Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Gloria's 'Undivided' Government

PerryScope by Perry Diaz

Once again, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is in the hot seat. No president in Philippine history -- or perhaps the world -- has experienced the ignominy of impeachment four times. But to Gloria, that is just another occupational hazard. Otherwise, it's business as usual.

As in the first three impeachment petitions, she is expected to survive this fourth and, perhaps, last attempt to remove her before her term ends in 2010. With only six -- including former Speaker Jose de Venecia -- of the 29 opposition congressmen endorsing the impeachment petition filed by De Venecia's son, Jose "Joey" de Venecia III, there is not an iota of chance -- or luck -- that the House of Representatives would impeach Gloria. With her deep pockets and political patronage, there is just no way Congress would impeach her. That is like killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

So, what the hell is Congress trying to do? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what's going to happen next, which is: vindication of Gloria. And once vindicated, she could then boldly make her next move which is to stay in power beyond 2010. And if you look at what's going on right now, the parameters to prolong her kleptocratic reign are pretty much in place. Her political machine is ready to go rolling… and roll over anyone who stands in her way.

The only thing that would stop Gloria is world public opinion which could cause the international financial cartel to react convulsively and tighten -- or stop -- credit to Gloria's government. And without international credit, Gloria's "Enchanted Kingdom" would crumble like a sand castle.

One of the Philippines' biggest creditors is Japan. With Japan officially in recession last week, it will predictably tighten the flow of money to a drip. With China going through financial crisis of its own and the United States already in deep shit, the Philippines' economic outlook is dim. And with the peso plummeting against the US dollar, Gloria's ambitious economic programs -- which is predicated on the continuous flow of OFW remittances -- are in big trouble.

In July 2008, the unemployment rate was 7.4% and underemployment rate was 21%. With the global economy melting down, the increasing number of unemployed OFWs are going home.

What is strange is that a lot of Philippine economic "experts" were saying that the Philippines will not go into recession despite the global economic meltdown. These experts should remember that what fueled the "economic boom" in the past few years were three factors: 1) Increased OFW remittances; 2) Weakened US dollar; and 3) Increased Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs). Now, let's look at each of these factors today. With OFW losing their jobs and going home, remittances will decrease. The US dollar vis-à-vis the Philippine peso is no longer weakening; it's the peso that is now weakening. At the beginning of the year, the peso was very robust at P41 to US$1. Today, it is P51 to US$1... and continues to weaken. In regard to FDIs, during the first five months of 2008, FDIs totaled a net inflow of US$725 million. A year ago, the net inflow was US$2.3 billion -- a 25% drop in FDIs. That's triple whammy!

Last November 17, 2008, in a blitzkrieg-like assault in the Upper Chamber, Senate President Manuel Villar was ousted and Senator Juan Ponce Enrile -- a close ally of Gloria -- was swiftly installed. But what is odd is that the coup was supported by several opposition senators including Panfilo Lacson, Jamby Madrigal, Mar Roxas, Loren Legarda, Jinggoy Estrada, and Francis Escudero. What made them do it? Well, they can all say, "The Devil made me do it." Interestingly, Lacson, Roxas, and Legarda are presidential wannabes. And with Villar, who is the front-runner in the presidential derby, their move appears to be motivated by their personal ambition. And by removing Villar as the Senate head honcho, it would enhance their chances in the presidential race. That's wishful thinking. What they didn't realize is that the ouster of Villar will only consolidate the powers of Gloria in the three branches of government. For the first time the country has now an undivided government. Next year, Gloria's grip on the Supreme Court will further tighten when nine justices will retire and, of course, Gloria will replace them with her loyalists.

Gloria had been trying very hard to impress the international community with untruthful and hyperbolic pronouncements. She tried very hard -- and failed -- to connect with US President-elect Barack Obama before and after his election. The word "snubbed" has been used in the media to describe her failed attempt to contact Obama right after the election. She then went to Chicago on her way to the United Nations in New York to meet with the local Fil-Ams. The Fil-Am community, however, was abuzz with words that Gloria's real purpose in going to Chicago was to seek a meeting with Obama. But it seemed that Obama's cordon sanitaire was impenetrable and Gloria high-tailed it to New York without seeing him. However, on November 17, Obama returned Gloria's November 4th call and two others. A generic statement from Obama's office said that he "expressed his appreciation for their congratulations on his election."

While Gloria tried very hard to gain international recognition with her globetrotting junkets, her satisfactory rating back home is 6.6% and her unsatisfactory rating is 82.2%. Her net satisfaction rating is -75.6, the lowest since 2004. Unfazed by these negative polls, Gloria is taking off again for Peru to attend the APEC meeting. It was reported that 42 congressmen will be joining her. The last time Congress tried to impeach her, she took off on a European junket with more than 70 congressmen and their spouses in her entourage. When they returned, Congress rejected the impeachment petition.

Amidst the economic turmoil that is besieging the country, the Filipino people continue to suffer in hunger and unemployment. But to those in power, it's business as usual -- to hell with public opinion!


Thursday, November 6, 2008



LOS ANGELES, CA, November 4, 2008– The Filipino-American Service Group, Inc. (FASGI) through its nonpartisan voter engagement project, FILVOTE, conducted a phone banking drive to encourage Filipino-Americans to go out and vote on Election Day. This drive was started a week before Election day and peaked during the day itself. FASGI volunteers and staff spearheaded the drive and called everyone on its registered voter list. Most of these people were assisted by FILVOTE to register or reregister to vote.

Majority of the volunteers at FASGI noted that at 1030a.m. most of the Fil-Ams they called already voted and the small percentage that didn’t vote yet said that they are on their way to their designated precincts. Mr.. Peping Baclig, a Filipino-American Veteran, called mostly the Filipino Veteran American seniors, he said that almost all of them already voted through the vote by mail or permanent absentee vote. They collectively observed that there was an unprecedented enthusiasm and excitement among the Filipino-Americans to participate on this election.

There were a lot of first time voters. Those that just felt that they have a need to participate on this historic election. According to one first time voter, Maria Corazon Paus, who was recently naturalized as an American Citizen on October 9, 2008, “I am elated to participate and feel the benefits of being an American, to have a voice in the process of selecting a new leader to guide the course of this Country I now call mine.” She said her wait to vote was not that long, about 15mins at the Knights of Columbus precinct at Temple Street in Los Angeles. She was there in line at 9 a.m. Although she voted Republican she says she is happy that Barack Obama won because “he has given a lot of Americans hope for a better future” she goes further “I am very happy that I cast my vote, even if my candidate lost, I feel that I still won, we all won.”

It is evident from this election that a huge turnout of Filipino Americans came out and voted. This is a departure from the perception that Fil-Ams are apathetic to the American Democratic process.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Dawn of a New Era

PerryScope by Perry Diaz

At 11:00 PM Eastern Time on November 4, 2008, Barack Obama made history when he was elected President of the United States, a feat that no African-American has achieved before. After enduring a negative campaign by his opponent, Obama convinced the American people that he is the man whom they can trust in changing the way the government works. With a vision of hope, Obama's victory ushers in a new era.

Obama's election amidst some of the sleaziest campaign tactics against him proved once again that the American people will not fall prey to negativism. But it was Obama's positive outlook and determination to stay on course that finally convinced the electorate that he could bring real change to America.

In his victory speech in Chicago attended by 125,000 enthusiastic supporters, Obama gave a stirring call to all Americans to come together and help him bring change to the nation. He set the tone of his administration when he prefaced his speech by saying, "The greatest of a lifetime -- two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century."

He told them, "This is our moment, this is our time" and declared: "Change has come to America." But he reminded the people that he alone cannot make that change. "So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder," he said. The response was spontaneous and brought many to tears of joy. In the crowd was the fiery Rev. Jesse Jackson -- who once ran for President -- with tears falling from his eyes.

The diversity of the crowd was a testament to the wide support for Obama's message, "Yes, we can," which the crowd chanted as Obama outlined the tasks that lie ahead: ending the Iraq War, fix the economy, health care, education…

It is not going to be easy. It would take a man of great courage to achieve the change he wanted. But he is not a man lacking in courage. His courage to seek the presidency without a precedence was like charting the unknown seas. He didn't have the stars to go by, only the instinct and determination of a person whose only fear is fear itself.

Looking back at the 21 months of his steep climb to the pinnacle of political power in America, Obama's success may have been attributed to "Mandela Effect," to wit: "When you can create enduring success not because you are perfect or lucky but because you have the courage to do what matters to you." Indeed, he proclaimed oftentimes during his campaign that he was not perfect. And lucky? Well, as someone once said, "The harder you work, the luckier you get." And worked harder he did to achieve what he courageously sought: the presidency of the United States of America.

Obama had broken the racial barrier to the presidency. The trail that he blazed to the White House will be studied and charted by political scientists for others to use. Henceforth, it would be easier for people of color to pursue the highest position in the land. And no longer do they have to fear the "Bradley Effect." In 1982, Tom Bradley, an African-American, lost the California gubernatorial contest although he was ahead in the polls prior to the election. The theory suggests that white voters would tell pollsters that they are undecided or would vote for a black candidate; however, on election day they would vote for the white candidate.

Because of the "Bradley Effect," political pollsters and pundits would not dare predict the victory of Obama prior to the November 4 elections. It has never happened in a presidential election before; thus, making "Bradley Effect" a huge variable in the polls. Some say that for Obama to win, he had to have at least a 10-percent lead over McCain in the polls. In most polls, Obama led by 5 to 6 percent -- not enough to offset the "Bradley Effect." The initial results of the popular vote were 52% for Obama to 47% for McCain with 84% of all precincts reported. Most of the polls were pretty close to these figures. In other words, "Bradley Effect" did not materialize in the 2008 elections.

The first task of Obama is to start the unification of the American people who were polarized by the negative campaign tactics. McCain, in his concession speech in Phoenix, Arizona, congratulated and complimented Obama. He urged his followers to "come together and bridge the separations and put aside differences." And he promised that he "will get behind his president, President Obama."

Thus started the healing process. If the two erstwhile rivals could work together -- McCain is still a senator -- it would certainly bode well for the Obama administration. And as Obama promised, he will reach across the aisle in the spirit of bipartisanship.

As the Bush presidency comes to an end, let's give President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joseph Biden best wishes as they usher in a new era of peace and prosperity. God bless both of them. God bless America.