cost-benefit analysis of the Philippines’ recent arms purchases
By JOSEPH BAYANA
April 19, 2014
Most Filipinos, and both the
United States and Chinese governments, are being taken for a ride by
the Noy Aquino administration. The only group benefitting from an
American military visitation agreement and the purchase of boats,
planes, and helicopters for the Philippine military is the Aquino/Cojuangco
political dynasty. This can be proven by a simple cost-benefit
analysis. Defined as a comparison and breakdown of a project’s price
tag and its worth as a private or public good, a cost-benefit analysis
is a simple way to know if a plan should push through or not.
Consider the price of two US
Coast Guard boats named Hamilton and Dallas. They were refurbished for
$10 million each and then bought by the Philippine government to
become the BRP Gregorio del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcaraz. Who earned
the $10 million? The American shipbuilding company Huntington Ingalls
Industries of the state of Virginia. This means jobs and money for
American workers and businesses, the most important benefactor of the
American defense industry. Yet even this $10 million is nothing
compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars the American taxpayer
is spending for Balikatan and other joint exercises with the
Philippines military. The cost to the Noy Aquino is a nod and a
signature but the benefits for his family extend beyond his lifetime.
To the American taxpayers, the costs are tens of millions with the
benefits limited to a few thousand people in Virginia. At least they
Who paid almost 1 billion
pesos for these boats? Of course, the Filipino taxpayer who will not
reap any benefits from the cost of buying ships. Since no jobs or
businesses were created in the Philippines after the purchase of these
vessels, it is a bad investment that will only benefit the Aquino/Cojuangco
political machinery. It can be argued that $10 million was spent to
prepare the Philippines Coast Guard for natural calamities and
typhoons. But the boats do not create jobs for Filipinos. Buying them
was more for the emotional satisfaction of the nation’s population. If
diminishing returns were to be considered, the cost-benefit analysis
for Filipinos would even be worse.
Then there’s the
$184-million loan from Japan extended to the Philippines to buy 10
waterborne vessels. A well-known practice by banks all over the world
is to lend consumers money to purchase a house, a car, or to set up a
business. Filipino-Americans and Filipinos in the US know this, the
Americans know this, the Japanese financial system understands the
processes, but the Filipino government asks for money to buy boats
from the same lender and seller. With an exchange rate of $1 to P43,
the cost to the Filipino taxpayer is more than P7.9 billion. All
benefits go to the Japanese shipbuilding and financial industries
while Filipinos are left with boats that do not create jobs or
businesses in the Philippines. Again, it can be argued that boats are
for natural calamities and typhoons but buying them was still for the
emotional satisfaction of Filipinos. They feel good so money is not a
problem even if the government does not have it. Of course, at the
forefront of this pursuit of hedonism is the Aquino administration.
Added to these costs is
another $100 million to buy eight helicopters from Canada, $116
million to France for five patrol boats, and $420 million for 12 FA-50
fighter jets from the Korea Aerospace Industries. The benefits to
Canadians and South Koreans are immeasurable because their industries
create communities – housing, schools, libraries, commercial centers,
etc. – for their workers who build helicopters and planes. The cost to
the Filipino taxpayers is a whopping half a billion dollars, which is
about P22.3 billion. The benefit yet again is more emotional
satisfaction than job generator or industry developer. Score another
political gain for the Aquino/Cojuangcos.
All told, an estimated $10
billion will be spent by the Philippine government and military over
the next few years. None of these expenses for the nation’s military
will directly benefit the uneducated and poorest of the poor
Filipinos. Unlike the shipbuilding, helicopter-making, and
airplane-constructing industries of the US, Japan, Canada and South
Korea, respectively, whose populations will benefit from the
filter-down effects of Philippine spending, the vast majority of
Filipinos will remain poor and ignorant.
How do we then solve the
problem of Juan de la Cruz if the vernacular does not have anything
that will translate to a cost-benefit analysis?
The answer is nothing. Since
the ordinary Filipino voter is ignorant of what the Aquino
administration is actually doing, Noy can use government resources to
prepare for the 2016 elections. Filipinos will never know what hit
them. After all, Noy Aquino needs funds to prop up his chosen
successor and to prepare for his many years in retirement from
politics after 2016.
Where does China get into
the picture? The Filipino-Chinese Aquino/Cojuangco clan can make China
look bad because they have nothing to lose. Just bombard the media
with anti-China sentiments. That is cheaper and less controversial
than an outright boycott of Chinese-made goods or any economic
sanctions. Besides, no one in the United States, the Philippines,
Canada, Japan, South Korea or France wants to consider that the
combined populations of these countries amounts to only half that of
China, which means they need less resources than 1.3 billion people. A
cost-benefit analysis of 13 Chinese in McDonald’s or Walmart, for
example, will show that the demands are far more than those for seven
other customers. That’s just plain business and economic sense.
The Philippines military’s
purchases are a huge cost for a country with tens of millions mired in
poverty. The cost to Noy Aquino is absolutely nothing. Everything is
shouldered by the Filipino taxpayer because the benefit entrenches the
Aquino/Cojuangco family’s political dynasty for at least another
* *Joseph Bayana has a BA Political Science from the University of the East, and
a Masters degree in History from De La Salle University. He is
currently in Cambridge, Massachusetts doing a documentary on
American-educated business and political leaders of the Philippines.
Memories of war and
an historic peace
By DANILO REYES, Asian Human
April 14, 2014
(Note: this article was first published in the April 6, 2014 issue of
the Sunday Examiner)
Eleven years ago, I was in a
small store with a friend in Pikit, North Cotabato, in central
Mindanao. We were exhausted after an all day field work of
interviewing people about how and why they were evacuated due to
fighting. We had seen people shot dead, taken to military camps, and
disappeared, rebels blocking main highways, and so on.
As we ate and drank beer our
table shook repeatedly due to the heavy impact from artillery rounds
from a 105 howitzer, inside a military camp next to us. They were
firing at a marshland and riverbanks where the Moro Islamic Liberation
Front (MILF), the biggest rebel group in Mindanao, was camped.
As the firing continued my
friend and I were too exhausted to pay much attention to it. We
continued drinking. Days later, nongovernmental organisations, peace
advocates, including myself and journalists, went inside what used to
be the lair of Hashim Salamat, the founder of the MILF, by boat to the
riverbank. It was deserted; structures destroyed.
Known as the ‘Buliok
offensive,’ the scene I had just described was one of the many
memories, I myself had witnessed, from late 90s to early 2000s, of the
government offensives against the Muslim rebels which spanned 40 years
of the armed conflict in Mindanao.
At that time, however, I
thought there was no end in sight. After decades of conflict, it never
occurred to me that, after eleven years from that day, I would live
and witness myself the political settlement of a deep social and
political division in my homeland; the island of Mindanao.
The armed conflict and
insurgencies in Mindanao had been there, even before I was born. All
my life I grew up hearing stories how people lost their loved ones.
You learn that surviving takes the place of living.
Surviving means any person,
like myself, would grow up with military and police checkpoints in
every corner of a road, if not every kilometre, and believe that it
was just part of the daily routing. It was normal for a family to keep
a ‘bail out bag’, that is a bag, or bags containing clothes, documents
and necessary items handy in case they run from an escalation of
fighting. It was normal that when we went on a bus, to the markets,
malls, and public places, the authorities would be checking that no
bombs had been planted, and so on.
In fact, in my years as a
former journalist based in Mindanao I have covered many stories of the
protracted fighting, bomb blasts, arrests of individuals – whether
guilty or not – accused of bombing, soldiers and the rebels showing
off their fire power, and how it was the people, not the insurgents or
the military, that suffered.
I know that, while
journalist obtain some sort of ‘glory of by-line’, by writing
exclusive stories, and getting published in the newspapers, but as a
person I thought at the time, and still believed today, that it has
to, and needs to change. I felt that although there were some sort of
glory, to obtain glory from the misery and suffering of others, the
Mindanaoans like me, was not worth it. It was one of the many reasons
why I quit journalism for NGO work.
Thus, others may refer to
the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), by
the government and the MILF on March 27, 2014, as “just a piece of
paper,” to me it was more than that. While there is truth in it, that
the agreement would have meaning only when its objective is realized;
however, the very symbol and gesture of conciliation itself was very
The agreement cultivates
tolerance, acceptance and the concept of how to learn how to live in
harmony with others who are different from us.
Of course, what will come
out of this agreement remains to be seen, but for now, the Filipino
people, notably the people in Mindanao, had shown that there are
political solutions, even to very deep social and political
differences when people make the effort to understand each other.
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, firstname.lastname@example.org
April 10, 2014
NOW that we are in Holy
Week, it’s good to remind ourselves of how important it is to meditate
on the Passion of Christ. It’s the culminating act of his redemptive
mission that covers his whole life here on earth. Everything that he
is as the Son of God who became man, everything that he said and did
for our salvation is contained there.
We have to understand, on
the basis of our Christian faith, that the Passion of Christ is an
organic whole that includes his death on the Cross and his
resurrection. It is also organically linked to everything else about
Nothing in his life is
irrelevant or unnecessary in his Passion. It should not be considered
in isolation. It’s good that we realize this truth of our faith more
deeply and more practically, so that we don’t develop an unnecessary
distorted attitude toward it that often translates itself into a
certain dislike for it.
The Passion, in spite of its
ugliness, pain and gore, is actually a beautiful, desirable event that
we should get attracted to. In the first place, it is an essential and
necessary element in our life. We cannot avoid it without compromising
our eternal destiny.
And being God and not only
as man, Christ makes his Passion take place live every time the
liturgy of his Passion is celebrated. This is highlighted precisely
during this Holy Week, but is actually presented to us also every time
the Holy Mass or any liturgical act is celebrated.
And so, when we participate
in that celebration, we are actually, through the sacramental economy,
living witnesses of the event, even if only in a sacramental way. We
become contemporaries of Christ in his supreme act of love for us.
Therefore, while involving
extreme suffering that a man can experience, the Passion actually is
also a joyful event of a victory, a conquest over what is most harmful
to us – sin, and with sin our eternal death.
We should train our mind and
heart to capture this wonderful reality, presented to us by our
Christian faith, and to react accordingly, that is, to enter into the
very dynamics of loving, and thereby bringing our fondness for loving
to its ultimate level, extricating it from the low, base and often
fake and deceptive forms of love.
In the Passion, Death and
Resurrection of Christ, we see in action those very consoling words of
Christ: “Greater love than this no man has, that a man lays down his
life for his friends.” (Jn 15,13)
What actually takes place
there is Christ, being sinless, assuming all our sins and dying to
them so that we may have a way to resurrect from them through his own
Resurrection. This is the ultimate of love!
This much the Letter to the
Hebrews affirms: “Christ offers himself only once to take the faults
of many on himself, and when he appears a second time, it will not be
to deal with sin but to reward with salvation those who are waiting
for him.” (9,28)
This is what supreme love is
all about. It is not contented with wishing others well or sharing
things with others. It will go to the extent of suffering for the
others, making as one’s own the burdens of the others, even if the
others would not correspond. It is a love that is fully given and
Thus, when we meditate on
the Passion of Christ, we have to realize the love that drips
copiously. We should not forget that sin is what causes it, and
therefore, we should do everything to avoid sin.
It’s good to develop a
healthy hatred of sin as well as a certain dominion over it, such that
as much as possible we do not allow it to affect us badly. If ever, it
should make us intensify our love for God and others, giving ourselves
more and more in a crescendo typical of love.
We have to be very generous
in our self-giving and continuing effort of sanctification, both
personal and social. We have to be ready to carry out this task
And since we cannot avoid
sin, the meditation of the Passion should reassure us of the infinite
mercy of God. We have to be very generous in our spirit of penance,
always seeking conversion, renewal and the many forms of atonement,
reparation and purification.
Special attention has to be
given to the sacrament of confession, that wonderful tribunal of
divine justice and mercy. We need to love it deeply by resorting to it
Selfie vs. selfless
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, email@example.com
April 5, 2014
I was not surprised at all
when I recently read somewhere that this selfie craze that seems to be
sweeping the world these days, especially in our country, is an
indication of a mental disorder.
I imagine that the practice
really has to be an obsession for it to be a serious anomaly. If it’s
just a passing curiosity or done merely for momentary fun, then there
is not much to worry.
But the problem is that data
on the ground point precisely to an obsessive craving for selfies as
can be found in the social networks. Take a random look at these
sites, and you will likely see a proliferation of these pictures that
range from the inane and childish to the outright ridiculous and even
It may not be a big thing
yet of crisis proportion, but if nothing is done about it, I’m afraid
we are heading in that direction. We need to remind everyone that this
fad that is fast becoming a psychological syndrome ought to be
approached with a lot of caution.
It’s time to wave the flag
of the virtue of temperance. Contrary to what some people say, and
subtly supported by many commercials, this virtue has not become
obsolete. It, in fact, has become more relevant, and even in an urgent
manner, because of the storm surge of powerful instruments that can
occasion this problem.
I believe this selfie
syndrome is graver than smoking and drinking about which we always
warn everyone to do them with moderation since they can be harmful to
our health. This selfie syndrome is graver since it affects more our
mental and spiritual health than our bodily well-being.
We have to be wary of the
growing industry that promotes this culture, providing powerful and
seemingly irresistible programs, apps and gadgets. They appear to do
more harm than good since they are likely to lead people, the young
ones especially, to self-indulgence and narcissism.
This selfie syndrome
practically imprisons one in his own world, making him increasingly
indifferent to the needs of others. It actually is destructive to our
social relations. Group selfies are not genuinely social, since each
member of the group would be more concerned about his own
individualistic interest than that of the group.
The wings of love, of
generosity, loyalty and fidelity are practically cut if not damaged.
One tends to stay in the level of mediocrity and to become more
vulnerable to other human weaknesses and temptations when he is
afflicted with this selfie syndrome. The value of sacrifice
The challenge of effectively
tackling this problem is quite enormous, because we have to contend
with complicated mindsets and lifestyles that practically prohibit
anyone from correcting anybody else or even from suggesting a better
way of using one’s time and resources.
These mindsets and
lifestyles have been with us for centuries now, cultivated under the
atmosphere of laxity in Christian and even basic human morals, on the
one hand, and of a growing tendency to justify one’s behavior using
liberal and loose philosophies and ideologies, part of the culture of
death, on the other hand.
What we have is a situation
of a sweet poison that is mesmerizing us, leading us to a slow
Obviously in this regard,
while we have to use all human and natural means to remedy the
predicament, we also have to realize that we need to avail of the
spiritual and supernatural means, first of all. Yes, we need a lot of
prayers, sacrifice, personal guidance and collective forms of
These are very effective
means, since what we are ranged against are not just natural nemesis,
but spiritual and also supernatural, though definitely of the bad
Again, the family and the
schools play a very crucial role in this. Most of all, the doctrine of
self-denial and of carrying one’s cross, as explicitly taught by
Christ, should be retailed more widely and effectively.
Remember that Christ himself
said: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take
up his cross, and follow me.” (Mt 16,24) He reassured us this is
actually the way to save our life, to find true and lasting joy.
We should rather foster a
culture of self-forgetfulness, of total selflessness, since as Christ
said, “He who loses his life for my sake shall find it.” (Mt 16,25)
Let’s hope that this divine
message is spread and lived in the family, schools, among friends and
colleagues, and in our collective life of politics, business, etc.
A Statement on the
Ombudsman’s Intent to file charges vs. suspected pork scammers by the
Cebu Coalition Against the Pork Barrel System
April 3, 2014
The Cebu Coalition Against
the Pork Barrel System welcomes the latest news regarding the intent
to prosecute the suspects involved in the Pork Barrel Scam. However,
in sieving through the information available, we find that no concrete
action has actually been taken yet regarding this festering issue. The
Ombudsman has released news that it intends to file plunder and malversation charges against some senators and other respondents,
while the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has only released its draft
report recommending the same.
Intent simply precedes
action. It is not yet ACTION itself.
The Coalition strongly calls
for the Ombudsman to take the necessary steps as soon as possible. We
further call that a trial commence immediately, and all efforts to
make the trial commence without undue interference and delay from
outside entities be undertaken.
Moreover, all public
officials being tried should resign from office, not necessarily as an
admission of guilt but so that the truth be known without undue
At no other time in
Philippine history has the reputation of the Senate been as damaged as
it is now. The Legislative Branch has been subject to so much distrust
from the citizenry.
The people have been
betrayed by corruption and poor performance. The main reason for
frustrating all the valid dreams and aspirations of a whole country
has been exposed for all to see. The Philippines could have been one
of the most progressive countries in the world had it not been for
corruption and incompetence in government.
It is time now to make an
example of the power of the Law, and thus regain the respect the
Legislature once had. It is time to assure the people that this
Government functions for the service of the whole country, and not
just the people in power.
In this Lenten Season, we
are called to conversion. Pope Francis said, “Lent is to adjust life,
to fix life, to change life, to draw closer to the Lord. May the Lord
give us all light and courage: light to know what’s happening within
us, and courage to convert, to draw closer to the Lord.”
If we get our acts together
NOW, we may yet look back to these times as the defining moment in
institutionalizing our fight against corruption and strengthening our
government institutions in partnership with civil society.
It is time to PROSECUTE THE
State power does
not respect or protect our liberty
By DANILO REYES, Asian Human
April 2, 2014
(Note: this article was first published in the March 23, 2014 issue of
the Sunday Examiner)
"He who opens a school door,
closes a prison."- Victor Hugo, author of Les Misérables
I was observing a trial in a
crowded court room in Manila when, in a middle of packed bench, a
public lawyer drew the attention of his client seated at the back with
another accused wearing prison uniforms. He said:
"Tayo ka! Anong pangalan mo?
Babasahin na sentensiya mo. (Stand up! What is your name? Listen, the
court will read the judgment."
Shortly after, a court staff
stood up, briefly read his case in English, and without elaborating,
concluded, "The court finds you not guilty." In few words the faith of
a young man, who spent over four years in jail for charges of robbery,
was decided. He regained his liberty. But this young man showed no
reaction, there was no smile on his face.
He only smiled and was
visibly elated only after he heard the court staff told him in
"Oh, naintindihan mo ba ang
sentensiya? Wala ka daw kasalanan. Malaya ka na (Oh, did you
understand the decision? You are not guilty. You are free now)."
In my adult life, from my
days as student activist until I became a professional journalist, I
have observed court trials, but what I witnessed that day was deeply
profound. It says a lot about our own society. It gives rise to
questions on what protection an individual has from State's exercise
of power, and its obligations to respect and protect our liberty.
It was clear that the young
man could not speak the language of the court: English. The question
asked by his lawyer: "What is your name?" who should have known him
presuming he had served his clients for many years, demonstrates that
he barely knew him. His client was just one of the many accused he was
appearing for in court that day.
What I witnessed was not a
scene in a movie adaptation of Les Misérables, a French novel set in
1862. It was present day Manila, the heart of the Philippines.
The young man lost four
years of his life in prison. What he had endured was no different to
millions of Filipinos who are in police stations, jails and
reformatory centers scatted all over the country. These detainees are
waiting either for conclusion of trial or completion of their prison
terms. While the young man was found 'not guilty,' others accused in
another case who appeared in court were convicted.
After this young man was
acquitted, as I stood by the bench inside the court, my curious eyes
kept on looking at him. I don't know him. I smiled and nodded at him
from a distance across the court room to show to him how happy I was
for him. As he smiled back at me I could see the joy on his face. Why
and how happy he was made me understand in a more profound way what is
it to be free: priceless.
But our freedom, our
liberty, and our priceless possessions, have no adequate protection
from the excesses, abuse and neglect, of the government in its
exercise of power. What the young man experienced is what millions of
the Filipinos – men, women and children – have suffered. Those who
suffer are not only those in jails inside the country; there are even
Filipino migrant workers in Hong Kong whose loved ones are in prisons
In our Philippine society,
we condemn and fear the detainees, and not the system of justice that
incarcerated them. We condemn individuals, not our State who has
enormous power over us to deprive us of our liberty. We tend to assume
that justice serves its course and it is being doing the right way. We
fear not only prisoners, but also the prisons. Our courts are no
longer a place where the poor can seek remedy and relief, but only for
the rich. In our courts it is the poor, not the rich, whose liberties
We demanded too much about
codifying our rights in our laws – they must be written, but we don't
pay attention in understanding what our justice institutions have now
become, and how they ought to function. Our rights in the Constitution
and laws: to be presumed innocent, to have to have speedy trial, free
from torture, etc. remains on paper. They either no longer protect our
fundamental freedoms or they are fast degenerating.
Stories of policemen
torturing suspects to extract confessions, planting evidence in
illegal searches and raids; and the prosecutor's evidence taken by
illegal means by police are used in court trials, are all too common.
It is now the way of life. We live in a social condition as described
in Les Misérables in our present day.
When I appeared in court
trial, my initial plan was to observe and comment on the trial of an
activist, who is detained and prosecuted on evidence obtained by
torture. However, what gives me profound understanding as to how the
system of justice in our country operates, was how these nameless and
ordinary Filipinos have to struggle to regain their liberty.
In fact, I thought the
situation of the activist whose trial I had come to observe, was
better off than the other detainees I had seen in court. He has legal
counsel, many foreign observers were present. The court had to read
quick judgments, so it could proceed to the trial of the activist.
Other accused were quickly disposed off to make room for foreign
observers in court.
In conclusion, while we
value our freedom we have yet to understand whether or not our system
of justice is founded on, operating and functioning with the idea of
protecting our liberty at its core.