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.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Anti-RH lawmakers’ win in 2013 elections shows pro-Life vote---a ‘work in progress.’ Is Comelec’s move vs. Buhay meant to clip this bloc in Congress? FDIs slacken instead of pulling up early this year---would P-Noy's Myanmar sales-talk improve it? K to 12 program touted to add skills to youthful labor force starting 2018, but imperative need NOW is to train millions of jobless youths---for immediate employment.

British Ambassador Stephen Lillie stressed it in a recent column and Ayala top honcho Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala said it too at the recent World Economic Forum in East Asia, held in Myanmar:  the Philippines needs more foreign direct investments (FDIs) if it wants to sustain the 7.8% growth earlier this year and two recent rating upgrades by Fitch and Standard and Poor’s, and promote inclusive growth to pull up the masses from grinding poverty.

The above FDI graph tells it all: PH remains at the bottom, lower even than Myanmar, Vietnam and Cambodia. In the first three months of 2013, for instance, Vietnam registered over $6 billion, an increase of 63.6% year on year, while Indonesia cornered $6.7 billion in gross FDIs.  On the other hand, PH suffered a net outflow of FDIs last March---only $78 million in the same period, compared to net inflow of $179 million same time last year.

As economists and business leaders don’t tire pointing out, FDIs in the form of more permanent investments such as job-generating factories and businesses are far preferable to the “hot money” that zooms fast into stocks and property investments, but just as easily flees abroad when the going gets rough in a country.


But why don’t FDIs come into PH?

There are many factors: perceptions of political instability, e.g., the raids on multinational firms in Mindanao and the stalling of the peace-process with the communist insurgents and the Islamic elements; the total refusal of President Noynoy to consider even amendments to the economic provisions of the Constitution, let alone a full-pledged Charter Change, and the crippling cost of power in PH, the highest in the region.

Above all, there’s the tendency of this administration early at the start to change policies in mid-stream---creating so much “unpredictability,” as European Chamber executive vice-president Henry Schumacher termed it. Three big foreign firms were affected thus when their contracts were cancelled in P-Noy's first eight months.

Clearly there remains much work on these factors if we are to encourage FDIs to come in and build those factories that would employ our able-bodied young people aching for jobs---and if we are to regain foreign investors' trust and confidence.

After P-Noy's sales pitch at the WEF in Myanmar last week, would FDIs now trickle in? Abangan.


In this connection the K to12 program of DepEd was signed into law last May 15 by President Aquino, and the concept of the two-year “senior" high school on top of the current four-year "junior" high school will be implemented nationwide beginning SY2016-2017. I wish it tremendous success.

I’m for creating a two-year “senior high school,” as it would mature our young people and prepare them better for serious college work---even though it means two years of added load for already over-burdened parents.

DepEd officials say these two additional years would involve adaption to the skills aptitude manifested by students in their respective localities, and that such training would help answer the joblessness of our young labor force. Well and good. 

But graduating the first batch of Grade 12 students will be in 2018---five years away---when what’s urgent NOW is to answer the yawning joblessness of 3.09 million Filipinos in the first quarter of this year---the highest joblessness rating of our country IN THREE YEARS according to the latest NSO statistics. This despite the "astounding" 7.8% growth of the economy in the first quarter of 2013. 


The sad part is that most of the unemployed (61.4%) are males, considered the main breadwinners, and they also belong to the 15-24 age group and are mostly high school and college graduates. If these graduates cannot find jobs, what more the large segment who cannot even finish grade school, so that the only jobs available to them are operating tricycles under a “boundary” system with  miserable earnings. Note two hundred or so such tricycles easily parked in any subdivision street-corner at any given time.

Easy and fast alternatives for "employment" are provided by drug rings that entice jobless, out of school youths as couriers, criminal syndicates that begin innocently as street cellphone snatching, or the insurgents in the provinces who offer fat salaries to recruits.

What’s needed NOW is an EMERGENCY tightly-coordinated (between DepEd/Tesda and the business community) and imaginative program to train our youths in various skills for something like two months max, for IMMEDIATE EMPLOYMENT.  The NSO report notes that workers in the services sector remained the largest group, comprising more than half of the labor force. It is this sector that can be trained in two months and with the boom in restaurants and hotels they can be helped in jobs.

All it needs is political will.

With the Supreme Court setting for June 18 oral arguments on the RH bill, it’s time to focus once again on this highly controversial issue.

Recall that after the voting on the RH Bill last Dec. 17 by the 15th Congress, both sides said they would campaign hard for those who’d vote with them. The pro-Life side did as they said they would, and herewith, courtesy of a friend who patiently compiled these names, are the successful re-electionists in the recent elections, who had voted NO to RH---and who were not enticed to abandon their convictions with pork barrel:

Roman Romulo (Pasig), Benjamin Asilo (Manila), Naida Angping (Manila), Trisha Bonoan-David (Manila), Amado Bagatsing (Manila), Toby Tiangco (Navotas), Maximo Dalog (Mt. Province), Imelda Marcos (Ilocos Norte), Pol Bataoil (Pangasinan), Gina de Venecia (Pangasinan), Randolph Ting (Cagayan), Dax Cua (Quirino), Albert Garcia (Bataan), Joseph Violago (Nueva Ecija), Czarina Umali (Nueva Ecija), Sonny Collantes (Batangas), Mark Mendoza (Batangas), Isidro Rodriguez, Jr (Rizal), Lani Revilla (Cavite), Karlo Nograles (Davao), Budoy Madrona (Romblon), Antonio Alvarez (Palawan), Rufus Rodriguez (CDO), Scott Lanete (Masbate), Dato Arroyo (Camarines Sur), Sal Fortuno (Camarines Sur), Al Bichara (Albay),  Fernando Gonzales (Albay), Cesar Sarmiento (Catanduanes), Deogracias Ramos (Sorsogon), Elmer Panotes (Camarines Norte), Paolo Javier (Antique),  Arthur Robes, Arthur Yap (Bohol), Benhur Salimbangon (Cebu), George Arnaiz (Negros Oriental), Henry Teves (Negros Oriental), FM Romualdez (Leyte), Lucy Gomez (Leyte), Boying Cari (Leyte), Emil Ong (Northern Samar), Rosendo Labadlabad (Zamboanga del Norte), Jorge Almonte (Misamis Occidental), Robert Puno (Antipolo City),  Romeo Acop (Antipolo City), Peter Unabia (Misamis Oriental), Pedro Romualdo (Camiguin), Thelma Almario (Davao Oriental), Pedro Acharon Jr. (South Cotabato), Manny Pacquiao (Sarangani), Francisco Matugas (Surigao del Norte), Guillermo Romarate Jr (Surigao del Norte), Florencio Garay (Surigao del Sur), Tina Plaza (Agusan del Sur), Bebs Mellana (Agusan del Sur).


On the other hand, among the Pro-Life House members who didn’t make it in the elections were: Aurelio Gonzales Jr. (Pampanga), Tom Apacible (Batangas), Maria Evita Arago (Laguna), Lord Velasco (Marinduque), Bernardo Vergara (Bagiuo City), Anthony Golez (Bacolod City), Pabling Garcia (Cebu), Boboy Syjuco (Negros Occ.), Orlando Fua (Siquijor) and Jess Paras (Bukidnon).

That’s an 86% winning rate for those congressmen and women who voted NO TO RH and succeeded in getting re-elected. 

I spoke to Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez earlier this year and he surmised that there would be about 38 or 40 House members who would form the nucleus of a pro-Life and Family group in the House. Actually with the efforts of pro-Life groups who campaigned last May many more have won seats.

In addition to the district reps, pro-Life party-list winners who made it back to the House last month were BUHAY (top vote-getter with 1.6 million votes), AKO Bicol, Ating Koop, An Waray, A Teacher, 1-Care, Abamin, and LPGMA.

Two pro-Life groups were disqualified before the elections, namely, ANAD and Ang Galing Pinoy, while five groups didn’t win seats this time: Aangat Tayo, ALE, 1 ang Pamilya, AA Kasosyo and APEC.

Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza
My friend who compiled these House pro-Life list concludes this is proof enough that there’s such a vote.  I agree, and in fact, it should be noted that a number of new Congress members will be joining this bloc, e.g., new Marinduque Rep. Gina Reyes Mandanas and Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza; possibly there'll be one more from Buhay if its stiff objection to Comelec’s intention to strip it of its third nominee in favor of Senior Citizens party-list is sustained by the Supreme Court.

On this issue I agree with Lito Atienza, Buhay lawyer Romy Macalintal and others who feel that Comelec should award Senior Citizens a seat from any of the five still un-awarded seats for the party-list quota---not from Buhay which rightfully deserves three seats owing to its landslide vote.

Knowing that a showdown could loom in Congress once again over bills that would undermine life and family, is Comelec throwing its weight with Malacanang on the Buhay issue, to clip early on the pro-Life bloc's wings?   

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