April 2009

by Perry Diaz

 

With just a little over a year to the 2010 general elections, the presidential musical chairs game has started in earnest. And there are several games going all at once by groups called “political parties.”

To start with, these political parties are not ideological parties like what you’d see in the United States and other countries. The Philippines’ political parties are just vehicles — like the country’s unique colorful jeepneys — where politicians can take a ride hoping that it would bring them to their destination. However, if the jeepney they’re riding in is too slow or is caught in a traffic jam, they can always alight and transfer to another jeepney.

Having said that, let’s take a look at what’s going on with the various presidential musical chairs games. Of course the biggest game is in President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s political parties — KAMPI and LAKAS — which will soon merge into one mega group. There are many ambitious participants but only one will be anointed. What would happen to those who would be eliminated? In Philippine politics, there are no gracious losers, only sore losers.

Last month, Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, LAKAS secretary-general, said that five candidates were included on the party’s short list: Sen. Manny Villar (Nationalista Party), Sen. Loren Legarda (Nationalist People‘s Coalition – NPC), Sen. Richard Gordon (independent), Vice-President Noli de Castro (independent), and Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro (formerly of NPC). Not included was Bayani Fernando who was the only presidential aspirant belonging to LAKAS. He was the first to officially declare his presidential candidacy; however, he was also the first casualty of the LAKAS musical chairs game. LAKAS de-listed him because he is not winnable. That only proves that “party loyalty” is not a factor. And that’s the reason why political turncoatism is prevalent in Philippine politics.

Among the five “presidentiables” on the LAKAS short list, the most popular is De Castro. In a survey by Pulse Asia last February, three of them were on the top five on the list: De Castro (19%), Villar (15%), and Legarda (12%). Gordon and Teodoro were not included in the Pulse Asia poll. The other two were: NPC’s Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero (17%) and former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada (16%).

Recently, LAKAS President and Speaker Prospero Nograles and KAMPI President and Congressman Luis Villafuerte resigned as leaders of their respective parties to make way for President Arroyo to act as interim president of both parties until their merger is finalized by July 2009.

 

The question is: Who will eventually be “anointed” as the LAKAS-KAMPI standard bearer? The conventional wisdom is that whoever Gloria wants will be the party’s candidate. But “winnability” would be a major factor. What good is a candidate if he or she couldn’t win? And right now, De Castro is the man to beat among the presidentiables. The fact that he is “independent” makes him ripe for the plucking. But would he dance with Gloria? You bet he would if that’s what it would take to get Gloria’s nod. But, what if Gloria dumps him? He can’t go to the opposition — it’s too crowded already. Would he form his own party? The word is that if he distanced himself from Gloria, he would get the support of some of the country’s moneyed heavyweights.

The next question is: What would Teodoro do if he’s not going to get Gloria’s nod? Would he settle as De Castro’s vice presidential running mate? Or would he go back to his uncle Danding Cojuangco’s NPC — like a prodigal son — and become its standard bearer? In politics, everything is possible. And remember, blood is thicker than water.

I had an opportunity to talk to Teodoro in 2003 at the State Dinner at Malacanang Palace hosted by Gloria honoring then President George W. Bush during his state visit. I was seated next to him and we chatted for a while. A bar topnotcher in the Philippines and also a member of the New York state bar, Teodoro was residing in New York with his wife when his uncle Danding persuaded him to go back home and enter politics. He told me that he wasn’t particularly interested in Philippine politics but in the end his uncle prevailed. In 1998, he ran for Congress and won. He became the leader of the NPC bloc in the House. In 2007, Gloria appointed him as Secretary of Defense. Recently, his resignation from NPC was announced; however, he claimed that he left NPC when he accepted the Defense portfolio. Makes one to wonder if he and Gloria had an “understanding” already at that time.

If Teodoro becomes the LAKAS-KAMPI presidential candidate, he might face Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero who is being eyed by NPC as its standard bearer. When asked if he would accept an offer to run as the administration’s candidate, Escudero flatly rejected the notion saying that he belongs to the opposition.

How about the other “independent” presidentiable, Dick Gordon? Although Gordon is on the LAKAS short list, he is not expected to associate himself with Gloria. If he does, he is a fool.

Yesterday, April 27, 2009, Gordon launched his presidential bid when he addressed 1,500 delegates of the Bagumbayan Movement at its grand launching and national convention at the Manila Hotel. Bagumbayan endorsed Gordon for President. It is expected that he would be Bagumbayan’s standard bearer once it’s recognized as a political party by the Commission on Elections.

 

And last but not the least is former President Estrada. Should he run for President, there is no clear indication yet if his power base is as formidable as when he first ran for President. Many people are saying that he is still popular with the masses — his main base of support. If Estrada draws support from Gloria’s electoral base thus weakening Gloria’s candidate, Gloria might invoke her “power” to arrest Estrada and put him back in prison for violating the conditions of his presidential pardon. However, if Estrada draws support from the opposition’s electoral base thus giving an advantage to Gloria’s candidate, Gloria would probably just let him be the spoiler in the elections.

But the biggest potential spoiler of all would be Gloria herself. Should she decide to stay in power, in which a lot of people have been speculating about, she could declare martial law and stop the elections. In which case, all bets are off and Gloria in Excelcis Arroyo will rule forever in the “Enchanted Kingdom.”

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

by Perry Diaz

 

Sixty-three years after the Rescission Act of 1946 was passed into law, the surviving Filipino veterans of World War II finally, albeit belatedly, got their “recognition” for their military service under the US flag. And with that “recognition,” they received a one-time lump sum amount.

If there was one word to describe what they did, it was “patriotism.” Ironically, unlike their counterparts in the regular American armed forces, the Filipino veterans who fought under the command of the legendary “American Caesar” — Gen. Douglas MacArthur — were singled out and denied the benefits entitled to American military veterans.

MacArthur once said during the Korean War, where several battalions of Philippine soldiers fought under his United Nations command, “Give me 100 Filipino soldiers and I will conquer the world.” Hyperbolic as it seemed, it was a testament to the Filipino fighting men whose loyalty to the United States was beyond question and whose bravery in war was par to none.

But what remained a big question in the past 63 years was the United States government’s inequity to the 250,000 Filipino soldiers who were conscripted into the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) by the late president Franklin D. Roosevelt. Their primary mission was to hold the invading Japanese at bay while America recovered from the crippling blow suffered by its navy from the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Last February 17, 2009, the 18,000 aging survivors — mostly in their 90’s now — received news that President Barack Obama had signed the $787 Stimulus Package which included a provision for $198 million for one-time compensation to the surviving Filipino veterans. Seemingly, the veterans were happy. Why not? After all, the last battle they fought in Congress — which they almost won — last year for full equity was sidelined by politicians of both parties in the waning days of the 110th Congress. After failing to reach a compromise and the apparent lack of determination on the part of the House leadership, all hopes were lost in the wake of the financial meltdown that ripped the US economy last October 2008. When the 110th Congress adjourned, the Equity Bill died as it had died in every Congress since it was first introduced in the 103th Congress by Sen. Daniel Inouye as the “Filipino Veterans Equity Act of 1993.”

In 2008, S.1315 — known as the “Veterans’ Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007” — passed the Veterans subcommittees in both chambers for the first time since 1993. And also for the first time, it passed the full Senate! As the House of Representatives debated the bill, which would have provided the surviving Filipino veterans monthly pensions for the rest of their lives, a group of Filipino-Americans from San Francisco drove a polarizing — and debilitating — wedge which stopped the passage of the Equity Bill.

On the eve of the House floor vote, Speaker Nancy Pelosi received a letter from a certain Regalado Baldonado asking her not to support S.1315. Mr. Baldonado’s letter was not authorized by the Veterans Federation of the Philippines (VFP) and US-based Filipino veterans organizations who were part of the National Alliance for Filipino Veterans Equity (NAFVE), the primary advocate and lobbying group for the Equity Bill. In the aftermath of the furor that erupted, Mr. Baldonado claimed that he merely signed the letter prepared by two San Francisco-based organizations, the Veterans Equity Center (VEC) and Students Action for Veterans Equity (SAVE). He signed the letter as “San Francisco Veterans Affairs Commissioner,” a position that had nothing to do with S.1315.

In an attempt to justify the Baldonado “hit piece,” the VEC Chairperson remarked that the National Network for Veterans Equity (NNVE) and VEC “are leading the community in calling and urging the office of Pelosi to stand uncompromisingly behind the Filipino veterans’ clamor for full equity.” However, from my first-hand knowledge as a member of the Steering Committee of NAFVE, the representatives of bona fide Filipino WW II veterans’ groups were willing to settle for lesser pension amounts as embodied in S.1315.

 

In my column, “Betrayal of the Filipino Veterans” (June 13, 2008), I said: “The Filipino veterans must have felt the pang of betrayal once again, this time not only from the representatives of the American people in Congress but from their own people. The Filipino-Americans who claim to be ‘advocates’ for full equity for the Filipino veterans have once again played the only game they have been playing for the past eight years, ‘All or Nothing.’ They would rather see the Filipino veterans get nothing unless it was ‘full equity’.”

After S.1315 failed, the authors of the Equity Bill introduced a new bill in the House that would provide a one-time lump sum payment to the Filipino veterans. But it was too late, the 110th Congress ended without acting on the new bill.

Realizing that the Equity Bill would not have a chance of passage in the new 111th Congress, the bill’s authors opted to pursue the lump sum payment and include it in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, known as the Stimulus Package.

When the news of their action spread in the Filipino-American community, it was received with bittersweet reaction. Those who had been in the forefront in the battle — NAFVE and the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans (ACFV) — for the Equity Bill’s passage during the previous 110th Congress welcomed the insertion of the lump sum payment provision in the Stimulus Package. Interestingly, the advocates of “All Or Nothing” had quietly resigned to the fact that “All” was lost and they achieved “Nothing.”

The lost battle for the “Equity Bill” should serve as a lesson to leaders of the Filipino-American community that political empowerment can only be achieved when they get their act together. The battle was ours to win but disunity within our ranks sent the wrong message to Congress that our community leaders were only interested in pursuing their personal agenda and not the best interests of the Filipino veterans. In the end, Congress unilaterally acted to decide how to compensate the Filipino veterans for their wartime services; that is, one-time payments of $15,000 for Filipino veterans with US citizenship and $9,000 for non-US citizens.

But all is not lost. Losing the battle for the “Equity Bill” has given us the wisdom to look back and recognize our failings and to strive to work together in future endeavors. The question is: Is the community ready to work together? I fervently hope that our community would mature and become a potent political force in this land called home by more than four million Americans of Filipino descent.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

by Perry Diaz 

When President Barack Obama was sworn into office, he didn’t waste any time. He immediately set into motion a lot of the things that he promised the American people during the presidential elections. That’s no small feat for a junior senator who daringly plunged into the turbulent sea of economic chaos — likened to an incoming 100-foot tsunami traveling at 100 miles an hour that was wreaking havoc on the economy. It was a “sink or swim” situation for Obama. But after 80 days of fighting the odds against him, he is still standing — and firmly in charge — amidst the devastated economic landscape, unscathed from the incessant shark attacks of the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Michael Steele.

Fresh from his successful eight-day European trip, capped by the G-20 conference, Obama is poised to take the offensive at home to rein in the “monster” that has emerged in the aftermath of the financial meltdown during the waning days of the Bush presidency. That “monster” has taken a life of its own and is gnawing at everything in its way.

A poll taken by New York Times/CBS news barely 11 weeks into Obama’s presidency seems encouraging. On January 15, 2009, a few days prior to his occupancy of the White House, 15% said that they thought that the “country was headed in the right direction.” In April, barely three months later, that number almost tripled to 39%.

Today, his approval rating among Democrats is a stunning 97% while 67% of independents rate him favorably, and 31% among Republicans gave him the thumbs up.

And when it comes to “trust,” voters — by more than three to one — said that they trusted Obama more than they trusted the congressional Republicans when it’s about making the right decisions for the economy. The American people approved Obama’s handling of the economy (56%), foreign policy (59%), and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (59%). All in all, two-thirds overwhelmingly gave Obama high marks on his job performance.

 

The poll also showed that the public did not blame Obama for the economic crisis while 33% blamed former president George Bush, 21% blamed the financial institutions, and 11% blamed Congress.

With barely three weeks left in his first 100 days in office, Obama is working hard to get as much done to jumpstart economy. According to PolitiFact, an organization that monitors Obama’s performance on its “Obameter,” Obama made approximately 500 promises during the campaign. It tracks his promises as follows: Promises kept, Compromise, Promise broken, Stalled, In the works, and No action. To date, “Obameter” shows 23 promises kept and 62 in the works. The 23 kept promises are:

1. Create a foreclosure prevention fund for homeowners. 2 . Expand loan programs for small businesses.

3. Extend and index the 2007 Alternative Minimum Tax patch.

4. Expand eligibility for State Children’s Health Insurance Fund (SCHIP).

5. Expand funding to train primary care providers and public health practitioners.

6. Direct military leaders to end war in Iraq.

7. Send two additional brigades to Afghanistan.

8. Give a speech at a major Islamic forum in the first 100 days of his administration.

9. Restore funding for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne/JAG) program.

10. Release presidential records.

11. Require new hires to sign a form affirming their hiring was not due to political affiliation or contributions.

12. Remove more brush, small trees and vegetation that fuel wildfires.

13. Create a White House Office on Urban Policy.

14. Support increased funding for the NEA.

15. Work to overturn Ledbetter vs. Goodyear.

16. Ban lobbyist gifts to executive employees.

17. Weatherize 1 million homes per year.

18. Invest in all types of alternative energy.

19. Enact tax credit for consumers for plug-in hybrid cars.

20. Support high-speed rail.

21. Appoint at least one Republican to the cabinet.

22. Extend unemployment insurance benefits and temporarily suspend taxes on these benefits.

23. Reverse restrictions on stem cell research.

With 85 promises kept and in the works, Obama has achieved almost 20% of his campaign promises. At the rate he is producing, he should be able to accomplish pretty much all of his promises by the end of his first term.

Recently, Wells Fargo Bank reported profits for the first time since it received TARP bailout funds — an indication that the bank has started lending again. Home buyers are coming out of “hibernation.” The National Association of Realtors reported that existing-home sales had increased in February, reversing losses in January.

While Obama seems to have a steady grasp on the economy, the majority of Americans believe that the recession would last for another year or even more. Indeed, they have come to terms that recovery would be a slow and tedious process. After all, it took years of runaway deregulation and boo-boo economic policies that crippled the economy.

Obama told the American people to act responsibly… and they did. They have taken steps to soften the impact of the recession on their lives. The poll shows that 40% had cut spending on luxuries, 10% had cut back on necessities, and 31% had cut back on both. Notwithstanding the grim forecast of a turtle-pace recovery, the American people’s confidence on Obama continues to increase — a testament to his leadership and adeptness in handling the myriad problems confronting his fledgling administration.

Sad to say, the Republicans have chosen to shut their eyes to all the positive things that Obama has been doing. One might even say that the Republicans have induced themselves into deep stupor. It is no wonder that they’re not seen anymore as belonging to the “Grand Old Party” of Abraham Lincoln. Today, their once great party has morphed into the “Republican’t Party of No” — a label created by political consultant J.M. Bell — for saying “NO” to everything that Obama had proposed to do.

As someone once said, “There are three kinds of people: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who didn’t know what the hell happened.” Clearly, Obama belongs to the first kind. When the Republicans wake up in a few years and look around to see what Obama had achieved, they’d probably exclaim, “What the hell happened?” and then go back to sleep.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

by Perry Diaz 

When President Barack Obama was sworn into office, he didn’t waste any time. He immediately set into motion a lot of the things that he promised the American people during the presidential elections. That’s no small feat for a junior senator who daringly plunged into the turbulent sea of economic chaos — likened to an incoming 100-foot tsunami traveling at 100 miles an hour that was wreaking havoc on the economy. It was a “sink or swim” situation for Obama. But after 80 days of fighting the odds against him, he is still standing — and firmly in charge — amidst the devastated economic landscape, unscathed from the incessant shark attacks of the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Michael Steele.

Fresh from his successful eight-day European trip, capped by the G-20 conference, Obama is poised to take the offensive at home to rein in the “monster” that has emerged in the aftermath of the financial meltdown during the waning days of the Bush presidency. That “monster” has taken a life of its own and is gnawing at everything in its way.

A poll taken by New York Times/CBS news barely 11 weeks into Obama’s presidency seems encouraging. On January 15, 2009, a few days prior to his occupancy of the White House, 15% said that they thought that the “country was headed in the right direction.” In April, barely three months later, that number almost tripled to 39%.

Today, his approval rating among Democrats is a stunning 97% while 67% of independents rate him favorably, and 31% among Republicans gave him the thumbs up.

And when it comes to “trust,” voters — by more than three to one — said that they trusted Obama more than they trusted the congressional Republicans when it’s about making the right decisions for the economy. The American people approved Obama’s handling of the economy (56%), foreign policy (59%), and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (59%). All in all, two-thirds overwhelmingly gave Obama high marks on his job performance.

 

The poll also showed that the public did not blame Obama for the economic crisis while 33% blamed former president George Bush, 21% blamed the financial institutions, and 11% blamed Congress.

With barely three weeks left in his first 100 days in office, Obama is working hard to get as much done to jumpstart economy. According to PolitiFact, an organization that monitors Obama’s performance on its “Obameter,” Obama made approximately 500 promises during the campaign. It tracks his promises as follows: Promises kept, Compromise, Promise broken, Stalled, In the works, and No action. To date, “Obameter” shows 23 promises kept and 62 in the works. The 23 kept promises are:

1. Create a foreclosure prevention fund for homeowners. 2 . Expand loan programs for small businesses.

3. Extend and index the 2007 Alternative Minimum Tax patch.

4. Expand eligibility for State Children’s Health Insurance Fund (SCHIP).

5. Expand funding to train primary care providers and public health practitioners.

6. Direct military leaders to end war in Iraq.

7. Send two additional brigades to Afghanistan.

8. Give a speech at a major Islamic forum in the first 100 days of his administration.

9. Restore funding for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne/JAG) program.

10. Release presidential records.

11. Require new hires to sign a form affirming their hiring was not due to political affiliation or contributions.

12. Remove more brush, small trees and vegetation that fuel wildfires.

13. Create a White House Office on Urban Policy.

14. Support increased funding for the NEA.

15. Work to overturn Ledbetter vs. Goodyear.

16. Ban lobbyist gifts to executive employees.

17. Weatherize 1 million homes per year.

18. Invest in all types of alternative energy.

19. Enact tax credit for consumers for plug-in hybrid cars.

20. Support high-speed rail.

21. Appoint at least one Republican to the cabinet.

22. Extend unemployment insurance benefits and temporarily suspend taxes on these benefits.

23. Reverse restrictions on stem cell research.

With 85 promises kept and in the works, Obama has achieved almost 20% of his campaign promises. At the rate he is producing, he should be able to accomplish pretty much all of his promises by the end of his first term.

Recently, Wells Fargo Bank reported profits for the first time since it received TARP bailout funds — an indication that the bank has started lending again. Home buyers are coming out of “hibernation.” The National Association of Realtors reported that existing-home sales had increased in February, reversing losses in January.

While Obama seems to have a steady grasp on the economy, the majority of Americans believe that the recession would last for another year or even more. Indeed, they have come to terms that recovery would be a slow and tedious process. After all, it took years of runaway deregulation and boo-boo economic policies that crippled the economy.

Obama told the American people to act responsibly… and they did. They have taken steps to soften the impact of the recession on their lives. The poll shows that 40% had cut spending on luxuries, 10% had cut back on necessities, and 31% had cut back on both. Notwithstanding the grim forecast of a turtle-pace recovery, the American people’s confidence on Obama continues to increase — a testament to his leadership and adeptness in handling the myriad problems confronting his fledgling administration.

Sad to say, the Republicans have chosen to shut their eyes to all the positive things that Obama has been doing. One might even say that the Republicans have induced themselves into deep stupor. It is no wonder that they’re not seen anymore as belonging to the “Grand Old Party” of Abraham Lincoln. Today, their once great party has morphed into the “Republican’t Party of No” — a label created by political consultant J.M. Bell — for saying “NO” to everything that Obama had proposed to do.

As someone once said, “There are three kinds of people: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who didn’t know what the hell happened.” Clearly, Obama belongs to the first kind. When the Republicans wake up in a few years and look around to see what Obama had achieved, they’d probably exclaim, “What the hell happened?” and then go back to sleep.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

chip20tsaoclipping11by Perry Diaz 

Chip Tsao, a Hong Kong-based author and columnist, stirred a hornet’s nest in his recent article, “The War at Home.” Tsao said, “Manila has just claimed sovereignty over the scattered rocks in the South China Sea called the Spratly Islands, complete with a blatant threat from its congress to send gunboats to the South China Sea to defend the islands from China if necessary. This is beyond reproach. The reason: there are more than 130,000 Filipina maids working as $3,580-a-month cheap labor in Hong Kong. As a nation of servants, you don’t flex your muscles at your master, from whom you earn most of your bread and butter.”

Tsao further said, “I summoned Louisa, my domestic assistant who holds a degree in international politics from the University of Manila, hung a map on the wall, and gave her a harsh lecture. I sternly warned her that if she wants her wages increased next year, she had better tell every one of her compatriots in Statue Square on Sunday that the entirety of the Spratly Islands belongs to China.”

Adding insult to an injury, Tsao said, “Grimly, I told her that if war breaks out between the Philippines and China, I would have to end her employment and send her straight home, because I would not risk the crime of treason for sponsoring an enemy of the state by paying her to wash my toilet and clean my windows 16 hours a day. With that money, she would pay taxes to her government, and they would fund a navy to invade our motherland and deeply hurt my feelings.”

And rubbing salt to the injury, Tsao said, “Oh yes. The government of the Philippines would certainly be wrong if they think we Chinese are prepared to swallow their insult and sit back and lose a Falkland Islands War in the Far East. They may have Barack Obama and the hawkish American military behind them, but we have a hostage in each of our homes in the Mid-Levels or higher. Some of my friends told me they have already declared a state of emergency at home. Their maids have been made to shout ‘China, Madam/Sir’ loudly whenever they hear the word ‘Spratly.’ They say the indoctrination is working as wonderfully as when we used to shout, ‘Long live Chairman Mao!’ at the sight of a portrait of our Great Leader during the Cultural Revolution. I’m not sure if that’s going a bit too far, at least for the time being.”

Tsao’s acerbic commentary spread like a virus in cyberspace. Bloggers hit him back with unprintable insults. After a couple of days of incessant attacks against Tsao, Tsao went to the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong and met face to face with representatives from the Filipino community. He conveyed his “most sincere” apologies to the Filipino people. He said that he realized that he had “crossed the line” and was “terribly sorry.” After making his statement, he stood up and bowed deferentially before the audience.

As we say, “all’s well that ends well,” but is it really the end? For Tsao, it was. But as I see it, it’s just the beginning. It’s a wake-up call for Filipinos. Although Tsao’s act was a cheap shot at Filipinos, he didn’t realize that he had unwittingly raised an issue which Filipinos have conveniently ignored in the past; that is, there is an increasing number of Filipinos who are going abroad to work as domestic workers or as Tsao said, “servants.”

In August 2006, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo proclaimed, “We will be sending ‘super maids’,” when she announced the launching of a new training program for Filipino domestic workers. Today, out of approximately 3,500 Filipinos leaving each day for overseas jobs, about 70% are domestic workers. A few years ago, there were only 40,000 Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong. Today, there are 130,000. And it’s probably in this context that Tsao used the pejorative term, “nation of servants.”

In Europe, particularly England, a servant is called “Filipina.” Is it more acceptable for an Englishman to call his maid, a “Filipina,” than a Chinese man to call his maid, a “servant”?

But let’s not even deal with that because the real issue here is that the Philippine government is in the business of exporting domestic workers. Today, out of the 8.7 million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), a large number is employed as domestic workers.

With the government’s main thrust of exporting OFWs, the need to create jobs at home has diminished in the overall scheme of things. The more OFWs were to be deployed overseas, the better the economy would be for the simple reason that OFW remittances — $16 billion in 2008 — has been fueling the economy. With 75% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) generated from personal consumption spending, the economy is virtually dependent on OFW remittances.

As long as OFW deployment remains on an upward trajectory, consumer spending would continue to increase, thus keeping the economy on the “growth path.” However, if OFW deployment declined, the remittances would decrease and the economy would revulse.

According to a “worse case” scenario analysis by Citibank, OFW remittances could drop to $11.4 billion this year which would cause the GDP to drop to 2.5% from last year’s 4.5%. However, the International Monetary Fund was more pessimistic in its GDP prediction: 2.25% in 2009. Either way, the economic outlook for 2009 looks bad.

The question is: How will the Arroyo administration cope with a potentially disastrous economic forecast? Chip Tsao’s cheap shot may have insulted Filipinos but it also sent a warning to President Arroyo that her approach to economic growth is not only risky, it is dehumanizing to the Filipino people who are systematically being trafficked to foreign land as commodities.

The Philippines has a good educational system — one of the best in Asia — which produces professionals in the fields of medicine, health care, engineering, education, business, science and technology. But due to lack of job opportunities at home, a lot of the country’s new college graduates are forced to leave — out of necessity — to seek a better life abroad. And the sad part is that they’re taking jobs which are not what they were educated or trained for.

As a result, families are breaking apart with their young children left behind so the parents could take jobs abroad in order to feed them. And if President Arroyo doesn’t take action to reverse this trend, the Philippines will indeed become a “nation of servants.”

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

chip20tsaoclipping11by Perry Diaz 

Chip Tsao, a Hong Kong-based author and columnist, stirred a hornet’s nest in his recent article, “The War at Home.” Tsao said, “Manila has just claimed sovereignty over the scattered rocks in the South China Sea called the Spratly Islands, complete with a blatant threat from its congress to send gunboats to the South China Sea to defend the islands from China if necessary. This is beyond reproach. The reason: there are more than 130,000 Filipina maids working as $3,580-a-month cheap labor in Hong Kong. As a nation of servants, you don’t flex your muscles at your master, from whom you earn most of your bread and butter.”

Tsao further said, “I summoned Louisa, my domestic assistant who holds a degree in international politics from the University of Manila, hung a map on the wall, and gave her a harsh lecture. I sternly warned her that if she wants her wages increased next year, she had better tell every one of her compatriots in Statue Square on Sunday that the entirety of the Spratly Islands belongs to China.”

Adding insult to an injury, Tsao said, “Grimly, I told her that if war breaks out between the Philippines and China, I would have to end her employment and send her straight home, because I would not risk the crime of treason for sponsoring an enemy of the state by paying her to wash my toilet and clean my windows 16 hours a day. With that money, she would pay taxes to her government, and they would fund a navy to invade our motherland and deeply hurt my feelings.”

And rubbing salt to the injury, Tsao said, “Oh yes. The government of the Philippines would certainly be wrong if they think we Chinese are prepared to swallow their insult and sit back and lose a Falkland Islands War in the Far East. They may have Barack Obama and the hawkish American military behind them, but we have a hostage in each of our homes in the Mid-Levels or higher. Some of my friends told me they have already declared a state of emergency at home. Their maids have been made to shout ‘China, Madam/Sir’ loudly whenever they hear the word ‘Spratly.’ They say the indoctrination is working as wonderfully as when we used to shout, ‘Long live Chairman Mao!’ at the sight of a portrait of our Great Leader during the Cultural Revolution. I’m not sure if that’s going a bit too far, at least for the time being.”

Tsao’s acerbic commentary spread like a virus in cyberspace. Bloggers hit him back with unprintable insults. After a couple of days of incessant attacks against Tsao, Tsao went to the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong and met face to face with representatives from the Filipino community. He conveyed his “most sincere” apologies to the Filipino people. He said that he realized that he had “crossed the line” and was “terribly sorry.” After making his statement, he stood up and bowed deferentially before the audience.

As we say, “all’s well that ends well,” but is it really the end? For Tsao, it was. But as I see it, it’s just the beginning. It’s a wake-up call for Filipinos. Although Tsao’s act was a cheap shot at Filipinos, he didn’t realize that he had unwittingly raised an issue which Filipinos have conveniently ignored in the past; that is, there is an increasing number of Filipinos who are going abroad to work as domestic workers or as Tsao said, “servants.”

In August 2006, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo proclaimed, “We will be sending ‘super maids’,” when she announced the launching of a new training program for Filipino domestic workers. Today, out of approximately 3,500 Filipinos leaving each day for overseas jobs, about 70% are domestic workers. A few years ago, there were only 40,000 Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong. Today, there are 130,000. And it’s probably in this context that Tsao used the pejorative term, “nation of servants.”

In Europe, particularly England, a servant is called “Filipina.” Is it more acceptable for an Englishman to call his maid, a “Filipina,” than a Chinese man to call his maid, a “servant”?

But let’s not even deal with that because the real issue here is that the Philippine government is in the business of exporting domestic workers. Today, out of the 8.7 million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), a large number is employed as domestic workers.

With the government’s main thrust of exporting OFWs, the need to create jobs at home has diminished in the overall scheme of things. The more OFWs were to be deployed overseas, the better the economy would be for the simple reason that OFW remittances — $16 billion in 2008 — has been fueling the economy. With 75% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) generated from personal consumption spending, the economy is virtually dependent on OFW remittances.

As long as OFW deployment remains on an upward trajectory, consumer spending would continue to increase, thus keeping the economy on the “growth path.” However, if OFW deployment declined, the remittances would decrease and the economy would revulse.

According to a “worse case” scenario analysis by Citibank, OFW remittances could drop to $11.4 billion this year which would cause the GDP to drop to 2.5% from last year’s 4.5%. However, the International Monetary Fund was more pessimistic in its GDP prediction: 2.25% in 2009. Either way, the economic outlook for 2009 looks bad.

The question is: How will the Arroyo administration cope with a potentially disastrous economic forecast? Chip Tsao’s cheap shot may have insulted Filipinos but it also sent a warning to President Arroyo that her approach to economic growth is not only risky, it is dehumanizing to the Filipino people who are systematically being trafficked to foreign land as commodities.

The Philippines has a good educational system — one of the best in Asia — which produces professionals in the fields of medicine, health care, engineering, education, business, science and technology. But due to lack of job opportunities at home, a lot of the country’s new college graduates are forced to leave — out of necessity — to seek a better life abroad. And the sad part is that they’re taking jobs which are not what they were educated or trained for.

As a result, families are breaking apart with their young children left behind so the parents could take jobs abroad in order to feed them. And if President Arroyo doesn’t take action to reverse this trend, the Philippines will indeed become a “nation of servants.”

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)