Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Philippines circa 2014

As the Aquino administration winds itself down and prepares for a transition to 2016, several things are happening all at the same time.

Since President Aquino is desirous to leave an "infrastructure" legacy, he has ordered agencies of government to speed up construction of several legacy projects, including the construction of new airports, roads, highways, bridges and development of other infrastructures such as communication and transport.

Two things why Aquino wants all these: first, this is to reward private companies who put their bets on him last 2010 and spur additional jobs and employment to the poor. Since most or all of these projects are funded initially by private enterprises, the effects of these so-called Public-Private partnerships will not take effect instantaneously. The burden will be shouldered by the tax paying public shortly after 2016 in the form of toll fees.

This explains why private firms are jockeying to get these plum projects precisely because, as seen in the NLEX, power and water utilities projects, the rewards are juicy and run in the astronomical billions. By 2020, we will all have to face the prospects not just of higher prices of goods and services, but the prospect of paying higher toll fees in the guise of convenience and faster ways of going from a to b. Whoever gets most of these projects will enjoy humonguous profits.

Come 2016, and we will see a new landscape not just in Metro Manila but in other metropolitan centers. The downloading of public funds to private hands will result to more employment and possibly more business opportunities for SMEs.

These are all good. However, one question really is--whatever happened to the promised eradication of graft and corruption?

The very first speech of the President indicated his desire to reform government by campaigning against graft and corruption. What resulted was a selective prosecution of those seriously involved in these scandalous affairs. Instead of being an honest-to-goodness campaign, the anti-graft campaign became a political circus rather than a serious effort at looking for solutions to finally address the issue.

This perception, fueled by vocal and incendiary political speeches coming from affected political actors, has resulted to a mockery of the entire campaign. Aquino's resistence to calls for an impartial anti-graft probe is the reason why the current campaign is not being taken seriously by the masses especially by the middle classes. Like all other anti-graft campaigns, the one being waged by the present administration is more cosmetic and propaganda-driven rather than a serious attempt at finally putting behind bars, those responsible for stealing the people's monies.

And this campaign is not expected to fly even post-Aquino. This early, two of the main frontrunners in the presidential fight come 2016, have indicated their unwillingness to pursue what Aquino and the rest of this administration have sacrificed their reputations to.

Worse because of the failure of this administration to curb graft, it has finally taken a new lease of life with the State's dealings with businesses who indicated their willingness to pursue these PPP projects.  Two foremost examples are the things which happened in the Inekon project and the Mactan airport project. And there are many others.

The simple solution really is adherence to the law. What government people should do really is to implement the law strictly and without consideration to anything, political or economic gains.

The thing is, these people in government are unwilling to do what is best and what is right, because of the very fact that they see the loopholes of the law and most of them want to skirt these. They don't fear prosecution precisely because they don't see themselves being punished by the State.

Hence, some or even most of these people see PPP projects as merely for personal or political gains of their principals come 2016. They are not being considered for their strategic value rather they are considered for their temporal gains.

Thus, many people already consider these things as failures.

So there.

Many people applaud President Aquino for leading the peace caravan and eventually providing a solution to the Bangsamoro problem. This historic deal which would result to the establishment of a Bangsamoro state, is really a step towards the right direction.

What the State should be made aware of is the prospect of hostilities breaking out in Mindanao. First, traditional power centers oppose this deal. They are expected to unleash their private armies to oppose the Bangsamoro state security forces.

Remember that Muslims do not comprise majority of the peoples in Mindanao. There are millions who adhere to Christianity and indigenous beliefs. Remember that large landholdings are owned by the Philippine elite, especially sugar barons close to a presidential bet.

Problems will arise the minute the MILF assert its legal and constitutional territorial right. Since government agreed on expanding Bangsamoro territory, will the government assist the MILF in claiming territories owned by big landlords?

How about political forces who will be displaced once the state is established? Traditional political families rule Mindanao politics since the 1900s. With the emergence of the Bangsamoro state, they are expected to wither away. Of course, that is not the situation in real politik. These political forces will either fight it out or acquiesce their traditional powers.

As what this writer wrote several entries ago, the signing of this agreement is one step towards the right direction. The problem will be on enforcement.

The second stage of this Bangsamoro peace drama is Congress. Expect several members of Congress to either oppose or engage in transactional politics with the MILF. Up to what extent is the MILF willing to bet their territories or powers with these traditional politicians?

While these are ongoing at the surface, dissent and the feeling of distrust will fester among members of the underground, specifically those who initially oppose this peace deal. This wait-and-see attitude will actually benefit these forces, since the "impasse" will allow them to reconsolidate their forces and prepare militarily. These forces are just waiting for the deal to encounter tough and rough opposition before Congress.