Saturday, February 18, 2012

“Because it’s there”

TITLE: “Because it’s there”
By Ka Iking Señeres

Why do you climb mountains? Ask this question to any mountaineer and he will tell you, “because it’s there”. Why am I promoting telemedicine? Ask me this question, and I will give you the same answer, “because it’s there”. As a matter of fact, telemedicine has been around for many years, but unfortunately, it is not yet that widely used, to the disadvantage of the poor and sick people who could potentially be cured by this very powerful technology. Thanks to the convergence of some friendly forces, telemedicine in this country could be given a big boost soon.

The National Development Service Command (NADESCOM) is the integrated development arm of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). It combines the infrastructure development and civic action components of the Philippine Army, the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Air Force. As part of its mandate, NADESCOM builds feeder roads, water systems, school buildings and health centers in depressed areas all over the country, particularly in areas that are affected by armed conflicts.

Since the NADESCOM was organized, it has already built about 600 health centers nationwide. However, due to its defined function that is limited to construction only, and due to its budget limitations, it has been unable to provide these health centers with the equipment and supplies necessary to operationalize them. Going beyond their defined functions, the NADESCOM is now reaching out to other government agencies and the private sector, for them to donate the needed equipment and supplies. As of now, the NADESCOM has already solicited several donated goods that are already being used by some of the health centers, but the demand for the needed equipment and supplies has been largely unmet.

The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) is a government corporation that is mandated to raise funds for charity and welfare projects by way of sweepstakes, lotteries and scratch cards. It is part of the mandate of PCSO to fund hospitals and health centers. All of the health centers built by NADESCOM are located in government lots, and all of them have been donated to the local government units (LGUs) where they are located. Since these health centers are actually government owned, they would qualify for PCSO funding. NADESCOM and PCSO have already agreed in principle to work together in order to equip the 600 health centers, but the operational details and mechanics are yet to be worked out by both agencies.

Our Barangay, Inc. (OBI) is one of the first private organizations approached by NADESCOM for assistance. The objective of OBI is to connect all local villages to the internet, and to enable these villages so that they could computerize their administrative functions. In line with this objective, OBI has agreed to solicit computers for the health centers, and to find ways to connect them to the internet. In particular, OBI wants to assist to connect the health centers to the internet, so that they could take advantage of telemedicine as a technology for increasing access to health care services through the use of voice, video and data transmissions via the internet. Using the international network of OBI among overeas Filipinos, it would hopefully become possible for Filipino doctors abroad to extend their services to local patients using remote telemedicine solutions.

The Corinthian Coffee Clutch (C3) is another private organization that was approached by NADESCOM for assistance. C3 is a think tank that is devoted to nation building. As an organization, it does not directly go into projects, but it supports the projects that are managed by its members. C3 supports the framework for integrated area development (IAD), which includes access to health services. In line with the advocacies of C3, it is now supporting a project in Caloocan City that aims to transform an old motor hotel into a new medical center. One of the objectives of this project is to equip the medical center so that it could become a command and control center for the telemedicine network that will be established to remotely support the 600 health centers. Aside from supporting telemedicine, the new medical center is also envisioned to become a school for alternative and complimentary medicine, in line with the goal of developing new practical and economical approaches towards increasing access to health services in the Philippines.

Text from reader Ojie Angeles: “i read ur column. very biblical, found in Corinthians which categorically says of these, the greatest is L0VE or charity. ur column title aptly say without all 3 nothing can be accomplished or all 3 should be present n everything we do. ur column is d mother of all columns. captures everything”.

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“Believing, Hoping and Sharing”

TITLE: “Believing, Hoping and Sharing”
By Ka Iking Señeres

In search of a title for my new column, I decided to choose a name that would best reflect my advocacy for nation building. You might not see the connection right away, but as I see it, faith, hope and charity are the three virtues that we actually need in order to build this nation on one hand, and to move it forward on the other hand, not just to survive, but to regain our leadership and dominance in this part of the world. As others would see it, we should actually aim for nation rebuilding instead of nation building, but that is a friendly debate that I would join anytime.

In Pilipino, faith, hope and charity could be roughly translated into “pag-titiwala, pag-asa at pag-mamahal”. The translation of charity into “love” is done with some poetic license, but “love” is actually the bottom line of charity. More often than not, charity is interpreted as the giving of alms or the sharing of blessings, but it is actually “love” that powers and motivates the giving and the sharing. From another perspective, sharing is actually another form of tithing, in other words, it is giving to others in need, aside from giving to a church based organization.

Religion is divisive, spirituality is not. We could find spirituality in religion, but one does not really need religion in order to find spirituality. All told, it is best however to have religion, in order to find spirituality better and deeper. It is spirituality that gives us faith. No matter what our religion is, it is our spirituality that gives us faith in God, the God of everyone, the God of all religions. Without faith in God, there is no purpose for our lives. Without faith in our country, we have nothing to look forward to up ahead in the future.

It is faith in God that gives us hope. We could hope in others, but that is the kind of hope that has no foundation, no meaning. With faith in God, we could hope that our country could still have a good future. While it is true that we could make our country grow and prosper with our own labor, it is God that gives us the hope that we could have the growth and the prosperity that we long for. Grace comes from God even if we do not work for it, or even if we do not deserve it. That is the nature of grace. Do not ever believe that you could pressure God or blackmail God into giving you grace by simply working for it. Just work as if everything depended on your labor, and pray as if everything depended on God.

Charity is not obligatory, but those who have faith in God should see it as an opportunity to reach out to God here on earth, within our own material realm. What does charity have to do with nation building? Strictly speaking, charity has nothing to do with the official duties of the government to deliver basic services to our people. Even if the delivery is a duty however, it could still be seen as an opportunity to share the wealth of the government with those in need. Given the fact that governance is not the exclusive domain of the government however, everyone is welcome to share their blessings.

Speaking of blessings, I have been blessed with the opportunity of having a key role in the reorganization of Sagip Bansa, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to nation building. It was founded by the late patriot and ideolouge Dr. Ernesto G. Ramos. We hope to be able to continue with his advocacy and legacy in the renewed organization. The objectives of Sagip Bansa blends very well with those of Corinthian Coffee Clutch (C3), a think tank that is also dedicated to nation building. Same goes with Our Barangay, Inc. (OBI), an NGO that is also dedicated to nation building, with the specific goal of connecting all barangay units to the internet.

Kodus to Maj. Gen. Carlos B. Holganza of the National Development Support Command (NADESCOM) for helping the Foundation of Our Lady of Peace Mission, Inc. (FOLPMI) in the release of a shipment of donated medical goods from Schenker International. Kudos also to Capt. Jerry Arrizabal of the Davao Customs Police for facilitating the release.
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“Building a National Crime Information System”

“Building a National Crime Information System”

By Ramon Ike Villareal Señeres, CESO, CSEE

I had the privilege of bringing the National Crime Information System (NCIS) to full completion. I was the Chairman of the NCIS, concurrent to my capacity as the Director General of the National Computer Center (NCC). In the structure of the government, the NCIS was organized as a Project Management Office (PMO) under the supervision of the NCC, with me acting as the Project Manager, but complemented with officers and staff who were detailed to the project from all of the agencies belonging to the Five Pillars of Justice.

I say that I only brought it to completion, because the NCIS was started during the term of President Corazon C. Aquino, and I completed it during the term of President Joseph E. Estrada. I think that it is very important to make this clarification, because there was a widespread public perception that the NCIS was a project of President Estrada, a wrong perception that led to some opposition to the project, seemingly due to political reasons.

Setting aside all political reasons, we do need a crime information system that should be national in nature, but local in character. Depending on who is saying it, it could be said that the old NCIS as I completed it is either dead or weakened, as the case may be. The fact is, some of its surviving components are still being used by the remaining stations that used it. If it is dead, there is a need to revive it. If it is weakened, there is a need to strengthen it.

Since I only took over a project that was almost halfway to its completion, I could hardly do anything to change its basic systems design. From the start, the project was designed to be a client-server system, meaning that it was systems based and not browser based. Fortunately, the Graphical User Interface (GUI) technology was already available at that time, and I was able to upgrade the system from a purely textual interface using the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) into the more visual GUI look and feel.

To some extent, I would say that I succeeded in making the system browser based to some degree, because the Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) was already available at that time. The Extensible Markup Language (XML) was also emerging at that time, and somehow, we were able to incorporate some XML features into the system. It might have looked good at that time, considering what we have to work with, but its look and feel would hardly come close to the new multimedia features of the new interfaces now that are purely browser based.

Setting aside the technical aspects of this subject matter, there is really a need now to either revive or strengthen the NCIS, so that the Five Pillars of Justice could again use it, the Five Pillars being law enforcement (police), prosecution (fiscals), judgement (the courts), rehabilitation (corrections) and community (pardon and parole).

Perhaps due to the gargantuan task that was given to us at that time, the system was designed only to cover the so-called “index crimes”. This was a technicality that the implementing laws prescribed, and we had to design the data fields in order to meet these limitations. Moving up ahead to the present times, it is now possible to include all kinds of crimes into a revived system, including perhaps environmental crimes and cyber crimes for instance.

The most difficult part of our challenge at that time was to create a single identity number for persons that are entered into the database, from the time that he or she is arrested, to the time that he is released as the case may be, because some convicts are sentenced to life imprisonment. The system required us to be able to track the same person as he or she moves from one Pillar to another, regardless of how many cases he has, as the case may be. In other words, it was both a case monitoring system and a person monitoring system, rolled into one.

Today, we could only watch movies and television and admire with envy how the law enforcement officers of other countries are using databases to identify criminals, not knowing that at one time in our history, we had a system that could do exactly what these foreign officers are doing.

From the time that the old NCIS died or weakened, the information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure in the Philippines has improved, and has in fact been strengthened. Notwithstanding the fact that the proposed National Broadband Network (NBN) did not push through, there is still enough connectivity and bandwidth in this country to support and sustain a revived and improved NCIS. I say this because if we were able to build the old NCIS by using only copper leased lines and ordinary copper dial up connections, we could even so much more now, with fiber optic and broadband connections that are more available now, considering both wireless and wired connectivity solutions.

Looking back, I would say that the challenge of building and sustaining a crime information system is not so much on the technology side, but more on the policy side, meaning to say the policy framework that would require and compel all the component agencies of the Five Pillars to contribute data to the system by using it, or to go direct to the point, to faithfully and regularly use the system.

It could be said that the old NCIS system might have died or might have weakened due to the graft and corruption in the government in the past administrations. To go direct to the point, there was an apparent conflict of interest between the supposed users of the system, and the system itself. The computerized system promoted transparency and removed personal discretion in most of the operational procedures. As we all know too well, it is the lack of transparency and the existence of discretion that enables graft and corruption to prosper and survive.

In other words, the problem of computerization in the Five Pillars is not really on the side of hardware and software, but on the side of the manpower, the people in front of the machines that are supposed to use it, but would not use it, because it conflicts with their own interests, and with their own old ways of doing things. At the risk of sounding too redundant, the problem is not technical, it is political.

Under the new administration of President Benigno Aquino however, we now stand a better chance of implementing a revived NCIS, with a new atmosphere of transparency, accompanied by a firm resolve to defeat and remove graft and corruption in the entire government.

Of course, machines could not do everything, and they could only do what we want them to do. However, machines are proven to be good tools of productivity, and they are guaranteed to perform, as long as the people who are supposed to use them properly are also determined to perform properly as they should. If only we could make the people work, we could make the machines work.

I also recall that during that time, our government officials had apprehensions about using the internet for the supposedly super secure work of crime monitoring and crime reporting. This apprehension could still be valid even up to now, but since then, the technologies for securing data over the internet has also improved. All told, I think that the bottom line of this issue is the economics of it, because the system could also be operated outside the internet, using secure and dedicated connections.

I have dealt with the challenge of data security from the time that I was head of global information and communications for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and until now, for my consulting clients. Way back then and until now, I still say that everything is hack-able, but a secure system can make it more difficult for hackers to crack, and the challenge to them is to crack it as fast as possible and as cheaply as possible.

Setting aside the issue of having bragging rights, most hackers are discouraged if the system takes too much time or takes too much money to crack. In theory, the objective of hackers is to be able to crack the system as quickly as possible, so that the information is still current and usable by the time that they crack it. Aside from that, the value of the information that they could get from hacking should be greater than what it would cost them to hack it. This observation does not apply to spies and other enemies of the State who may be determined to crack our codes no matter how much time it takes, and no matter how much money it would cost.

Due to budgetary constraints, most government agencies would only invest in software for data security, and not on hardware for the same. In my experience, the most secure systems are those that would combine both software and hardware for data security, without sacrificing one or the other. I tried to implement this combination for the old NCIS, but I was also limited by the allowed budgets.

Notwithstanding all the possible problems that I have mentioned, I still say that the government could easily revive the NCIS if it gathers the political will to do so. I also say that it has to match the will of criminals to do wrong for their own gain. In the same manner that criminal elements have already become “high-tech” in the way that they commit crime, it is about time that the government should become even more “high-tech” than them, starting with computerized databases.

During the time when I implemented the old NCIS, the technologies for “command and control” were not yet as mature as they are now. It might have been a good idea to put up a “command and control” center to back up the old NCIS, but we could not do that at that time, considering that the budget given to us was only for the computerization of the operational aspects of the member agencies of the NCIS.

I caught up with the challenge of using “command and control” technologies when I became a computer consultant for the local government of Makati City. The Mayor at that time was Vice President Jejomar Binay, and it was he who recognized the need to integrate the communications infrastructure of all the law enforcement and public safety units of the city. Consequently, I became part of the team that conceptualized and established what is now known as the Command and Control Center (C3) of the city.

Before the Makati City C3 was established, each of the law enforcement and public safety units of the city had their own radio systems, and the Mayor had to carry several radio handsets that would connect him to the said units, namely the police department, the fire department, the public safety department, the city hospital, the ambulance services and the rescue teams. After the Makati City C3 was established, the Mayor only had one radio handset to carry, and he could even call the command center using any phone line.

I also recall that Vice President Binay decided not to use the 117 emergency number of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), because the 117 system charges callers for using the system. According to him, he felt that it was not morally right to charge people if they make emergency calls, because it was tantamount to taking advantage of their situation to earn fees for the service. That is the reason why Makati City eventually opted to establish its own 168 emergency number.

I believe that in the long run, the Philippines needs a single number for the whole country that will take free emergency calls, just like the 168 number of Makati City. It appears that the 117 system of the DILG was patterned after the 911 system of the United States, wherein callers are also charged for their calls through their phone bills. I believe that a C3 that is free to call is part of having universal access to safety, especially so in a country like ours where the majority of the people are apparently poor. Denying universal access to safety is not only immoral; it is also unfair and unjust to those who are financially deprived.

Looking back in retrospect, I could now say that it was really graft and corruption that either killed or immobilized the old NCIS database. As we now think about reviving that database, it is also now necessary for us to also address the graft and corruption that apparently still happens in many of the agencies that were part of the system before. I say this with the thoughts in mind that even if we revive the database by modernizing it; it will again die if the people who are supposed to use it are still corrupt.

Corruption is a problem that has been with mankind from the beginning of time, and it would be unrealistic to think that it will disappear from the face of the earth in the years to come. It would however be realistic to think that corruption could be minimized in some places where it could be reasonably controlled, and that includes agencies of government with clear disciplinary measures that are imposed to all of their officials and employees.

I recently co-founded HYHO Clubs International, an organization of students and young professionals who are guided by the motto of “Help Yourself, Help Others”. As a mass based organization of students and young professionals, HYHO is in a good position to support projects that will help improve the quality of life of government employees, so that there would be a lesser tendency on their part to succumb to the temptation of graft and corruption.

As an organization, HYHO is going to adopt the twelve “Basic Human Needs” (BHN) framework, a complete package that includes culture, education, employment, energy, entrepreneurship, food, justice, health, mobility, safety, shelter and water services. There are many ways to fight corruption, but one good way certainly is to deliver the BHN package to the uniformed and civilian employees of the Five Pillars of Justice. As the saying goes, “Do not tempt the mortals”.

The author is a broadcast journalist, syndicated columnist, political economist and computer technologist. He was formerly Director General of the National Computer Center and Chairman of the National Crime Information System

“An Integrated Approach to the Delivery of Basic Human Needs”

“An Integrated Approach to the Delivery of Basic Human Needs”

By Ramon Ike Villareal Señeres, CESO, CSEE

In the past administrations, the government has adopted the “Shelter cum Livelihood” strategy, apparently upon realizing that housing beneficiaries would need livelihood in order to sustain their housing loan payments. Although at that time shelter was already considered as the centrepiece, it was apparently only livelihood that was given almost equal importance, perhaps due to its direct connection to the shelter strategy itself.

In a statement released to the media, the Socio Economic Development Alliance (SEDA) announced its advocacy for the adoption of twelve “Basic Human Needs” (BHN) as a development framework that aims to deliver twelve basic human needs down to the community level. SEDA is an alliance of organizations that are working for nation building through socio economic development, formed on the initiative of the Corinthian Coffee Clutch (C3) and HYHO Clubs International.

C3 is a weekly forum of businessmen, professionals, academics and scientists that meet every Friday at the Corinthian Plaza Building in Makati City, for the purpose of developing plans and programs for nation building. HYHO is an organization of students and young professionals who are guided by the motto of “Help Yourself, Help Others”.

Members of SEDA are ready to work in cooperation with the government in order to be able to deliver the twelve basic human needs to the community level, in line with the “Public and Private Partnership” (PPP) program of the new administration. We are hoping that through SEDA, we can unite all the organizations that are working for nation building, instead of each one of them going their own way, doing things separately.

Dubbed as Sandosenang Serbisyo” in the vernacular, BHN aims to deliver culture, education, employment, energy, entrepreneurship, food, justice, health, mobility, safety, shelter and water services. In the framework, culture includes recreation, entrepreneurship includes micro financing, justice includes human rights, health includes spiritual health and mobility includes online connectivity. What is usually known as “livelihood” has been divided into two services, namely employment and entrepreneurship.

As distinguished from the “Shelter cum Livelihood” strategy, the new BHN framework shall continue to have shelter as the centrepiece, but all the other eleven basic needs will be given equal importance in relation to each other. In this context, shelter shall refer to both housing and urban development. It shall also refer to both new housing development and continuing property management, the latter referring to the implementation of sustainable standards that will be enforced upon property managers and local governments.

Looking at it from another perspective, the new BHN framework shall adopt the “time and space” dimensions. The “time” dimension will be the timeline that will track the completed delivery of all the twelve basic human needs from the original benchmark, being the starting point, all the way towards the deadline, being the ending point. The “space” dimension will be the physical area of the target community, being the geographical jurisdiction of the barangay.

It is very important to note at this point that so far, the government has not combined the “time and space” dimensions in the delivery of the twelve basic human needs. As it is generally known, the government does not set deadlines in the completed delivery of these needs to each of the target communities. In addition to that, there appears to be no appreciation of the need to correlate these deadlines with the physical geographic targets.

The Housing and Urban Development Council (HUDCC) is the central agency tasked by the government for all shelter concerns. The Philippine Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) is the central agency tasked for all sustainable development concerns, a task that encompasses both housing and urban development. Aside from that, the scope of PCSD includes all the other eleven basic human needs. PCSD is under the supervision of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).

The Civil Society Council for Sustainable Development (CSCSD) has invited SEDA to become its partner in the review of the Philippine compliance with the Rio Protocol, now known as Rio + 22. In turn, CSCSD is now officially a partner of PCSD and NEDA in the said review, in accordance with a new Executive Order that was recently signed. In a private conversation with Secretary Cayetano Paderanga, the Secretary General of NEDA, he has also welcomed the participation of C3 in the PCSD. With these new developments, C3 will be represented by SEDA in all dealings with CSCSD, PCSD and NEDA.

Meanwhile, SEDA formally started its cooperation with HUDCC, in a meeting held at the Legend Hotel in Mandaluyong City. Officials of Armadillo Holdings, Inc. (AHI) also attended the meeting. AHI is a company owned by Pastor Wyden King. AHI owns and operates Legend Hotel and the chain of Kabayan Hotels. Leaders of a Christian community movement that is associated with Pastor King also attended the meeting.

HUDCC, AHI and SEDA agreed during the said meeting to start the development of the first high rise social housing condominium project in the Philippines, located in the area of Tripa de Gallena, a community that borders on the jurisdiction of Pasay City and Makati City. The informal settlers who are now residing in the community will be given individual units in the condo project, along with livelihood projects that will help them sustain their low cost lease payments. Leading the project is Mr. Howard Mijares, an official of AHI, and who is also a member of C3.

In that same meeting, HUDCC and SEDA also agreed to bring the twelve basic human needs to the housing projects of the government, particularly the housing sites of the National Housing Authority (NHA). Mr. Chito Borromeo, a consultant of HUDCC and Mr. Butch Fabul, a Vice President of the Home Guarantee Corporation (HGC), an agency under HUDCC attended the meeting, together with Mr. Jovie Labajo, a Director of the Social Housing Financing Corporation (SHFC), also an agency under HUDCC. Mr. Borromeo, Mr. Fabul, Mr. Labajo and agreed with SEDA to visit the NHA housing sites, in order to find out what could be done to deliver the BHN package to these sites.

In response to the report made by Mr. Mijares to the C3 meeting, the C3 members agreed to turn the condo project into a model for sustainable development in general, and sustainable housing in particular. In this context, sustainability shall mean the delivery of all the basic human needs. To be more specific however, C3 wants to turn the condo project into a model for vertical housing, deciding as well to create a separate model for horizontal housing, possibly in the Macabud site that is already an existing project.

Macabud is a barangay in Rodriguez, Rizal Province. Long before C3 was formed, I asked Mr. Lito Alcover to look for a location that could be developed into a model community that would be complete with all basic human needs, in other words turning it into a sustainable village. Mr. Alcover found a barangay in Rizal Province that would be the ideal site as we both wanted it. When the C3 was formed, it adopted Macabud as its first project.

The invitation to become a partner of CSCSD came through the initiative of Dr. Roger Birosel, a scientist who is a Founding Trustee of CSCSD and also a member of C3. As we welcome this invitation, we are also presented with the challenge making sustainable development compatible with the goal of delivering the basic human needs to the community level. While it appears to be logical that these two goals are actually compatible, we are still confronted with the work of making the convergence happen, in the means of the apparent overlaps in the mandates of the government agencies that are working towards these related goals.

According to the Philippine Medium Term Development Plan (PMTDP), each province is supposed to have an Integrated Area Development (IAD) plan, broken down into specific IAD plans for each barangay, municipality or city under its jurisdiction. As indicated in the PMTDP, each region is supposed to have a combined IAD, integrating the IAD plans of all the provinces under its jurisdiction. Also as indicated in the PMTDP, each barangay, municipality, city, province and region is supposed to have its own Local Development Council (LDC).
Generally speaking, there is hardly any data that is coming out of the Barangay Development Councils (BDCs), Municipal Development Councils (MDCs), City Development Councils (CDCs), Provincial Development Councils (PDCs) and Regional Development Councils (RDCs). Similarly, there appears to be no copies of the local IADs that are available to the public, if in fact they actually exist in one form or another. Ideally, the minutes of the LDCs should be published, so that anyone in the local communities could access them anytime.

Since Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are now widely available as a very useful information and communications technology (ICT), it would be a very practical idea to translate all of the local IAD data into the GIS format. As I understand it, many local governments are already using GIS one way or the other, but only for their own specific needs, and not for the purpose of complying with the IAD requirements.
As the law requires, each municipality, city and province is also supposed to have its own Integrated Land Use Plan (ILUP), and as I understand it, the ILUP is, or could be the same product or project as the IAD. Whether or not ILUP is the same as the IAD or is just a part of it, it goes without saying that good integrated land use planning should be the starting point of good integrated area development planning.

Apparently due to gerrymandering, many provinces have been formed out of geographically contiguous areas that are naturally and supposedly linked to each other biologically. Setting aside all political divisions, these geographically contiguous areas actually form one biosphere, practically bound together by watersheds that they all depend upon. Considering the existence of real political divisions however, we now have the RDCs that could potentially unite each biosphere and watershed, if only the RDCs could be made to work together.

As required in the PMTDP, all RDCs are supposed to report to the NEDA, being the duly designated Secretariat. Since NEDA is also the Secretariat for the PCSD, there are many opportunities for coordinating the compatible goals of integrated land use planning, integrated area development and sustainable development in one and the same Secretariat. Fortunately, the CSCSD is now in place to assist the NEDA in this gargantuan work.

In technical terms, each LDC should have its own GIS equipped BHN database that should have built-in ILUP and IAD components. This database should be able to identify and track the process of delivering the BHN package to the community level, namely culture, education, employment, energy, entrepreneurship, food, justice, health, mobility, safety, shelter and water services. GIS is dynamic and flexible. It is a very practical and convenient software product that could easily identify and track the “time and space” dimensions of BHN delivery.

Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Short Messaging Systems (SMS) are two other software products that could easily be integrated as part of GIS based databases. GPS could be the tracking component, and SMS could be the messaging component. By using SMS, the databases would not only become interactive, it would also become participatory. That means any user of an SMS phone will have the rights to “read and write”, in other words they could read what is in the databases, and they could also contribute data into it.

With about 80 million SMS equipped phones in the hands of about 100 million Filipinos, it would appear that almost every citizen of this country has a handheld device that would enable him or her to “read” whatever is in the databases. Almost every citizen would also have the means to gather data and submit it electronically, using only his or her mobile phone. That is the participatory nature of the databases that would make it truly democratic.

As a think tank, C3 functions as the “brains” of SEDA. It could only “think” about what to do, it could not actually “act” on what it “thinks” about. This is where HYHO comes in. As a mass based organization of students and young professionals, HYHO is in a good position to “act” on what C3 “thinks” about, in effect becoming the “hands and feet” of SEDA to do both substantive and administrative work.

The substantive work of HYHO members will be in the form of actual and direct participation in the mandated councils of the government, including the PCSD at the top, and the LDCs at the bottom, for and on behalf of SEDA. For practical reasons, HYHO will present to these councils the reports and proposals prepared by C3 members.

The administrative work of HYHO members will be in the form of monitoring the progress of BHN implementation as it happens in the field, and reporting the data about the progress via SMS. Aside from that, HYHO members will also “read” the data in the BHN databases, a regular activity that will be part of its monitoring.

The author is a broadcast journalist, syndicated columnist, political economist and computer technologist. He was formerly Director General of the National Computer Center and Chairman of the National Crime Information System

“Complementing the Conditional Cash Transfer Program”

“Complementing the Conditional Cash Transfer Program”

By Ramon Ike Villareal Señeres, CESO, CSEE

Our Barangay Inc. (OBI) is planning to support the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program of the government that is now being implemented through the Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD). The support will come in the form of a software program that will computerize the distribution system, complete with a “cashless” identification card system. This move by OBI will set a good precedent in the goal of productive cooperation between the government and the civic groups, along the spirit of Public and Private Partnership (PPP).

Aside from being a co-founder of OBI, I am also a co-founder of HYHO Clubs International, a new organization that was recently formed. “HELP YOURSELF, HELP OTHERS” is the international motto of HYHO, from which its name is derived.
The concept behind HYHO is to form local clubs in schools and workplaces, thereafter federating these local clubs into an international organization of national clubs, bound together by the common purpose of enabling club members to help themselves and to help others in gaining access to the twelve basic human needs namely culture, education, employment, energy, entrepreneurship, food, justice, health, mobility, safety, shelter and water services.

The primary objective of HYHO is to assist its members so that they could help themselves in gaining access to the twelve basic human needs. It is the sworn duty of the global organization of HYHO Clubs to support the national and local clubs in these twelve service areas. The secondary objective is to help others so that they too, could gain access to these twelve services.

The purpose of HYHO is to enable local clubs so that they could help themselves by becoming self-sufficient. This is the meaning of “help yourself”. Being a service organization however, all local clubs are also encouraged to serve their own host communities. This is the meaning of “help others”.

I understand that the primary objective of the government in implementing the CCT program is to help those who are extremely poor to meet their most basic needs. There appears to be a secondary objective however, and that is to ensure that the children of these families would really go to school, and that these children would really be provided with good health care. Hence, the cash amounts are transferred to the beneficiaries on the condition that they will send their children to school, and that they will bring them to the health centers for regular check-ups.

Given the fact that the money is already allocated, and that these are already being transferred on a regular basis, it may be a good idea to add a tertiary objective, and that is to try and converge the delivery of the ten other basic human needs to these families, in the process taking advantage of the opportunity to measure over a period of time how the delivery of these basic human needs would impact on their socio-economic conditions. Chances are, it is highly possible that providing money, education and healthcare to these families could be a way for them to get out of poverty. If and when this could happen, the government should be able to get the data, and that is only possible if we design and implement a database system that will collect and analyse the data.

The Human Development Index (HDI) of the United Nations (UN) tracks the performance of member countries in lowering their poverty rates, illiteracy rates and mortality rates. Perhaps it is part of the design of the government to transfer cash to extremely poor families in order to lower the poverty rate, to send their children to school in order to lower the illiteracy rate, and to bring their children to health centers in order to lower the mortality rate. If this is really the case, it becomes more important to track the impacts of the CCT program on these three measures, in order to report these to the UN as part of our HDI compliance.

As far as I know, the convergence approach in delivering all the twelve basic human needs to the household level has not been tried yet by the government. I was part of the experiment to deliver eleven basic needs under the Bagong Lipunan Integrated Sites and Services (BLISS) program of the Ministry of Human Settlements (MHS) but I recall that the purpose of the BLISS program was to deliver the eleven basic needs to the community level only, and not to the household level. There are fundamental differences between these two levels, particularly in the specific characteristics of the data that should be gathered.

Given the mandate of each government agency, it is very difficult for them to go beyond what their mandates would allow them to do. This is compounded by the fact that their respective budgets have specific purposes under the General Appropriations Act (GAA), and they could not spend their budgetary allocations for any other purpose other than what is stated in the GAA. By its very nature therefore, the government in general and the bureaucracy in particular is really designed to be fragmented in nature, and it is this institutionalized balkanization that prevents it from delivering all services in a holistic and comprehensive manner, for the purpose of convergence.

The private sector too, is not spared from this uncoordinated behavior. Many companies acting in their corporate capacities or through their private services are delivering many different kinds of basic human needs in many places, each of them going their own ways, so much so that they are unable to form a critical mass in any community anywhere. I am mentioning the community here in the sense that it is the physical setting of all households, but what I am actually proposing is the convergence of public and private sector initiatives at the household level, so that we could graduate entire households from poverty, even if we could only do it one household at a time.

Fortunately, the private sector is not bound by the legal and bureaucratic limitations that are preventing the public sector from acting as one coordinated force. As a matter of fact, the private sector has the potential to lead the public sector so that it could participate in concerted actions in an atmosphere of partnership. Perhaps, this is what the PPP program of the government is all about. After all, the challenge of governance belongs not only to the government, but also to the people, the citizens who are being governed.

Aside from delivering education and health services to the household level via the CCT program, a concerted PPP program that is led by the private sector could also help in delivering the ten other basic human needs to the household level, namely employment, energy, entrepreneurship, food, justice, mobility, recreation, safety, shelter and water services. Selected beneficiaries of the CCT program in specific contiguous physical locations could also become the beneficiaries of these ten other basic human needs. What is important is to have specific physical locations and a predetermined size of the data collection universe.

I recall that the original purpose for organizing OBI is to assist the barangay units in computerizing their health and education programs. We were going to do this by soliciting old computer units, reformatting these with open source operating systems and installing free software into them. Eventually, OBI took on the challenge of connecting these barangay units to the internet, still in line with the objective of computerizing their health and education programs. Now this new initiative to assist in the CCT program enters the picture, which is still consistent with the original OBI goals, because of the built-in health and education components of the CCT program.

HYHO is still in the process of being organized, but I am hoping that once the organization is on stream, it will be able to provide the manpower that is needed by OBI in implementing its programs at the barangay level. On the practical side, all the old computer units that are solicited by OBI will need frequent maintenance, and local HYHO members could provide this service. On the more substantive side however, I am hoping that local HYHO members in the delivery of the additional basic human needs to the household level on one hand and in the gathering of the research data outputs from the household level on the other hand.

Conversely, I am hoping that OBI would be able to help in organizing the local chapters of HYHO. According to the plan of HYHO, it will organize chapters in school campuses and work places, targeting primarily the young students in the campuses, and the young professionals in the work places. In the spirit of open cooperation however, HYHO will also accept as members the older people who are studying or working in these campuses and work places. All told, OBI is in a good position to help in organizing local HYHO clubs, being deeply rooted in the field.

Among the twelve identified basic human needs, only education, employment and food have clearly defined means of measuring access. Access to education is now measured through the literacy rate, access to employment is now measured through the employment rate and access to food is now measured through the hunger rate. These three means of measurement are not really that perfect yet, but at least we have something to work with. Unfortunately however, we still do not have any means of measuring access to energy, entrepreneurship, justice, health, mobility, recreation, safety, shelter and water services. This may be bad news, but the good news is that we have a challenge to meet, and we can do it.

Unlike the measurement of the poverty rate, wherein the data used is empirical, the data that is used in the measurement of the hunger rate is statistical, meaning that it is the result of surveys that ask the respondents whether they have experienced hunger or not within a certain period, usually during the last three months. I would again say that this method is not perfect, but at least the surveys give us data to work with, in the absence of anything else.

Just as we are contented for now with the way the hunger rate is being measured, we could perhaps be contented for now with any method that would give us data about access to energy, entrepreneurship, justice, health, mobility, recreation, safety, shelter and water services, no matter how we do it, for as long as we have something to start with, again in the absence of anything else. Armed with survey forms, members of local HYHO clubs could gather data about access to these basic human needs.

Among these nine missing data sets, we could say that energy, shelter and water are the more tangible ones and are therefore easier to measure. As a matter of fact, the survey takers could see for themselves whether the respondents have it or not, without even asking them. The intangible ones appear to be entrepreneurship, justice, health, mobility, recreation, safety.

Access to entrepreneurship is usually measured in terms of access to affordable capital, to microfinance to be specific. Has the respondent tried to borrow money from a lending source and was denied? For obvious reasons, access to loan sharks could not be considered as having access to affordable capital. If the respondent answers that he or she is borrowing money from a loan shark, it should already be recorded in the survey that he does not have access to entrepreneurship.

Access to justice could be measured in terms of access to affordable legal services. By default, it is the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) that is mandated to provide free legal services. Off and on, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) provides free legal assistance here and there, but there seems to be no other source of free legal services that is widely available and continuously sustainable. If the respondent says that he needed justice and he could not get a lawyer, it should be recorded in the survey that he or she does not have access to justice. This apparent scarcity of free legal services is one problem that local HYHO clubs could address.

Access to health is usually measured in terms of having access to a health center or to a public hospital as the case may be. However, it is also generally known that even if the people who are sick could get free consultations from government doctors, they still could not afford the medicines that are prescribed for them, how much more the medical procedures and laboratory tests that are also required. Because of this, the survey question should ask the respondents whether they were able to sustain their medication or not. This should be the way of measuring access to health services.

Access to mobility should be measured not only in terms of availability, but also in terms of affordability. That means there should be two questions in the survey, whether they have access to a public means of transport from their place of residence to their place of work, and whether they could afford the rates of these public transports. Since mobility also includes connectivity, the survey should also ask whether they have either a cell phone or a land line that they are able to sustain.

Access to recreation should be measured in terms of having access to affordable facilities that will recreate the mind (cultural entertainment) and will recreate the body (sports activities).

Access to safety could be measured in the same way that the hunger rate is being measured. The survey should ask the respondents whether they felt being unsafe in the last three months, for any reason such as the presence of criminal activity, the incidence of fires, or the onset of floods.

In the dictionary of the government, it appears that it does not differentiate between poverty reduction and poverty alleviation. Poverty reduction means reducing the poverty rate, poverty alleviation means making poverty more bearable. With a poverty rate of at least 50%, what we need is poverty reduction, and not poverty alleviation. Providing poverty alleviation to a sea of poor people is like applying a soothing lotion to an injured patient who needs an operation. We need to set targets as to how much we aim to reduce the poverty rate in due time.

The author is a broadcast journalist, syndicated columnist, political economist and computer technologist. He was formerly Director General of the National Computer Center and Chairman of the National Crime Information System

“Convergence in the Delivery of Basic Services”

“Convergence in the Delivery of Basic Services”

By Ramon Ike Villareal Señeres, CESO, CSEE

The terminology for “basic needs” in the Philippines has gone from “eleven basic needs” to “minimum basic needs”, the latter not being specific on the number of needs. In the former terminology, the “eleven basic needs” were listed as food, clothing, shelter, water, health, education, livelihood, power, mobility, sports and recreation and ecological balance.

Moving fast forward to the present times, “clothing” is usually no longer listed as a basic need, probably because of the popularity of second hand clothing stores all over the country. What used to be referred to as “power” is now generally known as “energy”, although it is still interpreted to mean both electricity and fuel, as it was interpreted before. As it was interpreted before, “mobility” meant both transportability and connectivity as it does now, but perhaps not with the increased importance that is now given to the latter.

In the absence of a clear definition of what “basic needs” really are in the terminology of the Philippine government, I am now proposing a new listing of “twelve basic services”, adding some and removing some from the needs listed in the old “eleven basic needs”. I am offering this new listing primarily to the advocacy groups that would agree to adopt my interpretation, but of course I am also hoping that the Philippine government would also adopt the same interpretation.

I am now proposing a new list that would now include education, employment, energy, entrepreneurship, food, justice, health, mobility, recreation, safety, shelter and water, listed alphabetically. I have removed “clothing” from this list, for the same reason that I stated earlier. I have also removed “ecological balance”, but I have made it part of “safety” instead. I have not really removed “livelihood”, because I have split it into two, namely “employment” and “entrepreneurship”. For purposes of simplicity, I have renamed “sports and recreation” to “recreation”. I have kept “power”, but I have renamed it “energy” instead.

In the delivery of basic services, it is very important to have a clearly defined department of government that should take the lead in the delivery process. As I see it, the basic services that do not have clearly defined departmental leads are education, recreation, safety and water. If the scope of education is defined to mean only primary and secondary education, it would be clear that the lead is the Department of Education (DEPED). However, it is generally understood that the scope also includes tertiary education, and that means that the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) should also be part of the process, with one of these two agencies taking the lead.

Fortunately, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) is under the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and that answers the question of which agency should take the lead in technical education. While it is very clear that DOLE is the lead department in the delivery of employment related services, it should be further made clear that the scope of technical education should include all types of training that would make more people employable, including all other skills that graduates may not have acquired in their primary, secondary and tertiary education, as the case may be.

It appears that when the old Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS) was organized, the culture function went to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), and the sports function went to the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC). Somewhere in between these movements, it seems that the function of recreation was lost in the process. While it could be argued that culture is really educational in nature, there is no argument that it is also recreational in purpose. Moreover, there is also no argument that recreation is more than just sports, because there are many forms of recreation that are not sports oriented.

Since the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) is in charge of all the public safety agencies, it is implied that it should be the lead in the delivery of all safety related services. Perhaps keeping in pace with emerging terminologies in the global arena, the old National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) has been renamed as the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). That is a good move I think, but just like the old NDCC, the new NDRRMC is still under the Department of National Defense (DND), an agency that is supposed to be civilian in nature, but is almost always headed by someone with a military background. While the government has apparently adopted the modern understanding of what Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) is, it has not reached the awareness that DRR is really a civilian function that is usually assigned to environmental agencies in most other countries. Add to that the fact that disaster management is also a civilian function in other countries.

In many other countries, Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) is a function that is tied in to DRR. As a matter of fact, CCA and DRR should always go together, and there is no reason why these two should be separated. More often than not the CCA and the DRR functions are assigned to environmental agencies in most countries. Unfortunately here in the Philippines, these twin functions have been split into two, with the CCA function assigned to the new Philippine Climate Change Commission (PCCC) and the DRR function assigned to the DND by way of the NDRRMC.

Perhaps unknown to most of our citizens, the penology function is split between the Bureau of Corrections (BUCOR) under the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) under the DILG. This issue is relevant to our discussion, because jail management is considered as a public safety function in the context of the DILG, along with police protection under the Philippine National Police (PNP) and fire protection under the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), all three agencies being under the DILG.

All told, the process of delivering safety services is now split between the DND, the DILG and the PCCA, without any clarity as to which of them should be the lead, and with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) seemingly out of the picture, even if environmental safety is one of our major national concerns. The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) is also seemingly out of the picture, even if air safety, road safety and maritime safety are also our major concerns.

The National Water Resources Board (NWRB) is chaired by the DENR, thus making it appear at the outset that the DENR is the apparent lead agency in the process of delivering water services. That is not as simple as it seems however, because there are many other participants in the process. Included in the process are the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), the Department of Agriculture (DA) through the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Health (DOH). Just in case you are wondering how the DOH got into the picture, the LWUA is now under the DOH by virtue of Executive Order No. 738.

As I understand it, the NWRB is the lead agency in the Philippine water sector, but is seems unclear how it exercises its authority over the LWUA and the MWSS, considering the fact that the NWRB is under the DENR, the LWUA is under the DOH, and the MWSS does not seem to be under any department, apparently a Government Owned and Controlled Corporation (GOCC) that is entirely on its own. It is clear enough however that the jurisdiction of the MWSS is the greater metropolitan area only, while the LWUA has jurisdiction over the rest of the country. As I understand it also, the NWRB appears to be on the production side, while the MWSS and the LWUA are on the distribution side.

It is worthwhile to note that the DPWH has taken the initiative to converge their plans and programs with that of the DA and the DOTC. It appears however that this move for convergence applies only to the flow of water for agricultural and flood control purposes, and not for the delivery of water to the consumer and industrial side. The move of DPWH is a good start, but it is really high time for the government to realize that water is one massive commodity that should be managed in its complete totality, ideally incorporating all the needs for irrigation, flood control, consumer consumption and industrial production.

Convergence is a goal that should not be left to the government to achieve. Given the size of the government bureaucracy and the complexity of the scopes and mandates of its departments, agencies and bureaus, there is objectively a need for the private sector to come in and help in its totality, jointly harnessing all of its components towards the common goal of nation building. In other literature, “national development” is a term that is synonymous to “nation building”. I used to prefer the former term, but I recently realized that “nation building” is a term that is better understood and is more generally accepted by most people.

In order for convergence to be measurable, there has to be a physical setting. The physical setting that I would recommend is the barangay level. In order for it to be measurable, there has to be set standards of measurement, and that is where the physical setting becomes relevant. In the final analysis, there has to be a database that will measure and track the progress of the delivery of services, namely education, employment, energy, entrepreneurship, food, justice, health, mobility, recreation, safety, shelter and water.

There are many ways of defining the components of the private sector. I believe however that the private sector should be also be defined in physical terms meaning the components that could actually participate in the physical delivery of basic services to the barangay level. Given this definition, I believe that the more identifiable components are the business chambers, the civic organizations and the corporate foundations.

In the public sector, the identifiable components are the line departments, the attached agencies and the local governments. In the language of the government, the line bureaus are considered as “organic” and not as “attached”. On the other hand, GOCCs are considered as attached, not unless these are directly under the Office of the President (OP). For purposes of this discussion, the independent commissions may be classified as among the attached agencies.

It is a big challenge to converge the programs and projects of the private sector, but it is an even bigger challenge to converge the programs and projects of the public sector. The biggest challenge of all I think is to bring about the convergence of the public sector and the private sector together as one, moving towards one common direction of nation building at the barangay level.

To add to the dictum that content is king, I say that data is is the determinant. Without good data in the background, there could be no good content. Regardless of their own mandates, all the agencies of government have to produce content both for internal and external purposes. Generally known as “reports”, these are usually translated into final forms such as voice, text or video. The forms could change from one agency to another, but the bottom line is the same, they have to produce the reports, and without good data, they could not produce good reports. This to me is the first point of convergence, to converge the data first.

First things first, there is a need to collect the benchmark data at the barangay level first. The objective of this data gathering stage is find out the present status of the delivery of services at that level, for all the twelve services namely education, employment, energy, entrepreneurship, food, justice, health, mobility, recreation, safety, shelter and water. The method of doing this should be the same, to get the percentage of access to these services, among the households in the target barangay. It is important to note here that the that will be gathered is social in nature, meaning that it should be reflective of the entire household. In other words, it should not be personal in nature, meaning that it should not be based on the individual experiences of the respondents.

The key word of course is “access”, and the question is whether the household has access to each of the twelve services or not. To put it in another way, the question is whether each of these services are within their reach or not. It should be made clear at this point that the focus of the questioning should be on the aspect of “accessibility” or “availability” rather than “affordability” or “ability”. In other words, the intention of the data gathering is to find out whether the households in the target barangay could access each of the twelve services or not, regardless of whether they could afford it or not.

Since “affordability” or “ability” is a function of poverty, there should be follow up questions to find out why the respondents say that they do not have access to certain services. The data derived from these questions will not only give us a reading of how poverty affects accessibility, it will also give us a means to find out what goods and services we should possibly include in, or exclude from the imaginary “basket of goods”, a method that is now being used to measure the incidence of poverty at the household level.

The Corinthian Coffee Clutch (C3) is a weekly forum that I chair, held every Friday at the Elk’s Club inside the Corinthian Plaza Building in Paseo de Roxas, Makati City. In our own small ways, we are working for the convergence of the private sector towards the common goal of nation building. Come and join us.

The author is a broadcast journalist, syndicated columnist, political economist and computer technologist. He was formerly Director General of the National Computer Center and Chairman of the National Crime Information System

“Towards Sustainable Housing and Renewable Energy Development”

“Towards Sustainable Housing and Renewable Energy Development”

By Ramon Ike Villareal Señeres, CESO, CSEE

The usual and customary interpretation of “sustainable housing” is usually understood in terms of the ability of the buyer to pay for his or her mortgage payments, and nothing else. I now would like to broaden the interpretation to mean being able to meet the other expenses that are related to the upkeep of the house and the maintenance of the day to day lifestyle of the occupants of the house, including their means to earn additional incomes as they engage in productive activities within the premises of their house.

Figuratively and practically speaking, almost every activity and facility inside the house is powered by “energy”, and understandably, energy costs account for most of the expenses that are related to the upkeep of the house, and the sustainability of the lifestyles of its occupants. With the term energy, I would mean not just the electricity, but also the cooking fuels such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and in the case of some homes; it would also mean the kerosene gas that fuels their lamps and stoves. Generally speaking, most of the homes in our country are connected to the grid, except in some communities perhaps that may have already succeeded in generating their own power under the Independent Power Producer (IPP) law.

Depending on the local costs of electric energy, it would still be economical for most people to use LPG stoves instead of electric stoves. Depending on the local prices of kerosene gas, it is highly possible that the cost of maintaining kerosene stoves could even be higher than the costs of either electric stoves or LPG stoves. Ironically, it is also possible that in some places, the prices of firewood are so high such that the costs of maintaining the so-called “dirty kitchens” could actually be higher than having electric stoves, LPG stoves or kerosene stoves.

Here in the Philippines, in the usual and customary interpretation of the scope of “housing”, energy cooking fuels are usually understood to be “external” to the house itself. In many other countries however, gas lines are “built-in” inside the house, usually as part of a municipal gas system that also supplies gasses to fuel the street lamps. It would be fair to assume that in these countries, the costs of gasses fed through gas lines would be lower than the costs of using electricity for cooking, or for lighting the street lights. Here in Metro Manila, many still remember the fact that many years back, many homes were using gasses fed through gas lines by the Manila Gas Company.

Sad to say, it has practically become a “way of life” for everyone here in the Philippines to use LPG in canisters, not knowing perhaps that LPG and all other gasses could actually be delivered more efficiently and more economically through gas lines that are built-in into the homes and commercial establishments. Actually, the latter is now being done in many restaurants and fast food outlets, wherein the gasses are fed into the LPG stoves by gas lines that are supplied by large storage tanks outside their premises. If this could be done in these establishments, it could also be done in subdivisions, condominiums and other housing types.

Here in the Philippines and all over the world, so much attention has been given to the advocacy of building “green” homes and “green” communities, but it appears that the “greening” goals so far does not include sustainable energy on one hand, and renewable energy on the other hand. These are two mutually exclusive goals by the way, but it would be correct to say that renewable energy is definitely sustainable. In this sense, it is implied that sustainability is directly related to affordability, and it would seem that renewable energy sources are definitely more affordable than fossil based energy sources.

Needless to say, energy efficient homes are considered “green” homes, but in these modern times and up ahead in the future, energy is not the only utility that a productive home needs. Even now and more so up ahead, productive homes would need connectivity to internet and broadcast services providers, more so now that these two sets of providers are fast converging to just become one seamless industry. With new emerging trends that internet and broadcast services could now pass through power lines, the provision of energy and connectivity could eventually converge into one industry as well.

In the world of modern technologies, connectivity is usually symbolized by the “blue” light that usually means that signals are available and are accessible. Perhaps not by coincidence, “blue” is also the color of the renewable energies that are derived from non-fossil sources such as solar cells. This is the reason why I am promoting the convergence of the “green” advocacies and the “blue” advocacies, into a new fusion that I have temporarily termed as the “green and blue” convergence. Hopefully, this idea of a fusion will gain wider acceptance, so that now and in the future, all “green” homes will also become “blue” homes, and vice versa.

Looking back to my past years at the Ministry of Human Settlements (MHS), I remember that the government at that time implemented the “Shelter cum Livelihood” strategy, born of the understanding that the housing beneficiaries actually needed livelihood projects that would enable them to generate the income that they need in order to pay for their housing loan instalments. It was relatively easy for the government at that time to build the houses, but the government soon realized that providing livelihood was a much greater challenge. Later on, when the livelihood projects were already established, the government realized that the marketing of products from the livelihood projects was the greatest challenge of all.

I was recruited by the Bliss Marketing Corporation (BMC), a subsidiary of MHS, to become the Group Product Manager, leading a team of Product Managers who were all recruited from the private sector. Our mission was to market the products coming from the livelihood projects, with the expectation that not unless we could market these products, the housing beneficiaries will fail to pay for their housing loans, and the overall housing program of the government could also fail. It was at the MHS and the BMC where I learned all the lessons about what to do and what not to do when it comes to social housing and livelihood marketing, the latter in support of the former.

In the process of implementing the “Shelter cum Livelihood” strategy, the government at that time realized that livelihood training was an equally important component in the joint strategy, and this led to the creation of the University of Life (UL), yet another subsidiary of the MHS. Later on, I was assigned as a Senior Fellow to the UL, and my work shifted from livelihood marketing to livelihood training, the latter still in support of social housing. All told, these three components should really work together seamlessly.

Also at that time, the government implemented the “Basic Needs Strategy”, an approach that promoted the integration of the delivery of eleven basic needs at the local community level. Electricity was among these basic needs that were listed, along with communications. The other basic needs listed were food, clothing, shelter, water, transportation, health, education, environment and recreation. It therefore appears that one way or the other, the government already had an earlier awareness of the “blue” advocacy, as well as the “green” advocacy, even if “green” was not really the “in” thing at that time.

During the Marcos Era, there was apparently a general impression that the human settlements approach was “invented” by the former First Lady Imelda Marcos, and this impression seems to have lingered even up to now. The truth is, Mrs. Marcos (now Congresswoman Marcos) simply adopted an economic development concept that was already popularly used all over the world at that time, and was in fact already accepted and popularized by the United Nations. As faith would have it, the MHS was abolished, along with everything that had any connection with the human settlements approach, except the MHS housing projects that are still standing up to now.

Setting aside economic development from national politics, I see the need for the revival of the basic needs approach in relation to sustainable housing and renewable energy development (SHARED) even if the technical term “human settlements” will no longer be used. Fortunately, the spirit and mission of the MHS still lives on in the present day Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), the lead agency now for everything that has to do with the concept of “human settlements” as we knew it then.

SHARED is the new acronym that I am proposing to signify the revival of the basic needs approach, this time modified to incorporate the “green and blue” convergence. Just like the old basic needs approach, it will have sustainable housing as the centrepiece component, but along with it, renewable energy will also be given equal importance. Aside from energy, water and transportation will be the other two critical public utilities that will be prioritized.

It is a generally known fact that many housing projects fail or are abandoned because there is no clean water and there is no affordable transportation available. This is a problem that should already be corrected in new and future housing development projects, and I believe that the solution to this problem lies in the cooperative approach, and by that I mean the ownership of the community water system and the community transport system by the cooperatives that will be formed among the new homeowners, possibly organized as a parallel to the legally mandated Homeowner Associations (HOAs).

Depending on where you live in the Philippines, the quality of water varies. In some places, water on tap is safe to drink, but in other places, it is not, forcing people to buy bottled filtered water instead. This is an extra drain on the budgets of our people who are already burdened with heavy expenses. The technology for water filtration is already commonplace. It is just plain and simple reverse osmosis, a technology derived from the business of filtering water for dialysis purposes. The technology is so simple, such that water filtering stations are now in every street corner. It would really spare residents a lot of money if filtered water could be supplied by the cooperatives on tap already, meaning to say that it is already pumped into the residential units as part of a centralized plumbing system.

Just like buying LPG in canisters, it has become the practice to buy filtered water in bottles, and everyone now takes it for granted that it is something that we have to live with, something that we could no longer change. That is really very far from the truth, because anything in liquid or gaseous form could be pumped directly into residential units by way of centralized plumbing systems. Just to stress my point, I will also say that if we could pump gas and water in, we could also pump liquid soap and cooking oil in, an idea that could also add more savings to the household budgets of our people. Just the same, the business of supplying liquid soap and cooking oil on tap could be a service provided by the same cooperatives that would also supply the gasses and the water.

More than just in a symbolic sense, the production of biogas on site by the cooperatives and supplying the gas into the homes could be a service that will functionally implement the “green and blue” convergence. On one hand, it will be “green” because it will produce energy from waste. On the other hand, it will be “blue” because it will supply a renewable form of energy that will not only solve the problem of waste disposal, it will also solve the problem of rising energy costs. This is a combined opportunity of earning and saving that we should not miss.

Perhaps it is providential that electric powered vehicles are now in the market, not just tricycles but four wheeled cars as well. What this means is that if the coops could produce their own renewable energy efficiently, they could also own and operate an electric powered transportation system economically, thus adding to their ways of making money and saving money. It would be more advantageous for local residents to have their own transportation system that is not purely commercially driven, because commercial systems would tend to “disappear” when the passenger traffic goes down.

Even if food is essentially a commercial commodity, there are still a lot of opportunities for coops to produce their own food locally, especially if this is done in the context of livelihood generation. This is an idea that housing developers should consider in their designs, because the inclusion of livelihood production areas could impact significantly on the land use planning and the layout of the home sites. This concern is not only applicable to rural housing, because even the urban housing projects could also have their own livelihood components.

Health, education and recreation are the other basic needs that coops could provide commercially, but intentionally with a social purpose. The social purpose is to provide these services at lower and more affordable prices, something that only coops could do, because of their tax-free status, and because of their unique ability to reward their members with the unique combination of discounts, rebates and dividends.

Just to set the record straight, I am advocating the adoption of SHARED not as a project or a program, but as a standard that will be adopted by the government in general, and by the housing developers in particular. My apologies to those who might see political color in the idea of reviving a development approach that is associated with past regimes, but I assure everyone that my intentions are purely developmental and not political. My wish is that everyone will not see political color in what I write, but will see instead the color of money that could be saved or earned as we give more business to more people, using the cooperative approach.

The author is a broadcast journalist, syndicated columnist, political economist and computer technologist. He was formerly Director General of the National Computer Center and Chairman of the National Crime Information System

“Natural versus Chemical”

“Natural versus Chemical”

By Ramon Ike Villareal Señeres, CESO, CSEE

Manufacturers of herbal products are always very careful in saying that they are selling food items, and not medicines. That is actually true, but many of their products actually have therapeutic effects, even if they are required by law to say that they have NO APPROVED THERAPEUTIC EFFECTS. Much more than that, some of their products could actually already qualify to be labelled as herbal medicines or simply as medicines, except that they do not have the means to go through the process of validation and registration, unlike the big pharmaceutical companies.

In a country that has a population of about 100 million and a poverty rate of about 40%, it would be fair to say that half of the number of poor people, or about 20 million of our citizens are sick of one ailment or another, conditions that they could not cure due to their lack of access to affordable medicines. Since free medical consultation is available in most public hospitals, we could say that medical attention is not the problem of the poor. Their problem on the other hand is the need to sustain their dosages of medicines, a challenge that is very difficult for them to face, because they have other basic needs to spend on, such as food.

Fortunately for some of the poor people, they are able to get assistance from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) and the Local Government Units (LGUs), thus enabling them somehow to buy their medicines in order to stay alive, literally. Given the number of poor people who are in need of medicines however, it is very difficult for the PCSO and the LGUs to help everyone with all of the medicines that they need. Since we are short of money in the face of this problem, we should be long on ideas in order to find the solutions, and one idea that is worth exploring is to go towards the direction of alternative health, coupled with the idea of also promoting preventive health.

“Knowledge is power” it is said, and “Health is wealth”, it is also said. Guided by these two pieces of wisdom, we should already take the basic step of promoting health information in every way that we could, utilizing every means of media communications that we could get our hands on. The promotion of health information is of course not a new idea, but it appears that we as a nation is not doing enough, in relation to the number of sick people around us who could possibly be cured, or at least get better simply by gaining access to health information that could change their medical condition even if they would not incur big expenses in doing so.

To the credit of many media organizations, there are already several radio and television programs that are promoting health information. In the overall analysis however, there is still a great imbalance between health programming and the other types of media content programming, not to mention the overdose of song and dance shows in our airwaves. Add to that the fact that there are still many other media outlets that are still relatively untapped for purposes of promoting health information, for example, movie screens, cable television, video streaming, outdoor displays and mobile phones.

The Human Development Index (HDI) of the United Nations Organization (UNO) monitors the mortality rate of member countries as a way of tracking their progress in delivering basic health services to their citizens. This appears to be a very realistic and practical measure, because it would be logical to say that the better the system of health services delivery is, the lower the mortality rate is going to be. This is of course premised on the fact that every member country would have its own national strategy of delivery, and it does not discount the inclusion of alternative health and preventive health as part of the delivery process.

I do not know how the Philippine government is gathering the national mortality rate data, but as far as I am concerned, the best approach for data gathering is from the ground and up, from local data that should be consolidated into national data. Following this approach, I believe that it should be the LGUs that should be collecting the data that should in turn be submitted to the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) for consolidation. Any other data that is coming from anywhere and gathered any other way should not be considered valid and should even be suspected of being fabricated.

In much the same way that “all politics is local”, I would also say that “all data are local”. This should give us a clue to the question of how and where we should get the data to find out the 20 million or so sick Filipinos who are among us. As I see it, our national government agencies (NGAs) have the tendency to macroeconomic data that are not based on microeconomic data that are coming from below. The bottom line issue here is not just the integrity of the data, but also the ownership of the data. If the data sets are not coming from below, there are no local sources that would own the data and vouch for its integrity. Add to that the fact that the local owners of the data should also be responsible for changing it to make it truthfully better.

“Dynamic data” is a concept that our NGAs should adopt. What this means is that these agencies should not allow the content of the data sets to be “static”, in the sense that these would not change. This is the meaning of data ownership, meaning that they should not just report the data; they should also take the necessary steps to improve the data values, it being their responsibility to do so. Going back to the subject of the local mortality rate, the data owners could really reasonably target the lowering of the mortality rates in their own areas of jurisdiction, assuming of course that they would actually know what the real data values are.

For every data set, there is a corresponding data set that would in effect be its “opposite” values. In the case of the mortality rate, there should be a corresponding measurement of the longevity rate for instance. As far as I know, there is no system or method of gathering longevity rate data now, both in the local levels and at the national level. Needless to say, the methods for measuring the mortality rate and the longevity rate should be harmonized with each other, because in the final analysis, these two data sets are really just two sides of the same coin. In other words, we should be able to see longevity rate data whenever and wherever we see mortality rate data, but that does not seem to be the case now.

Under ideal circumstances, a cabinet level department of a democratic government is really supposed to be more of a policy maker, rather than a project manager. To some extent, a cabinet level department could also be a program developer, but the actual program management should normally be assigned to, or delegated to the line units down below. In other words, a cabinet level department is supposed to be a staff unit, policy making being essentially a staff function.

Still on the subject of differentiating between staff and line functions, NGAs are supposed to perform mainly staff functions, and LGUs are supposed to perform mainly line functions. Based on this differentiation, it would appear that as far as the delivery of health services is concerned, the Department of Health (DOH) should be performing the staff functions on one hand, and the LGUs should be performing the line functions on the other hand. If this differentiation is acceptable, it would support my proposition that the LGUs should be the ones gathering the mortality rate data from below, and the NGAs should be the ones consolidating and analyzing these at the top.

The function of policy making is very much closely associated with the function of standards setting. This is where the value of reliable and accurate national data comes into play, because in theory, the definition of national standards should be based on measurable and verifiable data. At this point, it is important to note that the exercise of standards setting is supposed to be part of the function of policy making. This cycle should actually turn into a full circle, because with good data gathered, good policies could be formed.

All factors considered, it could be said that devolving the function of managing the public hospitals from DOH to the LGUs was the right thing to do. This was also supposed to be a good idea, except that the DOH appears to have failed in setting the standards in measuring the standards of these devolved hospitals, thus resulting in a widespread lack of compliance. More often than not, the LGUs would reason out that they do not have the funds to maintain these hospitals, but generally speaking, that does not seem to be a valid explanation, because many LGUs have succeeded in maintaining their local hospitals with acceptable quality, despite their lack of financial resources.

As far as I know, there appears to be no system of reporting deaths and their causes from the hospitals to the DOH or to any other central authority. Firstly, this is not good, because it does not help in gathering accurate data for the mortality rate. Secondly, it does not help in reporting timely data for the detection of contagious diseases which may already reach epidemic proportions at certain times. The data from the hospitals should be supplemented by the data coming from the funeral parlors, but it seems that this is not being done either. At some point, the data may reach the National Statistics Office (NSO), but that data may no longer be current.

The bottom line in all of these is our collective inability to gather and report the mortality rate accurately. It would be fair to assume that if our local and national officials are faithful to the task of gathering both the mortality rate data and the longevity rate data, they would be in a better position to plan and implement our health policies, a function that would eventually lead to the question of whether health services are sufficiently delivered or not. This will also eventually lead to the economics of the health delivery process, as well as the sustainability of this delivery process.

In a country where about one fourth of the population are prospectively sick and could not afford to access the means to become well, the issue of health economics is indeed a major challenge, and there should be an urgent search for solutions by our local and national officials, solutions that should include “out of the box” ideas that would drastically change the statistics of affordability and sustainability. At this point however, I would like to stress that we are still dealing mainly with this problem at the policy level and not yet at the program and project level, lest I be accused of advocating a welfare state.

Not unless we start looking at “out of the box” solutions, we would forever be limited to the western and conventional approaches to medicine and health care, approaches that are generally dependent on commercial medications that are usually supported by chemical formulations. Of course, it could also be said that with the right economies of scale, chemically based medicines could potentially become affordable, but this is still a potential option that has to be subjected to more studies. In the meantime, there are natural and organic food based products that could potentially supplement if not supplant the chemical based products.

What is good to know is that many privately owned Filipino companies have already developed and produced several natural and organic products that could potentially be considered as affordable alternatives to western chemical based products, even if these local innovations could not yet be considered as real medicines with proven therapeutic values. Since these Filipino companies have already done their part in developing their products, it is now incumbent upon the national government to find ways and means of supporting them, in the true spirit of private and public partnership.

If the government is looking for ways to help Filipino companies with their products, the best place for them to start is in the product development process. For many of these companies, the product development process might have already ended, at least in their minds, but that should not be the case. Generally speaking, most of the Filipino made natural and organic products in the market are still incomplete in terms of branding, packaging and labelling, among other needs. More than all of these however, there is a need for the scientific testing and validation of their therapeutic claims, and this is where the government could help them most.

Most of the Filipino made products that are in the market today are being sold on the basis of narrative testimonials of satisfied users who supposedly got cured or became better one way or the other after consuming these products. This may be good enough for local purposes, but for international purposes, these products should all be subjected to “double blind” tests, a scientific method that is generally accepted and required by most importing countries.

I do not know the actual costs of conducting “double blind” tests as of now, but whatever the costs are, it should now become the priority of the government to subsidize these costs, perhaps under the leadership of the DOH. I understand the fact that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the DOH is more of a regulatory agency, but in the national interest, the FDA could perhaps double up as a research and development agency for these purposes.

According to the Science Daily, “the double blind method is an important part of the scientific method, used to prevent research outcomes from being influenced by the placebo effect or observer bias”. The same source adds that “blinding is a basic tool to prevent conscious and unconscious bias in research”. According to the Experiment Source, “the groups studied, including the control, should not be aware of in which group they are placed. In medicine, when researchers are testing a new medicine, they ensure that the placebo looks, and tastes, the same as the actual medicine”.

The author is a broadcast journalist, syndicated columnist, political economist and computer technologist. He was formerly Director General of the National Computer Center and Chairman of the National Crime Information System

“Endo versus Dividendo”

“Endo versus Dividendo”

By Ramon Ike Villareal Señeres, CESO, CSEE

I told my daughter Lauren that the “baristas” working for our favorite coffee shop are not really employees of that company, and who are in fact “clients” of a third party employment agency that does not give them long term benefits. I took the opportunity to ask her who would be the ideal owners of a cooperative that will go into the coffee shop business. Should it be the customers, or should it be the workers? Her answer was direct to the point. It should be the workers, she said.
I am not an anti-capitalist, because I believe that private capital is needed in order to keep the economy going. For me, it is not a question of what I am against. It is more a question of what I am for. I am for the equalization of access to business, so that more people will have the opportunity to earn profits from their own labor. As I see it, the key to this is the cooperative approach, because it is only through this approach that the private capital of small investors could be pooled together for their common good.
Having started the topic, I asked my daughter and my wife Lorine who had joined the conversation, who would be the ideal owners of a cooperative that will go into the bus transport business. Should it be the drivers, or should it be the passengers? Their answer was the same, it should be the drivers. I was completely fascinated by their answer, which came without hesitation from both of them. Could they be thinking in the same way that most people would think?
I know for a fact that the so-called “manpower cooperatives” are not new in the sense that they have been around for some time. However, I also know for a fact that some of these “manpower cooperatives” are actually fake, in the sense that they are not owned by the workers, and are instead owned by “agents” (or puppets) who are fronting for the real owners who are no other than the actual owners themselves who are simply circumventing the labor laws.
Not wanting to stop while I was ahead, I asked my wife and daughter whether they could imagine a big store that is owned by the salesgirls and the cashiers, instead of the big store chains, and they said yes, adding that it would be a good idea to have that kind of a big store. When I asked them that question, I had in mind the thousands of salesgirls (and salesmen) who are now working for the big stores not as organic employees, but as contractual employees who are hired through employment agencies that are really just acting as their job placement “brokers”.
In theory and in practice, there is actually no employee-employer relationship between the stores and the contractual workers, and neither is there an employee-employer relationship between the employment agencies and these workers. In short, these workers are actually victims of the invisible yet vicious crime of “contractualization”.
Believe it or not, this word “contractualization” is not even in the English language, because apparently, it is only in the Philippines where this word was invented. Quite sadly, it has a translation in the local language that is also not found in any other language. “Endo” is the slang word for “end of contract”, and this word is now also the term used for the sub-culture that has emerged among all the victims of “contractualization”.
The only difference between the contractual employees and the owners of the big stores is that the latter has access to capital. The only difference between the contractual employees and the placement agencies is that the latter has access to information. The placement agencies are actually not creating any value added that should entitle them to their huge fees, because they are merely just brokering on the strength of the information that they have gained access to.
It is not in my place to run after the perpetuators of “contractualization”, because that is the job of the government. I figure that the time I would spend to run after them could better be spent in helping the workers so that they could gain access to both capital and information, two assets that are not too impossible for them to get hold of. Besides, this is a free country where free enterprise is supposed to flourish, so let us just leave the big stores to do their business, even if we have to compete with them if we have to.
Am I out of my mind when I say that we could compete with the big stores? When I say “we”, I actually mean the workers who could possibly pool together their small capital in order to invest in big businesses. Maybe I am not really out of my mind, because this small capital actually exists among the workers, if they would only know how to put it aside for a good purpose. I actually know that I am not out of my mind, because I also know that these workers and their family members are the same people who are now buying goods and services from these big stores.
Many years ago, one of the big stores offered a “credit line” to the consumer cooperatives, provided that they would back this up with a deposit that would correspond in value to their supposed “credit line”. We could presume for purposes of discussion that that department store was probably acting in good faith when it extended the offer, and that the cooperatives that took on the offer probably acted on good advice, at least at that time.
Going fast forward to the present times, many banks are now offering “credit cards” that are secured with an equivalent amount in deposits. We could just be talking about a play of words here, because what the banks are actually offering are “debit cards” and not “credit cards”. Recently, a new twist has come to the play of words, because some of the banks are now issuing “cash cards” or “money cards” that are secured not by “deposits”, but by “loads” or “reloads” as the case may be.
Going back to the “credit line” that was offered by that department store to the cooperatives, it would appear that the former simply cooked the latter in their own lard, because the department store made it appear that they were lending money, but they were just actually lending back the money that was deposited to them by the cooperatives, who were then referred to as “borrowers” and “debtors”. Looking back, this would give us the idea that if only these cooperatives could pool their money now as they did before, they could actually do what a department store could do.
I now remember the tale of the “Emperor’s new clothes”, wherein a child in his innocence was the one who “enlightened” everyone about the reality that the Emperor was actually naked. If we could only see now that the workers and their family members are actually the ones who are buying the goods and services from the big stores, we would realize that they are really “naked”, because we are the ones who are keeping them alive by giving them our capital.
I may not be an economist, but I understand well enough that big business in general and big stores in particular make money from the sales of goods and services that they are offering to the customers. Without the sales that are driven by the consumption of customers, these companies could not survive, therefore their corporate lives actually depend on the patronage of these customers. Looking at it from the other side, it is also the patronage of members that keeps the consumer cooperatives alive.
When customers buy from the big stores, they get nothing except some discounts that are few and far between and some miniscule points from the “loyalty cards” that are issued by these stores. On the other hand, when members buy from their own consumer cooperative, they not only get discounts that are generous and are very regular, they also get rebates on a monthly basis, on top of dividends that they get on an annual basis.
The big stores spend a lot of money to win the loyalty of customers, and “loyalty cards” are just one of their many tools. On the other hand, the cooperatives already have the built in loyalty of their members, meaning to say that they need not be won over. Obviously, the few discounts and points that are being offered by the big stores are nothing compared to the big discounts, rebates and dividends that are being offered by the consumer cooperatives.
Unlike the big stores, the consumer cooperatives are also able to offer credit to their members, usually by way of salary deductions against their purchases. On the other hand, the big stores could only offer credit that is charged to credit cards, or the so-called debit cards. By comparison, the credit cards would of course charge interests, whereas the salary deductions are usually interest free.
By definition, “manpower cooperatives” are different from “consumer cooperatives”, but the two could be combined under one registration with the Cooperatives Development Authority (CDA). The other alternative for them is to register as a “multipurpose cooperative” under the CDA, a choice that would enable them to go into other business lines such as credit and transport.
The questions that I asked my wife and daughter were actually just theoretical, because both the “baristas” and their customers could actually join together in one consumer cooperative, in much the same way that the drivers and their passengers could join together in one transport cooperative. That’s also the same for the sales people and their shoppers who could also join together in one cooperative. It is not the same for the workers and their employers, who should not join together in one manpower cooperative, because of conflicts of interests between them.
At the risk of sounding redundant, I would again say that I am not campaigning against the big stores, because they too have a right to do business in a free country that encourages free enterprise. My wish however is for them to stop the practice of “contractualization”, or if they could not do that, my other wish is for them to only engage the services of genuine manpower cooperatives, and not the fake cooperatives that they themselves have created, or the fake cooperatives that were created by some big corporations that are now pretending to be real manpower cooperatives.
If only to console the owners of the big stores who may be disturbed by my writings, I would say that in a free market economy, they would always have their own customers, perhaps among the upper middle class people who would always be attracted to their high end offerings, including their name name brands that are being sold at major major prices. Having said that, I would add another wish, that hopefully they would leave alone the consumer cooperatives that would tend to cater to a lower middle class market, offering only affordable brands along with some quality generic goods.
As I recall, the oppressive practice of “contractualization” was invented by the big business owners who wanted to avoid paying for the long term benefits of regular employees. Under the law, employers are required to “regularize” temporary employees who have worked for them for at least six months. As a way out of this law, many employers engaged the services of employment agencies that would “supply” them the warm bodies that would work for them for less than six months. The expectation was for these agencies to take on the role of hiring these employees as regular workers, in other words giving them the long term benefits that they deserve. Unfortunately, this has not happened at all. Into this picture entered the manpower cooperatives, born along the concept that their members are not employees, therefore there is no employee-employer relationship between the members and their cooperatives. In other words, there are no more requirements to pay them long term benefits.
Just to set the record straight, the “contractualization” practice of the big stores is not illegal, even if it appears to be immoral. Also to set the record straight, the practice of the manpower cooperatives to “contractualize” the provision of services is also not illegal, even if it could potentially become immoral too. The expectation is for these cooperatives to provide their working members with the same benefits that they would have received had they been “regularized”. If they end up not receiving these benefits after all, then the situation would in effect become immoral.
The idea behind manpower cooperatives is to turn a problem into an opportunity, in other words, to turn a bad thing into a good thing, possibly to make it even better. To translate that roughly into real terms, the expectation is for them to stop being victims of the “endo” problem, and to start becoming beneficiaries of the “dividendo” system. In other words, the totality of what they would get from the combination of dividends and rebates is supposed to be equal to, or greater than what they would get in terms of medical benefits and retirement benefits, among many other benefits that they should be getting.
It would be fair to say that working for a manpower cooperative is good enough compared to an employment agency, if the choice is having a job and being jobless. It would however be better to say that employers in general, not just the big stores, should have corporate goals that will aim to progressively increase their ratio of regular employees as opposed to contractual employees. This should be part of their standard practice of good corporate governance. It would be ironic to see companies that are supposedly implementing corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs for external purposes, and yet their internal labor practices are still appearing to be irresponsible. Without going into specifics, it would be fair to say that an imbalanced ratio of contractual employees would affect their productivity.

The author is a broadcast journalist, syndicated columnist, political economist and computer technologist. He was formerly Director General of the National Computer Center and Chairman of the National Crime Information System
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