Pork outrage

SPYBITS - The Philippine Star

Filipinos are familiar with the role that the Internet and social media can play in driving collective outrage in many countries like what happened over two years ago in Egypt, with Facebook and Google reporting an unusually heavy traffic among Egyptian users in January 2011. By the time the Egyptian government shut down the Internet, the protest movement had already kick-started – and soon thereafter, the 30-year reign of President Hosni Mubarak came to an end in February that year and with minimal bloodshed. According to observers, the downfall of Mubarak would not have been possible without social media and the Internet.

The pork barrel scandal already has the potential of creating a major firestorm judging from the blogs, tweets, texts and posts that are spreading rapidly – giving birth to a Facebook event now dubbed the “Luneta Anti-Pork Barrel Rally,” calling on people to march to the Quirino Grandstand to denounce the obscene misuse, abuse and wastage of billions of people’s money through the Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF, the latest incarnation of the pork barrel.

Apparently, the protest movement started with a single Facebook post from an artist who broached the idea of a “million people march” by struggling taxpayers and the so-called silent majority to demand all politicians regardless of stripe or color to “stop pocketing” people’s taxes through pork barrel scams and other similar acts. The idea took on a life of its own, with people reposting and sharing and adding their thoughts which culminated in the suggestion to hold a rally that would coincide with the commemoration of National Heroes’ Day on Aug. 26 – bringing on the message that the ordinary Filipino taxpayer is a modern-day hero.

Even now, there are blogs claiming that even some so-called exposés have deliberately omitted the names of some administration allies about their alleged culpability regarding the pork. Obviously, what is driving the collective anger is the refusal of legislators to conduct an investigation on the P10 billion pork barrel scam involving Janet Lim Napoles, tagged as the brains behind the alleged scam. No doubt the scandal is making people lose their trust in legislators once again, reinforcing the already negative image of both houses of Congress.

This pork barrel issue could very well be the biggest test yet for the Aquino administration, with people watching and waiting to see if the President has the political will to go after all those guilty of misusing the PDAF regardless of political affiliation. There are already calls for “echo” indignation rallies to be held all over the country – making many wonder if this could spark a major people power movement. This time, not confined to Luneta or Makati or Metro Manila alone, but in major areas all over the country.

Chinese ‘padrino system’

Filipinos are familiar with the phrase “padrino system” wherein favors are given or gained through family connections. More often than not, this comes with an implicit understanding that the system will entail a quid pro quo where a favor given will be repaid in one form or another at some time in the future. But the notion of a “padrino system” is not really limited to the Philippines because this is also done in many countries. In fact, some are saying the practice may well have started in China going by reports that JP Morgan Chase is now under investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission over its hiring practices.

Apparently, the global financial services company is being probed for alleged bribery because of its practice of hiring the children of powerful and senior Communist Party officials to win more business in China. According to confidential reports from US authorities, JP Morgan hired the son of a former Chinese regulator – after which the bank won several businesses from a state-controlled financial conglomerate. Another instance involves the hiring of a daughter of a Chinese railway official – which resulted in JP Morgan eventually advising the official’s company (which was ironically in the business of building railways for the Chinese government) regarding its plan to go public. 

There’s been a lot of allegations that companies make it a point to hire the children of influential officials – who are known as “princelings”  – to advance business interests in China, a country where personal connections and political affiliations can make a difference in the success – or failure of businesses.

The anti-bribery probe came days after the FBI announced that it has filed criminal charges against two former officials of the company over allegations that they tried to hide the $6 billion trading losses incurred by JP Morgan Chase last year.  JP Morgan of course denied the bribery allegations, saying it disclosed the hirings in its latest quarterly filings.

MVP’s ‘Quick Response Team’

The incessant rains dumped by Typhoon Maring all over Luzon has resulted in flooding in many areas of Metro Manila and nearby provinces, necessitating the evacuation of thousands of families.

We must admit the group of Manny V. Pangilinan has one of the best CSR dictums in using its resources, putting together a “quick response team” to help in disaster relief operations. PLDT choppers were mobilized to send water and other relief goods in flooded areas that include Cavite, with the Philex Team also on the alert for news of landslides and other similar disasters. This was relayed to us by the ubiquitous Mike Toledo who’s in charge of the MVP Group media bureau.

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