"What this Country needs is not a change OF men but a change IN men" March 1980

Friday, January 25, 2008

Financial Turmoil and Possible Recession in the USA

The current global financial and capital market turmoil triggered by the sub-prime loan problems in the USA has raised the specter of a recession in the US, coupled with the fear that the Philippine economy may be dragged down by it. In consequence, some colleagues in Congress have proposed some extraordinary measures, including, suspending the VAT on crude-oil imports, which to me is ludicrous.

I believe the Philippines has newfound strengths that are sufficient to overcome the looming recession in the US. Our countrymen working overseas remitted income of about US$ 14 billion last year, based on estimates by the Bangko Sentral, making such remittances the single biggest foreign-exchange earnings of the country. The thing to do now is to accelerate completion of financial and capital market reforms still on the table so that new savings and hedging instruments will emerge that will be to the best advantage of overseas Filipino workers, while channeling those savings to productive investments. This is urgent given the unanticipated strengthening of the peso against the US dollar.

Let’s also note that our total exports in 2006 had reached about US$47.4 billion. About US$27.8 billion, representing 59% of total, went to East Asia and ASEAN. About US$8.7 billion, or 18% of total, headed for the US. I say, let’s pay attention to strengthening further our trade with ASEAN and East Asia, and ratify JPEPA, among other regional trading arrangements.

More importantly, however, is enhancing the newfound strengths of the economy. Competitiveness is key. In this connection, we have to address the high cost of electricity here, which is one of the highest in the region. If there is going to be a review of the tax system, it has to start with the effective tax on electricity. Definitely, we need to address double or cascading taxation if there is any.

In addition, the importance of passing the 2008 national government budget as soon as possible cannot be overstated. Spending for education, health, infrastructure, and safety nets for the poor are our best shields against any economic fallout from the unraveling problems of the US economy.

Friday, January 18, 2008


Senator Richard Gordon today urged the government to immediately respond to the downgrade which the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) effected on 8 January 2008. In its report, the FAA downgraded the country’s rating from Category 1 to a mere Category 2.

Gordon, known as the premier and staunchest advocate of tourism, lamented that, “evidently, the fact that we were given a Category 2 rating is a reflection of our capability to ensure the safety of the flying public. Because we are considered as not having complied with the minimum international standards, the level of trust and confidence of the public will necessarily diminish.”

“If not addressed, this aviation downgrade would eventually reverse the gains which the tourism industry has been painstakingly working for. It should be noted that the number of tourist arrivals has already breached the three million mark and that these tourists have infused US$ 4.8 billion into our economy in 2007.” He emphasized.

As defined by the International Aviation Safety Assessments Program, a rating of Category 1 means that a certain country complies with the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) with respect to its civil aviation authority’s licensing and oversight of air carriers.

On the other hand, Category 2 means that the country does not comply with these standards and that the civil aviation authority does not provide safety oversight of its air carriers in accordance with the minimum requirements of the ICAO.

Gordon added that “all efforts must be exerted to sustain this growth, which reached 8.7% last year. If the government fails to act in a timely and definite manner to reverse the downgrade, all this will be for naught.”

The Senator further explained that, “We should not wait for this to happen. Neither should we get flustered by this action of the FAA. What we need now is immediate response from the government to exert efforts so that we may again be given a positive rating by the FAA. It is for this reason that we filed a resolution directing the Senate Committee on Tourism to identify the consequences of this downgrade on the tourism industry and to install measures to prevent a possible decline in tourist arrivals and in the tourists’ trust and confidence in our country.” --30--

How can we talk about the 2010 elections when Comelec hasn't cleaned up the mess it made of the last elections?"

Transparency in the selection of the new COMELEC chairman and commissioners and computerized elections in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, ARMM, in August, are vital to rebuilding credibility in the nation's democratic system and empowering people to choose their leaders, warns Senator Dick Gordon, a member of the Commission on Appointments and chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes and Laws.

Says Gordon: "Everybody's talking about the 2010 elections, when the Comelec hasn't even cleaned up the mess it made of the last elections. How can we talk about who's going to be president when we can't fix how they get elected."

Gordon's comments come as Malacanang considers a list of nominees to be appointed as Comelec chairman and commissioners. With time running out for computerizing the ARMM election in August, the challenge of finding competent people, with a high level of unimpeachable integrity is one that must be taken up immediately.

"The credibility of the Comelec hangs on who is selected and how. The electors have a right to that information. This is the 21st century, we cannot have these things decided by a secretive 'Star Chamber'. Our right to know is an essential component of our basic right of suffrage, to elect our leaders. If the Comelec chairman and commissioners cannot be seen to be chosen in an honest and aboveboard fashion, how can our people believe the elections will be carried honestly and above board."

The present Comelec, says Gordon, "has a track record of incompetence", citing, the botched billion-peso voters id project, the 1.3 billion peso MegaPacific deal struck down by the Supreme Court - for which the Comelec is still incurring massive expense and has yet to follow the Supreme Court's instructions to get its money back, the failure to implement the recently amended Automated Election Law for 10 years running, the Hello, Garci scandal, and most recently, the involvement of then chairman Abalos in the ZTE Broadband deal.

"Comelec isn't working", says Gordon. "The embarrassing Pimentel-Zubiri debacle still is not settled. Look at Sariff Kabunsuan, still without a governor after all these years. Our antiquated system has robbed those people of a basic right of representation. We need to drag Comelec kicking and screaming out of its tarnished ivory tower and put it to work to serve the people, not someone's hidden agenda."

Yet the Comelec has yet to shown any enthusiasm for fixing the problems with the country's electoral system, in particular, implementing the 10 year old law, recently amended, to automate the elections and provide electors with the fast, accurate counts needed to stifle vote rigging and dag-dag bawas.

So far, Malacanang has kept secret its list of nominees for these critical posts and its selection criteria. As a result, warns Gordon, the Commission on Appointments will put the selection under a microscope.

"We need a Comelec that is chosen transparently, people with integrity who are committed to transparent, open and credible elections. Our decision to accept or reject the nominees will be based on competence and track record, not favoritism."

The new chairman and commissioners must be committed to introducing automated elections, with the August ARMM elections as a proving ground.

"There has been enough footdragging, dramatics and scandals at the Comelec. Introducing automated elections has been law for a decade, but it's been flouted in every election since 1999. Just because its not easy isn't reason not to do it. It can be done for the ARMM elections if there is the commitment to do it. Whether or not it is done will be a reflection on whether or not Comelec is really committed to bettering the future of our people, or maintaining the traditional system of the past and the Spanish-era ills it represents. We want the right people for the job, the people who want to do the job, the people who can do the job."

"We don't have time to play games. When a doctor says you'll die in six months without medicine, you'd be stupid to wait ten years before taking the medicine," says Gordon. "We need to take our electoral medicine now and automate the vote, starting with ARMM in August."


Wednesday, January 09, 2008


Senator Richard Gordon, alumnus of the University of the Philippines College of Law and UP Alumni Association Most Distinguished Alumnus for 1997, autographs a shirt of a co-alumnus who joined the Motorcade and Kick-off activities of the UP Centennial celebration at UP Diliman. Looking on is UP President Emerlinda Roman.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Electoral Reforms Needed First

Senator Richard Gordon said Saturday that the nation should focus on electoral reforms before discussing potential contenders for the presidency in 2010.

Gordon, chairman of the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms, said that the country should concentrate on electoral reforms to avoid electoral fraud in the upcoming August 8 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and eventually in the presidential elections in May 2010.

“If the country has to change, [the electoral system] has to be reformed. This will be a good test if Filipinos have already acquired the moral backbone. If not, we will be like Haiti or Kenya or Pakistan, if we ever allow a convicted highest official to govern again,” he said.

He added that these reforms should start with President Gloria Arroyo showing transparency in the selection of the next chairman and commissioners of the Comelec.

“If there is transparency, people will have less doubt about the appointees and in the Comelec,” added Gordon, who has been pushing for automated elections to eliminate fraud since 2000.

Three vacancies in the Comelec are to be filled up in February with the resignation of Chairman Benjamin Abalos, and the retirement of Commissioners Resureccion Borra and Florentino Tuason on February 2.

Senators: electoral reforms before politicking

By Efren L. Danao, Senior Reporter

The Manila Times
Sunday, January 06, 2008

Like Pardon, Transactional Politics behind Erap Endosement

Gordon, for his part, slammed the “transactional politics” being practiced by some presidential hopefuls.

“When will we ever learn?” Gordon asked in the wake of reports that former President Joseph Estrada would seek another mandate in 2010 should the opposition remain divided in fielding a single candidate.

Estrada had clarified he would not seek re-election and would give way to other potential presidential candidates, Gordon, however, said some opposition personalities are already “cozying up” to Estrada to get the coveted endorsement.

Gordon said Estrada, though elected by a landslide in 1998, was ousted in a popular uprising in 2001 over corruption charges that later led to his conviction of plunder.

“Erap (Estrada) is badly disfigured due to his conviction by a legal court. He is the trophy of the Philippine judiciary system, except that it was tainted by President Arroyo by pardoning him without even serving a single day in prison,” Gordon said.

“Now that he is free man, Estrada wants to make himself feel important by buying the stairway to heaven. By saying that he will run, Erap is trying to be a player again so politicians will cozy up to him. That’s why he is distributing gifts left and right,” he said.

Gordon said Estrada was “actually worse than the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos because Estrada was convicted while Marcos was not.”

He said Estrada is now practicing “transactional politics” not realizing that the people cozying up to him are the same people who abandoned him and caused him his downfall.

Gordon named Senate President Manuel “Manny” Villar Jr. and Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas II as among those seeking Estrada’s political blessings.

Roxas was a former Cabinet member of Estrada whose resignation triggered a momentum in the bid to oust the former movie star.

Villar, then the Speaker, made the historic move of hastily transmitting the impeachment complaint against Estrada to the Senate in 2000, which paved the way for his trial.

Both are known presidential contenders in 2010, Gordon said.

“These are the same people who had also helped ask Mrs. Arroyo to pardon Estrada, proof that each one is into transactional politics,” he added.

Angara: LDP to be kingmaker in 2010
By Aurea Calica
The Philippine Star
Sunday, January 6, 2008

Charter bans Estrada from 2010 polls

MANILA, Philippines -- Former president Joseph Estrada is prohibited from seeking reelection under the Constitution, Senator Richard Gordon said Thursday, laughing off news reports of Estrada’s plan to run in the 2010 polls.

“He should run just to test whether the Filipino people really wants change, or simply wants to be entertained,” he said.

Gordon admitted that he himself has been thinking about running for the highest position in the land. “I’m available to run for president and I've been thinking about it. I am no hypocrite,” he said, noting that since becoming mayor of Olongapo City, he had always brought the people up the social and economic scale and not just make broken promises.

Gordon, although affiliated with the majority in the Senate, has said that he was not with the administration and warned the political opposition about Estrada’s announced intention to run again for president.

“Surely, if Erap runs, that would divide the opposition, wouldn’t it?” said Gordon, referring to Estrada by his nickname.

He said the primary issue that would be raised against Estrada as a presidential candidate in the 2010 elections would be his record as president, especially his conviction for plunder.

“For me, what is important is the reaction of the Filipinos nationally to Estrada’s candidacy. Although we pitied him when he was under detention, we should first consider our sense of justice before our sense of pity,” he said in Filipino.

“While we all condemn graft and corruption, this is the first time that a president in our country who has been sentenced [for corruption] but has not spent a single day in [state] prison,” he said.

The possibility of Gordon and Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia running together for president and vice president, respectively, in the 2010 election, has been raised.

Gordon: Charter bans Estrada from 2010 presidential polls
By Veronica Uy
First Posted 16:14:00 01/03/2008