Long term monitoring of Philippine elections development.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Join Automated Elections 101: A Step-by-Step Guide Webinar on May 7

Everyone is invited to join this free webinar on Automated Elections 101: A Step-by-Step Guide this May 7, 2010 from 7 pm to 9 pm.

This is a two (2) hour discussion of the different phases of the automated elections.

Our resource persons are Atty. Milabel R. Mujer and Atty. Yvette P. Chua. They are among the consultants of the University of the Philippines Institute of Government and Law Reform (IGLR) who worked on the project to develop a Handbook on Automated Elections, Canvassing and General Election Monitoring. The project seeks to cement a solid understanding of election rules and regulations, particularly those covering automated elections.

Atty. Chua is presently connected with a Makati law firm, while Atty. Mujer is connected with a foreign asset-based lending firm. They both graduated in 2005 from the University of the Philippines College of Law.

Sign-up now!

For first time attendees, here is what to expect once you are logged on to the webinar on May 7.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Noy Watch launched to track election anomalies

Just got a heads-up that Noynoy.ph, the official website of presidential candidate Noynoy Aquino, has launched Noy Watch - an interactive platform to help interested parties track election anomalies as they unfold in and around the Philippines. It is a collaborative citizen-driven monitoring for the Philippine 2010 election. The map is meant to give a general idea of where the incidents are occuring.

It uses the Ushahidi Engine - a platform that allows anyone to gather distributed data via SMS, email or web and visualize it on a map or timeline. The goal of the application is to create the simplest way of aggregating information from the public for use in crisis response.

I first heard about the engine when I saw the above video last year that co-founder Erik Hersman presented. Impressive on how the platform was also used in Vote Report India that not only covers anomalies but also what went well.

What I like (plus) about the Noy Watch effort are as follows:

  • Allow supporters to have a control center for reporting anomalies found in the elections during the campaign period, election day, and vote counting.
  • Creates a spirit of transparency and watchfulness as supporters are empowered with this platform.
What I find to be challenging (minus) are:
  • The non-verified reports not having the appropriate legend. I think it should have a category of its own. Otherwise, the initiative can be accused of rumor mongering if it won't have proper classification for unverified reports.
  • Who will perform the verification? What is the standard process of verification?
What I find to be interesting are:
  • If the site will receive a report citing a Noynoy camp anomaly, will it be published?
  • If site can also be used to reflect election precints in the country where supporters lodge their observations or findings directly.
I'm sure that there will be more efforts like this in the future. Moreso 3rd party similar sites, perhaps own by a news or monitoring network, to encourage reporting from everyone interested about the elections.

(P.S. If you have time, I hope you can join the Map Your Election Precint Contest)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Supporting the Yahoo! Purple Thumb Campaign

Janette Toral
Originally uploaded by Earthlingorgeous
One of the election advocacies I supported recently is the Yahoo! #YourPurpleThumb campaign. This is where opinions of the Yahoo! Philippines users community are encouraged to be shared and let their voices be heard.

Last February, in the Yahoo! Philippines Purple Thumb launch, I also talked about the significance of social media in the coming elections.

This is part of Yahoo! Purple Thumb efforts in reporting election developments in the community by tapping the users also in contributing content.

There are many ways that you can participate and this is all done through Yahoo! Meme. This includes:
  • Share why you are voting this coming elections. Add the #YourPurpleThumb to make your opinion be part of those who shared their perspective.
  • If you found interesting news item, video, and audio clips in relation to the elections, share them. Make sure to add the #PurpleThumb hash tag at the end of your Yahoo! Meme post to make it visible to everyone monitoring election related content shared in the site.
You might wonder why Yahoo! Meme. The site is designed for content sharing without risking alteration of the original post. It also allows you to follow other people and build your own following as well. (related post: Make Yahoo! Meme work for you)

See you in the community! Let me know your Yahoo! Meme url and will follow you there.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Solita Monsod´s C-5 "Analyses" – Errors and consequences - Senator Manny Villar C5 Controversy

Like many Filipinos, seeing politicians throwing mud at each other has become a normal process during elections. However, this specific controversy, the C-5 project involving Senator Manny Villar is a very serious one.

The beauty of it though, as the discussion staled in the Senate, the public is now the one actively discussing it allowing us regular readers and citizens look at it outside the usual political color.

Here are some reading materials to get us started and be familiar:

Ricardo Barcelona has a follow-up reaction to Solita Monsod but not available online as of this time. I received a copy of it from Rene Azurin and got his go signal to post it here.


Solita Monsod´s C-5 "Analyses" – Errors and consequences

Solita Collas Monsod´s column[2] – Refuting Manny´s defenders – responded quickly to counter the points I raised in my article “C – 5 Sound and Fury: Is Monsod painting the full picture?” Contrary to her claim, I actually question the bases of her analyses and the “incontrovertible” evidence she presents.

Monsod started by acknowledging that she is “honored that he (i.e. Barcelona) considers his being my former student (albeit a rebuking one) more important than the rest of his professional achievements”. Well, this is news to me as I do not recall making any mention of this.

Yes, she was my professor at UP School of Economics in introductory economics and a course in project evaluation. Beyond this fact, I take no responsibility for Monsod´s conjectures – although I am glad that she finds my curriculum vitae impressive. Incidentally, I never shared my resume with her as it bears no relevance to C - 5.

So, what do I find erroneous with Monsod´s analyses and use of evidence?

The errors pertain to mis-application of economic and legal concepts, incorrect calculations, and a leap of faith in connecting “facts” to conclusions. Outright errors are easy to spot and disregard. However, “half-truths” not only mislead, they inflict serious injustice by wrongly apportioning guilt. Specifically: a) Incomplete evidence bias research results, limiting its usefulness as evidence; b) Assumptions, disputed data and allegations are presented as “incontrovertible facts”; c) Incorrect calculations and methodology on land and project values make comparisons meaningless; and d) opinions disguise as incontrovertible evidence support conclusions.

For this reason, I take to heart a legal luminary´s advice as my mentor on the fine art of argumentation. He said: When you are strong on facts, use the facts; When you have the law on your side, use the law to argue your case; But when you have neither, raise your voice!

Villar´s detractors have extended this advice in their practice of partisan politics: When yelling does not work, confuse the issues. This is the aspect of partisan politics that I am fighting against. Hence, for the avoidance of any doubt, I take my privilege of delivering my final rebuttal acting for the defense. I present both sides of the argument in the interest of balance debate. Hence, separating the facts from assumptions, allegations and omissions is the first step towards this goal.

Error 1: Official documents and testimony in the senate are given equivalence to “incontrovertible” facts

Monsod: “The A´s (i.e. answers) in my column can be verified by documents and uncontroverted statements from official sources … I am certainly glad Mr Villar aired his side on his website. That is his choice. It is mine to look at the government documents and the sworn testimony that are part of the Senate Record.

What´s wrong: The official sources that comprise the Senate Record include Villar´s privilege speeches in 2008 and 2009, and depositions disproving any wrongdoing. By ignoring evidence that refutes the detractors´ allegations, the validity of the research conclusions are at best incomplete – worse they become questionable.

The source data of Senate Report 780 is the subject of challenge. The transparency (or lack of it) and objectives (political vs establishing the facts) of the investigation are at the core of the dispute. For instance, 25 witnesses named by Senator Ana Consuelo Madrigal – Villar detractor - as key to the investigation were never given the opportunity to testify. Others include testimonies submitted to the senate, but ignored by Monsod, that I cited in my article (i.e. Atty Carmela Bacod on “no over-pricing”; and Atty Yolanda Doblon on “no double insertions”).

Consequences: Monsod is within her right to limit the documents she chose to review. However, contradicting evidence consciously excluded limits value her analysis. Precisely, official documents rely on due process and transparency to establish its credence. Senate Report fails this test as allegations are taken as “facts”.

Error 2: Allegations are used as “incontrovertible” facts to support conclusions

Monsod: “Since there was already an ongoing project (the MCTEP or Manila Cavite Toll Expressway) linking C – 5 to the Coastal Road, it was totally unnecessary to build a second one”.
To arrive at this conclusion, she used the interactive map published at www.gmanes.tv arguing that “technically there has been no realignment, because these are two separate roads linking C – 5 from SLEX (i.e. South Luzon Expressway) to the Coastal Road. But they are very close to each other and in some areas overlap as can be ascertained from a site map” (www.Inquirer.net, posted January 30, 2010).

She added in her subsequent column that “MCTEP was conceived precisely to create choices for motorists. There already exists a current road network, toll free, that will allow motorists to move from SLEX to the Coastal Road. MCTEP would give them the choice of going from point A to point B more quickly – as long as they are willing to pay for the convenience. Giving motorists a third choice, in the context of competing demands on scarce resources, cannot be – never mind, should not be – defended”.

What´s wrong: Waste is established after the fact when a project is completed. That is, a project becomes wasted investment if no socio-economic value is generated. Monsod dismisses Ma Nalen Rosero Galang´s explanation, Villar´s legal counsel, that the C – 5 roads are needed to ease traffic congestion. To wit: “To Ms Galang, where in urban Philippines are traffic conditions not worsening?”

If traffic volumes require additional road capacity, they need to be built once the case for investment is justified. A priori conclusion on waste takes the status of assumption-turn-doctrine. Reality debunks this “novel” economics:

  1. Skyway is Manila toll road built above toll free Sucat – Alabang road. Both are highly utilized by motorists.
  2. Light railways in Metro Manila are built on top of existing roads in major thoroughfares. All infrastructures are highly utilized.
  3. Multiple level toll and toll free roads co-exist in Boston, New York and other high traffic density US urban areas.
  4. Barcelona´s (Spain) prime beach resort community in Sitges is connected by toll roads, sharing common stretches with toll free roads, in addition to railways and marinas (i.e. access from sea).

Indefensible C – 5 waste of money as Monsod´s “doctrine” would argue? With at least six million beneficiaries that enjoy better travel, this is socio economic value not to sneeze at.

Monsod´s principal evidence is based on an interactive map of C - 5 drawn by journalists. GMA News´ interactive map is generally assumed to be from the Senate Report 780. In reality, this was drawn by journalists from GMA News allegedly based on a letter from DPWH CESO Regional Director Robert Lala to former DPWH Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane on October 15, 2008. However, this letter is not included in the Senate Report.

MCTEP is presented as the “original” C – 5 extension, while CX – 5 is shown as the rerouted road that was actually built. To quote: The map shows the “originally planned route of the road project and where the road actually passed after presidential candidate and real estate magnate Senator Manny Villar allegedly intervened”.

This is where the confusing part is – did Monsod herself not say these are two separate sets of road projects? If this was not included as part of the Senate official documents, does it fall under Monsod´s scope of admissible evidence after excluding Bacod and Doblon´s testimonies that I cited? Now, are there two links or three links as Monsod claimed? Not sure how much relevance this has except to highlight how selective use of evidence could lead to incorrect conclusions. The fact is, all roads are serving the communities they are built to serve (Galang letter to Inquirer, February 6, 2010).

Villar in his various privilege speeches at the senate in 2008, 2009 and 2010 presented evidence to refute arguments about “double insertions”. What happened to these supporting documents? Why are they ignored by the Senate Report 780? One of salient points of that debate precisely revolve around what the “original” road design was – MCTEP or CX – 5 that was claimed to have been part of the general road plan formulated by the Americans in the 1940s, according to Villar and DPWH (Senate Privilege Speech, February 2, 2010).

Clearly, official documents contain “facts” that are disputed. This requires inclusive evaluation of evidence to get to reality. However, Monsod may have taken the approach that use of evidence is a matter of preference. To quote: “It is mine (i.e. preference) to look at government documents and the sworn testimony that are part of the senate record”.

Consequences: If allegations are accepted as “incontrovertible” facts, and are then used to arrive at a “conclusive” case for censure and retribution, what has become of the Senate and the justice system? We are entering an era where no one is secure in life and property, where no one can expect due process. As a consequence, the Philippines is likely to join failed states such as Somalia once this logic is extended to policy and government. In fact, the Philippines is ranked below most of its ASEAN and Asian peers in surveys by Transparency International, Heritage Foundation and similar surveys. This is because of onerous legal framework made unpredictable by discretionary application of law and evidence. Applying “assumption-turn-doctrine” as an approach exacerbates this problem.

Error 3: Incorrect math and economic theory render comparisons meaningless

Monsod: To justify the discrepancy between what appeared on her Inquirer.net column and News on Q, she explained that “the P11,520 figure refers only to the properties that are directly Villar-owned. The P7,168 figure refers to the direct properties and those in joint-venture with Villar companies. Please note that I used the lower figures in my column”.

What´s wrong: Monsod stated that “I have – based on the documented prices and acreage of the lands purchased in connection with LPPLP – computed the weighted average prices that were paid for the Villar and related properties, and those paid for the non-Villar properties (www.Inquirer.net January 30, 2010)”.

In reality, the figures can be calculated as the simple average by dividing the price paid (P168.1 million as numerator) with the acreage (23,455 sq meters as denominator) to arrive at Monsod´s result of P7,168 / sq meter. Now, if we want to adjust for the Villar only property, both the numerator and denominator should be adjusted accordingly.

Although Monsod never substantiated her figures at News on Q, we can calculate this by fixing the price paid at P168.1 million (i.e. keeping numerator constant) and divide by 14,592 sq meters (i.e. as new denominator). The Villar only acreage of 14,592 sq meters is derived by dividing the total price (P168.1 million) by the price / sq meter (P11,520).

Word of caution: Simple averages are easily distorted by excessively high (or low) prices for small lots that are given the same weight as large lots.

Monsod went quiet on her “novel” economic argument on MCTEP joint venture vs CX – 5 / LPPLP. She argued that “MCTEP is a joint venture … with the government´s financial exposure limited to P2.68 billion for the purchase of the right of way … while CX – 5 / LPPLP is a toll free, wholly financed by government project costing P6.96 billion”.

Consequences: An English expression is appropriate – half truths, lies and statistics are taken in the same breath by skeptics. Hence, when meaningless statistics are presented as having credence of “incontrovertible facts”, we cannot attach much value to what passes as “analysis” supporting the “conclusive” case to convict.

Students of finance and decision theory will see through these comparisons as illogical and meaningless. Incorrect math combined with incorrect theory results in dubious comparisons. A Shakespearian farce – all sounds and fury signifying nothing!

By ignoring Bacod´s testimonies declaring “no over-pricing” on at least two instances in the Philippine Senate, what game is being played by flogging a dead horse? The only tangible contribution that I see is to reinforce doubts in investors´ perception of unpredictable legal framework. As a result, punitive interest rates on borrowings and onerous terms are what we can expect if we apply this type of “novel” economics.

Error 4: Tainted by association and presumption of conflicts of interest

Monsod: “Do not put words into my mouth. I was not suggesting that capital gains linked to public works should accrue to government. There is a world of difference between the Hda. Luisita issue and the Villar properties issue: (1) NoyNoy Aquino probably owns less than 2 percent of Luisita, Villar owns 100 percent of his companies; and 2) Villar conceived and initially funded CX – 5 / LPPLP; And Aquino has zilch to do with SCTEX”.

What´s wrong: There is a pattern of mixing allegations, unexplained assumptions and opinions passed as “incontrovertible facts” that raise questions about research rigor. Monsod´s arguments are non-sequiturs: (1) Ownership on its own hardly leads to “incontrovertible” fact that NoyNoy Aquino is subjected to less conflicts of interests than Villar, and vice versa; and (2) Sponsoring a project logically taints its benefits because the sponsor will only look after their own interests. Both are assumptions that bears little basis on specific facts. Specifically:

  1. Ownership share on its own neither guarantee conflicts of interest nor reduce temptation to plunder.
  2. Congressmen are mandated by law to represent and work for the interests of their constituency. Sponsoring projects of major impact is part of that role.

NoyNoy Aquino´s 2% stake (by Monsod´s reckoning) if applied to an estimated P60 billion value of Hda Luisita, once connected to SCTEX, is worth P1.2 billion (a massive increase from zilch). Using Aquino´s estimate of 3.125% share, this is P1.875 billion (www.gmanews.tv, February 9, 2010). Higher estimates place the land value at up to P450 billion – implying between P9.0 to P14.0 billion. Take your pick – still a nice fortune to inherit, rather than the small ownership share downplayed as insignificant.

In an ongoing investigation at Congress, records show SCTEX is fully funded by government. Precedents make Monsod´s logic untenable.

Using her own C – 5 “logic”, Cojuangco - Aquino´s 500 hectare industrial and residential estate is the principal beneficiary of the P32 billion SCTEX. There are existing roads and access to the site. Tai pan Lucio Tan, faced with similar quandary at his properties at Cabuyao, housing Asia Brewery and real estate developments, paid in full from his company´s funds. This is paid to the government to construct roads connecting his properties to existing road networks.

The more fundamental issues are: (1) If SCTEX at P32 billion is a major project that impacts Noy Noy Aquino´s constituency when he was Congressman for Tarlac, should he be at the forefront championing the project?; and (2) If Hda Luisita is the major beneficiary, should he not take a more active interest to ensure that SCTEX follows utmost transparency that is deem as fundamental for good governance? By showing apparent disinterest, was NoyNoy Aquino derelict in his duties as Congressman for Tarlac?

Zilch to do with SCTEX ? Interesting … but let Congress complete their work before we pre-empt their findings. In the meantime, Daily Tribune´s article on “SCTex was Gloria´s gift to Aquinos” previews the unfolding saga that has all the making of a “bigger than C – 5” controversy.

Putting words into Monsod´s mouth? Let us face it - What is the point in belaboring that Villar wrongfully gain from C -5 because his company´s property values rise after the road projects are completed?

Consequences: If issues are debated without separating facts from fiction or allegations, we get the results that we have. The senate debates on the C – 5 controversy, conducted in an obvious partisan manner (i.e. senate divided along party alliances or personal grudges), is a classic example of this outcome.

If SCTEX follows the path C – 5 took in congressional investigation, the greater loser is Philippine development. With Congress and the Senate lock in partisan politics, rather than producing legislation that facilitates development, the Philippines can be condemned to prolong under-development – at the Filipino´s expense.

Conclusion – Villar is innocent of any wrong-doing
The errors contain in Monsod´s “analyses” on C – 5, and their consequences, lead me to question her methods and conclusions. To complete the partial picture Monsod paints, this contrasting view allows readers to weigh evidence to aid their decision.

I conclude that the case against Villar, and Monsod´s evidence to support conviction, cannot stand scrutiny in a court of law.

In the court of public opinion, clarity of facts and a balance treatment of evidence is what I aim to achieve. I trust that I have achieved this goal with rigor, transparency and fairness – clearing Villar of wrongdoing.

Reflections and way forward
Monsod close her arguments by providing a moral of the story that is curious, if not irrelevant: “Do not rebuke your teacher using insinuations and without knowing full knowledge of the facts. My fault is that I didn´t teach him any better”.

Again, I take no responsibility for Monsod´s conjectures. On deeper reflection, perhaps being a former student of Monsod that “did not get it”, who she could have taught better but did not, has its own benefits.

After UP School of Economics, I am fortunate to be given the opportunity, and the wisdom to accept advice from wiser people. As a result, I pursued farther education in world class institutions such as IESE Business School, Spain and Cranfield School of Management, United Kingdom. This is complemented by courses taken at Wharton / University of Pennsylvania and Harvard, both while serving at Royal Dutch Shell in The Netherlands. In the process, I manage to enrich my education, update my knowledge and enhance my formation, thanks to the guidance of great minds and peers.

Sitting on shoulders of intellectual giants, I benefited from their insights and personal qualities. To name a limited number: Bernardo M Villegas´ (University of Asia and the Pacific) lessons in humility and personal integrity serve as foundation; Florian Alburo´s (UP School of Economics) mantra to go see the world when introspection was UP´s prevailing wisdom; late Harry Hansen´s (Harvard and IESE Business School) mentoring on strategic foresight; Carlos Cavalle´s (IESE Business School) openness in seeing challenges to arguments as intellectually stimulating; combines with Pedro Nueno´s (IESE) focus on the practical use of knowledge; and David Parker´s (Cranfield) pursuit of evidence with rigor to inform policy and debate. Their company makes the journey worthwhile as we find inspirations from the works of Porter, Ghemawat, Markowitz, Sharpe, Rubinstein, Dixit, Pindyck, Arrow and many more …

They share common traits: By embracing dissenting views, pursuit of knowledge is undertaken in service of truth and common good – tempered by humility that we do not have a monopoly on wisdom but possess sufficient sense to shape it.

Had I been “taught better” by Monsod, would I end up in a better place? A curiosity – but then I trust my European sojourn prepares me well to continue serving our people, as I am doing in my private capacity.

For partisans who instinctively react to stamp out dissenting views like a “yellow fever”, all I can say is this: Let us shake hands, enjoy our drinks, and depart as friends agreeing to disagree!

[1] Senior adviser on energy and infrastructure investments, competition and regulation. In investment banking, voted top rated analyst (European utilities) and adviser (privatization). In industry, served in senior roles in mergers & acquisitions and large scale investments. Doctoral candidate, Cranfield School of Management, United Kingdom; MBA, IESE Business School, Spain; and BA Economics, School of Economics, University of the Philippines.

[2] Inquirer.net, posted February 5, 2010.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Strong Leader A Strong Nation - Speech of Senator Manuel "Manny" Villar

I just got an email from Rene Azurin where he said, "Folks: I heard this speech delivered this noon at the Makati Business Club presidential forum and it was very well received (standing ovation) by what has always been a Noynoy crowd. From comments I heard after, I suspect it caused some people in the audience to change their minds. Anyway, I grabbed this text from a Villar website so you can consider it yourself. Regards."

I can't find the speech online and asked for Rene's permission to post this.


Distinguished friends, fellow businessmen, members of the diplomatic corps, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen. Good afternoon to you all. Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat.

First of all, I would like to thank the Makati Business Club, headed by Chairman Ramon del Rosario Jr., for inviting me to speak before you today. As I look around the room, I think that in all the various forums I have attended, this one probably has the highest concentration of wealth, power, intelligence, and years of business experience, than all the others. Many of you are leaders in your field, captains of industry, ex-cabinet members -- people who, one way or another, have had a strong influence in the path our country has taken over the years. It is a privilege to be your guest here today.

However, I must admit that when I first received this invitation, some of my advisers asked me “why bother”? I was informed of the results of your in-house surveys, and it showed that I am not exactly your favorite candidate – although one must make mention that the survey I saw represented only 13% of your membership. Someone even warned me that it would be like Barack Obama addressing the Ku Klux Klan.

Kidding aside, I had no doubt in my mind that I should accept your kind invitation and speak to you today. I believe that, as a presidential candidate, it is my duty, my obligation, to share with you some of my thoughts and ideas, some of my hopes and plans for the country should I be elected, and also to give some of you who have never met me, a glimpse of who I am and what I stand for.

Given my background, my humble beginnings, which most of you are aware of by now, I think it would be useful not to dwell on what makes us so different, but to point out what we have in common. Often, mistrust stems from a perception that “he’s not one of us.” To this day, wars are being fought in the name of religion, or over differences in a person’s origin. I am not saying that that is the main reason why perhaps many of you do not support me, but I will say that it is probably easier to throw one’s support behind someone familiar, someone they think they know.
So I would like to point out a few things. Please remember that, like most of you here, I understand very well the challenges - the ups and downs - of setting up and running a business in this country. How often do we hear people say, when they see a successful venture – say, a restaurant or a BPO - "Kayang kaya ko yan gawin."? How many of them have actually done it?

Like most of you here, I have managed people – subordinate and senior – from all walks of life - and I recognize that it takes a lot of patience, skill, and many years of experience to be an effective manager.

Like most of you here, I have spoken to foreigners many times – to international investors and to senior government officials – and I know what they are looking for when they are considering their investment options.

Like most of you here, I know – we all know – that our country needs to weed out a culture of corruption, to build infrastructure, to raise education standards, to create jobs and an environment conducive to investment –and, of course, to reduce and perhaps one day eliminate poverty.

And, most importantly, like most of you here, I know the difference between ‘knowing” what has to be done, and actually being “able” to do it.


So here are some of my plans. Some of the things I will be able to do.

Just as I have promised to the people, we will make poverty alleviation our top priority. However, this is something that everyone, including the poor themselves, must strive for and work towards. What I can do is give more access and opportunities to those who don’t have it because they are poor. I will work hard to raise education standards, build more schools, and reward deserving teachers. I intend to accomplish this by spending more for education. I will also try to create a more competitive environment among schools, among teachers, so that those that perform well are rewarded, and those that don’t are held accountable.

I will build safety nets for the less fortunate – more access to healthcare for example. For our OFWs, there must be a system to address their needs when they encounter trouble overseas and to bring them back if need be.

I cannot promise no new taxes as the next administration will inherit empty coffers. The fiscal deficit this year is projected to balloon to over 300 billion pesos or about 3.5% of GDP. It would be irresponsible of me to limit my options knowing the magnitude of the problem. Of course, we will push to raise revenues and spend wisely. But as we have seen, raising revenues is not a simple matter. We already have one of the highest tax rates in the region. People will have to pay their taxes. I am beholden to no one and I will be in a strong position to reduce tax evasion and smuggling.

From Day One, I will make clear that there will be zero tolerance of graft and corruption. Sadly, there is no country in the world that has been able to eliminate it completely. I will work hard to reduce it significantly.

If elected, I will set the tone during the first 100 days, the first year of my administration. Large contracts can be bidded out and televised for all to see. This would send a message that we mean business. The government has to set the example for all to follow.

I believe that job creation is critical to solving the poverty problem. In the long run I would like to see a Philippines where no Filipino has to venture overseas just to find work. But given the state of our economy, that is not realistic today. What I will do is create an investment climate where our country will be back on the radar screen of foreign investors. Simply “leveling the playing field” is not good enough. What good is a level playing field here, if the field in other countries is much more attractive? All investors want clear rules, simple tax laws, availability and competence of labor, and decent infrastructure.

I will institute vast and immediate improvements on infrastructure. One of the first things I will do is to start work on connecting NLEX to SLEX. Since funding is limited, maybe we can look at BOT structures.

I will try to strike a delicate balance between business and safeguarding the environment. My record here speaks for itself – I have planted over one million trees.

I will try to reawaken in Filipinos the spirit of entrepreneurship. One problem I see here is access to financing for start-ups and small businesses – we have to encourage the financial community to lend to SMEs.

To get to where we want to go, we will need to address all these problems. They are all inter-related. We will need a concerted effort; a major push forward. For example, right now, the BPO industry accounts for about 5% of GDP and is growing at 20% per annum. It will soon become the second engine of growth together with remittances from overseas Filipinos.

We can greatly help the industry by ensuring that the supply of educated labor continues, and by improving our infrastructure so that investors keep coming because they find it easy to do business here. That, in turn, will create jobs which means higher employment and more government revenues.

We need to get out of this vicious cycle, and create a virtuous one.

There are so many problems to address. I cannot go over every one of them here. My purpose here is to give you some idea of my plans and my approach. I cannot promise you that all the problems will be solved, because the future of this country does not lie in the hands of one person. We will all need to do our part.

I can promise you that I will provide strong and honest leadership for our country. By doing so, I hope that the rest will follow towards building a stronger nation.

So these are some of my thoughts and plans, and I believe I can do it if given the chance.

I have been Speaker of the House and Senate President, gaining the highest satisfaction ratings while leading both Houses of Congress, and I understand far more than many the complexities that effective governance requires. If memory serves me right, trust ratings for the Senate hit a high of 70 percent during my leadership. I believe “government” and “politics” need not be dirty words.

Because of the nature of government, a leader must be able to immediately command respect; otherwise the bureaucracy and clashing interests will overwhelm a neophyte. A true leader must be decisive – in spite of the risks, remember that I did not hesitate to impeach a sitting president.


Now, please allow me to pose a question to you. When you are considering a candidate for a senior position in your respective companies, or when your Board is conducting a search for a CEO, what qualities do you deem important in a candidate? How do you go about the selection process?

Think about it. A CEO, a true leader, must look after the interests of ALL his company’s stakeholders – employees, shareholders, creditors, suppliers, etc… Tough decisions will have to be made in normal times, let alone in times of crisis. Now multiply the existing problems faced by your company a hundred times. That is what our new Chief Executive will face this year.

There is no six-month probationary period for the job! It is six years! There is no room for on-the-job training. Our country has too many complex problems and too many competing interests and we will need a strong leader with a proven track record to even have a chance!

I built my name – in business and in politics - through hard work and perseverance. Yes. Sipag at Tiyaga. I have never been anybody’s crony. Some of my critics may have forgotten that. I think we should instill in our country – in our children – the value of hard work. We should start by setting examples – by training them – by letting them know that they have to earn their place. They cannot just inherit the top spot. They cannot just wait to lead the businesses we have built once we’re gone, without proper training and experience. You cannot just tell them - “Anak, tanungin mo na lang ang Tito o Tita mo kung paano magpatakbo niyan pag nagka-problema.” You will find so many examples – case studies - where businesses failed after simply being handed over by families to the next generation.

I know much of what I say today may fall on deaf ears. But I am still hopeful that even a few will open their minds and see the merits of what I am saying. I remember some 15 years back, when then President Ramos made it clear that he was going to dismantle monopolies – telecommunications was one - and create a more competitive environment – the so-called “level playing field” that everyone today likes to talk about. I remember that there was fear from the big businessmen.

With all due respect, I will quote something said by Ayala Corp Chairman Jaime Zobel de Ayala during that period. He echoed the growing and widespread concern in the business community, and said: “There is a determined effort, on the part of some government officials in sensitive places, to look upon business, particularly large and established ones, as detrimental to the national interests.”

Now how many people in this room have a Globe cell phone? Today, Globe Telecom, which is part of the Ayala Group, is one of the major players in a very competitive and dynamic telecommunications industry. And it took a strong leader, someone considered an outsider - President Ramos - to dismantle the decades-old PLDT monopoly, which had remained untouched during the term of the previous administration.


I would like to say just a few more things before I conclude my speech. Let me tell you that I am proud of my humble beginnings. Perhaps I would not be where I am today had it not been for all those difficult but important lessons I learned early in my life. What I can say, that perhaps many of you cannot, is that I know what it feels like to be poor. I know what the poor are going through right now. I grew up in Tondo. Galing akong Moriones. Maybe some of you in this room have never even set foot in Tondo. Yes, all candidates are pro-poor… remember nobody in the history of this country ever got elected on a pro-rich platform.

But for me pro-poor doesn’t mean being anti-rich.

If I do become President, yes I will focus on the poor because I understand their plight, but I also understand that we will need the businesses to grow and thrive so that the economy can move forward and our people can find employment. I’m sure the companies associated with the Makati Business Club employ thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people. Whether you support my candidacy or not, if I am elected, I hope to be able to work with you for the good of our country.

I would also like to state that I am trying to conduct a respectable campaign. Yes I have spent money – much of it my own – because as a person of humble origins, I may not be as well known to many of our people. But I have I tried to avoid negativity. I have so far avoided attacking my fellow candidates. My ads simply try to communicate a little bit of who I am, where I came from, and what I stand for. For you marketing managers out there, who might be even a little impressed with some of my ads, I would hope that you might see this as some small clue – some testament to my abilities as a business leader. We will all need someone to provide leadership and represent our country on the world stage.

We keep asking why tourists don’t come here when our beaches, our many tourist sites, are among the best in the world? Well, marketing – communicating – your message effectively is an important part of the equation. I’m sure many of you have rejected so-called qualified candidates for a certain job … people with MBAs or PhDs, because they could not communicate effectively.

We will need to compete with the up-and-coming countries of Asia. I am tired of hearing the same old refrain about how we used to be only second to Japan. That is not communicating. Let us stop lamenting the past and move on! Let us move forward!

Ladies and gentlemen, whether you are green… or orange… or yellow… or purple… or whatever…, at the end of the day, we are all Filipinos. And after we all exercise our right to vote…. and we have elected a new leader for the Philippines, we must all lick our wounds and go back to addressing the complex problems facing our beloved country. And we must do everything we can to help whoever that new leader might be.

If elected, I promise you that I will do my part. I hope you will do yours.

Thank you and good afternoon.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Join iVote on February 9: Conversation with 2010 Philippines Presidential Candidates

Just got this invitation that is meant to all young Filipinos - students, professionals, and changemakers.

With the May 2010 Elections just four (4) months away, Filipinos regardless of voting age need o become actively involved and vigilant on issues relating to electoral politics and the public agenda.

Asia Society, in partnership with IPVG Corp. is spearheading an event that will serve as a venue for the youth sector to engage in an intimate one-on-one dialogue with the candidates seeking the Presidential post. The youth comprise about 57-60% of the current voting population and it is necessary for the young generation to take an active role in endeavors that will steer the direction of our society and shape our nation.

This event will be on February 9 Tuesday from 9 am to 4 pm at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Ayala Avenue, Makati City.

Interested parties can call and email:

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Manny Villar Ad Campaign Goes Viral

At the Viral Ideas webinar today, I tackled how presidential candidate Senator Manny Villar latest advertising campaign (Naging Mahirap) has gone viral.

Found more than 80 variations of his latest ad being spoofed, covered, re-interpreted, and commented on. I noticed that the various videos have:

  • Parents showing off their kid(s) in singing the jingle.
  • Groups of people (neighbors, students, friends) coming up with their own rendition.
  • Commentary on the ad
  • Reaction to the ad

Compared to other candidates, Villar ads was the only one so far able to catch such level of attention.

Although admittedly, how much impact will this have on elections is little as people vote more than just the basis of commercials. But if he will turn out as a winner this May 2010, the whole Villar campaign, especially the use of online social media, will be an interesting case study to learn from.