Sunday, September 30, 2012

Party List 5: Why it is Wrong in Theory and Practice

The party list (PL) system in both theory and practice is wrong. In theory, it is supposed to be a proportional representation system where smaller political parties are given chance via mandatory percentage share in the total seats in the parliament or Congress. 

In the Philippines, that theory has been revised to represent the so-called "marginalized sectors" of society. And in practice in the country, almost all groups of opportunists mix up with well-meaning individuals to help centrally plan and change the country, towards their own world view of forced collectivism. Thus, we have a son of the former President representing the party of security guards, a former Cabinet Secretary (DND, DENR, DOE) who wanted to represent the party of bus drivers (he committed suicide a few years ago), of rich people representing parties of rice farmers, and so on.

In addition, even supposedly "non-marginalized" sectors like athletes, media people, cock fighting aficionados, showbiz guys, LPG retailers, physicians, engineers, other professionals also participated or attempted to join the PL free for all political opportunism.

A friend, election lawyer and legal NGO leader Luie Guia posted a news article in his facebook status and he commented,

The Party List system is definitely NOT a joke if it is designed as it should be designed. Membership in the legislature under a true PL system is proportional to the votes obtained by parties contesting the seats. It's more "representative" than the single member district system that we are used to. Unfortunately, the design of the PL system we now have here in the Philippines is utterly flawed.

I like the term used by Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes, a "joke". I told Luie that like him, I somehow disagree with the term "joke" because it is worse than a joke. The PL system is a s sham, a scam, and even a tool for more public robbery. 

A political party should represent a political ideology. Since there are not too many political ideologies around the planet, then the number of political parties should be few only, not dozens, not hundreds. The PL system -- both in theory and practice in the PH -- has further bastardized the theory and use of a political party. That is why I earlier argued that the PL system should be abolished. And all aspiring politicians from the existing PL should form a real political party that can contest posts from the local to national levels, or join existing ones.

Luie added that the Philippine version of PL has given PL a bad name at least to Filipinos. A true PL, where voters get to vote for parties and thus their ideologies rather than individuals, has been the system chosen by many emerging democracies as it allows even those in the fringes to be represented if they get enough votes. Regional and even ethnic tensions tend to be mitigated because more sectors of society are accommodated in the formal structure of government. 
I don't favor abolition of PL. I wish it to be re crafted and redesigned to make it work as it really should.

Below is a list of political parties in the Philippines:

A. Big national political parties:

1. Liberal Party (LP)
2. Lakas-Kampi-CMD
3. Nacionalista Party (NP)
4. Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC)
5. Partido Demokratiko PIlipino - Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban)
6. Laban ng Demokratikong PIlipino (LDP)
7. Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL)

B. Marginal national political parties:

8. Bagumbayan-Volunteers for a New Philippines (Bagumbayan-VNP)
9. People's Reform Party (PRP)
10. Ang Kapatiran Party (AKP)
11. Gabay Bayan

C. Local political parties, 91

D. Party list, currently sitting in the HOR: 42, 26 of which start with 1 or A:

I-CARE, 1-UTAK, A Teacher, AA Kasosyo, AAMBIS OWA, Aangat Tayo, Abante Mindanao, ABONO, ABS, ACT Teacher, AGAP, AGBIAG, AGHAM, AGP, Akbayan, Ako Bicol, Alagad, ALE, ALIF, An Waray, ANAD, Anakpawis, Ang Kasangga, APEC, Ating Koop, AVE

Bagong Henerasyon, Bayan Muna, Buhay, Butil, CIBAC, Coop Natcco, Diwa, Gabriela, Kabataan, Kakusa, Kalinga, LPGMA, PBA, Senior Citizens, Una ang Pamilya, Yacap

Those that lost, about 100+ other party lists.
See a longer list of political parties in the Philippines and the name of their leaders in Wiki here.

There are too many political parties in the country already, both at the national and local levels. Adding the PL system makes it a dizzying situation. So with the free for all nature of PL opportunism, and these PLs are arranged alphabetically in the ballot box and voters can choose only one out of 100 plus PLs, most groups start the name of their party with 1 or A. There could be up to 400+ groups that want accreditation and participation in the PL system but the Comelec conducts preliminary hearing and remove many of them.

There are no marginalized sectors, only marginalized individuals. There are rich and poor individuals in each of those sectors -- farmers, fisherfolks, workers, women, youth, senior citizens, indivigenous people, security agencies,  teachers, and so on.

 I believe we need to go back to a few political parties, even a two- or three-party system. A political party should be able to defend its political ideology or philosophy, embodied in various advocacies or platform of government from the local up to the national government levels. For instance, a political party for more and bigger government should be able to argue why such philosophy should be applied nationwide, from the barangay or village level all the way up to the city, province and the nation. On the other hand, a political party for less government, or a midway advocating for more public-private partnership (PPP) in many sectors, should be able to articulate their philosophies and their application nationwide.

Thus, having too many political parties, PL or otherwise, often contribute to political miseducation and opportunism. It corrupts further the minds of the people, that they too can centrally plan the country and the world and it is relatively easy to do that via backdoor entrance like the PL system.

See also:
Party List 1: Opportunism, 2001 Elections, November 28, 2005
Party List 2: Opportunism, 2004 Elections, December 12, 2005
Party List 3: Marginal Parties Should Aspire to Become Big, January 12, 2006
Party List 4: Why it Should be Abolished, August 04, 2011

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Health Spending 6: DOH's Proposed 2013 Budget

Government healthcare spending is among the biggest items in the national budget. Such spending is not limited to the budget of the (a) Department of Health (DOH) but also to (b) state universities like the PGH under the UP budget, (c) DND and DILG for the AFP and PNP Hospitals, (d) PCSO, PAGCOR which give away ambulances and provide hospitalization coverage to some poor people, (e) other Departments and national government agencies, (f) local governments with their respective city/district/provincial hospitals, (g) charity groups, corporate foundations, company spending, and so on. See my previous discussion here,  Healthcare Competition 9: Deregulate Further the Supply of Healthcare.

That is why I think the estimated national health spending of around 3.8 percent of GDP is understated. I think that ratio refers only to DOH and other national government spending for health. If we include all the above mentioned offices and institutions' spending, it should easily reach 5 percent or higher.

Anway, I attended the DOH budget presentation at the Senate last September 04. Below are some of the powerpoint slides presented by DOH Secretary Enrique Ona. Thanks to Mercy Fabros of WomanHealth who posted the presentation to our CHAT discussion group.

From P42 billion this year to P53 billion next year or a jump of P11 billion in one year. Percentage wise, the DOH along with the DSWD budget have among the highest, if not the highest, growth rate next year.  The Office of the Secretary (OSec) and the HFEP are the biggest items.

See the huge spike in DOH budget, rising by about P9 billion a year on average from 2010 to 2013. Allocation for sponsored program or subsidies for poor households to become PhilHealth members, is the main explanation for this huge jump. This function should have been done by the local government units (LGUs) but many of them  are not doing their job, so the DOH has re-centralized this function. Healthcare is among the services that were devolved and decentralized from the DOH to the LGUs when the Local Government Code (LGC) of 1991 was enacted. But recently, the move has been towards re-centralization.

Energy Econ 8: More Intolerance by the Anti-Coal Camp

The construction of a coal terminal leading to a coal power plant in Cadiz City, Negros Occidental continues to evoke debates and emotionalism. There are two main protagonists there. One is the City government itself which supported and helped facilitate the entry of the power plant. The other is the Cadiznon Kontra Coal (CKZ). Both have facebook groups below.

Based on my engagement with them, I can say that both groups have the latter has shown high intolerance when you question them or you show non-alliance with them. I have proof for saying this.

On the CKZ, there is that attitude full of angst and anger, the attack is personal, on anyone who show support for a coal power plant. See my two compilation of debate with these guys,

The first is 15 pages long while the second is 23 pages.

This compilation is equally long, about 16 pages including the 3 photos.

On the City government, I wrote them a letter last Tuesday, September 25 and posted in their fb group, below:

Hon. Patrick Escalante
Mayor, Cadiz City 

Dear Mayor Escalante,

In the Cadizmycitymyhome fb group, a certain Ariel Deriada said that "coal terminal in tinampaan, the project developer already acquired ECC in less than a month and had finished building concrete walls around the land where it will be built.there was no public hearing.... inland coal terminal application for ECC frm the emb was received march 3, 2012--it was approved april 11, 2012."

How true are these statements? 

I am pro-coal, also pro-nuke, pro-geothermal, pro-natural gas, pro-hydro, etc. but I also believe that all the requirements by the national government such as an ECC and passing the EIA should be complied with. 

Where can we see the results of the EIA? Can you make it available online? 

Lack of transparency causes more public cynicism and skepticism, and fuels often unnecessary opposition. I hope the City government can be more transparent about this issue.

Thank you very much.

Sincerely yours,

Bienvenido "Nonoy" Oplas, Jr.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Anti-Smoke Belching Racket, Part 4

* This is my article today in the online magazine,

More government regulations and prohibitions coupled with bad governance in the country almost always result in more corruption. When government officials and personnel are given more power to restrict and prohibit certain human and economic activities unless those activities are  able to secure first certain permits or certifications, the temptation to bureaucratize and tighten the requirements is high.
In land transportation, the number of regulations and prohibitions to use and drive one’s vehicle is getting longer. Here are the prominent ones.
1.    A vehicle must undergo motor vehicle registration annually with the Land Transportation Office (LTO);
2.    Vehicle must take smoke emission test before it will be registered.
3.    Driver must have a valid license.
4.    Driver must take illegal drug use test before getting a license.
5.    Vehicle cannot be used or driven in Metro Manila on “number coding” day from 7am to 7pm one day a week, except on “open window” from 10am to 3pm, but not all cities recognize this window.
6.    Vehicle must “pass” random test by anti-smoke belching units (ASBU) of the MMDA and/or local governments
There are fines and penalties, up to impounding of a vehicle, if any or all of the above prohibitions are violated and the driver is caught.

The anti-smoke belching test has been among the most abused policies by several local governments. A van, pick up, car, truck, especially old-looking and running on diesel, is stopped from going to its destination by ASBUs and forced to undergo anti-smoke belching test, even if there is no clear or obvious proof of dark smoke. 

I took these photos last September 12, 2012 in Buendia, Makati City. Usually about a dozen men would randomly stop a vehicle and force it to be tested for high smoke emission.
From the various testimonies and comments that I have read, almost no one would pass those tests by the ASBUs. The easiest way to avoid being penalized including removing the vehicle plate, according to several motorists who have experienced this kind of harassment, is to pay those ASBUs a certain amount of money.

When those ASBUs by local governments flag down and stop vehicles, they are in effect saying that "We do not care if your trip is important or not, we think your vehicle is a smoke-belcher. You must disprove that by passing our smoke emission test." This is passing the burden of proof on the vehicle owners and drivers, instead of the government showing the burden of proof first, before it can flag down and stop vehicles. 

A similar analogy would be like this. Government officials and/or police can stop anyone walking in the street whose face they may not like and say, "We think you are a theft or a criminal. In order to disprove that, you should pass our lie detector test first before you can go."

In a free society, this should not be the case. In the absence of any initial or leading evidence,  government has no right to stop and harass the citizens. Government should have the burden of  proof and explain to the citizens why they are stopping them.

Below are some photos of real smoke belchers, I took them from various sources in the web. Most of those foul emitters are public vehicles – buses, jeepneys and tricycles, Note that among  such foul emitters are MMDA/other government vehicles themselves.
In order to dispel public perception that those ASB tests are for real and not for extortion, the government should assume the burden of proof in accusing or suspecting certain vehicles as smoke belchers. 

For instance, ASBU guys stand in one intersection and take photos of vehicles which are obviously smoke belchers. Then communicate the information to the other ASBU guys ahead, to stop those vehicles for smoke emission test. This way, only a few motorists and their passengers will be inconvenienced. 

Hoping that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), and the various cities in Metro Manila and their respective ASBUs will take this proposal constructively.  Government personnel should not further harass the ordinary citizens and motorists as they are the taxpayers who pay for the salaries, allowances, bonuses, travels, vehicles, and other perks of those working in government.


See also
Anti-smoke belching Racket, January 17, 2011
Anti-Smoke Belching Racket, Part 2, September 15, 2011
Anti-Smoke Belching Racket, Part 3, November 25, 2011

Monday, September 24, 2012

Energy Econ 7: Renewables, FIT, RPS and Climate

Two months ago, I had a friendly discourse with fellow UPSE alumni in our yahoogroups about the Renewable Energy (RE) law, the feed in tariff (FIT), renewable portfolio standards (RPS), the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and climate.

Very civil discourse focused on content and issues, not personalities. Unlike in my recent debate with some anti-coal fanatics who cannot sustain a debate on issues and would quickly slide into personally attacking those who support a coal power plant or those who cast doubts on the renewables. See the 23+ pages debate here,  Energy Econ 6: Intolerance in Anti-Coal Hysteria, Cadiz Coal Project, September 17, 2012.

Before that, let me insert this good chart about the estimated generation cost of various power sources in the US about four years from now.

Reposted with discussion by Willis Eschenbach, The Dark Future of Solar ElectricityDecember 03, 2011.

Here is our discussion. The related tables and charts mentioned here are posted in my article,
Energy Econ 2: Renewable Energy and High Electricity Prices, July 30, 2012.

I am inserting below some photos of wind and solar farms, both the cute and the ugly. Another long paper, about 11 pages including the two images, enjoy!

July 28-30, 2012

Eto na, eto na, how climate alarmism and racket would further rob more money from us, energy consumers.

The guys who were clapping their hands in making our energy prices become even higher are among the champions of climate alarmism racket:

See my brief discussion how Tony la Vina, WWF and Greenpeace fear of being followed even on twitter by people who question their warming religion,

The WB and ADB climate and energy loans racket should be jumping also with joy with this development. 

About 2 or 3 years ago, PDE organized a forum in UPSE about "burning planet and climate mitigation" something like that. The 2 speakers were the head of the Carbon Finance Solutions (CAFIS) and the chief economist of ADB, a Japanese I think. Among those who gave welcome remarks were SE faculty member and now NEDA chief Arsi Balisacan and Prof. Noel de Dios.

Free Trade 27: Proposed EU-PH FTA and TRIPS Plus

Free trade and intellectual property rights (IPR), these are among my favorite topics to discuss and debate. Here are my latest papers on these subjects,

Free Trade 26: "Buy Local" and Protectionism, June 24, 2012
On IPR Abolition 17: Copyright by a Government Corporation, September 02, 2012
IPR and Medicines 24: Balancing Costly Innovation and Cheaper Drugs, March 20, 2012

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) called for a public consultation on “One Country One Voice” (OVOC) regarding the proposed EU-Philippines Free Trade Agreement (FTA) on September 20, 2012. I read about the invitation last September 13 and quickly confirmed my attendance.

Fearing that such proposed FTA might contradict certain provisions of the Cheaper Medicines Law of 2008 or RA 9502, a joint statement was released by MeTA Philippines, Coalition for Health Advocacy and Transparency (CHAT), Ayos na Gamot sa Abot-kayang Presyo (AGAP) and the Fair Trade Alliance (FTA). Below are screen shots of portions of the eight-pages position paper. I checked the websites/blog of AGAP, FTA and MeTA, it’s not posted there.

Below are the exchanges we have the past few days. Copy-pasting them with no alteration, so pardon our French and whatever typo errors, just showing the raw exchanges. I am adding some photos of the event that day.

A bit long, about 17 pages including images/photos, so grab your favorite snacky and enjoy the ride.

September 20-21, 2012:

Hi Pau,

I am sorry that I did not read the attached paper on the joint position of Meta-CHAT-FTA on this issue. I saw this during the MeTA meeting yesterday as Gov Obet presented this. I spoke and commented that the conclusions seem to be an over-reaction to the IPR issue on medicines. Why?

I am not a lawyer but my understanding is that a national legislation like RA 9502 which deals with amending the IP Code on medicines has supremacy over whatever treaty that the Senate and the Executive branch may enter into any country or block of countries. In this case, should it be true that the proposed EU-PH FTA will have provisions extending  patents of drugs, I don't think it will have supremacy over RA 9502 and hence, can not be implemented.

My feeling is that whatever TRIPS Plus provisions will apply to other sectors -- patents on softwares and cell phone applications, see the fight between Samsung and Apple for instance; copyrights on music and movies, see the rampant counterfeiting of DVDs, albums, etc.; or trademark infringement on the brand and logo of huge companies. I read in some newspapers how some individuals caught stealing and using the trademark of other companies so they can sell their copycats at high price. Even Kumon, the tutorial school, its logo and trademark is being stolen by some entities and they too teach "kumon education" and charge the same rate but pay zero royalties to the original brand, and their style may just be a bogus and inferior.

I still have to see the actual document, even in its draft form, of the proposed PH-EU FTA pertaining to medicines. As Daisy Cembrano of GSK said yesterday, after RA 9502, the innovator companies have practically ceded many of their IPRs in the country.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fat-Free Econ 24: Government Fat and Public Expectations

* This is my article yesterday in TV5's news portal,

One of the major perks in government is that one can always live beyond one’s means, to spend larger than projected revenues or income, then just borrow like crazy as lenders are more than willing to lend because government has one huge pool of collateral who are sure to pay a stockpiling debt today and in the future: the taxpayers.

This moral hazard– a person, an institution, etc. can become complacent and irresponsible because someone else is going to pay for whatever mistake in decision, action or inaction made – is perhaps the single biggest explanation why so many governments around the world, rich and poor alike, are heavily indebted. The incumbent politicians shower various forms of subsidies and welfare programs to certain blocks of voters in order to be elected or reelected, and let the future administrations worry where to get the money for the over-spending and over-borrowing made in the past and the present.

The Philippine government suffers from this habit of living beyond one’s means, with or without an economic turmoil, with or without natural calamities, with or without an election. And thus, borrowing has become the rule instead of an exception.

High public debt means high interest payment for those liabilities. From 2010 to 2012, interest payment was almost P300 billion a year on average and comprised nearly one-fifth of the total national budget on average. Next year, some P334 billion will go to interest payment alone, especially for domestic debt.

We often hear that the country’s fiscal condition has stabilized, resulting in some credit ratings upgrade. The Philippine government, or companies which are based in the country, can borrow domestically or internationally and enjoy lower interest rates compared to a few years ago.
While there is truth to this statement, the fact remains that the government cannot avoid drastically cutting the need to borrow to finance a budget deficit, or stop borrowing even for one year. And while new foreign debt securities carry lower interest rates compared to those made a few years ago, the overall interest payment remains huge, if not rising. 

In the table below, only those debt securities that charge $50 million a year or higher are included,  and these items were all contracted for budgetary support or financing the deficit. Multilateral and bilateral loans like from entities like the ADB, WB and JICA, are mainly project loans.

While the fiscal condition of the Philippine government is not as severe as those in some European economies like Greece, Portugal and Spain, this is not an excuse for not doing certain reforms like drastically cutting borrowing and spending to what projected revenues can finance and sustain.

There are two important revenue measures that can be realized in the short term, meaning within one or two years, and can be used to cut borrowing and the public debt and hence, annual interest payments. These are (a) revenues from the hike in excise tax of “sin products” like tobacco and alcohol, and (b) privatization of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation.

Cutting the public debt by say P200 billion, at say 8 percent interest rate, would mean an annual savings of P16 billion. This savings can be used to finance certain programs that would require new borrowings. Unfortunately, the projected revenues from the proposed sin tax hike has already been earmarked or pre-allocated to finance universal health care of PhilHealth and the Department of Health. In the meantime, Pagcor’s privatization is not moving fast enough.

If these measures with huge potential revenues are not passed into law, then another alternative is simply to cut spending, especially in departments and agencies that have no clear contribution to improving the country’s productivity like the Department of National Defense. Or a cut in the budget of public tertiary education, the state universities and colleges and the corruption-prone Department of Public Works and Highways.

Governments will keep expanding along with its coercive powers if people do not assume more personal and parental/guardian responsibility, more civil society roles, in running their own lives, their households and communities.  Public spending and indebtedness will keep rising if it is deemed government’s “responsibility” to purchase small items like condoms and pills, and medicines and healthcare for adults who abuse their own body with over-drinking, over-smoking or over-eating.

Cutting the fat and pork in government spending can start by cutting the unnecessary expectations of the public on the roles and functions of government. 

See also:
Fat-Free Econ 17: SONA, the Budget and Debt, July 22, 2012
Fat-Free Econ 23: Penang Workshop on Markets in Healthcare, September 10, 2012

Fiscal Irresponsibility 23: High Debt and Unemployment and Parliamentarism Hard Sell, May 02, 2012
Fiscal Irresponsibility 24: More on the PIIGS and European Debt, May 16, 2012
Fiscal Irresponsibility 25: Spain Panic, More Eurozone Woes, June 06, 2012
Fiscal Irresponsibility 26: On the $1 B Philippine Loan to the IMF, June 27, 2012

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pol. Ideology 35: Why Liberty

In 2007, I was invited by another free market thinker, Marc Guttman, to contribute a story, personal stories and experiences on how I became a free market thinker, or a libertarian, a classical liberal, related terms, to a book that he would edit and publish, "Why Liberty". Marc knew me through a good friend, Jo Kwong, who was the VP for Institute Relations then of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation.

Lucky me, I was the only Filipino who was invited to contribute to that project. After several revisions to my contribution, and after several glitches with his publisher, the book was finally published in 2010. See details here,

This is the book. Nice and neat, isn't it? There were 54 of us from different countries and continents who contributed a paper. Marc as Editor did not contribute a paper but he wrote the Foreword and did all the legwork to make the book a reality.

My paper is #52, on page 379 of the book. Below is the last draft that I submitted to Marc. I think there were slight revisions to it in the published book.

One can view some reviews, as well as the Foreword, Table of contents, at the book website. Interested to see the whole book, it's available at

Thanks for the opportunity to contribute to that book Marc. Cheers.

From Collective to Individual Liberty
By Bienvenido “Nonoy” Oplas

My introduction to political activism was in my college days in the early 80s at the University of the Philippines (UP), a premier tertiary institution in the country. The movement to oust the Marcos dictatorship which was in power since 1966 was very strong. The former strongman (he died in the late 80s) declared Martial Law in 1972 and ruled by personal decrees and strong police and military forces. Civil rights were drastically curtailed; business monopolies by Mr. Marcos’ friends and cronies were created; and lots of taxpayers money were used to put up hundreds of government corporations and financial institutions to be run by his other friends and political supporters, especially retired police and military personnel so that they would continue  their loyalty to him.

The most consistent and most appealing mass movement especially to student activists then was led by the Maoist-inspired Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in the underground, and its various front and sympathetic organizations above-ground. Thus, my early political formation was molded along the Maoist, anti-dictatorship, anti-imperialism, anti-feudalism, “national democratic” (nat-dem or ND) ideology.

Then in the mid-80s, my buddies and I began discussing the anti-democratic tendencies of most ND organizations. In addition, we were reading the classic writings of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and Lenin, and we interacted with similar individuals, especially some of our professors in the university who were critical not only of the dictatorial tendencies of most ND organizations, but also of the ND ideology itself. We concluded then that the ND movement was theoretically wrong because the Philippines in the 80s was already predominantly capitalist, not feudal. Hence, the call should be socialism, not “controlled capitalism” under national democracy. And the primary leaders of the struggle should be led by the workers and urban poor, not the peasantry. In addition, we felt that socialism, the social ownership of the means of production was a lofty goal to achieve growth with equity, and to help the poor empower themselves. Socialism therefore, should be openly discussed and advocated to a wider audience, at least to our fellow students in UP and other universities.

Thus, we formed our distinct and small socialist movement in UP; later on, we reached out to other allied student organizations in other universities, groups that were anti-dictatorship, open to social transformation, and not fans of the ND philosophy. We also had our own “underground” body, a small group of individuals who were theoretically grounded on Marxism and Leninism, who issued our clandestine socialist newsletter. But we were not as competent and as patient as the NDs in the art of mass organizing and in reaching out to very poor segments of society. Thus, our group failed to expand.  We did retain those whom we had recruited.

When the Marcos dictatorship was finally toppled in 1986 after 20 years in power, there was less fear of political and military harassment. Our group was among the few groups which formed the first openly socialist coalition in the Philippines in 1987, BISIG or “Bukluran sa Ikauunlad ng Sosyalistang Isip at Gawa”, meaning Federation for the Development of Socialist Ideas and Practices. We felt that democratic space opened with the new Cory Aquino government which was made victorious by the first “People Power” revolution, in which we also had participated. I remained active in the socialist movement until 1990.

In 1991, I changed work and for the first time, I worked in government, at the House of Representatives’ economic think tank. Immersed in a new work environment and faced with new set of data and facts, slowly I began to embrace a limited scope of “economic liberalization.” For instance, while I was still in the activist movement, I had previously thought that the bulk of the government’s debt service payment was for foreign debts. When I worked in Congress, I saw lots of detailed data on the budget, numbers that showed that the bulk of debt service payment was from domestic borrowings. Then I got a big assignment to provide technical assistance to the Chairman of the House Committee on Economic Affairs, in a bill liberalizing the entry of foreign investment. Our work was successful with the enactment of the “Foreign Investments Act of 1991.”

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Health Transparency 11: MeTA Philippines and Multistakeholder Process

The Medicines Transparency Alliance (MeTA) Philippines and its multi-stakeholder process and dialogues, along with the DOH Advisory Council on Healthcare (ACH), are the best venues that allowed me to get involved in many policy discussions and even debates on various health issues with various players and stakeholders in this country.

I began writing on health topics in late 2007 after the Symposium on Intellectual Property, Innovations and Health in early September 2007 at Manila Hotel, jointly sponsored by the International Policy Network (IPN) and Minimal Government. I produced lots of blog posts and oped articles in various newspapers, here and other papers in Asia, thanks to IPN media network, on health, especially on intellectual property rights (IPR), drug patents and compulsory licensing, in 2008.

In January 2009, I was invited by the DOH to a first meeting by the Advisory Council. I also invited by Ms. Klara Tisocki, previously with the EU and now with WHO, WPRO, to participate in the MeTA Civil Society Organizations (CSO) mapping two-days workshop. I missed the DOH Advisory Council meeting and the first day of the CSO mapping because I was in Singapore then, in a meeting with fellow free market leaders in Asia.

I was able to attend the 2nd day of the CSO mapping, I was glad to meet the various NGO leaders who were often in the news then because of their involvement in the discussions of the Cheaper Medicines Law or RA 9502, that was enacted in June 2008. I was in the US for the Atlas Liberty Forum when the law was signed that day.

Anyway, I was able to attend the 2nd MeTA National Forum, a 3-days event after the 2-days CSO mapping. I was amazed at the big audience and the wide range of topics that covered not only medicines policy but also other health issues. The officers of MeTA Philippines at that time were former DOH Secretary Alberto "Quasi" Romualdez as Chairman, former Bulacan Governor and former PITC President Roberto "Obet" Pagdangan as Chairman, and Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go as Secretary General.

Since then, I got involved in the formation of the Coalition for Health Advocacy and Transparency (CHAT), the civil society partner of MeTA Philippines, as well as other MeTA fora and discussions.

Below, during the MeTA National Forum in January 2010. This is the press conference made while there were on-going panel discussions. Second photo, from left: Nancy Tacandong, acting FDA Director at that time; Gov. Obet, Doc Quasi, Wilbert Bannenberg, the Technical Consultant of MeTA in London, and Reiner Gloor of PHAP.

Group photo also during the 3rd MeTA National Forum. It was a 2-days forum, also held at Diamond Hotel. I attended this forum but I don't think I joined that group photo. I got this from the MeTA website,

Lower photo is another two-days MeTA forum on universal health care (UHC). I was able to attend this too, held at the Ramon Magsaysay Center.

More multi-stakeholder discussion workshops by MeTA sometime in March 2010. I was not there. Lower photo, I like that shot of a friend, respected academic and immediate past Director of FDA, Doc Suzette Lazo, speaking, nice.

We also have several discussions on our own in CHAT, photos below. MeTA Philippines alloted a separate budget for CHAT to conduct various health education and discussion activities.

I am thankful for the nth time, to MeTA Philippines and its multi-stakeholder process in policy discussions. Many members of the MeTA Council are also members of the DOH ACH. They have different agenda topics though as the latter is focused more on policy advice on certain issues to the DOH Secretary while those of MeTA are topics that each member and organization representatives should do in collaboration with each other.

The current officers of MeTA Philippines since about two years ago are Gov. Obet as Chairman, former DOH UnderSec and now PhilHealth VP Alex Padilla Unilab VP Joey Ochave as Vice Chairman, Cecille Sison of HealthWatch as Secretary General, and former PPhA President Normita Leyesa as Treasurer.

Recently, MeTa decided to expand membership of the Council. They will also be charging annual membership fees to members, both as organizational representatives and as individuals. For me this is a good move. A civil society organization like MeTA Philippines, should be able to raise funds internally through annual dues and other activities, and be less dependent on assistance from UK's Department for International Development (DFID) and WHO.

There is an expanded meeting this afternoon, I shall be attending it.

See also:
Health Transparency 6: Physician Protectionism, May 19, 2012
Health Transparency 7: DOH Advisory Council, CHAT, June 04, 2012
Health Transparency 8: Advisory Council on RA 9502, June 11, 2012
Health Transparency 9: Physician Misdiagnosis, Dispensing Medicines, July 20, 2012
Health Transparency 10: Depoliticizing Health, Corporatizing Government Hospitals, September 18, 2012

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Health Transparency 10: Depoliticizing Health, Corporatizing Government Hospitals

Health and education, unlike food and clothing, are among the most politicized services in many countries around the world including the Philippines. The extent of government involvement in healthcare in the Philippines for instance, runs from the barangay or village level (barangay health workers, rural health units, etc.) to the municipality and city to provincial (city and provincial health offices, hospitals) to national (DOH, PhilHealth, FDA, etc.) up to the multilateral and bilateral (WHO, UN, WB, USAID, DFID, etc.) levels.

When we talk about health transparency, we refer not only to all those government agencies and offices of course, but also to the various stakeholders and players in the health sector -- the corporations (pharma manufacturers, wholesalers, drugstores, hospitals, HMOs, etc.), academe and civil society organizations. But unlike corporate entities that are subject to competition among themselves and regulation by the government, the public or government sector is the largest, the most extensive, the most bureaucratic and the most politicized, naturally. So the big challenge in health transparency is how to make the various government agencies be more transparent, be more accountable, and if only possible, be shrinkable if they do not perform their mandate and the various public expectations of them.

I am posting below three recent articles by a friend who also writes a weekly newspaper column, Reiner Gloor of the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP). Reiner writes in BusinessWorld, a big business newspaper here in the country. His three articles here are on:

1. Governance in Health, August 23, 2012,
2. Health in the Reform Agenda, August 30, 2012, and
3. To corporatize or not to corporatize, September 06, 2012.

All of these topics were tackled under the (DOH) "Secretary's Cup" discussion series in various places and dates.

The first article is about the role of local government units (LGUs) in healthcare delivery; the second is about the linkage and the need for collaboration between healthcare providers including the government, and patients or the public. And the third is about the need for public-private partnership (PPP) in currently government-owned and controlled hospitals that lack resources and managerial skills to make them more financially stable and less dependent on politics and politicians.

Of course I do not believe that public health can be depoliticized. When government implements various healthcare service provision from the barangay up to the national level, involvement and intrusion by politicians and administrators is inevitable.So the move towards corporatizing -- not privatizing as commonly misunderstood -- of certain government hospitals is a move to lessen the politics of healthcare.

Below are the three papers by Reiner. Enjoy.

(1) Governance in health

Posted on 06:16 PM, August 23, 2012

Medicine Cabinet -- Reiner W. Gloor

(First of a series)

IN COUNTRIES where democracy is strong, public discourse is crucial as it provides citizens the capacity and opportunity to talk about and debate relevant issues to spark action and bring about necessary change. This belief that public discourse results in political action is based on the so-called public sphere theory, one which is necessary in realizing comprehensive health reforms in the country.

Towards this end, the Secretary’s Cup has been launched in search for common judgment on proposed reforms in this era of universal healthcare. Apart from the monthly talk series by the country’s health luminaries, town hall meetings and inter-collegiate debates have been put in motion specifically focusing on governance.

However, public discourse operates in opposites, particularly in the health sector. We see this in the ongoing debate on the reproductive health bill and the proposed “corporatization” versus “privatization.”

But does it always have to be “versus”?

Governance, being one of the six building blocks of a health system, is not synonymous to government. Former health secretary Alberto Romualdez explained that governance is “not just about government, but deals with how the government and other institutions arrive at decisions and implement them towards meaningful changes that are beneficial to the people.” The government’s role, thus, is to aim at building consensus and forming partnerships, replacing the operative word “versus” with “and,” paving the way for synergism and constructive, not oppositional, relationships.

In strengthening health governance, it is imperative to discuss the pros and cons of health devolution in the era of universal healthcare, the role of the proposed corporatization of government hospitals in boosting health services at the local government level, and applicability of the no balance billing to local hospitals.

Dr. Gideon Lasco, a member of the Universal Health Care Study Group of the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health, endeavored to elaborate on these current issues in time for the Secretary’s Cup debate on governance.