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Tribune Editorial

Now comes the hard part

Thursday, 15 March 2018 00:00 Published in Editorial

One the most contentious proposals, thus far, which was on political dynasties, was presented last March 12 by the Consultative Committee (Con-com) tasked to review the 1987 Constitution.
The proposed provision is expected to be opposed vigorously when presented to Congress that will act as a constituent assembly to approve the final draft of the Federal Constitution.
Despite its noble aim to put an end to the practice of political dynasties of passing on their positions to relatives one after another, the provision will be viewed by another school of thought as depriving voters of their right to choose who will lead them.
Members of the Con-com voted 17 to 1 to prohibit any succession by a relative up to the second-degree of relations by blood (consanguinity) or by marriage (affinity) in any elective position in all levels of government from national, regional, provincial, city, municipality and barangay.
This means that an elected official who is ending his term may not be succeeded by his spouse, his children and their spouses, his grandchildren, his brothers and sisters and their spouses, his parents and grandparents, his spouse’s parents and grandparents, and his spouse’s brothers and sisters and their spouses.
Before deciding on the prohibition on succession, the Con-com first voted on the degree of relationship that will be covered by the ban. The vote was 10 for second degree and 9 for fourth degree in the runoff after no majority was obtained in the first round. The initial vote was 9-all for second and fourth degrees and one for third degree.
First- and second-degree relationship also includes step relatives (step children, parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters) and adopted relatives.
Ten of 19 members who attended the panel’s fourth en banc meeting voted for second-degree prohibition against nine who voted for extending the prohibition to fourth degree.
The committee had a lengthy deliberation on whether or not to allow succession among national officials, in particular the President and Vice President who will be the only nationally elected officials under a federal set up.
The Con-com had already decided in previous sessions that senators would be elected by region or constituent state.
Of the 18 members present, only former Rep. Roan Libarios, argued that the control and domination of political dynasties is pronounced at the regional and local levels but not at the national level and voted to allow succession at the national level.
Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno held the view that the strong and self-executing anti-dynasty provision is a prerequisite to the shift to a federal system of government.
“When we federalize the country, we are giving powers to the constituent units—whether we call them states or regions. We cannot give them such powers if dynasties continue to rule and dominate them,” Puno said.
The proposed anti-dynasty provision would be self-executing, meaning no law is necessary for it to take effect.
Puno said the provision must be self-executing because “we have seen what happened in the last 32 years” during which Congress failed to pass any law regulating dynasties.
The problem with the Con-com proposal, however, is that it will still be Congress that will have the last say on the proposed provisions and it will have the authority to strike off the anti-dynasty provision since, as the Con-com’s survey itself had shown, a predominant number of House members can be affected by it.
Studies have shown dynasties exist in 73 of the country’s provinces.
One study submitted to the committee showed at least 295 political families control power in various regions, with Metro Manila having the most number, 31 in all. The regions with the most number of dynasties apart from NCR are Central Luzon with 21, Calabarzon with 20, Bicol Region with 15, Western Visayas with 12, Mimaropa with 11 and Central Visayas with 10.
Since the function of the body is merely consultative, it would take the strongest persuasive strength of President Duterte to have Congress pass the anti-dynasty provision that, by the way, he is not against political dynasties.
The fight would be uphill for this particular proposed provision in the new Charter.

Bullet train rolls

Thursday, 08 March 2018 00:00 Published in Editorial

Two months after President Duterte’s approval of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (Train) law, the hard reforms undertaken have started to benefit the poorest members of the society.
More than P4.3 billion was released by the Land Bank of the Philippines for cash doles for 1.8 million household-beneficiaries.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) expects 8.2 million beneficiaries to also receive unconditional cash transfer (UCT) from the government.
The doles being unconditional was a shift from the same Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) initiated by former President Gloria Arroyo, continued by Noynoy and is maintained by the current administration.
The problem with imposing conditions with the doles is that these are hard to enforce due to the limited government personnel.
Having conditions also exposes the social assistance scheme to political influence.
Budget Secretary Ben Diokno had espoused targeted cash transfer but with key changes that may include providing parents with a job program to make income of households more sustainable.
Under Rody’s UCT program, the government provides cash grants of P200 a month to the poorest Filipino families which are identified by the DSWD.
The government, however, is giving the doles in one blow of a total of P2,400 for the whole of 2018.
Another addition under Rody’s version of 4Ps benefits indigent senior citizens who also get cash doles.
In all, 4Ps beneficiaries will be receiving P1,700 a month which is a decent amount to augment the income of poor Filipinos and help them meet their basic family needs.
4Ps beneficiaries also get a P600 rice subsidy as part of programs to help poor families adjust to increases in prices of commodities as a result of the implementation of the Train Law.
UCT is the tax subsidy provided under the TRAIN law to help the poor cushion the adverse economic effect of the policy. It is considered to be the biggest tax reform mitigation program under the TRAIN law which seeks to provide 10 million beneficiaries with cash subsidies amounting to P200 a month for this year and P300 a month for 2019 and 2020.
Diokno added that higher government revenues would also mean funds for the Duterte administration’s massive “Build, Build, Build” program, which in turn is seen to generate more jobs.
Some P8.4 trillion in spending is being targeted for the infrastructure buildup until the end of Rody’s term in mid-2022.
Under the 2017-2022 Public Investment Program (PIP), an estimated P7.7 trillion is needed to accelerate infrastructure development through some 4,490 projects.
Many of the projects are set for implementation this year that will mean instant availability of jobs particularly for unskilled labor.
The unemployment rate in the country stood at 5.6 percent of the labor force as of July last year but this is expected to be radically reduced by the middle of the year o a targeted unemployment rate of around three to five percent by 2022.
Diokno said infrastructure programs are sustainable sources of jobs, citing that some of the projects identified by the current government would be implemented beyond its term.
“We can build forever. Look at Singapore, Build Build Build,” he said.
While opportunities increase, the income tax of majority of salaried Filipinos or those who earn P250,000 or less a year or nearly P21,000 a month was made free.
Diokno said the reduction in government revenues as a result of Train will be made up by increased consumer spending with more disposable income in Filipinos’ pockets.
“You’ll have more money in your pocket so that will create multiplier effect,” he added.
The hike of excise taxes of some products like fuel and sugar-sweetened beverages will also recoup lost tax takes.
The additional excise taxes will then be used to provide subsidies to the lower 50 percent of the society as non-conditional cash transfer on top of the existing conditional cash transfer program like the 4Ps.
Benefits are starting to be realized, a mere two months after the Train started rolling which can be considered at jet speed when compared to the previous yellow term which couldn’t even decide where it was heading to.

Edsa gets a paint job

Thursday, 01 March 2018 00:00 Published in Editorial

The sparsely-attended People Power event had its most significant moment when the confetti rained reminiscent of the same event when the military shifted allegiance 32 years ago but this time instead of yellow, the sky rained red, white and blue, the color of the Philippine flag.
Of course yellow is also found in the flag but it is not the only hue that should dominate, the event of colors would like to show.
For a long time, the 1986 event at Edsa was branded as the Yellow Revolt that ousted former President Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled the nation from 1972 to 1986.
The events have been commemorated by political leaders in the Philippines since the 1986 coup d’etat especially by the Aquino family which was the main beneficiary of the People Power revolt but President Duterte has skipped the event twice since he came to power in 2016.
The incumbent President not being at the highway that was the site of the yellow uprising should not be taken as being in any way diminishing the significance of the historical event, Malacañang said as it noted that Feb. 25 remains a national holiday and public funds are still spent to commemorate it.
The spirit of Edsa was about unity but the yellow mob had made the event and the site as its possessions.
The Palace said Rody will always recognize Edsa not only as an important historical event but it was the first bloodless People Power Revolt in the entire world and it remains significant.
Duterte is a known friend to the Marcos family and approved the late president’s burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in 2016. Rody was in his hometown city, Davao, which he regularly visits on weekends during the People Power celebration.
Duterte also skipped the Edsa anniversary rites last year at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City to attend the relaunch of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in Davao City.
The message of the Edsa celebration was, however, clear to Rody as he said it should enrich the state’s democracy as he believed that “a people’s courage and resolve can alter the course of our nation’s history.”
He said the key to enriching democracy is empowering the citizenry, defending their rights and strengthening the institutions that safeguard their freedom.
For Rody, the event also became a symbol of the determination to fight for what is right.
The People Power Revolt has become the enduring symbol of Filipinos determination to fight for what is right and, during the country’s most crucial and trying times, defend and uphold cherished democratic values, he said.
Rody’s goal was always for the improvement of life as Filipinos knew it and he had focused on peace, unity and public order while his economic managers were given the free hand to craft measures to reduce the poverty level.
The goal of unity was the main concept in the removal of the yellow hue of Edsa and replace it with the colors of the flag.
At the same time, the symbolic People Power Monument was turned over from the Spirit of Edsa Foundation (SOEF) to the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) which was another symbol of the reimaging of the important event as a celebration of Filipino traits and not a yellow victory.
The critics of Rody cry revisionism in the face of all the changes being instituted but the reality is that the yellow mob is merely being given their right place in the social milieu as being just one of the many political forces in the 1986 revolt.






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