze Government completely and to force Government to do the bidding of the taxpayers. It’s about time the people paying the bills (the taxpayers) are given a voice in the Philippines and our first action item is to fire the Government!

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Post Author: Virtual Vigilante