POSTSCRIPT / June 13, 2013 / Thursday
 
OFWs: The steadiest light in overcast skies
By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

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WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?: The 115th Independence Day speech yesterday of President Noynoy Aquino sounded like a retort to what critics say is his wimpy response to China’s aggressive takeover of some isles, reefs and fishing grounds in the West Philippine Sea.

After giving the peso value of what has been done to “modernize” the armed forces, the Commander-in-Chief challenged critics to say what they have done in defense of the country’s territory and sovereignty.

With the statue of plebian hero Andres Bonifacio as backdrop, the President hurled this challenge: Ikaw, Pilipino, ano na ang nagawa mo para sa bandila at kapwa mo?” (Just what have you done for the flag and your fellow Filipinos?)

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REPROACH: “What have you done?” is a valid question, considering how many of us expect the government to do everything for us.

(The same reproach may have been what impelled the then dictator Ferdinand Marcos to insert in 1973 a unique Article V listing the duties and obligations of citizens when he replaced the 1935 Constitution with a new charter.)

But this listener was not prepared to hear President Aquino elevating his revered parents to the same heroic pantheon of Jose Rizal and Bonifacio in the concluding paragraph of his speech:

“Ngayon na mismo ang panahon upang isang bansa tayong kumilos para sa katuparan ng mga kolektibong hangarin natin para sa Inang Bayan. Alam kong magagawa natin ito, dahil lahi tayo ng mga bayani, AT ORAS NA TANUNGIN TAYO NI JOSE RIZAL, O NI BONIFACIO, NI NINOY, O NI CORY,at itanong ‘Pilipino, ano ang nagawa mo para sa bandila at kapwa mo,’ maaari natin silang titigan, mata sa mata, at sabihing ‘Narito ang mga inambag ko sa aking bayan, at ibinuhos ko ang aking buong puso’t kaluluwa upang mapabuti ang kanyang kalagayan.’

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MODERNIZATION?: Maybe the President’s speech writer was carried away. Or there was not much to say on that lazy June 12 under the narras’ shade at Liwasang Bonifacio?

He repeated statistics on what the government has done for the nation’s fighting men. He trotted out figures on housing, defense materiel and morale upgrading:

“Kaya nga nakapagpatayo na tayo ng 21,800 na tahanan para sa ating mga sundalo at pulis. Halos 14,000 na po ang natatapos na bahay para sa Phase 2, na aabot sa 31,200 pagdating ng Hulyo. May 75-bilyong pisong pondo rin ang mailalaan natin sa Tanggulang Pambansa sa susunod na limang taon dahil sa pagsasabatas ng New AFP Modernization Act. Sa katunayan, bago pa man maipasa ito, sa loob lamang ng isang taon at pitong buwan, halos pantayan ng mahigit 28-bilyong piso na inilaan natin para sa AFP Modernization Program, ang 33-bilyong pisong pondo na nailagak sa nasabing programa sa nakalipas na tatlong administrasyon.”

We beg speech writers, also news reporters, to stop calling this slow-motion acquisition of run-of-the-mill military weapons, ships and planes – some of them second-hand like Smartmatic’s PCOS machines– as “modernization.”

Let us be truthful and just call it upgrading or use some other appropriate term.

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WHERE’S P8-B?: Have you noticed, by the way, that the money for “modernization” is painfully smaller than the total “intelligence” funds tucked into the budget of various agencies, many of which are not even part of the uniformed service?

And will somebody please verify disturbing reports that these intelligence funds always have zero balance at the end of the fiscal year? Paging the Commission on Audit!

The CoA may also want to publish an accounting of the P8-billion proceeds from the privatization of Fort Bonifacio in 1995 during the time of President Fidel V. Ramos. We would have asked him where the trust fund went, but we do not want him to lose his temper again.

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SCARCE JOBS: For a while there, with the economy allegedly galloping at 7.8 percent, this media worker thought we are at the gates of heaven already. But it still feels like purgatory.

And with those foreign rating firms upgrading our credit standing — as if with the upswing of a conductor’s baton — where are the hordes of investors that President Aquino said were jostling to build factories and put up businesses here and create jobs?

The government’s statistics office announced days ago that joblessness rose in April to 7.5 percent, a three-year high, amid the supposed economic boom. It was the highest since the eight percent recorded in 2010.

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WHERE ARE INVESTORS?: Malacañang explained that unemployment worsened because there were new graduates and unfavorable weather wreaking havoc on agriculture. But are not graduations and bad weather regular, and therefore predictable, occurrences?

The Philippine Stock Exchange, playground of fickle foreign fund managers, also dropped the other day, sending analysts looking for explanations for the rout across the board.

The lesson, if it has to be repeated for the nth time, is that hot money and the spiels of businessmen entertaining a visiting neophyte Philippine president are no substitute for direct solid investments on the ground.

We a have a folk admonition for that – we should not count the chicks until they are hatched.

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HAIL, OFWs!: The only steady bright lights in the overcast firmament are our very own overseas Filipino workers.

Their remittances grew faster than expected in 2012, reaching a new record high of $21.391 billion, representing an increase of 6.3 percent over the 2011 figure and higher than the five-percent target set by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

Total personal remittances, covering cash and non-cash items sent by overseas Filipinos through formal and informal channels, soared to a new record of $23.784 billion in 2012, or an expansion of 9.7 percent over the previous year.

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