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Good appointments by President Noynoy Aquino

September 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Good appointments by PNoy

by: Harvey S. Keh

The Manila Times

http://manilatimes.net/index.php/opinion/6105-good-appointments-made-by-pnoy

LAST week, the Asia Society-Philippines held it’s Asia 21-Philippines Young Leaders Forum at the Meralco Management Leadership Development Center (MMLDC) in Antipolo. The forum gathered the nine chosen young leaders who will represent our country in the upcoming Asia 21 Young Leaders Summit in New Delhi, India.
Our theme for this year’s forum was “Heroes meeting Heroes” in tribute as well to the 150th birth anniversary of our great national hero, Jose Rizal.

The nine young leaders who were chosen were Mayor Doy Leachon of Calapan City, Solvie Nubla of Ateneo de Manila’s Pathways to Higher Education, Doris Dumlao of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, well-recognized independent filmmaker Mike Sandejas, Alvin Dakis of the Alliance of Young Heath Advocates, Atty. Lesley Cordero of the Presidential Communications Group, Jeffrey Tarayao of the Meralco Foundation, Annalie Edday of Synergeia Foundation and Anya Lim of the ANTHILL Fabric Gallery.

What makes a hero?


During the forum, Prof. Winnie Monsod of the UP School of Economics stressed the need for our country to produce more modern day heroes especially among the younger generation of leaders. She mentioned that heroes are ordinary people who are able to go beyond themselves to do extraordinary things for a greater cause. Aside from this, Monsod also stressed that heroism also entails sacrifice and going beyond our comfort zone to give service to those who need it the most.

One should also not expect anything in return for being of service to others because once you begin to think about what you will get in return then it becomes a self-serving deed which is no longer heroic in nature.

Lessons in leadership and heroism


The Asia 21 Philippines’ fellows also had the unique chance to have a dialogue with two modern-day Filipino heroes of our country, Gawad Kalinga’s Tony Meloto and DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo. Meloto and Robredo are both former recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay Award which is widely acknowledged to be the equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize in Asia.

Meloto stressed the importance of being able to sustain the hero within you by having a clear vision of what you want to achieve for the good of others. It is his passion. He also advised the fellows that the best way to respond to your detractors is to just continue to do good without asking for anything in return. Moreover, he emphasizes that when one does not desire power, he gains the trust of the powerful and that trust becomes a very important tool in pushing for our advocacies and our causes. He concludes by challenging the fellows to demand from themselves to become heroes and to use their talents and skills to help those who have been left behind by our society.

For his part, Robredo enjoined the young leaders to continue to surround themselves with good people who can share their passion to do good for our country. He also said that leaders must always learn to consult with his or her followers since by doing this the leader is able to make the whole organization own the decision thereby making everyone accountable for it. Finally, Robredo says that our government alone will not be able to solve the problems of our society, it needs an active citizenry who will also do their own share in nation-building.

Good appointments

Postmaster General Josie Dela Cruz


Up until now, I still cannot understand the decision of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to renege on his promise to make the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill a priority measure of his administration. I hope he will eventually come around to see how important this piece of legislation is in terms of promoting greater transparency and public accountability in our government.
On the more happier side, I am very happy that he has appointed two competent and upright leaders in the government: former Bukidnon Rep. Neric Acosta as Presidential Adviser for Environmental Protection, with Cabinet rank, and former Bulacan Gov. Josie Dela Cruz as Postmaster-General and President of PhilPost.

Presidential Adviser for Environmental Protection Sec. Neric Acosta

Acosta has always been known to be one of the country’s top environmentalists and is actually the author of two landmark environmental laws in our country, the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. I hope Acosta will eventually become Secretary of the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources. I will go out on a limb and say that he will definitely do a much better job than the one who is currently in that position.

I have previously worked with Dela Cruz in our education reform programs at Synergeia Foundation and Pathways to Higher Education. I have always looked up to her as one of my mentors in being a competent, effective and empowering leader. One thing for sure is that she has her heart in the right place when it comes to being of service to our country.

Under her leadership, Bulacan become one of the top performing provinces in education and she was also instrumental in making the products of her province world-class. Bulacan’s loss is the country’s great gain but I am sure that Dela Cruz will still continue to serve her province even if she is no longer the local chief executive there. PhilPost is very privileged to have Dela Cruz as their leader, I am sure that she will be able to revitalize the organization so that it can continue to deliver good services to the Filipino people. Kudos to President Aquino for making these very good appointments in our government!

One million signatures


The Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership led by our co-founders, Among Ed Panlilio, DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo and former Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca, are supporting the One Million Signature campaign launched by the Justice for Dr. Gerry Ortega Movement.

It’s been more than 8 months now since Ortega was brutally murdered and up until now, the mastermind of the said crime remains at large. Strong evidence points to former Gov. Joel Reyes as the brains behind the crime but despite this, the Department of Justice exonerated Reyes and the owner of the gun used to kill Ortega. Clearly, an injustice has happened here and we cannot just sit down and do nothing.

If you wish to sign and support our campaign for justice, please visit http://www.ramatak.net. Let us all remember that evil will prevail if good men choose to do nothing!

Comments are welcome at harveykeh@gmail.com 

PNoy and the Filipino Youth

July 18, 2011 Leave a comment

PNoy and the Filipino youth

by: Harvey S. Keh

The Manila Bulletin

http://www.mb.com.ph/node/327052/pnoy-and-filipino-youth

 

MANILA, Philippines — Now that the first year in office of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III is over, many people have given their own views about whether or not the President has been able to fulfill his promises.

Let us look at some of them and how the affect young Filipinos.

• Public-private partnership in education.
 One of the main advocacies of the Aquino administration has been to engage in public-private partnerships in implementing its programs.

In the field of helping improve the quality of our public school system, the Department of Education (DepEd), led by Sec. Armin Luistro, has continued to attract private sector partners such as Jollibee Foundation, Ateneo Center for Educational Development (ACED), and Synergeia Foundation.

Jollibee Foundation continues to expand its feeding program for malnourished public elementary school students all over the country while ACED is now partnering with Singapore’s Temasek Foundation to provide intensive training to public school teachers and principals all over the country. Synergeia has been focusing its efforts towards implementing a comprehensive reading program for public schools in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

When the private and public sector work together, big things can happen and that is what we are seeing now in our education sector.

• Social media for social change. Recently, a Facebook fundraising campaign was initiated by Jay Jaboneta and Anton Mari Lim to raise funds to build boats that would bring school children from far flung areas in Zamboanga to their schools. I believe that they have already raised enough funds to already build four boats. Before this, students had to swim several hundred meters just to be able to reach their schools!

This experience has shown that social media can be used to bring about solutions to our country’s social problems and more importantly, it shows that there are still many Filipinos from all over the world who are more than willing to do their own small share in contributing to nationbuilding.

For those who want to  donate to this cause, you can visit their Facebook group entitled, Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids.

• Ratings upgrade means more jobs. There is an increase in confidence in our country given by investment rating agencies such as S&P and Moody’s.

These international rating agencies have upgraded their forecast for our country and this will help attract more foreign investments to our country, provide more job opportunities to young Filipinos especially to those who just finished their college education.

According to these agencies, they gave a higher rating to the Philippines because they saw the commitment of the present administration in stamping out graft and corruption which have been a major deterrent in attracting investors.

By having more jobs available here in our country, Filipinos will no longer need to go abroad and leave their families behind in order for them to seek better employment opportunities.

What can young people do?

Despite all the good news and accomplishments, we still have a long way to go towards eradicating poverty and putting an end to our social ills. Young Filipinos have to realize that it is their future that is at stake in the next few years.

Our neighboring countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and now even Vietnam have begun to emerge as tiger economies in Asia with many of their citizens now enjoying a better quality of life.

Young Filipinos can do their own share in helping move our country forward by being proactive and responsible citizens who take part in volunteer programs that address particular problems in education, health, governance and the environment.

There are many groups that provide opportunities to be involved such as Pathways to Higher Education, Habitat for Humanity, Gawad Kalinga and our Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership.

Harnessing the use of social media by sharing inspiring Filipino stories will also help in promoting here and abroad that there are so many  good things that is happening in our country.

We have been used to all the negative news that pervades our media that we often forget that we have so many inspiring stories of hope that showcase the heroism in our people.

Finally, young Filipinos should choose not to become apathetic by making an effort to be informed and involved in our country’s state of affairs.

Being informed is the first step towards being active. If every Filipino will do his own small share to help the country, it won’t be long before we are able to achieve our goal of a prosperous Philippine society.

Little Mozart on Studio 23

I was particularly pleased to see that Studio 23 has decided to air a TV program entitled ”Little Amadeus” which features the boyhood adventures and musical life of the great composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. This animated
series entertains and educates children between the ages of four and eight years old about music and inspires them to make their own music. The stories revolve around his family, friends and performances and also involve the intrigues of his rival, Devilius, who along with a talking rat, Monti, attempt to discredit the Mozarts in the eyes of various nobles. This worthwhile and educational program airs every Sunday morning, 8 a.m. over Studio 23.

Comments are welcome at harveykeh@gmail.com

PNoy at Pinoy: A year after

July 13, 2011 Leave a comment

Reforms should come faster

July 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Reforms should come faster

by: Harvey S. Keh

The Manila Times

http://www.manilatimes.net/opinion/reforms-should-come-faster/

THE recent SWS Survey showed once again a dip in the satisfaction rating of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III or PNoy as he is called. In March 2011, he had a net satisfaction rating of +51 percent or as SWS would call it “very good” but in the recent survey results, his satisfaction rating has dipped further to +46 percent or “good.” Is this an alarming trend for the President? I don’t think so. I believe that this is expected given that PNoy started with a very high rating during the start of his term last year. I also believe that given all the current problems such as rising electricity costs, oil prices and food prices that are being faced by the country, it is not surprising that many Filipinos especially among the lower income class have started to become unsatisfied with the leadership of PNoy.

Are these problems the fault of our government? Partly yes and partly no. Partly yes because many of these problems is still a result of a lack of vision among our leaders on where our country will be headed in the coming years. If these is a clear cut vision and direction, proper planning can be done in terms of ensuring food security and providing for a business and investor friendly environment.

It is not entirely the government’s fault because some issues like the rising oil prices are really a global phenomenon that don’t only affect our country. Given these scenarios, the present administration needs to be more decisive in its actions and it will also need to ensure that it gets the right people to lead the different agencies that will help solve these social problems in our country.

Curb rising costs


I recently had an interesting meeting with an officer of a multi-national company based in Japan. He told me that his company wanted to invest in the Philippines and set up a multi-billion peso factory here but they decided against it due to the country’s very high cost of electricity. The Philippines has the second highest electricity cost in the whole of Asia, next only to Japan. Moreover, he also said that given the continued rise in our minimum wage, we will also have a hard time competing against countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, India and China whose electricity and labor costs are way lower compared to ours.

If you look at the experience of countries that have modernized and moved out of poverty, their main strengths have really been their vibrant manufacturing industries. Manufacturing provides millions of jobs to the people and it is an effective way of being able to spread the wealth equally. If our government is able to address these rising costs that deter setting up factories and manufacturing operations here, it would be easier for us to attract more foreign investments given that Filipinos are also known worldwide for their good work ethic.

Invest in agriculture development


One major reason why our minimum wage is very high compared to other countries is also partly due to the high cost of food especially in urban areas. A major reason for this is the lack of infrastructure in the provinces such as farm to market roads that would allow farmers to directly bring their crops to the market without having to go through your normal middlemen. This direct access to the market would not only benefit the consumer but this will also help increase the income of our farmers. Right now, many areas in our country are still being controlled by the middlemen who are the ones who buy the crop from the farmers at a very cheap price then go on to sell it to the consumers at a much higher price. In this kind of set-up, the only person that has benefitted much is the middleman and not the farmer nor the consumer.

There is also a need to invest in drying facilities especially for rice producing provinces such as Nueva Ecija and Isabela. These facilities would also help our farmers to ensure that they are able to maximize their crops since wastage will be minimized. By prioritizing agriculture development, we will no longer need to import rice and there will now be a higher supply of food in our country. Higher supply would mean lower prices which would be beneficial to every Filipino. If food and electricity prices are lowered then there will no longer be a need for us to always increase the minimum wage of our workers.

Reforms in Customs


If there is one agency that hasn’t changed much in the present administration, it seems to be the Bureau of Customs (BoC) where everything seems to be business as usual. Many businessmen have come up to me lamenting that officials of this agency have continued with their merry ways of extorting and harassing legitimate businesses in our country. It seems that although Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and BoC Commissioner Lito Alvarez are serious in cleaning up this place, there are still many well entrenched people in this agency that continue to resist change. If the present administration is really serious about eradicating graft and corruption as well as promoting our country as a business friendly environment, they can begin by revamping this agency and putting in good, honest and upright people who will ensure that transactions are done above board and in a transparent manner.

Comments are welcome at harveykeh@gmail.com

Unsolicited advice to President Noynoy Aquino

April 6, 2011 1 comment

President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III

 

Unsolicited advice to President Noynoy Aquino

by: Harvey S. Keh

 

Much has been said about the declining trust and satisfaction ratings of the President but aside from it being a case of not being able to communicate the administration’s accomplishments properly, I feel that President Noynoy Aquino should also come up with a landmark program or policy that would help define his administration as early as now. An example of which are three main things that are much needed by our country, the passage of a Freedom of Information (FOI) Law, the impartial implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program with reforms (CARPER) and lasting peace and development in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.

 

Pass the FOI immediately

 

Aquino ran on a platform of good governance, transparency and accountability that is why many were very surprised when he didn’t make the passage of the FOI as a priority measure for our Congress to immediately act upon. The FOI will enable ordinary citizens to demand information from our government officials and agencies especially those pertaining to how public funds are being used. In fact, I am surprised that much more attention has been given to the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill which has been a divisive issue in our society whereas the FOI Bill is a more important piece of legislation that is clearly less divisive now. The only Filipinos who will most likely oppose this bill are those who have many shenanigans to hide such as the cases of former AFP Generals Carlos Garcia and Jacinto Ligot. The Department of the Interior and Local Government led by Sec. Jesse Robredo has already asked all local government units to publish their budget and expenses for their constituents to see. This activity which Robredo himself has done during his 18 years as Mayor of Naga City will help in curbing corruption and ensuring that public funds are used efficiently to deliver basic services to the people.  I hope that the President will be able to see the importance of having an FOI law as one of the main foundations of his fight against graft and corruption in our government.

 

Hacienda Luisita

 

Many are still waiting on what Aquino will do with the case of Hacienda Luisita which has hounded him ever since he declared that he would run for President in the last elections. This will be a test case for the President since many big landowners can also try not to surrender their properties to the Department of Agrarian Reform since they can always say that it should be the President  who should first lead the way. Leadership by example is the most effective form of leadership since as they say talk is cheap. With the growing prices of food in the world market, the challenge for self-sufficiency in rice and corn production will be very critical in our fight against poverty. Just by going to the provinces, one can see that a main problem that our country continues to face is the many idle agricultural lands that are not being used. If all of these agricultural properties would be effectively distributed to farmers then I am sure that our rice and corn production would increase dramatically. By distributing and providing support services to the farmers of Hacienda Luisita, our President can showcase it as a success story in land reform.  Similar to his no wang wang policy which is now followed by all government officials, landed families will now have no choice but to also follow his example in supporting CARPER.

 

Postpone the ARMM elections

 

Finally, there is the perennial problem which is the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which has always been ruled by corrupt and traditional warlords turned politicians. The past administrations have never been able to make a dent in terms of bringing lasting development to the region. Worse, the previous administration even turned a blind eye to what was really happening in ARMM which eventually led to the tragic Maguindanao Massacre perpetuated by the Ampatuans. This culture of fear, harassment and patronage politics in ARMM are the main reasons why even if you push through with the upcoming ARMM elections, you will still end up with having the same kind of leaders in the region. This is the reason why I am fully supportive in the moves being done to push for the postponement of the ARMM elections.  How can there be genuine democracy if people cannot go out and vote for the right leaders because they fear for their lives? Another big issue is the official voters list that still needs to be cleaned up for an election to be truly representative of the real sentiments of the people. Free elections in the ARMM cannot happen if political and electoral reforms are not implemented first. It may not be the Ampatuans who will win out if elections do push through but it will be another family who will again use the funds of the ARMM as their own personal bank account while many of our Muslim brothers and sisters continue to live in hunger and poverty.

 

The Ateneo School of Government and the Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership is open to accepting volunteers, interns and OJTs for this summer. For those who are interested, please send your resume to harveykeh@gmail.com .

 

Comments are welcome at harveykeh@gmail.com .

 

Robredo deserves post—youth leader

February 15, 2011 Leave a comment

DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo with President Noynoy Aquino

 

Robredo deserves post—youth leader

Philippine Daily Inquirer
http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/letterstotheeditor/view/20110211-319640/Robredo-deserves-postyouth-leader
I AM appealing to President Aquino to give his full trust and confidence to Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo by appointing him in a permanent capacity to his post and submitting his name to the Commission on Appointments (CA) for confirmation.In the past six months that Secretary Robredo has been in office, he has been able to live up to the campaign promise of President Aquino: “Kung Walang Corrupt, Walang Mahirap.” Proof of this is his effort to promote greater transparency and public accountability among local government units all over our country by directing them to publish their budgets and expenditures for their constituents to see. As an advocate of genuine people empowerment, he has also helped open up our government to partnerships with various civil society organizations, private sector groups and foundations that are currently helping deliver better basic services to marginalized sectors in our society.

As ex-officio chairman of the National Police Commission, he has also been proactive in cleaning up the ranks of the Philippine National Police by suspending more than 100 rogue cops from service. Regarding the recent spate of car thefts, he has worked well with PNP Chief Gen. Raul Bacalzo in apprehending the suspects behind the murder of car dealer Venson Evangelista. He was able produce concrete results in less than a week, which goes to show how effective he is as a leader.

Clearly, he is one of the better-performing Cabinet secretaries of the present administration and we definitely deserve more leaders like him. Thus, I sincerely believe that he deserves nothing less than the full trust and confidence of President Aquino.

—HARVEY S. KEH,

director for youth leadership and social entrepreneurship,

Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government,

harveykeh@gmail.com

 

Is our patience running out on PNoy?

January 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Is our patience running out on PNoy?

by: Harvey S. Keh

The Manila Times

http://manilatimes.net/index.php/opinion/38167-is-our-patience-running-out-on-pnoy

 

LAST Monday, I was invited to speak and share my views about public education and good governance at a Rotary Club meeting in Makati. During that meeting some of the Rotarians expressed their disappointment with the performance of President Noynoy Aquino’s administration, particularly some members of the Cabinet.

One of them said that in the last six months, Aquino’s legal team and advisers led by Executive Secretary Paquito “Jojo” Ochoa has made this administration look incompetent because of the flawed Executive Orders (EOs) that it has issued.

Another said that they haven’t seen any major results in the campaign promise of PNoy to curb graft and corruption especially in the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs. He further added that the major smugglers in our country are already public knowledge but our officials at the Department of Finance (DOF) seem to content themselves with just catching small fry. He cited that perhaps these smugglers of Chinese descent also contributed to the campaign of PNoy and that is why they continue to remain untouchable.

Finally, another one of them brought up again the issue of illegal gambling and jueteng which continues to thrive in the provinces due to the connivance of the gambling lords with our local chief executives and the officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Perhaps like these Rotarians, some of us are already beginning to lose our trust with PNoy and his administration but let us remember that PNoy inherited huge problems from a very corrupt regime that reigned in our country for nine years. If we expect our present administration to turn things around in less than a year then we will definitely be disappointed.

Personally, I’d like to see DOF Secretary Cesar Purisima put these big time smugglers behind bars since I believe that it is only by doing so that the President and his officials can show Filipinos and even the international community that they mean business. I have some friends in the business community who tell me that not much has changed in Customs even with this new administration. Many Customs officials are still able to earn millions every month due to the rampant bribery and corruption that happens within the institution. This is one of the major reasons why our country continues to lag behind compared to other Asian nations as a viable and attractive investment site.

I was able to personally bring this issue up with Purisima and he told me that they are already working with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to create sting operations that would catch these crooks. Purisima and his team have also set up Pera ng Bayan, an online portal where ordinary Filipinos can report about government officials who are currently engaged in graft and corruption.

Last December, I was able to also meet with DOF Undersecretary Carlo Carag and we decided that our organization, Kaya Natin, will work with the DOF to help educate the general public about how to spot a government official engaged in illegal activities. Let us hope that all these efforts by our DOF officials will eventually bear fruit because by eradicating graft and corruption, we will be able to help increase our government’s revenues. This increase can now go into funding more basic services such as improving our public health and public education systems.

With regard to jueteng and illegal gambling, it seems that the leadership of the Philippine National Police (PNP) is showing how inept they are in dealing with this growing social problem. Jueteng and those who run these operations are like white elephants in a room wherein everybody knows that they are there but everyone seems to turn a blind eye and pretend that they don’t see them. This is the case in Pampanga and Pangasinan where the PNP Provincial directors have time and again denied the presence of illegal gambling in their province but if you go around and ask the common folk, nine out of 10 will easily say that they are still very much thriving.

Whatever happened to the list of jueteng operators that Archbishop Oscar Cruz revealed in the Senate a few months ago? Has anyone of them been caught and prosecuted? If PNoy really wants to stamp out corruption, he should begin by cleaning up the ranks of the PNP whose leaders led by PNP Chief General Raul Bacalzo seem to have already been corrupted by the millions that these jueteng lords give them every month.

Many people have said that jueteng cannot be stopped but everyone knows that when Senator Ping Lacson was still PNP Chief, he was able to stop jueteng operations all over the country for more than a year. As the saying goes, if there’s a will, there’s a way. In Tagalog it’s “Kung gusto may paraan, kung ayaw parating may dahilan.”

Does jueteng money reach all the way to Malacañang? I don’t think so but unless PNoy and his leaders at the PNP can do something about this soon, don’t be surprised if some people are already starting to think this way.

Comments are welcome at harveykeh@gmail.com