At odds with Bongbong Marcos

They say the issue with Marcos Jr. is not Martial Law. Kasi nga naman, mahigit  40 years na daw yon. Tapos na daw yon. Golden years pa nga ng Pilipinas yon. Besides, Marcos Jr. is an embodiment of the failed Edsa Revolution, and so on.

The real issue with Marcos Jr. is his denial of the atrocities of Martial Law that his father ordered and presided over, thanks to the legal justification by his brilliant advisor Juan Ponce Enrile, who has revised himself so many times I’ve lost count already. Filipinos are naturally gifted with semantic ability minus the formal, rigid philosophical training. We love splitting hairs even. We don’t want to call Marcos Jr. a liar. He is a denier, period. And this is worst.

The young Bongbong Marcos during his days in Oxford.

On the failed Edsa Revolution, people thought that their share in nation building ended after the removal of Ferdinand Sr from Malacanang. No, sir, the Marcoses merely relocated to a more conducive environment that allowed them the privilege of untouchability of the long (and now shortened) reach of the law. People sleep for 33 years, about the same productive years of their beloved Christian triune God Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ!

On their 34th year, people woke up to mini-Marcoses, mini dictatorships sprouting like mushrooms after a soothing midday rain.

Like a malevolent virus, the Marcos dynasty has mutated. The once controlled ‘oligarchy’ has been unleashed, this time more virulent. And where were we in all of these? We’re busy remaking patronage, making beeline to this and that congressman. The others go on with their own interest, unmindful and uncaring for why should they be expected to contribute more when they already had marched along Edsa, gave flowers and sandwiches to rebellious officers, and pounded clenched fists in Manila’s polluted air.

To many of these people, democracy is a frozen delight, like your favorite Carmen’s artisanal ice cream (for the discerning class, sorry). Well, I have a bad news for them, as if they haven’t heard it yet: your brand of democracy died in 1986 the moment you believe you’re done with your share in making it work not only for you but for the rest of the Filipinos, including those who call Ayala Alabang home.

So, if you are voting for Marcos Jr. because your dumb textbooks did not inform you that the effective suspension of human rights in those years resulted in thousands of innocent civilian deaths, you are by no means less guilty for not seeking a more truthful account because you are dazzled by his accomplishments in Ilocos Norte, yes, that beautiful province that’s beautified even more to mask the ugly part of its history written by one of its own.

Marcos Jr. needs redemption and to him it was as it is to serve the public, minus the recognition of his own culpability. Own culpability? Miriam–yes, that once brilliant lady whose tandem with Marcos Jr. defies logic-says that the sins of the father cannot be inherited by the son. She is right. But the plunder of the father can be. It is. I now believe that Marcos Jr. has deep personal reason why he could not–not he did not–pursue his Philosophy, Politics, and Economics degree studies in Oxford: it is impossible to philosophize the unphilosophical; the unjust is never justifiable. That was probably the only remaining healthy cells in Marcos Jr at that time. Unfortunately, it is now consumed by “cancer cells that eats everything around it.” (That phrase is my Miriam Santiago, his running mate.)

It is tragic enough that people were denied access to history as it unfolded. But it is beyond humanity that many are comforted by their own, personal version of pragmatism over shared contempt for injustice Marcos-style.

It’s a stupid idea to send these people back to school; it is even costlier to lobotomize them. The most convenient way is to quit, go to some faraway place where you hear none of them chantimg BBM! BBM! BBM! But unlike many of them, we’re not hopeless. . . hopeless in adoration and adulation of the demigods and demagogues who dominate our political life as a nation of half-gullible.

So, let’s continue the memory-making with the young, the hopeful, those whose minds are open to criticism, to dialogue, to the theses and anti-theses and the eventual syntheses in our desire to finally break that bond of ignorance that imprisons this generation and the generation before us.

There is much hope around. I see it daily at a school near our place where I can hear teachers teaching inconvenient truth to sixth graders of the evils of Martial Law.

Published here: http://www.rappler.com/views/imho/132125-odds-bongbong-marcos

Will candidates govern as they campaign?

In American presidential campaigns, the voters are afforded the window from which they can peer through the configuration and the direction of an administration elected to serve in the next four to eight years. On our shores, however, we continue to struggle to make sense of the tone and character of governance by the next administration. Due to the absence of established and disciplined political parties accountable to voters and the public, what we are witnessing in the campaigns are evolving platforms delivered in piecemeal fashion.

Nevertheless, the bruising campaign in the last 60 days may have offered some insights into how each of the candidates will likely govern when elected to administer our state affairs.

Senator Poe’s campaign’s less-aggressive-more-positive tact is benefiting her and the recent opinion polls that place her on top spot affirm this approach. Although her campaign wobbles occasionally on some issues, it remains largely on-the-message. Her avoidance of personal attacks is reminiscent of the campaign similarly and consciously launched by then presidential candidate Gilberto Teodoro in the 2010 presidential election.

Despite the positive tone, though, the campaign of Grace Poe is fair game to criticism. Her platform and stance is neither here nor there. And while her camp has reasons for maintaining calculated ambiguity, the absence of a clear demarcation line that differentiates her from either Mr. Roxas or Vice President Binay is a fodder of her being a Malacanang stooge.

Notable in the race, too, is the tenacity of the Roxas campaign in explaining with difficulty why building on, improving, and expanding the gains of the second Aquino administration is the most realistic formula for the next six years. The difficulty is partly due to perceptions of incompetence among appointees in the administration who failed to deliver their mandates, putting the Roxas campaign on the defensive. As it stands today, no amount of reasoning by the administration can sway public perception against Daang Matuwid. Yet the Roxas campaign plods on as the opportunity of making people understand how the government can best respond to their needs is as important a goal of getting the LP standard bearer elected to serve them.

Senator Miriam Santiago’s campaign, on the other hand, is largely symbolic with no manifest intent of winning as her reliance on virtual campaign has not moved her rating beyond 3% in the more credible polls. From a logistical perspective, her army of Facebook volunteers is unlikely to deliver the winning votes despite her topping countless preference surveys in schools because our brand of politics, observes Prof. Henry E. Brady, pays premium to pounding flesh and demands a lot of energetic interactions between the representative and the represented, a reality that Vice President Binay is aware of and utilizes to his great advantage.

Gone also are the battalions of volunteers who pooled their resources to keep her campaign afloat. Then there is that perennial question of winnability, of which Sen. Santiago’s may have gone past its shelf life at this point in our politics as being knowledgeable in governance and law has become an option rather than an imperative for a good leader. Winnability aside, the rest of the elements are no longer there. Her tandem with Ferdinand Marcos Jr., in the eyes of many of her supporters, is Miriam’s own reductio ad absurdum.

Meanwhile, the Vice President’s campaign is trying to fill in the crevices and cracks left open by the failings of the administration. Like the proverbial “madiskarte” that he is known for, Binay’s masterful rework of the 4Ps, the administration’s flagship social protection program, yields him the 5Ps without breaking a sweat! But if there is one thing remarkable in the vice president’s campaign, it is that ability to poke at emotions of people who really deliver the votes. Like an old-timer in the jungle, Binay’s campaign knows where and how to source food without making the necessary trip to the lowland. After all, he’s a Boy Scout, whatever that means.

Finally, Mayor Duterte’s electrified campaign, fueled by a mixture of fanatical enthusiasm and protest against the status quo, has drawn thousands to his message of change premised not on a solid plan but solely on his vow to end criminality and the drug menace in six months and his prescription of federalism as a cure to the ills in government. But his parochial views on climate change and telecoms sector reform, among a host of national and global issues, are lamentably inoperable in a complex policy ecosystem that requires thinking beyond centralist planning that Duterte has become accustomed to following decades of ruling Davao City without opposition. There is also that gleaming contradiction drawn from his prescription of federalizing the Philippines in the face of untamed corporate greed that has the entire country in its fangs. The assumption goes that to break up a monopoly, it is necessary to divide its stronghold. Yet the American experience is an unfailing example of how a federal state can be drowned by deregulation and free enterprise. So if it’s not in the form of government, it must be in its strength.

With days into the homestretch, we may not have enough time to observe the campaigns of the five presidential candidates to get more from them. But there is an ample opportunity to reflect on the shared notion that the presidency is not just about brutish passion, charisma, and endless vulgarity. The presidency is a transforming leadership that works to restore trust in our institutions more than belief in our elected representatives to take care of us in their absence or death. It is rewarded only to someone who has the humility to exercise the tremendous powers of the office to facilitate and not dictate in the shaping of our national agenda and our collective aspirations. The presidential candidates owe it to the Filipino people to make the reassurance that this election and the presidency is all about us–the governed. It is never about them.

Published here: http://www.rappler.com/views/imho/128691-candidates-campaign-preview-governance

The presidential business of (mis)educating Filipinos

Like any voter looking for answers to the most pressing issues of the day, I sat in front of our television for ninety minutes, anticipating a lively exchange among presidential candidates for the May polls. I expected that apart from saying something civil about each other’s conduct, performance, and platform of government, the candidates would be more straightforward on issues like corruption, indecisiveness, incompetence, inexperience, and human rights violations linked to each one of them. But as it turned out, I watched with a wrong set of expectations. What transpired was a modified quiz bee that talked a little bit about what can be expected of the candidates when elected. I would learn later that the ‘debate’ was patterned after the Republican debates in the United States. “No wonder it was lousy,” said Rain, our seven year old boy, upon learning about the format.

I was hoping that a question on education would be among the first to be thrown in, especially so that the first leg of the debate took place in Mindanao where, based on Philippine Statistics Authority’s records, three of its regions—ARMM, Socsargen, and Davao—registered consistently the highest combined dropout rate among elementary and high school students since 2007. The ARMM’s 14 percent, Socsargen’s 12.3 percent, and Davao’s 12.2 are in fact higher than the national dropout rate of 10 percent. I understand how and why the framing of the debate highlights the precarious peace situation in Mindanao, but it is utterly disappointing that the discourse on education is conveniently sidelined in favor of soundbites, none of which came out blazingly from either one of the candidates. Debates over issues on education would have provided the lens from which the audience could view and discern the compelling and the competing narratives that tend to confuse rather than enlighten people on the so-called Mindanao issue.\

Six years ago at an education conference I attended at the Capitol University, where the first leg of the presidential debate was held, delegates from all over the world came to participate in a variety of thematic sessions designed along the overarching question on how to make education truly inclusive and for all. Against the backdrop of sinking budgets in education in the Philippines and elsewhere at that time, we confronted questions such as on how our respective governments and institutions both public and private are responding to the urgency of meeting the Millennium Development Goals as well as the Education for All agenda five years from then, in 2015. Today is February 2016, a good two months after the deadline lapsed. To the best of my recollection, we have not fully achieved our own national targets. As you are reading this piece, there are 124 million out of school youth and 150 million children between the age of five and 14 have been forced to enter into the labor force in different parts of the world.

I reckon that in 2010 we were at the crossroads, uncertain of where the next leadership will lead us but constant in our faith and commitment as to where our common advocacy in education should be headed. On Sunday, the same realization dawned upon me as I was watching the debate where aspiring presidential candidates tried but failed to impress us with their mediocre understanding of things that really matter to us, voters or not. Again, they say, it’s the format.

If people are keenly aware, we are in transition from the current administration to the next. To some, this is no big deal as this happens every six years. However, there is always a danger in belittling the importance of such period. Isn’t it we thought that when the Marcoses fled, and with Mrs. Aquino at the helm of our newly-restored democracy in transition, everything would be fine? Of course, we inaugurated the 1987 Constitution with the accompanying hope that that sacred document would prevent the rise of a new dictator. True enough, we have not seen a Marcos 2.0. But what we have in our midst are the mini Marcoses, mini-dictatorships that deformed our institutions and political system. Thankfully, a fitting question about these finally popped up in the debate between the vice president and Senator Miriam Santiago. It was about political dynasties, of which the vice president’s family belongs and even proud of it and for which issue Sen. Santiago wanted to address by proposing an enabling law on the Constitutional prohibition of political dynasties. But as fate would have it, hers and the various anti-dynasty measures filed in both houses of Congress have not seen the light of day for why would dynastic members of Congress legislate their eventual extinction.

We have come to accept the fact that the transition from dictatorship to democracy was a double edged-sword. While we shun centralist decision-making, we installed replicas of authoritarianism in many parts of the county. What facilitated this anomaly, if not abhorrent regression, is the failure of our education system to produce the kind of citizens that are not only conscious of attempts at revisionism but are ready and committed to resist the return of authoritarianism in its many guises. While we have produced vast amounts of knowledge and information in the last thirty years, unfortunately these were not enough to equip us with wisdom, foresight, and critical thinking that would have guided us in those crucial transitions that many of us care less for their seeming ordinariness.

There is another transition across the Pacific, as the Americans will go to polls in November. Whether we like it or not, the results of their election not only will shake the Washington establishment; they send tremors across the Pacific, the Atlantic, and virtually all parts of the known universe as Washington dominates the shaping of the global agenda on education and development and the associated funding and resource mobilization. In the face of these transitions, where do we stand? What needs to be done?

The answers to questions beyond shortfalls in the Millennium Development Goals, for one, could not wait until the second leg of the debate moves to Cebu City, or until someone fully explains to the candidates why we are moving to Sustainable Development Goals 2030. I believe the public has waited long enough that any delay in the answer to their questions would be viewed as an evasion if not an outright refusal to address those issues. Which reminds me of the word the vice president loves to describe his leadership style: decisive. When the Senate summoned him to finally air his side on allegations of corruption against him and several members of his family, he suddenly found the courage to be indecisive for reasons only Jejomar Binay Sr. knows.

It would have been beneficial if the presidential candidates were asked on our transitioning from the MDGs to SDG 2030 not just because it is the global buzzword of the moment but precisely to probe deeper into how much thinking they put into their campaigns as far as building and aligning, or deviating even for more context, their education agenda to the national, regional, and global goals in education. It is easy to write lines upon lines of a detailed platform of government with emphasis on issues closer to a candidate’s heart. But until they demonstrate clearly how they are going to do it and where they will get the money for it, it is best to take their statements as promises, as Sen. Santiago loves to call it.

It also escapes me why despite the education sector getting the highest budget for 2016 the debates or its organizers did not find education something worthy of top billing. There is a wealth of discussions around education themes, especially that the Aquino administration is now in the final stages of full K-12 implementation with the rollout of senior high school.

We have seen a steady rise in the budget allocation to education, which should be construed, and rightly so, as a testament to our commitment to invest in the future of our children. This allocation is in sync with the government’s social protection program that keeps school-age children rightfully where they belong—in school, or in alternative arrangements where meaningful instruction can be delivered to them. The synergy in these mechanisms produce some outcomes, the interpretations of which may vary in range from frustrating, interesting, and  encouraging, depending on which way you look at it. For these alone, the candidates would have had enough for two hours’ worth of debate. (I shall not burden readers with statistics as they can easily refer to official and alternative sources).

The reform initiatives in the basic education sector undertaken in cognizance of the MDGs and underpinned by inclusion are worth the candidates’ attention, whether they affirm or discredit them. For one, there are gaps that need narrowing. There remains a lot of work in terms of improving targeting to reach out more marginalized families, sustaining funding and mobilization of resources, and crafting of data-driven and equity-based policies to achieve a truly universal access to education for every learner. But there is no denying we have done well our part in our bold attempts at making education inclusive. Whether what we have done is inclusive enough and sustainable is another story altogether. That would have been the point for candidates to make.

When they gather in Cebu for the second leg of the debate, the presidential candidates, courtesy of their advisers, may have already mastered their ninety-seconders to mesmerize their audience once more into buying their promises. Yet the presidency is more than mastery and preparedness as some presidential advisers and academics wanted to make it appear to prop up their favored candidate’s abundance or lack of it. We have elected presidents who were not only reluctant but also largely unprepared. The same can be said of President Aquino, who despite being unprepared is able to accomplish something in his singular vision premised on anti-corruption. The presidency, for all its perceived power and sophistication of office, is also about arranging priorities, or rearranging them when necessary, and aligning all forces within its power to move towards their achievement. The arranging and rearranging of priorities, the presidential candidates must be warned, demands defending and building on the gains of the past administration and never diminishing them that only those who fully understand what inclusive and sustainable mean to governance and education will do at all cost.

 

In search of a ‘losing’ candidate

With less than 50 days before election day, the camps of the 5 presidential candidates are now on overdrive. And if the second presidential debate in Cebu City was any measure, it is easy to surmise who the losers and the gainers were.

However, we don’t settle for the easy stuff of referencing post-debate online polls to assign winning and losing bets, because what’s at stake is not only our personal preferences but the nation’s fate as well in the next 6 years. It is in this light that we need to disturb our collective mind with both the basic and complex questions that ought to confront not just every voter but more appropriately, the 5 presidential candidates who have offered to lead us. But lead us where?

Except perhaps for one, the 4 presidential candidates have drafts of what read and sound like a platform of government ready for the prying public to go over, section by section. These are important documents in the campaign for they inform voters on the kind of administration they can expect from a candidate.

Some camps are able to attract the best legal minds into their core team of campaign advisors, including some of the country’s top economists, whose thinking is reflected in those drafts. Other camps are not as lucky, populated by people perceived by the public as recycled has-beens who have been around too long but have never added value in political discourse and in actual governance.

Painful truth

While having the right team lends credibility to a campaign, the painful truth remains: the ability to govern, to lead, first and foremost, is a direct function of the winning candidate.

Traditionally, candidates surround themselves with the best expert advisers, yet the decision to act on their advice rests solely with the candidate. This is the simpler way of explaining what leadership is and should be. This is true in the presidency, or any important office for that matter.

While in this hypothetical instance, the role of advisors is underscored, if not overly emphasized in the case of amateur candidates, the president’s ability to decide is more critical. During the campaign, a candidate can flip-flop on important issues in as many times as fuel prices fluctuate. But after the winner is proclaimed, there is no more room for high school-type experiments on decision-making – not when we decide to remove constitutional barriers to attract more foreign investments, and certainly not when our sovereignty is being challenged by a regional giant.

Before we cast our sacred vote for any of them, there is an urgent need to probe further and deeper into each of the candidate’s innate abilities beyond acquired skills, foresight beyond sloganeering, vision beyond verbosity, and spontaneous responses and unguarded actuations beyond staged affection and token charity.

These qualities are equally important, if not supremely important, than the candidates’ track record and experience in previous positions for it is more convenient to pander to what is pragmatic and doable than to pursue a course of action that is morally discernible and sustainable.

The demands above are difficult, if not entirely impossible, for most of the candidates to meet. For some, meeting these would mean losing; most of them would rather play to the gallery than tell people they came to listen to them with the wrong expectation. (Lest we forget, we, as voters, are confronted with the following dilemma: If my candidate wins, can she or he govern? If my candidate can govern, can she or he win?)

Convenient strategy

Winning should not be so difficult especially for candidates who consistently lead in opinion polls and who have a better grasp of the pulse on the ground. But governing is. The “win first, govern later” is just a convenient strategy for political managers who preside the rise or demise of their principals’ candidacy and who get paid regardless of the result. We know the strategy is not necessarily the right one; not even a good one.

Campaigns and elections are not about strategists, although they or the strategies they employ have a bearing on the success or failure of their candidate. It’s about the candidate and her or his party, or lack of it, and what they can all bring to enlighten political discourse and to push for broader reforms when they assume power.

When then Vice President Joseph Estrada launched his presidential bid in 1997, the fate of his presidency and the nation’s as well was already sealed – at least for the duration of his term, which was interrupted, thankfully, by the people disillusioned by his misrule.

To Mr Estrada, it was all about winning everyone – the masses, his movie fans, local political kingpins, religious organizations, and some say even the so-called Binondo central bank that allegedly financed partly his bid. His campaign, bearing the singular message,”Erap para sa mahirap (Erap for the poor),” so endeared him to voters they sent him to Malacañang with more than 10 million votes. It was winning at all cost.

‘Winning is about losing’

The winning part, many forget or refuse to acknowledge, should start way before favorable opinion polls and hefty campaign contributions come trickling in; the winning is to be found in the clear language and agreement on what the candidate and the voter can work on together and be held accountable for later on.

Winning is not derived on promises, nearly all of which are written in thin air. Nor is winning guaranteed by that piece of paper filled with sophisticated language in climate change adaptation and renewable energy generation, among other beautifully sounding programs and strategies but which leaves everyone perplexed as to how these will be funded.

Winning is about losing the accustomed comfort of being praised all the time for brilliance, composure, elegance, humility, simplicity, bravery, and preparedness in exchange for taking all the manure for being slow but tenacious in sticking to what is right and good for everyone.

In the Cebu leg of the debates, Mayor Duterte forcefully told the audience that anyone seeking to be president should be willing to kill and get killed; otherwise, she or he is not up to the office. In fact, the good mayor is adamant about ending crimes and the drug menace within the first 6 months of his presidency. But anyone seeking to be president should also be willing to lose the claim that long experience in governance is enough to bring the country to where it should be headed, as well as the illusion that youthfulness and inexperience bring energy and new perspective to managing the affairs of the state.

Unless we all agree that the Philippines is one humongous barangay located somewhere in the South China Sea, then everyone can start running and winning the position of the president at all cost. Unfortunately, the presidency is greater than what is demanded of it.

 

Link to Rappler: http://www.rappler.com/views/imho/127052-search-losing-candidate-philippine-elections 

Philippine Bureaucracy and the Persistence of Political Dynasties: A Discussion Paper on Political and Institutional Reforms

INTRODUCTION

The interplay between bureaucracy and political dynasties is an interesting topic in the study of public administration and governance. For one, the parallel development of bureaucratic expansion and political dynasty entrenchment share an identical timeline in history, demanding fuller understanding and critical analysis of the implications that bureaucracy and political dynasties, or vice versa, have on each other and how their relationship influences policymaking and governance in the course of our history.

The discourse on political dynasties cannot but confront the very basic social unit or structure where all the extended discussions emanate—the Filipino family. (McCoy 1994). McCoy asserts that the family is a more effective political unit than an individual as its reputation, loyalties, and alliances are deemed transferable where one family member shares the traits of the others without necessarily innately having them. In the other sections of the book, McCoy calls the family a kinship network whose mutuality in terms of relationship extends to even non-family members.

This paper presents the issues and challenges in the evolution of Philippine bureaucracy parallel to the beginnings and entrenchment and perpetuation of political dynasties. Sections on the different modes of perpetuation as well as the issues surrounding political dynasties are also presented. One important issue that relates closely to the phenomenon of political dynasties—term limits—and which has a provision in the 1987 Constitution is also presented. Finally an anaysis on the dynamics of political dynasties as the bureaucracy is also attempted.

THE PHILIPPINE BUREAUCRACY

Evolution of Philippine Bureaucracy

The political structure in the precolonial Phiilippines provided the most rudimentary service to the people.  This local institution, known as the barangay, was headed by chief called a datu or rajah and was assisted by a council of elders who were responsible for the maintenanc of internal peace and defense, tribute collection, and administration of justice (De Guzman, 1998). Kinship defines authority and the datu is considered the chief of the barangay. He performs the role of a judge, lawmaker and implementer of laws (Rebullida and Serrano, 2006).

During the Spanish period, a highly centralized colonial administration was established on the widely dispersed and community-based system of government (De Guzman, 1998). The once independent barangays are now at the bottom of the hierarchy, subsumed under the pueblos that were under the provincias. There was no separation of church and state, allowing intervention of state affairs by the clergy. The traditional datus’ power was also subsumed. The Spanish colonial period also gave rise to the principalia, the local political and economic elite who have access to both civil and church authorities. Spain’s three centuries of colonization resulted into institutionalized values and traits that influence public administration, among these pakikisama, utang na loob, and hiya. It is argued that these values partly explain the rise of graft and corruption, nepotism and favoritism, and patronage. These values are in direct contrast to Weberian’s characteristic of a bureaucracy (Rebullida and Serrano, 2006). A civil service was established with people performing integral executive, legislative, and judicial functions. However, the bureaucracy under Spain was perceived to be corrupt. Civil servants are said to be seldom paid but allowed instead to retain a percentage of taxes they collected. Under Spain, there were only five main departments, namely the Army, Navy, Justice, Finance, and the Directorate General of Civil Administration.

The 1896 Revolution installed the Malolos Republic. Following the declaration of independence in Malolos, a representative and democratic form of government with executive, legislative and judicial branches was established. Accordingly, the most important document produced during the period was the Malolos Constitution of 1899, outlining the form of government that is said to be parliamentary in structure. A Council of Government was created under a president and composed of seven departments each headed by a secretary: Foreign Affairs, Interior, Finance, War, Army and Navy, Public Instruction, Public Communications and Works, and Agriculture, Industry and Commerce (De Guzman, 183).

When the Americans gained control of the Philippines, they retained the centralized form of government but added a few departments and, more importantly, introduced the principle that public office is a public trust, making civil servants accountable to the people they serve. While remnants of Spanish-style governance can still be observed, the Americans introduced modern bureaucracy characterized by accountability for public resources. The Philippine Commission was then established and among its first acts was the passage of Act No. 5, 9 September 1900, An Act for the Establishment of an Efficient and Honest Civil Service in the Philippines. The reform Act places all government positions below a bureau director under the civil service, and covers national and local positions. A system of merit and qualification was introduced underscoring competence, independence, and integrity in public service. There were six government departments during this period, namely: Finance, Justice, Public Instruction, Interior, Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Commerce and Communications.

In 1935, the Philippine Commission was established and a constitution was approved in that same year (De Guzman, 183) that contained a separate provision on civil service. The 1935 Constitution contained a separate provision stipulating that all appointments to government positions should be made only based on merit and fitness to be determined in a competitive examination. There were three additional departments created during this period.

The advent of the Second World War put the Philippines under the Japanese occupation, during which time the bureaucracy was kept relatively small with only six ministries: Foreign Affairs, Finance, Justice, Agriculture and Commerce, Public Works and Communications, and Education. An all-Filipino civil service was in place led by the Philippine Executive Commission.

After the war, the Philippines began to restructure its bureaucracy and the regular departments during the Commonwealth were augmented by the creation of a Department of Foreign Affairs. Between this period until the middle of the 1950s, tales of graft and corruption and incompetence were common as more unqualified personnel were brought in by the appointing powers of the time. It was not until 1954 when administrative reforms were initialized by the creation of the Government Survey and Reorganization Committee, followed by the Reorganization Committee in 1956. However, the reorganization intent of the Committee was rendered ineffectual because laws were passed exempting agencies from coverage (De Guzman, 184).

With the growth and expansion of government came the large-scale spoils system that characterized succeeding administrations. In 1965, upon his assumption to the presidency and against the backdrop of an oversized and inefficient bureaucracy, Marcos asked Congress to effect a reorganization anchored on simplicity, economy, and efficiency in government (De Guzman, 184). Three years later, in 1968, Congress approved the Reorganization. But it was not until 1972 that Congress approved the Integrated Reorganizational Plan without modification. The plan, adopted entirely by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 1 during Martial Law, had intended to streamline the bureaucracy saddled with duplicative agencies. But the plan encountered difficulties in the implementation in the absence of an open consultation between decision-makers and the implementers (De Guzman, 185).

The Philippine bureaucracy has evolved over a period of time. From the Post-war era until the current administration of President Benigno Aquino III, a lot of reforms have been introduced all intended to make the bureaucracy respond to needs and the demands of the citizenry. The bureaucratic structures and models have undergone a series of changes and a lot of innovations and reforms, both substantively and superficially, yet some of the things remain the same. It is as if all those initiatives undertaken barely scratched the surface of the problem.

Issues and Challenges in Philippine Bureaucracy

De Guzman identified more than a dozen major trouble spots in Philippine bureaucracy that confront the civil servant, the public service end-user, and the policymakers. These troubles will persist until hard decisions are taken to bring about difficult but necessary changes in the form and substance of our bureaucracy (De Guzman, 197). We can start with the centralization versus decentralization. Until Marcos misappropriated it, centralization did not project a specter of a totalitarian regime. The Marcos regime started politicizing the bureaucracy, subverted public interest, gave rise to crony capitalism, incurred huge public debts, and consolidated economic and political power through Martial Law that is credited for numerous human rights violations and corporate takeovers by the state. As a result, the government of the first Aquino administration presided over the difficult period of transition and redemocratization, and shepherded the passage of the new Constitution and the Local Government Code to guide the massive rebuilding and reorganization. The 1987 Constitution underscores empowerment by devolution, ushering in reforms in governance in the delivery of social services by engaging civil society and the grassroots (Rebullida and Serrano, 2006). Yet, the ensuing decentralization suffered infirmity because much of the devolution pertains only to powers and functions and not resources, resulting in a myriad of unfunded mandates in our laws.

Duplication and overlapping of functions in personnel and agencies are noted, resulting in more inefficiency and waste of resources. Inadequate coordination between and among agencies in government cost both lives and resources. The latest example of this would be the event in Mamasapano, Maguindanao wherein 44 PNP Special Forces operatives were killed in an encounter with members of the rebel group MILF all because of the lack of coordination between and among leaders in the PNP and the AFP.

Graft and corruption seems to be a permanent fixture in Philippine bureaucracy. This problem is too huge it earns its own mystique. The scale is grand. Judging by the daily headlines and the number of congressional inquiries on corruption cases involving bureaucrats one can definitely say that corruption has already become an essential part of our culture, or our values system.

Red tape and inefficiency are inseparable and correlate even to graft and corruption. While we have already an anti-red tape law in place, a lot remains to be done in terms of enforcing the policy and incentivizing people to encourage efficiency, on the part of the public servants, and vigilance among the public as end-users. Cumbersome and complicated procedures when transacting with government agencies have stymied not only investors from doing business in the country. More importantly, it discourages citizens’ engagement and participation. Surveys after surveys churn out unfavorable results in terms of ease of doing business in the Philippines, at least generally. The Citizen’s Charter, however, is an important initiative to improve public service delivery but a lot of people are not aware of it.

Ineffective administration of public enterprises brings back headlines on abuses of discretion among officers and officials in government-owned and controlled corporations. The latest to banner the dailies is the so-called DBP “wash sale” or the illegal buying and selling of securities where no real change of ownership takes place. The Napoles scandal reminds us of the weaknesses and the many loopholes in our bureaucratic process despite its projected rigidity. Of course, corruption plays a major part in those allegedly multibillion-peso anomaly involving high officials of the government.

The inadequacy of the communication system in the bureaucracy maybe understood on two levels: on the level of human skills and on the level of hardware or technology, or the absence of either one or both. The practice of creating adhocracies, or the penchant for creating extrabureaucratic structures within the bureaucracy not only confuses functions and powers but also bears on the resources of an agency. Yet the creation of this adhocracies are couched in sophisticated technocrat’s jargon that decision-makers are inclined to favor without giving thought to the possibility that its creation is to mask the lack of planning, if not bad planning, that left a lot of unanticipated needs.

Problems in personnel administration are probably a lifetime concern of the bureaucracy. Even with the ongoing government-wide rationalization plan, reports of overstaffed yet undermanned agencies are all too common, especially in areas where political patronage is high. The areal versus sectoral planning and management dilemma will continue to linger until our planning philosophy is able to strengthen the coordinative mechanisms at various levels of government. Equally important, too, is the political leadership that can provide a sense of mission and direction so that all government planning are directed and dedicated towards its accomplishment.

Development commitment among civil servants is such highly volatile topic as it related to ethics, accountability, performance, professionalism and, of course, incentives. But it helps to bring up the principle that public office is public trust as an entry of a values formation program in the civil service, of which the Civil Service Commission is doing already. What is needed perhaps is a strong monitoring program and regular assessment to check whether values formation initiatives answer the organizational needs of agencies.

Finally, citizen’s participation in governance, while messy, is an effective counterpoint to the inefficiencies of bureaucracy. Citizen’s participation can be a double-edge sword, so it works either to one’s advantage or disadvantage. Citizen’s participation is enshrined in the Constitution as a reactive measure to the Marcos dictatorship. Participatory governance, in its various forms and expressions, has improved delivery of basic social services especially to areas where government has very limited presence. The Community-Driven Development approach, for example, used by the government in its KALAHI-CIDDS program has shown encouraging results (Mangahas and Arroyo, 2014).

POLITICAL DYNASTIES IN THE PHILIPPINES

History

Pre-Colonial Period

Scholars commonly trace the beginnings of political dynasties to as early as the pre-colonial times, in the days of the datu, of the maharlikas, our own version of royalty that predates the federal system of government, a system we copied poorly, if not wrongly, from the Americans. The small villages of yore were virtual kingdoms each ruled by a datu, whose reign and succession is guaranteed by his heirs—his family, his son.

Colonial Period

The Spanish colonial times gave rise to the principalia, an emerging class that embodied the new form of local elite. The Spaniards relied on the clergy for the administration of the islands and never established a strong centralized State. Instead power was dispersed amongst various elite families in the provinces. These families were granted the right to hold land, vote, and serve in positions of local political power (Querubin, 2010). The principalia rose from playing puppets to Spanish authorities to become rulers later on. They evolved from being clerks and trusted servants of the Spanish power holders to become power-wielders themselves over time. From attendants of vast landholdings of the Spanish Crown, they became landlords (hacienderos) themselves. And so after four centuries, the principalia finally established its own foothold in the economic and political affairs of the state. They would become the new ruling class. The principalia, along with a handful of Chinese traders were on to become the oligarchs of the time. They were the new maharlikas. The local principalia would further consolidate their power during the American colonial period.

American Period

The Americans needed a partner and loyal ally in the local elite who controlled the lands and even forces that once fought against the Spaniards for them to “govern” the islands. As a concession, the Americans introduced elections (Querubin, 2010), the qualifications of which were quite steep only the local elite could satisfy, such as literacy and property, and rightly so because they were only the ones who could send their children to school. It should be noted that under President Taft, voting and electoral participation were limited to the propertied class, which at that time constituted less than one percent (1%) of the population (Tuason, 2010). Many of the propertied class were descendants of the same local elite who gained concessions during the Spanish period.

Predictably, in the elections that were held in 1901 and 1907, majority of those who emerged winners were mostly coming from the ranks of the local elite. So while education and suffrage were introduced, access and full exercise—meaning to elect and be elected—was not only limited but also exclusive to a certain class. This clearly contributed to the rise of family power, of the local elite. These elite families whose influence cut across business and politics would continue to receive special favors and concessions from the Americans that allowed them to expand their businesses and advance their political ambitions (Tuazon, 2010).

Post-war Era and Post-Edsa

In the post-war House of Representatives (1946 Congress), of the 98 congressmen elected, 61 or 62% came from families with elective position from 1907 to 1941. This proportion of dynastic share of congressional seats continues to this day, even higher according to the AIM study (Mendoza et al, 2013). Yet the expansion of political dynasties may be traced back to the American colonial period when the principalia was able to consolidate their power and control over the political and economic affairs of the state.

A cursory look at the names of Philippine political leaders and administrators during and after the American period reveals that the same families that control business and politics are very much around, although some of their kin opted out of politics in favor of concentrating in business. The most enduring example of a family or clan that is able to withstand several political transitions yet maintain its formidable position in both politics and business is none other than the family of the incumbent president. The president’s clan has produced two presidents, five senators, a handful of congresspersons, and several governors. On the business side, the president’s relatives are still perched on top of their respective industries. In terms of consolidated interests in business and politics, the Lopezes, who are major beneficiaries of rent seeking (McCoy, p. 20) and who control media conglomerate ABS-CBN and power utility monopoly Meralco may have been a perfect example had the family decided to keep politics within and beyond their traditional turf in Western Visayas. The clan has produced a vice president in Fernando and a few congresspersons who have since retired.

During the Marcos years, political dynasties were dormant, deferring to the soon-to-be-consolidated and now-returning Marcos-Romualdez dynasty. The reason was simple: Marcos had most of the political dynasties under his clutches. The way to describe it today is a centralized dynasty, with President Marcos at the top.

After Marcos’ ouster, and upon Corazon Aquino’s assumption into power, the once dormant political dynasties slowly wormed back themselves into power. And by the time the first Congress post-Edsa opened, the once sidelined political dynasties found themselves reunited in the halls of Congress and in provincial capitols nationwide. It was even estimated that in 1987, 80% of the members of the House of Representatives belong to political dynasties.

The succeeding congresses saw a dismal reduction in the number of political dynasties occupying seats in the Lower House, which in the 15th Congress had a 67% share. This is according to a study by the AIM Policy Center. The 15th Congress has 234 regular members and 55 party-list representatives, or a total membership of 289. This means that 157 representatives in the 16th Congress belong to political dynasties. The AIM Policy Center is currently working on the results of the May 2013 elections. But some preliminary reports indicate almost similar shares of seats at around 70% in the 16th Congress, which translates into 164 dynastic members of the Lower House. While some political dynasties suffered setbacks in the May 2013 elections, notably the Jalosjoses (Philippine Star, May 14, 2013) in the Zamboanga region, the Singsons of Ilocos Sur were able to wrestle more power than in the previous election of 2010.

Glaringly in the Senate, the Cayetano sibling act is now complimented by the entry of Jose Victor “JV” Ejercito, who shares the same father with Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Manila mayor and former president Joseph Estrada, whose wife Loi is a former senator herself and who shared three years of her term in the Senate with her son, Jinggoy. The Senate in the 16th Congress nearly had a father-and-son tandem had Jack Enrile made it, who would have shared three years of the remaining term of his father, former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

While Senator Nancy Binay does not have a relative in the Senate, she’s in the limelight for the simple reason that her father is Vice President Jejomar Binay, whose two other children themselves wield power in the country’s premier business capital, Makati City, where daughter Abigail is the first district representative and son Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay is the city mayor.

The examples tell us one thing: that after 1986, there was “massive democratization” of political dynasties. Overall, political dynasties prevailed (Philippine Star, May 18, 2013).

THE PROBLEM WITH DEFINITION

Article II, Section 26 of the 1987 Constitution says “”The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.” The key phrases here are prohibit political dynasties and as may be defined by law. In plain language, the provision is tentative and non-self-executory. This only means one thing: the need for a legislated definition, an enabling law, to breathe life to the provision. The definition bears the mark of a masterful trademark of politically expedient work on the part of the crafters of the 1987 Constitution who left the burden of defining what constitutes political dynasties to those who will be affected by the provision: the dynastic members of Congress. Hence, from 1987 until 2015, the constitutional prohibition of political dynasties remains unenforceable. In a first test case ever filed against members of political dynasties from the different parts of the country seeking various elective positions in the 2013 midterm elections, the anti-dynasty advocates used Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio’s own definition of political dynasty in Navarro versus Ermita as a “phenomenon that concentrates political power and public resources within the control of a few families whose members alternately hold elective offices, deftly skirting term limits.” The respondents belong to what is considered “an obvious case of political dynasty.” The case was dismissed by the Comelec and eventually by the Supreme Court, again, in the absence of an enabling law.

The struggle against political dynasties is actually a struggle for a legislated definition for no amount of public shaming will disqualify the so-called dynastic candidates from seeking elective position. The same provision in the Constitution that “prohibits” political dynasties “guarantees” the political rights of everyone to vote and be voted upon, including members of political dynasties. The struggle for the passage of an enabling in Congress is now 28 years old and has gone though several congresses already, starting with the first post-Edsa Congress. And for the first time in 27 years, an anti-dynasty bill reached the House plenary in 2014. Understanding the difficulty in passing an anti-dynasty provision is no rocket science as people are cautioned not to expect dynastic members of Congress to legislate their own extinction. In a house dominated by political dynasties, it is unthinkable that an anti-dynasty measure could even hurdle past the committee. Yet, it is now in the Plenary. But while the measure has gone that far, the question is now on the content. Advocates can only hope that the debate should now center on the definitions as to who is covered and whether they should pass an anti-dynasty measure at all.

But to understand and appreciate better the issue of political dynasty and why is there a need for a law to define it, it is good to revisit previous attempts as well as some definitions proposed for legislation. Senate Bill No. 2649, authored by Senator Miriam Santiago, defines political dynasty as existing when:

“(a) a person who is a spouse of an incumbent elective official holds or runs for an elective office simultaneously with the incumbent elective official within the same province or occupies immediately after the term of office of the incumbent elective official.  It shall also be deemed to exist where two (2) or more persons are spouses or related within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity run simultaneously for elective office within the same province, even if neither is so related to an incumbent public official.

Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, the Makabayan coalition also came up with their own version. And very much like the Santiago bill, it shares the same prescribed limitations and never saw the light of day in the 15th Congress.

Outside of Congress, several advocacy groups and political parties have come up with their own proposals, notably the Kapatiran Party and the Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM). In contrast to similar bills pending in Congress before (and also now), the version of Kapatiran Party that gained support from numerous civil society groups covered national positions. Additionally, Senate Bill No. 412 filed by Senator Sergio Osmeña III during the first regular session of the Thirteenth Congress in 2004 also covered national positions. Note that both the Santiago and Makabayan bills conveniently left out the national positions. The decision to include national elective positions is on the realization that consolidation of power takes place not only at the local, provincial level but also at the national level. In fact, national elective officials had a hand in the perpetuation of political dynasties by dispensing undue favors to relatives occupying top local positions and more significantly, by their refusal to enact an enabling law to prohibit political dynasties.

To illustrate the effect of the legislated Kapatiran Party bill, for example, Senator Alan Cayetano would have been prevented from seeking reelection while his sister is incumbent. If the law were in effect, it would have prevented the senator’s brother’s candidacy for congressman and his sister’s candidacy as mayor of Taguig City. Unfortunately, all the Cayetanos who ran in 2013 got elected, except for the eldest sister, Pia who is serving her remaining three years in the Senate. One version that is now in the Committee of Sen. Pimentel allows only one family member to run and covers the post of a barangay councilor. Most versions so far are for legislative action. For all those bills to move an inch outside their committees, the President has to certify them as urgent bills requiring priority legislative action.

MODES OF PERPETUATION

Vertical and Horizontal Expansion

According to The New Oxford American dictionary, perpetuation is to “make something, typically an undesirable situation or unfounded belief, continue indefinitely.” The persistence of political dynasties is something that only the members desire its perpetuity. According to Mendoza, the most common form of perpetuation is my succession, also called horizontal perpetuation, or expansion. This is the case of generational transfer of political power within the family that in some cases spans a generation. The transfer of power form one family member to the next is mainly due to term limits, for which our Constitution provides. For positions other than the President down to senators, a three-year term is allowed which means a total of nine years if a candidate is elected consecutively. Mendoza calls this mode of perpetuation a thin type of dynasty.

Another mode of perpetuation is the horizontal perpetuation or expansion. This happens when two or more members of the family simultaneously occupy positions. Dynasties in this category are referred to as fat dynasty. By this type of definition, the family of Vice President Binay could easily qualify, him being a vice president, who was succeeded in office as mayor by his son, whose two sisters are members of Congress, one a senator the other a representative of her district. It would have been fatter if the vice president’s wife occupies another elective post whether locally or nationally.

Geopolitics

In the guise of better public service, political families ventured into gerrymandering as a form of consolidating political power in the provinces. There were several cases that can be discussed but among the famous ones is that of the Villafuertes in Camarines Sur. The proposal to carve a new province out of Camarines Sur came from four lawmakers representing the province at that time at the House of Representatives, Reps. Arnulfo Fuentebella, Luis Villafuerte Sr., Diosdado Ignacio “Dato” Arroyo and Rolando Andaya. They authored House Bill 4820, which was approved by 229 House members in August 2011. But according to insiders in Camarines Sur, the context of dividing the huge province is that Luis Sr. was looking for a district where he could continue to represent in case he lost the battle for governorship to no other than his grandson, Miguel. Comelec records will show that in fact Luis Sr. lost to his grandson who succeeded his father L-Ray as governor of Camarines Sur in the 2013 mid-term elections. And Luis Sr., having no district to run, is now out of office.

Another strategy for perpetuation is by expanding the family political power outside of its traditional bailiwick that is akin to a franchise. This is what happened to the Jalosjos political dynasty that is traditionally based in Zamboange del Norte but expanded to the rest of the Zamboanga Peninsula, including Zamboanga de Sibugay as well as Misamis Occidental. But as the 2013 Comelec records will bear, the Jalosjos dynasty suffered a major setback with only two family members elected: Romeo’s son Seth Frederick as representative of the first district of Zamboanga del Norte and elder sister Rosalina Jalosjos-Johnson as city councilor of Dapitan.

PROBLEM WITH POLITICAL DYNASTIES

Distortion of Political Institutions

Acemoglu and Robinson (2012) offered some explanations on why nations fail in terms of attaining economic development. Nations fail because they don’t have the right political and economic institutions that facilitate and sustain growth and development. They maintain the view that democratic political and inclusive economic institutions are indispensible for sustained long-term development. Acemoglu and Robinson defined and made clear distinction of institutions as either inclusive or extractive. Inclusive institutions are those that allow and encourage participation of a broad segment of the population in both the process and outcomes of development. On the other hand, extractive institutions concentrate and perpetuate political and economic power and confine the benefits of production in the hands of the few, of the elite at the expense of the many, or the masses. North Korea, some sub-Saharan African states, and Russia before and shortly after the fall of the Soviet empire have such institutions. It may be contentious to some but China exemplifies an extractive institution as the Central Communist Party remains the largest beneficiary of the country’s massive economic expansion, the benefits of which did not trickle down to the ordinary village people in the world’s second largest economy. The Chinese economic expansion only serves to widen the gap between the rising number of millionaires and the hundreds of millions of poor in rural villages.

Political dynasties, generally understood as the concentration of political power in the hands of a family or clan, are an example of an extractive political institution. By concentrating and perpetuating power in families or clans, political dynasties prevent the emergence of broad-based political and economic institutions. In fact, political dynasties in the Philippines have become part of life, an ideology in itself even. Political dynasties take the place of political parties—the very political institutions entrusted with the task of setting the development agenda in legislature. Political dynasties may not be invincible, but they are unavoidable and anyone who entertains the temptation of getting into elective politics has to deal with them. There is no escaping them; they are everywhere—in the Senate, the House of Representatives, in the provincial, city, or municipal governments. Even in the barangays! But equally important to note is the presence of some of its members in key executive positions in the national government. But that would be another point.

Self-Perpetuation, Self-Persistence, Undue Advantage and the Rise of Low-Quality Politician

The logic of persistence of political dynasties lies in the very structure of our political system that is still very much rested on a client-patron arrangement against which cosmetic reforms failed to even scratch its surface, so to speak. The symbiotic elite-mass, landlord-tenant, patron-client, and candidate-voter relationship will probably linger much longer than political reform initiatives are designed to address them. One theory that explains persistence is the theory of exchange that postulates that consensus and peaceful exchange under the law is what characterize politics within the territory of a state (McCoy, p. 46). This theory, in effect, makes elections a free-for-all exercise with only those who have the means to win, including vote buying, likely to emerge as victors. The succeeding paragraphs shall examine how theories of perpetuation and persistence are validated by case studies at least in the Philippine context.

Dal Bo et al. (2009) investigate whether political power is self-perpetuating, that power begets power. Self-perpetuation is defined as a power-treatment effect, whereby holding political power increases the probability that one’s heirs attain political power in the future regardless of family characteristics. Focusing on the transmission of political power, they conclude that power, indeed, is self-perpetuating and that power augments the political capital that is transmitted within a family, creating an advantage of a cumulative, rather than fixed, nature (Dal Bo 2009). The longer one’s tenure, the more likely one is to establish a political dynasty and that this relationship is causal (emphasis mine).

On the other hand, Querubin (2011) has done an exhaustive analysis on political dynasties in the Philippines. His analysis on dynastic persistence yields the following findings:

  • there is an evidence of self-perpetuation in power by political dynasties in the Philippines (in affirming Dal Bo)
  • the results of his research demonstrates that those who serve as congressmen or provincial governors are four times more likely to have a future relative in office than a candidate who run and lose
  • this effect is not driven by unobserved characteristics of candidates and their families; rather, there is a causal effect from holding political power on the electoral success of future relatives. This is called incumbency advantage (also in Dal Bo).
  • in the Philippines, dynastic candidates are 22% more likely to win an election than individuals without any previous relatives in office. (Twenty-two percent may be minuscule, but compared to zero probability is significant).
  • the political system may create new powerful families because non-dynastic individuals who access office are more likely to create political dynasty of their own.
  • the political system itself creates persistence.
  • societies that draw its leaders from a small set of families could end up with politicians of lower quality. I believe there is no need for me to elaborate this point.

Anomaly in Modernizing Democratic Society

The prevalence and expansion of political dynasties is a continuing anomaly in our modern, democratic politics. And rightly so because of our pretension that the emergence of organized parties with strong ideological orientation as well as the growing population of young people can take care of our so-called democratic deficits. But a report of the Bertelsmann Foundation, part of which was carried by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, was not the least damning as it was brutally frank. Oligarchy, we realize, is what we are and we continue to be unless we do something fundamentally difficult but necessary steps. And that calls for the dismantling of oligarchy and political dynasties “to make politics and economics more transparent and competitive (in PDI, April 17, 2014).”

What makes the situation more anomalous is the reluctance, if not blatant refusal, of the Aquino administration to make the passage of deep political reform measures a priority of this government. There could be no other reason for the unwillingness of the president to upset the imbalance except that he wants to perpetuate the system for pragmatic considerations.

Ethics and Accountability Issue

When the fate of a barangay, municipality, city, or province is discussed and decided over family lunch or dinner, accountability is in danger. Accountability and the system of checks and balances are imperatives for good governance. News of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada realigning his pork barrel, which was just ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, to the City of Manila where his father is the Mayor had the public confused. The public could not help but ask if the pork barrel was ruled illegal, why not just return it, just like what majority of senators did. What added controversy to the realignment is the idea that the P100M fund could have been spent in more needy areas in Mindanao. Why Manila, which is far from a needy LGU, is everyone’s question at that time.

While there is no study that established causality between dynasties and corruption, the daily headlines have something to tell. Besides resources, the other and more potent form of corruption is that of political corruption where accountability is difficult to extract from the perpetrators.

Problem with Term Limits

Meanwhile, Querubin’s study on term limits yields the following conclusions:

  • term limits do not effectively increase the turnover of incumbent families in Congress and provincial governorships in the Philippines
  • term limits may change “stance” in Congress in terms of social policies legislation, but unlikely to change the fundamental interests represented in the democratic system
  • father anti-RH, successor son pro-RH
    • term limits do not affect in any sense the fundamental sources of political power of dynasties which include control over land, employment, and violence in their respective provinces (3Gs of election; clientilism, patronalistic)

Querubin (2011) concludes that “reforms that do not alter the underlying distribution of political power will not succeed in substantively changing the political equilibrium because incumbents will adapt and remain powerful under the new set of institutions.” He added that “while term limits may allow quality politicians to remain in office for a longer period of time, it may also exacerbate the dynastic nature of Philippine politics by providing incentives for incumbents to bring additional members of their family to power and thus control several offices simultaneously.” This is the case with the Cayetanos and the Estradas, and at some point, the Zubiris of Bukidnon.

Weak Bureaucracy and Strong Political Families: The Lethal Mix

 

McCoy (1994) traces two key elements that contribute to the rise of political dynasties that in turn weakens the bureaucracy: the rise of rents, or popularly referred to as rent seeking and the diminished central government control over provinces. Rent seeking is a form of monopoly where markets are restricted through numerous regulations with the intent of awarding access to favored constituents (McCoy, p. 11). Rent seeking characterized Philippine politics as the country emerged from the clutches of its last colonial masters. The emergence of the Philippine Republic is what provided the impetus for heightened rent seeking such that politicians at that time won their posts in elections largely funded by local elite. As a form of payment, concessions were made to favor the elite political supporters from one administration to the next, and these favors would encroach into the realms of appointments in the civil service. The unabated concessions of the government to local political and business elite left impacted the state’s resources thereby weakening the bureaucracy and in effect strengthening political families, reinforcing the view that Philippine bureaucracy has long been penetrated by particularistic oligarchic interests, which have a firm independent economic base yet rely heavily upon their access to the political machinery in order to promote private accumulation. Because the state apparatus is unable to provide the calculability necessary for advanced capitalism, one finds instead a kind of rent capitalism based, ultimately, on the plunder of the state apparatus by powerful oligarchic interests (McCoy, 1994, p. 13). The weakening of the state bureaucracy can be traced back then to as early as the American period when the American administrators, in trying to correct the perceived excesses of the Spanish colonization, introduced local autonomy and elections that opened access to political power to the local elite.

DYNASTIES AS THE BUREAUCRACY

The concepts of dynasty and bureaucracy, presumably, are far apart in literatures either in political science or public administration yet their origins and convergence seem inevitable probably because these concepts are intertwined, if not interlocked, especially when discussed in the Philippine context. For a starter, bureaucracy is understood as a specific form of social organization for administrative purpose and for dealing with the activities of a large number of people in a way similar to the family (De Guzman, p.181). The framework by which we can understand the interlocking relationship and their implication on each is the client-patron arrangement. Rocamora (2008) uses as example the case of then Makati City mayor and now Vice President Jejomar Binay to illustrate how a budding dynasty at that time could parallel or alternate, if not totally replace the functions of a bureaucracy and how it is done ‘efficiently’ such that it benefits the patron, in this case the former mayor, and the clients themselves, the underprivileged Makati constituents. In my own province, Bukidnon, before the advent of socialized health insurance and other aid programs the name Zubiri is synonymous to a hospital, a market or grocery, a funeral parlor, and an ATM machine (although ATMs were not yet popular at the time, especially in Mindanao, much less Bukidnon). The Zubiri patriarch, incumbent Governor Jose Maria Jr., is the chief political patron and kingmaker of the province even to this day, whose political career is built on patronage but not violence. Even before he became an assemblyman, his first foray into politics, Joe as the governor is fondly called, is a magnet for ‘charity,’ which he shrewdly converted into political capital by distributing goods and cash whenever opportunity presented itself. Like Binay, Joe Zubiri saw the lack of government response, if not ineptitude, to the needs of his constituents and the absence of readily accessible services. In a sense, the distribution of patronage is efficient, but it was hardly inclusive because not all needy residents have availed of the manna from sugar cane, as Joe Zubiri’s funds were mostly personal and drawn from his income in his sugar business, at least according to the patriarch himself.

The tales above may not illustrate the more graphic examples of how dynasties not only alternate or replace government or its essential functions but turned their constituents captive in an unequal client-patron relationship. Anecdotally, some political dynasties in Mindanao behave like monarchs in a democratic, republican country.

THE WAY FORWARD

Insulating Bureaucracy

The classic Weberian bureaucracy is sought in the face of politicization of our administrative system. While a politics-free bureaucracy is utopic, its professionalization may approximate what many desire to be an independent civil service with well-informed and economically self-reliant members who are immune to political pressure within and outside of their workplaces. It is a widely held belief that the economically independent class are free from the dictates of politicians. In some cases, the reverse is true. The current efforts, or rather the cumulative undertakings of the government, in professionalizing the civil service may have fallen short in strengthening our bureaucracy. However, no efforts can and should be taken as stand alone tools or solutions in insulating bureaucracy. The passage of supporting measures is highly desirable such as further rationalization of performance incentives and bonuses to inspire higher performance in the public sector.

CONCLUSIONS

Article II, Section 26 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution provides that “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.” It sounds neat, but not really. This provision is non-self-executory in the first place and therefore requires an enabling law to take effect.

Unfortunately, the task of defining political dynasties as provided for in the Constitution is essentially left to Congress, which is a lair of political dynasties. The Congress is therefore a wrong place and a wrong choice for legislating a defining of political dynasties. It is wishful thinking to expect Congress to legislate its own members’ eventual extinction! This explains why after 27 years, Congress has failed to enact an anti-dynasty law, and the simple and obvious reason is that such a law would go against the interest of a majority of its members.

The discourse on political dynasties in relation to the development or degeneration of our bureaucracy hopefully will never lose academic and research value as we continue to analyze and scrutinize the logic that undergirds such relationship as well as prod on to search for ways to improve governance and administration against the specter of this continuing anomaly.

From an advocate’s perspective, there is no easy way to succeed in what the Bertelsmann Foundation prescribes as the dismantling of the oligarchy and political dynasties to make politics and economics competitive. That statement was made from a position of comfort because the realities on the ground so far remain to be perfect haven for dynastic expansion and mini oligarchy. Until we began addressing the underlying problems that underpin the issues at hand, we are only trying to scratch the itch and not kill the virus.

Finally, the parallel development of bureaucratic expansion and political dynasty entrenchment share an identical timeline in history, demanding fuller understanding and critical analysis of the implications that bureaucracy and political dynasties, or vice versa, have on each other and how their relationship influences policymaking and governance in the course of our history.

RECOMMENDATIONS

There are two levels of recommendations I wish to make in this paper: the academic and research level, and the programmatic level.

For academic and research interest purposes, it is worthy to pursue studies looking into the history of policy prescriptions of those perceived to belong to a political dynasty in terms of policy impact on public interest as well as their own. This should target those elected and appointed officials for the last 15 years. The length of time is three times more than the usual cycle for policy reviews. This is to allow policy corrections in cases of policies running in conflict with existing laws and provisions in the Constitution or in cases where such policies have become untenable therefore needed reform. The study should also look at the cost and quality of those policies.

Another point of investigation is the economics of political dynasties, as SALNs of members have proved to be unreliable indicator of one’s wealth. The interest here is on ethics, accountability, and integrity of publicly elected (and appointed) officials although some may contend that this function properly belongs to the Commission on Audit.

On the pragmatic side, but still within the domain of the academe, a continuing conversation on the issues in terms of the latest in legislative efforts and constraints are strongly encouraged. The engagement and full participation of civil society organizations and the youth sector are strongly encouraged to hear their inputs to be considered for any future course of action.

Bringing around the issue to the grassroots is a worthy yet expensive undertaking. It is therefore encouraged that the Internet and social media be utilized to disseminate informational and educational materials for the public, and specific target audience, to gain a deeper understanding on the issue.  Again, the academe should lead in terms of formulating a common point for convergence for all sectors to come together and agree and propose a unified action such as pressuring Congress to pass not only an anti-dynasty bill but also the FOI, the competition, political party development, party list reform, budget reform, and electoral reform bills.

It is paramount that advocates of anti-dynasty find common ground with those in the different reform advocacies and complement each other because all these measures coming from different groups will all lead towards improving the same locus or ecosystem where we operate.

Finally, the combination of the preceding recommendations are thought to bring together the public, having familiarized with the issue at heart, into action which can be a form of pressure on Congress to legislate a definition of what constitutes political dynasty.

 

 

References

Journals

Mangahas, Joel V., and Arroyo, Dennis (2014). Improving Local Service Delivery through the Community-Driven Development Approach. Asian Review of Public Administration 25(1), pp. 56-73.

Dal Bo, Ernestro, Dal Bo Pedro, and Snyder, Jason. Political Dynasties in Review of Economic Studies (2009) 76, 115–142.

Books

Acemoglu, D. and J.Robinson. 2012. Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty. New York: Random House.

Acemoglu, D. and J.Robinson. 2006. Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Book Chapters

De Guzman, Raul P., Brillantes, Alex B., and Pacho, Arturo G (1988). The Bureaucracy. In Raul P. De Guzman and Mila A. Reforma (Eds), Government and Politics of the Philippines (pp. 180-206). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rebullida, Ma. Lourdes G. Genato, Serrano, Cecilia (2006). Bureaucracy and Public Management in Democracy, Development, and Governance in the Philippines. In Noel M. Morada and Teresa Encarnacion Tadem (Eds), Philippine Politics and Governance (pp. 217-248). Quezon City: UP Department of Political Science

McCoy, Alfred W. (1994). Anarchy of Families: The Histiriography of State and Family in the Philippines. In Alfred W. McCoy,  (Ed), Anarchy of Families: State and Family in the Philippines (1-27). Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

Fegan, Brian (1994). Entrepreneurs in Votes and Violence. In Alfred W. McCoy,  (Ed), Anarchy of Families: State and Family in the Philippines (41-52). Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

Rocamora, Joel (1995). Classes, Bosses, Goons, and Guns: Re-imagining Philippine Political Culture.In Jose F. Lacaba (Ed), Boss: Five Case Studies of Local Politics in the Philippines, Pasig: Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.

Published Articles

CENPEG Issue Analysis, Policy Study, Publication and Advocacy. No. 08 S. 2012

Mendoza et al, “Political Dynasties and Poverty: Chicken or the Egg” (2013). Makati City: Asian Institute of Management.

Querubin, Pablo (2011). Political Reform and Elite Persistence: Term Limits and Political Dynasties in the Philippines, Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, October, 2011.

Querubin, Pablo (2010) “Family and Politics: Dynastic Persistence in the Philippines”, mimeo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Tuazon, Bobby M (2010). Six Centuries of Political Dynasties: Why the Philippines Will Forever be Ruled by Political Clans? Quezon City: Center for People Empowerment in Governance.

Other Sources

The 1987 Philippine Constitution

HB 3413, Fifteenth Congress of the Philippines, First Regular Session.

Senate Bill No. 2649

The Philippine Star, May 14, 2013.

Websites

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/308899/news/nation/phl-political-dynasties-winners-losers-in-may-13-elections).

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/293487/news/nation/anti-political-dynasty-group-seeks-to-disqualify-six-candidates

http://business.inquirer.net/192967/wash-sales-said-to-be-common-practice

http://www.rappler.com/nation/57370-anti-political-dynasty-bill-house-plenary

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/276411/news/specialreports/the-great-divide-the-politics-and-economics-of-splitting-camsur.

http://www.rappler.com/nation/57370-anti-political-dynasty-bill-house-plenary and committee records

www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/293487/news/nation/anti-political-dynasty-group-seeks-to-disqualify-six-candidates

Review of Mendoza’s “Fairness and Equity in Public-Private Partnerships: The Case of Airport Infrastructure Development in the Philippines,” in the Philippine Journal of Public Administration, Vol. XV Nos. 1-2 (January-December 2011)

 

Prof. Mendoza’s “Fairness and Equity in Public-Private Partnerships: The Case of Airport Infrastructure Development in the Philippines” is a helpful reading in understanding fairness and equity in the context of public-private partnership, in this case the development of NAIA Terminal 3 and the ensuing controversy that hounded the Philippine government for years.

Mendoza’s assertion that “fairness and equity have always been implicit principles in administering public services,” rooted in Frederickson’s idea of good administration, sets the tone for discussion as it puts into scrutiny the processes and procedures undertaken by all parties concerned in the development of NAIA Terminal 3.

The author offers a range of perspectives in understanding fairness and equity and in applying these concepts in the appreciation and assessment of the NAIA Terminal 3 case. Her survey includes ideas from the Standing Panel on Social Equity (SPSE) of the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) which defines social equity as “the fair, just and equitable management of all institutions serving the public directly or by contract; the fair, just and equitable distribution of public services and implementation of public policy; and the commitment to promote fairness, justice, and equity in the formation (sic) of public policy.“ Note that equity is equated here to social equity. However, as the article pointed out not until the 1960s has social equity became the concern of public administration, which marks the rise of the New Public Administration.

Another perspective in understanding fairness and equity is offered by Johnson and Svara, proposing that “fairness means that all should be treated consistently following the same standards and procedures without bias or favoritism and that justice means all are treated fairly and get what they deserve. Equality means that no favoritism or arbitrary denial of rights to life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness regardless of the group which one belongs.” While it adds perspective, there is potential vagueness in the preceding definitions because these do not clearly answer the question “what does consistency imply?” and “what does it mean to be treated fairly?” Meanwhile, Svara and Brunet recognize vagueness and contradictions in the preceding definitions and move to identify, instead, the four dimensions of equity, i.e. (a) procedural fairness, (b) access, (c) quality, and (d) outcomes.

Accordingly, procedural fairness or equity involves the examination of problems and issues in terms of (i) procedural rights, (ii) treatment in procedural sense, and (iii) the application of eligibility criteria for existing policies and programs. Meanwhile, access equity involves a review of current policies, services, and practices to determine the level of access to services or benefits, and the analysis of reasons for unequal access. It is concerned with who receives the benefits or services. Quality equity is a review of the level of consistency in quality of existing services delivered to groups and individuals while outcomes equity involves an examination of whether policies and programs have the same impact for all groups and individuals served.

These dimensions of equity serve an important purpose in the assessment whether the case in point—the development of NAIA 3 Terminal—passes the fairness and equity test that the article attempts to analyze and assess. By procedural equity, the author invokes the Constitutional provision and guarantee of due process and just compensation as conditions. Again, these points have important bearing in the appreciation of the NAIA 3 Terminal case as analyzed in the article.

So far, the definitions borrowed from different sources serve to confuse more than enlighten readers on the definition(s) of equity. The proliferation of concepts, while it enriches the discourse, only adds more confusion than understanding, hence the author’s proposed unified definition, combining the thoughts of Svara and Burnet, Holmes, as well as the definition offered by NAPA-SPSE. Equity is now defined as “the fair, just, and equitable administration of public policies, decisions, programs, services, contracts, and the like. It requires respect of the rights of all stakeholders concerned and the promotion of their interests, whether public or private, by practicing due diligence, observing due process, and justify compensating parties that may be aggrieved or deprived of their interests when used or taken over for public purposes.” This definition, in effect, becomes the benchmark, the basis upon which the policy in question—the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) in the NAIA 3 Terminal development—shall be assessed.

In reviewing the PPP policy, Mendoza provides both the theoretical and historical contexts that gave rise to this new form of administering public service. She offers four arguments upon which the concept and practice of PPP are rested. She explains that one of the drivers of PPP is the crisis in the public sector wherein governments had to search for other sources of funding aside from what it usually collects from citizens such as taxes. Conversely, while there was crisis in the pubic sector, there was an increased mobility in private capital, which tilts the balance and relationship between the state or government and private capital in favor of the latter. As the government continues to expand, its operations became more complex with its functions overlapping that of the private sector, hence, the need for collaboration. Finally, the dominance of neoliberal thought in the 1970s and well into the ‘80s such as the New Public Management and the rise of movements on reengineering and reinventing government serves as the prime mover of PPP.

To add more context, the 1970s and the 1980s were a difficult period in both the Eastern and Western blocs, notably Britain and the United States. As the oil crisis that affected much of the world in the 1970s did not seem to end at the close of the decade, a specter of nuclear war had governments of developed economies spending on building nuclear arsenal and deterrence way beyond their capacity to generate funds to finance their weapons program. While the results varied, one thing was common: governments were left cashless after spending too much on defense. The most tragic example as an aftermath is what happened to the former Soviet Union that built a massive military industrial complex that left its government bankrupt even before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

There, too, are the valid assumptions used to argue for PPP. The first is that government lacks technical expertise and resources, as well as experience, for example, to design, build, and operate infrastructure projects such as an airport and an airport terminal. Secondly, government is largely seen as inherently inefficient. This view is complemented by the neoliberal thought that holds that the market is a better allocator and distributor of social values, and even goods. And so in the 1980, privatization, liberalization, and deregulation were not only buzzwords; more critically, these defined the political economies of world powers whose influence affect the policy and market directions of developing countries including the Philippines. Our own experience with liberalization, privatization, deregulation, and decentralization must have intensified in the 1990s at the start of the first Aquino administration and sustained during the Ramos administration.

The article also presents the different meanings, models and forms of PPP. Accordingly, PPP is essentially a public procurement arrangement between the public sector and private business where risks, rewards, and responsibilities are shared. The author also explains what Linder calls the six meanings of PPP: (a) management reform or an innovative tool that changes the way government functions; (b) problem conversion or transferring trouble shooting of the problem attending public service delivery to the business sector; (c) moral regeneration that gets government managers to be involved as market participants; (d) risk shifting, which is a means to respond to fiscal stringency on the part of government and of getting the private sector to sign on; (e) restructuring public service by adapting administrative procedures and coping with the demands from the sector’s employees through partnerships; and (f) power sharing to include ethos of cooperation and trust, mutual beneficial sharing of responsibility, knowledge, or risk, and give-and-take and negotiating differences. In sum, the six definitions imply an institutionalized form of cooperation between public and private actors toward achieving joint, common goals where both parties accept risks and share the costs and benefits.

The article also lists the different forms, types, and options of PPPs, which is important because much of the adverse public perception against certain PPP project stems not from the projects themselves but from the lack of understanding on the nature, mode or type upon which certain PPP projects were contracted. The author lists the options as either (1) supply and management, (2) turnkey, (3) leases, (4) concession, and (5) private ownership.  The turnkey model is mostly availed of for infrastructure facilities. Typically, a contractor, selected through a bidding process, designs and builds a facility for a fixed rate, or a total cost, and assumes risks involved in the design and construction phase. This is also known as the design-and-build type of PPP where private sector investment is low and there is no strong incentive for early completion as noted by the author. In the lease agreement, the operator is responsible for the operation and maintenance of an infrastructure facility and services but no large investments are required from the operator. The build-rehabilitate-operate-transfer model is also used in combination with the lease type PPP.  For concessions, the government defines and grants specific rights to an entity to build and operate a facility for a fixed period of time and the government may retain ultimate ownership of the facility and/or right to supply the services. Payments under concession type can take place two ways, that is: the concessionaire pays the government for concession rights and the government pays the concessionaire to make projects commercially viable or to reduce the level of risk. While discussion of the different modes, types and options of PPPs are informative, it would have been more helpful if examples of each type of PPP scheme were provided for better understanding.

A section on PPP policy in the Philippines is also discussed, with the legal basis to be found in the Private Sector Participation Program provided for in RA 6957, otherwise known as the Build-Operate-Transfer Law, and its subsequent amendment in 1994, the RA 7718, which introduced and defined new variants of private sector infrastructure participation schemes. The additions are build-own-and-operate (BOO); build-lease-and-transfer (BLT); build-transfer-and-operate (BTO); contract-add-and-operate (CAO); develop-operate-and-transfer (DOT); rehabilitate-own-and-transfer (ROT); and rehabilitate-own-and-operate (ROO). The amendment also includes modalities such as service contracts, management contracts, lease, or concession agreements.

Yet the main discussion in the article centers on the case in point: the BOT concession agreement in the NAIA Terminal 3 project, which is the subject of assessment as far as fairness and equity in the PPP are applied.

The NAIA Terminal 3 project was undertaken under a BOT scheme after it was established that the old NAIA Terminal 1 was operating in excess of its design capacity and that a new airport terminal was necessary in response to an expanding economy during the administration of President Ramos. It was conceived originally as a joint project of the six Filipino taipans under Asia’s Emerging Dragon Corp. (AEDC), which submitted the proposal in 1993. However, through a Swiss challenge, the Philippine Air Terminal Corporation’s (PIATCO) predecessor, the Paircargo and Associates Consortium’s Swiss challenge bid of P17.5B won over AEDC’s P135M. Paircargo had partnered with Fraport AG, a German company. Fraport AG and Paircargo later became PIATCO and contracted in 1997 by the Philippine government to undertake construction and subsequent operation of the then proposed Terminal 3. PIATCO, by that time, was wholly owned by Fraport AG, Security Bank and Trust Company, Equitable Banking Corporation, Chuah Huh Holdings Company, and the Philippine Airport Ground Services.

The concession agreement between the Philippine government and PIATCO stated that construction of the Terminal 3 should start on June 2001, to be completed 30 months thereafter. But it was not the case, as records now tell us. While negotiations and concession process started during the Ramos administration, the construction commenced late during the term of President Estrada. Then in 2001, upon her assumption into the presidency, President Arroyo ordered a review of vital infrastructure projects, including PIATCO’s Terminal 3 project. There was legal back-and-forth that ensued and concluded with presidential adviser Gloria Tan Climaco’s findings of objectionable provisions in the concession agreement entered into by and between the government and PIATCO.

As a result, the administration of President Arroyo offered to buyout PIATCO for US$400M, to which Fraport AG agreed. Before the completion of the terminal, the president formed a committee to evaluate the agreement to buy out Fraport AG, which yielded negative results against PIATCO that led to the government’s abrogation of the agreement.

The subsequent Senate investigations finally led to the Supreme Court ruling the concession agreement null and void. Then the Solicitor General expropriated the airport terminal in favor of the Philippine government. The Court then ordered the government to pay PIATCO an amount of P3.0B that paved the way for the government to take over the facility and to work on its completion and full operationalization. However, Fraport AG brought a case of ‘unjust’ compensation against the Philippine government before the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and before the Singapore-based International Chamber of Commerce Court of Arbitration, where PIATCO demanded US$564M from the Philippine government. Fraport AG’s counterpart claim was set at US$425M, pursuant to a Bilateral Investment Treaty provision that the Philippines and Germany have recourse to. The ICSID subsequently dismissed Fraport AG’s claim in 2007, about three years from the government’s takeover of Terminal 3 in 2004. Not long after, the ICC in Singapore also dismissed Fraport AG’s claim due to the illegality of the five contracts. But it was not the end for PIATCO and Fraport’s pursuit of just compensation because in 2010, a new body at the ICSID called Ad Hoc Committee on Annulment voided an earlier ICSID ruling on the ground that PIATCO/Fraport AG “was denied due process allegedly because the earlier ICSID arbitral tribunal did not allow the latter to comment on the evidence proferred by the Philippine government before the Department of Justice that PIATCO and Fraport AG violated Philippine laws.”

The new round of renegotiation was on and in 2011, the Pasay City Regional Trial Court ordered the Philippine government to pay a total of US$175.79M as just compensation to PIATCO, a fraction of the US$864.4M claim of PIATCO and Fraport AG. In total, the Philippine government paid PIATCO and Fraport AG an amount of US$242M.

The PIATCO/Fraport AG experience, if anything, exposes the labyrinthine process of contracting private services for big-ticket public infrastructure projects. The exercise confronts us with the question of fairness and equity on so many levels and dimensions that contracting parties, especially the government side, should pay close attention to, anticipating prospective legal questions while at the same time conscious of the necessity of getting the project on the ground lest the economy suffers further and the people dissatisfied with government.

Procedurally, the author’s assessment that the due process was observed is fairly informed. The laws in place at the time of the concession agreement was reasonable, as laws should be, in the sense that these does not reward one party and penalize the other for the consensual act they (PIATCO/Fraport AG and Philippine government) both committed. What the author asserts as deviation in an otherwise rational law was the interpretation of the law in amending provisions of the original agreement to suit to the interests of some parties involved. What is not clear in the narrative, however, is whether due diligence was performed and accountability checks were undertaken. If these were done, the concession agreement with PIATCO/Fraport AG would not have happened in the first place if, early on, government auditors found out that the partner firms’ predecessor Paircargo did not have the financial capacity to undertake such project. The disparity in the bid amounts alone should have piqued curiosity if not right away raised red flags already. Why was a red flag not raised? One possible answer to the question can be taken from the basic assumption or argument for PPP: that the government is inherently inefficient, which may correlate with incompetence of government representatives involved. But then the author’s argument that the infancy of PPP may explain a lot of oversight errors on the part of government as far as the conduct of due diligence goes may hold scrutiny, given the corollary fact that its private counterpart in PIATCO/Fraport AG have already mastered the game of private contracting. But to argue naïve gullibility on the part of government representatives who, as the author proposes, banked on the good faith of the private investors is a bit problematic, if not totally naïve an argument for the plain reason that while private investors came to bring money, they’re not going to leave anytime soon without bringing more money with them. Thus, the burden of safeguarding public interest is not the primary duty of the private partners of government; it is the government’s.

As for the ensuing decision on the cases brought against the Philippine government by PIATCO/Fraport AG both the ICSID earlier ruling and the ruling of ICC are justified from a purely legal viewpoint. While ruling in favor of the Philippine government in 2003 and 2004, the Supreme Court was mindful of the fact that the NAIA Terminal 3 building was almost complete and that regardless of the defective agreement, PIATCO/Fraport AG had spent funds on the project, hence the just compensation requirement is hereby observed. The Court’s judicial activism as implied by the author has yet to be established in the context of violations by PIATCO/Fraport AG of several Philippine laws governing contracting. The Court’s decision, in fact, has to be seen as an act of balancing public interest and maintaining goodwill with foreign governments and their enterprises. It was a win-win situation with the government taking over the project but paying the developer what generally was agreed as a just compensation. If these are what it takes the Supreme Court to be an activist Court, then let it be an activist Court for always balancing public interest and international goodwill in its subsequent rulings.

Just compensation is quite a struggle to define because more than mathematical figures and computations, ethics and accountability are also involved although they do not have monetary value in the agreement. Also, the parties involved bring with them to the court their own system of valuation and computation. Yet the basic questions persist: Can just compensation be demanded by PIATCO/Fraport knowing that it entered into an onerous contract with to the disadvantage of the Philippine government? If the contracts were fair, how come the Supreme Court found objectionable provisions and thereby ruled against these as unconstitutional? PIATCO/Fraport could not insist on good faith, especially after it allowed amendments in 1998 that were later on found to be onerous and disadvantageous to the Philippine government. Therefore, the RTC’s explanaton in 2011 of its ruling justifies largely the amount of US$242M as just compensation, which pertains only to the cost of the facilities taken over by the Philippine government after the Supreme Court declared the agreement between the Philippine government and PIATCO/Fraport AG null and void.

There are several lenses from which to view the NAIA Terminal 3 PPP project, one of which is that of a neoliberalist investor’s. By going back to one of the basic assumptions or arguments for PPP, which is that “governments and inherently inefficient,” it would seem clear that PIATCO/Fraport AG did not enter into an agreement with the Philippine government in good faith. It may be futile to define good faith but the records will bear that the concession agreement was indeed riddled with objectionable provisions. When the agreement was later on amended, the said objectionable provisions remained, if not rewritten to disadvantage more the Philippine government. One must not be too smart to know that PIATCO/Fraport AG did not organize their venture for charity; they were here to make money and in those days of opaque governance during the Estrada years, it is not easy to ascertain many a government conduct as protective of public interest and welfare. The public perception on the Estrada presidency was something that did not escape the minds of lawyers of PIATCO/Fraport AG when amendments were made during the deposed president’s term. While this is more fiction than fact, again, the records and the findings of presidential adviser Gloria Tan Climaco and the subsequent Supreme Court ruling supported the view that there were provisions inserted that were deemed unconstitutional. Yet all of these are assumed part of the game, of the risk that the other party should take in adapting this new model of delivering public service. The principal goal, at least superficially, is the availability of the new world-class airport terminal at whatever cost, which may have been attained if irregularities were left uncovered. This sounds rather unusual if not downright irregular but this is how neoliberalism such New Public Management works.

Finally, this reappraisal of a PPP case is timely as the second Aquino administration embarks on big-ticket PPP projects that are estimated to cost P600B starting next month, June 2015. (http://www.philstar.com/business/2014/08/06/1354233/govt-roll-out-18-ppp-projects). This time, though, the stakes have never been higher as the projects are way too late in their delivery, if they can be delivered at all before the Aquino administration bows out of office next year. There is also the perpetual public perception—which is another PPP—that big-ticket projects are but sizable election tools employed by the incumbent to influence election results in its favor. But the bigger collective challenge these days is to implement PPP projects in a more transparent, equitable, and fair manner that benefit not only the facilitators and investors as well as select constituencies of the administration but more importantly, the vast majority of the Filipino people.

Review of Co’s “The Long and Winding Road to Infrastructure Development and Reform,” in the Philippine Journal of Public Administration, Vol. LIV Nos. 1-2 (January-December 2010)

“The Long and Winding Road to Infrastructure Development and Reform” presents a comprehensive discussion for broader understanding of “vulnerabilities” in the Philippines’ road works system which is present in all phases of road works, starting from pre-implementation phase, implementation phase, and until the post-implementation, in the evaluation phase. Vulnerabilities are defined as “the points, functions, or processes within or without the road works system (and by extension the entire infrastructure development system) that result in some organizational dysfunctions, such as cost overruns, project delays, over or underdesign of road works (and other infrastructure), poor quality, and what is essentially called “corruption.”” While the paper pertains to vulnerabilities in the road works system, it dissects the larger, all-encompassing issues of corruption in the state infrastructure development process whereby reforms in procurement, implementation or execution, and assessment and evaluation have been sought and for which the paper offers some initial first-steps as measures to be put in place by policy and direct civil society participation.

Prof. Co prefaces her presentation with comparative figures on infrastructure investment that clearly locates the Philippine’s hardly enviable rank within the region, with a meager 2.5 percent, and with road development expenditure at only 0.7 percent, of the country’s GDP. These basic figures are an important reference in both understanding the sorry state of our infrastructure and in laying the premise for reform, which the paper articulates well with some ideas of change from within and without the executive agencies.

The many players in infrastructure development as identified in the paper is indicative of a complex network of delivery system where demand for transparency and accountability prove to be challenging. Nevertheless, the analyses presented here are fairly valid and sufficient enough guide in (1) understanding the scope and magnitude of ‘corruption’ in the infrastructure development process, and (2) the crafting of anti-corruption programs to plug the so-called ‘leak.’ The interest in scope and magnitude of the programs and the accompanying leak in public funds, it must be pointed out, should go well beyond that of a typical sensationalist media tendency to make mountains out of a mole although we also concede that our free and sometimes irresponsible coverage on corruption issues in the past have resulted in ‘successful’ conviction of those who were suspected to have enriched themselves while in power, while serving government.

Aside from the principal agency for infrastructure development that is the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the paper identifies the Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC), Department of Tourism (DOT), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the Metro Manila Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), and local government units (LGUs) as among those involved in infrastructure projects. The line-up of agencies mentioned already indicates something chaotic in the infrastructure development process as the paper correctly observed. But what compounded to the already chaotic system is the addition of government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) as another set of implementers and the participation of the Legislature in infrastructure development. Among the GOCCs mentioned are Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA), National Development Company (NDC), and Philippine National Construction Company (PNCC).

The participation of the legislature, specifically of senators and congressmen, effectively blurs the classical administration-politics dichotomy wherein the executive and legislative function freely encroaches into each other’s territory, adding more difficulty in demanding transparency and accountability. As the paper correctly pointed out, most of the time it’s the legislators venturing into the executive function of policy implementation that makes the system of delivery and accountability chaotic and dysfunctional. The participation of senators and congressmen in infrastructure development, in some cases involving legislators having ‘full-access’ to the entire process, only adds up another layer of difficulty in addressing vulnerabilities. Unsurprisingly, some legislators’ propensity to (mis)appropriate executive function has resulted in so many cases of questionable big-ticket, multibillion-peso infrastructure projects. One such example of projects embroiled in controversy is the still unresolved ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ scandal that continues to hound former president Arroyo and her allies  (http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/293618/arroyo-execs-pocket-p15-b-from-bridge-scam).

The discussion of vulnerabilities in each phase of infrastructure development provides for a framework for further understanding corruption. More importantly, this frame-by-frame, phase-by-phase analysis provides for a clear, specific, defined, focal areas for demanding transparency and exacting accountability in the otherwise labyrinthine procurement process. Stories of bid rigging, collusion and even stringent prequalification process in the pre-implementation phase of infrastructure development program, for example, expose the inherent weakness of the procurement system in place and therefore invite innovative ideas to be infused in the reform process. The pre-implementation phase is critical because it is where anomalies are ‘instituted.’ This is the phase where infrastructure projects are approved but would later found to be overdesigned and therefore overpriced, among other anomalies.

The vulnerabilities in the implementation phase are assumed to exist for at least two reasons. Firstly, the approval or clearance system in the pre-implementation phase failed to detect and weed out anomalous proposals from questionable contractors for so many reasons. As a result, the issues that should have been resolved in the pre-implementation phase are left open during its implementation, again, for so many reasons. Secondly, there are persistent long-running issues that affect implementation. One major issue is right of way acquisition (ROWA), which continues to pester the DPWH in dozens of its projects. This is one problem that the DPWH alone could not possibly resolve as it involves some political decision and intervention whose logic often defies technical and economic considerations as the article correctly pointed out. An example of this would be the DPWH’s stalled flood control project in Metro Manila that involves relocation of settlers along riverbanks.[1] In principle, the state can set aside funding for relocation in view of the controversial Lina Law which seeks to protect slum dwellers from random demolition. In reality, political leaders are unwilling to carry out relocation as it means loss of constituency in an electoral contest. Also, counterpart funding in the implementation phase is beyond the Department’s sphere of influence. Those in the know say that this is the point where some legislators overextend their ‘power of the purse’ too much for themselves and too little for the project and the public.

The vulnerabilities continue to manifest in the post-implementation phase of infrastructure development programs. In complex systems, where infrastructure development resides as configured deliberately under our procurement system, monitoring and evaluation is more of a ‘guessing game’ if not a gaming-the-system game. The anomalous proposals that didn’t get flagged in the pre-implementation phase are routinely approved and implemented and therefore have to be ‘evaluated.’ The ‘monitoring’ is assumed to be performed until the stage at which evaluation takes place with presumption of regularity, until something wrong is discovered. The complexity in infrastructure development process, from all indications, is not a default system nor a natural configuration but rather a deliberately elaborate, or elaborately deliberate, mechanism to skirt the long and arduous process of transparency and accountability. Under a cloud of doubt, reportorial process is therefore assumed to sustain the anomalies in the pre-implementation and implementation phases, and serves only to justify the persistence of vulnerabilities.

As a counterpoint, the article presents a two-pronged approach to reforming the concerned executive agencies and at the same time strengthening civil society participation in the complex infrastructure development process. Within the agencies, measures such as online bidding, strike 3 rule, elimination of prequalification requirements to open up bidding process to greater competition, civil works registry, and capacity building and integrity development programs, streamlining, and rationalization are proposed to at least realistically minimize vulnerabilities. From without, the article puts premium on industry self-regulation and oversight alongside strong civil society participation.

However, the proposed measures need some kind of a leg to stand on. Civil works registry and civil society participation, for example, are meaningless measures if these are not rested on a law on transparency that guarantees freedom of access to vital information on multibillion-peso public works contracts whose otherwise hidden provisions may, for example, prove to be disadvantageous to the government and the public as end users. In the absence of a law, such as the proposed Freedom of Information Act, access to vital documents of public interest is extremely limited if not totally impossible. The proposed measures are better off tied to a rational incentives plan to be adopted both by the public and private sectors to not only discourage malpractices but inspire performance and integrity in and out of the workplace. Also, the Strike 3 Rule is not exactly a fair policy because a lot of disqualified bidders, in fact, have tendered bids that offered more value than those by the winning bidders.

A word of caution though about civil society participation: not all civil society organizations (CSOs) are created equal. This implies that some CSOs are not transparency-driven; a lot of them are there or exist for the wrong reasons. Code NGO, for example, noted that the government’s bottoms-up-budgeting (BUB) is having a rough sailing because there is not enough number of organized and credible civil society organizations as partners in the program in many areas around the country. Given this difficulty, the government through the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) are left with no choice but nominate certain groups that are allies of the administration to participate in the process even if their participation is essentially government-instigated.[2] The resulting relationship is beyond awkward; it may actually be anomalous if not downright unethical.

The whole discussion about vulnerabilities and corruption are central to studies in ethics and accountability and governance. The kind of ethical model and orientation that governs official conduct in government is always suspect because the strong public perception that those in government who are engaged in infrastructure development are in one way or another corrupt has not been effectively falsified. Attempts to reverse public opinion and perception failed many times over because what the people are seeing are the excesses and irregularities in many government transactions ranging from purchase of office supplies to big ticket projects such as the proposed new railway system or the new international airport in the south. The same vulnerabilities remain uncorrected although those in the administration, for example, are likely to paint a totally different picture of the public procurement system. Finally, issues bedeviling the public infrastructure development process surely can be explained in a dozen different approaches and models in ethics and accountability but what is more critical, it must be reiterated, is the absence of a rational incentives mechanism in both public and private sectors as a measure to minimize, if not totally stamp out, vulnerabilities in the infrastructure development process.

 

Endnotes

[1] From an interview with DPWH Project Management Office OIC sometime in February 2013.

[2] From an interview with CODE-NGO officer and a DBM Undersecretary sometime in October 2014