Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Timor Leste Finance Minister pays tribute to efficient ADB meeting of governors, for which DFA must claim credit. But why must P-Noy devote so much to demonizing GMA when the finance czars know the real economic and financial score about her watch; Judd Roy on Cuevas: “Bruce Lee of litigation, Rambo of rhetoric and Terminator of trial.”

Last night I attended the dinner tendered by former Speaker Jose de Venecia and Rep. Gina de Venecia (Pangasinan 4th district) in honor of Timor Leste’s Finance Minister Emilia Pires and her delegation to the 45th annual ADB Meeting of the Board of Governors. An articulate global finance official educated at the University of Melbourne and the London School of Economics and Politics, Mme. Pires, who chaired the Pacific nations’ cluster at the Manila meeting, told this writer that she had been attending these annual gatherings for the past five years, and feels that the Manila meeting was not only the biggest but also the best-organized. Everything worked like clockwork, she said, adding that the police forces did a good job of securing them (despite the noisy groups rallying outside).

Credit must go to our Department of Foreign Affairs for the tight and efficient organization of the ADB meeting. I sat next to DFA’s Chief Coordinator, former Consul-General in New York Cecilia B. Rebong, at JDV's dinner and told her about Pires’ compliment. She replied, alam mo naman tayong mga Pilipino---once we put our minds to anything, we can really make a good show of it.


The sad part, however, is that President Aquino used much of the opportunity to address that international crowd to lambast his predecessor Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and blame her for the country's ills, despite his being at the helm of government for two years now.  All P-Noy could talk about was the alleged corruption he came upon and how this has pulled us down, whereas the foreign delegates doubtless wanted to hear his programs, especially how he proposes to rescue his people from poverty and develop the Philippines' full potential.

But all things considered, it’s probably understandable that P-Noy would continue to blame GMA, for as the ADB meeting opened, the latest statistics on poverty here were no fun to reckon with: two million more families now claim self-rated poverty over last year's stats, proving that his vaunted Conditional Cash Transfer program has been ineffective. It has been a gargantuan wastage of funds loaned from international sources (which we taxpayers have to pay back)---the very crime P-Noy accuses GMA of , except that now it’s under a more respectable cover.  Moreover, the administration's trumpeted projection of growth of 5-6% this year REMAINS A DREAM, while the consumer price index is now higher than the 2.6 percent predicted, showing creeping inflation.


If P-Noy wanted to make bola about economic statistics, the ADB meeting was not the place, for as an observer put it correctly, ADB finance czars  know the undeniable gains Ph scored in the past decade up to 2010, including our fiscal turnaround that, in fact, got then Finance Secretary Gary Teves  elected as the “Asian Finance Minister” for 2009.  As the ADB itself noted, our country rose from being the laggard of Asia to one of its fastest major economies from 2007-2010.

Revel in the following undeniable stats in good times past: in 2007, only Singapore’s 8.8% topped Ph’s 6.6% among the original Asean 5. In 2008, Thailand and Singapore TRAILED Our 4.2 % growth. In 2009’s global recession, ONLY  Indonesia and Ph grew, and in fact, in 2010, when GMA exited from office, our 7.6% expansion beat Indonesia and Malaysia, and matched Thailand’s.

 Can anyone imagine how Ph would have fared in those two years of global recession that began at Wall Street, had P-Noy been at Ph’s steering wheel?  


Two years under P-Noy, growth is down, poverty and hunger are up and all he seems to want to do is to continue demonizing Arroyo, who is already under detention. Interestingly, however, even as he does so, there are a few programs  his administration cancelled in the beginning that he later reconsidered, according to news reports. For instance, this administration arbitrarily cancelled the RORO steel-ports projects of the GMA era contracted with the French company Matiere. This upset the European Chamber of Commerce, as down-payments had already been made and 70 percent of the parts are already here. But after business groups came out endorsing and pushing this technology which they found cheaper and faster to make and with less maintenance, the Aquino administration said it will push through.

But very recently reports said this project is again in limbo.


At the ADB meeting the administration’s CCT program was touted as a model for combating poverty, and international delegates and staff were taken to see model sites that got the corresponding rave reviews in media. It will be recalled that the Arroyo administration cautiously launched the CCT with about 800,000 beneficiaries in the last two or three years of its term. But after becoming aware of INHERENT WEAKNESSES of this project---such as the need to monitor it closely on the ground, to make sure those administering it at that level don’t end up pocketing the P1,600 that  each registered family was supposed to get monthly---GMA’s people decided to suspend it.


In came the Aquino administration and throwing caution to the wind, allocated to CCT P39 billion this year and about P350 billion by 2015, despite strong---but inutile---objections from some Congress leaders. Certain reports persistently say, however, that amounts reaching families in various areas are inconsistent (at times short by P500 or P600 per month, etc.); in some areas funds stopped altogether without explanation.  It’s not difficult to see why this was happening---the spread was too rapid and devoid of the proper administrative backbone (napupunta ba sa mga politico na tatakbo sa 2013?).

There is a project included in the CCT program, which is supposed to lend P10,000 each to select beneficiary families so they could start a small business---a good project that could truly revolutionize the grassroots if properly implemented. In Pasig, where I monitor things closely, there was a big to-do during its launch, with poorest of the poor women made to attend seminars and fill out various requirements, e.g., ID photos in triplicates, ATMs, etc. The women spent a lot of money on transportation and meeting requirements, but up to today, months later, NO LOANS.    


At a recent meeting of the Makati Rotary at the Peninsula Hotel, said to be the most prestigious of the various Rotary Clubs in the area, Corona defense lawyer Jose “Judd” Roy III, grandson of the late Sen. Jose Roy of that era when senators were truly a prestigious lot, was the guest speaker. A number of media were able to listen to his talk which was alternately witty, funny, informative and tough as he met queries from the Rotarians head-on.  

Roy was unabashed about the defense team’s profound admiration for their lead counsel, former Justice Serafin Cuevas, whom he termed the “Bruce Lee of litigation, the Rambo of rhetoric and the Terminator of trial.” He stressed that Cuevas would not mince words in their sessions as he would scold them for what he considered wrong opinions or erroneous judgments or tactics; in deference to his stature and brilliance, they meekly accept his scolding.  


Atty. Roy emphasized that the issue of the Chief Justice’s SALN, perhaps the key issue in his impeachment, has brought “new consciousness” about this requisite for public servants. He admitted that in fact, he himself has recently revised his own SALN which he has been filing, same contents every year for the past 14 years (the Ateneo Law School educated Roy held the posts of former law dean and later president of the Pamantasan ng Lunsod ng Maynila).

Would the defense bring in CJ as witness? His answer was a double negative: “it’s not impossible to address evidence without getting him to testify.” He referred to the prospect of humiliation and embarrassment of their client by some senator-judges, given that the defense could not question or call them down.  Not if I can help it, asserted Roy, adding, “What’s the point of being defense counsel if I would only leave him only to the wolves.”

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