Everyone is talking about AI, or artificial intelligence, and how it will impact upon our lives more and more in the near future.
But this article is not about the technology that may soon render a lot of human endeavors and skills obsolete.
It is an observation on how our senators, belonging to the “upper house” of Congress, once described as “august” when a Recto, a Laurel, a Tanada, a Primicias, and others lorded it over in elegant prose and intelligent debate, now comport themselves, these 24 “republics” elected at large by a poli-crazy electorate.
Now that coined term, poli-crazy is subject to several interpretations: a society where the vast majority are so engrossed in usual politicking; an elected leadership that panders to populism at the expense of good sense and good economics.
Thus, it is contradistinguished from a polycracy where many rule, instead of one man.
In a larger sense though, our authoritarian history has given way not to a genuine democracy but a polycracy, where oligarchs rule both the economy and the polity.
Still, enough of the play on semantics.
The Senate President gave his 24 republics a deadline, through a declaration that the once august body will pass the Maharlika Investment Fund/Corporation into law, as requested by the President through a certification of urgency.
“Mande, Senor Presidente”, he might as well have said. Your wish is our command.
And our mustachioed topnotcher senator further called for a “somos o no somos” clarion call, where voting for the Maharlika has become a function of whether or not one is supportive of the incumbent President.
Sen. Robinhood must be reminded of our system of government, where an independent legislature is counterbalance to, and provides checks to, the power of a most powerful president.
Mawalang galang na po: masusing pinag-aaralan ang bawa’t batas na nililikha ninyo.
Hindi po kayo utusan o kasangkapan ng Pangulo.
Marcos Junior is the president, not Marcos Senior, Mr. Senator, sir.
One of the more circumspect and not artificially intelligent members of the Senate, Chiz Escudero, reminded his colleagues that “in any investment pitch, profit is the most important bottom line”.
In fine, will the Maharlika make more money for the government, that is, we the people, than the present investment portfolios and guaranteed earnings of the peoples’ banks from where it shall be capitalized?
What specifically is the earnings and growth strategy of the proposed Maharlika Investment Fund?
There is no innovative investment strategy other than the usual equities, when in truth Landbank and DBP are already doing these, along with the pension funds of GSIS and SSS which cannot subsist on mere contributions alone, unless grown through proper investments.
Till now, our economic managers have yet to properly explain in several hearings what exactly Maharlika will be about.
A basta, gusto ni Presidente?
And Senator Robinhood tells us, bow na lang tayo!
Yet from Malacanang, two recent pronouncements should be welcomed:
First, the President said he is seriously considering pre-inspection services of agricultural products from place of origin.
Government hired Societe de Surveillance Generale or SGS, a Swiss firm, in the last years of the Cory Aquino administration, precisely to minimize technical smuggling and undervaluation, but this was scuttled during the Erap administration, upon the advice of his Customs officials.
While the pre-inspection services are not cheap, they work, and in the long-run, government revenues from Customs duties and VAT are higher.
And quality and other specifications, as in the case of agricultural imports, are more assured.
When this writer was appointed to the NFA, one of the first things we did was to get SGS to do pre-inspection of government rice imports, instead of a relatively obscure Thai service which was utilized by my predecessor.
There are other certifiably reliable firms such as Omni of Japan, or Bureau Veritas of France.
But now that the rice tarrification law has removed government importation and left the same to the private sector, one recurring problem is undervaluation, where 5 or 10 percent premium rice is classified as 15-20-25 percent, and Customs examiners would know no better.
Thus, the rice competitiveness enhancement fund created by the RTL becomes much lower.
Another welcome news is the president’s call upon Congress to pass the National Land Use bill into law, to ensure cohesion in the zoning ordinances of LGUs with a comprehensive national plan.
Pres. Marcos wants a “whole of government approach” to land use, making proper use of environmental considerations and balanced economic utilization of our land resources.
We hope he will also certify its urgent passage.
This piece of legislation has been stymied since the Cory Aquino administration and beyond, by the landowners and realty developers who have managed to do their own “regulatory capture” of legislation.