Cronyism worse in Philippines today – study

Cronyism worse in Philippines today – study Featured

Third among 22 most crony-ridden economies, Philippine GDP went four-fifths to firms owned or favored by the ruling party.

Crony capitalism is under attack globally, but worsened in the Philippines in the past two years, The Economist magazine reports. India and Brazil have jailed billionaires who made piles from repeated sleazy government contracts.

In Malaysia the prime minister no less is being probed for fraud by an investment bank close to him. China routinely interrogates bosses of state and private firms in an anti-corruption drive. The Philippines, meanwhile, is now third most crony-ridden of 22 economies in the special study. It already was bad, at fifth, in 2014 (see

Cronies thrive in state-franchised commerce. Foremost are natural resources, telecoms, transport, utilities, infrastructure works, casinos, and defense. They profiteer from common wealth like airwaves and mines, or state monopolies like rails and airports. Inversely Filipinos suffer from shabby cell phone-wifi connection, environment, and commuter train and airport services.

Filipinos have had it. A week before Election 2016 The Economist said: “Supporters of Rodrigo Duterte, the frontrunner to win the Presidency, hope he will open up a feudal political system that has allowed cronyism to flourish.” In subsequent victory, Duterte reiterates his promises. He warns the telecom duopoly to shape up or face new, bigger competitors. Slated for punishment is SR Metals, the dirty nickel mine in Agusan of financiers of the ruling Liberal Party. That the mine owners were able to import seven brand-new jets tax free is to be investigated. Dossiers are with Duterte about the cornering of MRT-3 rail supply-maintenance deals by two more LP financiers. Along with it are official documents linking a senator’s kin to the MRT-3 scam. (See Gotcha, 8 and 10 June 2016.) Duterte threatens to make extortionists at the Manila airport swallow the bullets they plant in passengers’ luggage.

Four-fifths of Philippine GDP goes to crony companies, The Economist notes. Whether departing President Noynoy Aquino knows it, only he can say. He is an economics graduate. Yet he wonders aloud why there were no new jobs from his five years of vaunted 6.2-percent GDP growth. There can be no new jobs if the same privileged “robber barons” get all the largesse.

Perhaps P-Noy plays blind to the economic ruin of cronyism. The dirty nickel mine has destroyed forests and poisoned rivers, depriving the Agusan folk of livelihood. Mountain tribesmen have been driven from their homes, and their leaders slain. The rigged rail contracts have caused injuries in train accidents. Fuel and opportunities have been wasted in four years of consequent traffic in Greater Manila. The bullet-planting shakedown racket at the airport has scared away tourists. Yet P-Noy abetted it all by retaining the LP president as transport chief and his cousin as airport manager. His silence was defeaning over the LP contractors. He even awarded the dirty LP mine for imagined “pro-environment and pro-people” projects.

In an “exit interview” P-Noy could only shrug that the successor he campaigned hard for was swamped in the presidential election. Duterte simply benefited from his mistakes, P-Noy belittles the aftermath of his reign. That LP lawmakers and local officials defected in droves to Duterte days after the latter’s victory shows how little P-Noy’s own party mates believe in him after all.

* * *

Readers sent congratulatory emails about my last two columns, on SR Metals and the MRT-3 mess. Some instruct on how to post documents on the Internet. Friends texted in relief that the sleazy franchisees and contractors continually are exposed as campaign contributors. Incoming government officials called to assure that justice will be rendered.

Most heartwarming is this email (excerpted) from “Concerned senior Netizens Rolando Cruz, Eduardo Fajardo, Amable Ocampo, Gonzalo Robles, and Jaime Vitug”:

“Jarius, we ordinary citizens commend your extraordinary courage and assiduity in documenting anomalies in government, specifically in ‘Trillanes Kin Got MRT-3 Contract.’

“You painstakingly research and convincingly expose LP leaders and allies on the deterioration of the MRT-3 service. It can be helpful to the Ombudsman in prosecuting (graft) cases.

“A Netizen, Tony Tablizo, shared his reaction: ‘If the sordid details of the systematic corruption which resulted to the appalling deterioration of MRT-3 were proven, the guilty parties should be ... made to pay dearly. P-Noy, Roxas, Abaya should not be spared. I’m counting on President Duterte.’

“Again we express our appreciation for your exposés that redound to the common weal.”

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