Lots of Pinoys become teary-eyed when they hear the word “EDSA”. It reminds them of a nonviolent “revolution” where Da Pinoy emerged victorious. When he took two steps forward supposedly to join the community of freedom-loving civics-centric nations… then after the photo ops were over and the international press was gone, da Pinas took five steps backward and reinstated.. tada… The Oligarchs.
Who are the Oligarchs?
>We hear the word Oligarch many times, we gloss over because it seems to be an amorphous bogeyman. But mind you, behind the electric bills you pay, the water bills that you pay, the text messages that you send, everytime you access the internet – lies, an oligarch! Blogger Jesusa Bernardo will gladly show you how the oligarchs affect you – and why its a happy new year to the oligarchs. Here’s what Jesusa had to say:
It’s another Happy New Year, not for the people of the Philippines but for the dozen or so oligarchs who are getting the grandest gifts of the season. Manila Water and Maynilad were just given the go-signal to raise their rates despite the fact that they have had years of tax holidays, moderate oil price fluctuations, and the appreciating peso.
At the same time, Meralco is getting a P0.269/kwh increase from a skewed rate basing mechanism, enriching the milking cow not only of its owners but of the whole caboodle of local and foreign oligarchs — including some known domestic bigwigs, plus Prince Jeffrey of Brunei, the Salims, and whoever else are hiding behind the stock deals here and there. Why, Meralco has just announced an increase in its Capex (capital expenditure), which it is also getting from the consumers!
And to top it all, one presidential crony from Mindanao has been guaranteed a whopping 57 percent of energy and power profits by this government.
All these will mean a lot more money spent by middle class consumers on their monthly water and electricity bills. The Energy Regulatory Commission says consumers will get “refunds” in case the peso exchange rate further improves; but that means the “private” utility companies will have already collected in advance from the public and used the money before taking their sweet time to refund whatever is left.
The laws and regulations, and the regulatory authorities, are all skewing the policies to the advantage of the corporate oligarchs, and against the consumers. When we will finally have a consumers’ revolt is a question I’ve often asked, but it should definitely happen before we Filipino consumers become as extinct as the dodo bird.
Of course, this situation is thanks to Cory Aquino and the Yellows, who have all supported neo-liberal economics by putting the corporatocracy and its profits over the people. Voters should thus remember this in May.
Yessirree – before there was Marcos, there was, the Oligarchs! Marcos used as one of the justifications for martial law, the removal of the chokehold of the oligarchs (the Lopezes, the Pelaezes, the Gokongweis, Chongbians, Osmeñas, Roxases, Cojuangos, Laurels) on the economy. The thing is Marcos replaced the oligarch’s chokehold with his own cronies. Same chokehold, different faces. The Marcosian power grab didn’t do the trick of social restructuring – wealth transferred from the old oligarchy – and into the new oligarchy – the Marcos cronies, Lucio Tan, Danding Cojuangco, Elizalde, and the rest of his thugs gallery.
For those who want a more scholarly treatment on the oligarchs, you can click here to read excerpts from Michael Johnston’s book, Syndromes of corruption: Wealth, power, and democracy.
And for those who want an “insider” view on the Philippine oligarchs – I’d listen to this guy Neri ( as the cliche goes, the enemy of my enemy.. is a rat.. lol). Check out Neri’s illustration of the Oligarchic Syndicracy.
From an oligarch’s POV, Neri is bad for business, imagine handling it out to ZTE instead of PLDT? Get my drift? But that will make PLDT look bad – masisira ang bad image, so let’s make pahid instead and destroy Neri and GMA for keeping us oligarchs out of the loop. But that’s another story (nakupo andaming kwento talaga tong kabuhungan ng Pinas).
Polintika’s Blog also has a layman’s definition of the Philippine Oligarchy.
|The number one problem in the Philippines is the prevalent oligarchy: the concentration of power in a few members of the elite.To be clear, let me enumerate whom I think are the modern members of Philippine oligarchy:
Have Transport Strike, Failed Putsch and Clueless Housewife (But an Oligarch) – Will “Revolt”
This is the scene most remembered by Pinoys, the feel good imagery that flooded the boob tube – the doves, nuns, trucks, the flag-waving, the soldiers crossing the line, the euphoria of feeling united. It was a media man’s wet dream come to life. Never mind that most of the people were stuck because there was a transport strike and a general strike – a WELGANG BAYAN called for by BAYAN. People had nowhere else to go while waiting for transport services to resume.
This civil disturbance would have been the perfect opportunity for a would-be putschist to seize power under the justification that Marcos was no longer in control of the Philippines and due to anarchy, order had to be restored, by Ramos, Enrile, and Honasan. But, the oplan backfired and Tabako and company had to take refuge in the arms of Cardinal Sin. The Cardinal was totally clueless that had the trio succeeded it may have been a different story all through out. But that is a matter of science fiction and best left at that. That was the fastest repackaging of a failed coup attempt that I have ever seen!
You had on one hand – a huge group of people stuck in a rut because there were no vehicles – and on the other hand – a failed putsch but the press had not caught on to the news yet… an ailing dictator… and a clueless housewife … Hmmmmm. Bingo… You can just see the light bulbs flashing in the Cardinal’s mind. Anyone up for pinoy-style “revolution”? An epiphany hits the Cardinal and off he goes to “rally the faithful” – the shock troops and brown shirts of the Vatican – the nuns, priests, and the laity. And soon enough, ABS-CBN came in with the mushy imagery – and the “EDSA Revolution” packaged as a moment in history when the cross-section of Pinoys in NCR kicked Marcos out.
What is Revolution
Based on wikipedia’s definition –
A revolution (from the Latin revolutio, “a turn around”) is a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time. Aristotle described two types of political revolution:
1. Complete change from one constitution to another
2. Modification of an existing constitution.
Perhaps most often, the word ‘revolution’ is employed to denote a change in socio-political institutions. Jeff Goodwin gives two definitions of a revolution.
A broad one, where revolution is “any and all instances in which a state or a political regime is overthrown and thereby transformed by a popular movement in an irregular, extraconstitutional and/or violent fashion“;
and a narrow one, in which “revolutions entail not only mass mobilization and regime change, but also more or less rapid and fundamental social, economic and/or cultural change, during or soon after the struggle for state power.”
Jack Goldstone defines them as “an effort to transform the political institutions and the justifications for political authority in society, accompanied by formal or informal mass mobilization and noninstitutionalized actions that undermine authorities”.
The EDSA Counter-Revolution
You see, people only remember the aspect of seizing power and refer to this as “EDSA Revolution” of legend.
What’s not being put under the microscope is what was done after the seizure power. How was the power allocated after it was seized?
Was there fundamental social, economic, and cultural change? The answer is a big resounding NO. The oligarchs are still in control of the economy and the political machinery – and the people are still bigger idiots for believing in the promises of the oligarchs. Niluto sa sariling mantika, ika nga.
You didn’t see that coming huh? You just noticed that the OIC mayors and OIC governors were sprouting up like mushrooms – the administrators of the Marcos oligarchy were being replaced by administrators of the .. drum rolls please…. the pre-Marcos oligarchy.
And there it was, without fanfare, packaged by now oligrach-backed media as a continuation of the the EDSA Revolution, the EDSA Counter-Revolution of 1986 was in full swing. The oligarchy seized state power, divided it among themselves, and effectively excluded the revolutionary elements who did the heavy lifting of removing Marcos from power.
|The Philippine Oligarchy
Although the roots of their socioeconomic power can be traced to the development of landed elites in the 19th century, it was in the American colonial period that major families emerged as the national oligarchy, able to dominate the country’s political and administrative apparatus and shape it to their own ends.
The Philippine political elite are usually either members of, or else are backed by, the oligarchy. They are virtually a class, whose prime goal is to win elections and to assure that the interests of their families and/or oligarchic patrons are protected. To protect the family welfare, powerful families transform their electoral offices into lasting family assets, building “political dynasties.” Whether they are members of the elite or not, throughout their political career politicians need to build, maintain and expand their network with elite families in their city, province and other parts of the archipelago.
An excellent example of Philippine politicians benefitting from the neocolonial status of the Philippines is the recent NBN-ZTE scandal. The $329 million project (which has since been cancelled due to allegations of corruption involving the President) was to have been funded by a loan from the Chinese government, with $130 million of the total as a ‘commission’ to Commission on Elections chair Benjamin Abalos, Sr. (left) and $70 million to First Gentleman Mike Arroyo (right.) The $329 million was to have been paid off by Philippine taxpayers.
Marcos elements were out. Elements representing the restored oligarchy replaced the Marcos elements – but the same social structures that maintained poverty and sustained the oligarch-centric economy was sustained by the landlord-dominated Philippine Congress. EDSA meets the general definition of a revolution but fails to meet the narrower definition of fundamental social change. The economy remains protectionist and maintains the rent capture regime that has been in place for decades, the social pyramid remains skewed with a narrow top and a a very wide base – a snapshot that has remained constant before and after the 1986 EDSA “revolution”.
We had the ball in our hands – and we, as a nation, dropped the ball. It was picked up by the oligarchs and they ran away with it.
They ran away with it, BECAUSE WE DROPPED IT. We were too euphoric in the seizure of power, we forgot we had to distribute it. By the time we stepped out of our stupor – the oligarchs had completed their move.
EDSA “Revolution” is a Delusion
When I see celebrations of the EDSA “Revolution”, I wonder if this people know that what they are actually celebrating is the return of the oligarchs. The frakking IDIOTS are celebrating their return to servitude.
Oh boy, this is going to be worse than a perpetual toothache.
|Neo: Why do my eyes hurt?
Morpheus: You’ve never used them before.
While I disagree with Alejandor Lichauco’s stance on the Philippines being under the control of foreign interests – and his protectionist slant, I agree with his description of how the Cory Constitution – the embodiment of the EDSA Counter-Revolution ran the economy afoul.
The treason of the Edsa Constitution
The ultimate tragedy of a neocolonial state is that even its own Constitution becomes an instrument of its own and perpetual enslavement.
And the Philippine case is a classic illustration.
I invite your attention to Art. XII, Sec. 1, par. 2 of the Constitution which reads as follows: “The State shall promote industrialization and full employment based on sound agricultural development and agrarian reform through industries that make full and efficient use of human and natural resources, and which are competitive in both domestic and foreign markets. However, the State shall protect Filipino enterprises against unfair foreign competition and trade practices.”
That provision you will note automatically prohibits an industrial policy based on the heavy industries and the application of protectionist measures against foreign competition, whether fair or unfair.
While the provision stipulates that the “State shall promote industrialization” it simultaneously qualifies that constitutional directive with an entire complex of conditions and limiting reservations which makes it impossible for the State to adopt any industrialization strategy other than one that is specifically and exclusively based on “sound agricultural development and agrarian reform” whatever that means.
For example, the provision literally prohibits an industrialization strategy based on the heavy industries, like steel, chemicals, machine tools and machine production. But that’s precisely the kind of strategy that made NICS of our neighbors.
Our neighbors – particularly South Korea and Taiwan – didn’t transform into newly- industrialized countries through the industrialization strategy explicitly mandated by the above-cited provision of our Constitution. Those countries, imitating Japan, pursued an industrialization strategy anchored on the development of industries based on and moved by machine power rather than on “sound agricultural development and agrarian reform.”
A real industrialization program is one that is based on what is known as the capital goods industry – industries based on machine power and the production of what is known as the means of production.
Any other industrialization program can only be a program based on light consumer industries that are totally dependent on industrial raw material and industrial machines produced by the industrialized countries.
You will further note that the constitutional provision insists that industries should be competitive in both the domestic and foreign markets. With that provision, there is hardly any industry that can qualify for government support and protection, and that is precisely what the provision intends. That provision serves as justification for our reckless entry into GATT and the equally reckless accelerated tariff reduction program of the government – programs which have contributed heavily to the bankruptcy of National Steel Corporation, the closure of Caltex refinery and the financial problems of an enterprise like Hacienda Luisita, all of whom have attributed their crisis to the flood of imports unleashed by the government’s commitments to the WTO.
No country rose from rags to riches through industrialization by exposing its industries to foreign competition the way we have done. Examine the industrial policies of the Asian NICs and you will see how protective those policies are of their basic industries, even if these are not competitive in the foreign markets.
While the constitutional provision does provide that the State shall protect Filipino enterprises against unfair foreign competition, it doesn’t define what unfair foreign competition means. For example, we have exposed our agricultural sector to competition from subsidized agricultural imports, but the authorities don’t consider that a contravention of the Constitution. The result is that even the agricultural sector has been marginalized. Apparently, the authorities see nothing wrong with pitting our farmers, most of whom hardly made it to sixth grade, with the corporate farmers of the industrial countries, who do their farming with the aid of satellites.
The authorities must be reminded that any underdeveloped economy struggling to industrialize would have to protect its basic industries from foreign competition, whether fair or unfair. To insist that even infant industries should be competitive in the foreign markets would be tantamount to killing these infant industries from the start.
The question is: Why did the authors of the present Constitution feel it necessary to qualify the industrialization mandate with the kind of restrictions they placed on it?
And the answer is that the authors of the cited provision were the very elements who had opposed the heavy industrialization program launched by Ferdinand Marcos in 1979. The Marcos industrial program was based the establishment of industries driven by machine power and not – repeat, not – by “sound agricultural development and agrarian reform” as stipulated by the present Constitution.
In brief, no less than the Constitution has become the barrier to the real industrialization of our economy. Under the “industrialization” provision of the Charter there isn’t any way that this country can transform into a newly industrialized country or NIC. Which means that there isn’t any way we can get out of the poverty trap which has now mutated into a hunger crisis.
Article XII, Sec. 1 Par. 2 of the Constitution is the best evidence of our status as neocolonial state. It is also the ultimate weapon which ensures that the anti-industrialization agenda of the Dodds Report will remain unchallenged by any government elected under the present charter.
If by some miracle we should have a government tomorrow bent on industrializing the economy by adopting the same industrial policies that have made industrialized countries of our neighbors, such a government would run afoul of the Constitution.
I disagree that the US is in control. It may appear that it is – or it can be made to appear so, but it is not necessarily so. For one, as a sovereign country – we have the capacity to undertake an independent policy.
Two, the US makes a convenient bogeyman for our misgivings as a people. By hiding behind the US bogeyman, the oligarchs are able to disappear and make it appear that the US is the cause of high power rates, of high water bills, of high telecom costs, the end all and be all of our national misery. If it were true, how come these same companies that are supposed to be reeling from these high costs are able to produce people who wind up in the global Forbes Fortune 500 – three in fact, Lucio Tan, Zobel de Ayala, and Henry Sy.
Take for instance the Philippines 40 richest:
How many of them have been playing both sides all these years? Meanwhile, while people rally against the US, the Cory constitution clips the wings of the Filipino. Was it the US who wrote the Philippine constitution? We copied it from them!!! Hello. We had an excuse with the 1935 constitution – it was imposed upon us.
This time around with the 1987 Constitution – we have no excuse, we are already independent! We are treated like dirt, because we let the oligarchs get away with their machinations. If there is one thing Da Pinoy needs to understand about the oligarchs – it’s not that they are inherently evil – it’s that they had a head-start by virtue of their early collaboration with the colonial occupation forces. You see, he who collaborates, controls the agenda. He, who controls the agenda – controls the fortunes of the community.
Da Pinoy has an aversion to collaboration, an aversion which does not exist with the oligarchy. The oligarchy is pragmatic, if it works – they’ll keep on using it. The feudal protectionist nature of the Philippine economy has worked for the oligarchy – why should it be changed? Just let the people have their wowowee – and the oligarchs will have control of the water, electricity, telephone, airplane, food. Hello, have you been listening?
We are not looking to eliminate our domestic big business after all they employ people, too. What we are looking for is a level playing field where both foreign and domestic business can compete so that local consumers win – not the other way around. At the moment, the foreign investor can sink in his money provided it is large enough – and that he has to take a minority position. The only Filipinos who can undertake such a thing are the oligarchs.
How about the Filipinos who are willing to take a minority position who don’t have enough capital – but have a willing foreign investor partner? For example, the retired engineer from KSA who is willing to have a partner from UK but due to the mangled policies, can’t get his startup off the ground. Or the retired OFW teacher from Nigeria who married a German engineer who would like to set up an automotive components manufacturing shop? These are small investments which when aggregated also generate meaningful jobs. Why does it have be just the oligarchs?
That’s not US meddling anymore. That’s the oligarch-inspired Cory Constitution at work.
Be wary. The Oligarchs have fielded their avatar – the Manchurian candidate – Noynoy Aquino.
If you really want to carry the torch of EDSA, I kid you not, we have just begun to fight.
If we are to move this country forward – the next stage in the EDSA revolution is to restore the balance of power – to lessen the pro-oligarch tilt – and move it towards a level playing field.
Free enterprise and responsible free markets.
There are a lot of questions, all of which point to more opportunities for generating jobs if we open up our economy – face it like grown-ups instead of being like perennial infants.
Should we pursue industrialization for industrialization sake or do we pursue it because it creates meaningful jobs?
Do we necessarily have to pursue heavy industrialization to be able to generate meaningful jobs for Filipinos?
Can we not go for a mix of industries? All of which are open to fair and free foreign and local participation?
Can not this same mix of heavy and light industries when given a level playing field validate the truism that the sum of the parts is bigger than the whole, and that, small is beautiful?
The economy of the 21st century is no longer about heavy industrialization but more about managing the extended supply chain in our global village. We can outsource manufacturing to China, make our designs in the Philippines, transload our goods in Singapore and sell it to stores in Sydney, Paris, London, and New York. We can grow mangosteen in Zamboanga, package it in Davao, ship it to Subic, and sell it to stores in San Francisco, Tokyo, Norfolk, and Chicago – and the equity can be 60/40 in favor of say.. Publix or Target or Walmart.
We can start by leveling the playing field.
Bring the talent, technology, and capital which generates meaningful jobs to the Philippines – domestic or foreign – the jobs and money it provides are just as green. Embrace the challenge, embrace the global village, and its opportunities for prosperity.
How do we make this happen through the ballot? This means vetting all our candidates at each level and identifying who can support such an agenda in terms of legislation and executive resources – campaigning and voting for them. Better to sweat it out now, than to sweat it out later when idiots have done damage to the system. Let us be on top of things, be proactive.
OFWs – Heroes or Exiles?
Lastly, I couldn’t but help repost this statement about OFWS made in the same article “The Philippines is a Neocolonial state”.
|Overseas Foreign Workers (OFWs)This group of about eight million Filipinos (nearly ten percent of the entire population) who live and work abroad plays two increasingly important roles:
That (highlighted in red) my friends will be a post for another day.