Friday, November 30, 2012

Rotary Notes 6: Andres Bonifacio and Philippine History

Today is another Philippine holiday to commemorate the death of Andres Bonifacio, one of the pillars of the Philippine revolution against Spain in the late 1890s.

Last June this year, our rotary club sponsored a talk from a UP historian about Andres Bonifacio. I posted it last June 12, 2012,  Independence Day, Andres Bonifacio and Liberty. Portions of that short paper, below.

Prof. Michael Charlestone "Xiao" Chua of De La Salle University (DLSU) History Department gave a talk to our club on "Undress Bonifacio: Paghubad sa Mito ng Bobong Supremo" (Undress Bonifacio: Exposing myths of a stupid supreme leader), held at Metro Club, Rockwell, Makati.

I thought that Michael would look down on Andres Bonifacio, he did the opposite. He said that unlike common conceptions (or misconceptions) and beliefs about the man, Andres Bonifacio was:

1. Not the typical bolo-wielding leader in many monuments around the country. Rather, the person there was a typical Katipunan rebel who revolted against Spain.
2. No ordinary worker-leader, he was a middle class worker in an British company and could speak, read and write English;
3. Was an intellectual, he read many books about the French Revolution, Napoleon, American Revolution, Rizal's two books, other literatures.
4. The first Philippine President when he reorganized the Katipunan from a secret rebel group to an open revolutionary government with himself as the Supremo, set the date of simultaneous armed uprising against Spanish forces. This was around August 28, 1896. 

I learned many things from Prof. Chua's talk. It so happened that our club's name is RC Taguig Fort Bonifacio, a former AFP camp called Fort (Andres) Bonifacio. From his talk, I was convinced that Bonifacio was indeed the first President of the Philippines and not Emilio Aguinaldo.

Prof. Chua also showed various writings by Andres Bonifacio that were relegated by mainstream education about the Philippine Revolution. For instance, for Bonifacio, to love the country, the community, oneself, is not so much to launch a revolution, but in doing one's work with honor and dignity. Honesty, dignity, integrity, these were some of the central teachings of Bonifacio and other Katipunan leaders then. These could be traced to their being FreeMasons. My Mason friend, Ozone Azanza, says that it is very basic and simple to become a Mason -- be a responsible father and husband, able to provide the needs of the family, has humility and personal integrity. Amen to that.

Advancing the philosophy of freedom and liberty, individual freedom and national independence, more personal responsibility and integrity, are among the important teachings of the anti-colonialism independence movement then which remain to have high relevance today. Personal  independence from colonizers, politicians and the high priests of coercion and deception. They remain an important challenge for liberty minded writers and propagandists.

See also:
Rotary Notes 1: Barangay Roads and Solar Panels, August 30, 2010

Drug Innovation 6: Dealing with Drug-Resistant TB

Diseases evolve. These are living micro-organisms -- bacteria, virus, etc. -- that feed on certain organs of the human body. They are part of human and natural evolution, sadly. That is why treatment and cure of old and re-emerging diseases must evolve too, endlessly. That is why drug innovation, medical science and diagnostics innovation, must continue to evolve and modernize.

Below are some stories of drug-resistant tuberculosis, as well as challenges to deal with malaria, an old disease that continues to kill hundreds of thousands of people every year until now. Estimated global death from malaria in 2010 was twice that of WHO estimates of 655,000 people. A BMGF funded study published in The Lancet showed that for the same year, estimated death from malaria was 1.24 million people, mostly children, and mostly in Africa.

1. TB drug resistance, from, August 30, 2012
2. Cure for malaria, from, October 25, 2012
3. Malaria deaths, from The Lancet and BBC.

TB drug resistance a fast-growing problem, researchers warn

August 30, 2012

PARIS - Researchers on Thursday sounded the alarm over drug-resistant tuberculosis, calling it a curse that was swiftly becoming more difficult and costly to treat.

In eight countries they studied, 43.7 percent of TB patients did not respond to at least one second-line TB drug, a strategy used when the most powerful first-line drugs fail.

The probe, covering Estonia, Latvia, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and Thailand, is reported in The Lancet medical journal.

"Most international recommendations for TB control have been developed for MDR (multidrug-resistant) TB prevalence of up to around five percent. Yet now we face prevalence up to 10 times higher in some places," Sven Hoffner of the Swedish Institute for Communicable Disease Control wrote in a comment carried by The Lancet.

The study also found a 6.7 percent rate for an even more worrying form of resistance called XDR -- for extensively drug-resistant -- TB. It means a patient who does not respond to any two second-line drugs.

An airborne disease of the lungs, tuberculosis is usually treatable with a six-month course of antibiotics.

But if patients do not take their medicines as prescribed, the bacteria that causes TB can develop resistance to the drugs. In rare cases, people can also be infected with already resistant strains.

MDR TB in the United States can cost as much as $250,000 (200,000 euros) per patient to treat.

XDR TB requires about two years of treatment with even more expensive drugs that often cause side-effects and offer no guarantee of a cure.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 8.8 million people fell ill with TB in 2010 and 1.4 million died. Co-infection with the disease causes about a quarter of all deaths among people with HIV.

"So far, XDR TB has been reported in 77 countries worldwide, but exact prevalence remains unclear," study author Tracy Dalton of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.

Monday, November 26, 2012

PhilHealth Watch 13: SHInES on Social Solidarity

PhilHealth President, Dr. Eduardo "Dodo" P. Banzon, gave a nationwide lecture via teleconference this afternoon (2-5pm). It's the PhilHealth SHInES (Social Health Insurance Educational Series) at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) in Makati and to aired live at Central Philippine University (CPU) in Iloilo City; Silliman University in Dumaguete City, USEP in Davao City, Ateneo De Naga in Naga City, and  SPU in Tuguegarao City. The Zuellig Center at the AIM organized the forum.

My events alarm failed to remind me of this important forum, I realized it only past 5pm when I saw the email invite from Zuellig Center. Oh my, signs of ageing I guess.

So I better write about the event. The objective of this exercise is for PhilHealth together with the Department of Health, further inform the public so that
The country can attain Universal Health Care (UHC) or Kalusugang Pangkalahatan (KP). Through the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP), PhilHealth seeks to provide financial risk protection to all Filipinos and ensure that no Filipino will be afraid of getting sick. There is need for a thorough understanding of the philosophy behind social health insurance – social solidarity and equity.
Dr. Banzon would talk on five presentation Topics:

1. Social Health Insurance and Social Solidarity
2. Legacies of Social Health Insurance
3. Health Inequalities in the Philippines
4. Universal Health Care, Redefined
5. Social Health Insurance Towards Universal Health Care

I think many of those topics are self-explanatory, like UHC, meaning all Filipinos and Philippine-based foreigners, will get government-health insurance at least portions of their total bill when they are hospitalized, which is good. Currently, PhilHealth also gives outpatient coverage for the poor, the CCT beneficiairies. But there are two subjects that I think are misunderstood or misdefined by PhilHealth: solidarity and health insurance..

On social solidarity, for me this is voluntary, it is never done via coercion. Each huge flooding in the Philippines for instance affecting hundreds of thousands of individuals or households, millions of Filipinos and foreigners who were not affected or only slightly affected, would quickly send in whatever resources they have -- canned foods, drinking water, medicines, old clothes, shoes and blankets, construction materials, money, and so on. This is solidarity, spontaneous assistance to the less privilege without coercion or a big agency like the government penalizing people if they will not give anything.

Thus, "social solidarity" cannot apply in the context of government-mandated programs. PhilHealth membership and contribution is not done via volunteerism but via coercion, like membership and contribution in Social Security System (SSS) and housing fund (PAG-IBIG). Whether people like those government services or not, whether they benefit or not, they have to pay a monthly or yearly contribution to the government.

On social health insurance, I do not think that this should imply government monopolization or nationalization of the service, something that is happening in many countries around the world, in both the rich and developing countries.. The important point is that all people, each individual, young and old, rich and poor, men and women, legitimate or non-legitimate children, should have a health insurance card that will cover not only hospitalization or in-patient services, but more importantly, outpatient services. Serious illness and diseases leading to hospitalization can often be prevented if people get treated early enough.

In food, there is no government restaurant or carinderia corporation, or a government supermarket and talipapa. There are a few government restaurants in government schools and offices but majority are privately-owned and operated. And yet people are eating. Why? Because of differentiated pricing, of market segmentation. People can choose to buy or cook food from the cheapest to the most expensive price levels. So the one that gives "food insurance" to the people is access to different food products at different prices for different needs and food taste of different people. There is no single price for each food item.

When government insists on service monopolization, it is courting financial disaster, either for the patient or for the government coffers in the long term, or both. In many countries in welfarist Europe, their public spending for healthcare is among the biggest items in their annual budget, which significantly contributes to their huge public debt and economic instability. A "free" or a heavily subsidized service like healthcare would attract huge demand, which outpaces the supply, always.

Demand larger than supply in healthcare shows in various ways. One is lousy service, say a government physician sees a patient, writes a few prescription and calls the next patient after just one or two minutes. Since government healthcare personnel are on fixed income, whether they treat 10 or 50 or 100 patients a day, the pay is the same. So in cases of high volume patients, the tendency is to cut the quality of service or the average time spent for patient education and preventive healthcare.

Two is modest or good service but patients have to wait for several days or weeks before they can get an appointment with a government physician or other healthcare professionals. If a doctor has to spend at least 30 minutes for each patient and he can spend only five hours a day on consultations as he has other work to do like hospital or school administrative assignment, or teaching in a medical school, or doing a clinical research, or oall of them, then he can see only 10 patients a day maximum. If there are 30 or more patients wanting to get his service, then the other 20 have to wait for days or weeks before the physician can see them.

Three is high number of government physicians and other health professionals to take care of high number of patients to minimize or eradicate long waiting period, but this will result in huge public spending and perennial budget deficit, leading to ever-rising public debt. Healthcare, preventive or curative, is not composed of seeing a physician alone. There are diagnostic tests to take, from urine test to blood test to X-ray to CT scan, etc., and these procedures are more often than not, very costly. So if we add up the professional fee + diagnostic tests fee + other hospital or clinic fee, the cost per patient will easily rise.

In order to avoid these pitfalls and financial catastrophe, both at the short- and long-term, it is important to give huge leeway or room for personal, parental, corporate, and civil society responsibility in healthcare. Government responsibility in healthcare should be a supplement only, not a primary source of financing.

I suggested in my earlier paper,

Socialized Healthcare 11: Private Health Insurance and HC Vouchers (November 16, 2012), that government involvement in healthcare can be in the form of giving people health vouchers, a flat rate per person per head. So instead of creating new government hospitals and spending huge amount for their maintenance, government can give each household a voucher, and the people, rich and poor alike, can choose which among the various hospitals, clinics, HMOs and other health facilities, can give them the kind of healthcare they need. Different HC services for different people with different budget and different health needs. Those who tend to abuse their body, they over-eat, over-drink, over-sit, over-smoke, must get a more expensive health insurance as their HC needs will be higher than the average person.


See also:
PhilHealth Watch 9: Physicians talk about PHIC, October 16, 2011
PhilHealth Watch 10: Hospital Bill Deductions, December 29, 2011
PhilHealth Watch 11: Is PHIC an Insurance Company?, June 12, 2012
PhilHealth Watch 12: Assistance to Leptospirosis Patients, September 03, 2012

Fat-Free Econ 31: On the Kasambahay, Solo Parents Welfare Bills

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

State welfare is sometimes defined as “the politicians are well, taxpayers pay the fare.” This is true for taxpayers’ funded welfare and subsidy programs for the poor, like the conditional cash transfer (CCT), education and healthcare, housing and credit, train subsidy and tractors, or condoms and pills.

But there are other state welfare programs that are not funded by taxpayers. Instead, the government forces private enterprises and employers to provide mandatory price discounts to consumers, or mandatory high wages and other benefits to workers. Those caught violating will penalized. Examples of this type of welfare are the minimum wage law and mandatory discounts to senior citizens and persons with disabilities.

There is a measure that is expected to become a law soon - the “Kasambahay Bill” or “Domestic Workers Act” lodged as Senate Bill No. 78 and House Bill No. 6144. The bicameral conference committee has already approved a common measure this week. Among the provisions of the unified bill are:

- Monthly minimum wage of P2,500 in the National Capital Region, P2,000 in chartered cities and first class municipalities, and P1,500 in other municipalities;
- Kasambahay entitled to other social benefits such as Social Security System, Philhealth, and Pag-Ibig Fund, with employers shouldering the premium payments if the helpers receive a monthly salary below P5,000; and
- Kasambahay should have a written contract specifying the terms of employment, a pay slip, daily and weekly rest periods, service incentive leave of five days with pay, 13th month pay, and so on.

The premise is that domestic workers are generally exploited by their employers and so must be protected by the state. This logic can be faulty. Hiring of domestic helpers is a private and often intimate contract with workers who often live in the house of the employers and know many confidential and sensitive information about the household.

It is hardly possible for employers to maltreat their kasambahay as they will be exposing themselves and other family members to danger when the kasambahay will not do their work properly. Like a nanny who fails to attend just for a minute to a baby who climbs the stairs or a high chair, then falls down.

Employers often grant salaries and other perks more than necessary to inspire their kasambahay to do their work well, and make them stay long with the family. There are many instances when a yaya would take care of a baby until he/she becomes an adolescent. The employers no longer treat them as ordinary domestic workers but as extended family members.

Lazy, inefficient or rumor-mongering workers are usually fired by their employers, rendering the mandated welfare moot and useless. In the same vein, abusive employers also lose their good workers in just a few days or months. This is a penalty worse than government-mandated penalties and fines as the household heads can hardly work in their offices since they have to take care of the kids, suffering a steep decline in productivity.

The bottom line is legislative measures like the Kasambahay Bill are generally unnecessary.

Then there are two Senate bills that want to give various mandatory discounts to solo parents. SB 2563, which Senator Manny Villar introduced, seeks to amend Republic Act No. 8972 or the “Solo Parents Welfare Act of 2000,” giving additional benefits to solo parents, including a 20 percent discount on all purchases of milk or formula products, diapers, medicines and supplements, other necessary infant items for children 0-4 years old.

SB 1439 by Sen. Loren Legarda provides the following additional benefits to solo parents:

- 10 percent discount on all purchases of clothing materials for children 0-2 years old;
- 15 percent discount on all purchases of baby’s milk, food and food supplements for children 0-2 years old; and
- 15 percent discount on all purchases of medicines and other medical supplements/supplies for children 0-5 years old.

There are serious flaws in these two bills forcing companies to give mandatory discounts.

One, they assume that all solo parents in the country are poor or financially distressed. This is not true.  Some solo parents are rich or have rich family members who can give them assistance in cash or kind.

Two, the bills assume that all shops, manufacturers and traders that produce or sell these goods are rich or financially stable and hence, can afford to give such discounts without adversely affecting their financial conditions. Again this is not true. While some companies are financially stable, others are not or may even be on the brink of bankruptcy due to various financial, economic and social challenges here and abroad.

Three, the bills assume that even financially unstable shops, manufacturers and importers of these products will continue selling these goods. This is wrong. One result of the implementation of RA 9994 or the “Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010” - which requires 32 percent discount on medicine purchases - is that small drugstores that cannot afford to keep selling medicines at a loss have stopped selling essential medicines to senior citizens. Senior citizens living in small and rural municipalities have to travel farther to bigger cities so they can buy at Mercury or other large chain pharmacies.

This proves again that Newton’s third law of motion - “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” - can also apply in economics. This can be aptly restated thus: “For every government intervention to force welfare, there is an equal and opposite reaction that results in dis-welfare."

The economic tensions in Greece, Spain and other European economies that are limping from heavy public debts are additional proof that heavy welfarism can create more long-term harm than benefits. The bills on Kasambahay and Solo parents, as well as many other welfarist programs should be abandoned. Government should focus on promulgating the rule of law, protecting property rights and the citizens’ basic freedom, instead of forcing equality among people. 

See also:
Fat-Free Econ 27: Sin Tax and Nannyism, October 22, 2012
Fat-Free Econ 28: Poverty, Planning and Populism, October 29, 2012
Fat-Free Econ 29: Anti-capitalism, Fanaticism and the Poor, November 13, 2012
Fat-Free Econ 30: BPOs and Obama, November 14, 2012

Unrest in MidEast Africa 10: Israel-Hamas War 2012

This is my article last Friday in the online magazine with the original title, "Tolerance, Co-existence and the Middle East Conflict",

The world is modernizing, people and goods are becoming more mobile across countries and continents, and diversity and spontaneity among people is expanding. This new situation calls for more tolerance, to recognize such diversity among people without resorting to violence. Tolerance of people diversity guided by existing rules and respect for the rights of other people to co-exist will ensure peace in the planet.

This is not happening in the Middle East as shown by the recent eight-days war between the Palestine in Gaza and Israel. A truce became effective on November 22 brokered by the governments of Egypt and the US. But this seems to be another temporary respite from another war.

The main problem in the Middle East conflict is the lack of respect or recognition for peaceful co-existence between the Palestine and Israel. While the latter recognizes the former’s right of existence, the latter, especially the Hamas militants, does not show the same attitude.

After the six-days war in 1967 where many Arab nations simultaneously attacked Israel but they were all defeated and they all retreated, Israel could have abolished Gaza from the map and allowed only the West Bank as the homeland for the Palestinians, but they did not. In contrast, Hamas wants nothing but the total abolition of Israel from the map and the whole of Israel will become a homeland for the Palestinians. Peaceful co-existence is a strange or even a non-acceptable word for Hamas and other Arab militants.

As long as Hamas and other Arab militants want the total abolition of Israel, war in that area will be endless as Israel will defend itself and its people. And since Israel has the economic and military superiority over the Palestinians, then in any war between the two, damage and casualty will always be larger on the Palestine side.

When Israel conducted those aerial attacks and bombings, many Palestinian civilians, most likely family members and neighbors of Hamas militants, were injured or killed. To avoid or minimize high civilian casualties, Hamas militants should have their own military installations away from houses and schools. They can fire rockets from there, not from houses, schools or other civilian structures.

A quick look at the Middle East map would show that Syria and Jordan, next to the West Bank, have huge lands. Can they donate a portion of their lands for their brother Palestinians?


Egypt too has a huge land area, can they also donate some land to their brother Palestinians in Gaza? Why insist on the abolition of Israel from the map? Israel land area is actually very small compared to those of Jordan, Saudi, Iraq, Egypt, Syria and Iran.

Israel must also temper the fundamentalists among its citizens like those who expand Jewish settlements in contested territories or those considered neutral grounds with the West Bank.

A friend from Pakistan, Zubair Malik, argued that “Victory has many fathers, defeat has none! I wish you should have seen the plight of Palestinian before commenting. Houses destroyed, innocent women and children killed. Have Fear of God and this applies to both Israel and Palestinians . Every Human Life irrespective of color or creed has a right to peaceful existence.”

I told Zubair that like him and many other people around the world, I also wish to see PEACE anywhere in the world. No more rockets to land anywhere, no more jet fighters dropping bombs, nor tanks and ground fighting. I even wish that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) be abolished someday along with the evaporation of armed revolution by the communist New People’s Army (NPA). We need to have more tolerance, more respect for human rights, more respect for the right to existence of other people other than our color, religion, or cultural belief, and settle disputes in non-violent means.

The old formula of "banish Israel from the planet" is formulation of deep intolerance, of deep hatred and non-recognition of diversity among people, So long as such intolerance and desire for physical annihilation of another group of people persists, the war in that region will be endless. And when there is war, there is high casualty of civilians, their houses, schools, other structures.

I stumbled upon this document, the Hamas Charter.

"The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!" -- Article Seven, Hamas Charter (1988) .

Why is there such explicit, categorical exhortation to hatred and murder? Why this deep intolerance?

The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank seems to be more tolerant compared to Hamas in Gaza. From the Hamas Charter of 1988, there was heavy reference to Allah, their literature can mislead non-Muslim readers into believing that the explicit hatred and categorical violence that they espouse is consistent with the Muslim faith, which is not true.

Now that a truce and ceasefire is in effect, we can sigh with relief that the rockets and air attacks on both sides have stopped. Let us hope that a lasting peace can prevail in that region, whether it will take a thousand years or more. Respect for diversity among people is our key to building a prosperous and peaceful planet.

See also:
Israel-Hezbollah war, August 08, 2006
Unrest in MidEast-Africa 5: Gadhafi wealth, March 01, 2011
Unrest in MidEast-Africa 6: Should US jets enter Libya?, March 08, 2011 
Unrest in MidEast-Africa 7: Cry for freedom, March 11, 2011 
Unrest in MidEast-Africa 8: Bahrain rebellion, March 16, 2011
Unrest in MidEast-Africa 9: Gaddafi falldown, August 24, 2011

Busiiness 360 1: Nepal and the Philippines

My friend in Kathmandu, Nepal, Charu Chadha, is into publication. I have met her first in Phuket, Thailand, in 2005, during the Atlas colloquium on Friedrich Hayek's book, "The Constitution of Liberty". 

Charu recently rolled out the first issue of her new mgazine, Business 360. The magazine hit the newstand last November 01 in Kathmandu and other cities of Nepal. In its facebook page, it says,  

"Business 360 is a magazine that promises to deliver on quality business news content, profiles of entrepreneurs and leaders, features on issues that matter, articles that assess and analyze policy and delivery mechanisms in the world of trade and commerce."

Charu invited me to be one of the guest columnists in her new paper, a request that I quickly accepted. I would write once a month only. So in the first issue, my first article also appeared.

Below is my article. A friend and batchmate from UPSE, Leo Riingen, who is in Kathmandu for a vacation, saw the magazine. He scanned a copy of my article, below. Thanks Leo!

Nepal and the Philippines, Mountains and the Seas

Bienvenido “Nonoy” Oplas

Manila – Coming from a country with more than 7,000 islands and islets, sometimes called “a country of ocean and seas with islands in it”, a land-locked country like Nepal with so many huge mountains would appear like a strange world.

But It is a good contrast and an interesting perspective to study and draw comparison and lessons, geography wise. Much of the Philippines’ economy is based on the ocean and the seas – international trade, beaches and tourism, fishing and inter-island transportation. This is something that some people in Nepal  perhaps would wish to have, while adventurous people in the Philippines would also wish to see if not live near Nepal’s world-known mountains and rivers.

History wise, the Philippines has little or nothing in common with Nepal and many other Asian countries. First, we are the only Asian country colonized by Spain, for more than 300 years until 1898. Second, we are also the only Asian country, and perhaps the only country around the world, that was colonized by the US, from 1898 until the Japanese came to colonize us too during World War II.

But in recent history, we have several things in common. One, we both have Maoist Communist insurgency. The Maoist Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has been around for more than four decades since 1969. Their revolution has morphed from an ideology-based capture of state power via armed struggle, to extortion-based “revolutionary taxation” where some provincial companies must pay them huge amount of money, or the penalty includes burning and destruction of company properties.

Two, we both seem to have high incidence of corruption in government, from local to national agencies.  The Philippines has pioneered the “People Power” revolution and two notoriously corrupt Presidents were toppled in power via two peaceful but  huge and sustained protests, in 1986 and 2001. And still corruption is persistent until today.

Three, we seem to have both strong and politically articulate labor unions that are able to successfully lobby for rigid labor laws that tend to constrict many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and drive many of them to go to the informal sector.

Four, we both have high percentage of the population living outside the country. Out of the Philippines’ estimated population of 95 million people, about 10 million are residing, studying and working in many countries around the world. While out of Nepal’s estimated 27 million population, nearly two million are living and working abroad.

There should be many other similarities, like the single-digit inflation rate, and the level of government debt as a percentage of the economy’s gross domestic product.

2012 Est.
PPP GDP per capita,
US $
% of GDP
Inflation rate,
Government Debt,
% of GDP

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook, April 2012 Database

The rather high degree of the population that live and work abroad is an indicator not so much that the governments of both countries are great believers of free market, free trade and free mobility of people and capital. On the contrary, these governments seem to be too bureaucratic if not paranoid, of free trade and free mobility of capital, especially foreign capital. So the locals do not have enough jobs and opportunities for entrepreneurship, so they went abroad to seek a better future.

The mountains and the seas represent huge tourism and economic opportunities for both countries. There is only one country in the world that has Mt. Everest and many other huge mountains, while there are only few archipelagic countries in the world with thousands of islands, white sand beaches and dive spots that can lure tens of millions  visitors and tourists, both local and foreign.

The mountains and the seas represent deep individual aspirations: to scale and reach high ambitions and hopes, and to explore the wide expanse of the planet where both personal and economic opportunities are boundless.

This is the big challenge for the people of both Nepal and the Philippines. To limit the restrictions and unnecessary regulations and coercion of the state, so that the average individuals and citizens can scale their own mountains and explore their own niche in this wide and huge planet.

MMDA, LGUs and Towing Racket

A friend, professor at De La Salle University (DLSU) Political Science Department, Prof. Eric Vincent Batalla, posted in his facebook wall last Friday this story: He gave me permission to blog his story, thanks Eric.

Early Christmas Bonus to the Metro Manila Development Authority towing services. Yesterday morning, my son and I brought some stuff at the condo on Taft Avenue. In order not to obstruct traffic, I parked in front of 7-Eleven behind those parking obstruction poles attached to concrete slabs on the road. These are usually used by buildings so no one could park in front. Well, the car was towed five minutes after it was parked and while I was inside the building. So, fine. It was illegal parking after all this time and I was guilty (but the claim of obstruction? that was funny). The car was brought to the MMDA Ultra-1 Compound in Ortigas, which registered a trip of 17 kilometers for the towing company.

He then added these details in the comments section:

The new MMDA regulation signed by Chairman Francis Tolentino says you pay towing services of P1,500 for the first four kilometers and P200 for each succeeding kilometer. So I paid P4k to the towing company plus P500 to the MMDA for the violation. So I paid and went home yesterday feeling unlucky hahaha. But there are at least a couple of questions that are hard to answer. First, why was the car which was parked in Manila brought to a distant impounding center (and not in Manila where the offense was committed)? Second, why does the MMDA, which is supposed to coordinate with Metro LGUs, permit a private towing company to tow and make money out of distance charges by bringing the car to the Ultra-1 impounding Center and not to Manila's impounding center? It is truly the season of giving gifts.

Don't get me wrong. I admire the new MMDA chair. However, does this suggest a loophole?

I'll raise this issue to the MMDA. If this administration wants to govern well, it should pay attention to the everyday injustices. I did mind paying a fortune but it was a helpless situation. In the Philippines, the culture of impunity is strong. Ordinary people learn how to be helpless in the face of daily abuse. And they say it's more fun in the Philippines. They've got to put their act together hahaha.

I really think that the car should have been impounded in the city of Manila, not in Ortigas where I had to pay more. One can easily speculate on the commissions to bureaucrats.

I also commented in his wall, I said that he has another first-hand experience of the rule of men, not rule of law. And since they towed his car without a driver inside, the hand brake was not released and the car put in neutral gear, then that means brake pad or lining is already damaged, he will have to spend several thousand pesos more to replace it plus labor. And the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) will not admit accountability for that additional damage and costs.

If one will move around, one can easily spot cars that are illegally parked, mostly jeepneys,  tricycles, police and government cars (red plate), and armored vans. These vehicles are not towed, nor their drivers are penalized. 

If not the MMDA, other local government units (LGUs) like the respective city governments, have their own towing operations, aside from other regulations like the anti-smoke belching units (ASBUs) and their various racket.

Here are photos of towed cars in Makati alone. 

Notice the car below, two towing vehicles carried it. 

We citizens pay various taxes for the salaries and perks of government personnel, then we pay more to them as they tow our cars even for flimsy reasons, as ASBUs apprehend diesel powered vehicles even if these are not smoke belchers, other ither forms of harassment and prohibitions. 

BIG government is all about parasitism, both national and local governments.

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

Anti-Smoke Belching Racket, Part 4, September 25, 2012