Friday, August 31, 2012

End of Month Ramble

I like to ease up on the last day of the month. Take my rest. So kindly allow me a little gossip here.

  • I understand the bumble bees are after newly appointed Chief Justice Sereno, digging digging into history and some of her problems. Well, we can always condemn people, after all there is not a Jesus amongst us. But maybe we should apply a little Jesus-of-heart and let the Lady Chief Justice focus on her work rather than force her into a lot of bee-swatting. You know, for the good of the nation.

There is no benefit to beating her down and continuing the disruption that has characterized the Supreme Court for three years now. Leave that bloodletting stuff to ABS-CBN, the penetrating news that they do.

  • Senator Sotto is a piece of work, eh? What a sneaky legislative priest he makes. Because he plagiarized and got slapped down, he now wants vengeance.  He wants to pass a "Blogging Regulation Bill" that restrains the free speech rights of the people who stung him. Perhaps he does not grasp that the public is one of the key checks and balances of a vibrant democracy. Or he does, and he is just a scam artist and thug.

I don't think I've ever seen a man with less humility. He makes George Bush look positively sweet.

  • The Senate Ethics Committee is missing in action. You say you want to know why the Philippines is an undisciplined nation of lawbreakers and cheats and extrajudicial murderers? Just look for the trend-setters, the leaders without an evolved sense of right and wrong, or without the um . . . stamina . . . to act on it.

I love the clouds in the Philippines. If you have ever lived in Los Angeles, you understand. There the sky is usually a pasty shade of grey-brown, horizon to horizon. Here, you get those glorious cumulus monsters that pile high, dark gray at the bottom, crystal white on top. Grand puffy white islands floating in a sea of blue. The electrical charges from the monsters sparkle all night long, sometimes here, sometimes way over there.  The night skies in the Philippines are just huge.

The day is not bad, either.

Sunsets, rainbows. Silver off the sea. It is more colorful in the Philippines. No place does green better than the Philippines.

My wife has started talking about a trip to Hong Kong. She said "for Christmas." I said "No way." Travel during the Christmas break is a good way not to enjoy the holiday.

We'll yank the kid from school and go when every one else is not heading for the airport.

I was wondering what we would do in Hong Kong. Then I remembered all the jewelry stores with their shiny Chinese gold and I suspect my wife already has an agenda lined up. The kid and I will ride the ferry back and forth whilst the little lady applies her shopping skills.

  • Memo to self. Double the budget.

I am constantly amused by the stupidity of mankind. Such intelligent creatures, murdering each other with increasing technological prowess.

Mitt Romney. I wonder what kind of president he would make. His campaign is just a pack of accusations and lies, thoroughly sottofied. But Americans are stupid in their desires for a glory candidate who will take the burden of no jobs and underwater mortgages off their backs, so he is competing well. No matter that it is all illusion.

President Obama made the biggest mistake of his career in accepting full responsibility for the economy a couple of years ago. If he had kept that thing plastered onto Republicans, he'd be a shoe-in for re-election. Now he has to work hard for it. I get beggar memos from Democrats every day asking for a $3 donation, or more. The classy Michele Obama and loose lipped but loveable V.P. Joe Biden are among my best pen-pals, even though I never write back.

I enjoy the blog comments y'all offer up. They keep the old cranial gears cranking. Lots of good, incisive thinking. No bitter attacks on each other, striving for wins by trying to impose losses on someone else.  The way it should be.

Nary a Sotto amongst us.


One-Term Presidency

The U.S is engaged in a presidential election and we are almost half-way through President Aquino's term. So we have a cross-cultural moment here, two different points of view on presidential term limits.

The U.S. president has the opportunity to serve two four-year terms if he can get re-elected for the second term. The Philippine president serves six years and is then done.

It is striking to me how long it takes for big progress to be made. The U.S. is still struggling from the economic collapse underway when President Obama took office. The Philippines is still a fundamentally corrupt place and Ms. Arroyo is lingering seemingly unattended. These are very large boats, these ships of state.

Every once in a while you can find mention of a new Constitutional Committee in the Philippines but you never find out what the exact INTENT would be.  To extend the term of the President? To allow 100% foreign ownership of businesses? To get rid of the Commission on Appointments which is so politicized as to be dangerous? To get more federal in structure? To allow U.S. bases?

People seem to think it is advisable to re-write the Constitution but they won't be candid enough to say why. Not until they've gathered up support for their secret plans.

I rather see the existing Constitution as a good basic document, and I don't like the idea of a heavy-duty re-write. Once the Constitutional Committee begins operating, nobody knows what worms will crawl out of the woodwork. It is likely to be a contentious exercise that further tears the nation apart rather than unifying and building it. The exercise would bog Congress down in about a year of non-productive work when the nation really needs to get things done. Like the RH Bill, Divorce Bill, FOI Bill, Political Party Development Bill, Taxation bills, and other steps to make the nation free, modern and productive.

I think it is better to do a few targeted amendments to the Constitution and get on with the business of improving the way government agencies operate. Especially the courts. Why introduce massive changes to the laws of the land when the enforcement disciplines now are in disarray and laws are substantially meaningless?

Here are three amendments I'd suggest be made:

  • Change the amendment process to allow amendments to the Constitution at any time they are properly approved rather than limiting it to one amendment every five years. The five-year barrier means the most important document in the land is not able to keep up with rapid advances in society.

  • Permit 100% foreign ownership of businesses under specific guidelines that bar foreign ownership of critical businesses like communications. Include anti-trust provisions that bar foreign dominance in any particular industry. . . like mining. Bring investor money in, but don't allow it to overpower domestic interests.

  • Change the term of the presidency to two four-year terms. Six years and out is somehow weak. The President is just getting going then, bam, out. The four-year benchmark is a checkpoint. If the President is doing well, he gets to keep going. If not, get someone in who can. And if he earns four more years in power, he is not cemented in place for so long that he dominates the political landscape and forces out opposition. It's a good balance. Adjust legislator and other elected positions to the presidential four-year cycles.

The core Constitution, which is solid, stays in place and is not vulnerable to surprise or unplanned changes.

The Constitution is open to planned changes to keep pace with knowledge and the demands on an emerging First Class nation.

Allow President Aquino to stand for election for another four year term in the 2016 election. Six years and out is not enough time to seat his progressive changes. If the people disagree, they can opt for the opposing candidate.

Plus, Mar Roxas is still young. He could do with a little more seasoning.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Anchor for Morality

Morality = manner, character, proper behavior.

Joe Am doesn't like statistics, but he'll deal with the little rascals from time to time.

  • “For simple replacement of the population to keep up with deaths, most people assume that the average family size should be 2 children, or perhaps 2.1 or 2.2 to make up for human error. But these figures are too low, as has been shown by Prof. Hubert Campbell of the Department of Medical Statistics, University of Wales. Campbell came to the conclusion that the figure should be over 2.4 children per family. His reasoning was based on the premise that every woman should leave behind her at least one fertile daughter. To achieve this, allowance must be made for the fact that at birth there is a 1-percent preponderance of boys; there is a high infant death rate in the first year or two; about 10 percent of the girls will not marry; and of those who do, some 10 percent will prove to be sterile. These figures add up to about 2.43 children per family. If this is the figure needed for replacement, that for healthy growth must be about 4.0.” Fr. Desmond Morrison, Missionary Society of St. Columban, as reported in the Inquirer

So the good Father is arguing that the current Philippine growth rate of 4.0 is healthy. Never mind that he got from his "sustainable" number of 2.43 to the "ideal" number of 4.00 on a huge wing and a prayer. His moral statement is based on "the sanctity of unborn life" and he shapes his statistics accordingly.

World Population Growth - Historical
Fr. Morrison brings the population argument into the RH debate even though politicians want it out. That is akin to bringing the abortion debate into the argument about contraceptives. Fight reason with fire and brimstone, an commonly Catholic way of arguing. Ask Tito Sotto about that. 

The RH Bill has been sanitized to remove any kind of population planning goals in order to focus strictly on women's health. This is the result of political game-playing, the challenge of what a Congress must do to pass responsible legislation when a loud voice of moral outrage from the Catholic Church inserts itself into the legislative process. Bop and weave, duck and cover, sanitize and pray.

  • An estimated 350 million women in the poorest countries of the world either did not want their last child, do not want another child or want to space their pregnancies, but they lack access to information, affordable means and services to determine the size and spacing of their families. wikipedia

That suggests a moral imperative based on "the sanctity of  a woman's life". You either want to end this condition  of suffering or you accept it. The Catholic Church has no suggestions as to how to end it other than natural birth control, which creates the condition. In other words, no workable suggestions.

We can get dizzy on statistics, eh? Link up to that wikipedia article and you will read the most elaborate review on overpopulation imaginable. You like facts, go there. Or go here.

I want to discuss the foundations of morality. What should we use to anchor our values?

  • The bible, and what the Catholic Church says? Or a competing religion, Islam? Or Mormonism like U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The religion anchor.

  • The suffering of the poor? The suffering of women, burdened with ignorance and babies they can't feed or teach? Or the suffering of the disadvantaged in Africa, in insane asylum, or in Topeka, Kansas? The Mother Teresa anchor.

  • The macro-view of a planet being eaten alive and slopped full of pollution by its people-rodents? Ecology and sustaining our miserable little lives? The eco-anchor.

We get to choose, so what is the best anchor of our values?

Well, I choose the family as the foundation of my moral initiatives going forward. And emphatically, specifically, the kids alive today.

Not the sperm or the hatchling that endangers a mother's health or will be raised as an object of hatred and resentment destined to become terror on earth.  I don't like abortions. I like even less presuming I know better than others what hard choices they need to make. And I detest when the State steps in to shove its morality into mine, thereby giving Friars or communists or idiots the right to make decisions that I have to live with.

I choose the family - the mother, the father and the children - as the foundation of my moral initiatives.

The two important facets of family life that need to be built and preserved and even held precious are. (1) health, which encompasses safety, security, sanitation, and means (money), and (2) enlightenment, which encompasses education and good living.


I believe that the health of Filipino families is connected directly to having readily available supplies of food, water and jobs. The planet and the nation are slow-moving ships, difficult to turn, and they are on a course where resource limits slam into the bow like an ice berg. That's dangerous.

We have a lot of people living in an increasingly risky climate with untold disasters awaiting the unprepared. Water shortages already abound with sometimes violent competition, farmers versus cities. We encounter more and more food shortages with whole crops placed at risk by violent and sustained swings in weather.

Other nations have adjusted direction, pulling population growth down to levels they can support. The Philippines has only now recognized that it has a steering wheel and ought to be using it. The RH Bill and the dialogue around it are already helping the Philippines. Passing the Bill would help it more.

I am confident that a great enlightenment is slowly spreading across the Philippines, and the population explosion will start to moderate. I'm taking this off of my carping agenda because I think responsible people will get the ship to turn.
Projected population growth rates

However, there is so much more to do to assure the health of Philippine families. To get kids off the trash dumps scrapping for food, to get them bathed, to give them clean water and soap, to get them to competent doctors when they are sick.

If you put the child's health at the center point of your morality, and look around the Philippines, you stand aghast, absolutely agape, at the enormous failings of Philippine values. Young girls sold for sex. Kids age nine sent to the cane fields. Homes on the mud banks, filled with kids. Kids packed 45 to a room in open air school buildings then released into the civilized world, still ignorant about the finer details of obeying laws, being courteous and living responsibly.

It does no good to complain, to accuse, to excuse.

It only does good to get to work to do a better job of fending for the kids.

The goal: health of the family.


This is difficult. The opposite of enlightenment, ignorance, occurs at two planes. One is among the wealthiest of Filipino citizens, the oligarchs and political families, the politicians, the movers and shakers. The other is among the poorest of Filipino citizens, the squatters and day workers who can barely make ends meet.

  • Ignorance of the elite. I consider the oligarchs and their brothers of ego ignorant because they prize a harmful value, the value of self-interest over community. They fail to grasp that their kind of achievement, wealth and good living, is done on the backs of a lot of good people. It is a short-term achievement, the glory and satisfaction they personally get during their lifetime. It is a long term disaster for the nation's well-being, a well-being long suffering, long ignored. Favors and cheating and who-you-know become the blanket that suffocates good deeds. How do you infuse an oligarch with the compassion and generosity and patriotism that brings progress to a hidebound nation? It is, after all, a hidebound nation. ("hidebound" = stubborn, narrow minded; as in unable to change)

  • Ignorance of the poor. How do you break the cycle? Poor uneducated parents setting poor examples for kids who have to compete in a world that gives few breaks. Poor education. No reading. Superstition ruling medicine and faith. Kids 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 getting precious little nurturing. What kind of self esteem, what kind of psychological composition, do we expect from this family? Achievement or anger? Giving or taking? Thinking or thoughtlessness?

One thing I know is that you cannot remain the same and change. You can't hang onto the ignorance and become enlightened.

There is a huge mandate for the Department of Education to do more, and do it better. Not just build buildings and hire teachers or bicker about English vs. Tagalog. To CHANGE what is taught and how it is taught.

And there needs to be a mandate for laws that separate oligarchs from governance, and the Church from governance. And to break up the goliath corporations that block wholesome competition. To break up the cozy self-serving patronage of the society of good old boys. There also needs to be a way to impose responsibility on legislators and judges.

But how?

These institutions are burdening Filipino families in ways we can't easily see. In time, and given a few blogs, I'll point out some of the connections.

The goal: enlightenment of the family.

The Family as the Center of Morality

You'll start to see some new themes in Joe Am's articles. I'll set aside over-birthing and population growth, and even my ragging on the Catholic Church, for a different set of priorities.

I've already done a lot of writing about education. And will do more.

But I really want to attack some of the roots of the failure of the Philippines to change. To progress.

To take care of its kids.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

On Probation: Chief Justice Maria Lourdes A. Sereno

JoeAm has been running a series of articles focused on "A First Class Philippines", working his way past the sensationalist media which tend to focus on flaws and the anti-thugs who relentlessly tear down the Philippines and anybody who objects to their obnoxious line.

It is too early to rate newly appointed Chief Justice Maria Lourdes A. Sereno. The appointment itself is first class, continuing President Aquino's penchant for finding good, sincere, honest, bright, capable people to put into key offices. But the proof is in the judicial pudding and that will take a couple of years to bake.

I laugh when the antis condemn the President for picking a judge who has ruled sympathetically to his own thinking, for instance, on the attempted midnight escape of ex-President Arroyo. As if the President would be smart to pick someone sure to UNDERMINE his efforts to build a responsible, honest, capable Philippine government. Like that would be smart!  Hoo ha.

There is no doubt that CJ Sereno has the POTENTIAL to be rated First Class as a Chief Justice. She has the knowledge of law, the independence of thinking, the intelligence and the experience to be successful. But she must do some very important things to prove her mettle:

Wean herself from the Executive Branch.
Okay, good joke. Now get to work!

Okay, smiles and cheers, we are all on the same page here, happy with the appointment, as we can see in the enclosed photo grabbed from the PCIJ blog. But the Judiciary must stand independent so that it can responsibly and independently rule on cases that involve the Executive Branch.

CJ Sereno must show, without question, that she is not a lackey of the President. She does not have to rule against him to do that. She has to rule intelligently and forthrightly with a keen eye on the law. History suggests she can do this.

Assure Transparency and Honorableness

Judges in the Philippines do not reveal their personal wealth. You know the reason as well as I do: enrichment derived from determinations "in law" that go to the litigating party that pays the most. This must change or the courts will remain suspect. SALN's must be the rule, not the exception. And the transparency has to be in enough detail to track the money year-to-year.

The excuses for continuing to operate in secret are infantile. "People will harass them. Their families will be open to kidnapping if their wealth is evident." So on the infinitesimal chance harm might come to a judge, the whole judicial system is opened to bribes and secretive behavior.

  • You know, my scale of pros and cons broke when I loaded those arguments on. Snapped.

The notion that judges are on the take is disgusting. The place where the law is rendered simply must be impeccable to be respectable.

CJ Sereno must clean up the corruption and get judges focused on law, not favoritism. Transparency of financial records is an important first step.

Build Efficiency

The Judiciary has in place some of the basic disciplines to drive toward better efficiency. For example, the number of rulings issued by court are tracked. This kind of statistical accountability is important. Not only number of cases, but cases by type, and number or percentage of cases appealed, and the record on appeal: judgments endorsed or reversed.

But the compilation of statistics is not enough.

The question needs to be asked, substantively, "What are we doing in our courts? How can we focus energies where they will do the most to build respect for law in the Philippines?"

Here is an example. Annulment hearings take a tremendous amount of judicial time. In the Philippines, marriage is a contract with no termination provision. When husband and wife both want out of the contract, the State insists that they remain in it, and holds numerous hearings to disprove assertions contrary to the State's authority. How ridiculous on two counts: (1) that so much judicial energy is spent on minor family matters where there is no serious offense, and (2) that the State sets out with the intent to prove both litigating parties wrong, for wanting an end to the marriage.

Why not simply stipulate that both parties want the marriage to end, and end it?

If this cannot be done within the Judiciary, than appeal to the Legislature for a Divorce Bill to take the hefty burden of mediating domestic issues off the courtrooms and judges.

Change the fundamental rationale of what the courts SHOULD be doing, which is to focus on the greatest harm, and get rid of the nuisance cases that take up so much time and energy.

Speed of resolution is ESSENTIAL for justice to be fair. If a case cannot be ruled on expediently, dismiss it. Stop punishing people without cause. The presumption of innocence should prevail. It scares you to release people like ex-President Arroyo? Then get the damn case to trial!!

Build Law Discipline

Philippine case law is a mess because too many rulings are based on favors and favorites rather than law. Appeals galore, reversals from this administration to the next, cases in the courts for 25 years knocking about without resolution (the Hacienda). A mess.

CJ Sereno must begin to build quality into legal renditions. Excellent, law-based judges need to be promoted. Poor judges need to be pushed down or out. Attorneys must meet rigorous ethical standards. Perhaps a scoring system is needed to evaluate attorneys on capability and performance. Not to mention judges.

Build the quality, where administrative efficiency and legal precision are fundamental requirements. Pay well for judges who demonstrate that quality. Prune the rotten fruit.

CJ Sereno's advantage is fundamentally that the Judiciary is on bottom now and the only direction is up.

Our Verdict

Two year's of probation. Report to the people regularly.


Profile of Chief Justice Sereno (Source:

Associate Justice Maria Lourdes A. Sereno is the first appointee to the Supreme Court (SC) by Pres. Noynoy Aquino and the youngest among the nominees for Chief Justice coming from the high tribunal.

She was born on July 2, 1960; she is 52 years old.

She completed her law degree at the University of the Philippines (UP) in 1984 as Class Valedictorian and cum laude.

As pre-law, she took up AB Economics at the Ateneo De Manila University (ADMU) where she graduated in 1980.

She completed her secondary education in 1976 at the Quezon City High School, with Honors; her elementary education was completed in 1972 when she graduated Class Salutatorian from the Kamuning Elementary School.

She had her post-graduate degree at the UP School of Economics with the Master of Arts in Economics Program which she finished in 1992. In 1993, she completed another masteral degree, this time, Master of Laws, at the University of Michigan, Michigan, USA.

Justice Sereno was appointed to the Supreme Court on Aug. 13, 2010.

Professional background

She started her career in private practice as a junior associate of the Sycip Salazar Feliciano and Hernandez law firm in 1986.

Starting in1994 up to 2008, she served as legal counsel of various government offices such as the Office of the President (OP), Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), Dept. of Trade and Industry (DTI), and WTO-AFTA. Sometime between 1995 to 1996, she headed the Information and Public Division office of the UP Law Complex.

Also, in 1995, she served as consultant for Judicial Reform of the UNDP, WB, and USAID; she served in this capacity up to 2002.

From 1996 to 1999, she was Director of the UP Institute of Legal Studies.

In 1998, she was a counsellor of the WTO Appellate Body.

In 1999, she served as Commissioner and Chairperson of the Steering Committee of the Preparatory Commission on Constitutional Reform.

Sereno was a lecturer at the Dept. of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Foreign Service Institute from 1996 to 2007.

She served as a lecturer in Electronic Commerce Law at the AIM in 2000, at the same time, at the Murdoch University lecturing on International Business Law from 2001 t0 2002. She also lectured on International Business Law at the University of Western Australia from 2003 up to 2007.

In 2004, she was a lecturer on International Trade Law at the Hague Academy of International Law.

She was a longtime professor at the UP, teaching for 20 years, from 1986 to 2002.

She became the Executive Director of the AIM in 2009, a post she held on to for a year.

Sereno became president of ACCESSLAW, Inc. in 2000, a post she continues to enjoy up to the present.

Awards, other credentials

In her 25 years as a lawyer and educator, Sereno received the following awards:

- 1998 Outstanding Women in the Nation's Service
- 2000 Most Outstanding Alumna Award, Quezon City High School
- 2003 Most Oustanding Alumna Award, Kamuning Elementary School
- 1991 Provincial Citation, Camarines Sur

She was also able to edit the book, Thirty Years and Beyond (UP Law, 1997).

Sereno was the key writer on Law and Economics and the Constitution and Judicial Review of Economic Decisions.

She also drafted the legal framework for the operations of the first paperless trading of securities in the country for the Bureau of Treasury (BT).

Endorsements for Chief Justice, oppositions

Sereno was not automatically nominated for the top judicial post for being one of the most junior magistrates of the Supreme Court, rather, she was nominated by the following:

- Felma Roel Singco (June 13, 2012)
- Reagan De Guzman (June 13, 2012)
- Atty. Fidel Thaddeus Borja (June 14, 2012)
- Attys. Jordan Pizarras, et al. (June 15, 2012)
- Christian Legal Society through Atty. Salvador Fabregas (June 14, 2012)
- Bishop Efraim Tendero (June 18, 2012)
- UP Women's Circle (June 13, 2012)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A First Class Philippines: Amando Tetangco, Jr.

What should we look for in selecting a responsible head of  Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the central bank of the Philippines which stands as an institutional peer to the powerful Federal Reserve Bank in the United States?

  • How about we look for a person like Amando Tetangco, Jr. , a first class governor?

The BSP has as its charter managing inflation and contributing to the stability and fundamentals of a strong economy. It is a technical job.

 The BSP also regulates Philippine banks and other financial institutions.

We should look for someone who stands apart from politics for this job. Managing the nation's financial dials and knobs is rather like working the gas pedal of a car, not something to be messed with for flighty political gain.

  • BSP Governor Tetangco has worked effectively under both President Arroyo and President Aquino. His eyes are focused on the financial  ball, not the political game-playing.

Second, we should look for someone who knows the workings of the BSP inside out, who understands the economic and financial underpinnings of a complex nation, and who can lead and direct monetary policy and keep banks strong and solvent.

  • Governor Tetangco has been with the Central Bank since 1974 and has held a variety of increasingly responsible technical and management positions within the organization. Before being appointed head of BSP, he was Deputy Governor and chief regulator of banks. Philippine banks are healthy and growing well, a sound financial foundation for the nation.

The Philippine economy is broad but thin. A little fragile and underpowered. The nation cannot afford a gambler or loose technical head of BSP. It requires discipline.

  • Global Finance Magazine gives Mr. Tetangco an "A" grade. He is one of six top central bankers to receive the A grade in 2012. Other "A" grades were assigned to Australia, Canada, Israel, Malaysia, and Taiwan. Mr. Bernake of the United States got a "B". Mr. Tetangco also received the "A" grade in 2006, 2007 and 2011.

The Philippine economy is more stable than most, if we simply go by the record. Growth is good, inflation is modest, unemployment is within reason and investors are pouring money into the nation; stocks are roaring and debt ratings are improving. Debt will be investment grade next year in all likelihood.

I looked for dirt on Mr. Tetangco, for criticism and condemnation. For scandals.

I came up empty.

He is an economist and professional banker. He is not a politician, not a fame-seeker, not a showman.

Mr. Tetangco is a rock of stability and capability, a First Class Filipino helping to build a First Class Philippines.


Amando Tetangco, Jr. assumed office as Governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas[1] starting July 2005. He served two presidents - Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Benigno Aquino III. He is a career central banker, occupying different positions in the organization in a span of over three decades. Immediately prior to his appointment as BSP Governor, he was Deputy Governor in-charge of the Banking Services Sector, Economic Research and Treasury.

As BSP Governor, he is also the Chairman of the Monetary Board, Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) and Philippine International Convention Center (PICC); Vice-Chairman of the Agriculture Credit Policy Council (ACPC); Member of the Capital Market Development Council (CMDC), Export Development Council (EDC), PhilExport Board of Trustees (PHILEXPORT), Philippine Export-Import Credit Agency (PHILEXIM); and Director of Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation (PDIC), National Development Council (NDC) and National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation (NHMFC).

He also represents the country in various international and regional organizations, including the Executive Meeting of East Asia and Pacific (EMEAP) Central Banks; ASEAN and ASEAN+3; South East Asia Central Banks (SEACEN); South East Asia, New Zealand and Australia (SEANZA); Center for Latin American Monetary Studies (CEMLA); and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). He is the Governor for the Philippines in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Alternate Governor in the World Bank (WB) and in the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Before joining the Central Bank of the Philippines in 1974, Mr. Tetangco was connected with the Management Services Division of accounting firm SGV & Co.

Mr. Tetangco took up AB Economics at the Ateneo de Manila University where he graduated cum laude. He took up graduate courses in business administration in the same institution. As a central bank scholar, Mr. Tetangco took up his MA in Public Policy and Administration (concentration in Development Economics) at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, USA. Earlier, he finished his elementary and high school education at Don Bosco Academy in Pampanga.

Mr. Tetangco is married to Elvira Ma. Plana. They have three children: a son and two daughters.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Senate Silence on Sotto

I wonder as to the great silence emerging from the Senate regarding the transgressions of Senator Sotto, to wit: (1) plagiarizing other people's copyrighted material, (2) using outdated material in a misleading way and out of context, (3) denying there was anything seriously wrong with what occurred, and (4) expressing absolutely zero remorse for the transgressions.

The Senate appears willing to let Senator Soto get away with it.

What do the laws say with regard to what the Senate OUGHT to be doing?

The Constitution of the Philippines:

  • Rule X. The Committees.Sec. 13. (2) Committee on Ethics and Privileges. - Seven (7) members. All matters relating to the conduct, rights, privileges, safety, dignity, integrity and reputation of the Senate and its Members.

It seems to me that the Senate is currently the laughing stock of the Philippines due to Senator Sotto's abuses and refusal to accept responsibility for them. Perhaps the Senate believes its integrity is enhanced by being the butt of so many jokes. We are all just comedians around here, eh? Clowns abound.

In 1989, two years after adoption of the Constitution, the Legislature promulgated and approved Republic Act 6713 which is the basic code of conduct and ethical standards for public officials. Here are some pertinent excerpts:


  • SECTION 4. Norms of Conduct of Public Officials and Employees. — (A) Every public official and employee shall observe the following as standards of personal conduct in the discharge and execution of official duties:

  • (b) Professionalism. — Public officials and employees shall perform and discharge their duties with the highest degree of excellence, professionalism, intelligence and skill.. . .

  • (c) Justness and sincerity. — Public officials and employees shall remain true to the people at all times. They must act with justness and sincerity and shall not discriminate against anyone, especially the poor and the underprivileged. They shall at all times respect the rights of others, and shall refrain from doing acts contrary to law, good morals, good customs, public policy, public order, public safety and public interest. . . .

SECTION 11. Penalties. — (a) Any public official or employee, regardless of whether or not he holds office or employment in a casual, temporary, holdover, permanent or regular capacity, committing any violation of this Act shall be punished with a fine not exceeding the equivalent of six (6) months' salary or suspension not exceeding one (1) year, or removal depending on the gravity of the offense after due notice and hearing by the appropriate body or agency. If the violation is punishable by a heavier penalty under another law, he shall be prosecuted under the latter statute. Violations of Sections 7, 8 or 9 of this Act shall be punishable with imprisonment not exceeding five (5) years, or a fine not exceeding five thousand pesos (P5,000), or both, and, in the discretion of the court of competent jurisdiction, disqualification to hold public office.

The mechanisms are in place to address Senator Sotto's transgressions: (1) the Committee , which is both the investigative and judicial body, and (2) the Law. The Law is clear. Professionalism, good morals, good customs, public interest.

Senator Sotto does not define the law or his innocence based on what his representative counsel states. He is an interested party. The other interested party is the Public.

Who represents the Public on this matter?

Why is the Senate silent?

It is time to move this matter past Senator Sotto and his horrendous professional behavior and ask why the Institution that is responsible for writing laws is inclined not to enforce them? I'm not an attorney, but it seems to me that:

  • Senator Sotto broke the law by failing to refrain from doing acts contrary to good morals and good customs.

  • The Senate, by not fulfilling its obligations under the Constitution, is also breaking the law.

So here we have a fundamental reason as to why there is a wide scale collapse of respect for and obedience to laws across the beautiful Philippine landscape.

No discipline. No insistence on right over wrong . . . at the highest level . . . in one of the three co-equal branches of government.

But, hey, you don't care, Senators, I don't care!

Watching the clowns. It's more fun in the Philippines!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Buy Rubber Boats! The Earth is Melting!

Typhoon Ondoy was an eye-opener for the Philippines a few years ago. People still talk about it. Secretary Teodoro lost the rubber boats and Manila washed out to sea on a river of plastic bags. Preparations are better these days, the rubber boats have been found and some communities are banning plastic bags, but too many people are still being killed during typhoons. Poor people, mostly. Steps are being taken to relocate some of the most vulnerable squatters. Oddly, it seems that some don't really want to go.

Yesterday I was reading about how la Nina conditions are posing problems for the Visayas where I live. Reducing rainfall and drying up the rice fields. I can certify that we have had about a week of nice weather. Nice from the standpoint of no rain so it is possible to go out and play badminton or go for a walk or other outdoorsy things. Our mountain range is small. Get three or more weeks of "nice" weather and our water goes dry.

It is a tad unsettling.

Two more unsettling scientific articles popped up on my news roll the other day. Same day. The headlines were a little different but they said, effectively:

  • "Antarctic Ice Melts at Record Levels"

  • "Arctic Ice at Record Lows"

So the earth is losing her polar ice both north and south. The culprits are the normal characters, warm winds and higher water temperatures and holes in the ozone layer.

You know, of course, there is a tipping point. Once the sensitive equilibrium of the earth's heating and cooling gets tipped too far toward warming, there is no way to get it back. Chaos is sure to follow, massive destruction and shocks to the eco-system, violent changes in weather patterns, starvation and anger, riots and war.

Revelations, perhaps in our time.

I've never quite understood the way the skeptics of global warming play their cards. They seem not to understand risk, and how to protect against it.  Or it is in their SHORT TERM advantage to profit and to hell with the kids. They have no conscience.

  • What do you lose if you are right about global warming, it is not an aberration but a natural earth warming cycle, but take steps to prevent it?

  • What do you lose if you are wrong about global warming, and it is an aberration? But you do nothing to stop it?

More and more studies are pointing to the reality of global warming. The Philippines is in a precarious position. It is at the divide of earth's northern and southern weather systems. The inter-tropical conversion zone bounces across the Philippines like a floppy elastic band that has lost its discipline. This typhoon season it is pushing all the storms north to blast Luzon, or move past and blast Okinawa. The Visayas are dry. If it bounces back south, then Luzon is a desert and we soak.

This is another reason why the nation's population growth, 50% higher than it ought to be, is dangerous. This is why there should be a sense of urgency to balancing out the nation's population growth and its ability to employ, feed, shelter, educate and care for that population.

It takes time to slow a huge boat, and we may not have much time left.

With climate volatility comes a greater risk to food and water supplies. I'm sorry. This is not an opinion. It is a statistical certainty. Volatility means unpredictable. And potentially extreme weather. And potentially destructive consequences. It does not mean stable and certain and predictable and benign.

The Philippines needs to get control of its resources. It needs to stop drifting down the risky slope of fate like an oarless, rudderless rubber raft ripping out-of-control down the Cagayan de Oro River, at the mercy of the rocks and currents and illegally cut logs.

Like, get a rudder, baby! Grab a paddle and work it.

Fire up the engines of competency to manage the affairs of the Philippines as if LIVES DEPENDED ON IT.

Enough of this talking and posturing as if God actually listens to prayers. I was upset that the first words out of Chief Justice Sereno's mouth was that the Constitution asks us to plead to God.

Give me a break, your honor. This humanization of God is a little much for me, as if the Constitution will soon DEMAND we plead to the Big Your Honor in the Sky or get thrown in jail.

God doesn't answer prayers like Santa Clause in a sled. He set the scene a bazillion years ago, gave us free will, and said "take your best shot." That's all.

You can't pray and make the ice stop melting.

You CAN stop birthing the nation into oblivion and eating the fields bare like locusts with brains filled with some kind of gray green glop.

How about applying some intelligence for a change, in stead of faith? How about exercising some WILL for a change, instead of just lollygagging along as if someone else will do it? As if God will do it.

Like, enough of that faith-bound mentality, that needy "God please help us" beggar mentality. I don't care if you are Chief Justice or a fisherman or a legislator. Get up and go to work.

God takes care of those who take care of themselves responsibly.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Is China Stupid? Subtitled "America, the Spinach"

Okay, just off of my latest Ken Follett novel, "Code to Zero", I'm in the mood for a little international skullduggery, spies and intrigue. Those big games of "Who Do You Trust?".

China is a masterwork of controlled public reactions. Homebound Chinese seem to be emotional people, the Italians of Asia, I guess, easily stoked into indignant, patriotic angers by captive media that tout the government's line.

We certainly know that the Philippines is painted by China as a very bad nation when conflict with China occurs over islands.  Newspapers condemn evil Filipinos and Chinese stomp about in indignant anger.

Of course, it would appear that Japan is also a very bad nation, given that Japanese activists have landed on contested islands, really irritating the Chinese. Causing them to condemn the evil Japanese and stomp . . .

And Taiwan is a bad nation when it occupies contested islands.

And South Korea . . .

And Viet Nam . . .

When will China wake up to the fact that it's divide and conquer strategy on the territorial conflicts in the West Philippine Sea is producing a hornet's nest of enemies?

And in the background stands the biggest hornet of them all, with treaties in place to defend the Philippines and South Korea and Japan if they are attacked by China.

  • At what point will the people of China, the broad masses, ask, "why do all these other countries hate China so?"

  • And the follow-up question. "Could it be something that we, China, is doing?"

Well, hallelujah, yes indeedy. It's called being an obnoxious bully and presuming that being big gives you the right to stomp around and tell everyone else what the law is without regard for their history or self-interest.

The historical document they use to claim the seas is a slap-dash nine-line drawing that was prepared by an enemy of the Chinese communist state, Chiang Kai-shek. But it is useful, so what the hey . . .

The people with insight say China is acting tough now because it is going through a transition in leadership, and leaders who aspire to remain on the job or get promoted can't appear weak. So they posture as tough. Smart politics maybe, but dumb diplomacy.

Whatever the reason, China is acting like Bluto, the big dumb lummox who was always trying to steal Popeye's goil Olive Oyl.

Well, in this modern tale, Oyl is oil and Popeye is the Philippines and America is the spinach that gives the Philippines the muscle to do what is necessary.

Like occupy its own islands and repel that lummox Bluto.

Occupy and defend.

Ken Follett might come up with something different, but that would be my strategy, acted out in concert with similar moves by Japan, and Taiwan, and South Korea, and Viet Nam and any other nation tired of being muscled around by Bluto.

The strategy would be labeled "The Year of the Hornet" and every habitable island within 200 nautical miles of Philippine shores would be occupied within one year, starting in November, right after the U.S. presidential election.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Philippine Ethics: A Mirror to Values

Ethics mirror the fundamental values of a group or community or nation.

"Ethical", an adjective according to the Humpty Dumpty New World Dictionary, means "well principled". "Unethical", its opposite, pertains to unprincipled behavior. These are acts that may or may not be illegal but are outside of accepted convention.

Honesty is considered to be an ethical quality. You are unlikely to be thrown in jail for being a liar, but if you are a congressman or a priest you might be condemned and have to pay a penalty. Honesty is not a requirement of politicians RUNNING for office, it would seem. But in the U.S., once they are IN OFFICE, it becomes an ethic. So it would seem ethics can have a measure of elasticity.

"Ethical" attaches to a lot of jobs, especially those that represent the people, or provide services to the people. Police should be highly ethical. So should judges. So should senators and representatives, and the President.

In the Philippines, values are loosey goosey. Wobbly. Shaky. Sometimes I would question if "ethical" is even a term that some  powerful people know or believe in. After all, it frequently tends to conflict with their strong self-interest.

  • Witness former Chief Justice Corona.

  • The Ampatuan Clan

  • Former President Arroyo.

  • Senator Sotto.

When each individual defines the law for himself because the nation's law disciplines are in disarray, then ethics become wobbly, for sure.

In the Philippines it is ethical to plan a coup but remain in public service after the coup fails (Senator Enrile).

In the Philippines, it is ethical to have been married to a murderer but get elected to Congress (Rep. Marcos).

In the Philippines it is ethical to steal material from a blogger, change the meaning of the words to be 180 degrees opposite of what was intended, deny that the theft is wrong, blame the people who are blowing whistles all over town . . . and remain in office, representing the best of the best of Philippine citizenry (Senator Sotto).

Senator Sotto, in a more disciplined, more ethical public service arena, would be hauled before an ethics committee and reprimanded or possibly asked to resign.

Not in the Philippines. The ethical standards reflect the nation's essential values. And that does not speak well for the Philippines.

Other senators keep their yaps shut, I suppose because they don't want to be attacked for their own ethical slips.

One way in which the United States and the Philippines differ is how discipline in the public arena is enforced. In the Philippines, the Ombudsman is responsible for policing the whole of the Philippines. Given all the sleazy deals going down across the land, she has her plate filled to overflow and is standing in a pile of excess.

In the United States, most agencies have some kind of "Ethics Panel" or office that polices the behavior of its own members. Congress, for example, polices itself. If a congressman goes wayward, say, by getting caught in an extramarital affair or lying and cheating or physically harassing someone on his staff, he catches a lot of heat. If he becomes an embarrassment to the institution of Congress, the Ethics Committee will haul him in for reprimand and even suggest he resign.

In the Philippines, nothing happens.  The Senate Ethics Committee did review Senator Villar's activities regarding the charge that he moved a freeway, but he is still in office.

The notion of "responsibility" is as soft here as is the notion of "ethics". Rather than disciplined enforcement of high standards of behavior, we see excuses and rationalizations. Back to Sotto.

The reputation of Congress as a whole does not seem to get attached to the wayward behavior of a given member.

I'm thinking that the bill now in the Senate called the "Political Party Development Bill" will be a strong step toward correcting loose ethical behavior by removing personality from political parties and replacing it with ideals. Hopefully, one of the ideals will be to meet a certain level of honesty and honor in speeches.

Senator Edgardo Angara  is sponsoring the bill. He says too much today depends on "moneyed personalities", and congressmen too easily shift allegiances to get close to the money. In his presentation of the bill on the floor of the Senate, Senator Angara said:

  •  “Our politics remains very bad, breeding poor governance and corruption that stifles the delivery of public services. This is because the structure of our politics, especially of our political party system, is flawed.”

The goals of the bill are as follows:

  • institutionalize reforms in the financing of electoral campaigns, promote accountability and transparency;

  • provide financial subsidies to political parties, to augment their expenditures for campaign purposes and for party development;

  • promote party loyalty and discipline; and

  • encourage and support continuing voter education and civic literacy programs.

Amendments likely to be inserted will levy strong penalties against "Political Turncoatism", create a campaign finance department within COMELEC, and develop strong measures for funding allocations.

Opponents argue that passing the bill will give the current administration an enduring advantage because his party will be very strong. They also argue that banning an individual from running in an election if he or she changes political party is too severe a penalty.

It seems to me this is an important step toward developing stronger ethics in Congress.

Better to do it now than when there is a jerk in the President's chair.

I like this bill.