The Chief Chaos Monkey of Spring Valley

This is a happy story of Pisay alumni paying forward.

It is always interesting to bump into Jonathan De Luzuriaga. These days he calls himself the Chief Instigator at Spring Valley. I prefer to call him the Chief Chaos Monkey of Spring Valley.

Chaos Monkey

The CCM of Spring Valley

Jonathan recounts that he had been searching the archipelago high and low for that one place where technology and innovation can prosper. As serendipity would have it, he was invited to speak at an ICT-BPM Roadshow in late 2015 in Roxas City in the beautiful island of Panay. As he was sampling the sumptuous seafood, Pueblo de Panay (where the event venue was located) caught Jonathan’s eagle eyes.

Pueblo de Panay, a 500 hectare mixed use township development, is right smack in the middle of the country. There is considerable development in progress but not at a point where injecting urban planning was too late. A convention center, a mall, several hotels and restaurants were present and the land development (roads and bridges) was already in full swing. Could this be the technology mecca that he had been in quest of for two years now?

Jonathan visited the place once more in early 2016 and noticed the upkeep of the venue was very strong. Unlike in the rest of the country where entropy tended to the maximum, there was a strong sense of order in the place. There was another hotel being built and several IT-BPM locators were already interested. Our curious swashbuckler discovered that all of these developments were being funded by just one family-owned organization.

Without skipping a beat, he met with the organization’s leadership and pushed for molding Pueblo de Panay as the Philippines’ answer to Silicon Valley. As it turned out, Jose Nery “Bub” Ong and Victoria Hariette Ong-Banzon – both Philippine Science High School or Pisay alumni – loved the idea. It was a chance for the Pisay-educated siblings to pay forward.

Road Runner

                     Assembling IT luminaries                  (Photo credit: Warner Brothers)

Moving like the Road Runner in that Warner Brothers cartoon, Jonathan sought out the IT industry movers and shakers and soon enough he had convened an impressive assemblage: Karrie Ilagan and Joel Garcia of Microsoft, Angel Redoble of the Philippine Institute of Cyber Security Professionals, Winston Cruz of the PSIA, Alvin Juban of the Game Development of the Philippines, Arup Maity of Spring.ph and BlastAsia, Joey Gurango of Proxor and Gurango Software, Jay Fajardo of Proud Cloud, Launchgarage and Medifi, Earl Valencia formerly of Ideaspace and the ubiquitous Don Felbaum of the American Chamber of Commerce.

Thou shalt break rules and dream

How did Jonathan achieve so much in so little time? I guess everybody loves an audacious idea. Spring Valley’s avowed goal  is to become the melting pot of all the talented technology experts and innovators in the (Asia) region in order to design, develop and deploy game-changing creations and inventions that will help make this world a better place – Asia Pacific’s answer to Silicon Valley!  Jonathan explains the appeal of Spring Valley further, “The mantra of the place is ‘Tech for Good’. Hence, when we educate and upgrade ‘citizens’ of Spring Valley. We also put special emphasis on the values formation. My favorite statement is – If I teach you how to break into the IT security system of the Pentagon, I also want to teach you that IT IS NOT OKAY to break into the IT security system of the Pentagon.”

Follow Spring Valley in LinkedIn

“Instead of thinking of Silicon Valley as this exceptional place, think of it as a result of the world’s biggest experiment—people running away from the rest of the world, strangers with diverse experience and talent  give rise to  a body of culture and invisible rules  and tribes of trust.”

  • Frederick E. Allen quoting venture capitalist Victor W. Hwang

Many cities have tried to be the next Silicon Valley and have failed miserably. Yes, it is important to have a good location but as Victor Hwang declares it is more important to build a tribe of trust, where like-minded people share ideas and not flash NDAs at each other. Jonathan’s parting words to me in our conversation is that he has high hopes that the rest (of Spring Valley’s story) will be history. Or will it?

Before I end, let me explain why I call Jonathan the Chief Chaos Monkey for Spring Valley. The reference comes from a book written by Antonio Garcia Martinez entitled – what else? – Chaos Monkeys. In the book Martinez describes a chimpanzee rampaging through a data center as an analogy for daring technology entrepreneurs disrupting society’s hallowed institutions and practices through an explosion of innovation. Not everyone will like the aftermath but the disruption is all but inevitable. It seems Jonathan is leading the charge for our little corner of the world.

Boot

I find it amusing and eminently apropos that Spring Valley has chosen a local monkey species as the mascot for the company.

I will tackle Jonathan’s high hopes for disruption in a succeeding blog. In the meantime, I am interested in hearing from the readers what they think of Jonathan’s (and  Bub’s and Hariette’s) audacity.

Spring Valley

Pinoy Ekonomiks 3: Rating the Performance of Benigno Aquino

The charts tell a story….

In the last installment, I wrote about how the Aquino government instilled discipline in public finance by ensuring that the country did not incur more debt that it can pay. In this post where we explore the issue a bit more, I will use the term fiscal discipline to mean discipline in government borrowing, tax collection and spending.

Some people see the conservatism of the Aquino government with its fiscal management as a problem and argue that maybe the government did not spend enough to improve the lot of our countrymen.

Philippines government spending

Again, we rely on historical charts to tell the real story. The graph above shows us the trend in government spending starting from 1981. By the early 80s, the corruption-ridden Marcos government had already maxed out its borrowings and could not raise any more funds. After the Marcos regime acted like an irresponsible credit card user, subsequent governments had to suffer the consequences trying to get the debt amortizations back to affordable levels – in the process starving the spending for infrastructure. It was only mid-way through the term of Gloria Arroyo that fiscal order was finally restored. As the graph above shows, government spending likewise started rising and continued with the Aquino government.

Dictator Marcos with credit cards

Get me more credit cards quick!

The Aquino government has been severely criticized for the traffic and the rail transit problems in Metro Manila. The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) put the cumulative infrastructure deficit up to 2014 for the National Capital Region alone to a total of USD 12 billion or more than a quarter of our annual national budget and almost 90% of our total infrastructure spending. This is the accumulation of the lack of spending in the last 25-30 years. The graph below highlights the particular dearth in spending during the Estrada and early Arroyo years. Any government today will be hard pressed to make the difficult choice of which urgent infrastructure requirement to prioritize – whether it be roads and bridges, transportation, ports and docks, water or power utilities, or irrigation and other agricultural facilities. As it stands the infrastructure spending in 2015 already stood at 3.7% of GDP, the highest since 1991. In 2016, this will reach 5% of GDP. Under the circumstances, it is grossly unfair to condemn the Aquino government for inaction and lack of focus.

Philippine infrastructure spending

Government also needs to ensure that people have jobs and are paid decent wages. This is a tall order especially because we have one of the highest population growth rates in the world. Any government anytime anywhere will find this a daunting task. And yet, the unemployment trend below shows that somehow we are managing to keep unemployment under check – the lowest in 10 years.

Philippines unemployment rate

Not only are there more jobs, the average wage is also rising steadily. This is exceptional given that the whole world has persistently been in and out of recession for the entire term of President Aquino.

Philippines wages

Remarkably, the number of job vacancies is high and continues to rise, albeit at a slower rate (below). This means that our universities are not producing graduates that have the skills that companies require. Government’s effort at introducing the K to 12 program should help but more should be done by the universities themselves – fast. Otherwise, this may become a lost opportunity when more people can, in truth, be employed!

Philippines job vacancies

Our reputation in the global community of nations has vastly improved driven by, among other things, the consistent fiscal discipline that the Aquino government has demonstrated. This has led to multiple credit upgrades capped by the achievement of investment grade status in late 2015. This development should lead to even greater levels of capital investment from multinational companies. The chart below shows that Foreign Direct Investment has, on average, been much higher during the Aquino administration. This is a leading indicator or a predictor of the number of jobs that will be created in the future.

Philippines foreign direct investment

Another hallmark of the stellar economic management the Aquino government is the fact that inflation has returned to its historical lows in the late 1950s. This means that the wages that the average Filipino earns has largely been keeping its value.

Philippines inflation cpi

The improved reputation of the country together with the Department of Tourism’s highly successful It’s More Fun in the PhilippinesFinger icon campaign has also translated to ever higher levels of tourist arrivals.

Philippines tourist arrivals

The optimism of businesses in the country never dipped into negative territory. This is because we did not see the persistent boom-bust cycles in our economy during the Aquino administration.

Philippines business confidence

The competitiveness of the Philippine economy compared to other countries has been rising steadily.  We now belong in the top 50 most attractive countries for business – for the first time in 10 years. The country is among the eleven countries being seen as the world’s Global Growth Generators or GGGs.

Philippines competitiveness rank

Ironically, the one disappointing record particularly in the light of the government’s vision of Daang MatuwidFinger icon or The Straight Path is the failure to bring our corruption rank back to the levels during the Ramos administration. That was when the country undertook a bold step at economic liberalization that involved the breakup of corporate monopolies. To put things in perspective, the Aquino administration has made a lot of effort to reduce corruption. It is nevertheless paradoxical that the Aquino administration never pushed hard enough for a key reform as the Freedom of Information Law. We now know that should put more effort into cleaning up the government of crooks since many other countries are also trying to clean up their acts and be a better, more predictable and more transparent host for global business.

Philippines corruption rank

The Aquino government has many vocal critics and even the President himself will admit that his government is not perfect. But there is a Silent MajorityFinger icon who can discern the many accomplishments of the outgoing government with objectivity. Hence, his high approval rating even as his term ends. I believe that over time, President Aquino will be recognized as one of the most competent Presidents in our history.

 Photo of President Aquino courtesy of the Philippine Star.

March to Prosperity: A History in Pictures

Ninang Riza of UNTV fame feels very strongly about improving the money handling skills of the needier sectors of our society: those who often find themselves in debt need to be equipped with the ability to find a way out. She thought that a sprinkling of basic economics should be part of the skills base for money-mindedness. More than a year ago, she challenged me to chat about economics in her TV program.  I hesitated because beyond the challenge of squeezing the concepts into practical everyday tips and beyond explaining in a crisp 30-second sound bite, I also needed to speak in plain Taglish[i]!

She explained that it’s not as difficult as it seems and all it needs is a little creativity. She mentioned that she already spoke about GDP in her program and even differentiated it from Gross National Product or GNP. GDP means “Gawa Dito sa Pilipinas”. GNP means “Gawa Ng Pilipino”.  Easy, right? That level of creativity is the Holy Grail, right there.

Back to our topic from the last blog post

In my last blog post, I introduced the term per capita GDP as a measure of the affluence of a country’s population. We will now use this measure to establish how we, as a people, have fared through recent history.

The Good Old Days

We always hear about how the Philippines was the second wealthiest country in Asia next only to Japan.  I thought that the 1930s would a good period to try to show this. The country had started to flourish after the Spanish and American wars. Old Manila was both prosperous and charming, even drawing comparisons to Paris.

Manila in the 1930s

Manila in the 1930s

The chart below traces per capita GDP back to 1934 and shows that we were close to being second after Japan and Hong Kong. There are a few ways to argue we were really second. One, Hong Kong is an autonomous territory but not a country. Another is that the population of Hong Kong is so small compared to the Philippines that our economy was far larger than Hong Kong’s back then.

Per capita GDP of the Philippines and the First Wave Tigers

Per capita GDP of the Philippines and the First Wave Tigers

A few other things need to be pointed out from the chart. The acceleration of economic growth in Hong Kong and Japan is very visible from 1954. Both countries embarked on an aggressive drive to industrialize in the early 1950s. Hong Kong’s textile industry grew, helped by a US embargo on China beginning with the Korean War. Japan had started to produce very small cars such as the Toyopet Master.

1955 Toyopet Master

1955 Toyopet Master

For purposes of this chart, I needed to combine the statistics for North and South Korea, which split into two separate countries in 1950.

Korea split into two in 1950

Korea split into two

Singapore did not become independent until 1965, when it split from Malaysia.

Singapore independence

Singapore Independence

The Bad Old Days

Rabid Marcos fanatics glibly claim that the country was second to Japan during the Martial Law years.

In reality, comparing the Philippines versus Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore during the Martial Law years is not even meaningful because the Philippines would merely be flat-lining at the bottom of the graph against the massive increases in affluence of those countries. A comparison of per capita GDP with the emerging tigers of that period – Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia – will be more instructive.

The Philippines and the Second Wave Tigers

Per Capita GDP of the Philippines and the Second Wave Tigers

Note how all four countries were clustered closely together around the beginning of military rule. Despite the borrowing binge by Marcos at the beginning of the 1970s, the stranglehold of his cronies over the economy choked all momentum out the economy. As a result, our country could barely match the growth rates of the other countries. Further, the Philippines was the only country to lose ground during the period when the per capita GDP sank between 1980 to 1984 – bringing untold suffering on the Filipino people. By the time of the 1986 People Power Revolution, historical laggard Indonesia had caught up with our country.

 A Double Dip

The last 30 years saw a growing income gap between the Philippines and its neighboring countries.

Per Capita GDP in the Last 30 Years

Per Capita GDP in the Last 30 Years

The 1997 Asian financial crisis was a mere breather for the region’s extraordinary progress, with Indonesia being the worst affected. The Philippines saw its per capita GDP dip a second time in recent history during the term of Gloria Arroyo (even after the massive election spending in 2010), allowing Indonesia to once again overtake our country. Despite that drawback, our strong economic growth during the term of Noynoy Aquino allowed the country to keep in step with the rest of the ASEAN region. At the end of his term, there is renewed hope that the Philippines may at last join the Asian community of tiger economies. President Duterte has big shoes to fill indeed.

[i] A mix of Filipino and English often spoken in the Philippine cities.

Pinoy Ekonomiks 1: What is GDP?

In the next few blog posts, I will bravely attempt to make economics accessible to all those who are not Filipina mothers. As we know, Filipina mothers are already the best economists in the world, amazingly able to make ends meet for their large families. This series of blog posts is meant for those of us that chose that other elective course in college just to avoid this dreaded subject matter. I admit that I did take up Economics myself and was foolhardy enough to take it under the eminent Mareng Winnie. In that economics course, I discovered the full depth and breadth of my intellectual limitations – but that is another story.

Whenever people gather together and imbibe their favorite pale Pilsen, the conversation would sometimes drift to how well the government is managing the economy. People who dislike the government will naturally argue that the country’s economic performance is poor. These malcontents will conveniently cite that nearby barangay (village) with a lot of informal settlers (or squatters) to support their case. Families living in these impoverished communities suffer in the squalor without any relief for many years. Apologists for the government will cite that brand new mall selling all the fancy gadgets and stylish products or that cluster of new, state-of-the-art buildings at the edge of the city as evidences of the extraordinary health of the economy. As we listen quietly to both sides, we know that the truth probably lies somewhere in between. In order to discover this truth, we turn to the dismal science called Economics.

Gross Domestic Product

The most common (and objective) way to measure a country’s economic performance is through its Gross Domestic Product or GDP. GDP is calculated by adding together the value of all the goods and services produced in a country. In a poor country, this means adding the value of the rice and chicken produced, the value of the tricycle rides taken by the commuting public, the cost of all the “salakot” and “bakya” made, etc. In a rich country, it will include all the basic commodities produced similar to what you find in the less affluent countries plus the cost of the Ferraris built, the iPhone 6’s produced, the healing spas given, the skyscrapers constructed and the Maroon 5 concerts held. In short, the greater the value of the products produced and services delivered in a country, the healthier its economy is supposed to be.

Philippine GDP

The GDP of the Philippines in 2014 is USD 285 billion. By itself, this figure is largely useless for most of us. One way to make this figure understandable is to compare the latest GDP figure against the historical trends. The bar graph below shows the GDP levels from 2006. Note the steadily rising GDP under the current Aquino administration beginning 2010. This is good news as this indicates a steadily growing level of economic activity every year.

GDP graph

We are a predominantly Catholic country that loves to raise large families. Larger families need more soap bars, more shirts and pants, and more Starbucks coffee. GDP should naturally grow as the population increases.

How do we know then that the rising economic activity reflected in our GDP numbers is not just the result of a growing population but can be attributed to rising affluence instead? For this purpose, we can calculate per capita GDP – this represents the average share of each Filipino of the aggregate GDP. The line graph below shows that the per capita GDP all the way back to the term of Diosdado Macapagal as president. There have been ups and downs but has been steadily increasing from around 1993 and has been picking up strongly from 2010. Some people will look back nostalgically at the Martial Law days and refer to those years as the “golden age” in our economic history. Per capita GDP tells a starkly different story: The line graph shows that the per capita GDP at the end of the Marcos regime in 1986 is barely higher than the per capita GDP in 1972, 14 years earlier. The entire period of military rule and dictatorship resulted into an economy that was largely stagnant, notwithstanding the bump in the middle. The good old days were hardly good at all, as it turns out.

Per capita GDP

The sharp rise in per capita GDP during the term of Benigno Aquino is a very positive development, but with one cautionary note. Per capita GDP shows an average figure and does not necessarily mean that each Filipino is being benefited equally. It may be that some Filipinos are benefiting more while others are benefiting less. Income inequality is a topic I can spend time on in the future, if there is any interest from the readers.

Another way to make the GDP numbers more understandable is to compare the Philippine GDP trends is those of some other countries. Some of us like to compare ourselves with Singapore or Japan or Vietnam. We can do this comparison, of course, but this will have to wait until the next blog post. Abangan ang susunod na kabanata!

Hit the Ground Running, Rody

No Time to Celebrate

Dear (Presumptive) President Rody,

Be assured that we fully accept the will of the people and join in the celebration of our precious democratic processes. Still, you don’t have a moment to lose because the issues and challenges that face the country are urgent.

In the next few days and weeks, we await your announcement of the members of your cabinet – the people who will be assisting you to build on the impressive gains of the Aquino government in the last six years.

From your inauguration and especially during your first State of the Nation address, we fully expect to hear your plan for your first 100 days – in great detail and beyond the motherhood and apple pie campaign statements. We know that we will hear more concrete plans about your peace and order program, that is a given at this stage.

But running the government is far, far more than just that. Will your legislative agenda for Congress include income tax reform? Will it also include renewed priority for the Freedom of Information Law? Electoral reform and the Anti-dynasty Law? We need to hear your plans to promote the country’s international competitiveness, attract foreign direct investment, and create the badly needed jobs. This is a priority because our OFWs are starting to lose their jobs particularly in the Middle East as the global economic downturn continues unabated. We need to hear about food security and what your plans to bring a feudal agricultural industry into the 21st century and bring relief to our neglected farmers. I can go on and on – traffic, infrastructure, public transportation , education and medical services, etc. And somehow achieve all these without reckless spending that will put our public finance in jeopardy.

President Aquino treated us as his bosses. We expect no less from you. Thank you for applying for this job – we know (and expect) that you will treat this as a sacred duty.

Oh PSE, I beg to disagree

A tale of two Presidents

I heard a story about how President Ramos quarterbacked the country’s response to the collapse of the Thai Baht in July 1997 when the BSP Governor and the Secretary of Finance often found themselves at odds in steering the economy through the oncoming financial storm. Ramos ended his term in a fine display of skillful crisis management: The Philippines survived the worst part of the economic meltdown relatively unscathed as Ramos’ term was winding down.

When Joseph Estrada assumed the Presidency in June 1998, the economy had somehow started heading south as the impact of the crisis spread throughout Asia. The country registered negative overall growth in 1998. The lackluster economic performance continued even as our neighboring countries started to turn the corner.

Noynoy Aquino and the economy

Noynoy’s critics argue that the Philippine economy grew throughout his term despite his performance. We can go into a lot of detail about what Noynoy’s government did to contribute to the economic growth but that would turn this simple blogpost into an academic paper. I will merely cite the anecdote about FVR and Erap to argue that, for better or worse, the competence of the President and the soundness of his policies do have a substantial impact on national economic performance. I will also point out that during Noynoy’s term, the great majority of countries across the globe experienced economic difficulties as contagion from the slowdown in the US, Europe, and China affected them. The Philippines’ growth was actually being driven by domestic demand more than by the performance of our trading partners. It was the growing affluence of our people as a whole and their confidence about their future that drove our country’s GDP growth in the last few years.

Another commonly foisted argument that it is just the corporate interests that benefited from the Aquino government. This simply does not hold water – companies need to sell to people to make their profit targets. Our economic resiliency stems from strong domestic demand.

The future with Mar Roxas

There is no debate that the benefits of economic growth should be more inclusive. Many have benefited in the past but many, many more need to have access to education, to employment opportunities, to medical services, and to a clear path out of poverty. Only Mar Roxas among our Presidential candidates has the training and the experience to manage a complex and frustratingly dynamic superstructure as our national economy. Singapore has a battery of well-trained and well-experienced technocrats to run its economy of 5.5 million people. With all due respect to all his achievements in Davao, the country cannot be run by an aging, provincial mayor with a penchant for the crude, anachronistic, and insensitive responses.

I have seen articles that try to assuage our people that the economy has sufficient momentum from the Aquino years and that we should be fine irrespective of who wins the election. I believe that this is what the brokers at the Philippine Stock Exchange are thinking.  I beg to disagree. The recent experience with the transition from FVR to Erap tells me that without Mar building greater momentum and reaching that tipping point in about two more years where the Philippines will most certainly be top Asian tiger, we might just find ourselves regressing to the global mean – less jobs, less opportunities, spreading poverty and greater unrest. In the latter case where Mr. Mayor becomes President, the poor and dispossessed can only get more disappointed, disillusioned, and angry. (PSE brokers with your heads in the sand, this means declining stock prices.)

For the sake of the country, who are you voting for now?

Marcos: Sinister Shadows of the Past

The year was 1972. Ferdinand Marcos had time and again declared himself the champion of the poverty-stricken masses against the callous wealthy Filipino elite (the oligarchs). He was progressively exhibiting iron fisted tendencies, espousing taking a hard line against the communists, student activists, crime syndicates anddrug dealers, among others. He had also somehow hoarded a stash of cash into a number of secret bank accounts and had the appetite to amass even more. All he needed then was to declare Martial Law with change  – through his so-called New Society – as a plausible justification.

Martial Law1

With Proclamation 1081 (Martial Law), Marcos launched a perfect storm that would bring untold suffering on the Filipino people, send the economy into a tailspin and lead to the declaration of a debt moratorium in October 1983. That meant that in 1983, the country was effectively bankrupt with the government coffers practically empty and the Central Bank completely drained of foreign currency to pay for international debt obligations as well as the goods and services that were badly needed by the people.

The deep crisis that followed is perhaps the lowest point in the country’s recent history, leading to the uprising by the long-suffering Filipino people that we now call the EDSA Revolution.

I am sometimes dumbfounded that many of our young people seem to believe that the Marcos years are the golden years of the Republic. Ito ay malaking kasinungalingan. I wish to disabuse the minds of our youth of this brazen lie. Marcos was evil.  I am writing this post to chronicle the insights from my personal research about those years, particularly in respect of the hidden wealth amassed by the Marcos Family during the Martial Law regime and which the Cory Aquino government sought to recover afterwards.

I had spoken about what I have discovered about the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses once before. In September 1999, the Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute and the Ateneo de Manila University sponsored the Conference on the Legacies of the Marcos Dictatorship: Memory, Truth-telling, and the Pursuit of Justice. We really should hold more of these conferences but as far as I know, this has been the only one of its kind. A Philippine Daily Inquirer editorial in February 2004 referenced this path-breaking conference in an article entitled Evil LegaciesFinger icon.

I am publishing my presentation in that conference entitled The Plunder of the Economy under Martial LawFinger icon as part of this post. I must admit that this is not easy reading. But if our children will take the necessary lessons from our history, it behooves us to understand how the elder Marcos manipulated Philippine society to advance his family’s selfish ends to the detriment of the Filipino people. With better insight and understanding, we can guide our children in a way that our deficient history books cannot.

Allow me to point out a couple of insights from the presentation that is particularly relevant in this political campaign season: Marcos was corrupt even before he became President, extorting kickbacks from war reparations by the Japanese government. The lesson here is that corrupt politicians become more – not less – greedy as they assume more power. As they say, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Ang sinasabi nang iba nating kababayan ay hindi na baleng kawatan ang kandidato basta lamang siya ay namamahagi ng benepisyo sa mga mahihirap. Ang ating kasaysayan ay nagpapatunay na ito ay maling akala. Ang masang Pilipino ang nagdurusa kapag naluklok sa kapangyarihan ang corrupt na kandidato. The seeming concern for the poor is merely a pretext for more rapacious thievery once elected to higher office.

The Marcos ill-gotten wealth is real and is immense. Hence the actions of the Marcos family to dissolve a global freeze in a racketeering case filed by the PCGG in California in 1987. Los Angeles Federal Judge Mariana Pfaelzer, in addition to the global freeze on the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcos family also imposed a spending cap of 10 thousand US dollar on personal expenses of the Marcos Family in 1989, the same year that Ferdinand Marcos died. At that time, Bongbong Marcos was already 32 years old and two years away from being elected as Congressman for the first time. In 1991, in a serious tactical blunder the post-Salonga PCGG agreed to dissolved the worldwide freeze in exchange for a USD 50 million settlement with Imelda Marcos.  This was a settlement that the Marcos lawyers worked very hard to reach. This allowed the Marcos family free access to all of their ill-gotten billions across the globe, which wealth is available to the Marcos family today and allowed the family to re-establish itself in the Philippines after the legal settlement. The significance of the events of this time period is not lost on Bongbong Marcos. Maraming kailangang ipaliwanag si Bongbong sa kanyang kaalaman tungkol sa nakaw na yaman ng kanyang mga magulang. Kaalaman na natitiyak natin na mayroon siya.

 The glib exhortation of Bongbong Marcos to move on in order to move forward is a recipe for disaster. Bongbong is asking us to ignore the painful lessons of our history. In response, we should vow to try harder in teaching our children about these tragic lessons. To Bongbong Marcos and his ilk  we say: Never again.

Barbed wire 2

Art depicting barbed wire courtesy of Alfredo Liongoren.