Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: January 2022

Last of 2 parts

THE introduction to social market economy (SOME) in the first part of this article last week hinted at a Philippine version for the benefit of the five major presidentiables, any one of whom could take the presidency. But the advocates of SOME and federal-parliamentary (fed-parl) government must ascertain who among them hew close to these concepts, discounting their mouthing motherhood statements and passing them off as ideological principles.

We've been had by candidates reversing themselves on political and economic reforms once elected. It is critically important that those elected senators are on the same page with the next president in a display of political will to work together to initiate the revision of the1987 Constitution.


We continue from last week excerpts from my past columns (Nov. 11, 2016; Jan. 3, 2018):

"In the capitalist system, where the practice of unimpeded free market is undisturbed by the state, the better capitalized actors will tend to dominate, distorting the market mechanisms. Cartels, oligopolies, and monopolies arise and eventually exploit the weaker players. 'Survival of the fittest' is not only axiomatic but it becomes the guiding principle. The market is by nature not equipped with a conscience to correct the inequities done to the less fortunate.

"Both systems therefore run counter to the Christian concept of the value of dignity of the individual. Admittedly, there are fine distinctions in both prototypes and the marriage of these nuances: the social amelioration and safety nets of the left; and the tempered free market of laissez-faire induced the Germans — after their post-war near total devastation — to create a new economic order. Social market economy in a few years brought about the German economic miracle with a stable democracy, social peace, and stability — making the country the most powerful economy in Europe.

"The three pillars of social market economy:

"1. Free market. A system that is designed to allow everyone who owns privately the means of production to produce goods and services and also allow the acquisition of the same goods and services at an agreed price. This interaction between supply and demand is the basic characteristic of a 'free market' economy. Market therefore should be the only arbiter of prices of the goods, commodities, and services.

"2. Strong state. The role of a strong state in the social market economy is primarily to establish, maintain and protect the competitive environment and regulate the market mechanisms to prevent distortions to the market through the emergence of cartels, oligopolies, and monopolies.

"3. Active and vibrant participation of the citizenry in the political life of the community which involves a healthy respect for common rules and regulations promoting freedom and enhancing the dignity of each human being. This entails the uplifting of the less privileged in society.

"Free markets are by nature blind to the iniquities of humans and do not give cognizance to the weak and physically disabled members of society, the sick and the elderly. Neither can it feel for the downtrodden, children and the helpless.

"Our vision of the Philippine version of SOME does not veer away from the German model and in fact uses it as a starting point. It will require amendments to the Constitution and laws correcting decades of malpractices. The following overarching principles however should be infused in all aspects of Philippine economic life.

"It is not centralized planning and control of the state taking away the freedom and incentives for good work from the individual. It is not inhuman capitalism, rule of money without respect for weak human beings."

Economic order

"Our current economic order was handed down by the Americans, technically our landlords from the turn of the century until the end of World War 2. We are therefore more familiar with 'free market' economy. This is a key value that also exists in the German model. The other important factor is that which was handed down to us by our Spanish colonizers; our Christian faith, which also values the inherent dignity of man. This crucial concept is the driving force behind the political and economic order of post-war Germany. There is therefore no fundamental contradiction between German and the Philippine economic order, and the transition could work.

"Our economy has been characterized by a few major players who are also the major actors in the political stage. The same political dynasties likewise hold the levers of economic power. These are fundamental iniquities that result in other distortions in the market. The modern oligarchs of our time have been the ruling families ever since — that includes the Aquinos and the Cojuangcos — who did not only rule over our political lives but also penetrated the economic system. Almost 80 percent of the country's wealth is controlled by the few ruling families. (Inquirer.net)

"The economic boom appears to have only benefited a tiny minority of elite families. Meanwhile, a huge segment of citizens remains vulnerable to poverty, malnutrition, and other grim development indicators that belie the country's apparent growth.

"The strength of a state is not measured by the muscle of its armed forces or the police or the behavior of a dictator who controls the levers of power. This strength is gauged by the state's ability to enforce the rule of law equally to all its citizens. This strength is then mirrored by the citizens responding positively to the actuations of a strong state through similar conduct, by respecting the rules and laws imposed by the state legally, legitimately, and fairly."


"In essence, social market economy is the consequence of the clash of two grand ideologies — capitalism and socialism — which have dominated the world economy long past the Middle Ages and after the informal demise of feudalism. The impetus for this conflict is the search for and definition of the common good seen from a different historical perspective.

"The model is continuing to evolve and inevitably will be a predominant force simply due to the injection of the universal concept of human dignity, its core value.

"The ability of the social market economy to reconcile opposing forces with its promise of freedom, justice and solidarity no doubt will induce our government to place the welfare of our people paramount."

Where we are today

Candidate Duterte's position was similar to this before assuming power. Many of his policies were directed initially towards some principles of the social market economy which were basically the guiding economic programs of the original PDP-Laban of Nene Pimentel. The party may still adhere to many of the guiding principles telescoped under the following slogans: "theism, authentic humanism, enlightened humanism, democratic socialism and consultative and participatory democracy."

Based on these principles, where do BBM, Leni, Isko, Ping and Manny, and the senatorial candidates figure? More importantly, who among these people, when gifted their positions, will adhere to what they believe in and push for what is called for?

My next columns will attempt to critique the five major presidentiables and selected senatorial candidates vis-à-vis the Centrist Democratic (CD) positions outlining the ideological underpinnings of SOME, fed-parl and the deletion of anti-FDI provisions in the 1987 Constitution in the hope of guiding the intelligent voters in their choices.

Published in LML Polettiques

WITH intermittent snowfall generating outside temperature around the low teens and with Omicron lurking about this small farming community, more time has been allotted to reading posts of my friends on social media networks Facebook, Messenger and Viber, comfortably nestled before a faux fireplace. Separating the chaff from the grain has always been time wasting but not with these bloggers who post stimulating content. Claire Carlos, an author and political technocrat par excellence, is one of those that dish out short staccato-like numbered arguments, parsing complex problems, reducing them to bite-size morsels with clarity of which only an accomplished classroom schoolmarm is capable. Her thoughts on imposing discipline on logical processes explained how past president Fidel V. Ramos (FVR) concocted his "complete staff work" — a mantra many of us working under FVR understood only too well.

But the country's concerns go beyond — poverty alleviation, corruption, prohibited drugs, bureaucracy reform, foreign policy, the West Philippine Sea, etc. I refer to another blogger posting his 10 cents worth, which nonetheless are thought-provoking. Norman Madrid, a retired New York-based economist, posted eight-point policy initiatives, foremost of which was the amendment of the 1987 Constitution, striking out the anti-foreign direct investments (FDI) provisions (for details, friend him and access his FB). This echoes our Centrist Democratic (CD) position, articulated well by another prolific blogger, Orion Perez D, an advocate of the federal-parliamentary government and economic liberalization.

But to put things in proper perspective, these views were congruent with then candidate Duterte's stand on federalism, crusade against corruption and proscribed drugs, and political reforms, among others, which would in effect open up the economy. To prosper it needed one last ingredient — a display of political will, a sine qua non without which the 1987 Constitution remains untouched. He balked! These structural reforms were later dropped for political expediency in lieu of semantic contortions like the lamented Duterte Doctrine on "whiff of corruption" and "Operation Tokhang." But the underlying concepts are still valid and even timely for the next administration to consider, whoever takes the helm of the presidency — BBM, Leni, Isko, Ping, Manny. This time we must elect a president with a sufficient number of senators who will seriously revise the 1987 Constitution.

Current economic situation

At the twilight of his regime, the President may claim bragging rights to some economic gains during his tenure. The country posted a 2021 third quarter GDP growth of 7.1 percent. This was led by the industry and services sectors while agriculture, forestry and fishing contracted by minus 1.7 percent in the same quarter. Weighed down by the pandemic, forecast for the Philippine economy is a respectable 4.7 percent this year, hopefully accelerating to 5.9 percent in 2022 and 6 percent in 2023 (Philippine Statistics Authority). Although the pejorative "sick man of Asia" no longer applies to the Philippines, our economy comparatively is not as healthy as that of our neighbors — a consequence of this antiquated politico-economic system embedded in the 1987 Constitution.

Poverty may have declined to 16.6 percent rate in 2020 from 21.6 percent in 2015. But with the world pandemic-induced economic dislocations, poverty incidence is back to 23.7 percent in the first half of 2021. Duterte's AmBisyon2040 targets a decline of 14 percent by year-end 2022 totally eradicating poverty by 2040. This, by creating more jobs, improving productivity and investing in health and nutrition of the Filipino. But a recondition to all these are the dismantling of our perverted economic and political structures.

The following are excerpts from "Introduction to social market economy (SOME)" (The Manila Times, Oct. 27, 2016).

Wealth disparities

"A larger slice of the national wealth is still enjoyed by the very few families who are also game players of our political and economic landscapes. They have been enjoying their present positions that they will do everything just to maintain their rankings on Forbes' top wealthiest families in the Philippines.

"Top-to-bottom approach of our current development framework is no longer viable and has failed generations of Filipino families working their way out of the slums, only to be slammed back to the ground because our present economic policies have never been pro-people, but pro-elitist!

"The coming administration should look into SOME as a guiding concept and its imperatives, a tool for reducing poverty and nourishing conditions that respond to the needs of the people so they may also live a dignified and humane life."

Two traditional economic models

"In a capitalist driven economy, an individual takes precedence over the community and one should be free to take sole decisions on the course of his life. However, extreme liberal capitalists practiced an uninhibited and untrammeled free market economy where prices of goods and services and the production and distribution thereof are dictated solely by the market.

"On the other hand, the leftist model is notorious for the direct intrusion of the state due to a very centralized economic structure. It determines what goods and services to produce, who will produce them and subsequently who will consume them. Private property is absent and the means of production and distribution of goods and services are in the hands of the state. The economy is therefore centrally planned; clearly, a direct opposite of the capitalist economic model."

Economic framework that does justice

"SOME is a synthesis of two classical models of economic order. To the left is the socialist centralized planning adopted by countries such as (the "old") China and the Soviet Union, and to the right is the liberal capitalist model practiced by the (erstwhile) United States. These two models both have certain vital characteristics that when put together, form an economic model that carries with it the principles of social amelioration and the safety nets of the left, and the tempered free market of the laissez faire.

"SOME first laid its Midas touch to the still recuperating German economy way back in the post-World War 2 era. Lessons from the war provoked the Germans to create a social and economic model that does justice and seeks the common good. The inherent dignity of man, irrespective of religious faith and the belief in a God, is to take precedence over all. It must involve the right to self-determination, freedom of personal development and decision making.

"SOME, therefore, acknowledges the importance of an individual's creativity, innovation and decision-making capacities — and from the social context, it seeks to aid the disadvantaged through channeling revenues and resources from the privileged in our society."

PH version of social market economy

"The proposed economic model for the Philippine version of SOME does not veer away from that of the German model. Our country has inherited some of the important principles of the social market economy from our colonizers. Uncle Sam has planted the seeds of capitalism and independent-mindedness in our social fabric. We are therefore more familiar with the "free market" economy. This is a key value that also exists in the German model. The other important factor is that which was handed down to us by our Spanish colonizers — our Christian faith that also values the inherent dignity of man."

(To be continued on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022)


Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 12 January 2022 09:23

Traveling in the time of Covid

CUSTOMARILY, I write a column or two while on Christmas holiday. These are fundamentally upbeat as I travel with my family and grandkids like we did years back. Some excerpts: "I have now experienced more than seven decades worth of Christmases, and I have pleasant and wonderful memories with those that I can still remember. But the years have extracted their toll, and seldom do I recall occurrences in streams. The mustiness and fog concealing precious details are just too thick to penetrate, perhaps locking them forever." Our current 2021 to 2022 vacation is no exception, wonderful experiences with the little ones and warm family bonding deposited into memory banks later to be retrieved at leisure, except for a pall of dread and trepidation hovering over our lives these days. This is not, therefore, about holiday vacations per se, but the stress of flying in and out of airports.

International travel used to be a cinch prior to Covid-19. Just make sure your passports and visas are updated; book your flights and hotels early to avail of deep discounts; pack your bags, not forgetting the kids' devices needed for a long-haul flight; and then settle down in the plane. More importantly, don't leave any kid behind — as in the Christmas movie, "Home Alone."

Not this year. My grandkids left for the States at the end of June 2021with parents Matt and Lara as soon as school was out. They had been isolated in Davao since April 2020 at the start of the pandemic with the kids doing online schooling and parents working from home. They had a much better time in the provinces as Metro Manila's congested populace underwent a series of lockdowns and quarantines running intermittently through 14 months. Davao was not exempted from these strict protocols, but infections were comparatively low. Davao with its wide open spaces, greenery, beaches and mountain areas coupled with the local government's excellent handling of health protocols gave the kids safe venues and parents peace of mind.

After a respite of five months, we the grandparents followed the kids to the US, settling with the whole family in a farming community in Reisterstown, outside Baltimore in Maryland, where the dying days of autumn presaged the coming cold winter nights. The kids wished for snow on Christmas Eve as it would be easier for Santa's sleigh to travel over from chimney to chimney. It didn't snow that day and Santa may have just outsourced deliveries to Fedex and UPS, as the boxes of gifts and toys were laid around the tree on Christmas morn.

Travel bureaucracy

But getting to the States in November 2021 was another story. Having planned this trip two months earlier, we updated our Philippine passports as they were expiring in six months upon arrival — beyond the minimum requirement of the US Immigration Service (USIS) allowing foreign guests in — even with valid US B1/B2 visas. But thanks to the Deegong's restructuring of the DFA passports office, we got ours renewed in two weeks, and won't need another renewal for the next 10 years.

It was different with flight bookings. We decided on PAL as it offered a convenient 16-hour direct flight to New York. The first hurdle was to take a Covid test, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) 48 hours prior to boarding a local flight which is likewise valid for the international leg, provided your connecting flight does not go beyond 72 hours. Our five-day stay in Manila with our other grandkids required another PCR test for the flight to NYC.

Aside from the mandatory masks and shields (the latter "only in da Pilipins" courtesy of Pharmally Inc.), passengers need to download the Traze mobile application to one's cellphone or IPad to "generate and scan their QR code when entering in, boarding from, and upon arriving in all Philippine Airports starting Nov. 28, 2020, as mandated by the Philippine Department of Transportation." All passengers must register with the PAL passenger information form 24 hours before flight time, showing as evidence that the passenger is Covid-free with their PCR test results. If you don't have a screenshot of this in your device, you can have this printed. Sylvia and I had both — para sigurado.

Covid travel protocols

But months before, the two-step vaccination is required for any passenger, local or domestic. We had the two Sinovac jabs done in early June and mid-August. But social media postings were rife about the US rejecting the Chinese vaccine — which turned out to be fake news. But again, para sigurado, we had a booster shot of Moderna the first week of October, and for good measure, another one two weeks before our flight.

We had to laminate our Covid-19 vaccination cards as part of our growing pile of IDs and documentation, aside from our passports and valid US visas, and present them at the PAL counter where for some reason, this hazmat-suited guy, who may not even be a PAL employee, perhaps a Philippine immigration bureaucrat, rejected my second set of Moderna vaccine accepting only my Sinovac vaccine card.

Weird, but luckily I had both. Several passengers on the queue were still arguing with the hazmat guy when we were done with our departure formalities; perhaps the reason why the four-hour waiting time at airports was prescribed.

Flying back home

Our three-month stay with my grandkids from the Thanksgiving weekend to Christmas Eve dinners and New Year celebrations have been documented in my past columns. Unlike past vacations we didn't have a Delta variant fighting it out with Omicron. And these are concerns that pervade and restrict our every move — from bringing the kids to school, to grocery visits at Wegmans and shopping for stuff at Target, Marshalls, Home Goods, etc. and the usual visits to museums and zoos and sites which were ordinary travel activities in years past.

So far, we have postponed our trip back to Manila twice awaiting clarification on the quarantine protocol which has been reduced to the current 5 from 10 days. Travel costs aside from the usual flight tickets and hotel bookings have been substantially increased. For one, PCR tests which go for around P3,000 a pop have to be taken four to six times per head depending on your final destination. But the bigger amounts are the mandated stays at select hotels upon arrival in Manila adding an estimated 20 to 30 percent to your vacation budget.

These protocols may be good for preventing the spread of the pandemic and a boon to hotels but may be negative to the tourism industry in the long run. There are no enforced quarantines for arrivals in America, but Covid testing kits are widely available and some counties dispense them for free.

To lessen travel stress, it is imperative for the IATF to review its international travel policies. The enforced hotel quarantine may perhaps be substituted by a better tracing and tracking system, preventing such isolated incidents as this "Poblacion Girl" escaping from a Makati hotel.

Duterte has done a good job compared even to America. But it's high time for a reboot for the country's health and economy.

Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 05 January 2022 09:21

Santa Claus died this Christmas!

WHEN coronavirus hyphenated 2019, owning it, many thought Covid-19 a passing global health anomaly, until China reluctantly admitted that the virus shared a genetic code with the dreaded severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) that killed countless of its citizens in 2003. Surprisingly transparent, China shared laboratory findings with disease centers all over the world. More importantly, it locked down and quarantined Wuhan, from whence the virus originated, averting the spread of the contagion in China itself. This was year-end 2019 and beginning 2020. Happy new year!

Not in the United States. As usual, the world looked up to America for guidance with its vast resources, expertise and the technological muscle to defeat this contagion. But the world failed to consider America's president irresponsibly trivializing the contagion and downplaying the scourge despite the mounting numbers of Americans infected and dying. The US abdicated its leadership role, surrendering its prerogatives to China whose lockdowns and quarantines proved to be effective and became the template for impeding the spread of the pandemic, pending the introduction of a vaccine.

Trump took a different path, repudiating a federally authorized nationwide lockdowns and quarantines as business-averse, anti-democratic and impinging on the sacred constitutionally protected rights of Americans in their pursuit of life, liberty, happiness...blah, blah, blah!

Trump pursued "Operation Warp Speed" production of vaccine as America's deus ex machina that was to eradicate the scourge, aside from his demented idea of "injections of disinfectants and cleaning liquids and ultra-violet lights inside the body."

This trade-off for the cherished American concept of individual freedoms versus quarantines proved to be disastrous to American lives. Experts now agree that had lockdowns and quarantine been mandated while simultaneously accelerating vaccine production, more than two-thirds of American lives could have been saved. The vaccines were supposed to be available by year-end 2020. It didn't happen. Delays and bureaucratic hurdles pushed availability to the first quarter of 2021, though in limited quantities under an emergency use authorization (EUA). By this time, the pandemic had unleashed its fury, devastating the world's economies, causing 180 million infections and killing almost 4 million. Six hundred thousand of these were Americans, the greatest number of deaths globally. This was year-end 2020 and beginning 2021. Happy new year!

Year-end 2021

Today, I am ensconced with the American half of my family, for months isolated in a farming community, away from the big cities. We have all been vaccinated — including my grandchildren, 6, 8 10 years old. But we have this dark pall of dread hovering over us. We don't feel safe. The best minds in America foresee this highly transmissible mutation with mild symptoms to replace the much deadlier Delta variant. Like the common cold, people can't avoid catching this — but the top health and medical American guru, Dr. Anthony Fauci, declares that Omicron is much less severe and could peak by late January, no longer posing a fatal threat. I don't believe them! At year-end, a record-breaking daily average of 386,004 Americans were infected with a daily morbidity rate of 1,300 — mimicking similar figures in late 2020.

I see all around us even in this small community people oblivious to the peril. American media has been reporting that those seriously infected by Omicron are mostly the unvaccinated ones (38 percent), who boastfully call themselves in macabre fashion the "great unvaxxed." "They remain defiant as Omicron spreads among the 39 million adult population who have yet to get their first dose and 15 percent of these people (5.85 million) are at the greatest risk of illness and death overwhelming hospitals already full of Covid patients." (New York Times, Dec. 25, 2021)

Pandemic's legacy

But this column is not just about the pandemic per se. It is about how Covid impacts our lives from hereon in. The dominant leitmotif that Covid imposed was redefining the majesty of death and its associated rituals injecting the pre-eminence of fear, compelling a renewed appreciation of our own mortality. In the past two years, Covid and non-Covid morbidities took away more than two dozen of my intimates — classmates, friends and families. In the lingo of my septuagenarian peers, "...we are the venerable vulnerable, transitioning from the pre-departure area." And those temporarily left behind live with their terrors undiminished, condemned to adhere to a strict observance of Covid protocols, perhaps for the rest of our lives.

Wakes and funerals

Traditional Filipino death social gatherings particularly in the barrios are large and sometimes raucous complete with their own unique etiquette; the drama of bidding goodbye by loud public wailing and tearing out the hair; hovering over the remains with muttered prayers and soft tears; and reaffirming bonds with the immediate family with caresses. Now banned!

Reconnecting people one hasn't seen in decades requires close physical presence; enemies exchanging forgiveness for longstanding hurts, mostly "en pectore," the deceased as central alibi to correct such social negligence; these are essentials to expressing bereavement and loss. Today cremations are de rigueur, and funeral densities are prescribed, counter-intuitive to paying one's respects to ashes in a vase.

The nightly novena prayers are reduced to cold, antiseptic and impersonal Zoom internet apps substituting for what was intended to be a warm and intimate portrayal of shared sadness and sorrow with those left behind.

A bizarre Christmas 2021

But for my family in America, Covid cruelly restricted our Christmas celebrations. For one, we can't attend a Simbang Gabi as going to church exposes one to Omicron lurking somewhere. We are in a perpetual state of fear of infection.

Religious festivities are central to Christian countries, like the Philippines and America. Christmas is the birth of baby Jesus, our redeemer, but celebrated mostly for kids. Commercialized by the West, we brooked no expenses to make this one day, every year, a memorable and festive one. Enter Santa, who operates from the North Pole with his army of elves producing toys 364 days of the year and with his reindeer-driven sleigh delivers presents to only the good boys and girls on Christmas Eve. He doesn't deliver to Muslim or Buddhist or Hindu children.

My grandkids may have already convinced themselves that Santa will not be visiting this time due to the international Covid travel restrictions but will send presents via UPS. Santa may not have been vaccinated and could pick up Omicron in these travels. He could be anti-vaxx or worse, may already be quarantined somewhere. I'm afraid that by the time Covid goes away, my grandkids will have grown up discovering for themselves that Santa is fictional. This spells his death. And that a host of other narratives portrayed in the Christmas story were mostly fictional and have been embellished over the millennia. ("A politically correct Christmas story?" The Manila Times, Dec. 27, 2017). But I will not share this version with Max, Javier, Sylvie, Oliver, Claudie and Sabine just yet.

I couldn't remember a bad Christmas, ever. But with the Delta variant and now Omicron, 2021's was a bad one. With God's grace we will survive this latest mutation — hoping that 2022 will be better than 2021, 2020 and 2019.

Be safe, all!

Published in LML Polettiques