The secret to government incompetence

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This is not an anti-blog having the goal of criticism for the sake of being critical. I personally remain positive about the Philippines, about the Aquino Administration and about the great future ahead for this vibrant, rising nation.

But someone has to speak up for the middle class, and workers aspiring to that status. Someone has to lay it all bare, put it on the table. Get in the face of the President and the Senate and the Judiciary and the agencies and local governments that are not doing enough to lift up the people who are doing valuable work and getting stiffed on transportation and internet and electricity and services, and paying big taxes for the privilege.

Kindly allow me to project myself into the frustrations of the working middle class.

I’ll start with a touch of graciousness, then get a little worked up.

First, please be clear that “we” workers appreciate the leadership’s straight path and changes for the good. It gave many of us our jobs. But we endure a lot of hassles and find the responses to our complaints largely falling on deaf ears. So we’d like to get the attention of the powers that run things, and we’d like to speed progress up a bit.

No! No . . . correction . . . We’d like to speed it up a LOT.  We’d like to make the Philippines an achiever instead of . . . well . . . indolent, if you catch my drift.

In a corporate sense, if the citizens are both the boss and the investors, the Nation’s Board of Directors ought to be listening carefully to what they think about things. I’ll try to be a direct-speaking voice to that point. Readers can correct me where I am missing the mark.

Contrary to what Jejomar Binay claims, Mar Roxas is not responsible for floods in Manila. Nor is President Aquino, nor Gloria Arroyo, nor Mayor Estrada. It is also lunatic to lay the blame for road congestion or airport congestion or poverty at the feet of any one person.

People have asked me to blog about the telecom industry, electricity, airports, divorce and other topics, and I get frustrated. What is there to write about when the SYSTEM is the problem, not the specific component within the system?

If you will allow me to adapt a a popular expression, on behalf of the middle class:

“It’s the system, stupid.”

The Philippines has its own style, its own way, and that way does not put achievement high on a pedestal. It puts people on a pedestal. Entitled people, in the main. Out in the boondocks where I live, it raises up anyone with authority over us. In the doing, it ruins economic productivity and good service, and it puts us down.

Do you know what customer care means in the Philippines? It does not mean provide good customer service. It means use customers and abuse them because they are low man on the totem pole around here. Why, even the clerks at Gaisano Mall understand that rule. They know that they are in charge and are entitled to sneer at us if we don’t like waiting for an hour while they confirm the product works (to escape any warranty obligation on Gaisano’s part), hand-write sales tickets, double check them, ring them up at the register, triple check them, and have the guard check them on the way out.

Customer care means “know your place!” and that place is powerless in a nation where there are no consumer action groups, the big boys buy off the lawyers, there are no class action law-suits, and laws are tilted to protect those who have power.

You are a wife tired of being knocked around by your drunken spouse? Sorry. You are bottom rung on the power ladder, and your husband is above you, and so is the Catholic Church that forces you into a contract with no termination provision if you want your kids to be something other than bastards. The Church won’t let you have a divorce. Human rights organizations reside below the Church as well, so don’t feel lonely in your abused state. The government is itself on a plane below the Church, no matter what the Constitution says. Again, people-power counts – entitled-people-power – and the Church has super-entitlement in the Philippines.

You want faster internet service? Lots of luck with that. The power resides with the Telecom companies that shove their friends into important government slots and cozy up with regulators in some form of incestuous engagement that is so sexual I am too embarrassed to write about it. The Telecom companies are tops on the power chain, and we poor pitiful internet users are as low as whale droppings at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. To get good service, we have to wade through legislators who are busy patting the backs of accused plunderers out on bail while neglecting to pass laws that drive some sense into consumer service, regulators who brush us off like unwanted dandruff, and Telecom “customer care representatives” who themselves have all the authority of a hollow block. Take orders, give excuses, push out forms, or otherwise do nothing to solve the problem.

You say DSWD didn’t get Yolanda relief distributed very well?

We of the middle class say, “it’s the system, stupid.”

The Philippine style, a democracy in form and half-baked capitalism by productivity, is shaped by personality politics and friends of the boss. It does not mandate performance. Performance is EXTRACTED from the system . . .which makes both the system and its advocates stupid. To President Aquino’s credit, he has taken some steps to change this by developing action plans and using them to weigh how to invest. But his effort is like pushing Huck Finn’s raft up the Mississippi. Or a yellow rubber joy-riding raft up the Cagayan de Oro River.

The current is running the wrong way. There are rapids and rocks around every corner. The whole nation is jammed up with incompetence, with priorities that are wrong.

I say the barriers and bottlenecks to progress are secret because there is no explicit, tangible, comprehensive government initiative to recognize them and deal with them. Forthrightly. With in-your face honesty and a desire to work crisply to make the Philippines a sharp operator, an achiever, a doer. There is no plank in the platform that says “We need to repair our socio/political system, Bubba”. The socio/political system would be the forest, the way things work . . .  or don’t. It is the “how we do it” infrastructure that everything else depends on. And it is in really stinko shape, just like the roads in Manila. Government is attending to a few of the trees, but the forest is rotting.

Government is stuck on one of its own component parts, “a weakness in critical thinking”.

The pity. The pity of it all, is that it is the middle class that is bearing huge, huge burdens. Taxed out the gazoo, lousy transportation services, no consumer protections, electricity and internet here today and out tomorrow, sneered at at banks and hospitals and stores, no representation. Powerless.

The hopes and dreams for economic revival and social modernization rest with the middle class, and the middle class is the Philippine whipping boy.

Regular citizens are drowning in the breaking surf and Government is up at the gazebo putting tanning lotion on the entitled.

Let me reveal the major barriers and bottlenecks to progress that, together, paint the Philippines as mediocre at accomplishment. Relentlessly mediocre. And punitive to the middle class.

These bottlenecks to progress need to be addressed.


 1. Top people do not demand top performance from their underlings

An action-oriented government would have fired Secretary Abaya about three years ago, the way I figure it. He would have been removed when it became clear that, like with judges in hidebound courts, circumstances were controlling his calendar instead of him controlling the circumstances. The long-term plan for airport development was to have been done in 2011. It’s still not done. A magnificent LRT/MRT transfer station was split into two parts to favor a mall owner, forever consigning passengers to a long walk down a tunnel, probably airless on bad days, to make their connection. Who’s in charge, anyhow? Who are we really serving here? Mall owners or riders?

I imagine that newly appointed Bureau of Customs Commissioner Lina is the friend of a friend of the President. Why else was he granted the Customs’ job, as an old-school political player in a job that absolutely DEMANDS an up-and-comer, a doer, a change artist? The doer was invited out and we got stuck with an old dog doing old, old, old tricks . . . like putting a media gag order on his deputies. President Aquino is loyal to those who are loyal to him. And in the process, he becomes disloyal to progress. We can certainly credit him with learning a lot on the job as president, and he is getting a lot done thanks to a change in fundamental direction that now favors honesty over thievery  . . . but it seems to me he still has a discipline or two to shore up.

Alas, the problem is not just President Aquino’s. He happens to be visible and is the top guy to point fingers at for every irritating little matter we don’t like. But let’s be candid. Loyalty over competence is a choice made almost everywhere in the Philippines – “it’s the stupid system, stupid” – because throughout government, both national and local, agency heads and subordinate managers have lived a lifetime taking care of friends rather than producing results. Hiring the entitled rather than achievers. Being loyal to people who long ago proved they really just aren’t very good. Appointing friends and family rather than competent managers.

The secret solution to this weak demand for results will be addressed in point 6.

 2. Foresight is missing, so we never get ahead of the curve

This is actually changing at the National level, thanks to President Aquino’s appreciation of tangible goals and the National Economic and Development Authority’s (NEDA’s) rigorous work. But this needs to be quickly pushed out and accelerated. The effort should mandate that plans and goals of agencies and Local Government Units (LGUs) be a part of the total transparency effort. Go to an agency or LGU web site today and you invariably will find the feel-good vision statements but no tangible, profound commitment to goals. No forthright . . . direct, honest . . . reporting of progress. You get popularity puff. Bragging. Photos of the agency staff as heroes . . .

When I speak of goals, I’m not talking about verbose documents that bore us senseless with detailed explanations (as a proxy for intelligence), but a one-page highlight that says at the end of one year, or three, or 10, or 30, this is what we’ll get, by the numbers and accomplishments. I can bet that Land Use Planning is not a high priority for most LGUs because no one is driving them to it, and it is a hard job to do well. Duck and dodge. And as for the revenue goals that drive taxing disciplines? Hidden from view. To reveal them means they might actually have to start collecting property taxes from those fat and happy landowners.

The transparency effort today is centered mainly on financial integrity, and that’s a good thing. But if the plan and goals are wrong and the effort is misdirected, what’s the point?

 3. Corruption is still tolerated

Crooks are among the entitled. There are many laws, but weak enforcement and horribly inefficient and ineffective courts don’t put much bite into justice. Professional ethics are irrelevant, or a big joke. Ask the Senate about that, those cowardly plundering populists who can’t even chair an Ethics Committee when its members have been accused of stealing citizen money. Plus, the whole legal profession ignores the fact that speed is a part of fairness of judgment. The entitled hire the lawyers who are experts at gaming the system in favor of their clients. The little guy, well, he gets tossed into the dungeon with the vermin and stink, presumed guilty from the getgo because no lawyer of any competence defended him and he’s just another drop at the bottom of the Mariana trench.

Here’s the secret solution: Effectively connect punishment to bad deed, quick quick quick. Attach enforcement to laws so that exceptions are not the rule. Whip undisciplined consumers and businesses into shape. Write tickets. Improve investigation competency and speed up the courts.

It’s a simple concept, making punishment attach to a crime. Judges ought to be able to grasp it, I think. A six year-old can grasp it, I think.

Why can’t this nation?

 4. Critical thinking is weak

Well, there you go. So many excuses, so much irrelevant nitter-natter, so little candid identification of the REAL problem and crafting of solutions. If the problem is complex, one aspect is worked on and the rest goes to hell. Band Aids are put on amputated limbs. Leaders brag about the two things done right to paste over the 98 going south.

I want to do a separate blog on critical thinking. It means thinking deep and wide and forward. And being honest.

 5. Fractionalized, overlapping authorities assure inefficiency

The President’s Cabinet actually works to address this by operating “cluster groups” on over-lapping tasks such as poverty reduction. But get beyond the cabinet level, and all the egos and personal power plays takes over. Jealousy. Rivalry. Undermining and pointing fingers. The lower levels are where leaders are not managers, but power personalities. And their Job #1 is protecting the power base.

Processes are an amalgamation of decades of people protecting their turf and making insane little rules the peons must follow. The citizens may be the President’s boss, but that idea dies somewhere in the Cabinet or the agencies below that.

So it takes 22 official signatures to get a new title assigned when land is divided and transferred from a willing buyer to a willing seller. Fees are tacked on for the time it takes the official to sign, P100 here, P200 there. Each step requires 2 or 3 weeks for the case to move to the top of each official’s slow-moving in-basket. Then the authority signs it without even reading it. After all, the goal for him is not to transfer title. It is to preserve authority and earn fees.

The process accelerates if P500 is dropped at the fixer’s desk. Amazing, that.

For the secret solution, apply numbers 1 and 4. Start by making citizen service job #1 and fire those who can’t get there.

 6. The system does not energize competitive achievement

This is the one that always gets blank stares because I am writing into a void. The Philippines has never known the idea of competing on the basis of skill. It is a foreign concept, or alien, as if from another planet.

Some companies get it, like Jollibee. But governments do not, and a lot of businesses do not.

Capitalism normally energizes competition and invention and efficiency and quality product and good customer service. But not in the Philippines where, again, power and favor strip the career paths out of the management line, and there are few performance standards that award raises, promotions and bonuses on the basis of skill and productivity. Rather, it is loosey goosey, everyone gets a 13th month even if they sat on their hands for a year.

“Oh, joy, the workers are happy and we’ve set them up for another year of abuse.”

Competitive energy is engineered out of the system, neutering it. Castrating it. Forward thinking? Gone. Innovation? Gone. Efficiency? Gone. Customer service? Gone.

The secret solution: mandate that hiring, raises, promotions and bonuses be done solely on the basis of competence and on-the-job performance. Call it a Fair Employment Law. Fair for talented workers who finally have a future to aspire toward, and fair for the nation that is energized to produce good work.

The entitled have had enough favors and free rides.

Empower the middle class, and you empower the nation.

124 Responses to “The secret to government incompetence”
  1. Joe, it doesn’t work to mandate by law what Adam Smith imagined as a civilized form of market competition. We have enough laws honored in the breach.

    I wanted a PLDT landline, and the snotty manager sneered at me. So, PLDT gets to lose my business. But they think they can get away with their lousy service. So, what to do?

    I remember a blog post about Isuzu sneering at a middle class customer. He bought a Mitsubishi. Then posted the experience on FB.

    Maybe, using social media to out the incompetents might work. Where I live, I know by now which businesses are straight up, and which are lousy. Word of mouth works. YELP-like review sites might also do the trick. Maybe then Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand takes over.

    • Jonathan says:

      What if all the alternatives are as incompetent as the original subject?

      • Juana Pilipinas says:

        Be an entrepreneur. Provide excellent products and hire professional staff. Beat them at their own game and hit them where it hurts.

    • Joe America says:

      Yes, I think eventually the noise on PLDT could reach a scream. The alternatives are just so few, and quality is about the same everywhere. I need to revisit PLDT. I did a blog a couple of years ago that reported they took cash from depreciation (2008??) and pushed it to investors (large share foreign, in the UK) in the form of dividends. If they were interested in quality service, they’d invest that depreciation back into capacity.

      Utilities provide nation-defining services. The Telecoms are holding the Philippines back, clearly. Something has to break. I have nothing against nationalizing the whole lot of them and establishing a not-for profit (infrastructure oriented) base for Philippine data services that gets ahead of demand. Schools would be on it, and every high school student would be literate in research, analytics, and writing.

      • chempo says:

        Let’s wait for the Telstra-SM venture and see what competition brings. Bet you PLDT owners are now calling in favours big time to put up as much roadblocks as possible.

    • Like the BIR staff in Pasig RDO who came late and did not buckle up to work the moment he arrived at the office. He was “burned at stake ” by the tax payer thru the social media and what was his comeback? He was not feeling well….ewww… if that was the case he should not have reported for work and asked somebody else to sign in his behalf so the poor taxpayer did not have to wait for hours just to have his form signed by him.

    • The high investment requires nullify perfect competition or something near a healthy competition. When things like this pervade the market the Government has a duty to step in.

  2. neo canjeca says:

    Joe you hit hard and painful the broken head of the nail on our bronze coffin of iniquities. Much of what you said should solve the enigma of why imperfect clumsy Mar Roxas is so unappreciated and hated while the plastic charisma of adored Grace Poe is so unexplainably popular. We are puppets forever disempowered by saintly criminal puppeteers of those who governed us. Puppeteers are individuals like the rich and influential or are institutions like the higher courts and media who and which made the entire government clueless puppet of their puppetry. During martial law we were likened to “tutas” poodles and Chihuahuas although we were really much bigger because we are really obedient sheeps to pious shepherds. We don’t and can’t even whimper to stand for our rights against the entitled evils in our midst. For years I did Joe, but I am not among the entitled and I suffered, my heart bleeds because my and their offspring suffered too. I must stop so I won’t be like the guy who wrote a book chapter in just one paragraph.

    • neo canjeca says:

      If anyone wants to read a comment
      Like it’s a puppet’s poem
      of poo pet (not poepet) here it is:

      Joe you hit hard and painful
      the broken head of the nail on our bronze
      coffin of iniquities.

      Much of what you said should solve
      the enigma of why imperfect clumsy Mar Roxas is
      so unappreciated and hated while
      the plastic charisma of adored Grace Poe
      is so unexplainably popular.

      We are puppets forever
      disempowered by saintly criminal
      puppeteers of those who governed us.
      Puppeteers are individuals
      like the rich and influential or
      are institutions like the higher courts
      and media

      who and which made the entire government
      clueless puppet of their puppetry.
      During martial law we were likened to “tutas”
      poodles and Chihuahuas although we
      were really much bigger because
      we are really obedient sheeps
      to pious shepherds.

      We don’t and can’t even whimper
      to stand for our rights against the
      entitled evils in our midst.

      For years I did Joe, but I am not
      among the entitled and I suffered,
      my heart bleeds because my and their
      offspring suffered too. I must stop
      so I won’t be like the guy
      who wrote a book chapter
      in just one paragraph.

      • neo canjeca says:

        Joe if I may possibly and feasibly share
        This serendipity may be a technique
        Which comes first the hen or the egg?
        The prose or poetry? In my case, first
        Write the prose, then dismantle never mind
        The meters or the rhymes
        Into short or long lines of stanzas.

        No. No, Nooo.
        It’s poetry before prose. to understand
        Translate rhyme into reason. Easy.
        But takes time to copy or cut then paste
        Short poems into paragraphs of essays
        Epic poetry into novels.
        Copy or cut and paste
        Do that to Iliad to write War and Peace
        Do that to Noli Me Tangere
        To write My Last Farewell
        Not literally, OF COURSE.

      • Joe America says:

        Oh, a pox upon mine head
        the funk upon a good man to bequeath
        for want of a punching bag

        to breathe, to breathe,
        that is the way
        in with the good air
        out with the bad

        • Neo Canjeca says:

          is this Jap Haiku
          Or is it Haayy Nakuu?

          true “Only God
          can make a tree”
          false it is Only
          Joe and me
          can write
          wannabe poetry.

          so sori too
          inililigaw ko
          sa magnum opus
          nino pa kundi ni Joe.

          • Joe America says:

            🙂 Yeah, but yours are GOOD.

            • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

              The muses are all over
              the place where garbage meets
              gems, garbage from pols who
              would want to be, and gems from
              unheard-ofs who would if they could,
              there’s a place for us, it’s good Joe
              the Am is around, to sift through
              the mess that surrounds us,
              that suffocates us, but as long as
              we look up, the sky will still be blue,
              we can still breathe the breath of
              the just, and posts like these, they
              make us, goad us, inspire us to higher
              learning, and hopefully the light
              will shine through, finally saved,
              like An American Guerrilla in the
              Philippines—Joe, do you look like
              Tyrone Power?

    • Joe America says:

      Sorry to have pushed you into a funk, neo. Changes are being made in the right direction, we just need to encourage an acceleration.

  3. There are three things the traditional Filipino attitude values the most:

    A. “Loyalty”. Meaning “don’t rock the boat”. As a consequence you have 1, 3 and 4.

    B. “Sharing”. Meaning “don’t be selfish”. As a consequence you have 3, 5, and 6.

    C. “Humility”. Meaning “don’t be arrogant”. As a consequence you have 1, 2 and 6.

    Of course if you are American you might NOT know what loyalty, sharing, humility, selfishness and arrogance mean to a Filipino. Just like when they say “you look healthy” and mean that you’re fat.

    Just like the word “greedy” is meant by some. For many Filipino leftists and nationalists, the middle class and even more so the OFWs are “greedy” because they want to work to have a better life for themselves. Akin to the traditional Filipino Catholic attitude that one’s lot is “God-given” and that it is somehow sinful to want to change it, or change the differences in wealth and privilege. For some nationalists it is “un-Filipino” to do so, it is a very strange American idea…

    • Joe America says:

      Well, to some extent we are back to the austerity argument, is it better to be indolent and poor or under stress and rich? It is rather hard to tell people like Andrew without internet service for several days to be happy with the austerity of it all. Democracy is a messy and inefficient form of governance. Capitalism is a thing of beauty when done right. When it is messy, too, and the competitive energy is sucked out of the system for whatever reasons, we have the Philippines. This blog was done at the request of readers, actually. Filipinos who are fed up with what their culture is delivering. I’m happy to provide an opinion on how they can be less frustrated, but, yes, it requires a change in mind-set and discipline.

      • “it requires a change in mind-set and discipline.” very correct. A lot of the pain the Philippines is experiencing is that the mind-set is changing very fast – from partly native tribal, partly Spanish middle ages to the modern, globalized internet mindset.

        Other countries had several generations to digest those changes. My grandfather Irineo who died in 1978 would understand nearly none of the stuff we are talking about here. BTW a lawyer and a very high BIR official, most probably with the really old mindset.

        • “Well, to some extent we are back to the austerity argument, is it better to be indolent and poor or under stress and rich? It is rather hard to tell people like Andrew without internet service for several days to be happy with the austerity of it all.”

          Joe, I don’t know how you can respond to pretty much every comment in your blog. This stuff’s tiring– camping out in my article for the past couple of days, attempting to clarify and push for this idea is exhausting. I wish I had Andrew’s problem.

          Nothing austere about it at all, when I think austerity I’m thinking a life of no worries, of bliss, delights and joys. Still enjoyable though, especially with i7sharp keeping me company.

          (2nd Republican debate on CNN at the Reagan Library in 20 minutes…)

          • edgar lores says:

            I, too, am suffering from blog fatigue. I’ll take a 24-hour break.

            • I myself have wanted to summarize what we have learned from the latest topics:

              – Mar Roxas can roar at government incompetence

              – The lions about to start austerity: blog commenters

              – Salvation by Grace Poe: getting to the palace on time

              – Metro Manila traffic congestion – Asia’s Venice

              – Secret ethical standards for Americans in the church

              Or did I mix things up?

              I better take a break myself.

              • I get it!

                – Mar Roxas about to roar at government incompetence

                – Blog commenters can start austerity in the church

                – Salvation from lions by getting to the palace on time

                – Metro Manila traffic congestion – Asia’s Venice

                – Secret ethical standards for Grace Poe

                Hmmm, I seem to be forgetting words.

                Did we have UP as a topic anywhere?

              • LOL! Nope, but MRP would be all over that.

      • Neo Canjeca says:

        Austerity hindi si Salvacion ko
        Simple lang salvation ng buhay ko
        sana susi ng langit pagpanaw ko
        Ten Commandments po relihiyon ko
        Kay Moses lang belib, sinunod ko
        Ten Commandments din maigsing biblia ko
        Kaya sa ibang tao habang buhay parang gago ako
        Isa lang Thou shall not get caught siyang sundin ko
        Maigsi ang buhay kaya dapat mag enjoy ako
        Tamasahin ng husto biyaya ng Diyos daw
        Yun pala ay kaisa-isang utos Ng halimaw.
        Salamat sa Diyos iba ang paniwala ko.

  4. I had two PLDT lines at home. Two years ago I was continuously pestered by BPO / call center / telemarketers to avail of a PLDT promo for internet connection. I accepted the offer and waited and waited for the connection, only to be told after continuous follow ups that there was no facility yet in our subdivision. Naturally, I complained and told them to coordinate with their marketing arm so offers to places without facilities should not be made in the first place. After I was told that there is no certainty for that connection happening, I formally notified them to close that particular account as the Globe is willing to provide the service within a day. I was told to wait for a month so the closing of the account will be processed. I gave them that one month period and then advised my credit card company to cancel enrollment for the particular PLDT account. Several months later, I still receive the monthly bills with disconnection notice……awwwrrrrr….! I called them and gave them an earful, but still they were continued to be sent to my address. I ignored them and sent the disconnection notices to the province to be used as fire kindling in their wooden stove. I’m a recycle queen, by the way.

    After a year, the PLDT finally got the message and my supply of kindling materials stopped.

  5. karl garcia says:

    Once asean gets integrated, a lot of changes will happen fast.

    My problem with nationalizing some privatized utilities services is that the bloated bureaucracy. The government is the largest employer.

    Service is lousy in maynilad manila water ,meralco,pldt,globe ,smart,sun Nationalize them. What will service will you/we expect.

    We are the word’s csrs through our call centers, we must translate that in the real world.(offline)

    Lastly, this summarizes what Getreal and antipinoy has been hammering at every opportunity.

    Thanks for being our voice.

    • “Lastly, this summarizes what Getreal and antipinoy has been hammering at every opportunity.” Getreal = Filipino migrant. Antipinoy = Fil-Am returnee. JoeAm = retiree.

      Those caught up in the traditional Filipino system are forced to work within it, sometimes without enthusiasm, some probably adapt and turn cynical after a while.

      Why President Aquino was able to reform – exposed enough to how things can be elsewhere by having been in the USA in his youth plus high up enough to enforce things.

      But even he has to make compromises to the system, otherwise it would probably also eat him up, like it destroyed General Antonio Luna who wanted to do things correctly.

      Old ways of doing things die hard because many people are part of the system, once you have some dirt on you – which happens fast – you cover up for everybody else.

    • Joe America says:

      There are truths to what the antis say, always have been, but they seldom point to solution. That would be called building, and they are allergic.

    • We don’t have to nationalize. The government needs to do its job of regulating better.

      Courts gum up the progress.

      Be strict on contractual obligations of the private utility companies.

      Create a professional Government Service.

      If there is a low hanging fruit I think it starts with that. Get people like Comm Sevilla to lead the Government Agencies.

      Weaken the feedback loops of patronage politics.

  6. Grace Sapuay says:

    I like your blogs. But for this blog, I hate to disagree with you on the divorce. We don’t have a divorce, that is true. But it is not true that battered women stay with their husbands because there is no divorce. We have legal separation. These women can always leave their husbands. There are actually a lot of legally separated couples and other couples who have split and have their marriage annulled. The Catholic Church allows for annulment. The civil code provides for distribution of material possessions. In America there is divorce, but very traumatic for the family to go through divorce as well as going to courts. Here, couples just agree to live separately. Although re-marrying can be done only once marriage is annulled but absence of a divorce law does not compel them to stick together for worse. The reason why the woman sticks with her abusive husband? They probably love their husbands no matter what. I have that kind of cousin. No matter how much we tell her to bring her case to the Barangay (we have the Violence Against Women Act), she wouldn’t do it, she wouldn’t leave her husband. She just puts up with him. Same with other women. But others who wouldn’t take abusive husbands do leave and file for annulment.

    • Joe America says:

      Thanks for reading, Grace, and for the candor of presenting an alternative view. I will let the comment stand on its own merits, as I’ll likely do a separate article on divorce. You may disagree with me, but that’s healthy, eh? We all get a little smarter.

    • Neo Canjeca says:


      Inside the box:

      Jesus Christ: what God has joined together, let no man put asunder.

      Marquis de Sade: Listen and Hear the meanings of MASOCHISM and
      SADISM between partners.

      Economist: Divorce: it’s money lots of money, man. Sticking for life: Love
      or Poverty. Man!

      Outside ? the box:

      me or mine– whatever their genders, two adorers becoming lovers, becoming friends becoming enemies; knowing them IT’S NONE OF MINE or Nobody’s business unless they themselves ask for my help to do something

    • chempo says:

      Divorce – this is one typical example of the Philippines scene. Hey, what’s the problem, we have annulment? They put the escape hatch there, but it’s locked most of the time unless you got the money to pay for it to be opened. Unless you are Kris Aquino or Chiz Escurero you need to wait for XXX years to get the annulment, by when your prospective better half may have found someone else.

      As to why women stick to abusive husbands, there are many reasons, most of which is economics. It’s the reason why Muslim women stick to a mean after he married another 3 wives. They are totally dependent on the man economically.

  7. wjarko says:

    Nice piece Joe! I can definitely feel your frustration in your work. I share the same sentiments.

    This reminds me of the the classic “What is Politics?” Joke. Where Dad is the Capitalist, Mom is government, Maid is the working class, and baby brother is the future. The punchline perfectly sums up the current Philippine society where he capitalists screw the working class, while the government is fast asleep and the future is in deep shit!

    I believe universal high quality education will cut across as a solution to most if not all of the issues you raised.

    • Joe America says:

      Thanks, wjarko. Yes a good education, and one that teaches critical thinking and injects ambition and a self-starter, competitive mentality. (Plugging a future blog here.) Best alternative to a deep shit future. 🙂

      • wjarko says:

        Looking forward to reading that one Joe. That’s a particular topic I would really like to react on. I have pondered on the problems of society for much of my time at the university, and I found that much of the problems are actually manifestations/components of in an unending spiral of societal decay. Those , most, that managed to escape the deadly spiral are the talented and educated. In my experience, good values, attitude, and drive to learn and succeed are all it takes to escape the spiral of decay.

        For the Philippine society, change/revolution cannot start from the top. We tried that several times, and like the Hydra it only grows and multiplies. I’ve completely lost hope for revolutionary leader to appear and change the country from the top. I believe we should start from the bottom, like most revolutions in history.

        My wife said in one of our conversation about government/society, she doesnt really care about government. As long as she pays her taxes, she operates/lives her life like there is no government, she expects nothing from government; nor does she assume government will solve any of her/our financial or personal problems or issues.

        Why dont we start operating from a similar perspective? One time on tv, I saw a group that helped homeless families by housing them in rented out house/room (the group pays for rent for 1-3 years, i think), send the kids to school, then help the parents find a decent way of making a living. They do this one family at a time. Its painstaking work but it gets results in my opinion. The group manages to help this people get their dignity back to look forward to a better future, its one family dragged out from the endless spiral.

        From this approach, my idea is to change through a education of the next generation, one community at a time. Schools run by NGO/s by the help of communities themselves that teaches all the things you mentioned Joe, and probably inject good values like discipline, and respect for laws, etc while we’re at it. Another strategy could be establishing community-based agriculture and industries. But the real problem is money to fund these initiatives.

  8. Joe America says:

    I was impressed with this comment on my Facebook page. It suggests, rather than just complain, do something about it. Find a representative and put him in office.

    (Emong Maton) Additionally, it’s high time that middle class works together to put the right politician in place. We shouldn’t just sit by and wait until someone file for candidacy and then choose the lesser evil. Why not find someone which is a best alternative then ask him to run. Just what happened to Pnoy, somebody asked him to run and the rest is history.. A good place to start with si Manila… I always say that the Mayor’s surname for Manila shouldn’t just be limited to ESTRADA, LIM, BAGATSING or other trapo.. Why can’t they find the right leader for them instead. They have a lot of well established managers there.. Why can’t they perform a search????

    • What about customer advocacy groups? Are there any in the Philippines, a la Ralph Nader? Groups like that could pay for lawyers to go against the Telecoms and the regulators for example, and pressure the right congressmen and senators into action.

  9. karl garcia says:

    Irineo,myself and others have inquired of the wonders of SAP in government service.
    IT can make services efficient. But government employees are allergic to full computerization.They fear they will lose their jobs.
    Our traffic discussion of stagerred work hours,stress,time management work-family time management are all related in good service.

    Productivity is questionable, Service is lousy all excacerbated by traffic.

    For non government lousy service.

    Charter change on economic provisions can give those oligarchs a run for their money.
    Once done with that charter change Change to Federal/parliamentary later.

    comment on annulment-make it less than half a million.make it affordable so that poor beaten husbands and wives can easily move on.

    still don’t like abortion

    • karl garcia says:

      I mean we inquired about Sap with Irineo.

    • “IT can make services efficient. But government employees are allergic to full computerization.They fear they will lose their jobs.” Computerization is a big game-changer:

      1) in the long run you need less people, so you have to find a way to phase out people by shifting the slower, less efficient ones – in consulting the “C”-type people in ABC-analysis to the mailroom or other unpopular jobs and sending the older ones into early retirement. This is painful but there is no way around it, you can do it in a way that mimizes the pain, but still it is the equivalent of root canal at the dentist. In corporate or government settings.

      2) More transparency, meaning audit trails are complete and cannot be tampered with, meaning that people will have to do things without the old workarounds, some of which are not longer compliant. Even in corporate settings the change process can be very painful.

      3) Work becomes easier because the system guides you – meaning that those employees who had job security because they had their own “secret recipes” for doing things no longer have an advantage and can be replaced more easily by BPO style workers.

      Nearly 20 years in SAP consulting and I have seen all variations, even computerizing things at a former Communist conglomerate in Romania where things felt almost like home. But remembering the discussion on computerized tax filing at Raissa’s and what you have written about systems in the Philippines, plus my own DFA-related experience, I have a great respect for the challenges involved in getting systems running in the Philippines. Without real backing from top management you usually are the loser in this kind of thing.


      In terms of systems thinking, making things run better in the Philippines is like a major systems overhaul on a system that has to keep running. You have to set priorities, go for the worst problems first – traffic, Internet speed – then it becomes easier to solve the rest.

      I would not be able to be efficient if I were to commute 3 hours to work and 3 hours back every day – I would just do what is necessary because I would be too tired and annoyed. Especially if my salary is hardly enough compared to the sacrifices that I have to make!

      Unreliable bandwidth is preventing further growth in the Philippines – I have a business partner who has 15 SAP programmers working from Hanoi on his system in Germany, these are jobs for Vietnam. Similar stuff would not be so easy to do in the Philippines!


      Why not make it divorce? The Philippines is the only remaining Catholic country without divorce, I am not counting Vatican City there is nobody to be divorced there. Abortion is another matter, as far as I know strictly Catholic Malta and traditional Ireland forbid it.

      • Chivas says:

        Tech issue is a rotten branch. You change one thing, and they buy lawyers and contenders here and there. A common example of confusopoly, predating on consumers inability to decide due to multiple promos, unli cheap-cached data and unfair batch of mallocs.

        New government, (if they can resist bribes and free load hamburgers), must disband DOTC and NTC together and create our version of DARPA instead, integrated deeply to AFP.

        • Chivas says:

          To add, if you don’t want to pay for web services for life(only pay for P50 a day or connect for free in public wifi) use AWS(or similar to them), which is free for one year, root your phone and setup your own Telco, the way you see fit, the way you want it.

    • Joe America says:

      Right, paper is the preferred medium. It is soooooo quaint.

    • chempo says:

      There is a time and place for everything. Regarding use of technology, here’s a story.

      A friend of mine and his German colleague were relocated from the Singapore office to set up a new plant in Thailand. The 2 set-off with grand plans. Everything is new, its an open book for them. They set down to design a state of the art plant. Factory opened on time and the plant ran smoothly and efficiently. 6 months down the line they both realised that they blundered and tendered their resignation immediately. High-tech does not equate to competitiveness. Thailand is somewhat similar to Philippines in terms of labour cost structure. It turned out their technology cost worked against them. Their low-tech high labour competitors produced cheaper products.

    • My view here is from numerous interactions with Government IT Systems.

      The laws and the fear of going against the law makes SAP implementations on government systems damn near impossible.

    • wjarko says:

      “IT can make services efficient. But government employees are allergic to full computerization.They fear they will lose their jobs.”

      – I can totally vouch for this. But in my agency in particular, much of the resistance is from the 40’s-60’s years old rank and file people, but these people can be managed through trainings, no so much for 50-60s people.

      But what actually surprised me is that resistance is the toughest with the middle managers, they wanna keep status quo. Perhaps due to fear that they may not be able to comprehend new tech. Resistance to change is another major stumbling block in our vision for a progressive future

      Top management are more forward thinking, in my agency at least, to actually push for acquisition and better use technology. The younger generation I belong to are the most frustrated with all the manual jobs and all the inefficiency.

      So far, my take is that its only a matter of time before all the slow/backward thinking people are retired from service and the younger tech savvy generation step forward to take the helm in government. I feel its inevitable that in the next decade or so we can see genuine change in government whether the crooks like it or not.

      • karl garcia says:

        Yeah, the idealist should hold on to there ideals.
        We see or hear of former coup plotters,doing the things they despise themselves after a few years.
        From hunger or thirst for change to disappointment to disillusionment to apathy.

        Let the Path of Change be full of constant hunger and thirst.

        Computerization,modernization will happen one way or the other.Whether crooks like it or not.(agree)

  10. minatogonon says:

    A pinch of sarcasm but yes, all true! Thanks, this is such an insightful post

  11. Ron Angelo says:

    Accountability is alien to us. We don’t understand what it means. And with that ignorance, efficiency and effectiveness goes out the window.

    I worked in a call center before and I was with at&t. Back when I was workingthere, accountability was important. We were trained to use our discretion and make everything as advantageous to the customer as possible. It was normal for me to give certain customers credit because I saw it as reasonable. And not once did my manager tell me to stop.

    Here though, businesses as well as politicians will say anything and everything to avoid accountability. I’ve been losing internet connection on a daily basis for 2 months now. PLDT has sent technicians multiple times. And not once have they fixed the problem nor reduced our bill.

  12. Neo Canjeca says:

    evidence of incompetence

    Lullabye ni Mar: Langingit ng Kawayan sa ilalim ng Niugan

    Noong panahon ng lolo ko sa isang liblib na nayong puro niyug ang halaman
    Hindi ko mawari, umaga, hapon, gabi laging naididinig ko
    Alinman mga magulang ayaw magkaroon ng manugang na “putok sa kawayan”
    Ayaw nilang ang dalagang anak paligawan, ayaw nilang ang binatang anak manliligaw
    Sa isang nilalang ang turing nila ay “Putok sa kawayan”
    Okay lang sa kanila pag nalaman nila, anak man sa pagkakasala
    Kung ang ama’t ina nagmamahalan tulad ni Romeo at Julieta.

    Kahit sapat o sobra pag aruga at pagmamahalan, sa publiko kahit isang politiko
    Hindi katapatan ang tahasang banggitin parang amang tunay, ng isang inampon lamang.
    Hindi rin marangal at sapat banggitin Filipino ang nakapulot, Filipino ang nagampon
    Ay walang duda ipangalandakan ang napulot ay Filipino din
    hanggang hindi pa napapatunayan ang nagtapon sa dugo at buto ay Filipino Din.

    Pambobola, insulto at pang alipusta ang purihin abot langit ang mga nakikining
    Sa kanilang talino at galing, sa tapang at giting, sa sipag at sigasig ayon sa kasaysayan
    Mga kababayan tila bingi at duling sa kanilang pag unlad at kabayanihan .
    Tuloy ang pangarap, tulog pa humahagok naghihilik pa sa pancitan
    Kailangan himasin, haplusin bago masohin tiyak hindi pa rin magigising
    Kahit Dalawampu (20) malawak, matagal, mabigat na problema
    ang dami at ang haba ng kanilang pagkukulang na dapat ayusin.
    Dugay ang galing ng mga kasimanua, ay ambot pa gihapon.

    Parang isang trapo, gamit na gamit na basahan ang pinunasan lalong nadumihan.
    Hindi masamang sa mga bobo makiusap Di man kumilos
    Kapit bisig, hala bira, Magplano lang OK na tayo para sa kinabukasan.
    “I hope you will join me in crafting a bright and meaningful future
    for our motherland, the Philippines.”

    Kung may nais at nagandahan puede meron permiso eh translate sa English , Please.

  13. i7sharp says:

    How about doing this simple thing?:

    If only because NAIA is named after PNoy’s father and has been called the “worst airport in the world,” why don’t we look, for a start, at its latest update on its fire-fighting and rescue capabilities?

    I have tried looking here,

    Perhaps someone here can do better and help?

    btw, is there a “search” box in the site?
    I did not find any.

    Perhaps this can help in the meantime?:

    • i7sharp says:

      The “overwhelming” response to the comment reveals “incompetence” to lift a finger to check?

      God forbid, there will be a fire at the airport.
      Even if the facilities are in tip-top shape (which, forgive me, I doubt).

  14. karl garcia says:

    It will always be too long for a bad president and too short for a good one. Bring back two four year terms.
    limit political appointees in the cabinet, they don’t have total control to begin with.
    If it is the economy, stupid and the system, stupid. Change the stupid.

  15. NHerrera says:

    Off topic. The day(s) after for Poe and Binay — the concept of Politics-is-addition with different nuances:

    – After announcing her intent to run as President for 2016, Senator Sotto declares that “a vote for Sen. Grace Poe is as much an affirmation of support for the Aquino administration as a vote for former interior secretary Manuel Roxas II.” Creative spin to gain some of Roxas-leaning votes.

    – After being jeered in his speech before the University of the Philippines, Los Banos, Binay spokesman Salgado has this to say: “The VP respects the sentiments and admires the conviction of these students, even those who have apparently pre-judged him. What’s important is there’s freedom of expression and they’re open-minded.” Creative statement again — they would not issue a negative statement and thereby alienate a sizeable student group.

    I am not saying those statements are wrong. I am saying the spokesperson or politician supporters are doing their jobs rightly — from the book of Campaign Politics 101.

  16. hector sanvictores says:

    Hi Joe,How about imposing Drucker’s Management by Objective (MBO) philosophy into the system where objectives are set and measured.Some companies have adopted this. I suppose this can also be adopted by government agencies. Hector A. Sanvictores  email:  From: The Society of Honor by Joe America To: Sent: Wednesday, September 16, 2015 3:00 PM Subject: [New post] The secret to government incompetence #yiv6366077624 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv6366077624 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv6366077624 a.yiv6366077624primaryactionlink:link, #yiv6366077624 a.yiv6366077624primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv6366077624 a.yiv6366077624primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv6366077624 a.yiv6366077624primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv6366077624 | Joe America posted: “This is not an anti-blog having the goal of criticism for the sake of being critical. I personally remain positive about the Philippines, about the Aquino Administration and about the great future ahead for this vibrant, rising nation.But someone has ” | |

  17. Just want to share this feel good story. I love Obama’s tweet to the kid from Texas who got arrested for bringing his invention to school:

    This is a great example of how to reinforce the creativity, innovation, and problem solving skills of our youth. Zuck of FB and MIT (the bastion of awesome geekhood) are also inviting him for a visit. The kid deserves all the positive attention he is getting.

    Tayong mga Filipino, KSP (kulang sa pansin) ano? Kailangan nating bigyan ng credit yung mga taong gumagawa ng mabuti imbes na puro na lang reklamo ang ginagawa natin. Pag mabuti ang ginagawa ng ating kapwa tao, wala tayong imik. Pag masama ang ginagawa ng iba, wala din tayong sinasabi o ginagawa baka maibsan ang problema. Talamak na ang pagiging pasaway dahil walang pumapansin mapamasama o mapamabuti man.

    • KSP talaga..

      Giving credit and attention for a job well done inspire people to do better. Too much griping, complaining and whining make government take a defensive stance.

      People like Joe who emphasizes the positive are always labelled apologist, yellowtard, ass kisser.

      Oh my!

  18. chempo says:

    This is a different Joe. It’s just gripe gripe and more gripe. But I understand, he is writing on behalf of a nation of complainers.

    What can you do when incompetence and corruption is systemic. What do you expect of Filipino kids’ moral fibres when they grow up watching all around them, the parents, the Barangay officials, the local church elders etc all solidly entrenched in that evil culture. What do you think the massa feel when they watch on TV and see the faces of Jinggoy and Revilla smirking and taunting instead of cowering in shame? Corruption is King!.

    I have a story to share.

    Vandalism is taken very lightly in most countries, just a misdemeanor. In my country, it’s a very serious offence. The sentence is caning, something we dish out to rapists and gang-related crimes. (There is a reason for this — fines and jail terms are insufficient deterrence, caning does the trick. Human rights proponents can cry foul, but it works for us).

    2 teenagers were caught committing acts of vandalism (damaged some cars). One an American Michael Faye, the other a Taiwanese boy (forgot his name) who was a permanent resident.

    The Taiwanese family — apologised, heads bowed in shame, disappeared from public view. Boy faced the music, served sentence/caning and moved on.

    The American family — fought the case like hell, prime-time TV in America, US media went into circus mode discuss Singapore’s draconian laws, roped in President Clinton for publicity and appeal, marched into Singapore with high flung lawyers and more publicity for the trials — there was absolute silence on the breach of foreign law, on the plight of victims. Boy served sentence/caning, then returned home to a celebrity’s reception at American airport and hometown, Boy lived up to the celebrity status for a while, then life when into a spin…drugs and other problems.

    There is a lesson here — the difference in Asian and Western values. Are Filipinos Asian or Western? There’s no shame here. Look at Jinggoy and Revilla and their smiling faces. Look at the circus the Binays put up to confront the mountain of corruption charges. Look at the farce every official puts up when they are slapped with criminal charges.

    With the problem so entrenched, systemic and wide-spread, only a paradigm shift in national consciousness can save the country. Hercules could not have cleaned the filthy stables with a thousand buckets of water. He needed to divert a river to wash it clean. Is there a Hercules in Philippines?

    • mercedes santos says:

      There was, his name is Antonio Luna. His own people killed him.

    • @ chempo

      We would like to think it would be Mar, with the continuity of the Straight Path, six years isn’t just enough. How long did it take Lee Kuan Yew to succeed? Mar with the same goal, with a different style of his own, different strokes, different folks…same aspirations.

      your take on the styles of Binay Jinggoy and Revilla on how they face the charges of corruption and plunder “smirking and taunting instead of cowering in shame? Corruption is King!.” – shameful and true…shameful because we took it without caring, or his supporters did, lapped it up with cheers to boot.

      The differences in culture that you demonstrated should be analyzed here with the end of introducing changes in the way people respond to discipline. Government should talk to the people and do some explaining so they would not whine so much.

      Your last paragraph is spot on, worth quoting…thanks

    • There were “facets” to the Michael Fay story. Your exaggerated view of American insolence and “absolute silence on the breach of foreign law, on the plight of victims” is inaccurate. America and its people are not monolithic.

      The link below gives a credible summary of what happened in 1994:

      “Are Filipinos Asian or Western?”

      After you listed a litany of unfavorable American behaviors, that question comes out as “fighting words.” There are a lot of wonderful things about Singapore but let’s not forget that it also has its flaws. Asians are not without faults either. Let’s not go there…

      • karl garcia says:

        fighting words they maybe,but they are just words.

        No fighting. 🙂

      • chempo says:

        Glad you brought this up Juana, I was expecting it will come from Lance.

        First let me just say that I abide by my 10 commandments on blogging. Nothing is gained by my offering exxageration or lies. I think the tone of my comments have been consistent in this society. Joe has influenced me on the ‘building up’ mentality and i don’t intend to stray.

        Thanks for the link. Allow me to point out some details.

        1. It was not a case of a minor mischief spray painting a car. It was a 10 day spree by a gang of youths causing damage to many cars and buildings. The fact that a judge’s car was involved was purely accidental.
        2. There was nothing political to the case. It was a criminal act pure and simple. One act of vandalism you can put off to mischief or misdemeanor, a 10 day spree is another thing all together.
        3. Many cars were spray painted, 17 i think, some got doors kicked in, windows broken by bricks. Faye faced 53 charges, including retaining stolen properties. So if you got a picture of a sweet American kid in your mind, he’s not one.
        4. Other kids involved were under age so they were spared. One Thaiiland diplomat’s son flashed out the immunity card so he was spared. It was a bunch of upper society kids from American International School.
        6. President Clinton pleaded for leniency and number of strokes was reduced to accommodate him. (Give face).
        7.Singapore caning is unlike the middle east. The Arabs cane in public to shame offender. Singapore caning is more dignified in private room with only a prison official, caner, and a doctor.
        8. We instituted caning for offences where fines and jail term are not strong deterrent enough, Caning is for vandals. rapists and gang=related crimes. Singapore caning is excruciating, Even the toughest gangster prefer longer jail term to caning,

        That incident spinned off lots of debates in many countries from a mere criminal act to issues of cultural values and Singapore’s draconian punishments. Finally Lee Kuan Yew weighed in on the matter. He said the whole affair revealed America’s moral decay. “The U.S. government, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. media took the opportunity to ridicule us, saying the sentence was too severe,The U.S. does not restrain or punish individuals, forgiving them for whatever they have done. That’s why the whole country is in chaos: drugs, violence, unemployment and homelessness. The American society is the richest and most prosperous in the world but it is hardly safe and peaceful.”

        My intent here is not one-upmanship, There are many western values that I truly appreciate. My comment here has relevancy to the subject matter of this article. You want changes in this country. it’s time to take real tough actions. South approaches to criminality leads you down the road to chaos.

        • chempo says:

          Typo last sentence — South to read soft

        • I think you said your piece, chempo. Let me just point out a few things and I’ll leave you and your unfavorable opinion of America and its people:

          1. America does not suffer from moral decay. That statement is a severe judgement and that is not a ridicule on my part. America is a young country that continuously learns from its mistake and always try to do the right thing. It will make a lot more of those mistakes now and in the future but its collective soul will not surrender to moral decay.

          2. “The U.S. does not restrain or punish individuals, forgiving them for whatever they have done.” Not true. All you have to do is live in this country to know that is not so. America and its people can be generous to a fault but law is the law and punishment is meted to those who deserve it.

          3. It is natural to love your country to a point of reverence but it does not bode well to generalize America into something like this: “That’s why the whole country is in chaos: drugs, violence, unemployment and homelessness.” I can tell you that is an exaggeration. Parts of the country are in chaos from time to time but the “whole country” is not.

          4. “The American society is the richest and most prosperous in the world but it is hardly safe and peaceful.” Safe and peaceful it is, except for pockets of discontent here and there. Your blanket statements can not apply to the whole of America and all its states.

          5. Be careful about passing judgement about something, someone or some place. Deep knowledge of the subject matter always temper preconceived notions and generalized perceptions.

          6. It is not right to tear down America to build up Singapore. You do not need to. Singapore’s good merits speak for themselves and you are right about . Please do not gag and beat America until you see its real soul and spirit.

          7. America and its people have bad reputations because of people who label and stereotype. Most of these badmouthers have never lived a day in American soil or in an American community surrounded by gentle, generous, law abiding and upright Americans.

          8. Always try to extend love and understanding instead of passing judgement.

          • Juana Pilipinas says:

            * 6. and you are right about being proud to be Singaporean.

          • chempo says:

            You have your points Juana, not going to counter that generally.

            Amercia is a champion of lots of good stuff all over the world (all my previous comments elsewhere have been consistent in that), although they do make horrible mistakes in many places, like a tendency to support dictators as long as they seem to be the democratic option. Marcos was one such instance, propped up by US. In fact, US could have done better and protected Ninoy but they did’nt.

            American idealism is wonderful, of which you have listed well. But if you have stay glued to the news in the last few years, I don’t know why you don’t sense the decay taking place. The system panders to perpetrators of crime and that’s basically the narrative that I’m trying to convey that Philippines should not go down this same path as it does seem to. Perhaps I did not portray it well enough.

            • “I don’t know why you don’t sense the decay taking place. “

              After all that crap Justin Bieber pulled awhile back, vandalism, etc. If California had caning in the books, they would ‘ve happily caned Justin.

              As for this decay, we’re fighting it (though it feels like a losing fight), but the concern should be that we are exporting all this crap over there,

              for example, Tobacco they are largely done here, but going strong over there ( that’s just one example ):

              • chempo says:

                This is the sense I get why The Donald is riding high on the charts. People just feel the need for an action guy to get things going. Much like why some people want Duterte. (I’m not saying that I favor Trump, but I understand his current popularity).

              • Joe America says:

                Trump defines the word bombastic, and his human rights sensitivities are stuck in the 60’s, last century. Other than that, he is a smart guy and can for sure make decisions.

              • After the debate yesterday, I think people are starting to sense that he’s just a one trick pony ( a great mind for bidness, but nothing else ). Rubio I think really did well yesterday.

            • Joe America says:

              ??? What business did the US have in protecting Ninoy and interfering directly in Philippine political affairs?

              • chempo says:

                In the dying years of Marcos admin, the dictator was basically propped up by US. Ninoy’s fateful journey home was made in the face of intelligence report of an assasination threat, although it was not specific from where….Marcos himself/ Imelda? military?? UN would have been privy to that knowledge and should have asked Marcos to hands off Ninoy but did nothing. US viewed Ninoy’s return as potential problem for Philippines in the sense that the opposition will be strengthened, so preferred the status quo of Marcos’ democracy.

                Contra this to Singapore’s ejection from Malaysia. When Tungku Abdul Rahman then Malaysian first Prime Minister made the decision to expel Malaysia, Lee Kuan Yew was holidaying somewhere in West Malaysia and he hurried back to Singapore because there was threat on his life coming from the ultra Malays. UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson interceded and specifically warned the Tungku to hands off LKY. It had nothing to do with personal love, but the Brits understood the fragile situation of Singapore during those trying times.

  19. Micha says:

    One way to create a vibrant middle class is to reduce their tax burden. There’s a proposal in Congress to do just that but President Aquino gave it a thumbs down saying that the gov’t needs to expand its revenue collection to fund its projects. Sadly, this Presidential misconception on monetary and fiscal matters perpetuates the lie that a sovereign gov’t that is also a sovereign issuer of its own currency should operate just like an ordinary household.


    • problem is his defense upgrade initiatives are all based on dollars. Our imports for labor intensive companies are all dollar denominated, too. Those are all mostly credits.

      • wjarko says:

        That’s why we dont have a working defense industry. Too many arms salesmen masquerading as Foreign consultants in DND-AFP that do nothing but make recommendations based on their respective country’s defense specs.

      • Micha says:


        But you can’t get dollars by taxing your local population in their local currency, can you?

        • true, but we need more pesos so we can buy more dollars for that defense spending and material importations…

          • Unless and until we do that, we have to make sacrifices and pay our taxes diligently. My idea is to include soft drinks and junk foods in those goods subject to sin taxes instead of lowering income tax rate…win win situation – we get more revenue and we promote health by making prices of those prohibitive.

          • Micha says:


            Now we’re getting somewhere…

            1. Theoretically, if we could use the peso to buy dollars, what prevents the gov’t from using its unlimited ability to create pesos and covert it into dollars? What’s the difference between a freshly minted peso and the peso coming from the bulsa of Juan dela Cruz?

            2. Isn’t it the case that we get our dollar revenue mostly from exports and/or overseas Filipino remittances.

            • Thanks, Micha

              I need a clarification – for a country to be considered monetary sovereign, one has to contract loans overseas using her own currency, right?

              Can we contract a loan in Philippine peso?

              • ok, may I add another clarificatory question, as I am not a financial expert here, who determines if a nation is monetary sovereign, will a country need to be declared by an international body to be so? I understand that the dollar is the accepted currency worldwide, so we have transact with other suppliers in dollars..

              • You don’t necessarily have to use dollars. The Euro is the other international or at least regional currency – most neighbors of the Euro zone use it to do business with their neighbors. Dollars the international currency are because the US is globally recognized, before the US was the global power, pound sterling were the international standard (England) before that it was the Mexican silver peso or “pieces of eight” (Spain) – pirates used that currency in the Carribean and even contracts with China used that currency.

                Monetarily sovereignty means you are in charge of your own money, the Philippine is, you can print pesos as much as you want but of course they will lose value if you print too much like Marcos who was the first to have pesos printed and minted locally. Euro countries are NOT monetarily sovereign – the power to create money is with the European Central Bank. The Greeks would like to print new money but they can’t, therefore austerity.

              • Micha says:

                1. A country is monetarily sovereign if it has its own Central Bank issuing its own sovereign currency. Contracting loans overseas has nothing to do with it.

                2. Can we contract a loan in Philippine peso? If by this you mean if we could get a loan from, say, the Bank of England or the Bank of Japan, the answer is no. International transactions are usually, for convenience, denominated in dollars because it is the default international reserve.

                3. Will a country need to be declared by an international body to be declared monetarily sovereign? Not necessarily. It only needs to be recognized that it has its own functioning unit of exchange to facilitate trade.

              • Many homeowners in the Euro zone made the mistake of contracting housing loans in Swiss francs because they thought the interest was lower – it was, but the Swiss France shot up when the Euro went down due to Greece and other problems…

                Now these homeowners have to pay back their loans in Swiss francs, de facto they are paying around 20% more than they used to pay per month which definitely hurts.

              • Irineo,

                Dollars or euro, yes. But neither dollar nor euro is our official currency. My understanding of monetary sovereignty is one wherein your official currency can be used to pay off foreign loans. Our peso may not be acceptable to foreign creditors so we cannot be monetary sovereign. Am I wrong?


                You mean we can be monetary sovereign if we print as many peso bills subject to limitation similar to what is being done in USA, then convert them to dollars for settlement of our loans? That’s not what I came to understand from our discussion in karl’s article.

                “A nation is sovereign in MMT parlance if it issues its own currency, floats it freely on foreign exchange markets and does not acquire financial liabilities that are denominated in a foreign currency.” — Bill Mitchell

              • chempo says:

                Let me try my hand at this.

                1. Bank reserves — Banks receive deposits, they lend it out. But not 100%. They need to keep a certain % in their a/c with Bangko Sentral. I think it’s 20% at the moment. This is the reserve ratio. Which is very high by international standards.There’s good and bad, but too detailed to discuss here.

                2. Money in circulation – This is the physical printed peso notes + coins in circulation.

                3. Base money = (1) + (2).

                4. SB can increase money in circulation by lowering the reserve ratio (so banks can lend more into the markets, and/or print peso notes.

                5. BS can also increase or decrease money supply by fiscal policies. Buy bonds or Treasury Bills thus pushing money out into circulation, sell bonds and T Bills sucks money back into the SB thus decrease money in circulation. Increase of decrease interest rates has the same effect.

                6. Does it mean SB can just print as much as it likes? NO because Philippines will become a banana republic, one whose currency is worthless.

                7. Some currencies are pegged to gold. (S$ is pegged to 0.290299 grams of gold. Means every S$ in circulation is backed by gold. Means we have physical gold bullion kept somewhere, maybe Fort Knox).

                8.Most currencies are fiat money, such as peso. Means this they are not backed by anything. It is what the govt say it is. (The only substantial gold hoard Philippines has belongs to Marcos, it’s somewhere).

                9. So what is the value of a currency? The value of a currency is relative to another currency via exchange rates. Ex rates are sorted out by demand and supply which in turn is a matter of trade. If there is a lot of demand for Philippines’ products and services, people buying your products need to buy peso to pay for it. Trade terms may be in say US$, but the mechanics will work out that peso is bought along the way, cos the Philippine exporter finally gets paid in peso. Generally it works like that. On the other hand, Philippines’ buys other countries’ products, so peso is sold to buy other countries. That’s why a country cannot simply keep on printing currency. You need to have the products & services to sell.

                10. International loans in what currency? — Theoretically you can borrow in any currency, but mostly it’s done in US$ or Euros. Why? Because they are the most traded. If you borrow in US$ you have a US$ liability so you must manage the exchange risk. If you have a corresponding US$ assets then no worries because net net you got no exposure. (But there are still interest rate exposures if the liability and assets are of different terms)> If you has a mis-match, ie, an exposure, or in trade terms – a long position (net net more assets in US$), or a short position (net net more US$ liabilities) you minimise the currency risk by hedging via various instruments.

                11. So can borrow in other currencies? — Some currencies are still possible but more difficult. However clever financial engineering has made it possible for complicated multicurrency loan arrangements where lending banks may lend out in currency A but take their risk in currency B (because they don’t want currency A risks) and the borrower takes currency B but their actual risk is currency A. It’s complicated, thus more costly. Ingenius accounting is required. Been there, done that.

                12. Does that mean peso loan is possible? — For exotic currencies (those not well traded — because their internation trade is very small) it is difficult to mandate a substantial syndicated loan internationally. Banks running the loan books have difficulty selling to a syndicate. I personally have not seen a peso syndicated loan in the international market.

                13. Noteworthy — Philippines has something un-usual, it’s huge overseas remittances from OFWs. That is a substantial consistent demand side for the pesos. The remittances coming in from all over the world end up in Philippines buys up a substantial sum of peso. If tomorrow all these remittances stops, your peso value will drop like a bomb.

                It’s a complicated subject. Hope above brief Money 101 helps answer some questions.

              • Micha says:


                Technically, there’s no constraint for the Philippine gov’t to do exactly that provided we are also prepared to accept a highly depreciated currency.

                Loans in dollars diminish – but not entirely negate – our sovereignty. A practical policy approach then is to limit our accumulation of foreign loans and expand our export market.

                Domestically, there’s no monetary constraint on projects utilizing goods and services that can be paid in pesos other than the threat of inflation. Taxes do not pay for gov’t spending. President Aquino is either intentionally lying or he is just simply misinformed when he asserted that we need to forego the proposed tax relief on the middle class because the gov’t needs money to finance its operation.

              • chempo says:

                Just an after thought:

                I think a question somewhere was basically:

                Can’t we borrow in pesos internationally and print pesos to pay for the debt?

                I said peso loan is difficult, but let’s say we managed to secure one. So then SB simply prints the pesos to pay? First look at the physical aspect — you mean to print and then bundle them up and ship it over to the banks in repayment? Does’nt work like that.

                Internal currencies are settled via bank a/cs in the country of the currency. If it’s US$ it’s settled in New York, if Yen it’s settled in Tokyo, if pesos, it’s Philippines. Banks maintain a/cs with one another, this relationship is called correspondent banking. Let’s say Citibank HK’s peso correspondent is BDO. Then Citibank HK maintains an operating a/c called nostro a/c at BDO. To BDO, these are vostro a/cs. (BDO may maintain S$ nostro account with Citibank Singapore). When Citibank HK lends peso to Philippines, it pays out of their BDO a/c to the recipient banker of the borower. So it means Citibank HK must first have these peso with BDO. On repayment, the borrower’s banker transfers to Citibank’s a/c at BDO. Of course Citibank HK is not going to keep the a/c at that level. They would have used it, say sold their peso for US$ with someone and receive SU$ in their a/c in New York. So what does it mean? No cash movement at all, just electronic debits and crredits in banking a/cs. And that’s how the world works.

                Can the borrower get BS to ship the newly printed physical peso to BDO for a/c Citibank HK? Never seen this before in my working lifetime. Let’s say it’s done. BDO at the end of the day has to get rid of the physical peso hoard, it’s non-earning inventory. So BDO ships it back to SB for deposit with the SB. Imagine the cost involved for a 1 billion peso loan (which is a chicken feed sum in terms of international syndicated loan). So at the end of the day, the peso ends up physically with the SB. Now what does this mean? 1. SB is now sitting on a pile of paper and paying interest to BDO. Crazy, no? 2.SB will eventually ship the peso notes out to banks as part and parcel of daily transactions to meet banking needs. Remember the money in circulation above? That has now increased tremendously and it screws up the SB management of the country’s monetary supply.

                So when do SB print pesos normally?

                The sum of money in circulation has to serve the level of the economy. If goods and services increase, more physical money is required. This can be increased either by the speed of the circulation or by printing more money. That;s why SB has to watch the economic data closely. Another occassion to print money is maintenance. Old soiled notes and returned in exchange for new ones.

    • wjarko says:

      Too bad such a misconception persist in our country. Our government should really look closely at how the US does it. The Feds practically print billions of dollars every month from thin air to buy US Debt.

  20. “The September 25 Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed that 64 percent of Filipinos were satisfied with Aquino’s performance while 14 percent and 22 percent were undecided and dissatisfied, respectively.

    The numbers gave Aquino a “good” net satisfaction score of +41, up 11 points from his “good” rating of +30 in June.”

    Just wondering why satisfaction score is measured in net approval rating…

    In election, the total votes for or against a candidate are announced as is…

    why couldn’t they announce it as 64% of the Filipinos are satisfied, 14% are undecided and 22% undecided?

    • NHerrera says:

      I believe, net satisfaction has more information CONTENT for a one-number rating because it essentially carries the information of both satisfaction and dissatisfaction (that is, net satisfaction = satisfaction – dissatisfaction).

  21. karl garcia says:

    Ah basta after 10 -20years we must shift to federalism.

  22. karl garcia says:

    One day we can talk about parliamentary system again.

  23. karl garcia says:

    From the discussions above re: Monetary Sovereignty.

    We need a part two, a more comprehensive and way much better version from Micha.

  24. chempo says:

    Joe, why PNoy did’nt remove Abaya, you asked. That’s the problem of a presidential system. Abaya is the administration party leader, it’s a delicate situation. Should a country’s President remove someone from his cabinet who is the Party President? Touchy touchy.

    It’s like in a family business. One cannot easily remove a non-performing old uncle.

    • Joe America says:

      I think the way the Japanese do. Promote him to a job of some consequence, but where he does not get in the way. Like Presidential Adviser for Peace negotiations with NPA et al. Or Ambassador to Singapore, to learn how he could have done it differently . . . I agree it is tough, but in an era of transparency, the President can’t get away with keeping on the job without getting hit hard.

  25. Chris says:

    The Philippines is a feudal kleptocracy masquerading as a democracy to gain acceptance and aid from the West. It is actually a very rich country, but the wealth is in the hands of about 200 families, and they intend to keep it that way.

    There is no critical thinking because of that hierarchy. The boss makes all the decisions; even if the staff know the decision is a bad one they won’t challenge the boss. It is more important for everyone working together to feel good than for the job to get done efficiently.

    Aid from well-meaning (but also incompetent western agencies) does not reach the poor, it is stolen by the layers of government. Western NGOs are usually staffed by people with no business experience and who probably couldn’t hold a real job where they had to work hard. There are a few exceptions; I have a good friend who runs an NGO in Myanmar but even she complains in private about Save the Children and others. The EU officials here have the worst sense of entitlement I have ever come across.

    If a major project gets delayed, it’s because the civil servants haven’t yet worked out how to steal enough from it.

    It is that culture of subservience and not wanting to stand out from your peer group that means we don’t see armed revolution here. It used to surprise me that the poor and middle class put up with the sh*t foisted on them, but no more.

    • Joe America says:

      Chris, are you Filipino or non-Filipino, and do you live in the Philippines now? Thanks, I just wanted to check the originating foundation of the observation, which I don’t disagree with, other than I think there are pressures forming against the kleptocracy.

      • His last sentence makes me think he is non-Filipino. His description – which is factually the same stuff as what I mentioned in my first post about “loyalty”, “sharing” and “humility” in the Filipino context shows that he probably has dealt with the mentality firsthand locally.

        The pressures forming against the kleptocracy are those from the up-and-coming middle class, those who have partly broken out of the feudal system and have begun to see that they can shape their own destiny – and want to shape it more. They have enemies on top and below them – those who want to keep their rent-seeking privileges, and those who live comfortably by being stooges of the feudal system. But a critical mass is slowly forming…

  26. Liya says:

    Talk is cheap. We already know what is wrong. Imaginary solution is not a solution until given a definite plan.

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