Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The truth and doing business in the Philippines

LAST week, the Ateneo School of Government (ASOG) together with Entrepreneurs Organization-Philippines (EO) and the World Bank-Knowledge Development Center organized the “Bukluran para sa Kaunlaran 2011” (Partnership for Progress).

This innovative event aims to give progressive, ethical and business-friendly local government units the opportunity to invite local businessmen who are members of EO to invest in their areas.

This is also an off shoot of the recent study released by the International Finance Corp. (IFC) which showed that among 183 countries surveyed on the “Ease of Doing Business,” the Philippines ranked a very dismal 148th place (down two places from our rank of 146 last year). Our neighboring countries, Singapore and Hong Kong topped the survey while even poverty-stricken countries like Bangladesh and Cambodia were even ranked ahead of us. The annual survey measures the efficiency of the processes needed for one to establish and run a business such as acquiring a business and construction permit, getting credit, protecting investors, enforcing contracts and registering property.

This is very alarming since many major multinational corporations would refer to this survey prior to deciding which country they would invest their business in. One of the speakers during the Bukluran event said that a major reason why our country continues to lag behind the other nations is the rampant graft and corruption found in our local government units. This typically turns off many investors and entrepreneurs. Thus, the Kaya Natin! Movement and the ASOG were very careful in selecting the LGUs that were invited to the event.

Among those who presented sales pitches were Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte of Quezon City, Mayor Jun Verzosa of Tagudin, Ilocos Sur, Mayor Jeng Reyes of Alicia, Isabela, Mayor Gerardo Valmayor of San Carlos City, Negros Occidental and Mayor Marivic Belena of San Jose City, Nueva Ecija. Each of the local chief executives presented their localities’ demographics, business policies and procedures as well as the incentives that they offer to new businesses that would be established in their areas. Through this program, the organizers aim to help encourage local government units to curb corruption and establish more efficient systems to make their city or municipality more business-friendly.

On the side of the entrepreneurs, this event allowed them to look at new possible sites for their businesses with the assurance that they will not encounter much trouble in securing the necessary requirements to do so. Through this synergy, more jobs and opportunities for growth can be given to more Filipinos especially those who live in the provinces.

Talking about graft and corruption, I am very sorry but I don’t really see anything honorable, brave, heroic or courageous with the suicide of former DND Secretary Angelo Reyes. I have always been taught in school that committing suicide is wrong and it is selfish since you leave your loved ones to answer the questions that your death has left behind. Moreover, suicide has always been an escape from taking responsibility and having faith in God to help you in overcoming all your problems.

In the case of Reyes, I believe that, if the allegations made by his former budget officer are true, there is nothing honorable in defrauding our country’s coffers so that your family can travel and shop abroad. There is nothing heroic in taking a monthly allowance of P5 million, taking for the office another P5 million and taking a P50 million “pabaon” on retirement while thousands of ordinary soldiers are risking their lives each day despite having meager equipment and deficient supplies.

Many of these ordinary soldiers don’t even earn enough to pay for the hospitalization or medicine of their family members.
I pray that the soul of Reyes may rest in peace but I hope that the current investigation regarding this scandalous “pabaon” program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will not be buried with him. Perhaps Reyes was too overwhelmed by all the accusations hurled against him, perhaps he also didn’t expect this sudden fall from power and grace but in the end, he still had a clear choice on which direction to take with his life. He could have opted to tell all of us the truth and perhaps this would have set him and his family free. Whether or not the accusations against him are true, Reyes was in a position to reveal to everyone what really happened to our government’s funds during the time of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Sadly, he chose to escape from this responsibility of bringing to light all the scandalous acts of the AFP during the previous administration by taking his own life.

His suicide was honorable perhaps only to his fellow AFP leaders and former Arroyo cabinet members who because of his sudden death received a brief respite from the on-going investigations. Retired military leader and a good friend of Reyes, Rex Robles said that we may not be able to handle the truth about our military leaders once it is spilled out that is why we should understand the decision of Reyes to take his life. For me, whether the people of the Philippines can or cannot handle the truth, all of us deserve to know it. We deserve nothing less.

The Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership led by the likes of Among Ed Panlilio, former Gov. Grace Padaca, DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo, Senator TG Guingona and Rep. Bolet Banal is now looking for its new batch of KN Champions for Good Governance to join them. Nominees should be effective, ethical and empowering former or current elected government leaders. Any organization can nominate by sending the CV of the nominee together with a short explanation of the nomination to or you can also call us at (02) 434-1458 for more details. The Manila Times BY HARVEY KEH

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