POSTSCRIPT / December 4, 2005 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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OFW remittances beat electronics for top notch

HELLOW!: We and the 23rd Southeast Asian Games that the Philippines is hosting are in big trouble?

A disgruntled NBI officer is reportedly saying that Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has an audio recording of our President calling a key SEA Games official about fixing the medal scores to make sure the Philippines landed on top.

Thaksin reportedly has two CDs, one marked “ORIG” and the other “FAKE.” On the ORIG disc was the voice of someone sounding presidential saying, “Hello, GarSEA…”

On the other CD marked “FAKE” was the same voice or a close imitation of it saying: “Hello, Garci, sabi nila nandaya tayo sa SEA Games….”

A man answers: “Di po tutuo, ma’am. Walang SEAG event sa Mindanao!”

(We borrowed, and rewrote a bit, the above jokes from somebody who looked like Jimmie Policarpio.)

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THAKSIN THE LOSER: Seriously, it was bad form for the Thai premier to have said or even hinted publicly that the Philippines, their neighbor and bosom ASEAN friend, has been cheating in the Games to dominate the fight for the medals.

A head of government does not make such reckless statements about a friendly neighbor unless he is prepared to prove his serious charges. His shooting from the hip was most irresponsible, and most unkind. There is no excuse for it.

Even assuming that the alleged cheating was true, he should not have assumed the dirty job of saying it himself. There are more civil, tested and accepted ways of handling anomalies in regional or even Olympic games.

Thai officials are now scrambling to do a fireman’s job. But the damage — mostly to Thaksin himself — has been done.

We Filipinos are used to politicians’ antics, including their refusal to accept clear defeat, so we expect our kababayan to know how to handle Thaksin’s remarks.

We will not allow the foul remarks to tarnish this golden moment when Filipinos, for once, are united and cheering their team under the Philippine flag.

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PREJUDGMENT: Back to Garci, also known as former election commissioner Virgilio Garcillano. Have you noticed that opposition politicians are already saying that the former Comelec official is likely to say this and that — and on the basis of their speculation attack him?

Without waiting for Garcillano to say whatever they think he might say, they are already denouncing him for supposedly intending to lie in the proposed congressional inquiries of the House and the Senate!

Garcillano and other resource persons are being invited to the inquiries to help lawmakers craft legislation. Witnesses are being summoned to Congress not as accused being made to face trial, but as sources of useful information.

Neither the Senate nor the House, nor their committees, are intended by the Constitution to function as courts of justice. They do not, cannot, and should not assume court functions and presume to decide the guilt or innocence of anybody. But they do.

It is amazing that many senators and congressmen, who write our laws, seem to be ignorant of this basic point of law.

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GAGGING GARCI: More perplexing is the objection of some senators to having Garcillano testify before them, when earlier they were insisting that he appeared before them to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Many of them, including Senate President Franklin Drilon, were saying months ago that Garcillano must come out of hiding and testify about election cheating, the “Garci” audio tapes, and related matters.

Now that the man is back and is offering to talk, they do not want to listen or to provide him the forum they had earlier offered.

It is obvious that some politicians are afraid of what Garcillano might say in person and in public — no longer on mere audio tapes of dubious integrity.

Many nervous politicians, most of them from the opposition, also called Garcillano during those uncertain days when the poll count was still anybody’s guess. That may explain why some politicians want to prevent Garcillano from finally talking.

This is not to say that Garcillano is innocent. I am not discussing his guilt or innocence. In the first place, like the senators prejudging the man, I am not competent to make such a conclusion.

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OFWS TOP LIST: With the pre-Christmas buying frenzy, the remittances of more than four million Filipinos working abroad have taken center stage.

As POSTSCRIPT reported last week taking off from Central Bank estimates and the extrapolation of President Gloria Arroyo, the foreign currency (referred to as “dollars” for convenience) sent home by Filipinos abroad add up to around $12 billion, about $10 billion of which was sent through the banks.

Overseas Filipinos, now empowered by law to reacquire their native Philippine citizenship if they had been naturalized in a foreign country and to vote in Philippine national elections, can be the swing vote in the next presidential polls.

Acting in concert with their families and friends back home, some of whom they support and influence with their remittances, they can make or unmake presidents and senators.

(I am proceeding on a hunch that the big to-do about shifting from the presidential to a parliamentary system will not succeed. It is too complicated, controversial and suspicious.)

* * *

ELECTRONICS BEATEN: President Arroyo told us that the $12-billion remittances of overseas Filipinos are second only to the dollar earnings of electronics exports that are expected to fetch some $20 billion by yearend.

Reader Ricky S.G. Reyes begged to disagree in an email. He has a good point:

“I think OFW remittances are our No. 1 dollar earner already while electronics exports are the No. 2 earner. Electronics exports have a large import component which make their ‘net exports’ (i.e. value of exports less value of imports) a lot lower than $20 billion.

“It is estimated that the net exports for electronics are only 20-25 percent of the value, thus the value added for the Philippines in electronics exports may be around $4-5 billion only.

“Outsourcing may soon outpace electronics since it is estimated that this year alone, around $2 billion will be earned by this sector and growth rates the past 3-5 years have been phenomenal.”

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OFWS’ BIG ROLE: Reacting to a PhilSTAR report that the World Bank itself had estimated OFW remittances this year to total some $12 billion, reader Mon Ramirez noted:

“The remittances constitute 13.5 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). The amount is larger than the net export earnings of electronics, our biggest export, making OFWs the largest export commodity of the country.

“(The remittances) are also the biggest source of foreign inflows surpassing foreign direct investments (FDIs), and portfolio investments. Monthly remittances are about 3.5 times greater than the flow of foreign reserves, or about 5 percent of gross international reserves.”

In other words, Ramirez said, the OFWs keep this country afloat in a big way.

“Now, since today,” Ramirez continued, “the children of the masses of workers, farmers and lower middle class families that comprise most of the OFWs are now an important — maybe the biggest contributor — to the economy of this country as a single block, should not their families have a greater say in running the government and should they not put their genuine representatives there?”

* * *

OUTSOURCING: On outsourcing, Rep. Joseph A. Santiago (NPC, Catanduanes) shared yesterday information that the booming business process outsourcing (BPO) industry is creating dozens of new multimillionaires among Filipino corporate officers.

Santiago said Filipino senior executives of upstart publicly listed multinational BPOs with major operations in the Philippines are enjoying the benefits of options to acquire company shares at discounted rates.

He gave an example: One Filipino executive is on record for recently selling 17,000 shares of PeopleSupport Inc. worth $177,650 (P9.8 million) at $10.45 per share, and for giving notice of his plan to sell another 17,000 shares. This is actually based on publicly available filings with the stock market regulators in the United States.”

PeopleSupport is one of four relatively small but fast-growing BPO providers operating in the Philippines, and whose shares are publicly traded at the Nasdaq stock market in New York. A full 100-percent of the firm’s outsourcing operations is based in the Philippines.

Santiago identified the three other firms as Sykes Enterprises Inc., ICT Group Inc. and TeleTech Holdings Inc.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 4, 2005)

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