Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Remember Greco Belgica's Name On 2016

Many ask me who I'll be voting for this coming 2016 elections. This question usually refers to a presidential bet. My answer is none (yet). Although for senatorial bets, in 2013, I supported the views of Greco Belgica when he ran for senate (see my old post Senate Hopeful Greco Belgica Debates Mongsod On Flat Tax). You might not have heard of him because he doesn't have the same influence and machinery as the other candidates.

He is consistently running on the same platform and political views, many that resonate or come close to those I advocate. Here are some reasons why I would most likely support him in 2016:

  • He advocates that money and power should be with the people and not the government.
  • He has a real tax reform plan as he continues to support a 10% flat tax that I've discussed in my blog post link above.
  • He had been a strong opponent of PDAF or any discretionary budget before these things became mainstream controversy and to date continues to question and legally petition against the constitutionality of DAP.
  • He advocates that these discretionary funds be converted into tuition vouchers, promoting school choice for parents and students and adding market incentives and competition to the current monopolized public schooling system.
  • He supports a limited and decentralized form of government. He believes in free markets and free trade (key positions that my blog also support). 
There are aspects of his platform that I do not agree with such as his social conservative stance on prohibition in a time when such policies are already being slowly reformed all over the world.  I am also worried that this kind of social conservatism might influence his views on matters of other State-criminalized acts that infringe on no one's personal liberties (ie. victimless crimes; see my post on Defending the Undefendable by Walter Block).

If it matters to you (as much as CVs don't matter, I believe it could add to background and character vetting), he studied Marketing and Management in San Beda College and then majored in International Trade and Commerce (International Trade, Economics, Finance) in the University of California, Berkeley. 

Follow him on Twitter:
Like his Facebook Page

So far, he remains to be the closest candidate I will most likely vote for. How about you, have you decided on any? What factors do you take into consideration with your choices? Feel free to share your thoughts.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Reflections and Appeal to Supporters of a Duterte Dictatorship

For Those With the"We Need an Iron Hand" Mentality

"This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears he is a protector," said Plato. And it is true: throughout the course of history, public safety and national security have been the most used pretext to justify suspension of civil rights and the use of violence. 

For this reflection I would like to (i) request that we take a step back and reconsider popular notions about authoritarian governance, (ii) present philosophical and moral arguments against centralized power, and (iii) hope and pray that I am wrong on all accounts against a dictatorship if I am not able to change the minds of those who see it as the only means in creating a peaceful and prosperous society for the Filipino people.

Full interview:

It is, perhaps, because we are all sick and tired of the Philippine political system that we are willing to resort to someone who has no hesitation in admitting to murder or ignoring the Rule of Law to, ironically, uphold the Rule of Law. Supporters are consequentialist. The person they clamor for has no regret nor remorse because, to him, those he killed are the foulest and most evil and their deaths benefit society.

I do not question his motives or even his character (as much as his choice of words and cursing makes him a bad role model for children). I do not question his guilt. He himself admits with no hesitation to murders and use of violence. I do not discredit that he may have noble intentions for our country and its people -- what worries me is the means and lengths he's willing to take to achieve them. 

Separation of Powers and Extrajudicial Punishments/Killings

He proudly tells the public that he had made smokers eat cigarette butts (most of Davao city is mandated by his administration to be smoke-free) and made some eat falsified public documents. This fearlessness to ignore due process has been venerated by many on social media. They say this is what it takes. They call it political will to get things done. 

We always condemn, ever so passionately, extrajudicial killings and yet we fail to see that Duterte's approach in curbing crime through murder or his discretionary punishment is no different. It is against the most basic human right to due process.

And yet there seems to be no action from the Department of Justice (or whatever bureaucracy has mandate for this) to investigate Duterte's extrajudicial decisions (see, even he is entitled to a fair trial where he can defend himself).

"Pag ako ang nasalubong mo, sagasaan talaga kita. Pag namatay ka diyan, pasensiya ka na. I told you to obey the law. So if you go against the traffic at nagdala ako ng tractor, at nasagasaan kita, putang ina ka, pasensiya ka. Leche ka. Sinabi ko sa iyo, sundin mo ang batas," Duterte says in the interview. 

In a dictatorship or authoritarian government, one person or group of persons legislate, execute, and judge with or without the consent of the people. The reason these powers were separated to begin with is to ensure checks and balance between the three so that no one branch has abuse of power (ie. someone from the executive branch using a tractor to kill someone who has a traffic violation).

This use of force and intimidation is criminal, especially from a public servant, and no one should have such power to bully citizens. All citizens must always be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

My Two Cents

For some cliché and undying last attempts to persuade you, here are some classic sayings: violence begets violence, absolute power corrupts absolutely, the government should always only be our servant and never our master,  the government governs only at the consent of the governed. 

All I ask is that we don't assume benevolence for someone we want to have a throne with such centralized power. The solution is in decentralization. Ironically, Duterte claims he advocates federalism. He claims to want a dictatorship if ever he becomes president (although he has been so fickle about his candidacy) and yet advocates decentralization of power from Imperial Manila and the national government. 

Let's read up on history of authoritarian regimes. We will realize that it is wrong to assume that just because we create such an authoritarian seat of power, a Singapore-esque Lee Kwan Yew of the Philippines will emerge. For every one authoritarian like him, there are dozens who have abused such a seat of power, with or without the consent of the people. 

Lastly, as I have mentioned above, if I was not able to make you reconsider freedom over dictatorship for  even a tiny bit and one day we do end up with a dictator or authoritarian government, I do hope and pray that I am wrong and that it does leads to peace and prosperity and not violence and suppression of civil rights and liberties. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Reflections on the SC Decision to Grant Sen. Enrile Bail and His Freedom to Play Bejeweled in Senate

The Purpose of This Reflection, What It Is and What It's Not

It's been almost 2 months since the 8 to 4 majority decision to grant Enrile to post 1 million pesos bail. I was compelled to revisit and share my two cents on the matter as I read a report that he's back on the Senate floor playing his favorite mobile game Bejeweled during the hearing last Wednesday.

Please understand that I do not question his innocence and grant that he should be presumed such until proven otherwise. Second, I have nothing against his preference for mobile games -- it is merely an incidental anecdote that compelled me to pursue this reflection. Finally, given that I am not a legal expert and I am yet to familiarize myself with the procedural rules of court (ie. of the Sandiganbayan, etc.), for all intents and purposes, this reflection humbly seeks the following objectives:
  • To familiarize myself and be able to quickly explain important points in Sen. Enrile's petition for bail
  • To join in and promote the dissenting opinion of Justice Leonen regarding the SC ruling to grant this petition and make my focus NOT limited to his arguments against the petition and focus more on his narrative of how this SC ruling came to be. And...
  • To provide my own perspective or opinion on matters or interpretations that I find to be very different from how Justice Leonen positioned his dissenting opinion.
 Both (1) The Supreme Court ruling (source: and (2) Justice Leonen's dissenting opinion on the matter (source: are available online for your reference.

An Era About To Usher In?

Allow me to express my personal difference on the matter before we continue to study the ruling and the dissenting opinion.

Perhaps it is due to formality, but I feel strongly that J. Leonen's fear that this Supreme Court ruling will set precedent for and usher in an era of  "special accommodation" or "selective justice" are misnomers. Yes, it puts pressure on all lower courts when faced with a similar petition for bail that was granted for Enrile by our highest court but this formal citation or precedent is not necessary to have special accommodation and the discretion of selective justice. These are already prevalent. In fact, his narrative of how this ruling came to be showcases some fraudulent behavior and sketchy decision-making / procedures.

Let us keep in mind that no high courts found difficulty in allowing Erap Estrada, already found guilty of this exact same case Enrile is accused of, to be mayor of Manila as he was given executive pardon. There is no surprise here. Many dangerous precedents may already be cited, perhaps most informally, regarding special accommodation or selective justice in our courts. I find it pretentious to say this kind of era is just about to usher in.

Nonetheless, it is very courageous and intellectual. At the same time, it's not hard to speculate, not just with the 4 who dissented but with all justices if any intent comes from their oath and moral obligation to the public or made due to necessary political favors and alliance.

It's something to really reflect on as the elections come because the successor of PNoy will have the power to appoint 11 justices. It's not about to usher in due to this grant of bail, we've been living in an era of special accommodation and selective justice.

Nonetheless, I am compelled to study and share what I learn here as this case shows the power and importance of dissent. The unsatisfactory justice system around us is not an excuse to just accept that justice has a price and a privilege for those who can afford it. It is even more reason for us to support specific instances such as J. Leonen's dissenting opinion as these kinds do not warn of dangerous precedents but rather expose the status quo.

The Arguments For and Against His Petition for Bail

Our laws allow for courts to grant bail for those accused UNLESS (i) the offense may be punishable by life imprisonment and (ii) there is strong evidence of guilt. Enrile argues that the prosecution has failed to provide evidence for both points.

  • J. Leonen asserts that Sandiganbayan's "muteness" is due to Enrile's repeated challenge for the prosecution to provide evidence where Enrile must [first] formally apply for, the formal proceedings (“bail hearing”) before the prosecution may be called upon to discharge its duty of proving evidence of guilt is strong." The denial of bail, therefore, was not in grave abuse of discretion as the motion for bail was premature. Also, the delay on the end of the prosecution, he alleged, comes from Enrile's repeated challenge to be shown any single piece of paper that links him to even a single peso received from the alleged kick-backs.  
He also cites social standing and even cited past charges of rebellion and murder where he was granted bail based on not being a flight risk. He asserts this further by citing his old age and ill-health. And being that he cited that the purpose of bail was merely for the accused to appear at trial whenever required, he argued that there should be judicial discretion in assessing humanitarian reasons for granting him bail.

  • Leonen argued the Sandiganbayan never failed to accommodate Enrile's medical concerns, as guided by the law, nor were these health concerns part of his motion for bail and, allegedly, even the petition to the SC itself as the drafts the Justices previously deliberated was revised to add these health or "humanitarian" reasons when it was already time for the Justices to vote.
  • What kind of fraudulent and immoral behavior is that, especially coming from what is supposed to be the highest court of our land to randomly change final drafts at the last second when time to vote? Again, not being familiar with the procedural rules, but will there be no investigation nor anyone held accountable for something I believe to be such a low form of cheating/trickery to advance special interest?
  • And yes, I insinuated selective justice to be common practice already but how many would you think  of those charged of multiple murder, multiple incestuous rape, serious illegal detention, and other crimes punishable by life imprisonment will now be empowered to cite this Supreme Court ruling in their petitions for bail? 
The majority decision found the arguments that supported Enrile's claims and citations above as sufficient to grant him bail. The decision was 8 to 4, with 1 justice on official leave, 1 on sick leave, 1 who chose to not take part, and over 100 million Filipinos who will fear injustice as justice is an expensive privilege available only to those with money and power.

I hope it is true, that saying of masamang damo, matagal mamatay because as the trial continues, with his old age and health, he might not live to face his verdict and spend the remainder of his life enjoying his favorite mobile games and not spend it in jail like those who don't have his influence for this kind of special accommodation.

Friday, October 2, 2015

My Two Cents on Education Reforms Through New Media

Several years back, I remember attending one of the first locally organized TEDx talk in the UP. One of the speakers was Graham Glass who was advocating the next generation of education. He claimed that the classroom and contemporary methods of schooling lacked innovation or at least integration with the vast tools and information the internet and new media is able to provide us. He even used video games as an example of a platform that can be used for teaching or learning. And this was back in 2009.

Graham Glass during the 2009 TEDxManila.
I was reminded of this talk because of one of my favorite set of videos on YouTube that showcases the Harvard lectures of Michael Sandel on Justice. The production and design is so experiential and engaging that you actually feel like you're right there in Harvard. The video below and the rest of its lectures are available for free to anyone who has access to a basic laptop or mobile device with an internet connection. Imagine, an Ivy League level of lectures that can be accessed by anyone.

The first among a full course of Michael Sandel's ethics/morality lectures in Harvard.

And it doesn't even have to be a high-budget production. Aaron Dewald of the college of law in the University of Utah designed several animated lectures that provide introductory lessons and basic concepts in legal education. These are not expensive to produce and easily consumable and shareable as well.

Knowledge on torts, contracts, case readings, and legal research is no longer privy to those studying law.
Full access here:

Aside from access and distribution (or perhaps translation), similar module designs and lectures may be created locally for more relevant topics. I even propose or dare that one of the top universities take lead on copying Sandel's sponsorship-paid model and make their own as a thought-leadership piece to showcase that they truly believe in the importance of providing access to education and information to all. 

I feel strongly that we continue to look for reforms in public education when the medium is already available challenged only by the infrastructure struggles of providing internet access to many places in the country. And along with the use of this democratized media also comes decentralization of the curriculum as information may now come from many parts of the world.

And it's not just the education department I see having reforms. Take bureaucracies like TESDA or the Department of Agriculture, for example. Their spending on programs could drastically be lowered  if people such as those interested in vocational courses or farmers are empowered to educate themselves. And, being that data access is an important factor in this, we must also scrutinize the bureaucracy of the NTC and its collusion with the telco duopoly. We always say education is key and yet there is a systemic problem across many bureaucracies that hinder the innovation of and access to education.

Imagine how this could uplift the lives of those in provinces that will also alleviate congestion in Imperial Manila as many citizens flock here because they say access to best education is here. I say no: access to a Harvard lecture or any of the top local universities could provide you education at the palm of your hand or any screen in your household and in the globally competitive classrooms of the next generation. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Irony of the Philippine Competition Law (Republic Act No. 10667)

"Orientation" / "Workshop" on Competition Reform

When I arrived at the venue, I was excited to meet and talk to like-minded individuals who believed in pro-market reforms. It's about time, I thought, that significant people, from both the private sector and government, have a discussion on how to streamline bureaucracy to ensure a healthy competitive market and relinquish the monetary/political influence of the cartel-esque consortia among the oligarchy. Don't get me wrong, I learned many things about certain industries and economic policies I wasn't aware of before the event. It's just that it t wasn't even a forum or orientation or workshop. It was an FYI cascade and glorification of the recently passed Philippine Competition Law.

Redundancy, Not Reform

Bus transportation, rice, energy, shipping, and telecommunications: we must admit, these are probably some of the most notorious of industries that are controlled almost entirely by a select few. The keynote speakers that presented for each industry had a lot of contradictory statements that question the relevance of the law in question. 

Atty. Tony Abad himself discussed the tedious history of this law. It took 25 years and 8 congresses, with him working on the latter 6 years until it was passed. I must admit, I've never seen the earlier drafts before this was passed. Regardless, as much as I admire the effort and time put in this and all the good intentions of providing consumers a competitive market, I do not see how more government, more regulations, and more bureaucracy could possibly promote a competitive market.

Throughout the forum, it was mentioned over and over again that red tapes and unnecessary requirements, policies, and permits are the biggest barrier to a competitive market. During the talk on competition reforms in the maritime sector, it was even mentioned that certain provisions in the 1987 Philippine constitution itself became a burden to a competitive market in the shipping industry. 

And the proposed solution is yet another law? A law that mandates for the creation of yet another commission that brings the promise of benevolence and immunity from regulatory capture. 

Whose Role Is It Anyway?

Representatives from DTI, DOJ, ERC, NTC, and many others were present at the event. A lady who works for the ERC directed a question at Atty. Abad, asking how this new law will affect their mandate. He mentioned he will have to check the provisions again. He speculated, it seemed, that the existing regulatory agencies such as ERC or NTC, for example, will have "to work in conjuncture" with the commission that will be appointed by the president in lieu of this law. 

He differentiated that the existing regulatory bodies will focus on ensuring that "high standards" of products and services are felt by consumers whereas the competition commission will focus on matters of ensuring certain parameters are met to allow for a competitive market. It's just so redundant since a competitive market is a prerequisite to an environment where these same "high standards" flourish. It is apparent that creating yet another law, another bureaucracy, just lead to overlapping mandates, roles, and a confusion on accountability and oversight.  

He himself asked "Who regulates the regulators?" and alleged that are regulators who are in collusion with the regulated. How will this new law and bureaucracy be so different, then? What assumption of benevolence and courage will this body have if the existing regulatory bodies were doomed to be trapped in a regulatory capture? 

Was there no discussion on the overlaps in roles and mandate for the 25 years that it was still a bill on congress? 

The Seen Benefits and the Unseen Collusion and Regulatory Capture

You see, competition comes from a liberated market that allows individuals or groups to engage in free enterprise and voluntary trade. Consumers democratically vote with currency and this profit incentive, when acquired fairly, keep firms and suppliers at their feet to make sure they innovate and provide better services/products than their competitors. 

Many times during the forum, it was mentioned that laws and policies are dated, some even going back to the 1930's and could no longer apply. Was there ever a time since then when there was no collusion between regulators and regulated? Was there any policy or mandate that was never susceptible to regulatory capture? 

A big chunk of the working Filipino's income go to these bureaucracies that, implied by passing this Competition Law, have not been working. Perhaps we could try, instead of creating new laws and bureaucracies, let's cut these spending, lessen red  tapes and redundant requirements that become barrier to entry, lower taxes or create tax havens where investors could enter the market to compete -- lessen government instead of adding more. 

The Oligarchs Are Above the Law

Could there be any law that could stop these few companies that control most sectors and industries? Will fining them 200 million put a stop to collusion or advantages gained from regulatory capture? It's as if there's a giant elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about: regulatory agencies are not working and, in fact, are working against the consumers' interests.

Stop making new laws. Laws and State interventions do not necessarily equate to a competitive market and at most times have unintended consequences of creating barriers to entry for new players thus impeding competition even more. 

As mentioned, there were many specific industries that were studied and discussed such as transport, rice, energy, shipping, and telco. I felt it's proper to argue the position of less government intervention first to provide insight when I delve into the specific industries which I will be writing about soon. 

I'm thinking of discussing rice and the failure of protectionism and government monopoly on imports as discussed in the forum. Follow me on Twitter: @harryinitiative for updates on my next blog posts.


Saturday, September 19, 2015

From Ron to Rand: Some Differences of Rand Paul from his Father

Ron Paul and his campaigns have been instrumental in introducing me to different libertarian political philosophies and the Austrian School of Economics. And it wasn't just me who was reached by this online phenomenon, grassroots movements were organized all over the world. And now that his son is running for the Republican nomination, here are my main takeaways based on the recent FOX and CNN debates:

photo source:\
1. Rand Paul prefers to position himself as a defender of the US constitution. His father, consistent for the whole of his political career, positioned himself as a defender of liberty. The defense of the US constitution was more incidental for Ron Paul where Rand prefers to champion it.

2. As a senator, Rand Paul has a good record on promoting non-interventionist oversight on US foreign policy but takes a different view from his father on providing monetary and military aid to Israel. His father took the position of their founding fathers to freely trade with nations and avoid entangling alliances. Rand prefers a fiscal conservative view on the subject by saying he believes Israel is a strong ally of the US but claims he will only advocate foreign aid if there is a surplus in budget.

3. Rand avoids monetary policy almost completely in spite of his father's legislative legacy on auditing the Federal Reserve.

4. There is no exact confirmation on this one but when Donald Trump called out he gave money to the candidates on stage, several casually denied and yet he stayed silent. His father's campaign funds were raised almost entirely, if not all, from grassroots.

5. Ron Paul had always refused to endorse the winning Republican nominee. We've also witnessed Rand endorse Romney in 2012 in spite of his father's ongoing campaign. He has expressed during the FOX debate that he will be supporting the winning nominee.

6. It is unsure whether he is doing this as a strategy to appear more moderate and electable than his father, adhering to more popular political positions. It is quite ironic since he's not getting the same momentum as his father's campaigns for both the '08 and '12 elections.

Just a side note: I believe Donald Trump is taking media attention away from more important topics that should be discussed in their debates. It worries me that he's currently leading in the polls.

Watch the debates here:

Link to FOX debate (August 6, 2015): 
Link to CNN debate (September 16, 2015):